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If full voice-over is not within budget

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#41
Mygaffer

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Unless you are Larian's finance manager I don't see how you can be so sure that they squeezed every penny they have. "Clearly" so! No one knows and no one should care unless they've invested money in the company somehow. What we should care about as players is the final product, and the final product is, imho, very good. As I said, if one's problem is the voiced narrartor or the voiced characters in genereal , they can very easily be muted. If one cares about the game being voiced, like I am, I don't think they'll be dissapointed at all.

 

What I mostly see, tbh, in this forum, is people being against VO because. There are, clearly, solutions to that and the budget-expert talks by fans are pure speculations if not just self-assurance that thank God our precious game won't be voiced.

 

Personal opinion, the voices of DOS 2 are way better than Pillars' - still I wouldn't have muted Pillars even if there was an option; I like voice in games where there can be - it makes their world more alive for me.

 

 

I always find it a little annoying when people make pronouncements about what a developer has or hasn't done, how much something costs, what is possible and isn't possible in a given game, etc. If someone is an experienced developer they may be able to make some educated guesses, but unless you are in a position within a dev team to really know chances are a lot of the ideas a given end user may have are wrong, sometimes comically so.

 

That being said Swen Vincke talked about some of the stuff they did to fund the first Divinity game, and they did put all their money into it from the Kickstarter, from the money raised through a company they created to hold and license their IP that investors could then invest in, with their IP as collateral, and when they felt they needed even more money to make the game as complete and polished as they felt it should be they did Early Access and put that money into the game as well. So at least according to Swen for the DOS 1 they put all available funds they could into the game.

 

What I find interesting is that after launch when the game was received well and sold well they decided to make further improvements and release on console with the "Enhanced Edition." What did they do? Well one of the things they did was add full, high quality voice acting. They added controller support for the console version and the PC. They expanded the game, adding new quests, areas, characters, and reworking some existing dialogue. They added new gameplay features, new game modes, and general polish improvements to the entire game.

 

They did that for a game that they had already released and had already seen most of the sales it was going to. Of course the console sales would hopefully pay for this and then some but they probably could have gotten away with doing less. Swen's talk is very interesting and I think a lot of people here would be interested in it.

 

 

Looking at the sales numbers (which is always really tricky for us end users with no access to hard sales data) it would seem all of that paid off for Larian. I'll be using the best tools I have but I can never know exactly how accurate this information is.

 

SteamSpy shows roughly 1.5 million owners. That sounds accurate, as in 2014 three months after DOS "Classic" was released but well before the enhanced edition, Swen Vincke said the following:

 

 

“It has sold well over half a million units by now, mostly from Steam, with 10% from retail,” said Vincke. “Break even has been reached, our debts have been paid, and we are now in the profitable zone.

“While not all of the money is for us as we had private investors on board, the game did sufficiently well for us to envision funding our next endeavors with it, meaning we’re pretty happy about its performance.”

I don't know what their average unit price was and frankly I don't think I have even enough info to guess. If I was to throw out something wild I might say $20 average unit price, meaning gross revenue would be around $30m from all PC sales digital+retail of the base game and EE. That's a tidy sum even if you are giving half the profits to investors.

 

Console numbers are again difficult to find. If I look at VGChartz I get ~410,000 units, but I have heard that VGChartz is not that reliable and does not track digital sales, a problem today when I'm sure plenty of people on console bought the game as a digital download. I've read other reports that it sold closer to 900k on console but there was no attribution to that number. Let's be what I feel is conservative (but again, I have no idea) and say 500k units at an average unit price of $20. Now you are looking at another $10 million in revenue.

 

Of course platform holders take their cut and investors take their returns, but to me it seems like a pretty good return. They leveraged everything they could, including crowdfunding money, investor's money with IP as collateral, they repacked their older games and resold them for more revenue there, then Early Access for even more money to continue getting the game to the point they thought it needed to be to be a quality release. And you know what? It was their highest rated game, both critically and by users, in their history, though I have a feeling DOS 2 will edge it out now.

 

Pillars didn't move quite as many copies on PC I believe and I'm not sure how many units they'll move on the consoles. But I think Larian and Swen really showed that investing the time and money into your game to make it as good as you possibly can does pay off. At launch "as good as you possibly can" didn't include full voice acting, but after launch when the game was successful and well received and they decided to release on consoles they decided that full VO now was part of "as good as you possibly can." I believe their word count is significantly less than POE's, so I'm not saying this is necessarily something Obsidian can do with Deadfire.

 

One point Swen makes in his talk about this is that by giving extra to your community, like making all the enhanced edition improvements free to people who already owned the game, or releasing free DLC like the Bairdotr and Wolgraff characters, you really go a long way towards building loyalty and trust in your community.

 

This really went off on a tangent but I find this kind of stuff almost as interesting as the games themselves.


Edited by Mygaffer, 17 September 2017 - 08:10 PM.

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#42
Wormerine

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It's not as if Obsidian abandoned PoE after initial release. Though none of the free updates were as significant as EE for D:OS they did improve their base game over time.

It's really heartwarming to see devs care so much for their product. D:OS approach reminds me of early Project Red with their EE update for original Witcher. Being commited to leaving good game behind, instead of maximising profit can came back to you.
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#43
Mygaffer

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It's not as if Obsidian abandoned PoE after initial release. Though none of the free updates were as significant as EE for D:OS they did improve their base game over time.

It's really heartwarming to see devs care so much for their product. D:OS approach reminds me of early Project Red with their EE update for original Witcher. Being commited to leaving good game behind, instead of maximising profit can came back to you.

Definitely. I hope no one read my last post about Larian's handling of DOS to imply anything negative about Obsidian's handling of Pillars, I think Obsidian has done a good job communicating with the community and doing post release support.



#44
Tigranes

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They went for EE that way because (1) a major part of it was about building up a console userbase and expanding beyond their already excellent sales, allowing DOS2 to be significantly bigger budget and bigger dev team - which seems to be paying off; (2) they knew that things like really good controller support and full voice acting is really key to drawing in a lot of console players, non-hardcore RPG players, etc.

 

It's well known that Larian set up new international offices and ballooned to over a hundred employees across multiple nations - usually a recipe for production nightmare and huge costs - as they went from DOS1 to 2. Seems like they made it work, though.

 

It's also well known over the years that Swen is a risktaker, he believes in investing ambitiously to a degree that he himself has noted can look ludicrous, partly because he really believes in a big fat RPG that he's wnated to make ever since he started the company, and for various reasons (e.g. publisher demands on Divinity 2's direction, funding) was difficult to do until DOS1/2. 

 

None of this requires conspiratorial thinking or making stuff up - the various costs and difficulties with VO are well documented in, say, Obsid and Bio devs' comments on it over the years, and Swen has in various big retrospectives talked candidly about not only spending every penny for DOS1 but his vision of installing a solid playerbase to allow them to not only go independent but then have the resources to make big fat RPGs like DOS2, and how things like console EE release and full voice acting fits into that strategy.

 

We're all very happy, I think, that Larian's do or die strategy with DOS1 worked out - and while we can't speculate about how much DOS2 exactly cost and what they'll need to sell, at least it seems like it's selling bloody well.


Edited by Tigranes, 18 September 2017 - 09:34 AM.

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#45
injurai

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I believe The Witcher EE was also being done in part for a console port which never surfaced. The Witcher 2 EE was definitely done for the console port. By 3 they decided to wrap EE into expansions which included too much content to be for free, (my god they are like 15-20 hours a piece!)

 

But PC developers do have a lot to gain by getting on console, and it's a nice chance for goodwill and improving their game logic. Which certainly will be used going forward anyways.



#46
Night Stalker

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But PC developers do have a lot to gain by getting on console, and it's a nice chance for goodwill and improving their game logic. Which certainly will be used going forward anyways.

PC developers also have a lot to lose by getting on console if started out branding their game PC centric (explicitly or implicitly). The PC audience has already bought into the title, and if they feel that the developer has begun to cater to the console market and their sensibilities, a backlash becomes likely.

I don't see this happening with PoE however, not as long as Josh Sawyer is as heavily involved as he currently is:

 

It's extremely rare that anyone brings up non-PC interface questions like, "How would this work on a tablet?" or "How would this work on a console?" and my answer is always, "I don't know or care."

If we develop a game that's intended to be cross-platform, I have no problem entertaining those questions, but Pillars and Deadfire are both being developed for Windows/Mac/Linux, and that's it. I am not willing to compromise any aspect of the game's design for the possibility that maybe someday someone will want to put it on another platform.

Source: Josh Sawyer, The Something Awful forums.

As for full voice acting, I think that the keep in PoE1 proved that if you do something, you should do it well or not at all. To this day, the keep is still being brought up as a strike against the game.

I feel that you should either hire professionals to do voice work, or don't voice that bit. I have yet to find a case where speech synthesis has been done truly well, and I would be against using a cheap third-rate narrator for the bulk of the text, even if it was an option you had to toggle on.


Edited by Night Stalker, 19 September 2017 - 12:47 AM.

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#47
Fardragon

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I really, really hate full voice over. Three reasons:

 

1) I can read much much faster than conversation speed. For example, in Mass Effect Andromada I was bored to tears listening to characters talk endlessly about thier dull backgrounds, in the hope of learning a smidgin of plot-relevent information.

 

2) Poor voice acting can really put you off characters. In the NWN2 OC I developed a pathalogical hatered of pretty much all the NPCs companions, and I put that down mostly to the voice acting.

 

3) American accents. I'm British, and I'm sorry but I find some American accents extremely grating (especially whiny teen females).

 

 

Now each of these issues could be addressed by outstandingly good writing, outstandingly good voice acting, and British-English VO localisation, but keeping the amount of VO low is a far easier to achieve objective.


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#48
EbonyBetty

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We also have to remember that there's currently a VA strike going on in the entertainment industry. The likes of Jennifer Hale, Tara Strong, and Nolan North are participating in. But if there wasn't, I'm mixed about full voice overs. It should be mandatory that you can skip them, because I too, am a fast reader and can sometimes get annoyed waiting for the VA to catch up. But then there's such good voice acting that resonate sso well with such scenes, that if it was just in text it wouldn't have the same emotional impact. Take Dorian's personal quest in DA:I for example.



#49
Quillon

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Ok, now playing DOS2; I don't like the voiced narrating, it gets old too fast. And for dialogue...doesn't matter voiced or not if its not interesting, I'm gonna fast forward, which I'm doing more often than not atm.

 

Alright, ima gonna change my opinion once again on this topic :p I got used to the narrating guy, and all the voiced dialogue & not reading. Damn, DOS2 is making me lazier than I was.


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#50
Mygaffer

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We also have to remember that there's currently a VA strike going on in the entertainment industry. The likes of Jennifer Hale, Tara Strong, and Nolan North are participating in. But if there wasn't, I'm mixed about full voice overs. It should be mandatory that you can skip them, because I too, am a fast reader and can sometimes get annoyed waiting for the VA to catch up. But then there's such good voice acting that resonate sso well with such scenes, that if it was just in text it wouldn't have the same emotional impact. Take Dorian's personal quest in DA:I for example.

The VA strike looks to be resolved now.



#51
Sedrefilos

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The more I play DOS2 the more I like/enjoy the VO honestly. The actors are really good. And that narrator guy that I though it's gonna be cheasy listening him talk at the begining... I like him a lot. The deal is he's not written in a bookish way; he's written in a DMish way. It's really more like you have a narrator reading you a story than having literature words describing stuff.


Edited by Sedrefilos, 05 October 2017 - 04:48 AM.

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#52
Lephys

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The VA strike looks to be resolved now.

 

Any idea how those turned out, out of curiosity? Industry impact, etc.? I wonder if that affected this game when they went to find voice actors.



#53
injurai

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I haven't looked deep into the VA Strike, but video games are super hard to make and people spend years doing academic training to build the technology that drives them. The games industry is one of the few creative industries where programmers salaries aren't gouged by self-entitled celebrities. If the VAs aren't asking for anything to grand, I don't have a huge problem. More competitive pay is certainly fine, but giving them negotiating power over residuals just seems totally unfair. Especially if they can negotiate after establishing a character. Very few game programmers can hope for the job security that being an iconic voice might bring. If residuals are introduced into the industry, it needs to be for everyone so as to not become the abomination that is the tv and movie industry.



#54
dolgion1

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When I heard of the announcement that they did full VO even though they didn't have the budget, I thought "oh ****, they're raising the bar for Deadfire where it's unrealistic to expect Obsidian to do the same". Especially the tongue-in-cheek line how they just needed some more coffee and good old fashioned PASHUN for the cause. I know it's not like that, they must surely have thrown in money that wasn't planned for, but inevitably there will be people who demand the same from Obsidian and then if full VO doesn't come to pass for Deadfire (while not even knowing the word count of both games), they'd conclude that Larian are the more passionate studio.

 

As for VO features, maybe put in a "little" feature that allows players to record their own readings while playing the game, like a little red record button next to the text box (which can be hidden of course). Then have the game upload the audio file with corresponding paragraph ID to Obsidian's server. Obsidian then can publish full, vetted VO packs to download over the workshop? It'd be a big technical feature, not to mention the job of curating people's audio files (maybe allow for the community to help out? Is there a way to weed out audiofiles based on technical specs algorithmically, ensuring a fidelity baseline?), but I find myself enjoying YT lets players who read every bit of dialog and narration in old CRPGs. It could be a cost-effective way to serve people with VO, though it should be additional and not in place of actual professional VO.



#55
Sedrefilos

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 inevitably there will be people who demand the same from Obsidia

I wouldn't say "demand" ('cause I never demand from games) but I'd love to see they do the same. I was mentioning how I'd like a fully VO sequel back when I finished Pillars 1. For me VO brings life to a game and, honestly, I haven't played a game released after 2000 with bad voice acting. Not even mediocre.



#56
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Another point about the narrator in DOS2.

As I said, the narrator is written in a DM-ish way. That is important because 1) the voice over fits, because it a voice for an extra, specific character and (most importantly)

2) the narrator doesen't pop up during one's speech.

There is dialogue, the narrator may -after the character has finished their line, this is very important- pop up and describe things and then the dialogue continues. He dosen't interrupt one person's dialogue because he's a narrator and not abstract text. And the game treats him as a narrator.

This is the only game with written descriptions inbetween dialogue that I've played and really liked. Larian nailed one more thing that was tricky and never implemented right in games, for me.


Edited by Sedrefilos, 06 October 2017 - 12:37 AM.


#57
dolgion1

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 inevitably there will be people who demand the same from Obsidia

I wouldn't say "demand" ('cause I never demand from games) but I'd love to see they do the same. I was mentioning how I'd like a fully VO sequel back when I finished Pillars 1. For me VO brings life to a game and, honestly, I haven't played a game released after 2000 with bad voice acting. Not even mediocre.

 

 

I was referring to the unreasonably entitled type of gamer. I like VO for the same reasons you state and full VO for Deadfire would be amazing, though I don't expect it. Maybe I'm just a cynical, jaded guy, but what with the times we currently live in, there's no limit to the idiocy I can imagine gamers steeping to. 



#58
Sedrefilos

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 inevitably there will be people who demand the same from Obsidia

I wouldn't say "demand" ('cause I never demand from games) but I'd love to see they do the same. I was mentioning how I'd like a fully VO sequel back when I finished Pillars 1. For me VO brings life to a game and, honestly, I haven't played a game released after 2000 with bad voice acting. Not even mediocre.

 

 

I was referring to the unreasonably entitled type of gamer. I like VO for the same reasons you state and full VO for Deadfire would be amazing, though I don't expect it. Maybe I'm just a cynical, jaded guy, but what with the times we currently live in, there's no limit to the idiocy I can imagine gamers steeping to. 

 

As far as I see, here in these forums, at least, there is no demand for full VO; quite the opposite I'd say :p
People are more traditional - most don't want VO at all and others don't want it even if it can be muted, of fear it'll drag effort from the main game to the voicing and it'll limit the dialogue options.
Of course I don't believe that. New Vegas was fully voiced and had a million dialogues, Witcher 3 too and Larian just proved that it is doable if you're willing to do it. And DOS2 is heavy on dialogue and narrative - they didn't cut anything to fit the VO in.

I'm ok with whatever Obsidian decides is best for the game, although, I'd love Deadfire to be fully voiced.

 

But, yes, I can see to which people you are referring to :)


Edited by Sedrefilos, 06 October 2017 - 01:27 AM.


#59
Fardragon

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DOS2 has far less text than PoE (BG/BG2/IWD etc). There are no walls of text anywhere, avarage paragraph length is about 2.5 sentences. Nothing wrong with that, but it's avery different writing style.


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#60
morhilane

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DOS2 has far less text than PoE (BG/BG2/IWD etc). There are no walls of text anywhere, avarage paragraph length is about 2.5 sentences. Nothing wrong with that, but it's avery different writing style.


Actually, DOS2 has 74k lines of dialogues with voice over and over 1m words. That's about Dragon Age Inquisition level of voice acting budget. BG2 had 57k lines of dialogues, but around 1 millions words.

 

For comparison, POE1 had 25k line of dialogues with a bit over 6k of them voice acted. It was announced in the FIGstarter that Deafire would get x2 the voice acting budget of POE1, so their VO budget is for ~12k lines.

Bottom of the line, DOS2 voice acting budget was 12x larger than POE1's budget and 6x larger than POE2 VO budget.


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