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Game On : Gaming Voiceovers

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

May 5, 2008

Comments (1)

SpiderMan Videogame Voiceovers

When it comes to blockbuster video games few companies compete with Vicarious Visions and Activision.

Are you ready to go inside the world of gaming voiceovers?

This article profiles Vicarious Visions' gaming VO Producer Evan Skolnick. Evan has worked as a producer and writer on games including Guitar Hero, Spider Man 3, Shrek 2 and numerous others.

At the Voice Coaches Marketing Expo, we learned how material is prepared for recording and how Evan works collaboratively with his team on both coasts, as well as celebrities like Tobey Maguire and James Franco to complete the job.

During his career, Evan Skolnick has been a writer and editor for a variety of media and was a member of the Marvel Comics team.

Currently, Skolnick Works for Vicarious Visions, a division of Activision. A couple of his credits include the wildly popular SpiderMan 3 and famed Guitar Hero.


The US Gaming Market

The Video game industry has experienced exponential growth, raking in 18.5 billion dollars of revenue including both hardware and software.

In comparison, the US Hollywood box office during 2007 brought in a mere $9.7 billion, their best year ever, yet still half the sum of the booming video game industry whose products and culture is asserting its position in the mainstream and rivaling traditional forms of entertainment such as film.

Video games have become increasingly commonplace in our society. To give you an idea of just how commonplace, 72% of Americans play videogames either on a console, a PC or on a mobile device.


Old Games vs. New Games

Do you remember the first games available for Atari? Does the name "Pong" ring a bell?

Since the early years of gaming (circa 1982), there have been some monumental improvements made to heighten the gaming experience including better graphics, gameplay, audio, character development and more engrossing plot lines with additional complexity.


Doom

As an example of progress heading into the mid 1990s, the video game Doom (1993) was recognized as a turning point and the beginning of a new genre called "First Person Shooter". Every game before Doom had the main character shown from the back looking down. Doom was the first game that the gamer got to experience playing the game while looking through the character’s eyes.

Although it was a step in the right direction, Doom was pretty basic and only featured music, gunshots and was lacking in the voiceover department.


BioShock

In contrast, BioShock (2007) found itself competing directly with the movie industry. BioShock and games like it today give the player control of the characters and are more interactive thanks to cut scenes, compelling story lines and voiceovers.

How is this possible?

• Shared knowledge
• More attention to the story and character
• Increasingly savvy marketing / focus testing
• Hiring producers and managers and more experienced processors


Scope of Work: How much goes into a VO Project

Scope of VO in games:

• Movies have about 2000 lines of dialogue
• The average video game has 8,000 lines of dialogue
• Herculean video games have upwards of 70,000 lines of dialogue

In order to keep some variety, the voice actors are asked to record several versions of utterances or words that are repeated countless times throughout the game, for instance, when a character is hurt, screams or passes out, there needs to be a variety of takes that will be incorporated into the game to ensure that the gaming experience fluctuates and is less predictable.

During the presentation, we got to hear a couple dozen varying exertion sounds performed by Tobey Maguire in a row followed by a couple rounds of him passing out, demonstrating just how many different versions of the same lines are recorded to be used in the video game to entertain and satisfy gamers.


Who Records Video Game VOs?

When the movie stars can't or aren't willing to record their roles in the game, their rights are signed over to a soundalike, that is, someone who can make their voice match the sonic quality of another person's voice, even their vocal mannerisms and style. Being a soundalike can be big business if you're voicing as a soundalike for a prolific or popular actor.

Some contracts require the celebrity to approve the soundalike.

When you have big-name games you usually encounter big-name voice actors. Some examples include, Bruce Willis, Steve Carell, and William Shatner. These games are certainly in the minority but they are interesting to discuss.

Developers of medium and high-profile games use lesser-known voice actors (union with either SAG or AFTRA) and developers of smaller budget games use non-union talent as a rule of thumb.


Recommended Articles

Want to get into gaming? Play the Games!
Interview with David Sobolov
Infinite Ammo : Peek Behind the Scenes of Videogame Production

Gaming Voiceover News Stories

Spider-man Web of Shadows Game Swoops in August 2008
Incredible Hulk Game in the Works, Celeb Voice Actors
Iron Man Video Game to Feature Robert Downey Jr.
LOST : Via Domus Videogame
Actors Score $500K for Video Game Voice-Overs


Have a comment? Let us know what you think!

Best wishes,

Stephanie

Related Topics: Activision, AFTRA, Celebrities, Celebrity, games, gaming, Hollywood, industry, Non-Union, Shrek, Spider Man, union, video games, videogames


Comments


    I recall early work that I did where we had to concatenate ever few words because the space available for dialog was so tiny. I'm talking floppy disks days.

    Like:

    Wizard/ pick up the / sceptor and then say Pirate, Fairy, Warlock and then book, food, weapon - all seperately so they could fashion sentences

    Fairy/ pick up the/ food

    Compared to the sophistication of some audio systems like the PS3 with Blu Ray and the whole subset of imbedded audio processing instructions, it's incredible.

    You mention Doom. For those of you who played Doom, I did the voices for all the little monsters in the game. Well not exactly voices as much as grunts and groans and a few death cries.

    To say that the audio has vastly changed is an understatement and as of today, pretty much the major force driving surround sound (at least in the home) would be gaming audio.

    At one time, San Francisco was the center of the gaming universe. Now it seems that so much is being done in Los Angeles and also requires an actor to be in Los Angeles. I'd love to hear more about what out of market talent can do to try and get more opps to audition.

    Thanks,

    J.S. Gilbert

    Posted by:

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