For the past nearly four years of Eastshade development now, I’ve been pretty dogged in my belief that Eastshade should be text-only dialog, like Final Fantasy. I held this belief due to the following reasons:
- Voice acting means we have to do lip sync animation.
- Lip sync means tongue model, teeth model, full facial rigging, and full phoneme markup for every gosh darn character.
- The costs of casting and recording full voice for Eastshade’s 20,000+ words over more than 40 different characters.
- The overhead of managing many different voice actors and deliverables.
These are reasonable points in favor of no voice. However, things have changed, I’ve done more research, and my outlook has changed. The first critical thing that changed is I got rid of the mouth coverings in the character designs from Leaving Lyndow. I initially thought that mouth coverings would be a design decision that would make things easier, weather we did full voice or greeting lines only. However I learned the hard way what a terrible mistake this was. The difficulties of art design with mouthless characters turned out to be far greater than any savings in production. Of the criticism we received for Leaving Lyndow, the facial design of the characters was probably second most common.
Once the characters had mouths, I got to thinking: What other bad decisions have I made in the interest of saving production time? I questioned everything about the characters. How hard actually was lip sync? Was I blowing it out of proportion? I’d never actually tried, so I carved out a day, and told myself “If I can get a reasonable dynamic lip sync on a character in a work day, then full voice might be viable.” Well turns out lip sync was easier than I’d thought. With the help of a Unity plugin called Salsa, I smashed the goal with flying colors. The assumption I’d been holding for nearly four years was turned upside down in a single work day!
And moreover, I made another assumption-shattering discovery in the experiment: Even with extremely amateur voice acting recorded by yours truly, the character came to life before my eyes. As I imagined each character with their own unique voice, I could feel another dimension of discovery materialize. Each character would have a new type of feedback to offer, and despite how much repeat there was in the character models, distinct voices would bring another layer of spice.
Once I knew it would be technically feasible, and I realized that I didn’t necessarily need Meryl Streep, the last thing in my way was costs and management. After doing some research around the web, its clear now that costs aren’t as inhibiting as I’d assumed. And for how much value I can see it adds, I know it will be worth it. The last thing that remains to be seen is weather we can handle casting in an organized enough way, and empower each actor to create their own deliverables that we don’t have to do a ton of work making game-ready.
So without further ado, if you’re an interested voice actor with means to record yourself, here are our open audition guidelines!