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5. Proper voice acting.
During our search for international voice talent for the game we encountered the problem of having to find good voice over talent for the lead characters. Our initial experiences were extremely positive (working with Eric, who played the voice of our main character, Ghat).
But we incorrectly assumed that we would be successful with other people we hired and we ended up having to re-record complete characters because we handled the issue poorly. We had little experience in this matter and we even paid for some jobs before they were complete.
If we had waited until soon before the release of the game and experienced these problems, Zeno Clash could have easily been released with very poor voice acting. We were lucky that the delay of the game due to other issues allowed us to have more time to re-record several characters that didn't work out.
However, this also meant we had a very uneven cast of voice talent in the final game. Certainly, if we had more experience and time we could have delivered better voice acting.
The story of the development of Zeno Clash is overwhelming to look at from our perspective. When we at ACE Team started thinking of doing a punk-fantasy first person game, it was 2002 and the project we started designing was very different to what was released in 2009.
It's hard to believe that a game that was based on a failed project would eventually become a successful one. In retrospective I think many good choices we made with Zeno Clash were thanks to learning from mistakes we made with Zenozoik, our canceled Lithtech powered game. But I don't think that the reason we were capable of producing a really complex game as an indie studio is only because we spent a long time on it.
I remember reading a John Carmack interview several years ago, when normal mapping was the latest thing in video game technology and Doom 3 was about to be released.
They asked him about the modding scene, and the possibility of small teams to adopt the new requirements of next-gen tech.
He replied that he believed that game development had reached a point where the complexity of producing art for games was too hard for mod developers who wanted to keep up with the standards required to produce contemporary games.
But I think he would have been surprised to see how small teams have been able to produce very elaborate projects that have turned into full games. Even these days, with Unreal Engine 3, we still see the Make Something Unreal contest which has already served as a platform to launch mod/indie game developers in the industry.
The origins of ACE Team are the origins of a mod development team, and Zeno Clash started out as a very ambitious mod, but ended up being a fully licensed game, and we are proud of having produced one of the most distinct Source engine games that have been released.
I believe that even though video games get more and more complex, there will always be a way for small teams to develop unique projects that can be released commercially. With a little bit of creative thinking (and keeping things realistic), any talented team of aspiring game developers can take a strong first step into this industry.
Full-Time Game Developers: 7
Contractors: 2 (Audio and Music)
Game budget: US $200.000 - $250.000
Game development time: Around 2 years
Release date on Steam: April 19, 2009
Hardware used - Typical workstation: Athlon 2 ghz, 2 GB RAM, 80 GB HDD, 128MB Shader Model 2.0 video card
Software used: Source Engine Tools (Hammer, Face Poser, Studiomdl model compiler, Half Life Model Viewer, Particle Editor), 3D Studio Max, Adobe Photoshop
Technology used: Source Engine - Orange Box build