If you’ve played Gears of Eden Alpha 1, or have watched any of our Alpha 2 test streams on Twitch, you know that we don’t have voiced characters in the game. In fact, we only have one character that really talks at all right now… the main rover character. What little it has to say comes across only in text.
There are advantages and disadvantages to having voiced characters in games. A text-based approach allows more dialogue, an easier and less-expensive pipeline for getting updated content into the game, and the ability to have more branching stories and options without incurring a lot of additional costs. Not to mention text files take up a lot less space and processing power. While voiced characters do add a lot of costs, increase production time, and take up more space – they also bring some characteristics to a game text can’t do as well on it’s own: personality and expression.
Don’t get me wrong, well written text can convey emotion or express a feeling. Surely. But it does so by relying on the reader’s imagination to connect and fill in from their own context and history. A voice actor helps create a more specific and universal character that we can all experience in the same way. In Portal 2, J.K. Simmons created one of the most iconic characters ever seen in a video game… except he’s never really seen. Cave Johnson exists almost exclusively as a voice and only a voice. Would that character have the same impact if he were conveyed only in text?
For the demo version of Gears of Eden, this problem is easy to answer. At present, we simply do not have the funds to seriously consider fully voicing the game. I wouldn’t say that is the only reason we are utilizing a text-only approach—there are narrative reasons we are drawn to text as well—but it’s certainly a big factor. Personally, I love the idea of voiced characters in our world, and hope we have the luxury of revisiting this consideration in the future, as that means we’d be in a financial situation to do so!
In the meantime, we are looking at other ways to utilize voice. The first attempt is in our upcoming trailer that will be launched to promote our Alpha 2 release (not to be confused with the teaser trailer we launched a couple weeks ago). This trailer is narrated by a friendly AI played by the multi-talented Kristi Kates (who in addition to voice work, also acts, writes, and performs music). We’ve recently completed voice recording for the trailer, and are really excited to put everything together over the coming weeks.
Another way we are looking at utilizing voice is through non-character systems in-game. This could include systems like a base AI with voice prompts, or menu system confirmations. There are a few ways we can still make use of voice without voicing every character in the Gears of Eden universe. We’ll be continuing these discussions and decision making processes internally as we move down the development path, but we’d love to hear your feedback and ideas. Feel free to chime in with your two-cents with a comment, or a message on Twitter or Facebook.
For now, we’ll leave you with this tease from our recent voice recording session.
You can find out more about Kristi Kates on her website, or follow her on Twitch to enjoy her weekly live music streams. As always, you can keep up with Gears of Eden via our pages on Twitter, Facebook, or Discord. In addition, you can support Gears of Eden via our website, through Patreon, or via Twitch. Thanks for reading, and have a great day!