So do you think it's better to find one person who has a range, or to find a natural voice that makes the character?
GD: Natural voice is always going to win out for me, especially for a lead character. A lot of times, because of financial considerations, we like finding people who can do ranges, so we can bring in one actor and get several parts out of him in one session. That's good for spending less time in the studio and getting the most that we can out of an actor. So there are places for both.
If you have a main actor who's playing your main character, sure they might have to pitch their voice up or down or rough it up a bit, but they're still going to have the vocal quality of your main character, so you don't want to have your main character talking essentially to himself with a disguised voice, because generally that's going to come through no matter how talented the actor is.
It's extremely humorous when that happens, but not in a good way.
GD: Yeah, you can say, "Ha ha, look what you guys did!" but you certainly don't want people doing that to your game.
No, no. One of my personal pet peeves has been accents which are not natural. What can you do about that when you have a budget consideration? Is there anything that you can do?
GD: Well for us, we being Sony, we're in the fortunate position of having offices overseas, so if we really need to get a specific accent, we'll either cast in Los Angeles -- spread a wide net and see if we can find a native speaker in LA -- or we can just go to, say, France, and go find someone who can speak English and work with our compatriots over there and say, "Hey, we're looking," and they can write it for us, too. That gives us the advantage of having more of an understanding of what's in the current mindset of the French culture.
It's always changing, what's current and what's in. For a smaller organization or business... just the tried and true, spread your net far and wide. Meet people who speak different languages and say, "Hey, do you have any friends who come from France?" There's a lot of people here in the States who have a wide variety of performance ability. You can always find the people, it's just a question of spending the time to do it.
That calls to mind for me [Sony-published PSP title] Jeanne D'Arc, which... no offense if you worked on it, because I don't know if you did...
GD: I didn't, no. Our group helped out a little bit.
Level 5/Sony's Jeanne D'Arc
Because the faked French accents made it difficult for me to watch the cutscenes. But one thing I've learned talking to people about this over the years and seeing fan reactions, is that I'm in the minority, in terms of caring about how the dialog sounds and how real and gripping it can be. Do you feel like a lot of people notice if it's way better or worse?
GD: It's one of those things. People definitely notice if it's worse. When the dialog's really good... reviews more and more now are trying to be more comprehensive in hitting music, sound design, and dialog, or at least dedicate a sentence or two to it, so getting positive reviews on dialog puts you in the positive feedback cycle of encouraging producers to have better dialog. So people do notice, but it's an underappreciated art, I think, generally.
Maybe rightly so. I don't know. I'm kind of two minds about it. Obviously, I'm very passionate about dialog and want the best we can get in our games, and I'm very partial to storytelling and story in general. That's why I play games. Shoot 'em-ups are not very appealing to me. I like character development, and seeing a story arc. But games are interactive experiences. They're about the gameplay.
If you're going to play a game, you don't want to see ten hours of cutscenes in your game, so dialog is very important, and it absolutely enhances the experience, but it isn't and maybe shouldn't be the first talking point in a review.