Character Names

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I remember 10 years ago when Deus Ex came out, it had the novel technical innovation of lip synching. Now not only did you have voice acting, but the characters lips moved to match! Such a little thing that went under the radar but now it would be wierd not to have. Personally I'm hoping some day we'll see the same thing with voice synthesizers.

...though not for the same reason other people are mentioning here, so that the game will properly pronounce the name it let you enter. But rather for the flexibility it provides in the dialogue. Because of voice acting, everything must be pre-recorded and scripted allowing for no flexibility in the game. Additionally, the increased cost of voice acting tends to lower the overal amount of dialogue in the games. There will be plenty on the main quest, but less for the more mundane less important things that can help bring a game world to life. And of course you won't have problems like in Oblivion where they had like 2 voices do the entire world.

Like by naming the hero "I say" so all the characters sound like Foghorn Leghorn

ROFL which is quite painful for me since I just had a hernia repaired yesterday.

Callus

Haha. The two games mentioned here, Just Cause 2 and Uncharted, are the two games I thought could be infinitely improved by hiring the voices and likenesses of Danny Trejo and Nathan Fillian respectively

I always thought it would have been a good idea to have a pre-recorded list of names to choose from. Two sets would be nice, one for first name and one for last... that way they'd be able to refer to your character by their full name and such.

deth2munkies:
I'm surprised you didn't mention Mass Effect. It has a perfect balance, IMO, by letting you give your character his/her first name, but keeping the last name constant to ensure character continuity AND that voice acting (GOOD voice acting IMO) could be done accurately.

I disagree somewhat, while it did let you choose your own first name it had no bearing in the game, I don't recall an instance in either 1 or 2 where the name you chose was even displayed.

RPGs are classified as such because one of the founding principles was that you get to name the character yourself, but if there is no point in naming can you still call it an RPG if you include the ability merely as filiing the staple (name, class, attributes, personal history) of an RPG?

While many point out the difference between characters, it seems to me that the western version IS the original version since it's also in Japan along with the teenage version, meaning it was Japan that localized the game differently for themselves, not for us.

To me, a big part of the appeal of Saints Row 2 is the whole "Just pick the character you like best and play that" aspect of it. Not just the visual customization, which is awesome, but the fact that you can choose from 6 different voices, that have full dialogue recorded for every cutscene and in-game bit of chatter, and even though the lines themselves are all more or less the same, the different voices all have clear personality differences in the way they deliver the lines.

More games should do stuff like that. Saints Row 2 is the only game I've played that really delivered on the "Play who you want!" idea. Well, so long as you want to play a sociopath.

miraclefilms:
Actualy, there have been a lot of advancements in voice synthesizers. We're very close to the indistinguishable to human speech.

Check this links:

http://www.loquendo.com/en/demos/demo_tts.htm

http://www2.research.att.com/~ttsweb/tts/demo.php

http://www.acapela-group.com/text-to-speech-interactive-demo.html

When I typed in "Supercalafregelisticexpealadocious," the thingy sounded like GLaDOS dying.

Dirt 2 does something like this, they have a whole bunch of common names included in the voice acting portfolio so if yours happens to be on that list, NPCs will actually call you by your name when they talk to you.

Madden did it really well. They pronounced my name perfectly it made the game a great experience.

Well there's one huuuuuuuuge problem with voice synthesizers: localization. You can make it kinda work in English, but for every other language, you'd need to program it again. Only recently have distributors begun to give thought about localization (subtitles support etc.).

Anyway, I think in NHL 99 or 2000, the commentators always referred to you by your number. But MY NAME was supported, so they always referred to me by my name, which was cool. I couldn't find any other name which they could pronounce (so they reverted to the number on your back).

Well I guess stitching a name together from syllables might work, even in localization, but I think if the game has enough name options, it should be sufficient (still better than just one name). Racedriver GRID has quite a nice collection of names for example. It was quite easy for me to pick one.

So... Capcom inserted a half-way interesting (and most of all: original) character dynamic into what is otherwise an utterly bland and generic JRPG, and then completely removed it for the Japanese version. What? Were they afraid their Japanese audience would spontaneously combust if exposed to new ideas?

How completely depressing.

The Cheshire Cat:
To me, a big part of the appeal of Saints Row 2 is the whole "Just pick the character you like best and play that" aspect of it. Not just the visual customization, which is awesome, but the fact that you can choose from 6 different voices, that have full dialogue recorded for every cutscene and in-game bit of chatter, and even though the lines themselves are all more or less the same, the different voices all have clear personality differences in the way they deliver the lines.

More games should do stuff like that. Saints Row 2 is the only game I've played that really delivered on the "Play who you want!" idea. Well, so long as you want to play a sociopath.

Hell yes to Saints Row 2! Still one of my all time favorite games to come out of the current gen platforms. My gf at the time made a character that looked exactly like her (it was eery), I made one that looked exactly like me, then we spent the good part of that week blowing the hell out of Stillwater together. One of my best gaming experiences in recent memory.

I personally love the option to change someone's name to Twattycake or Fagballs for comedic value, but for immersing us into the story, it's pretty half-assed.

Mass Effect was the only game to do it right, though. They said the main character's name no matter what you changed it to. His last name, however, is gonna remain as "Shepard", so they refer to him as "Shepard", "Commander", or "Commander Shepard", while still being able to giggle at the fact that you named your character "Vagina-Nipples".

boholikeu:
Am I the only one that thinks it's ridiculously funny and a little depressing that Square Enix apparently thinks the only thing holding them back in the Western market is the muscle mass of their protagonist?

I'm beginning to think that Jun Takeuchi is right: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/100722-Capcom-Producer-Japanese-Industry-Has-No-Hope-in-Hell

Name a popular western action game where the main character isn't just a bodybuilder who has lost his gym that doesn't take all it's gameplay influence from japanese games and I may reconsider that westerners just want either muscles or floating hands with weaponry (because every character who isn't muscles has no personality) .

"Every member of your party in Nier has white hair, it's like a delivery of fetish gear got mistakenly delivered to the geriatric ward."

speaking of punctuation, that comma needs to be a semicolon.

(inner monologue: i can't believe i just grammar-trolled yahtzee. i feel accomplished, yet somehow unworthy.)

ace_of_something:
I rather liked how they dealt with the name issue in Dragon Age. Simply calling you 'Warden' it only felt really weird when you'd reached a very close friendship with your companions and they still were calling you 'warden'
The 2nd time I played through the game I named my character 'Wardin' just so it sounded right.

Brilliant.

There are other things you can do other than a name that personalize the experience of the dialog. For instance:

"Hey, you in the [item of clothing or armor the player character is wearing], get over here."
"So [Tall guy, pointy ears, or other physical characteristic], what'll it be?"
"Get that [currently equipped weapon] out of my face!"
"You may be an excellent [character's best skill], but leave the flying to me."
"I don't know how they handle things in [player-chosen hometown], but out here we take care of ourselves."

MpSai:
Mass Effect got around the naming problem by having a set last name that every character calls you by. Though it gets weird when your love interest is still calling you "Shepard".

It kind of makes sense tho, since my character was Shepard Shepard.

Divine Miss Bee:
"Every member of your party in Nier has white hair, it's like a delivery of fetish gear got mistakenly delivered to the geriatric ward."

speaking of punctuation, that comma needs to be a semicolon.

(inner monologue: i can't believe i just grammar-trolled yahtzee. i feel accomplished, yet somehow unworthy.)

You could at least correct the grammar on your post, specially upper cases, so you don't allow him the pleasure of fighting back!

Back in the Mysts of time when Black & White came out, I played it a lot. One of the things that happened when you played was that whenever a villager died, the game would quietly whisper "Deeeeeeeeeeeeeath". At 3am, playing with headphones, this was just a little creepy.

Then, after a while, I heard the game whisper something I recognised, very quietly. I stopped what I was doing - hurling flaming shit at the enemy, as it happens - and waited for it to happen again. It didn't.

I went back to it, and again with the scary whispering. This time I caught it, and almost fell off my chair. The game was whispering my damn name at me. One of the very rare occourances of me using my first name for a profile, and it had caught that and used it. Absolutely terrifying.

(Looking in the game data files later on, I found they'd recorded whispers for about thirty common male, thirty common female names.)

ME2 did it well as I'm sure has been mentioned countless times

Jacob.pederson:
Codemasters Racing games have been just recording a bunch of names and letting you pick from a list, So my adoring racing fans have been calling me by my first name since GRID :)

Thats a nice idea and better than most but the list of names does tend to be a little Eurocentric. I happen to be named Rez so it never worked for me.

Veldt Falsetto:

Name a popular western action game where the main character isn't just a bodybuilder who has lost his gym that doesn't take all it's gameplay influence from japanese games and I may reconsider that westerners just want either muscles or floating hands with weaponry (because every character who isn't muscles has no personality) .

2 Words... Commander Shepherd.

My prefered choice is a relatable charecter, at that point it doesn't matter what his/her name is. Sqeenix seem to think that letting you choose your name gives them more Role play points. It's odd as that is normally the only choice you get to make all game, the rest is linear and predetermined.

Good point, but I think that's one of those easier-said-than-done things. To such a level that it's not worth it. At least for now.

As someone else has already said, this kind of synthesized voices are already done in Japan from time to time, and they work. But for once, they don't work because of their weird tastes. At least, not completely.

They work because the Japanese language itself is suited for it.

Japanese language phonetics are way simpler than the western languages' ones, by far. They don't have to combine syllables and sounds as much as we do. That's why they usually have to remove them is the western localizations, because it just doesn't work as well in other languages.

I remember that they did it in "The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures" for NGC, the most "out-of-the-radar" entry in the series. The Japanese version had a game mode that was some sort of party game where the players played in the GBA while in the TV the "The Wind Waker" characters were giving full-voiced tips to the players addressing them by the names they had already input.

It's been the only Zelda game to feature voice acting to date.

Since the player had to look at the GBA and at the same time understand what the characters were saying, subtitles on TV were completely out of the question. And the GBA screen was already busy as it was. Besides there was the problem that in Europe Nintendo always localizes to the FIGS as well (French, Italian, German, Spanish), so they had the challenge of localizing the feature to five different languages.

All for a (undeservedly) second rate Zelda game. It was not worth it for Nintendo, so they removed the game mode altogether in the western regions.

Too bad.

You know what i'd like to see? A game where you have a main protagonist fight his way through the entire story, find the macguffin and rescue the princess and all that crap - then have an expansion pack retcon a specific part of the story to blow it out into a completely different path, changing the story entirely.

Perhaps you destroy the macguffin before the bad guy can use it. This forces him to play his hand, killing the princess and find another macguffin.

Or maybe the protag isn't even able to reach the macguffin. Bad guy uses it and starts to rule the world. The protag retreats, dispondant and depressed, hits the bottle hard and hides from the world...but he's the chosen one, so a different protag needs to dig the old one out, dust him off and give him a kick in the ass to get him back on track.

That would be awesome.

I tried entering the name "I Say" once, and I though they sounded more like P.G. Wodehouse characters than Foghorn Leghorn.

You know what is funny about this, there are already many good working synthesizers in a large amount of games, but I bet you don't play them :)

Sports sims, particularly the ones based on college basketball, use an excellent voice synthesizer that has accurately and naturally used my name many times. Bravo to EA, they got something right in those things :)

KwaggaDan:
I remember catching a Caterpie or Weedle in Pokemon, naming it penis and using "Harden"

Ah, the joys of naming characters...

I think I did something like that years ago and called it something that will get me told off here and only used the "lick" attack. They were amused and distgusted at the same time.

I wonder why the Japanese version didn't keep the eye patch on. It's a common fad in Japan now to give their protagonist a stupid eye patch because they think it looks cool or something.

Veldt Falsetto:

Name a popular western action game where the main character isn't just a bodybuilder who has lost his gym that doesn't take all it's gameplay influence from japanese games and I may reconsider that westerners just want either muscles or floating hands with weaponry (because every character who isn't muscles has no personality) .

The cast of Team Fortress 2, except for the heavy, also Left 4 Dead 1 and 2. It's really good to see Valve giving character to their characters, instead of silent protagonists like Gordon and the girl in Portal.

I remember a friend buying the old Legends of Wrestling game for gamecube ( I think it was on gamecube ) and playing a few rounds with him. I made myself in the game with the character creation and input my name of course. However, when I was strolling down the aisle and getting in the ring the announcer comes over the PA yelling my name.

My actual name.

I shat brix.

As a programmer, I feel almost compelled to provide my input on the subject of voice synthesis. If anyone more experienced finds any misinformation, please correct me as I don't have any direct experience working with speech synthesis software. I am providing an engineers outside perspective on the topic.

Speech synthesis can take up fair amounts of memory, as the system needs to know which sound to play for each syllable of the word. The sounds could either be generated on the fly, or stored in wav files then loaded when needed, such as is the case with a scripted in-game sequence or a cut-scene. In the former case, the speed at which the sound is generated depends on the speed of the hardware, and is pretty impractical in and of itself for realtime applications such as games, whereas in the latter, if the voice synthesis is purely for a situation such as saying a characters name, then yeah, it could work. But put it into the context of an RPG, where the amount of system resources used is already high, both storage and runtime resources, the added sound clips could push the team well beyond their storage budget. This is especially true if you store a sound bank for more than one character. In the case of console titles, developers are on very restrictive resource budgets. This is why you typically see speech synthesis used primarily on PC applications (macs are PC's, get over it) and in sound studios such as LMMS or Fruity Loops Studio.

I like the robot idea though... I may have to use that >=D

One obvious trick is to get them to call you by your codename, which you pick from a choice of about 20 like "Ace", "Bulldog" etc.

Although, again, it's not for intimate situations.

Veldt Falsetto:

boholikeu:
Am I the only one that thinks it's ridiculously funny and a little depressing that Square Enix apparently thinks the only thing holding them back in the Western market is the muscle mass of their protagonist?

I'm beginning to think that Jun Takeuchi is right: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/100722-Capcom-Producer-Japanese-Industry-Has-No-Hope-in-Hell

Name a popular western action game where the main character isn't just a bodybuilder who has lost his gym that doesn't take all it's gameplay influence from japanese games and I may reconsider that westerners just want either muscles or floating hands with weaponry (because every character who isn't muscles has no personality) .

I don't remember Niko Bellic being particularly buff. He seemed to have a pretty normal build to me, and GTA4 is pretty much the poster child of Western "macho" games.

Anyway, I'm not saying that Western games *don't* have muscle-bound heroes, I'm just saying it's pretty funny that some Japanese developers apparently thought that was the *only* thing holding them back in the Western market.

Here's a zany idea, the Japanese: let me choose my own character if you're going to make two of them anyway. Granted, in this case, I wouldn't be excited for either choice. I don't particularly want to be a snowy-haired fairy OR a meth-addicted bodybuilder. But it's a little insulting to have Japanese people deciding that the juiced up bodybuilder is the natural pick for America.

I remember playing Wind Waker and naming my lil' Link wannabe "sexyboy" it gave me a good chuckle when i walked into Grandma's house at the start of the game and she said "I've been waiting for you Sexyboy"

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