Casting director Mark Estdale wishes game studios wouldn't leave something as important as choosing voice actors to the last minute.
"It is common (and bad) practice to seek voice actors late in the development process when the script is almost finished when 'getting the voices in' is high on the agenda," said Estdale.
The immersive experience of a game hinges more and more on a properly delivered voice acting experience, Estdale said, but unfortunately, many developers are not giving it the attention and polish it needs. The problem, he said, is a lot of studios don't understand the role and requirements of voice actors in their games.
Estdale likened the voice acting experience to that of an actor in a movie. But while few will doubt the importance of an actor in delivering a proper movie experience, the contribution of a proper voice actor is much less recognized. "In performance terms, games by their interactive nature demand a far greater precision and attention to detail than with any linear production. The non-linearity of interactivity means the audience may spend, hours, days, even weeks with your character. The slightest blemish will be under a microscope. It is the tiniest flaw can shatter the audience's suspension of disbelief, even if NPC 3,102 blew it," Estdale said.
So what is needed to solve this problem? Education, Estdale said. "Game developers are masters of game development (sometimes) but they frequently don't understand the art and craft of performance. It's a young industry, they will learn and what the future will bring will astound us. From my experience the teams that produce good voice work are simply those lead by senior decision makers who are passionate about, and understand the power of voice (and audio) and they factor into their schedules and their budgets what is needed to facilitate results. They know."
Is this likely to change any time soon? Estdale notes the industry is still in its developing stages, as movies took about fifty years to come into their own. What is important for producing proper voice work is the developers understanding that the selection of voice actors needs to be an integral part of the scriptwriting process, not something to be tacked on at the end with whatever budget is left. Still, Estdale said, things are getting better.
"It's a great industry. I love its genius and its youth. What is done with voice isn't core to creativity. Yes it has value but the beating heart is genius otherwise directed. Every day I still wake up inspired. Things will change," Estdale said.