Games are often dealing with the hyper-fantastical. How do you deal with that, in terms of making something believable which doesn't actually exist?
GD: It really depends on the game. You can have a very hyper-fantastical environment, characters, and world, but they can still be intelligible. So a lot of rules of performance and direction and acting still apply. The actor needs to be aware of what they're in, and they need to be familiar with the vocabulary of the world at the time.
They need to be aware of what they're getting themselves into, so they don't stumble over their words, or even worse, we get into a recording session, and the actors see the script, and they pronounce it one way...or we'd written the script and haven't necessarily thought about it, and two days later, we get another actor in and they say it another way, and we're like, "Uhhh, I can't remember how they said it," or we forgot that the other actor said it another way, and when we get to production, we realize that people have said the same made-up word in two completely different ways, and that's just completely unacceptable.
It requires preparation on our part, it requires preparation on the actors' part, and it really depends on the nature of the game. So if we need to create monster sounds that are intelligible, then we need to work closely with the sound design department, and say, "Okay, here's some intelligible dialog, and now we need to figure out a way to make it work with your sound design elements."
Maybe we'll do some test cases first, so when we go into session, we'll know what type of direction we need to give the actor to make the processing easier.
We might need to say, "Okay, we'll need to be speeding you up a lot, because you're this pixie monster, so we actually need you to talk slowly in the session, so we have room to speed you up." Whatever it may be, it just depends on the constraints of the design.
Do you have any control over whether your dialog is going to be in cutscenes or in game? If you were to say, "You know, we don't really need to do this information here. It could flow much better if it came in this way..."
GD: To some extent. Our role with Sony is again, primarily, as a service group, so oftentimes we come into a process with the script mostly or fully written ahead of time. Then we'll get a script review and give comments, but it's certainly not anything that a producer has to take to heart. It's a recommendation process.
Sony's God of War II
What is your personal feeling about cutscene versus in-gameplay dialog? There are obviously places for both. When do you think each is the most appropriate, in terms of advancing story?
GD: That's a really loaded question. Again, it depends a lot on the game and how you're trying to promote. For God of War, the story is very cinematic. You're trying to present this story in a very specific way. You want very specific camera angles and reveals, and you want the dialog to happen in such a way that it has the most impact with regards to the visuals.
So when you're in that situation, it's much better to have it in an in-game cinematic, whereas if it's informational and it's not quite as tied to a very important camera sweep, then it's better for it to be in-game. I think the more in-game you can have, the better, because it is an interactive experience, but it just depends on what you're trying to do with it.