I hear voices: voice recording for a game project

    “Does the game need voice acting?” Is the main question for the sound engineer, almost as significant as “To be or not to be?” In the fate of Shakespeare's heroes. Before answering “Well, of course!”, Imagine thousands of lines of dialogs, well-arranged rows of voice actors, among which one out of a thousand, tons of high-quality equipment and tears of happiness are suitable, when after 6 months of work you manage to record an excerpt that is acceptable in sound.

    If your left eye did not twitch from these images, you most likely have never done voice acting for video games before. Under the cut - a few tips for those who decided to complete this feat.

    The main task of voice acting is to report on events in the game, the progress of the plot and key moments of the gameplay. From the dialogue of heroes and NPCs, the user learns important information, understands how certain actions will be regarded by the gaming environment. For example, in the Assassin's Creed series of games, characters can actively react to the actions of the protagonist - screaming, calling guards and just wondering why a person in a strange white suit is jumping on the roofs.

    At the stage of developing the first Plarium strategy, we decided that all characters should be voiced. Subsequent projects were also made according to this standard - each hero in games has his own character, voice and even his favorite words. Voice acting adds another dimension to the game, making the product more interesting and multifaceted.

    Types of voice acting in games The

    voice in video games, like music and sounds, can be diegetic, extra-dihegetic, or trans-dihegetic.

    Diegetic voices are heard both by the character and the player himself. These are dialogues, monologues, shouts on the battlefield, songs in taverns and even the main character’s thoughts.

    Extradihegetic voices are heard only by the player. Often this is the narrator’s voiceover that tells of some events that take place before or during the game. He can also suggest what actions a user should take to successfully complete a mission.

    Transdiiegetic voices belong to the game world and at the same time are system notifications. “My inventory is full!” - on the one hand, we hear the hero’s voice and understand that it is he who says it, but at the same time, such a message should convey to the player the thought: it’s time to run away to the dealer and sell the loot.

    Outsourcing or death

    There are many studios involved in voice acting for video games. They will be happy to offer you their services. And therein lies the catch: no matter how experts from an autosourcing company try to fulfill your order, they will never be able to achieve the required quality level. Moreover, not many studios can boast of real experience in dubbing game projects, and even the most famous of them sometimes relate to the final product ... not in the best way.

    It is better to entrust the voice acting to a person who is well acquainted with the development team, knows the features of the product, the characters' characters and understands what result you need to get. At the same time, you should objectively evaluate your strengths: will there be enough time for the sound engineer to find the right studio, equipment, casting and create a quality product. In large projects, the scoring process can stretch for months and years, but even the dialogues from a small indie game are painstaking work and the sound exposure of the sound designer.


    The voice standard is set by the game and its genre. A lot depends on whether you are working with a mobile runner, browser platformer or RPG for Next Gen consoles, whether the script contains 50,000 lines of dialogs, or is there just a short list of exclamations printed on an A4 leaflet.

    To conduct a casting, it is not necessary to invite hundreds of people to the studio. Successful auditions can be made even if your sound engineer is a social phobia and the actors live in a different hemisphere. It is enough to send them a text with relevant instructions and explanations, and then evaluate the result. Even a professional actor must have some experience in dubbing, otherwise there is a risk of knocking the theater out of him for a very long time. Make a database of interesting voices, even if they are not suitable for this project.
    In extreme cases, be creative. There are many options for how you can interestingly voice characters without recording the voices of the actors.

    Some useful tips

    • Watch for sound uniformity. As in the case of graphics, the game as a whole and each location in particular should have a stylistically unified sound design.
    • Use frequency processing to select the best sound.
    • Listen to how the whole scene sounds. Too loud screams or dialogues can break out of the general concept and destroy the state of immersion. At the same time, an important phrase that sounds too quiet may be missed by the player.
    • Testing is the key to quality. At the final stage, listen to how sounds overlap and which ones can be removed without regret. Make sure that there is no chaos and cacophony.
    • Combine studio and field recordings to achieve the desired effect.
    • Avoid accurate repetition of sound bites. If possible, vary or randomize the phrases of even secondary characters.
    • Start working on voice acting as soon as possible, as soon as the final version of dialogs or phrases is ready. Leave a decent margin of time to re-sound some points if they are not well combined with the visual range.

    A few interesting tricks that the developers used:

    For the game The Sims, a special Simlish language was created that the characters speak. It is based on French, Latin, Tagalog, Finnish and Ukrainian. And in the game Knock-knock, the main character speaks a strange language. It is known that it is not derived from any of the existing ones. The developers claim that the sound files and the concept of the game were sent to them by an unknown person who insisted on the implementation of the game in this form.

    Invite famous actors to voice acting. This is not only an excellent marketing move, but also a psychological technique for influencing a player. The chances of survival of Nathaniel Howe in Dragon Age: Origins increase markedly because he is voiced by Ilya Pale. It is hard to hate a character whose voice belongs to Hank McCoy from the X-Men movie, Bruce Benner from The Incredible Hulk, Arthur from The Beginning, and many other movie and video game characters.

    To immerse yourself in the gameplay, some phrases pronounced by foreigners can be left untranslated. For example, in the XCOM: Enemy Unknown game, foreign mercenaries can shout commands in their own languages. When creating the antagonist for the game “Wars of Thrones”, the Plarium sound engineer studied several types of orc speech and, together with the voice actor, recorded the speech of the god of Chaos - Balur - in orcish language.

    Customizing the voice of the protagonist is one of the components of a high-quality RPG game. For example, in Neverwinter Nights it was possible to choose from a list of 15 or 20 votes of various types. Dragon Age: Inquisition also adds the ability to select voices. However, this time the developers simplified the task: instead of recording another 30,000 dialog phrases with the new actor, they simply lowered the voice timbre of the actor in the original recording.

    To create the voices of monsters, mixing screaming recordings of real animals is usually used. So did the creators of the Spore simulator: all the animals created by the player make sounds that are a mixture of the screams of real animals of a certain kind. Humanoid creatures speak each other in a language that is a simple improvisation of voice actors.

    Nowadays it’s hard to find a game project in which there would be completely no sound. However, not all developers understand the extent to which graphics and voice acting affect the perception of the game. The quality of these two components will largely determine the loyalty to the product and the degree to which the user is immersed in the game world.

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