Wednesday 5 March 2014

MMOs: Voice Actors

[Part of my MMO Design Folder]

I think most voice acting should be removed from MMOs.

"NO! You're Crazy!" I hear you say. Well let's think about it first. There have been so many MMO's that have managed to do without a single bit of voice acting in game. You can probably think of a few if you put your mind to it. Sure a few battle grunts and yells are ok, and maybe a generic welcoming "hello" or two but fully scripted dialogue? How often do you actually sit and listen to everything a voiced NPC has to say, without skipping because you've read the text faster than the voice actor? Do you also listen to it in its entirety if you have to see it again, or maybe with an alternate character?

Voice acting can be one of the big money drains on an MMO. This is even more pronounced if the player character has a voice since you then need one of each gender or each race, with additional lines for all each expansion. Ask Guildwars 2, they're feeling that design flaw now with their Living Story which is why there are no more cut scenes outside the base main story where your protagonist speaks audibly. And that's just in one language.

What about cut scenes? Those need voices right? Maybe. Firstly, you can tell a story without voice. Secondly, do you watch every cut scene fully each time one plays, even if you have seen it before? Just something to think about. I know I for one often skip repetition - and on days where I want to "play" instead of "watch", I skip right past most of the talky bits too because I simply read the text faster than it is voiced for me. 

Buffy's Hush episode was awesome.

Other than having a smaller download size for the game (as audio files can get pretty huge) having less voice would hopefully encourage people to read more, and increase their literacy level at the same time! What do you think? Would knowing there is or is no voice acting affect your choice in playing an MMO?


  1. I think most graphics should be removed from MMOs. MUDs used to do just fine being text only. Art is a huge money drain on MMOs and really restricts what the developers can do with mechanics as everything needs a matching art asset. How often do you stop to have a close look at the environment anyway, especially on an alternate character? :)

    (I actually don't think that every game needs voice-acting, but just like choosing to limit a game's graphics, it does make the whole thing less appealing in many ways.)

    1. Haha touché! :D Being an arty person I do actually take in the scenery of the same spot multiple times, often!

  2. There's voice acting, there is what people claim to be good voice acting and there's actually good voice acting.

    The first two tend to be skipped. The later has just as much replay value as any other content. One of my favourite examples would be the conversations between Father Lucian and General Hasdatean in Father Lucians church in the besieged farmlands. (The game in question is The Secret World. ) While very few, if any, missions in TSW are on the pure "to business" line and most carry several undertones, this one is my prime example as not only do those scenes carry both an internal and external conflict, but the voice acting actually is great and manages to communicate the troubles and internal dilemma the persons are in. [Quite a challenge, not to spoiler here. :D ]

    I have played the missions there several times, and i enjoyed listening to them several times. This by far beats the quests of many other games, where i couldn't be bothered to actually read them or listen to them even once before being bored out and feeling insulted on my intelligence.

    1. Hmm, maybe my problem is I've only been in MMOs with the first two. I've never played TSW, but I keep hearing good things about it.