Not All Quiet On The Vocal Front
Voice acting can make or break your game.
If it’s good, people will remember and rejoice, but if it’s bad, then it can very well make your game unplayable. It’s a fine line to walk. You have to have a personality for the player to latch onto, but not one that will be rebuked by your fanbase. If the tone of the performance isn’t matching the environment that the player is traveling through, then it will break their suspension of disbelief from the game and onto something else. Half of tone is writing, but the other half (and the most important) is the acting. A great actor can salvage rushed work, and do it in a timely process.
Let it be known though, voice acting is tough stuff; harder even than its traditional cousin. With traditional acting you experience the movement, the scene, live in front of you. It’s easier to react and give emotions when someone is there to give you queues to work off of, but put those same lines in a vacuum with nothing in front of you but the script and a mic; it becomes increasingly more difficult. Our actress Sarah Hoist walked in and knocked it out of the park!
When working with actor or actress it is very important that you allow them to find the character you are writing about. I gave Sarah a packet of information that included a character bio and the script. The bio was short and gave personality traits, along with some character development, but that was it. When she came in she had three different tones to work off of, and we found a voice that rang true to the character of Oracle. The thing is though, I never dictated to her how she should be as the character.
If you wind up working with a voice actor on a project you should them allow to play. Play facilitates character and allowing the talent to have a stronger grasp on who it is they are portraying, giving them ownership over the character. Give them a map, not a GPS. You are hiring the person for their voice, not for them to mimic another voice that you actually want in game. Always talk to the person beyond them reading their lines; their individual personality will influence the nuances around your character.
I even stepped into the booth to read a line for the demo we are submitting to PAX 10. It is an experience, and one that I feel every writer for video games should go through. It gives you a better understanding of what you’re writing, and it allows you insight when you are putting words to paper.
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