I Know That Voice …

So, I’ve been playing through Oblivion and making every effort to finish it, and so for the first time in my life I’ve been immersed in a game where there’s voice acting for pretty much every character in the game, from the most minor to the most major. And there’s something really odd about that which is … the reuse of voices. In Oblivion, at least, there’s a small number of voices that are used for most of the NPCs, even for major ones. So they get used over and over and over again. Now, this wouldn’t be a problem if these voice actors were really, really good voice actors, able to do a wide range of voices and make them sound completely different. But either they aren’t that good — although they are good enough for what they’re doing — or they aren’t doing it, so you end up with multiple NPCs with the exact same voice.

This can cause some role playing problems. If you associated that voice with a villain, hearing it on one of your allies will still carry the emotional connotations, making it harder to like your ally. That’s also the case if it was the voice of an NPC that you really liked who now is playing the role of a villain. Also, while you’re wandering through a new city hearing the old voice will immediately get you thinking “What’s that guy doing here?”, when it’s a completely different character. This, of course, will break immersion and remind you that you’re playing a game with a limited number of voice actors.

Don’t get me started on the fact that all Argonians seem to have the exact same voice, at least per gender. I can buy it for the Daedra enemies, but a playable race?

Now, this was clearly done to INCREASE immersion, and have you think that you’re really talking to people and really interacting in a world. But, of course, having enough voice actors to at least make this be not noticeable would require a massive budget just for the voice acting. So Oblivion seems to compromise, by hiring just enough voice actors to make it hopefully less noticeable, but not so many that the budget gets out of control. But this sort of compromise is one that makes no one happy. It probably costs far more than they’d like to do the voice acting and limits the big name voices they can bring in for their main characters. Yet it’s still really noticeable to anyone who pays any attention at all to the voices, who are the people who will find the sheer amount of voice acting to be a really good thing.

Ultimately, this is one of the issues with a lot of the new and cool developments in current gaming: they tend to be all or nothing. If you go all out on it, it will cost you a fortune but will be amazing. If you don’t, then at best you’ll get a minor improvement possibly at the expense of something else, and at worst you’ll defeat the whole purpose of doing it. So do you break the bank or risk spending money for nothing or risk being considered out-of-date? Choose wrong, and you might go out of business.

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