Steal from Fable II! Using actors and writers in games

Actors can offer up more than their voices in games.  Earlier this week we talked about how voice recording can improve a game’s story and the player’s experience.  But dialog alone doesn’t convey the story.  Fortunately, actors can also help deliver story by stepping in in the flesh so to speak, as they did in Fable II.  However, even if you don’t have actors, there’s still hope.  Read on!

Game developers have often used actors to capture movements such as walking and combat animations.  According to a recent Gamasutra interview, Fable II went a step further and used the actors to capture emotion and staging.  The actors played out the entire story script on stage, which allowed the designers to hear the words spoken and rewrite scenes, if needed.  They also videotaped the performances, so when it was time to implement the scene into the game, the scripters knew how to stage it.  This method assumes three things:

  1. The script itself was written in advance.
  2. The scripters, or whoever is implementing the story script into the game, are assumed not to understand how to implement it dramatically
  3. There was time (and money) not only to perform the scenes on a stage, but also time to revise and improve upon the script.

The success of Fable II suggests that spending time on story and giving writers the same chance to test and iterate as much as other departments will improve the overall quality of the game.

Oh, but — you’re thinking — I can’t afford to hire actors and a big sound stage!  What can I do?  While you can argue there’s no good substitute for a live performance, writers with a cinematic or film background can provide input on proper staging and character emotion by including it in the script itself.  Furthermore, artists and level designers can work collaboratively with writers to create the emotion on characters’ faces and take advantage of the dramatic space.  Even in this scenario, giving writers and artists a chance to iterate on cinematics and dramatic moments will improve your outcome.

Next week we’ll figure out how to deal with the most rare and tragic adventure — live action actors in games!  In the meantime, what do you think of Fable II’s dramatic scenes?  Can you tell the difference between them and the usual game?

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Published in: on November 13, 2008 at 4:35 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thanks for this. Interesting, for sure.

    In a simplified version of the process you describe, we always create “video-matics” of scenes, which are simply taped rehearsals. This offers the ability for everyone involved to previsualize a scene, as well as obtain an accurate timing, and also is a great rehearsal for the directors and actors, which can be referred to before a final capture or recording, whichever the case. The cost is not much more than a rehearsal day itself.

  2. That’s great to know about the costs, Krissie. Can you share which games they were for so we can see the results, or is it top secret?

    -Anne


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