Where do you see dialog progressing from here? It's kind of a vague question. Where do you see it going? For example, (non-game) animation, over time, has evolved to become very stylized, and generally not naturalistic. Whereas movies are obviously very naturalistic. How do you see games going, in terms of those concerns?
GD: I think the evolution of dialog is going to be very, very tightly entwined with the evolution of game development, because dialog is so tied to how a story is presented, and how you interact with the environment.
There's not going to be leaps and bounds in terms of better performances. Obviously, there will hopefully be leaps and bounds for the lower-quality games, but we're getting the best talent that we can, and acting is... we can do sample resolution and bit depth, but we don't want overacting.
So the leaps and bounds in dialog is going to come from the implementation side. It's going to come from getting more resources to writing more variety. It's going to be in having multiple storylines. It's in having the ability to store that much data on the disc. It's getting to the point where we don't hear the same line every five minutes.
Maybe if you play a scene and you die and you have to replay the entire scene, we'll be able to have the same information presented, but maybe not in the exact same way, using slightly different files, and having multiple variations on the disc for everything in the game so it feels if not fresh -- because you're getting the same information, and you know what information you're getting -- at least it will not feel completely, strictly repetitive.
It's an interesting distinction, because it's a semi-artificial kind of variety, because it's still limited.
GD: Right. The goal is to feel like you're deja vu and you're hearing the conversation again, but you're not hearing a record player.
Can you mention a couple of games that you think have excelled in dialog in the last couple of years?
GD: One of my absolute favorite examples of dialog implementation right now is Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. I think they just did a phenomenal job of getting strong performances.
Really, they did some nice stuff, in terms of where they gave their information. They did a lot of stuff where you were having relatively long conversations while you were in the middle of gameplay, and interactions between characters where you didn't feel removed from the action.
It was happening as you were running through the jungle, or whatever. I thought that was really nice. It was a change from having constant action, action, action. It was like you get from this place to this place, and while you get there, exploring on your own, you're hearing something else that's happening.
Actually, one of the other things I see as possibly happening in the future for dialog is more... again, it depends on the game, but there's going to be more integration between motion capture and dialog. Right now, motion capture in general is taking off, more games are using it, and more triple-A games are going in and playing out their scenes like they do in real movies.
In the past, where you'd have hand animations or whatever, you'd have animations, and then you'd have your voice over and you'd play it on top of that. Whereas getting voice-over and the motion together in one session, while the quality... you don't get studio-quality recordings on a motion capture stage, because there's a lot of movement going on, and you've got big vents, and there's stuff blocking [the actors].
So we try to get boom mics, but it's never quite the same quality, so we end up having to do ADR, like the movies, but you're ADRing to a motion that is real from the set. I think that's going to be a big change. Again, it's not new. It's been happening for a while. But I think we're going to be seeing more and more of that.