[How do you organize and structure the creation of dialogue for video games, "perhaps the single most important aspect of video game audio"? Game audio veteran Bridgett (Prototype, Scarface) examines the key issues and possible solutions.]
Dialogue production for a large budget, cinematic video game can often be an intense and often brutally challenging process. Getting an actor in the booth and reading a script is in itself a monumental achievement that requires solid tools, pipelines, and communication.
While there are a great many articles written about the voice actor's process and performance, there is a dearth of information about the technical process and steps that are taken prior to and after the recording session, and it is these processes, planning, and techniques "behind the scenes" on which this feature will concentrate.
There is a wide spectrum of different approaches to dialogue tools and production process throughout the industry. It is fair to say in fact that almost every developer has a totally different way of working, and there is certainly no rulebook -- as long as the job gets done to the desired quality.
However, working on an integrated dialogue database solution from beginning to end of production can speed up process, reduce organisation and administration time both in and out of recording sessions, and remove a whole slew of duplicated work and a mess of multiple scripts from various members of the dialogue production team.
The desire and benefits are clearly there for a tightening up of the production process and integration of dialogue through a single master database. Sadly dialogue is one of the areas that audio directors and audio designers can be less passionate about, and the lack of investment in solid tools, process and pipelines is probably due in some part to this.
Dialogue, it can be argued, is perhaps the single most important aspect of video game audio, in that it is often the only element of the audio that a reviewer will mention, and poorly implemented and badly directed dialogue can completely ruin an entire game.
Dialogue production also has very deep dependencies stemming from within mission design, story architecture, and it's anchored at the heart of cinematic production dependencies. To this end it needs to be one of the tightest and most organized and "locked-down" elements of audio production, yet remain completely fluid and open to change all the way along the chain.
To further understand the bigger picture of game dialogue production, it is helpful to look at the broad stages from the beginning of production to the end.
Because the stages of dialogue production are somewhat linear in nature, it can be envisaged that a single database can be created and maintained from day one, right through all stages of production. Such a database can be updated at every stage of production and can export the exact required information for each of the various 'clients' along the way. A further breakdown of each broad element of production will help define what is required and by whom at each stage.