Dialog and Voiceover Narration

Just about any kind of game can use spoken material to provide information, whether it's narration, dialog, commentary in sports games, units responding to orders in strategy games, and so on. From a user interface standpoint, you should be aware of two key things that set spoken words apart from other forms of audio feedback:

■ Repetitive spoken content rapidly becomes tiresome. The longer the sentence, the worse the problem. To solve this, write and record multiple versions for each line that is likely to be repeated. You may frequently repeat short clips such as "Aye aye, sir" and "Strike three!" (though you should still record several variants), but if you want to deliver a longer sentence such as, "Sire, your peasants are revolting!" you must either have a large number of variants available or, better yet, play the sentence only once when the problem first occurs and then use visual feedback for as long as the problem continues.

■ Writing and acting must be good. You cannot emphasize this enough to your writers and audio people. The quality of writing in the vast majority of games ranges from terrible to barely passable, and the voice acting is frequently worse than the writing. Players tolerate a sound effect that's not quite right, but an actor who can't act instantly destroys immersion. Don't use actors whose voices don't work thematically with the material, either. You wouldn't use the voice of an Englishman in a game set in the Old West, so don't use an American in a game set in medieval times. The American accent didn't exist then. Don't try to get an actor to fake a foreign accent, either; hire a native speaker.

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