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Microsoft XBox (Games) Entertainment Games

Xbox - Past, Present, And Future 105

Thanks to EGM for their interview with Microsoft's Ed Fries, discussing the state of the Xbox. He talks about the specialization of Microsoft's first-party Xbox publishing efforts, saying: "When we were starting, not only were we learning about how to be a console publisher, but we were also trying to make sure we had games in every genre because we really didn't know what kind of third-party support we were gonna get." Fries also quibbles with Nintendo's lack of voice acting in their games, mentioning: "someone asked [Miyamoto and Iwata] why none of their games had voices. And they talked about cost and the time and trouble to localize it... and I just felt like I was listening to silent-movie directors talking [about how films work fine without sound]", and arguing: "I feel like that's just part of the price of doing business nowadays, and it's something everyone should be doing."
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Xbox - Past, Present, And Future

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  • Games without voice acting can be cool too ofcourse, it's just that in some games it adds up to the action. When you're making millions on a game, i'm sure you can fit in a few people to say something...

    On the other hand, my game experience is not dependent on voices, it's dependent on the look and feel of a game...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      There are pros and cons to voice acting. Yes, it can add to the experience. But it also takes up more room on the disc. There is also risk that the voice acting may not be very good and actually detract from the game. With text only, the player uses their own understanding of the speech to make it sound appropriate (in their heads).
    • Just remember to salt the fries.
  • Voice acting! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Voice acting is great! - *IF* you can skip it ;-)
  • VO (Score:5, Informative)

    by MichaelKVance ( 1663 ) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @11:07AM (#7366383)
    Fries also quibbles with Nintendo's lack of voice acting in their games
    If only more people had the sense that Miyamoto has. Cost aside, most VO is so terribly done that I'd almost always prefer to have plain text. I was playing Vampire Nights the other day, and the VO is so horrible, that it would have needed to be intentional to reach that low, low level of quality. But I'm sure it wasn't.

    Compare this with some of the excellent writing on Animal Crossing. I'm 100% behind spending that money on good writers and not on mediocre voice talent.


    • Also compare with the excellent voice acting in Halo. I will concede that the lip synch looks a bit awkward, but how often do you really have time to run up to whoever's talking and watch his mouth in the middle of a firefight?
      • Re:VO (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I've just played Halo (the PC port), and have to agree that the voice acting was great. Cortana was especially good - at one point she goes from 'sinister AI' to 'chirpy and smug' in the space of a single sentence in a way which was just perfect at defining her character. The stuff that other characters like the marines and alien grunts come up with is also great, especially as the PC version has everything done with beautifully clear Ogg Vorbis. :-)

        Another game with impressive voice acting is System Shock
    • In regards to voice acting, I think he's talking specifically about KOTOR here, which is quite possibly one of the best voice acted games I've ever played, and I'm not a huge fan of voice acting. The scene in which one of your shipmates catches up his prodigal son was riveting to say the least.

      Maybe I didn't catch the sarcasm, but are you serious about the writing on Animal Crossing? Don't get me wrong, I love the game and think it's one of the best games I've ever played. I just don't think it's a testa
      • by edwdig ( 47888 )
        I doubt he was talking about what the animals say in Animal Crossing. The puns in that game when you do something like catch a bug or a fish were well done. The non-villager animals also were well written.

        It's only the animals that have houses in your town that are dull.
      • I've played a lot of Animal Crossing, and it has excellent writing. Go to GameFAQs (, search for Animal Crossing FAQs, and find the Mr. Resetti script. There is some damn funny stuff in there you get if you dare to turn off the game without saving....

    • Voice is the enemy of good writing. Think how much more politics and negotiation are involved with adding a line to a voice-acted game--in Animal Crossing, just give the programmer the text file.
    • Try playing Disgaea for the PS2 - it has voice acting and it's done EXCELLENTLY. Good voice acting really adds to the personalities of characters - Etna has a more devious sound to her, Gordon sounds like an obsessed superhero, Flonne sounds like a naive angel. Sure, this can come through with the text alone, but the characters are a lot more convincing with good voice acting.
  • by Echo5ive ( 161910 ) <> on Saturday November 01, 2003 @11:08AM (#7366388) Homepage

    Nintendo has quite a lot of niche games like Zelda and Metroid -- neither of these has any voiceovers (apart from a few sentences in the intro to Metroid Prime), and they work just fine without them.

    Many would probably think that Zelda was just plain wrong if it had voices. Zelda has such a long history that you've made yourself a picture of Link in your mind, and a voice would disturb that picture. The Wind Waker works just fine with just grunts and shouts for expressions, since the faces of the characters are incredibly good at showing emotion.

    And in the Metroid games there's never anyone to talk to anyway. :-)

    A very underrated game is Eternal Darkness for the Gamecube, witch has voiceover. And it's not crappy Resident Evil-style voices either, it's real good. Characters actually sound like they care for what they are doing, though the main bad guy does get a bit over the top sometimes...

    • That game has some of the best video game voice acting, period. I agree with you completely, especially with the main bad guy going over the top. But I think that adds a little to the appeal of him. He was the over the top, crazy, demon guy [whose name evades me].
    • Are you kidding? The voice acting in Eternal Darkness is atrocious. When I first played the game and heard the acting in the intro sequence, I feared that it may not be as good as the reviews inexplicably made it out to be... and unfortunately it turned out that horrible voice acting was just one minor problem in this pathetic excuse of a game; including but not limited to the abysmal animation and the mind-numbingly boring and repetitive gameplay.

      If Eternal Darkness is an example of state of the art voice

    • Conker 64: terrible voice acting, though a truly surprising amount of it for a cart. Still, it reminds me of my middle school plays, and when they decide to break the '4th wall' (or at least admit they were following the cliches of gamedom) they could have done it so much better.
    • I won't argue with the whole Zelda non-voice legacy. However, Zelda hasn't always been cell-shaded either. I personally think that while the whole text thing worked just fine for previous Zelda's, Windwaker was different. It was far more cinematic than any other Zelda game, and I felt the only thing that was detrimental to this feeling was the lack of voice acting.
      • I always find it funny when people talking about Cel-Shading being new to the Zelda series. The SNES Link to the Past and the (attrocious) Zelda games for the CD-i were all cartoon style. The original NES games are pretty hard to categorize, since it's NES sprites, but they could be called cartoony. Really, Orcina of Time and Majora's Mask are the only two which couldn't be called cel shaded.
        • Now now Boglin, be fair before prejudging and classifying me as one of the few who whined CELDA when screenshots first appeared. I was all for the cell-shading - and yes, it is cell-shaded while the others were not - from day one. One of my arguments for this was that the series had always been "cartoony" and the only thing contrary to this was one single E3 screenshot.

          That said, Windwaker is by far the most cinematic of any of the series. Secondly, nearly *everything* on the NES/SNES was cartoony beca
        • I know some of its proponents try to blur the differences, but cel-shading isn't just 'cartoon style'. It does very different visual things with light and movement that you just didn't have in the 2D S-/NES days (you couldn't even do it if you tried). The Wind Waker style is a massive departure for the series, which previously featured none of the serious Miyazaki/Samurai Jack visual elements that WW takes from so liberally.
    • Zelda has such a long history that you've made yourself a picture of Link in your mind, and a voice would disturb that picture.

      Well, considering that Link doesn't even talk at all, I don't think having voice acting in the game would really ruin that impression much.
    • Heh, I can't believe no one's pointed this out yet (maybe everyone's forced themselves to forget), but Zelda HAS had Voice Acting!

      Anyone recall a little defunct system called the CD-i (IIRC) made by Phillips? It had not one, but THREE Legend of Zelda games, all of which were apparently quite bad. I know one, and I think another, had voice acting.

      Or maybe we should just sweep that one under the rug and pretend the games were meant to be fire fuel.
  • Localization is difficult and expensive to get right. The only real way to do it is to get someone who's very fluent in both languages AND regional dialects and get them to translate. Then, if your not using synthesized voices, you have to hire voice artists (who also speak the target language and possibly the dialect so you get the pronunciation right) to re-record every line. Some of these games have HUGE voice files. Thankfully, software to render voices in real-time is comming along pretty well.

    • The budget for voice actors for the english version is going to be a lot higher then say for the dutch or german language version. This then leads to extremely poor voice acting leading to consumers like me to stay well clear of localized versions and hunting instead for imports.

      This has become big enough that disney movies are now shown in two versions in holland. During matinee the dubbed version. Later in the day the original version with subtitles.

      Movies like Shrek and Fievel are really a lot better w

  • by edwdig ( 47888 ) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @12:20PM (#7366630)
    Play a Sega game that has voice acting. Say a Sonic Adventure game. You're going to cringe every time someone talks.

    Sega's hires two types of voice actors: those who do not know what inflection is, and those who use it in all the wrong places.

    I will say though, the House of the Dead games wouldn't be as fun without the really bad voice acting.

    As to voice acting and Nintendo games, I think a large part of the problem is if Nintendo did give Link a voice, if it came out any less than perfect, the bitching they'd hear would make the cell-shading complaints look like nothing.

    The reviews that said Samus needed a voice are just plain stupid. There isn't anyone she could possibly talk to.

    I think whenever Nintendo finally gets around to making some new characters, that's when they should go with voices - if it fits the game.
    • Sonic Adventure did have some bad VA, but it didn't make me cringe. Much.

      Sonic Adventure 2 did much better, but they apparently never figured out how to make the sentences they spoke short enough so they didn't overlap with someone else's.

      [172 emblems and counting in SA2]
    • The Japanese voice acting for the Sonic Adventure games is pretty decent, though a little too 'cool' in many ways.

      And Sega's Panzer Dragoon series has featured some awesome voice-work, in every game. Same with the Japanese Shenmue voice-acting. Sakura Taisen features some very good voice work!

      Really you are blaming Sega of America, which probably deserve the scorn. With stuff like Otogi they do seem to be massively improving, however, so let's hope for the future! :)
  • "The question for me is how much are Sony and Nintendo really going to be [competing] head-to-head. Because the more and more I hear about [the PSP], it sounds like a [more] expensive machine. They've gotta spin that disc [media], which means they've gotta have good battery technology. They're gonna have [wireless networking], the screen, and everything sounds like an expensive device." Sounds like this guy doesn't think the hand warmer is going to be very successful against the GBA.
    • Sony's minidisc walkmans have about 50+ hours on one charge. I think good battery life will be one of least worries for Sony.

  • The part of the article that grabbed my attention was when he was talking about Psychonauts. Here is what he said: "'s great to have something in our portfolio that's just really unique and artistically challenging and not so blatantly commercial.".

    This is an attitude I would like to see expressed more often by the people holding the purse strings. One of the ways that Hollywood maintains legitimacy and dodges censors is by having some portion of its annual output be more 'artistic' films. It gives th
    • Oh brother. Even Sony releases more artistic games than Microsoft. There's only I can think of that made artistic choices as opposed to marketing ones: ToeJam & Earl III (highly underrated and very unsuccessful) and Shenmue II (less underrated but also unsuccessful). Sony's got Ico, Mister Mosquito (which is a cool concept), Mad Maestro, PaRappa 2 and, if you go back to the PS1, UmJammer Lammy (which is mind-blowing), and that's just off the top of my head.

      Nintendo, dammit, most things they do first
      • I don't think you understand what the parent post meant when referring to 'artistic' films, or how Psychonauts fits the subject, for that matter. The key phrase is "not so blatantly commercial".

        I suspect Ed Fries is talking about stuff like the films (random examples) Memento, Donnie Darko, or Dead Man. I think Psychonauts is just not going to click with a lot of people, especially people who aren't into psychology at least a little. You are talking more about 'art games' that are more like Gladiator, A Be
        • Sequels are not necessarily blatantly commercial. (And I would reject that I consider Gladiator to be an art movie, I mean, puh-leeze.)

          What is a sequel? If it's exactly the same as the old game then yes, there's no originality there at all. But, excepting the recent GBA adaptions old SNES games (which isn't too original, yeah, but there's other things out for the system too like Advance Wars, which may not be original in Japan but is original as hell here), Nintendo at the very least seriously messes wi
  • ...for voice localization: translate the subtitles, DON'T CHANGE the japanese voices. Not only it's cheaper, but it also keeps purist h4rdcore gam3rz happy!
    • Besides, you'll often get better results. In Japan, voice acting is a career all it's own; in the States, it's generally considered something you do when you can't find 'real' acting work.

      And lets face it, Megumi Hayashibara doing Lime sounds different than Megumi Hayashibara doing, say, Faye Valentine. But Cam Clarke always sounds like Cam Clarke; Max Sterling. It's jarring to hear Max Sterling in Metal Gear Solid, Max Sterling in He-Man, and so on.

  • Some games make good use of VAs, most don't. I really don't find VAs to be a selling point of a game. I'm prefectly fine with just hearing Link scream as he races towards the bottom of a canyon in OoT.

    And if there's voice acting, how can I quickly get through the scene if I'm playing through again? In Zelda games I just press A or B repeatedly so I can continue playing... will that end if it starts using VAs?

    (Slightly OT: I've found that if you hold R + B (could be A, I sold my copy a while back) and us
  • Question (Score:1, Redundant)

    by n0wak ( 631202 )
    Has there ever been an interview with a Senior XBox staff member in which that member didn't take some pot-shot at Nintendo? Seriously, is the XBox staff more obsessed about Nintendo than its own product?
    • If you would actually read the interview, you would see he is not taking a pot-shot at Nintendo.
    • Actually, in nearly all the Xbox staffer articles I ever read, many completely admit to owning multiple systems and playing games on those system (particularly Ken Lobb). Moreover, while many of these guys will quite gladly point out sales figures, many of them also seem to really admire Nintendo. I can't say they have the same respect for Sony, but I don't think they've ever really "badmouthed" Sony or Nintendo in the sense that they are competitors.

      Since we're english-speaking, we see many more article
      • Actually, I remember reading once that one of the Nintendo inventor types really admired the Eyetoy. And I think I heard Miyamoto say he liked Ico.
  • Nintendo is right. Most of the voice acting in games is terrible. I'd rather have none than have to listen to half-assed voice over. Look at anime. 99% of the dubs are terrible, grating messes. Even Disney has a hard time creating a good anime dub. Until people are willing to take the time and spend the money to create excellent vocal tracks, they should just skip it.
    • Nintendo is not 'right'. They are clearly able to get some decent voice actors to do the work, but they just don't want to.
    • Nintendo is saying that cheap voice acting in games is terrible. In this they are certainly correct. If you aren't willing to spend the money on quality, you probably shouldn't bother (see also Nintendo's recent Japanese texture work - a shame they can't skip out on that too). Look at many of the best-sellers on non-Nintendo systems, for example Vice City or Halo, and you will see truly excellent voice-acting that elevates the game it belongs to.
      • I agree. I also feel that it's difficult to add a voice to a character that has already lived in peoples imaginations for years. Many were disappointed when Charles Shultz's Peanuts characters were given voices that were different than they had imagined. Today, many companies feel that hiring hot, young celebrities adds star power to their games (or animated films). But this doesn't always equate into better voice acting talent. Look at the disappointing dub of Princess Mononoke (for which Disney courted
  • by xenocide2 ( 231786 ) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @06:28PM (#7368174) Homepage
    Among game manufacturers, MS has the unique position that several of their top tier developers and titles were envisioned in English. They can begin development of the game in English, and not have to worry about alienating a significant number of game players who they could otherwise easily reach, nor do they need to worry about staffing people proficient in english. This comes at the cost of ignoring markets like Japan, which are smaller and have protective tarrifs in place.

    Contrast this with Sony and Nintendo. They have a solid market in Japan, which they cannot simply ignore. There's less taxes, less headaches, and they have far more public access. But they cannot ignore the world market as much as the American film industry does. So they can either make the voice acting in all Japanese and leave it up to their foreign subsideraries to localize, they can alienate their home market and start out in English and do english only, or they can design to reduce the amount of localization needed.

    This isn't just about voice, its about affordable universal appeal. One of the best movies ever was made in Japan, but the language in which it was filmed has certainly harmed its marketablity and audience appeal.
    • that said I asume you are taking in german, french, and other european localizations, besides possible korean. for more kid friendly games in europe you better change the language for each country. sure you could only do games for the us and uk market, or hope that people can accept english even in places like germany, or france. to contrast this Level-5 did an excellent english and jap version of their game dark cloud 2/dark chronicle.
  • For games that need it, voice overs really help lend to the immersion. While there is a prevalence of bad voice acting in the industry, I think that will change with time as it becomes more commonplace.

    For a game that needs it, to avoid it because of the hassle is stupid. There are plenty of talented amateur and professional actors that can do this work for much less than the cost of hiring some big name movie star. Local theatre groups or college drama departments are good places to look.

    I'd love to d

!07/11 PDP a ni deppart m'I !pleH