Video Game production is a multifaceted and complicated beast to behold. There is an awe-inspiring number of moving parts to bring these interactive stories to life.
Engaging audiences emotionally is vital to building a fanbase, and an easy route into every player’s heart is adding authentic voices to the characters.
Casting and recording voice-over actors doesn’t necessarily cost the earth, and it’s something even aspiring game developers should consider.
Voice acting in your game sets a high-quality standard that gamers will love. Let’s take a quick look at the process.
First, as a writer, you need to figure out what attributes you need for each voice. I know it sounds simple but understanding your character or narrator’s motivations can be vital to casting the best talent.
So, think. Are you looking to voice an inspiring or menacing character? Or perhaps you need an eloquent voice-over to guide players through your game tutorial?
If you seek a voice-over to teach mechanics, you won’t need to concern yourself with your voice-over artist’s acting range. In contrast, you will need to think long and hard about your game’s characters’ voices and the feelings you want to evoke in the audience.
A heroic protagonist may have a stoic and gravelly voice, like David Hayter’s Solid Snake in Metal Gear Solid. Whereas a comic relief character may have a very unconventional voice to help promote the wackiness in their personality, like Stephen Merchant as Wheatly in Portal 2.
Beyond this, there may be elements to your characters that work outside of this framework. A unique character requires a distinct voice. The better you know your characters, inside and out, the better you can select and direct your actors to capture their essence.
Voice casting platforms like Voquent.com make it easy to listen to voices speaking in various tones and styles.
Choosing your recording method
The scale of the game will significantly alter how you record the performances. In AAA games, the voice acting is recorded using motion capture (mo-cap). That is, the voice actors perform the scenes they are recording in live-action. Mo-cap can provide authenticity and energy to a scene as it uses the actors’ facial and bodily movements. However, this is intricate and expensive, so it is not typically feasible for smaller, indie development studios to consider.
Indie and AAA studios alike will use the traditional voice capture method where the actors record their lines in a studio on location or in their professional home studio booth. Recording with voice actors in their home studios is becoming more popular with Zoom, Teams, or similar apps used for directing. Most voice actors are also happy to film themselves, so the animators have a handy reference for their facial expressions.
Recording in a studio provides more control over the signal flow and audio quality but can limit casting options only to talent based in or near the studio.
The studio equipment
Getting voice recordings ready for insertion into your game is not always easy.
A good quality condenser microphone will be of chief consideration. Condenser mics will pick up even the faintest of sounds, such as the slightest whisper from your voice actor—or the sound of a car accelerating down the street. This sensitivity is another reason it is essential to utilize a studio or a sufficiently treated room to block unwanted sound.
Professional voice actors know their way around condenser microphones, and the most experienced will have acoustically treated home studios.
Finding an experienced artist is vital for game audio. You don’t want to be dealing with untreated recording environments and amateur performers unfamiliar with good mic technique. A professional will understand how to breathe appropriately and what microphone technique to employ to achieve the desired results.
The above covers some of the basics to consider when putting voice-over together for your video game. Naturally, the process at each stage is more complex in practice, but it is essential to do it right, so you don’t turn off players with poor recording quality or lousy voice acting.
Finding a professional voice-over services provider like Voquent can be a lifesaver in game production. Having an experienced team and ears on your project will make the process easier and improve quality.
However, if you want to take on this challenge solo, ensuring you’ve got quality actors with good quality equipment lined up is half the battle and should hopefully set you on the right course.