Saturday, 11 July 2009

BioWare Blog: Voice-Over in SWTOR

As promised this Friday we get a Developer Blog entry where the developers talk a bit about how it is creating Star Wars: The Old republic, talking about the various processes and aspects of development. And this particular blog is about the voice recording work.

As you might be aware BioWare announced at E3 this year that their games is completely voiced. Every single NPC (as well as all the PC, unfortunately) are all completely voices. And with each class getting its own unique story as well as all the multiple paths and multiple options players have and such that is absolutely massive. And this blog talks about just how massive.

Here's an excerpt:
And so began the crazy odyssey of voice-over (VO) production for Star Wars™: The Old Republic™. It would be a joint effort between BioWare and LucasArts. BioWare would write all the scripts, create the schedule and be responsible for the tracking and integration of all VO assets. The LucasArts Audio Department, led by Darragh O’Farrell, would handle recording the voice talent and sending the VO assets to BioWare.

I was excited for the chance to work with the LucasArts Audio team. They had done the VO for a previous BioWare game, Star Wars™: Knights of the Old Republic™, before I joined the company and it had been very well received. In fact, when I joined the world of VO production for games, my goal was to match the KOTOR quality bar.

But – The Old Republic would have at least ten times the lines of dialogue of KOTOR. Since neither BioWare nor LucasArts had experience on a project of this magnitude, this was an exciting and intimidating challenge. BioWare would be responsible for providing the reams and reams of scripts, as well as, managing the writing/VO production schedule. The LucasArts team would be responsible for finding the actors, recording and post processing the dialogue.
Some of the highlights from the article:
  • James: "We want to voice all of the characters including all player characters."

  • my goal was to match the KOTOR quality bar.

  • The Old Republic is the size of at least 10 KOTORs recorded back to back.

  • As a player, you can select from a number of different conversation lines which, in turn, lead to multiple options for NPC responses.

  • hundreds of thousands of lines of dialogue

  • The voice-over is being recorded in 5 different cities (so far); Los Angeles , London, New York, San Francisco, and Toronto

  • By the time the project is finished, we will have worked with hundreds of actors - many on multiple occasions.

  • The entire game ‘script’ contains approximately 40+ novels worth of content.
Read that again... 40+ novels. That is a lot of story content. And since I'm lucky if I get around to reading half a dozen or so novels a year that means it would take me years to read everything SWTOR if they released it in novel format. :p

But while all that is very interesting and massively impressive, my old speculation bells start tingling at what might perhaps be the most intriguing things of all in this update... that tiny little image in the corner.

You see, BioWare seems to have a tendency to hint at classes before they are released, or so I have noticed over the last half year or so. We got hints at the Bounty Hunter before they unveiled the Bounty Hunter, we got hints at the Trooper before they unveiled the Trooper, we got hints at the Smuggler before they unveiled the Smuggler... and when I look at that little image all I can think is "that does not look lite a Jedi, that does not look like a Sith, that does not look like a Bounty Hunter, that does not look like a Trooper and that does not look like a Smuggler".

And I know that it doesn't have to be a player class. It could be just some random NPC. Or it could be one of the other classes in an outfit we haven't seen yet. But i can't help but feel that the gray color and the general sense of 'uniform' of that character provokes a general sense of Imperial Security Bureau in me, particularly something like these guys. I know they're not exactly the same, but that makes sense as the ISB wasn't created until the time of the movies. And just as a lot of other things are 'similar yet different' (such as the Trooper armor not looking quite like Stormtrooper/Clone Trooper armor but close) so is this uniform.

And it fits with other little hints like that; the previous timeline hinted at soemthign going on and the next timeline heading mentions Imperial Intelligence. Such an Intelligence operative would nicely mirror the general abilities of the Smuggler class while still being quite unique and have a unique story. The question I have right now is if they're also going for the whole Imperial Officer archetype with them (such as Grand Moff Tarkin and such) or whether that'll be two separate classes. But it seems clearly hinting towards some intelligence agent class.

I don't know, maybe I'm seeing what I want to see. Not because I have any desire to play such a class directly (might perhaps on a distant alt somewhere down the line if I'm not burned out on the game by then), but because it would prove me right. I guess we can do nothing other than wait to find out.

It remains a nice blog entry though and though we knew that all that VO work was impressive, it helps to underscore again just quite how impressive, which is what this blog entry does. Hats off to BioWare (and LucasArts) if they can pull this off (which I have little doubt that they can).

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