This was a busy week for dialog. I recorded seven hours of sessions with six voice actors; next week I’ll record more.
Not every voice actor is equally talented. Some nail the line just from reading it; those actors are gold. I can easily get 180 lines an hour with someone that skilled. Fortunately, those are often the people who can do multiple different voices and accents, so we can use them for multiple encounters without the player thinking, “Enough with that guy, already.”
(On the other hand, there is always a limit to how different a human can make his voice sound; and the further someone gets from their natural voice, usually the harder it is for them to remain emotionally truthful as an actor.)
It goes more slowly with people who are less skilled. I sometimes have to build a performance, first saying, “really ask the question,” then “okay, and you’re 20 feet away from the player when you ask it” then “and you’re really pissed off.”
“Really ask the question” is something I have to say a lot. When you’re running through a bunch of lines on a page, it’s hard to invest your soul in each line. Sometimes they come out sounding like, well, like someone’s reading lines off a page. That’s when I have to say, “Okay, I really want to get a sense who you’re talking to,” or “Really ask the question like you want an answer.
Some actors can do an accent, or act, but not both at the same time. Fortunately, most of our NPC’s are regular middle class British folk, and so are our actors.
A lot of this work goes unnoticed, if I do it well. When it comes to conversations that you hear in the background, if it sounds human and real, then you won’t notice it. If it sounds wooden or contrived, you’ll notice that it’s bad.
|I wonder what's playing on the Victrola.|
No, seriously. That's part of my job.
Or, you won’t notice. But you will know somehow. You’ll feel more like you’re in a game and less like you’re in a world. I like to say, “The audience doesn’t know, but they know.” I guess I'd unpack that to mean, “The audience doesn’t know what’s right, but they do know when it’s wrong.” If the actors, even in the background, don’t believe in the imaginary circumstances, then the player won’t, either. If we get details wrong, the player may not necessarily be aware of them, but the player will feel shenanigans are going on.
Apropos, Whitney and I had a big argument over dumpsters, or “skips” as they seem to be called in England. David needs places for the players to hide. Dumpsters would be easy to make. And there were dumpsters in England in 1964.
However, in our world, there are no functioning dump trucks. The whole point of a dumpster is that it is emptied by machinery, not by hand. So, from my point of view, there can’t be dumpsters.
We had a big jolly back and forth about that. (I might have said something like "I hate that with the fiery passion of ten thousand suns.") In the end, we settled on ash carts. They’re a bit like dumpsters on wheels – a small skip that a horse pulls. While the Wellies don’t seem to have any surviving horses, they probably do burn coal, and coal makes ash, and ash has to go somewhere. So ash carts make sense. And it is revelatory if a world without horses is still using horse carts to get rid of coal ash. Clearly some poor bastards are dragging the ash carts around when you’re not looking.
|Ceci n'est pas une ash cart. |
Also, we already have an ash cart, from Contrast.
The audience doesn’t know, but they know. They wouldn’t necessarily think, “Dumpsters, wtf?” But they would maybe feel like our world was a little less hallucinatory. Hand-drawn horse carts in 1964 reveal something about the world. It’s those details that create emotional engagement, I think.
We're off to PAX East in a couple of weeks. Come to our booth if you're there!
The rest of the team's update is here.