Pushing Game Audio Immersion w/ Dialogue

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MikeQuell
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Pushing Game Audio Immersion w/ Dialogue

Post by MikeQuell » February 1st, 2014, 10:22 pm

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Pushing Game Audio Immersion w/ Dialogue
I don't want to call any games out but I might have to for example purposes. I've been on a few titles that sacrifice writing any extra dialog for ambient, background characters in games. Either this is because of time, they don't want to hassle with localizing it for other regions, or both. Sometimes it's just not considered or thought of all together. While putting these interviews together for the forum I've asked a few people what they thought could be better during the next generation of game development. One thing that I definitely think can grow is the quality and amount of writing for ambient, "background" characters in the world. Films flourish their backgrounds with intelligible dialog at times, so why can't we?

Here is a great example of having the opportunity to write dialog for these types of characters and actually doing it. Having it adds nothing to the main story-line, nor does it act as any sort of "mission". It's there to simply provide another form of entertainment to the player and also make the world feel significantly more immersive. Maybe it could be mixed a tad differently, or have more variations, but the idea is there and executed upon.



Now let's take a look at the other side of the spectrum. I love these games and have actually spoken to colleagues about how great they sound. So for me to call this out as the counterpoint is a bit ironic. By no means does this example mean I think this game sounds bad, because I don't.

With that said, there is a ton of potential here to do more and I think it's a good example of what 90% of games are missing - more ambient dialog. I know the nature of the game is tricky because people don't have cellphones to gossip into but I think it could have been pushed more. There could be trigger tech in place for the AI to say "hi" to one another as their triggers cross paths. Or work with design on generating characters that might be a bit nutty and talking to themselves. You could also maybe have sick people coughing and sneezing occasionally? Medical aide wasn't great back then and there is hay flying everywhere! Someone has to be allergic to all that mess. Haha, joking aside, there just doesn't seem to be a lot of social interaction. Most of the AI don't acknowledge the player's character unless he has a weapon out or brutally killed someone right in front of them.

Take a listen from the 3:00 mark onward to get an understanding of what I'm referring to. I'm not specifically trying to pick this game apart. I'm trying to call out what we can do to enhance immersion in our products. This is one of the many things we can improve upon if the title lends itself to that benefit.



Aside from the very specific suggestions I made above, how can we improve this scenario on a global effort? In my personal situation, most of these tasks are handled by someone outside of my department so suggestions and feedback could be made (which is actually very effective). If time is the issue, it is a unique opportunity to bring in an aspiring writer to write just for these scenarios. Then grab a game design/dialog editing intern to hook up the lines. The few months of contract work for these entry level positions is pocket change given the impact it will have on the quality of the overall game.

In the end, time and planning is probably the biggest culprit when it comes to these scenarios. If it's thought about early enough I think it can be improved upon though. What are your thoughts? Do you agree? Are we satisfied with the state of dialog in games?

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deskinscraig
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Re: Pushing Game Audio Immersion w/ Dialogue

Post by deskinscraig » February 1st, 2014, 11:25 pm

In my mind, bringing more dialog into games brings more story along with it which is always a good thing. Even if it is subtle things like background characters, it all adds to the experience and enhances immersion. I havent played AC 4, but for some reason I recall previous AC's having a lot more background dialog than the example shown. Am I wrong, or did they cut back on that feature? With open world games like this I think its even more important to give personality to crowds, as seeing a group of 10+ people in crowded alley not making any noise breaks immersion for me personally. Especially if you just murdered someone in plain sight :lol: Yes it would require more planning and proper budgeting, but I think its steps like these that will have to be taken to continue enhancing audio quality in games. With the new console generation I am hopeful that games will continue the trend of having a larger scope for their audio, and I'd love to see features like this implemented more frequently.

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Re: Pushing Game Audio Immersion w/ Dialogue

Post by MikeQuell » February 2nd, 2014, 3:37 am

Probably worth noting that I was thinking of AAA development while writing this out. Games at this level usually have a budget flexible enough to afford these types of additions. For smaller, indie games this is definitely something that could be affected by a smaller budget.

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Re: Pushing Game Audio Immersion w/ Dialogue

Post by DanCostello » April 4th, 2014, 3:59 pm

I'd really like to see this done more, too. It was something I wished we'd done more on Infinite, but alas, I wasn't really in a position to push for. In most areas, NPC's had only 2 lines or 2 sets of banter lines. If you strolled straight through an area, you probably wouldn't notice them run out of things to say, but if you hung around for a while, you'd notice things go quietly fairly quickly. I think this was improved upon a little bit in some places on Burial at Sea 2, with some of the characters in Paris getting 4-5 different lines, but those were typically variations on "Hello," and not the mini-conversations we actually got to see in Infinite.

For us, it was mostly an issue of workload and priorities. We were pretty slammed just getting in the content that we did. IMO, improving the experience in this way would've required increasing the number of secondary character lines by at least a factor of 3. On top of that, every NPC vocalization that consisted of more than 1 line was explicitly scripted. We had no system to trigger multi-character conversations systemically, so we would've needed to build one.

-Dan.

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