For a game that prides itself on handing the reins of a story over to the player, there is an awful lot of scripting going into Mass Effect 3. But a script only provides words written on a page, and while that kind of direction may have worked in the days of point-and-click adventure games, the quality of voice actors in today’s industry demands a bit more of a commitment. The latest trailer for Mass Effect 3 takes a closer look at the art of voiceover, and how important modern science and technology is to delivering a truly powerful story.
BioWare has made it their mandate over the past few years to bring as strong a story to any game they make as the technology behind it, and with the third entry in the Mass Effect series, it’s safe to say they’ve hit their stride. The current trend in gaming seems to be blurring the lines between the actor’s performance and the onscreen representation, with Uncharted 3 seen as the leading example.
That kind of motion capture acting may be possible in a directed, cinematic experience, but anyone who has played a Mass Effect game knows that their experience can be anything but directed. With the ability to flirt, criticize, or sometimes execute the NPCs one encounters, it just isn’t feasible to have the actors perform every single possible scene that might arise.
At least, that’s the stance taken by BioWare’s Rob Blake and Caroline Livingstone. As Audio Lead and Voiceover Director, respectively, it falls to these two masters of audio to bring the vocal performances and soundscapes of the game to life. But with over 40,000 lines of dialogue in ME3, some new systems were needed to keep the overall quality even across the board.
In the latest documentary for ME3, the two explain how science hasn’t hampered the art of vocal performances, but allowed voice actors to be directed in ways never before possible. The video begins with a look at the various ME3 pre-order bonuses, so skip ahead if you’re already up to speed:
It’s difficult to grasp just how monumental a task it would be to write, direct, record, and mix over 40, 000 different lines of dialogue, but even more amazing is the lengths the team is going to in order to guarantee that each one is worth hearing. BioWare has made no secret of the fact that delivering an end to this series is their top priority, and with this much time and energy being devoted to voice performance, it really does show.
It would be nice to have every video game reach the same level of cinematic aspiration as the Uncharted series, and Nolan North may hope that’s the case, but the truth is that just isn’t possible. With games getting as big and expansive as technology makes possible, it’s nice to know that some developers are trying to build stories and performances to match, instead of taking the easier road.
Are you looking forward to hearing even more contextual voice performances, or do the performances take a backseat to the spectacle for you?
Mass Effect 3 will be released on March 6, for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce.