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Concerning the VO Budget for Project Eternity


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We all know Voice-overs in video games are one of the most (if not the most) expensive parts of a video game.

This topic hasn't really been talked about since the Kickstarter campaign, of which Feargus was saying that the level of VO in Project Eternity will be more like Baldur's Gate 2 (out of the three Infinity Engine games).
I believe there's probably a quote in the Kickstarter comments about it.

However since the decision of the VO style is probably a decision between Adam Brennecke (Executive Producer, did the budgeting) and Josh Sawyer (Project Director) among others, this decision may have been altered based on the budget and desired style.

Obsidian has a good voice-over track record with Fallout: New Vegas holding a Guinness world record for most lines of VO in a video game but I assume it probably wasn't part of the development budget and that the publisher handled this part of it ?

I just wanted to talk a bit about the different types of VO and hopefully illicit a response from the devs as their 'intended' direction regarding the matter.

Non-party Joinable NPCs

Selection VO: Out of the three Infinity Engine games, Baldur's Gate had the most lines of VO for non-party joinable NPCs. Every NPC in the game had a "hail" VO line of dialogue which activated upon selection or when the NPC forced an interjection with the party. The C&C was then all text, but usually the hail line was part of the first line of C&C dialogue for an NPC. In the cases where it was different, one can assume that the hail line of VO was recorded and the dialogue was altered (improved?) afterwards. This had no negative effect on the dialogue however.

Icewind Dale (1 & 2) on the other hand had no NPC selection voice over. My memory is a bit fuzzy regarding Planescape: Torment as it's the IE game I have played the least and I never finished it (don't worry I will remedy that), I don't actually recall whether NPCs had selection voice overs.

Passive VO: Baldur's Gate also had a fair bit of unselected voice-over, where when the player's characters walked past an NPC (NPC visible in fog of war or within certain distance), they would speak a line of VO. These were mostly done by one-dimensional filler NPCs such as random Courtesans, drunks, commoners and nobles in the area.

Major NPCs in the game had multiple lines of VO'd dialogue. Baldur's Gate one only had Gorion and Sarevok really. Baldur's Gate 2 had a lot more. Icewind Dale 1 and 2 made very good use of it's limited VO budget by providing very strong VO lines from major plot characters.

Combat dialogue: Monsters and enemies also had unique combat dialogue lines.

Party-joinable NPCs

Baldur's Gate 1 had very simple party-joinable NPC VO. NPCs had lines when they approved of another NPC in the party, for (un)happiness with the reputation level of the party, random flavor lines of dialogue for certain types of areas and a voice set for selection and combat similar to the player's voice set.
Baldur's Gate 2 built on this with a lot more random flavor VO and the first few lines of most scripted interjections with the PC.

Planescape Torment had some more conversation-style voice over and there seem to be a lot of people who were fans of Planescape Torment's cNPC voice over quantity & quality. I am not the best person to talk about Planescape Torment's voice over's so someone else will likely expand on what I've said in the thread.

PC Voice sets

Baldur's Gate 1 and 2 both had a handful (4?) of player voice sets for male and female NPCs. The voice sets were 'okay' but you got the feeling that the most effort was put into voicing the world (which is not a bad thing).

Icewind Dale and Icewind Dale 2 had a large amount of player voice sets per sex, organized by 'class'. The voice sets (writing and acting) was of a higher quality than the Baldur's Gate 1 & 2 voice sets.

Ambient Voice-over

This might actually be part of the sound budget I am not sure, but the ambient tracks for levels generally had a few lines of dialogue here and there in Baldur's Gate 2 (in the cities at least).

Universal Voice-over

Both Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale had voiced incantations for spells, usually one per school of magic

Narration

Baldur's Gate had a narrated introduction and narrated dream sequences (as well as some narration for Tales of the Sword Coast events). Icewind Dale had a narrated introduction and narrated Chapter sequences.

All three games had a different voice over focus:

Baldur's Gate spent more of the VO budget on flavoring the world, Icewind Dale focused on the party VO and key plot characters. Planescape Torment focused on the recruitable companions.

Now as for the Voice acting buget for Project Eternity, what can we realistically expect from the VO in the game ? Should we expect something along the lines of Icewind Dale or Planescape Torment where VO is in limited capacity? Obviously the VO budget will be less than Baldur's Gate 2, but there are only 8 companions to voice rather than ~20.

The question I have for the developers is what is your desired focus regarding voice acting, will you focus on one particular element that I have mentioned (such as the world, the PC or the companions) or will you give us a bit of a mix of the three?
 

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I always found Torment to be a very good demonstration of limited voice acting paying dividends creatively, on my last playthrough I was amazed at the amount of lines that were not voiced, that I had a clear recollection of thinking were. I'm not sure whether it was because of the extremely distinct characters, their voice sets or what, but once introduced my imagination seemed to fill in the gaps without conscious effort.

 

The voice sets of Icewind Dale were exemplary though, I still catch myself ocassionally muttering. "Easy as Goblin pie."

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Quite an experience to live in misery isn't it? That's what it is to be married with children.

I've seen things you people can't even imagine. Pearly Kings glittering on the Elephant and Castle, Morris Men dancing 'til the last light of midsummer. I watched Druid fires burning in the ruins of Stonehenge, and Yorkshiremen gurning for prizes. All these things will be lost in time, like alopecia on a skinhead. Time for tiffin.

 

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And what about "make your own adventurers lodge adventurers"?

 

Obviously they won't have plot info or anything like that, but are they completely mute or borrow voices from named NPC's.

Talking of combat speak, but why not "look at that fortress" -kind of general banter as well.

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I'm not gonna claim to know any specific numbers, here, but you've gotta think it's possible to find lots of voice actors who DON'T charge 7 grand per sentence, just like some big shows and films get a bunch of no-name actors and actresses who rock, even though they're not in the spotlight until AFTER being seen rocking in said show/film. Those actors/actresses consider themselves pretty lucky to be in that big of a project, and they don't say "Okay, as long as you give me 7 million dollars." They probably get like a hundred grand, to start, until the show/film does really well. Then that price starts going up.

 

And that's full-acting, not just voice acting. I'm not saying it's easy, but I just don't think the only people out there talented at voice acting are all already well-established chargers of extravagant sums.

Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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First, a question: Do we even know that magic will have vocal components in PE? I suppose it's somewhat traditional that it does, and it makes magic stand out more when used in combat, but spells could just come with distinct, non-vocal sound effects.

 

That aside, I'd like to see party members and other main characters more fully voiced than in BG2, and with more voiced phrases for when you issue orders or select them. I'm fine with minimal VO for minor characters, though I'd like there to be a lot of different introductory lines just to spice things up.

 

Do we know about how the protagonist will be voiced? I assume it will be like an IE game, with lines for combat, orders from the player and certain status updates. If that's the case, please give us a wider range of voices to choose from.

 

It would also be awesome -- and I hope this is possible -- for the recorded lines to be catered to the kinds of class the character is playing. Often I like the sound of a particular voice, but its taunts or battle cries don't match the class well. It would be cool if the responses would cater to whether your class was a warrior, rogue or caster, and a bonus from there if it catered to classes with distinctive 'personalities,' so to speak, like paladins, monks and clerics.

 

With all of that said, I know it's a fan's inclination to ask for more of everything, so please understand I don't consider VOs to be a high priority. Make the story, characters, combat, enemies, levels, and overall gameplay rock solid first, and then figure out how VOs can put icing on the cake. VOs are also really easy to expand over time, so they can be revisited, I assume, without much more trouble than bringing someone back to a sound studio for half an hour here and there.

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I think they should invest a bit in VO sets (generic lines for combat and such). These are re-usable for future P:E titles. 3 male, 3 female would have been enough with just 1 PC, but since they're making the adventurer's hall, I'm thinking 6 male 6 female.

These generic PC voice sets don't need any star power VAs, and I'm sure one VA can do like 2-3 sets.

 

For the actual game NPCs, I think "hello" lines are enough, with the exception of perhaps central characters like an antagonist (e.g. Irenicus) having full VO.

Edited by Zed
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I'm not gonna claim to know any specific numbers, here, but you've gotta think it's possible to find lots of voice actors who DON'T charge 7 grand per sentence, just like some big shows and films get a bunch of no-name actors and actresses who rock, even though they're not in the spotlight until AFTER being seen rocking in said show/film. Those actors/actresses consider themselves pretty lucky to be in that big of a project, and they don't say "Okay, as long as you give me 7 million dollars." They probably get like a hundred grand, to start, until the show/film does really well. Then that price starts going up.

 

And that's full-acting, not just voice acting. I'm not saying it's easy, but I just don't think the only people out there talented at voice acting are all already well-established chargers of extravagant sums.

 

Budgets aren't the only reason not to do full voice acting.

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Budgets aren't the only reason not to do full voice acting.

Oh, I agree. I wasn't suggesting that. Or that there even should BE full voice acting. I just don't know first-hand, but have to guesstimate that it's actually possible to get good-quality voice acting done without spending 17 billion dollars. Easy? Probably not. Possible? Probably so. You know, for however much voice-acting they want to do.

Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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One of my favourite things about Baldur's Gate 1 was the opening "hail" lines from the leaders of enemy adventurer/mercenary parties. Some of them were pretty good haha.

 

I think those little bits of VO add heaps of flavour to a game.

 

It would be good for you to watch your actions while in this wood.

I hate them Flamin' Fist pansies.

 

I could take Drizzt with both arms tied behind my back! xD

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I'm personally hoping for a PST level of VA. Voice sets for party commands and key lines of dialog with important NPCs. It would still be enormously cheaper than VA every line of dialog for even the non important NPCs, and makes robust conversations (and mods) much more feasible.

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Hmm, a fair few people saying "I'd be happy with the level of VO that was in 10+ year old IE games"... Personally I hope that we get more nuanced and generally a larger amount of NPC dialogue. In particular, I've always believed that more work should be put into variety and context-sensitive NPC 'barks', because I hate that in RPGs party members only become characters in conversations - out in the world they're just gameplay automatons who parrot out a variation of around ten stock phrases.

Edited by The Wise Alaundo
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Universal Voice-over

 

Both Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale had voiced incantations for spells, usually one per school of magic

 

 

 

Whilst i have mentioned a few times on this forum that I'm not a huge fan of magic, I did like this touch in BG 1 & 2, and it's something hardly anyone ever seems to do

 

I do think that worst voice acting in many of these games was actually the choice of voice sets you got for the player character, I seem to remember struggling to find any that I liked. Would like to see more variety and quality there.

Edited by motorizer
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It would be good for you to watch your actions while in this wood.

I hate them Flamin' Fist pansies.

 

I could take Drizzt with both arms tied behind my back! xD

 

"I've a blade with your name on it"

 

I loved fighting doppelgangers, just because I couldn't get enough of "Your time is done primate"...  On the other hand hearing "Forward march" and "Spare no one" from every single hobgoblin got tedious fast...  Monsters that appear frequently need a good variety of combat dialogue.

 

The odd bit of gentle humour, used sparingly, is also good.  "Taugosz Tenhammer has no need of people skills" always made me smile.

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I know Obsidian likes to use celebrities and popular voice actors for all of their games, but I'm hoping they use lesser known voice actors this time around. First, it's a good way to save money.  Two, it gets a bit tiring hearing the same voice actors.  Lastly, it would be helpful for new and  upcoming voice actors to broaden their resume.  Just having a semi popular game like Project Eternity in their resume will help them find other voice acting jobs.  Just hear some independent voice actors on youtube (or even Youtube celebs like Total Biscuit); they're just as good as the popular voice actors in my opinion.

 

As for the PC and Adventurer Hall characters, it doesn't matter to me how many voice actor sets that use, as long as they add a "No voice" option like in NWN2.  Other than maybe a few voices in Icewind Dale, none of the other set voices in BG/IWD/NWN fit any of my characters.

 

One of the great things about a minor voice acting is hearing different accents.  I hope each region in PE has their own "accents", instead of accents being all over the place like in Baldur's Gate.

Edited by Bill Gates' Son
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There's only two voices I've become sick of so far

 

Raphael Sbarge (did not like to begin with), and Cam Clarke's Leonardo voice.

 

Fortunately I don't think either will be in Project Eternity, but you never know.

 

This guy would make a good Vailian, fluent in Italian too, but probably too expensive :p

Edited by Sensuki
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Maybe Obsidian will hire some high profile voice actors, but for the mundane voices like "Hey!", "morning" they could always use their staffs (programmers, janitors, marketeers, etc)

 

They provide a good range of voices.

If they ever need voice-sets for PC's for things like command and control and combat. They could ask the community to send in their "For the Horde"'s" and "At once my liege"'s

 

All the would need to do is give the lines people need to act, I imagine they'd have 10k submissions within a week.

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Remember: Argue the point, not the person. Remain polite and constructive. Friendly forums have friendly debate. There's no shame in being wrong. If you don't have something to add, don't post for the sake of it. And don't be afraid to post thoughts you are uncertain about, that's what discussion is for.
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If they ever need voice-sets for PC's for things like command and control and combat. They could ask the community to send in their "For the Horde"'s" and "At once my liege"'s

 

All the would need to do is give the lines people need to act, I imagine they'd have 10k submissions within a week.

 

 

It's a nice idea, but the reality is that very few people have recording setups anywhere near good enough to create workable sound files, and within those very few fewer still possess the necessary acting talents to give an audio that isn't immersion-breaking. Unfortunately most people aren't going to recognise that they're not meeting one or both of the requirements, and then you're sat upon hours upon hours of quality control work that probably makes it cheaper to just hire some professional actors and a studio.

 

:geek:  Sorry.

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It's a nice idea, but the reality is that very few people have recording setups anywhere near good enough to create workable sound files, and within those very few fewer still possess the necessary acting talents to give an audio that isn't immersion-breaking. Unfortunately most people aren't going to recognise that they're not meeting one or both of the requirements, and then you're sat upon hours upon hours of quality control work that probably makes it cheaper to just hire some professional actors and a studio.

 

:geek:  Sorry.

But... Wasteland 2 basically heavily outsourced their object-modeling workload to random modders and such in the community, and that seems to have worked super well for them.

 

I mean... even after the expense of hiring specific peeps and using a specific studio, you STILL have to evaluate each of the takes and pick the good ones, tweak them, etc. It's not like they're so professional, they just walk into the studio, say the line, break the microphone and headphone thingies over their knee, crack open a bottle of wine and start chugging, and say "There, you're welcome" on the way out of the studio, and the devs just load that sound byte straight into the game.

 

Heck, at least some of the "random bandit #7" barks and one-liners could be outsourced, right?

 

No one says the entire voice-acting set needs to be attempted to be gotten from the fan community, or none at all.

Edited by Lephys

Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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It's a nice idea, but the reality is that very few people have recording setups anywhere near good enough to create workable sound files, and within those very few fewer still possess the necessary acting talents to give an audio that isn't immersion-breaking. Unfortunately most people aren't going to recognise that they're not meeting one or both of the requirements, and then you're sat upon hours upon hours of quality control work that probably makes it cheaper to just hire some professional actors and a studio.

 

:geek:  Sorry.

But... Wasteland 2 basically heavily outsourced their object-modeling workload to random modders and such in the community, and that seems to have worked super well for them.

 

I mean... even after the expense of hiring specific peeps and using a specific studio, you STILL have to evaluate each of the takes and pick the good ones, tweak them, etc. It's not like they're so professional, they just walk into the studio, say the line, break the microphone and headphone thingies over their knee, crack open a bottle of wine and start chugging, and say "There, you're welcome" on the way out of the studio, and the devs just load that sound byte straight into the game.

 

Heck, at least some of the "random bandit #7" barks and one-liners could be outsourced, right?

 

No one says the entire voice-acting set needs to be attempted to be gotten from the fan community, or none at all.

 

 

There's still a lot of issues that arise. It's not really that comparable to oursourcing models. If any voice-acting, I want a consistent and fitting one. Not something that is easily achieved by fans.

Edited by C2B
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But... Wasteland 2 basically heavily outsourced their object-modeling workload to random modders and such in the community, and that seems to have worked super well for them.

 

I mean... even after the expense of hiring specific peeps and using a specific studio, you STILL have to evaluate each of the takes and pick the good ones, tweak them, etc. It's not like they're so professional, they just walk into the studio, say the line, break the microphone and headphone thingies over their knee, crack open a bottle of wine and start chugging, and say "There, you're welcome" on the way out of the studio, and the devs just load that sound byte straight into the game.

 

Heck, at least some of the "random bandit #7" barks and one-liners could be outsourced, right?

 

No one says the entire voice-acting set needs to be attempted to be gotten from the fan community, or none at all.

 

 

Well, firstly object modelling tends to provide its own quality control, in the sense that most people don't even know where to start with such things and so aren't going to hand over their biro scribbles and then wonder why it didn't get used. With vocal work, people think the only two requirements are the ability to speak and to possess some form of microphone input.

 

Even if accents and delivery weren't a factor (and let's be clear, they're a massive factor), the processing alone makes it wholly impractical. I don't know if you've ever tried recording your own soundsets for the IE games, but the vast majority of fan-made stuff sticks out like a sore thumb, even when its a purely media transfer thing and microphones aren't involved.

 

Trying to reduce noise, preserve quality and get consistent levels and tones from hundreds of audio files recording by different people in different places through different crappy interfaces is an utterly thankless task and no engineer with a hint of honesty would attempt it without putting in a huge disclaimer at the start.

 

Seriously, it would be awful - even for those handful of barks and one-liners. Just walk away.

Edited by Kjaamor
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if you have 1k submissions and 10 are actually good, that's enough.

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Remember: Argue the point, not the person. Remain polite and constructive. Friendly forums have friendly debate. There's no shame in being wrong. If you don't have something to add, don't post for the sake of it. And don't be afraid to post thoughts you are uncertain about, that's what discussion is for.
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