Voice vs. Choice

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i know what you about reading the text in voice, i get it alot while watch anime and i also like how planetscape did it but i think we may have to put up with the current method for a while as necessity is the father of invention so maybe the faulty method we have now will inspire people take make better voice acting tech, who knows

Three words to solve the problem. Mass Effect Two.

I think they did a great job on the ratio voice acting/ tekst in fallout(2). It gave me the feeling that I was still playing, how strange it may sound, a bit of a pen and paper rpg as well with a good storyteller who told me in (gory) detail how the headshot killed my opponent.
Voice acting gives depth, but on the other hand it doesn't have to be the whole game trough. A bit of imagination with a good discription of what is going on in your surroundings can do the same job maybe even better than having to look at a almost generic generated face that is talking to me.

Well if u make an rpg in the vain of GTA/RDR or ME2 i'd rather the developers just railroad me down a story path or 2. cause i actually do listen when the choices are limited.

But if your gonna give me the freedom to do whatever, i would agree with what Shamus said. Just give me text. cause in that type of RPG you really dont care about the NPCs to begin with :P cause i sure as hell cant remember any of them. But i remember Niko Belkic, John Marston, and Shepard and crew! :D

aaaaaDisregard:
Maybe it's not just storyline, but increase in complexity of game scripting, animations and overall technology. In fallout you can script NPC to go at point (x; y) and then initiate a dialog, while in modern RPGs like Mass Effect 2 designers have to take care of camera, different animations, facial expressions, lighting etc. And then debug it all.
Just remember how messy and full of bugs were Troika's choice-rich games like Arcanum and Vampire: Masquerade - Bloodlines.

So it's not just voice acting, but tech complexity and players' expectations of production values. I'm more than ready to play Fallout: New Vegas with 2D 1998-level tech if it had as much freedom as original Fallouts, but most gamers aren't so forgiving, sadly=(.
A friend of mine said he won't play Alpha Protocol 'cause its graphics sucks. I'm, afraid he's not alone.

I agree that the bottleneck in allowing free-form questing is more likely to be related to scripting than voice-acting. I also agree with those saying that Planescape Torment was the last great CRPG. That said, not even Torment could hold a candle to Ultimas 4-7 in terms of allowing players to play however they want. The closest thing I've seen in recent years are the Avernum retro-games - hell, perhaps the issue is 2D vs. 3D!

I don't really care for voice acting in games, sometimes it's useful when there's a group over and they're watching or maybe for LPer's but honestly it just slows down the game if you want to really just listen to them. Morrowind was a fine example about tons and tons of dialogue that really didn't need voice acting. Though in a game like Mass Effect I felt it gave it that movie feel that text wouldn't really give.

It's a mixed bag I guess, I say I don't like it but then I look at ME and ME2 and realize I really do love it in those games, it sucks you in so well. It really depends on the game I guess.

I agree wholeheartedly. I like Fallout 1 & 2's style -- important characters to the story get talking heads, and other characters just get text. It gives immersion without sacrificing choices.

veloper:
For Bethesda it's an issue of not being able to write proper dialogues and not caring in the first place. Their focus has always been on sandbox screw around yourself gameplay.
Their stories cannot branch, because nothing is connected anyway.

Bioware do really try, but they don't quite make it, because they both make it themselves difficult (ye olde enlish) and they do run into budget constraints for hiring many voice actors.

There exists only 1 RPG with truly great VO and that is Bloodlines. The game was also railroaded much in the same way Dragon Age is.

I believe VO is a limiting factor, but there's also the challenge of writing choices into good plots.

Im sorry but in my opinion the books lying around in Morrowwind seemed quite interresting and original (If few that wasnt the same) and each character you went around meeting had a whole different personality and a story to them. I found Arena/Daggerfall/Morrowind writing great and even a whole lot of interresting points in Oblivion (Texts that is) Bethesda is well able if not great at writing text for each individual they have shown that. If they suddenly stopped writing well would probably mean that they wanted to save money not because they were not able.

On the voiceacting part. I believe Text is skipped just as fast as voice just eh. Cheaper to make.

What they need to do is continue to have voice acting for the same parts that they currently have, but if you figure out a way to accomplish the quest that is not the "main" way, you simply get dialogue with no voice acting. They can use voice for the one or two most likely choices that people will make and then use only dialogue for the rest. This way you can have voice without removing choice.

Red Dead Redemption has most of the talking occur during the run-up to a mission, or after. It must've been easier than in GTA, where if you die, you have to restart the mission over again, and then you'd get ALL NEW DIALOGUE. (I barely died in a way that sent me back to hear the dialogue again). And the characters are darn interestin', even if a few are thin.

Put the dialogue where it covers boring things, like riding to a mission. Don't put it in the middle where I might have to rehear it.

I wouldn't blame voice acting for limited choices in RPGs. I've seen great scripting, plentiful choice, and good voice acting together in a number of games. The real issue is designer, developer, and publisher laziness. Most games today are created by companies that only are really out to make profit. And good enough release sooner is better for their money making strategy than making a complete game later. Most people give most developers and designers WAY TOO much credit. Most in the industry got there out of luck and being in the right place at the right time and not for skill and creativity. Many developers aren't that much better than the code monkeys working on your average Office clone for some firm. Most designers are generally hacks that would be starving "artists" anywhere else. And the publishers would be just be pawning off some other kind of awful software if not for games.

"To be successful as a company, all you have to do is suck less than anyone else."

Really, it's more of an effort issue than a "technical" issue. They could write in such a manner to accept multiple choices. They could voice in such a manner to accept multiple choices. They could script in such a manner to allow multiple choice. They just are too lazy, stupid, and apathetic to do so. They just use voice acting and other technical "limitations" to hide behind the real reasons. You spent five years and a few million dollars to make a game that doesn't allow more than two choices for most things? Many times these choices aren't naturally binary. Most of time, 75% of people playing the game can see MANY ways to write, script, and code a few simple tweaks to make it work. And when you have close to 100 developers, millions of dollars, and a few years... What is the excuse for not doing to job right? Nothing. They just don't care.

I can go into the many reasons for most companies's failings, but I'll just summarize it: Apathy, inefficiency, and stupidity. Most large teams are full of people who are apathetic and are only around to collect a paycheck. They go home and they don't bother after that point. The power structures are too bloated and inefficient. Also, most companies use horrific methodology to manage their workers that is incompatible to the creative development process, which only serves to limit and degrade performance. And 90% of the people that have development jobs suck at way they do. The problem with creative development is that by the time you realize someone you just hired sucks, it's too late to be a developer short. Also, if everyone is below average, who's to judge who's below average. So companies just compensate and move on. The various jobs within the company are very insular. You could have a computer scientist working a coding job who sees that a game mechanic is going to absolutely fail and detract from the game. He could give scientific proof of the issue. Between "grunt coder" and head of design, who are they going to listen to? "Grunt coder" is always going to lose that and possibly risk his future employment over it.

Most companies could rely upon their internal resources for such things as voice acting. You can't tell me someone in the office doesn't have the right voice for the character. Most voice acting is cheesy anyway, so let them have a shot and save the money and time. Most professional voice actors are overpriced and don't really add that much more to a game in comparison to someone internally. Most got lucky, got a name, and just live off of that, since they actually don't have much skill in comparison to average Joe off the street. And for the amount of money they spend on voice acting... why bother? With the right minds and resources they could upgrade current voice synthesis technology to make use of different techniques to simulate voices. Bring in someone, train the system to model their voice and learn, and then be able to use a phonetic language to drive a computer simulated voice. Voice acting solved. Suddenly, choice open up. Characters could dynamic change tone and inflection to react to the situation and moods. Your character in the RPG could talk in a manner of your choosing and be able to also change tone and inflection to alter the situation. Imagine being able to start an argument just by saying on thing in the wrong tone. True sarcasms that isn't strictly scripted. Emergent gameplay and all that good stuff. Even the most crude voice synthesis can get fairly close, it just needs a little work in the details. Then again... this requires a company to not be apathetic, inefficient, and stupid.

Some people would point out that I'm being very critical of companies. Yes, I am. Why? Almost all game companies out there deserve far more criticism than they do praise. Almost all of them suck and produce games that suck. They pat themselves and each other on the back WAY TOO much. The only reason why they are still in business is because people will buy games no matter how bad they are just as long as they less bad than anything else out on the market. The real tragedy is that developers are getting lazier and less inclined for quality as the market starts to over praise, over hype, and be over complacent with the products being produced. And being companies out for money, they are only going to do as much required to get paid.

So... Really saying voice acting is hindering design isn't correct. You can have your cake and eat it, too. The problem is split paradoxically between gamers and game companies: Gamers are complacent with the current level of quality because they don't know there should be better and game companies don't produce better because most gamers don't demand better.

I agree wholeheartedly! Morrowind's way of handling things seems superbly suited for RPGs. In games with high choice, having only important people (including perhaps the PC) voiced makes sense. Though for other games like shooters this is entirely unnecessary for obvious reasons.

What I think could also help is if game devs waited until they'd playtested the game to hell and gone and were ready to release it before putting in voices. Just have the dialogue sequences all set up but unvoiced (or with placeholders provided by the devs/friends/family for free) so that they can catch those "Oh, what if they do this thing we didn't anticipate?" and thus ensure the VA can voice those lines when they actually come in.

veloper:
For Bethesda it's an issue of not being able to write proper dialogues and not caring in the first place. Their focus has always been on sandbox screw around yourself gameplay.
Their stories cannot branch, because nothing is connected anyway.

Clearly someone hasn't played Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall. Not only did it have branching quests, it had around about six endings. Of course, that was back when they had Ted Peterson as a lead designer rather than a guy who freelances for them and gives them short stories to stuff in books.

Akiada:
I agree wholeheartedly! Morrowind's way of handling things seems superbly suited for RPGs. In games with high choice, having only important people (including perhaps the PC) voiced makes sense. Though for other games like shooters this is entirely unnecessary for obvious reasons.

What I think could also help is if game devs waited until they'd playtested the game to hell and gone and were ready to release it before putting in voices. Just have the dialogue sequences all set up but unvoiced (or with placeholders provided by the devs/friends/family for free) so that they can catch those "Oh, what if they do this thing we didn't anticipate?" and thus ensure the VA can voice those lines when they actually come in.

veloper:
For Bethesda it's an issue of not being able to write proper dialogues and not caring in the first place. Their focus has always been on sandbox screw around yourself gameplay.
Their stories cannot branch, because nothing is connected anyway.

Clearly someone hasn't played Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall. Not only did it have branching quests, it had around about six endings. Of course, that was back when they had Ted Peterson as a lead designer rather than a guy who freelances for them and gives them short stories to stuff in books.

I don't recall anything about the dialogue being good. That was 14 years ago anyway, ancient history.

What's wrong with linearity?
Besides, there are more ways than you've explained that you could have rescued nancy in fallout 3. For example, how are you going to persuade her that you're not just going to sell her into slavery or ask for a ransom? You could:
1) Threaten her into following you
2) Convince her using speech
3) Forcefully take her with you

Then there's getting to and from Nancy. Will you
1) Stealthfully take out the guards
2) Run in, guns blazing
3) Set traps for guards
4) Smooth talk your way in

Personally, I don't skip the voice acting unless I've played that part of the game several times over. When a game is voice acting heavy, like Dragon Age, I'm being told a story as much as I'm dungeon crawling and slaughtering crap. So I sit back and enjoy the story I'm being told.

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