Quality Voice Over on a Budget

In this post, we’re going to talk about why we decided to voice act Merek’s Market and how we’ve managed to do it without breaking the bank.

Serving and haggling with customers is one of the main mechanics in Merek’s Market. A customer strolls in and strikes up some dialogue that alludes to an item they want.

Not the best at haggling

This could all be channeled through a big ol’ text box which would be a perfectly fine thing to do as you’ve probably seen in lots of games already, but with a whole range of odd and strange customers, text just didn’t seem to do them justice. We thought VO could add that extra layer of comedy and polish.

Where are all these Voice Actors?

First up. Where would you even start with finding voice actors? We’d always thought this was completely out of reach for most projects. Perhaps you’d have to go through some agency and pay for a recording studio. Well…it turns out no. Fiverr! There’s lots of talented folk on there who charge reasonable rates. Not just that, but everyone we used was friendly, keen and wanted to get involved. So that’s a big tick but…

Creating scripts for each actor and getting the audio files they deliver in-game can be really time consuming. We’re a small team so want to make the best use of the time we have. Time to wheel out the programmer.

BEGIN HAPPY PROGRAMMER TIME

Each level in Merek’s Market contains all sorts of things. What we’re interested in though is the dialogue between players. So with a folder full of these level files we did something like the following:

  • Load up the levels and extract all the dialogue from them.
  • Group this dialogue into separate conversations.
  • Now we can start doing smarter things like grouping together all the conversations containing Merek.
  • Write a list of conversations for each character to a CSV file.
  • Hey presto! Scripts!

Good starting point but these scripts aren’t without their problems. Computers like things to be in a very structured format and humans, well, they just do what they want. If we hand the same script to 2 different actors, they’re going to give us back audio files with different naming conventions. Then it would be back to manually inputting audio files into the game (lots of wasted time). To get around this, we added one last flourish to the script exporter. Human readable unique audio file names. The script exporter generates these for each line of dialogue and we politely ask the actors to name their recordings the same thing. We can now write software that matches dialogue to audio and it can do it a whole lot quicker than any of our team can.

END HAPPY PROGRAMMER TIME

Spend Smarter, not Harder

This is the first time we’ve recorded VO for one of our games but it stands to reason that it would be hard for an actor to record lines without hearing the other side of the conversation. We’d thought about hiring people and then trying to get them to call each other and record together but hiring people for an afternoon stops being fun right around the time you see the bill. Instead, we found an actor for Merek who was happy to record on his own, let us send his recordings to the other actors and then re-record any lines that no longer fit (see what I mean with the friendly Fiverr peeps).

Hopefully the results speak for themselves. What do you think?

HOW MUCH?!?

That’s our progress so far. We’re fairly happy with what we’ve achieved in the time and budget. Here’s some fun figures to round out this post.

Slight disclaimer: We’re well on the way with getting this all recorded but we’re still looking for actors for the last couple of characters so this isn’t the final cost.

  • 6 hours spent programming.
  • 1 day finding and communicating with 4 actors.
  • Roughly 5,000 spoken words recorded.
  • 14 characters voice acted.
  • £578.00 spent.

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