Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Engagement and Immersion for all to Hear

There was another recent newspaper article about video game voice actors, this time in the Washington Post. It talks quite a bit about the difficulty in voice acting for video games, which are frequently more demanding than for animated shows for television and movies.

For me, one paragraph stood out: “They keep saying, ‘Games are different,’ ” said J.B. Blanc, a well-known voice actor and director who has worked with Burch several times. “But that’s no longer true. Because games want to be movies, and movies want to be games. These are basically 100-hour-long movies.”

When you add on all the takes, retakes, and variables in potentially different outcomes from a player made decision, the sheer volume of hours spend performing voice work is pretty immense.

But the result of a well performed voice role is pretty much instant immersion.


Some gamers really identify certain voices with specific roles, often to the point where some actors simply are the role they play.

A prime example of this is Jennifer Hale, known in MMO circles as the voice of the SWTOR female trooper, Jennifer has had a lot of prime voice roles in video games. But Jennifer is likely best known as the voice of Fem Shep, the female Shepard PC in the Mass Effect Trilogy. Okay, it's not much of a stretch to admit that to a lot of gamers Jennifer is Fem Shep, as this Sneaky Zebra video celebrates:

And not to be outdone, here's the dramatic reading by Male Shep Mark Meer:

But on the flip side of that is that a game can be ruined by poor voice acting.

The first Destiny had its share of problems, but Peter Dinklage's lack of inspired performance as Ghost was --while not the largest problem-- certainly amplified due to it being an issue with a speaking role. When you get called out in a Smosh Games Honest Trailer, that's not a good place to be in:

Still, that such an accomplished actor had difficulty in a voice acting role underscores the importance of getting the role right.


If there's one advance in MMOs over the last 5-7 years that has pushed the genre forward, I'd have to say it's the fully acted questing cutscenes. Yes, it makes MMOs more expensive to develop, but after having had expanded voice roles in SWTOR and other new MMOs these past few years, it's kind of hard to go back and pick up an MMOs that doesn't have it.

Working my way through ArcheAge, I had to take a break for a while and go back to SWTOR just to hear voices in quest cutscenes again. Sure, the graphics of ArcheAge are fantastic, but I miss the voice actors that bring a world alive. And I understand that ArcheAge is tapping into a JRPG tradition in its quest cutscene presentation, but it just doesn't feel the same without that vocal immersion that I've grown accustomed to.*

Going forward, however, I'm not certain whether a new MMO will even bother to try to fully voice act the game. Even though voice actors aren't paid a lot for their efforts, fully voice acting an MMO can balloon the game's development cost. The payment model for MMOs going forward --very few will brave the subscription only model and instead rely upon F2P + cash shops for funding-- doesn't help a lot either. This is a shame, because the one MMO I do subscribe to is SWTOR, and a large reason why is the immersion that voice acting provides.

*Even a game that is 10 years old, such as The Witcher, has quest cutscenes with voice acting. Of course, Bioware had been doing that for much longer --KOTOR, anyone?-- but even ignoring Bioware's output the concept of voice acting in video games is much older than SWTOR itself. And while Age of Conan had voice acting for the main questline's quests, SWTOR was the first MMO to fully integrate voice acting with the game. Unfortunately, the lack of WoW level success for SWTOR meant that the the most recent expacs have entered into this hybrid area; it's better than Age of Conan, but still it's a step back.

Friday, October 27, 2017

And I Thought I was in a Long Running Campaign


There's a group out there that's been playing D&D since 1982. That in and of itself is a bit unusual, but I know of other groups with quite a bit of longevity.

But the same campaign, since 1982? Nope. This group is very much a rarity.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Free Expacs from SWTOR

Yeah, I figured that'd catch your attention.

In celebration of the release of the original KOTOR on XBox One, they're offering the first two expacs for SWTOR, Rise of the Hutt Cartel and Shadow of Revan, for free to people who never purchased them yet.

The offer goes through November 6th, and you need to login to the SWTOR website and redeem the code "REVANRETURNS" to obtain the expacs.

Also, they've got a KOTOR inspired swoop available using the code "KOTORSPEEDER" for the same length of time.

Here's the news post highlighting these little goodies.

It goes without saying that I've been making sure that the mini-Reds know about this, even the oldest, so that they don't let this opportunity pass them by.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Monday Security Blahs

Normally I don't post about these sort of things, but this little alert that crossed my laptop early today was enough for me to make an exception:

'All wifi networks' are vulnerable to hacking, security expert discovers

Yes, I realize that not everybody agrees with The Guardian's political slant, but they to a fairly good job of explaining why people should be concerned without trying to translate the actual methodology behind how the team accomplished cracking the encryption.

The long and the short of it is that if you use the WPA2 encryption for WiFi, which used to be the safest of the widely available WiFi encryption methods, your data stream is now vulnerable. And the biggest problem is that there is no widely available replacement for WPA2, as was the case when the WEP encryption was cracked.

So the best I can tell you right now is to use a wired connection as much as possible when conducting online purchasing/transactions, and keep an eye open for updates to your router's firmware. I'm sure that we'll be seeing something fairly soon from both networking companies and your online device's manufacturers.

EtA: Microsoft released a security update on October 10th that protects Windows 10 devices from this hack. CNet covered this in a post.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Time Marches On

I was wondering what to write about for this Friday, and contemplating something silly like "how high can you jump from a cliff on LOTRO before you die from the fall", but then I saw this come through the interwebs today:

AOL Instant Messenger Will Be Discontinued


For some reason, I didn't see this coming. I'm not surprised, per se, but I am kind of sad about that.

My D&D group started playing on AIM back around 2001, when AIM was (roughly) at its height. I knew about AIM --anybody involved in tech knew about it-- but I really had no reason to use it until that point.* We spent about a decade on AIM, killing virtual baddies and working our way through two major adventure lines, until some of the changes AIM made on things such as saving our transcripts and whatnot forced us away and eventually landing us on Google.**

But for that decade I had AIM fired up alongside my work IM.

I'll miss AIM purely for the nostalgia, because I'd not logged into AIM in about 5 years.

But to balance out the sadness, here's Avenged Sevenfold performing a cover of one of my favorite songs:

*I was far more fond of Usenet back in those days, before it got overrun by trolls and spam, and the people who made Usenet great migrated to more gated discussion forums to keep the discussions on topic. You used to be able to find some of my posts on FAQs for groups such as rec.arts.sf.written.robert-jordan (yes, I was a Wheel of Time fan back through A Crown of Swords), but a lot of those have gone away as Usenet has declined and The Wheel of Time finally (!) was completed.

**A few of us have argued that we should use some of the sites such as Roll 20 for our platform of choice, but our DM is infamously a computer luddite and refuses to migrate off of a regular IM platform into something more modern.