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GNordell

Voice acting in smaller games?

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When I first started playing these games, the lack of voice acting was apparent right off the bat. I've always assumed that it was just because these games had tighter time constraints, and low budgets than Psychonauts and Brutal Legend. I think you guys did a great job creating engaging characters and great games without the ability to add extra life to characters through voice acting.

I was curious though, did Double Fine ever explore alternate ways of finding voice actors for these games? There is a huge online community of professionals who would likely do it for free or near-dirt cheap. People like Joshua Tomar, Arin Hanson and Mick Lauer record in studio quality rooms, so it would be difficult to hear the difference between them and a real studio. They are phenomenal actors, who record plenty of dialogue for online shorts. They all do hired work as well, but often contribute lines for free. I consider those guys A list actors in Flash animations, but I'm sure there are enough fans out there who could work within DF's budget.

If Double Fine has considered this, and gone against it, why? And if they haven't explored it much in the past, would they in the future?

Thanks.

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After watching the Broken Age doc and seeing how the casting was achieved there, I don't think it was so much to do with not hiring those guys it was more of what was a better fit for the game.

DF brought Khris Brown in to help with casting and while there were the big names attached, there were also some new names to that roster. We saw Tim go through a process of whether the voice fit the character is his head, and then the voice was chosen. So on one hand it could be that their voices wouldn't fit a particular thing, like Arin for example has a great voice, but its very Arin-y, I'm not familiar with the other guys so I can't comment there.

As for the big names themselves, most of them seem to be friends with Tim or DF in general and like any job wouldn't you hire your friends if they were the right fit over someone you may not know that well? On top of that most of their friends have proven track records that people can point to in games or otherwise.

I'm not saying don't use new talent, I'm all for it, but at the same time there is something to be said about developing relationships and practically guaranteeing a good reliable performance.

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I saw the casting episode as well, and after seeing that I can fully appreciate why working with someone solely through online communication might not be the best option. Like when they had their back-and-forth with Jack to help find the right voice for his character. That live feedback is very important. I'm sure Skype could work for that, but not in the same way.

Arin and those guys were just quick examples that came to mind. I know sites like Newgrounds have quiet large communities of voice actors, and I'm sure there is loads of underutilized talent.

You probably hit the nail on the head with the relationship thing though. Double Fine has had numerous people return for several projects. Some of the less prominent freelance voice actors are doing this in their free time. It's very likely that a professional, published game wouldn't want their product hanging on the whims and potential unreliability of those actors.

While your "why" sounds reasonable, I'd still be curious to hear if they have ever attempted this, or considered it.

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My reply was more to play devils advocate to your OP. I'd like to see more variety too, but maybe it isn't DF that should be looking for the talent, as much as they are independent they are still a big studio that can afford bigger talent, and if they can then why not utilise it.

What would be more interesting is smaller companies that could benefit from voice acting over barks could utilise some talent. Plus I'm not sure it's so much on the game devs shoulders to find these people and more the actors to put themselves out there to say they will do games.

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Sorry if I came across as defensive or anything like that. I appreciate the response! I just didn't want to get derailed too far off the original question. I think the reason Costume Quest and Stacking didn't have voice acting was that it was outside of the budget (again, that's me assuming a lot). So for small games like that non/semi-professional voice acting might have been viable?

Obviously with big-ticket games like Broken Age, the cost was less of an issue and they could bring people directly into the studio to record.

A good example of the potential here is Dust: An Elysian Tale. This developer obviously wouldn't have the same resources available as DF, but they (he? it might have only been 1 guy) were able to gather 38 voice actors from Newgrounds to breathe life into the game. Dust is the game that actually got me wondering why this sort of thing wasn't more common.

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Don't forget about unions - if a production has just one SAG/AFTRA member in the cast then everyone has to be paid at least union scale. Of course, they could do a non-union production (and there's even plenty of precedent for actors getting involved in such projects under pseudonyms), but I imagine doing that would damage their reputation and ability to recruit in Hollywood (not to mention Khris Brown's personal reputation, since she's freelance).

Point is, DF may have a pretty independent approach and culture but they're also a reputable, well-established developer. There's an argument that in their situation, if a particular budget can't stretch to paying voice actors a decent wage, then the professional and ethical thing to do is either make cuts somewhere else, or make do without.

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Don't forget about unions - if a production has just one SAG/AFTRA member in the cast then everyone has to be paid at least union scale. Of course, they could do a non-union production (and there's even plenty of precedent for actors getting involved in such projects under pseudonyms), but I imagine doing that would damage their reputation and ability to recruit in Hollywood (not to mention Khris Brown's personal reputation, since she's freelance).

Point is, DF may have a pretty independent approach and culture but they're also a reputable, well-established developer. There's an argument that in their situation, if a particular budget can't stretch to paying voice actors a decent wage, then the professional and ethical thing to do is either make cuts somewhere else, or make do without.

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That's a very good point Illessa, and while DF are not 'Hollywood' by any means they do come from that world, Lucasarts being what they were and all.

GNordell, I think we got in a bit of a curfuffle I didn't think you were being defensive etc, we're just having a civilised conversation!

As for Stacking I personally would have had a hard time with voice acting I think the 'barks' were part of the charm of it all, and it would have been ruined by sub standard voice acting on a limited budget.

As for CS, probably could have done with it, but what do I know.

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That's a very good point Illessa, and while DF are not 'Hollywood' by any means they do come from that world, Lucasarts being what they were and all.

GNordell, I think we got in a bit of a curfuffle I didn't think you were being defensive etc, we're just having a civilised conversation!

As for Stacking I personally would have had a hard time with voice acting I think the 'barks' were part of the charm of it all, and it would have been ruined by sub standard voice acting on a limited budget.

As for CS, probably could have done with it, but what do I know.

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Heh, fair point "Hollywood" was something of a misnomer, where I just meant they have strong relationships (via Khris) with established, LA-based, actors/agents/studios as evidenced by the credits for Psychonauts, Brutal Legend, Broken Age and even Iron Brigade. So there's incentive there to maintain a good reputation with the unions even before getting to the moral element that voice actors deserve to be paid decently for their hard work :).

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Heh, fair point "Hollywood" was something of a misnomer, where I just meant they have strong relationships (via Khris) with established, LA-based, actors/agents/studios as evidenced by the credits for Psychonauts, Brutal Legend, Broken Age and even Iron Brigade. So there's incentive there to maintain a good reputation with the unions even before getting to the moral element that voice actors deserve to be paid decently for their hard work :).

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Don't forget about unions - if a production has just one SAG/AFTRA member in the cast then everyone has to be paid at least union scale.

I had no idea that is how that works!! So basically it's all or nothing hey? You either go full community voice acting, or you might as well just pay full price for studio professionals? That's really interesting, and totally brings this into perspective.

As for Stacking I personally would have had a hard time with voice acting I think the 'barks' were part of the charm of it all, and it would have been ruined by sub standard voice acting on a limited budget.

As for CS, probably could have done with it, but what do I know.

It's been a while since I played either, so I went back and look at videos. I agree that voice acting in Stacking might not have fit. The characters are already lively and charming, and voice acting would likely detract from other elements of the game.

It's hard to say for sure, because I've only seen it the one way. But I still think CQ probably would have benefited. Then there is always the struggle of finding that "perfect" voice so that it doesn't sound or feel awkward.

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Don't forget about unions - if a production has just one SAG/AFTRA member in the cast then everyone has to be paid at least union scale.

I had no idea that is how that works!! So basically it's all or nothing hey? You either go full community voice acting, or you might as well just pay full price for studio professionals? That's really interesting, and totally brings this into perspective.

As for Stacking I personally would have had a hard time with voice acting I think the 'barks' were part of the charm of it all, and it would have been ruined by sub standard voice acting on a limited budget.

As for CS, probably could have done with it, but what do I know.

It's been a while since I played either, so I went back and look at videos. I agree that voice acting in Stacking might not have fit. The characters are already lively and charming, and voice acting would likely detract from other elements of the game.

It's hard to say for sure, because I've only seen it the one way. But I still think CQ probably would have benefited. Then there is always the struggle of finding that "perfect" voice so that it doesn't sound or feel awkward.

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