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50 Cent: Blood on the Sand: Audio Postmortem
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50 Cent: Blood on the Sand: Audio Postmortem


April 15, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 5 Next
 

Dialogue

Design of a suitable dialogue system with gratifying yet simple interactions was worked on primarily with the design and AI teams. This work began with breaking down enemy reactions and outbursts into AI categories such as "taking cover" / "throw grenade" / "attack" / "covering fire", etc.

We also broke down all the categories of dialogue that the player character (either 50 Cent or a G-Unit member) would require, in total each had around 50 categories. Each of these categories was analyzed for repetition in actual game play, and corresponding numbers of variants were mapped out for the more common categories, the biggest being the player's taunts.

The taunt button was going to be central to getting the feel of "being 50 Cent". Being able to use comical profanity at any time, totally at the user's discretion, certainly upped the fun factor, and was a technique that I had used previously on the Scarface game.

Also key to getting the taunt button integrated into gameplay and away from simply being a swearing button meant that when used at certain times after certain kills, as part of a combo, it allowed points to be multiplied with timed use of a taunt. The dialogue content of the taunt button was also made upgradable via the unlocking of extra themed taunt "packs" which increase the amount of things that the character can say on the button as the game progresses.

Because the game was set in a fictional Baltic / Mediterranean war zone, we wanted vaguely authentic and indeterminate foreign voice assets to be shouted in original dialects -- not in English with a foreign accent, which can often be repetitive and irritating.

This also meant that we could get away with much less offensive dialogue content, because once it was translated and shouted in an angry over the top performance by the actor, it sounded a lot more aggressive than it actually was. Myself and the core IP group all settled on a mixture of Russian, Serbian, and Croatian voices to obfuscate any idea of a middle-eastern location and to deepen the idea of foreign fighters and unknown forces with which 50 Cent and crew find themselves in confrontation.

Shared Technology

There was already a fairly rich and complicated dialogue implementation system in place on the project, left over from Swordfish's previous release, Cold Winter. However, it had not had much attention for a long time and needed a re-write to handle much of the 50 Cent design requirements.

Because the dialogue we were going to be implementing for 50 Cent was nowhere near as in-depth as Cold Winter and didn't require large branching tree structures, I recommended that to save time and manpower we replace this with a new piece of technology we had recently developed at Radical for the Scarface, Crash, and Prototype projects in Vancouver.

The dialogue tool, called UDO (Universal Dialogue Organizer), is a piece of technology originally developed by audio coder Robert Sparks and myself (as well as the audio team at Radical) off the back of the Scarface game.

It is a pipeline-agnostic, stand-alone dialogue database that not only contains all the spoken content for the game in text form, it also allows you to organize, search and flag characters and lines with values for implementation and re-appropriation in the game. It is essentially a dialogue engine and dialogue database in one. It turned out to be fairly simple to integrate this into the Unreal pipeline at Swordfish.


50 Cent dialogue in U.D.O. (Radical's proprietary dialogue database)

During mid-production we also welcomed a new member to the audio team at Swordfish, Andrew Green, who pretty quickly took on sole responsibility for implementing the often complicated build steps and implementation code for the entire dialogue system.

This involved taking the data from UDO and introducing a build step which bundled the data into Unreal engine packages. The loading system also relied on these packages being of small enough size to load and unload as required, so things like dialogue variations were bundled into packages of around five to 10 lines each -- which for things like 50 Cent's taunts, a category consisting of a total of 99 variations, allowed us to load small variation packages which would be unloaded and replaced with new packages once they had been used up.

The total number of in-game dialogue lines was around 10,500, the majority of those belonging to player and co-op characters (50 Cent and G-Unit). Each of the twenty or so foreign enemy characters had around 120 lines each.


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