Welcome to the Inconvenienced Blog. This is a Comedy and Gaming Culture Site all rolled into one. Alongside humorous articles, we'll also be be giving our thoughts on games, and the gaming industry as a whole.

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22 October 2007

Why Game Developers Should Give A Shit About Scripts and Voice Acting

Pwnzerfaust today provides us with an article whose subject I feel very strongly about, Of course, this being The Texas Rattlesnake, it's filled with capitalized profanity and at the end of it if you're a script-writer for a game, you're bound to feel pretty damn suicidal. I sent a team invite to Pwnzerfaust a few days ago via email, but the git hasn't replied to it yet, so here's his contribution sent via email.

So my friend and I, suspended in a half-way drunken, half-way really-fucking-tired stupor, were bored and looking for something to do late last Friday night, and since we had already put angry cats in homeless people’s backpacks the Friday before that, we decided to give a long, hard, calculating look at our list of options. After a few tries at the dartboard, one of us finally managed to sober up enough to hit something that wasn’t a foot, the wall, the ceiling fan, or my clock radio, and that thing was Halo 3. We fired up the Xbox360, popped in the game, and started co-oping on normal (because we’re sissy pansy-asses like that). We had loads of fun for a while, but then we decided to stop beating the shit out of each other with gravity hammers and play the game properly, and then it just turned into something to do.

Anyway, we got to the second level or so and watched the cut-scene because neither of us remembered to press the A button to skip the damn thing. After a fairly good line delivery by the person who voices the Prophet of Truth (“Thinking... what? That you might escape the coming fire?”), we heard something along the lines of this:

“Ma’am, the squad leaders are requesting a rally point. Where should I tell them to go?”
*After unnecessarily pulling the slide on her pistol* “To war.”


No, seriously; what?

I mean, I’ve heard of being metaphorically kicked in the balls, but I never thought metaphors would actually jump up and actually kick you in the balls, causing you literal physical pain in your symbolic token of manhood. My disbelief would have lasted a good deal longer if my friend had not both ruined and greatly contributed to the importance of the situation by shouting “BITCH THAT DOESN’T HELP AT ALL!”

After a fit of uproarious yet completely serious and professional laughter, we continued playing the game as we had, just barely having forgotten the previous corny line before another one came up. And another. AND ANOTHER. And the corny dialogue JUST WOULDN’T FUCKING DIE. It was like night of the living dead only the zombies are sound waves and they want to kill your brain cells rather than eating them. And they’re at least one-hundred times more horrifying.

Unless you’ve been living in a hole/serving in Iraw (arguably the same thing) for the past decade or so, you’ve probably noticed that this is a recurring pattern in big-budget, big-business video games. If you haven’t been living in a hole/serving in Iraq yet still failed to discover this trend, you probably failed the similarities part of the IQ test. Large gaming corporations have just seemed to stop caring about the potential benefits of well-spoken, high-quality lines. They honestly don’t seem to realize that bad voice actors can turn the most epic and serious of situations into absurd and unbelievable idiot festivals.

Let’s take something like… oh, I don’t know… Oblivion, for example. The voice acting wasn’t horrid, to be sure, but I think that it could have been so much more. I just didn’t FEEL the actors; their joy, their pain, their cries as I ripped out entrails with a fiery claymore that screamed with the voices of women, children, and exceptionally girly men. Oh, and Patrick Stewart. Seriously, what the fuck was that about? Did they just record him talking in his sleep or what, because that was simply dreadful.

Then there are games with good voice acting and good writers. The most recent addition to that category that comes to mind is the towering, phallic monolith that is BioShock. If you haven’t played it, go back and read my exceptionally witty comment about your IQ, only reword it in such a way that it includes the words “BioShock” and “phallic monolith” without sounding convoluted or contrived. If you HAVE played it, then you would know that it’s probably the best game released this year for many thousands of reasons, all of which I cannot list simply because this article is reaching critical mass with me staying (mostly) on topic. For me, one of the most noticeable of these reasons was the absolutely spectacular voicing. Every character, major or minor, has a distinct, unique personality that is created almost entirely with their voices and dialogue. Every time Atlas’ voice cracked in on the radio, I felt comfort. Every time Andrew Ryan bellowed out of the speaker, I felt chi!
lls run up and down my spine. “A man chooses, a slave obeys,” is officially my favorite piece of dialogue ever written for any movie, television, or gaming production because it was so remarkably surreal, disturbing, and passionate that I was literally too stunned to move for over a minute after the scene was finished.

I tip my hat to the developers at 2K, because they know what a good monologue can contribute to the mood and story of a game, they know what the muffled sobs of hideous shells of people undone by their own greed can do to intensify the already thick and spreading atmosphere. Unlike so many game developers today, they know that gamers are not drooling cavemen lumbering around shouting “Want make dead people with bang-stick!”, that we want a story and characters that involve us, that coerce us into a world not at all our own. Game play is a must have, a fantastic story is key, but neither of those can fully deliver the best gaming experiences there are to be had. As they say, most of communication comes not from what you say, but how you say it. If you want to say it in the form of a high-explosive device to the face as opposed to a masterpiece of human speech, then by all means go ahead and do so, but I guarantee you that you’ll get no erections of happiness from me.


Katana said...

I think Oblivion's voices weren't too bad, but they were still majorly lacking in the facial expressions, which MATTERS if you zoom into their faces for every conversation. If even I can do better, admittedly using the Source engine, then I think they should give it a more serious shot.

Also, I too want to shove copies of Psychonauts, Half-Life 2, and Dreamfall down the mouth of every reviewer that said Halo 3's cutscenes were great.

Matthew said...

It didn't help that Patrick Stewart's character looked like the walking mummified.

Halo 3 is the video-game equivalent of corny summer blockbuster action movies though, so the bad dialogue ... adds a certain something.

Grim Fandango, now there was a game with some fantastic lines and voice acting...

The_Wildcat said...

It seems that we're loosing years of progress. These are the kind of lines that were spoofed in Duke Nukem 3D.

Just as we seem to be making marginal improvements in movie adaptations of the best games, this sort of thing happens.

I've heard a great many lines that would be best suited for a free game mod... but they come from a real production. This is sad.

Anonymous said...

Hey, let's not forget Shiny's 'Sacrifice' here. imo best script and voice acting to date of any game.