BioWare: Fully-Voiced Old Republic Was a "Dumb Thing to Try"

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BioWare: Fully-Voiced Old Republic Was a "Dumb Thing to Try"

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BioWare thought that making a fully-voiced conversation system in the upcoming MMOG Star Wars: The Old Republic was a "dumb thing to try" but decided to go for it anyway after seeing how well it worked in Mass Effect.

Star Wars: The Old Republic was unveiled at the 2009 edition of E3 as the first fully-voiced MMOG ever, but it wasn't always going to be that way. The original idea was to create a more conventional conversation system along the lines of that used in Dragon Age: Origins. But that plan fell apart when the Old Republic team ran headlong into Mass Effect, BioWare's other, more interesting hit sci-fi franchise.

Fully voicing an MMOG is "a massively insane expenditure and hugely complicated" undertaking, said BioWare Lead Designer and Writer Daniel Erickson. "You have to cast 16 of the best actors ever and then hold them for eternity." But when Mass Effect launched very early in the development of The Old Republic, Erickson gathered up James Ohlen, the lead designer on Baldur's Gate, Knights of the Old Republic and Dragon Age: Origins and gave it a look.

"We both saw Mass Effect and were like, 'Okay. There is no choice here'. So we rounded up both sides - us and LucasArts - and despite it being a huge undertaking, we showed them one with VO and one without and we attached a price tag to it," Erickson said. "We thought they wouldn't go for it. We were like: 'This is a dumb thing to try to go for [in] an MMO'. It came back unanimously from both sides - we had to do it."

"Mass Effect changed the world because you became the hero," he added. "We had to go back and rewrite everything. The storytelling system is totally inked from Mass Effect."

Star Wars: The Old Republic is currently targeted for release in spring 2011.

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Age of Conan attempted this, they failed horribly. I'm not really looking forward to this anyhow, so my hopes aren't high

I respect them for trying this... I want to see how they'll be able to do this.

We'll have to see if this works smoothly and if that huge expenditure pays off, mind you I know alot of people who play MMOs without sound half of the time, so it could be a bit of a waste itself

It is a really dumb thing to try. We don't need voice actors for every little character. Waste of money, resources and game development time. They could have done sufficiently with giving the major ones voices or only voicing the first 2 sentences.

Voice acting adds little, makes the game more linear and takes away from your imagination. WoW didn't do too good of a job with story in their collosus, but that doesn't mean full on voice acting is required to make a good, immersive MMO world. I long for the days when games were big, unfiltered and had more choice without it.

Bioware always have great scripts and voice actors so i'm sure this'll work. It'll definately make the levelling from 1 to max a lot more fun and interesting than the standard MMO click npc, click accept.

Well, I doubt that every character will have them. Most likely it'll just be quest givers. But that's good too, I respect them for trying the impossible, I just hope it doesn't detract from anything else in the game.

This game is looks like it could be really good. But why on earth do new MMORGs always seem to come out around the same time as the next World of Warcraft exspanion?

I'm with bioware on this one, it's all or nothing, it was jarring as hell in AoC when the NPC's suddenly stopped talking

That is pretty cool, but won't there be a few complications? I mean, how fun is it when you have a ton of characters that not only look the same, but sound the same too?

Daemascus:
This game is looks like it could be really good. But why on earth do new MMORGs always seem to come out around the same time as the next World of Warcraft exspanion?

I think you'll find thats the other way round, Blizzard plan expansions to come out at the same time as new MMO's do.

Snowalker:
Age of Conan attempted this, they failed horribly. I'm not really looking forward to this anyhow, so my hopes aren't high

And it wasn't even a story-driven MMO. That is indeed insane from Bioware's part, it borders on impossible to have possibly hundreds of thousands lines of high quality voice acting. This must be a developer's worst nightmare...

Furburt:
Well, I doubt that every character will have them. Most likely it'll just be quest givers. But that's good too, I respect them for trying the impossible, I just hope it doesn't detract from anything else in the game.

Nah, any NPC you can talk to will, and most likely, the non-interactive NPCs will still talk (think NPC conversations in Mass Effect).

This is a real Canadian attitude. Yeah it's a dumb idea, but lets try it anyways since no one else will.

If any company can do this, it will be BioWare. They have balls and their heart at the right place to do this and pull this one off. Count me in, I am excited.

When you think about it, Bioware already has half the voice acting industry on retainer anyway, so it's not as big an undertaking as you might think. But it's still huge.

Oh, and was anyone else really excited to see Juliet Landau show up on this game's cast? Just me? Sigh...

Everything I'm hearing about this game sounds great: More emphasis on story, giving alternative choices in quests or making more moral choices you can't back out on. It might be the first MMO I actually bother with.

Watching the footage, I don't think it's as much the voicing per se but the interactivity. A lot of MMOs hit you with a wall of text with a couple of sentences highlighted explaining what you actually need to do. (Go kill 10 rats and bring back their tails.) At least with this method you have an interactive conversation them forcing you to actually be engaged in the dialogue rather thn just skimming it for the objectives.

Star Trek Online "tried" to do this as well but it only appeared in a handful of missions.

I know in most BioWare games there's an option for turning on the subtitles, the non-english alien voices definitely use them.

The troubling part is going to be writing new content that involve the "core characters" since they're going to have to be a part of every expansion the game will do. I wonder if they'd have to change the entire voice if they lost someone for some reason.

You have to cast 16 of the best actors ever and then hold them for eternity.

Why? If you played Fallout 3 or Oblivion, you always come accross the same voices everywhere! Wouldn't it be better to hire 100 average voice actors to do less lines each than 16 of the best?

Littaly:
That is pretty cool, but won't there be a few complications? I mean, how fun is it when you have a ton of characters that not only look the same, but sound the same too?

I agree. Bioware is trying to get a more engaging personal story here but im not convinced its going to work all that well in an MMO. Every character of the same class will have the same specific backstory(mentors/friends ect) companions,and voice if theyre the same gender. I think its a classic case of uncanny valley,the closer they get to an MMO with a personal story the limitations of an MMO become more glaringly obvious and seeing guys run around followed by the same friend as you with the same voice will actually take you out of the game rather than immersing you. We will have to wait and see.

Snowalker:
Age of Conan attempted this, they failed horribly. I'm not really looking forward to this anyhow, so my hopes aren't high

Age of Conan was also supposed to be an MMO of a more adult nature.

OT: yea, its a stupid idea, yes it might come off as being horrible, yes it could destroy the game, but its something different........

after all, you can read text saying you need to kill twelve wolves so the guy can feed his family until the next hero walks by, or you can actually hear yourself give a hint of sarcasm before you blast him, his family, and Jim from down the road, into oblivion.

note: I have nothing against Jim or any persons named Jim. I guess I should also say that it was an example, but that would just be pretentious of me.

Well, they gave it a shot at least, and, it failed. Cant blame them for wanting to do something new and exciting...well, we know it wont work now

The decision they're referring to here was the decision to give player characters voice, ala Mass Effect or keep the PC silent ala Dragon Age. That's what they mean by "fully voiced". NPC voice overs were a given.

Think about it. They have to cast a male and female actor for each class -- 16 in total. And they have to keep bringing the same people in for every new piece of story content for the life of the MMO. What if someone quits or dies? Suddenly, your character has one voice for the new content and another voice for the old content. NPC's can easily be recast or dropped entirely. Player characters, not so much.

BW has some balls.

Kalezian:

Snowalker:
Age of Conan attempted this, they failed horribly. I'm not really looking forward to this anyhow, so my hopes aren't high

Age of Conan was also supposed to be an MMO of a more adult nature.

How was that relevant? I mean, you're right, it was... but why does that affect voice acting?

Veret:
When you think about it, Bioware already has half the voice acting industry on retainer anyway, so it's not as big an undertaking as you might think. But it's still huge.

Oh, and was anyone else really excited to see Juliet Landau show up on this game's cast? Just me? Sigh...

Drusilla is in The Old Republic!?! I know actors hate type casting, but I really hope she plays another bat shit crazy character. She's so good at it.

Snowalker:

Kalezian:

Snowalker:
Age of Conan attempted this, they failed horribly. I'm not really looking forward to this anyhow, so my hopes aren't high

Age of Conan was also supposed to be an MMO of a more adult nature.

How was that relevant? I mean, you're right, it was... but why does that affect voice acting?

that Age of Conan was supposed to be/have a lot of things that it jumped out on, it really isnt the best of examples for much.

Pvp
Voice Acting
Combat
Questing
Graphics
Community

just things I can think of at the moment, haven't played in nearly a year.

I think this looks like total ass-kickery. It's one of the few games on my radar that I'm not expecting to flop.

Jaredin:
Well, they gave it a shot at least, and, it failed. Cant blame them for wanting to do something new and exciting...well, we know it wont work now

Uh, where does it say that? Nowhere in the article above does it say that it failed, or that they were giving up with the idea.

I think it's a brilliant idea personally, and if it's successful it could really help bring the game to life. It may be madly ambitious, but I have every confidence in Bioware's ability to pull it off.

Here's how I read this story: A bunch of programmers were forced to spec/price out a horribly unnecessary, complicated, and expensive task and tried their hardest to make it look unsavory for the stuffed shirts who call the shots at both companies (Bioware and Lucas). Despite their best efforts to make the task look like a waste of time and money, the idiots in charge decided to go ahead and sink development money into it anyway.

I've actually had this happen to me quite a few times.

Kalezian:

Snowalker:

Kalezian:

Snowalker:
Age of Conan attempted this, they failed horribly. I'm not really looking forward to this anyhow, so my hopes aren't high

Age of Conan was also supposed to be an MMO of a more adult nature.

How was that relevant? I mean, you're right, it was... but why does that affect voice acting?

that Age of Conan was supposed to be/have a lot of things that it jumped out on, it really isnt the best of examples for much.

Pvp
Voice Acting
Combat
Questing
Graphics
Community

just things I can think of at the moment, haven't played in nearly a year.

Oh, I agree, thing is, it was the only other MMO I can think of that attempted this. I think Aion, might have, but I'm not certain.

I am so fucking sick of star wars games!

Global Agenda is fantastic. It's all I'll need until Everquest classic is released.

It's stories like this that give me hope for the games industry.

Because this kind of move is nothing short of entrepeneurship of the greatest sort and by the biggest companies. And to see it happen within a system, that is increasingly punishing such and rewarding mediocrity instead, I couldn't be happier.

It's a big risk, but if they pull it off properly the reward will be big as well. And it wouldn't be the first time that something 'dumb' turns out to be possibly the greatest thing ever.

They are defining "fully voiced" as having the player character speak along with the NPC's. Age of Conan never attempted that, so it is irrelevant. This is Bioware; spoken NPC dialogue comes standard and it is not the "dumb thing to try" they are talking about in this article.

dochmbi:

You have to cast 16 of the best actors ever and then hold them for eternity.

Why? If you played Fallout 3 or Oblivion, you always come across the same voices everywhere! Wouldn't it be better to hire 100 average voice actors to do less lines each than 16 of the best?

16 can be quite enough. There was a great adventure game some time ago, Discworld Noir. It has several dozens of characters, each with a distinct and recognizable voice. The game is voiced by four people.

So yeah, 16 good voice actors can create hundreds of unique characters. Until you run out of money, disk space, and target audience's attention span.

Are they going fully voiced or not? If so, why say it was a dumb thing to try? It makes it sound like they are already looking for an out if the game bombs.

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