Oh Come On, It's Been Five Years

2009: Developer BioWare today announced that Star Wars: The Old Republic will become the first fully-voiced MMO.

2004: Developer SOE today announced that Everquest 2 will become the first fully-voiced MMO.

(Edit: although to be fair, the trailer is awesome.)

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52 Responses to Oh Come On, It's Been Five Years

  1. geldonyetich says:

    I suppose I can grasp some consistency if I point out that not every single thing in EverQuest 2 was voiced.

    One point of contention – did the voicing in EverQuest 2 really bring that much additional quality to the game? Is BioWare just wasting development time here?

  2. Vetarnias says:

    If other competitors attempt the same, who will be first? Depends who will get their pair of voice actors to record all the NPC lines first.

    I thought full voice acting was nice for the Tortage part of Age of Conan — yeah, let’s not forget Conan. But will it improve every game? Not sure. Might even get annoying.

  3. Arkenor says:

    I liked the voicing in EQ2, to the extent that I would wait for the character to finish talking before I clicked onwards. I think it was well-worth doing.

  4. Votan says:

    As long as there is a option to get the quest without having to listen or read I am ok with it 😛

    I do not have stats to back this up so going to use my guild as an example, I would say 1 in 25 in any game we have ever played actually read and follow a story line, and it is even lower for ones who actually care about said story line.

    Maybe that is because quests are usually, pick/harvest/gather 10 of these things mixed in with mobs, kill 10 of these, or kill these till this drops, kill this named mob that you have to kill 1000 mobs to get to, or the even better talk to this NPC, travel 5 minutes talk to this one, travel another 5 minutes talk to another NPC then travel 10 minutes back to the quest giver to get another follow up of one of the above options.

    Unless they are departing from the above, they are wasting resources because after the novelty wears off, “most” players are just going to get the quest and skip the 2 minute dialog if they are being told to go harvest 10 piles of crap, then run 10 minutes to talk to this npc to find out why you just picked up crap, to be told to kill the 10 of the makers of said crap, to then be sent to kill King Crap Maker, but make sure to avoid the glowing shit on the ground or you will wipe the raid…

  5. MatW says:

    Maybe if putting in quests takes more effort, there will be fewer quests, with more care and attention put into each individual quest.

    This could result in more memorable questing experiences, but I wouldn’t really count on it.

  6. Sullee says:

    I liked the voice stuff in eq2 but there certainly was very little of it at launch. You pretty quickly finished the quests where you got voice. Even adding more later I’d say it was a small fraction of the total quests that had it. Heather Graham and Christopher Lee were not shabby either although I’d bet they weren’t cheap.

    TOR on the other-hand they are making a big deal of story and character. The videos I’ve seen describe it as adding a 4th pillar. We’ll see how quickly it goes from those goals to kill 10 rats though.

  7. wilhelm2451 says:

    I would laugh harder, but I have worked for a couple of companies where the seemingly ever changing marketing staff claimed a “first” on something (without checking with the old hands) only to find out that we were not in fact first.

  8. Wait, a game is blatantly claiming to be the “first” when it’s obvious that another game has done it first? I’m shocked, SHOCKED I tell you! I don’t think that’s ever happened before in the history of online game development.

    Wait, perhaps I do remember an occasion or two….

  9. Freakazoid says:

    I grinned at least. Too bad no one will hold bioware to that little fact.

  10. Bethryn says:

    The last RPG I played that was fully voiced was Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines. I’d say it added a lot to the experience. As Votan says though, there’s only so much you can do with Kill Ten Rats quests.

    Grey DeLisle, Keeley Hawes, David Warner, please?

  11. Pentagony says:

    Who cares about the voice – check out that trailer.

  12. Mark Asher says:

    Yeah, I want the option to skip the VA. And the reading. Just tell me where to go and what to kill or steal or whatever.

    At times in WoW the quests are maybe a bit too creative. I know they want to get away from killing things, but capped at 80 I feel like doing quests where I kill things because I want the drops. Instead I have to gather stuff laying around, scout, etc.

    Story in games is very overrated. Story is more of a passive endeavor, where I sit back and read or have someone tell me a story (movies). Story tends to interrupt the gameplay in games.

  13. geldonyetich says:

    @Mark Ashter

    Ghoul.

  14. taodon says:

    @Mark Ashter

    So THAT’S where the RPG in MMORPG went. They listened to people like you! Well – at least I know now.

  15. Gx1080 says:

    The issue is that, voice acting adds more gigabytes to a already-heavy game and, frankly, it isnt that important. And also its expensive. And when all the starter quest have voice acting and the rest dont it sucks.

  16. Tipa says:

    Wizard 101 is fully voiced — every quest. And EQ2 added voice packs LONG ago for those people who wanted to make sure they got every bit of speech coming to them, but they were optional.

  17. Noel Walling says:

    I’ll say, coming from working on EQII for the better part of 6 years, voice overs were my bane. Putting aside the fact that there’s simply a lot more VO work to do for an MMO than a single player game, the problem with most MMO content delivery cycles & VO is that VO makes iterating on content extremely difficult.

    I can think of a number of times where we had to simply cut VO that no longer fit the quest specs on EQII. You get around this by ceasing to use numbers in the VO. And then you start sliding down the slope of not mentioning creatures… or exact actions, and all of a sudden, you find yourself with dialogue that doesn’t tell you anything that’s pertinent, and it’s just flavor, because you know later on, something will change.

    I wish them all the luck in the world. Maybe they’ll find a pipeline that works for them. But I think that full VO in an MMO at this point is a challenge that may not be worth the effort. Main quest lines? Yep, awesome. VO those bad boys. Kill ten rats? Not so much. Probably a wiser use of your time to find something like Simish that will obfuscate the lack of VO.

    Of course, I seem to remember reading somewhere that SW:ORO (star wars: old republic online?) is only going to have main quest lines. So perhaps that’s how they’re going to deal with it. *shrug*

  18. Brent Michael Krupp says:

    The thing that annoys me about voice games is that they always seem to go for the over-dramatic slow reading of the lines, far slower than actual humans speak. So I get irritated waiting for them to hurry up and say whatever they are going to say and don’t really listen and instead just read the text and run off. If they’d have the NPCs talk like normal people it would be far better.

  19. Noel Walling says:

    @Brent Michael Krupp
    It’s actually more than just VO being slower than how people speak – it’s that it’s slower than how fast you read. That’s one of the reasons I appreciated the way Mass Effect’s VO worked for Shepard – reading the line didn’t communicate the exact dialogue, so listening to the VO yielded the ‘reward’ of getting the whole picture. It felt natural to not have to read a whole response line, and then listen to it again once I’d read it to select it.

  20. Mark Asher says:

    Hey, I’m not saying they shouldn’t have VO — just give me a button to skip it.

    I love reading and writing and story — I’m a writer by trade, so I value this stuff. But when I play a game I want to play, not stop and listen or read.

    If you want to engage me in a story, show me a bit of a movie. I’ll sit back and watch some interesting cinematics. I don’t mind achieving something or finishing something and getting rewarded with a bit of film. Don’t bore me with quest givers droning on in print or sound, though.

  21. Mark Asher says:

    taodon :
    @Mark Ashter
    So THAT’S where the RPG in MMORPG went. They listened to people like you! Well – at least I know now.

    How did both of you spell my name as “Ashter” when it says “Asher” right there? Is it some kind of conflation with the name Ashton? Geez.

    I never knew there was more RPG in MMOs in the first place. Were there a lot of story-based quests in UO or EQ? I don’t really remember that.

    Blizzard does a fine job. There’s plenty of story there, but it’s also easy for lots of us to skip it. Questhelper helps a lot too.

  22. Tremayne says:

    Full voice over for EQ II felt like a gimmick when I played it at launch. It’s nice, but it wasn’t any great factor in making me think “Wow, I want to play this game.”
    LotRO uses limited voice over – mostly for cut scenes at the end of each epic quest arc and an introduction each time you enter an instance (which gives them a feeling of being more than just another group operated loot vending machine). That seems like a pretty good balance – use enough VO for atmosphere without it getting too badly in the way of game play or game design.

  23. Akjosch says:

    @Gx1080:

    Well, you can just stream the voice to the game, along with the rest of the content like Free Realms does it I guess. Makes for a quick and painless installer (… in the case of Free Realms, at least after I put the whole damn thing through VS 2008 debugger & disassembler and found out how to install it OUTSIDE of C:\Program Files by modifying just the right registry variable … but that’s beside the point :)).

  24. EpicSquirt says:

    Does it mean that there will be a speech synthesizer for my

    /rofl-spam

    which I will be doing when hundreds level 99 Jedis zerg my level 1 Sith?

  25. Longasc says:

    The trailer is a triumph of marketing over information. Zero ingame footage.

    @Mark: Ultima Online did not have quests at all, initially. The game itself was the story. You are right that I read a book if I want to read. I still think a good story should still be part of a MMO. It just must be told differently and not with long-winded cutscenes, video-trailers or walls of quest-text.

    I do not think just having voice actors read the quest text is going to achieve this, the art of telling a story properly in MMOs has not been fully discovered so far.

  26. Arrakiv says:

    Oh, I’m happy I’m not the only person to notice that. EverQuest 2 may not have been completely voice acted, but it sure had an awful, awful lot of it. To the point where the rare time I didn’t find it implemented, it was jarring. Of course, later expansions haven’t kept that up, from what I hear.

    So, I’d say BioWare could maybe, kinda, sorta make the claim, but it still feels like they’re ignoring EverQuest 2.

    And yeah, it added a lot to the game, I believe. It didn’t enhance gameplay or anything like that, but it drew me in more. I would listen to each NPC speak, wouldn’t skip past anything, found myself far more interested in the quests I was doing, and far more immersed into the world. Your millage will vary on this, but it appealed to what I like in games. I’m excited to hear that TOR is also going to strive for the goal as well, although I’m not terribly surprised to hear this news.

    …And yeah. The trailer was awesome.

  27. Realist says:

    There should an option for people who prefer more action than drama. Too much voice over can slow the pacing more than many would like.

    They could design quests such that they have a version that is brief and one that is extended.

    Yes, the trailer is cool.

  28. Owain says:

    Gx1080 :The issue is that, voice acting adds more gigabytes to a already-heavy game and, frankly, it isnt that important. And also its expensive. And when all the starter quest have voice acting and the rest dont it sucks.

    Maybe this will serve as an incentive for game companies to develop more realistic voice synthesizers.

  29. xzzy says:

    Owain :
    Maybe this will serve as an incentive for game companies to develop more realistic voice synthesizers.

    Several universities have built entire programs around the research of speech synthesis, and they’ve yet to develop something that sounds natural. I don’t think at this point a game company could do much better.

    Unless you are populating your game with robots. Then speech synthesis is ready to go.

  30. Noel Walling says:

    I can’t think of a way that a game’s funding and time constraints would ever allow for a more natural voice synthesizer to be developed. The cost of development of that one feature alone would be highly cost prohibitive, not to mention entirely without guarantee of success.

    Now it’s possible a middleware company might be up to the challenge. They’d have to feel that there’s a strong need for the product, and that the time would pay off for them, of course.

  31. Owain says:

    @Noel Walling
    I think this is most likely, a second party application eventually adapted to gaming. For example, for years I’ve been using programs like Roger Wilco, or Ventrillo for voice chat in games, but Call of Duty: World at War is the first game I’ve bought that includes voice chat as part of the game. Voice synthesizors will probably follow the same pattern, and will probably happen faster than we suspect possible.

  32. Mark Asher says:

    Longasc :
    The trailer is a triumph of marketing over information. Zero ingame footage.
    @Mark: Ultima Online did not have quests at all, initially. The game itself was the story. You are right that I read a book if I want to read. I still think a good story should still be part of a MMO. It just must be told differently and not with long-winded cutscenes, video-trailers or walls of quest-text.
    I do not think just having voice actors read the quest text is going to achieve this, the art of telling a story properly in MMOs has not been fully discovered so far.

    Yeah, I am not against story in an MMO. I just don’t want to have to do a lot of reading or listening. And honestly, dialog trees you navigate through when talking to an NPC can be really irritating. Often, it doesn’t really matter what choice you make.

    Blizzard has a nice balance with Lich King. That phasing they worked in is pretty cool, and they do stop the game at least a couple of times and play something of a cutscene, though it’s made with the game engine. I don’t mind it because I play many hours before I see one of those. If I was getting one every couple of hours, I would probably be annoyed at having my game halted.

    Still, some of the coolest “story” I’ve had in an MMO were some of the things I experienced in Shadowbane. There really is something about player-driven content that is very engaging that you don’t really get in a game like WoW.

  33. Owain says:

    Still, some of the coolest “story” I’ve had in an MMO were some of the things I experienced in Shadowbane. There really is something about player-driven content that is very engaging that you don’t really get in a game like WoW.

    A fine tradition that started in Ultima Online, and carried on now in Darkfall. If you were to follow Darkfall’s Clan Discussion forum, you’d see continuous high levels of passion and drama, Sturm und Drang (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sturm_und_Drang) that you’ll never find in connection to the most involved quest line in other MMOs, voice acted or not. And none of it requires any development cost or overhead whatsoever.

  34. Cedia says:

    It remains to be seen, but surely, Scott, you have played EQ2 and know perfectly well that it is not FULLY-voiced.

    SW:ToR cannot come fast enough! I am more than ready for a story-based MMO, and I don’t think I’m alone. I suppose Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age will have to hold me. Also, Dr. Ray Muzyka is the bomb. 🙂

    EDIT: Just read other reviews. *drool* David Warner’s voice would be awesome. Though my brain would still somehow register him as being a Klingon.

  35. Owain :

    A fine tradition that started in Ultima Online, and carried on now in Darkfall.

    A friendly request:

    Can you please stop mentioning Darkfall in literally every post on this blog, no matter how unrelated? Thanks.

  36. Owain says:

    As you wish. [bows out]

  37. Andy O. says:

    I think they can make it work, look at WoW, I mean have any of the classic lands “main quests” or “major quests” changed much since the game first came out.

    I guess if you keep the voice work generic and simple and not professional actor level it’s viable to update VOs with changes to quests.

    …and the trailer looks delicious.

  38. […] Broken Toys points out that EQ2 also made this claim 5 years ago. I will note that not every quest in EQ2 is fully voiced, which is a good thing because it can be really annoying. […]

  39. Thomas says:

    Sad this seems worthy of a E3 Press Release. It doesn’t “that” much to the experience. It is an heritage fromoffline games that is incredibly difficult to pull-off for an online game, as already explained in earlier comments. To which should be added the total nightmare that it will cause for localisation – except if they just captioneverything, which kind of make the feat a lot less spectacular to a good portion of the population of the planet.

  40. Zarkon says:

    Actually, I think the only way that VA will work in SW:OR is if it’s mandatory. Make the game cinematic, remove the subtitles (or make them optional) and make it where you can’t skip the voiceover. That was the thing with EQ2, is that everyone skipped the stuff.

    Of course, is most of the voiceovers are “Go shoot 3 womprats” it’s going to suck. 🙂

  41. @geldonyetich
    I think the voice acting did actually bring a lot to EQ2. It’s very subtle but it does give that extra layer of immersion and sense of a living community. Plus, it can add a lot of humour too. Boomba in WFP just cracks me up.

  42. Baredil says:

    Recently went back to EQ2, and find the voice acting is still one of the things I enjoy, when it’s done well, of course. So no, not everyone skipped the stuff; some of us still don’t. =)

  43. Just for the record, when we say ‘full VO’, we mean including the player’s dialogue. I know, for example, that that’s certainly not true regarding Tortage in Conan.

  44. Noel Walling says:

    Ouch. I hope there’s a pretty wide selection of player voices. 😉

  45. Mike Rozak says:

    xzzy :

    Owain :Maybe this will serve as an incentive for game companies to develop more realistic voice synthesizers.

    Several universities have built entire programs around the research of speech synthesis, and they’ve yet to develop something that sounds natural. I don’t think at this point a game company could do much better.
    Unless you are populating your game with robots. Then speech synthesis is ready to go.

    Actually, some of the syntheziers, while still distinguishable from real voices (just as 3D graphics don’t look like the real world objects), are quite good. The biggest problem they have is that they don’t convey much emotion, and sound like bored (or overly-chirpy) telephone operators.

    And now for shameless plug for said universities: Every year they run a friendly competition to see who can produce the best text-to-speech voice, all generated from the same recordings of a real person. They put the listening test on the web so people (aka: you) can listen to the voices and rate them from 1 (completely un-natural) to 5 (sounds like the real thing). If you have a chance, please take this year’s test at http://groups.inf.ed.ac.uk/blizzard/blizzard2009/english/register-ER.html . Every section of the test includes samples from each of the 17(?) research organizations that submitted voices. Some of them are very good.

  46. Ingmar says:

    AFAIK the claim here is legitimate. EQ2 didn’t voice the *player’s* character; SWTOR is.

  47. JuJutsu says:

    Noel Walling :Ouch. I hope there’s a pretty wide selection of player voices.

    I want my avatar to sound like Pee-wee Herman.

  48. DoubleD says:

    Man I would love to have a sith character sound like Ozzie.

  49. Spitt says:

    I think, unless it is able to be turned off, I would not play. I don’t play most games with sound on looking instead for visual cues, and prefer to play with music playing instead.

    For the record, I dont even read the quests, I just simply accept and then goto X spot and farm X mob for X drop, as needed.

  50. Jeff says:

    They are actually correct in their claim.

    In SWTOR the Player Character will have a voice as well, like Bioware did for Commander Sheppard in Mass Effect.

    EQ2 only had voices for the NPCs.

  51. geldonyetich says:

    Technically, EQ2 does have voices for their PCs. You specify the type of voice you have on your character sheet, and there’s these emotes that people barely ever use which say things like, “CHARGE!” or “Heal Me!” However, that’s a far cry from voicing every single dialogue of plot – maybe that’s Bioware’s goal.

  52. Jeff says:

    geldonyetich :
    Technically, EQ2 does have voices for their PCs. You specify the type of voice you have on your character sheet, and there’s these emotes that people barely ever use which say things like, “CHARGE!” or “Heal Me!” However, that’s a far cry from voicing every single dialogue of plot – maybe that’s Bioware’s goal.

    Yup, it is fully voiced for the PCs, like Sheppard in ME.

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