Full Voicing Might Be a Bust

As a rule, I’m pretty skeptical of full voicework in RPGs. When it’s done right, it can be great and add to the immersion and storytelling. When it’s done wrong, though, it’s the exact opposite and the entire product winds up feeling cheap and under-produced. So, I have my reservations about SW:TOR.

The first, and most recent, comes with the news that every character will have their own voice. This just seems problematic to me. As a matter of fact, lead designer Daniel Erickson lays out some of the biggest concerns.

Daniel Erickson

“Our player characters were not going to be voiced because it’s a massively insane expenditure and hugely complicated to do. You have to cast 16 of the best actors ever and then hold them for eternity.”

Add to that the fact that your character, and thereby that voice, is your gateway to immersion and you have a pretty big risk. The worst thing a game can do is remind you that you’re playing it. Just like good literature, games are  more fun when we can sink in and experience the game, rather than play it. There’s also something to be said for being an individual, which Bioware  hasn’t spent much time focusing on (other than talent trees).

I’m not the biggest fan of Dragon Age’s voiceless conversation system but I like it better than Mass Effect’s. Mass Effect plays like a movie, Dragon Age plays like an RPG.

Second, and I’m surprised no one has mentioned this, is exactly how long will it take to release new content? If every quest has to be recorded and then re-recorded with the different conversation options, you’re adding a huge amount of development time onto each content patch. If it’s good, and big, maybe it will be worth the wait and keep people satisfied. If it’s rushed, then you risk having the patch fall flat on its face. It’s a tricky medium.

Like most of you, I’m excited for TOR. Believe me, I hope that this game is all that we’ve waited for and more. If Bioware can live up to their reputation, it very well may be. I’ll play it until I’m cheek to the keyboard asleep, if that’s the case.

One thing is for sure though, TOR will change how we perceive the MMO. The question is, will push the traditional MMO design forward or blend single-player RPGs into the online space? It’s an exciting time.

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