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The Almighty Buck Entertainment Games

Video Game Actors Say They Don't Get Their Due 573

Dekortage writes "The New York Times reports today about Michael Hollick, the actor who provided the voice of Niko Bellic in Grand Theft Auto IV. Although the game has made more than $600 million in sales for Rockstar Games, Hollick earns nothing beyond the original $100K he was paid. If this was television, film, or radio, Hollick and the other GTA actors could have made millions by now. Hollick says, 'I don't blame Rockstar. I blame our union for not having the agreements in place to protect the creative people who drive the sales of these games. Yes, the technology is important, but it's the human performances within them that people really connect to, and I hope actors will get more respect for the work they do within those technologies.' Is it time for video game actors to be treated as well as those in other mediums?"
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Video Game Actors Say They Don't Get Their Due

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  • by suso ( 153703 ) * on Thursday May 22, 2008 @08:36AM (#23503536) Homepage Journal
    Yes, the technology is important, but it's the human performances within them that people really connect to, and I hope actors will get more respect for the work they do within those technologies.'

    I respect the work that these people do, but come on. I think this guy might be stretching it a bit. People don't buy video games for an actor in the same way they go see a movie for an actor in it. It is a completely different medium. Besides, voice actors in video games right now are pioneers. They will have to fight for a while before they get the recognition and money that they expect. Just like Hollywood actors did.
  • 100k... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 16384 ( 21672 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @08:37AM (#23503552)
    Why should voice actors get a percentage for a few days of work? What about all the programmers, artists and the like that spent 50 or 60 hours per week working on the game? 100k doesn't seem like a meager pay.
  • by moz13 ( 673277 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @08:38AM (#23503560)
    Did he not agree to the (generous) salary? His union doesn't have the royalty deals Hollywood has had in place for ages, but look how those have turned out: voodoo bookkeeping to try to work around those royalties. And do the game's programmers and artists not deserve a percent of the sales as well? Bleh... I can see a decent argument to be made for profit sharing of a game's sales with the team that made it, but this guy just comes off like an ass.
  • by DrLang21 ( 900992 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @08:39AM (#23503564)
    What about all of the creative programmers that create the interaction that drives the sales of these video games? What about their millions of dollars?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 22, 2008 @08:39AM (#23503566)
    you provide time and a service in return for a pre-negotiated payment.

    if he feels he didn't get paid enough, he shouldn't have taken the job. he can't blame the union now. obviously he's so famous he could have gotten work somewhere else and earned more, right?

    if he think he wouldn't have gotten the job if he held out for more money, well, that's how it works. if you provide a service that anybody else can provide (reading from a script), then your pay will not approach 7 digits. i can't go to my boss now and ask for 300k/yr, when i can be easily replaced.
  • by YojimboJango ( 978350 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @08:40AM (#23503578)
    You were hired to do a job and you got 100k for it. Shut up and be glad you have a job in this economy. It always pissed me off how actors say that they 'deserve' millions on millions of dollars for their 4 hours of work a day. I'd be happy to see this trend not extend into the video game industry.
  • by Fumus ( 1258966 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @08:41AM (#23503584)
    Maybe more gamers are like me. I buy games for their content. Why the hell would I bother to even look up who did some character's voice?
    It's the same with films. I don't give a rat's ass about who plays which role. I just watch the damn film and enjoy it or not. I don't even know more than ten actor names. I just don't care enough.
  • Sorry but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blahplusplus ( 757119 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @08:41AM (#23503586)
    ... voice actors don't add that much to a game, the fact that he got 100,000 (more then most people make in a year) for the teeniest amount of work compared to the average worker, is just fucking appalling.

    I'd rather give those bonus's to the dev's that actually deserve it who spend 60-70 hours a week, then to some greedy VA, who does jack shit, when compared to the massive engineering that coders and artists and others on the team have to do.

    VA's do not add anywhere near the value that the actual team does, they're spoilt and the game industry should not cater to these fucks. I'd rather hire amateur VA's off the street then some hollywood fucktard.
  • by hansamurai ( 907719 ) <hansamurai@gmail.com> on Thursday May 22, 2008 @08:45AM (#23503622) Homepage Journal
    Exactly, I bet per hour this guy made a ton more than any of the programmers on the team. If this game took three years to make they each could have pulled in 200k I'm sure but how many hours is that? 40 a week? 60 a week? 80 a week at crunch time?
  • covetousness (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Arthur B. ( 806360 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @08:45AM (#23503626)
    Look no further. Hey, a pile o'money, how come it's not mine.
  • by phorm ( 591458 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @08:45AM (#23503628) Journal
    How long does it take to do the work? 6 months? A Year? Two to three years?

    I'd say that for a year or less of work, 100-grand is good money. If it's more than a year, then depending on the actual work/hours involved, perhaps he should be getting more. However, a million bucks? Maybe big-name actors make this much, but that doesn't automatically entitle video-game actors to the same. Moreover, I'm not really sure how much movie voice-actors make, but that would be a closer comparison.

    Sorry bud, but that's the way the industry works. If I write a piece of software for my company which they resell to clients, all I get is my original paycheque (perhaps a bonus if they're feeling generous). Just because some other overpaid smoe is making a million buckazoids or more doesn't automatically entitle you to that type of cash any more than it does me or the various others that work their butts off for a living.
  • by Dan667 ( 564390 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @08:46AM (#23503640)
    Completely agree. Voice actors are a dime a dozen, but I am surprised there are not more rock star Programmers gaining fame like Carmack. The Programmers are the ones that make the entertainment in this medium and they should get their due and accolades.
  • by Jaysyn ( 203771 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @08:48AM (#23503662) Homepage Journal
    Exactly, you're a (non-singing) voice, get over yourself.

    He's bitching about getting paid 100k for speaking lines that he didn't write to begin with into a mike. What a fucking tool.
  • by suso ( 153703 ) * on Thursday May 22, 2008 @08:49AM (#23503684) Homepage Journal
    Right, the only games where you really connect with the actor playing a character is when the game is based on a movie. And then its annoying when its not played by the same actor.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 22, 2008 @08:49AM (#23503686)
    Is this guy for real? He wants royalties on a video game that he voice acted for?

    Let me get this straight...this no-name actor comes in about halfway into the development of the game, gets a script, gets into a recording studio and records some voice for a period of a few weeks, two months tops, and gets paid $100,000 for it, and now he's complaining that he's not getting royalties for the game?

    What about the programmers, artists, and designers who worked at the company for years from beginning to end of the development of this game, and near the end of the development cycle worked every saturday and some sundays, and worked 10-14 hours per day to get the game done in time?

    Games are different from movies and TV shows. In film, actors are central to the product, in games, they're secondary, they're flavor that the developers of the game can choose to put in, but don't need in order to sell the game. The people central to video game development are the people who work on making the game itself. If anyone deserves royalties on the game, its these people, because they put in way more effort than a few weeks of reading lines off a sheet of paper.
  • oh please (Score:1, Insightful)

    by dj245 ( 732906 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @08:49AM (#23503690) Homepage
    His version of a russian accent is pretty awful. Really listen to it. I really have to wonder why they didn't find someone who actually spoke english as a second language. I think he did well to get 100k.
  • by Hangtime ( 19526 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @08:50AM (#23503698) Homepage
    bring in hundred of thousands in unit game sales with your name then you can whine. Right now, you could sub that voice out with any other and it would not make one difference in sales. For the closest approximation think Mark Hamill who did video cut scenes for the Wing Commander games back in the mid-90s. People bought that game because he was a part of it, he can ask for royalties. If they made another GTA IV with the same Niko character but with a different voice actor would it matter? Heck no because I don't play the game for the voices, I play for the gameplay.
  • risk vs. reward (Score:3, Insightful)

    by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @08:50AM (#23503700)
    Would this actor have been willing to return the $100K (or more) if the game had lost money?

    If someone wants to share in the rewards of a blockbuster products, they need to be willing to share in the losses from flops.

  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @08:52AM (#23503726)
    If Hollick's union wanted to play silly buggers, someone would have to explain to me why I would want to employ a union actor.

    Successful unions usually do all they can to ensure everybody in their fields joins them, and those who don't get no work. I deal with unions all the time and often they are worse than the mafia. In many places, you can't hold a job for long or get promoted if you don't join the union and obey.

    In short: if a video game actor's union is created, you quickly won't be able to employ a non-union actor at all.
  • If this was television, film, or radio, Hollick and the other GTA actors could have made millions by now.
    Simple, this is not television, film, or radio. You, as actors, are not what is driving this vehicle. People play these games because they want to play GTA4. If the character was mute and you had to read text (as is the case with a number of other games) the game would feel different but I think it would have sold just as well.

    Contrast that to movies or television where people go to see movies and watch television shows because of the actors and actresses involved. People will go to see a movie with Angelina Jolie in it because she's so damn hot and the studios know this so they hire her, and she knows this so she charges $20M.

    Now to this guy's credit as near as I can tell he's not saying "I was robbed and deceived", he's just saying "gee, I was the main actor in a game which has made $500M, it would be nice if I had been paid more." With all due respect, you didn't get paid more because you're a nobody. I'm not trying to be mean - but you're not George Clooney, you're someone who did soap operas to this point. You did an excellent job, and you were helped by the "Pixar Effect" of using a high quality but unknown actor to avoid distractions. But you were paid the amount you were because you're an unknown. Heck, you got paid a lot more than the average person does in a year, and I doubt this was the only gig you had. If they ever make a sequel to this game and reuse your character (unlikely, since like the Final Fantasy franchise they change characters and settings entirely from game to game) then renegotiate for more money. But in the meantime, just enjoy the fame and likelihood of getting future work.
  • What bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by el_munkie ( 145510 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @08:52AM (#23503734)
    He signed the contract. He knew the terms going into it. He is actually very lucky since voice actors are pretty easy to find and have low standards for compensation. His role in this game will get him all kinds of work he would not have gotten otherwise.

    And his voice is not an integral part of the game. Any halfway competent voice actor would have sufficed. The real stars are the programmers and designers.
  • by Cowardly Anonymity ( 1104529 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @08:55AM (#23503764)
    Agreed. While in some sense video game voice acting is similar to animated films (especially with all the "ordinary" talk that is on GTA4), it's not exactly the centerpiece of the game. It's the animators, the game designers, and the programmers that create the bulk of the rest of the game, since games are interactive, rather than the almost half-half split that you see in movies: half acting, half animating. So for the amount of work he does and for the part that he plays in the creation of the game, Hollick gets paid pretty well compared to the other people working on it. Maybe actors and programmers could broker a deal that if a game breaks a certain threshold of sales, they would start getting small percentages of the profits above threshold?
  • by Divebus ( 860563 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @08:55AM (#23503766)
    If there was a percentage option, most people would look at video games and say "I'll take my money up front, thanks" and be bitter about their poor choice after the project hits paydirt.
  • by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) * on Thursday May 22, 2008 @09:04AM (#23503864) Homepage Journal
    Good point, but what do you see onthis Shrek 2 poster [impawards.com]? And flip that DVD over, what's on the back?

    Now what do you see on your copy of GTA4?

  • Sour grapes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bconway ( 63464 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @09:05AM (#23503884) Homepage
    I don't blame Rockstar. I blame our union for not having the agreements in place to protect the creative people who drive the sales of these games.

    Have you considered negotiating for yourself? That's what I do when I get a job.
  • by mckorr ( 1274964 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @09:06AM (#23503894) Homepage
    Then, as a teacher, I can claim residuals on the income of every student who has ever sat in my classroom. I mean hey, they wouldn't be where they are now if not for me! I deserve a percentage of their success! Where did I leave that number for my union rep?
  • by b96miata ( 620163 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @09:07AM (#23503908)
    The game industry learned from the past mistakes of film and never let them reach that level.
    Also, all due respect to your angry unappreciated programmer 'tude, but frankly they're not.

    They're just one piece of a big puzzle. This isn't the 80s when squeezing a few extra polygons on the screen meant the difference between 12 and 40. Most of the type of work that the "rock star" people did back in the day is now handled by Engineers at ATI and NVIDIA, with some finishing touches by the DX team. Lately, with shaders to be written and what not, it's coming back a bit, but on the big console games more times than not they're using an engine that has most of that done already. (if you want to laud someone for the looks of GTA, check the credits for rockstar's ping pong game)

    I'd argue modellers/graphic artists are just as important, and on a game like GTAIV, story writers are a big piece of the picture.

    They could have had anyone with a decent eastern-european sounding accent and good delivery voice Niko. It's the situations he was in that made the game interesting.

    *note: this is coming from someone who makes a living writing software, so I'm not just tearing down people's contributions out of spite for the profession or anything.
  • by sm62704 ( 957197 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @09:11AM (#23503964) Journal
    Although the game has made more than $600 million in sales for Rockstar Games, Hollick earns nothing beyond the original $100K he was paid.

    A hundred thousand fucking dollars for reading out loud? How long did he have to read to earn that hundred thousand dollars? Poor little baby. I work all goddamned year long for half that much. That's twice what my house is worth!

    I've never seen a hundred thousand dollars!

    How much did the programmers get? I'll bet they didn't get a hundred grand each!

    The asshole signed a contract and he was paid what he was offered. If he thinks a hundred grand isn't enough, then he shouldn't do any more video games.

    I'm sick of the God damned money worshiping greed today. Hollick can kiss my ass.
  • by raddan ( 519638 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @09:16AM (#23504032)
    Not to mention-- even if he gets royalties, it's probably not going to be the same kind of sweet deal that actors get. Video games are different than movies in one important respect: a good movie will continue to sell indefinitely, and this is where royalties really pay off. This is rare for a video game. Even if you want to keep playing the game, you have to deal with obsolescence of the hardware and software. MicroProse's F-19 Stealth Fighter was one of my favorite all-time games. Assuming if I can get it to run correctly in an emulator, forget about hooking up my old Gravis Analog joystick-- I don't even have a port for it on my computer anymore!
  • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @09:16AM (#23504034) Homepage
    Back when John Carmack gained his fame, entire video games were produced by 3-4 people. It was entirely possible for the bulk of the work to be done by a single person. That is how they gained their fame. They did it all themselves. Now, with the complexity of games, it's impossible to do it all on your own. Therefore, it's impossible for somebody to claim all the credit, and impossible for anybody to become a superstar, just because they worked on a bunch of games. Also, there are no new video game guys, because the old guys are still going strong. Miyamoto, Carmack, Sid Meier, are all still producing games. GTA IV may sell a lot of copies, but it's still not a great game. I'm not sure if anybody will still be playing it 10-20 years from now. It will probably be forgotten about a week after GTA V comes out.
  • by Steauengeglase ( 512315 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @09:20AM (#23504102)
    I see one big problem here. Games, unlike say, Victrola music, are more difficult and time consuming to "transfer" to newer technologies. For every Tomb Raider on GameTap there is a System Shock and System Shock 2 (bad examples I know). With so little "roll-over content" what is the purpose of the sending out residual checks on something that probably won't be selling 20 years from now.

    I guess my point is that the game business isn't built like the movie or music business and it should be very wary of going the way of the beloved MPAA or RIAA.

  • Thank you for that (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JonTurner ( 178845 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @09:32AM (#23504240) Journal

    He signed the contract. He knew the terms going into it.
    Exactly. And if the company demands more, he would point back to his contract and say "nope. that's not what I agreed to" and the Actor's Union would back him up. But now that there's money on the table, he wants a reneg.

    It doesn't work that way for programmers, Q/A, artists, etc. FAR too many projects start off with modest goals and reasonable timelines, only to hit "crunch time" a couple months into the 18-month schedule when the real scope becomes clear.

    I've seen people in the game industry work themselves into the hospital, hallucinate from fatigue, neglect their families, and sacrifice their personal life in order to meet absurd schedules that were mandated long after the initial work agreement. After a cycle or two, they burn out and leave the industry and another starry-eyed crop of newbies takes their place.

    No sympathy from this corner.
  • Re:What bullshit (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bogtha ( 906264 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @09:33AM (#23504254)

    He signed the contract. He knew the terms going into it.

    Exactly. Which makes things like this laughable:

    I don't blame Rockstar. I blame our union

    How about blaming yourself for agreeing to terms you apparently find unconscionable? Oh but wait, once you've got the gig it's easy to bitch about how you deserve more, but I bet if you had said to them up front that 100K wasn't enough, they'd have laughed in your face and hired somebody else for 100K. Because let's face it, no matter how much money they made, you aren't worth more than 100K to them. And if that's not acceptable to you, you shouldn't have accepted the job.

  • by CmdrGravy ( 645153 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @09:35AM (#23504272) Homepage
    I think a better way of looking at this is to say the amount that the guy was played for this game is about right and any other actors charging millions to do voice overs are far too expensive.

    After all if this guy thinks he's worth millions of pounds then he's free to audition for Shrek 8 or whatever.

    The way I see it his creative input in the game was minimal, he just turned up did his bit and left so by his reasoning everyone should be on a huge cut of the whole, the tea ladies, the cleaners, the receptionist, everyone.
  • Re:oh please (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 22, 2008 @09:38AM (#23504306)

    His version of a russian accent is pretty awful.
    Despite the fact that it's mentioned several times in the game where Niko Bellic is from, I'm not surprised that some US gamers still think he's Russian. It's a shame really, as Niko's back-story is tied to the tragic history of the Balkans - something I suspect may be lost on those who can't see beyond the borders of their own country.

    At least there's a helpful travel section in GTA IV for Texans and other ignorant US citizens.
  • by lorenzo.boccaccia ( 1263310 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @09:57AM (#23504556)
    uhm.. why they all praise the free market, only when they gain from it? He had is bargain chance. He signed for 100K. If he wanted double than that, I think Rockstar could have found a lot of fitting voices for the same role and a quarter of the price. No point in whining after.
    It's not a recognized face, either, nor Hollywood actors starts multimillionaire on their first appearance. Why he should differ? Even Harrison Ford worked his career trough a lot of minor TV productions and secondary roles.
  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @10:02AM (#23504632) Homepage
    IME, lead programmers tend to believe that they write 70% of the game themselves. It's a role that requires a certain amount of Messiah and/or Martyr Complex.
  • by moankey ( 142715 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @10:11AM (#23504758)
    Well there are a few issues regarding this. Do actors and people in Hollywood get paid too much for what they do? Sure! But its what they were able to negotiate and what the business side agreed to, sometimes bitching and moaning but both sides are making big bucks.
    Do the production crew, programmers, and creative team deserve this too? Absolutely! Do they get it? No, because they were not able to negotiate this and accepted what was given to them.

    Its no wonder that thousands flock to Hollywood each year, not only for fame but the fortune got from doing as little as possible for maximum gain.

    Reminds me of the old adage where a business man and inventor. The inventor sells his gadget to the business man for $100K. The inventor says to his colleagues, hah! I would have taken $10K!
    The businness man goes back to megacorportation with the device and says, hah! I would have paid up to $1 million.
  • by sfmarco ( 113003 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @10:14AM (#23504792) Homepage
    I actually never understood why actors are sharing profits. How did this ever happen? It's not that the actors are investing a large sum of money.

    Even actors in a commercial is getting a bonus every time a commercial is shown! It's not that they did not get paid initially.

    I can even take it to the recent writers strike. When I write code for a software company, should I get a recurring income on every copy of the software sold?

    So we see these unions are very powerful. Anybody up to start the Software Programmers Union and squeeze some profits for 'our people'?
  • by actiondan ( 445169 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @10:27AM (#23504972)

    I mean, actors doing voice overs still get paid millions of dollars for doing a Disney/Pixar movie don't they? How is that any different than what's being done in the video game industry?

    It's different because those actors being paid millions by Disney/Pixar are _already famous_ - Disney/Pixar think that by having them working on the film, they will get bigger audiences and sell more DVDs.

    This guy's name on the credits won't sell any more copies of the game so he is paid for the work he does rather than the value of his personal 'brand'

    If he wanted more, he should have demanded it before he signed the contract but he didn't because he knew that if he did, they just would have got someone else to play the role.
  • by Hojima ( 1228978 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @10:29AM (#23504992)
    Then you also have the fact that it took years of time and money to have the skill to be able to do those essential tasks. I honestly hate the fact that actors feel like they deserve more for doing less.
  • by KevinKnSC ( 744603 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @10:46AM (#23505302)
    Well, the question then is whether video game voice actors are underpaid, or whether other acting professions are grossly overpaid.
  • by maddskillz ( 207500 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @11:10AM (#23505620)
    As opposed to the programmers who just showed up without having to work on their skills?
  • by cruelworld ( 21187 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @11:13AM (#23505682)
    How is that different from the programmers, artists, engineers who worked on that game? Did they hire homeless hobos off the street to program it? Did they hire university graduates with years of experience? How about the guy who did the motion capture? Or the "model" they did the face textures from?
  • by Rashkae ( 59673 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @11:26AM (#23505906) Homepage
    Other acting careers? YOu mean commercials? Amateur Stage Plays? Radio Announcements? Oh, wait, no, you must be thinking of the .1% who become hollywood stars? Yeah, I think 100k is damn good for an actor.
  • "Reading out loud" (Score:2, Insightful)

    by achurch ( 201270 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @11:41AM (#23506212) Homepage

    A hundred thousand fucking dollars for reading out loud?

    Voice acting isn't just "reading out loud", the same way movie acting isn't just walking around a stage. Voice actors have to be expressive, able to inject all sorts of emotions into their readings, able to laugh or scream or cry as necessary--and have to be able to do it on short notice, without reading through an entire scene every time, often without being able to hear the other characters they're interacting with--and have to stay in sync with whatever animation they're voicing. It may or may not be worth $100k a game to be able to do that, but it's not something you can just grab J. Random Sixpack off the street for.

  • by hvm2hvm ( 1208954 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @11:42AM (#23506232) Homepage
    Yes, but if that 80% is something that requires skills that few people have then I think the Main Developer has the right to get most of the credit. Just like the engineers and architects get most of the credit for the buildings even if there are many other people drawing and finishing up plans and even more people actually building the thing. After the skeleton code is written anyone looking at it thinks he could have done it too but it's not like that. It takes a lot of structuring and compromising here and there, even hard decisions need to made for such works. (ex: can they ditch engine X for engine Y for the new capabilities or should they patch engine X).

    --disclaimer: I am still school and working on my programming skills and this has been my experience so far.
  • by BlueTrin ( 683373 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @12:01PM (#23506570) Homepage Journal
    You misundersstood economics, it is because you (not only you, but the population), are ready to pay 40 dollars to bring your family and buy DVDs at 30 dols when they are out that they get paid that much.

    By getting a known (not always good) actor they will get more money from the population, so the actor worth alot of money, in comparison the GTA voice could have be replaced by some other guy without losing 100 millions in sales ...
  • Re:VA are awesome (Score:3, Insightful)

    by arb phd slp ( 1144717 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @12:09PM (#23506670) Homepage Journal

    Voice acting for a game is down at the very bottom of things that will make a game succeed...
    No, but we'd all bitch if the acting sucked.

    Acting (and writing) could very easily ruin the high-quality hard work of everyone else, or elevate good to great (as the writing and acting in Portal did). How much that is worth in $$$ should be negotiable, that's all Hollick is saying.

  • by ichigo 2.0 ( 900288 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @01:53PM (#23508406)
    Interestingly enough, a big part of the animations in GTA4 are procedurally generated [wikipedia.org]. If game "actors" start demanding more money then voices will start to be procedurally generated sooner rather than later.
  • by Actually, I do RTFA ( 1058596 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @02:03PM (#23508558)

    Interesting because the games companies I've talked to say that 70% of the game is written by one lead programmer.

    It depends on the definition of "written" you are using. Architecture wise, that sounds probably true, that one guy does 70% of that work, with a lot of input and discussion from other people. But writting the code, no way. Things are too specialized. There are AI guys, there are physics guys (or just buy a solution), there are rendering guys, there are networking guys. And that's not even getting into the subspecialties. All the lead programmers I know for games have the same attitude (with the exception of whatever specialty they started in): let the specialists figure out how it works. Pathfinding is a bitch, and, from what I understand, has changed a lot in the three years since I knew how to do it. Hence, if I were the lead programmer, I would echo what a different lead programmmer had to say about the issue; make it work well.

    It's a fulltime job just getting the parts to play nicely and to have a vision of the program.

  • by PrescriptionWarning ( 932687 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @02:05PM (#23508588)
    the deal is as this, if the person doing the job doesn't feel they're getting enough money they should not be doing the job. simple as that. Economics 101 says people will only pay for what they're willing to pay for, and vice versa for the people being payed. The market, more or less, decides the pay rate itself by people deciding what they're willing to work at.
  • Quake 1 was seriously and truly groundbreaking and goes down in history as such. Fully polygonal, truly 3d, no bullshit, great performance on all kinds of machines that didn't even deserve to run so much game. Network code that IMO hasn't been surpassed yet - you could have 16 players on a quakeworld server on a T1, every one of them on a modem, and have acceptable performance, back when 28.8k was fast. That's no jive!
  • by Flentil ( 765056 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @02:50PM (#23509306)
    We already have the precedent of big name hollywood movie stars voicing major roles in video games. Just to name a few of the most relevant, there's Ray Liotta who did the main character's voice in GTA:Vice City, Samuel L Jackson who played the main villain Officer Tenpenny in GTA:San Andreas, and James Woods who did the voice of the CIA guy in GTA:SA. I said movie stars because despite what you may think of any of them, these three guys have all starred in their own major hollywood movies. So what kind of deal did they get? Paid for the day like this Niko voice guy with no residuals? WHy would they accept that? If they had done the same exact type of work for a Pixar movie they'd get the full residual deal. From what the article said, Michael Hollick worked even harder than a typical voice actor because he did all physical acting of his character through motion capture. The businesses are so similar, and the voice acting jobs so nearly identical, I don't see why one should get residuals and the other day-labor pay. Even if it is a ton of money, the deal should be the same in all fairness. I think the Screen Actors Guild should make this point very clearly to the video game producers, that if they want to play with Hollywood actors or any professional actors, they will have to pay the fair share. All this talk about compensating the programmers and artists is besides the point. A different point to argue that would also include all the set designers and makeup artists etc, but not what this article is about.
  • by RogueWarrior65 ( 678876 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @03:04PM (#23509512)
    Three words: GET OVER YOURSELF!!! I've developed visual effects software that's been used in dozens of movies. Where the hell are MY residual checks?!? Oh, and never mind the fact that I didn't get paid $100,000 for the software either. Oh, and never mind the fact that the damn "artists" whine and complain that there are no presets or that it doesn't get fancy Academy-award Winning features every two weeks for free.
  • by Eivind Eklund ( 5161 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @04:33PM (#23510814) Journal
    I agree that hit actors are generally overpaid. However, I think we should also remember that acting actually is skilled work taking years to learn - and that voice acting is hard, possibly harder than general acting. I would guess video game voice acting is among the easier parts, though - it's disconnected parts, and don't usually convey that much emotion.


  • by jesterzog ( 189797 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @04:53PM (#23511082) Homepage Journal

    I honestly hate the fact that actors feel like they deserve more for doing less.

    Personally I don't think this guy should get more than what he initially agreed to, and I also think he's sounding a bit more arrogant for wanting more. The fact is that his employer could hire someone else and get virtually the same result, because (as many people have already said) people don't buy games for the actors.

    But I certainly don't have a problem with actors getting paid a lot if it's just a case of market forces. A really good example of this is the Simpsons' voice cast, who are now earning on the order of millions of dollars per season [scotsman.com]. That's a huge amount of money for the amount of time it takes and compared with other people on the staff (such as writers and producers and animators, presumably), especially considering it doesn't even prevent them from doing other work. The difference is that they're nowhere near as replacable. Fox can (and did) replace most of the original writers of the show to the extent that the plots and quality have changed hugely (imho), but it still makes money because the show's primary pulling point these days is the voice acting.

    The reason they get this much isn't because they're arrogant, it's because that's what the studio thinks they're worth. The actors have been doing voices on this show for something on the order of 20 years! Nearly anyone would rather be spending their time doing something else by that time, and it's not as if the actors owe it to the show's fans to keep working at low rates for the rest of their lives. They've named a price that'll convince them to stay, and Fox thinks they're worth it. At some point it won't be worth it for Fox to keep paying the amount that the actors want, the show will end or they'll find someone else, and the actors will still be happy because they'll finally have time to spend on other projects they've wanted to to for ages. Meanwhile it's market-decided compensation for whatever else they're giving up which they'd much rather be doing.

    If this GTA4 guy (whom I never heard of) reckons he's worth more than $100k then more power to him, but he needs to convince someone to pay him what he thinks he's worth. If a studio pays him more they'll probably be subsidising it by dropping alternative actors or talent somewhere else, which he'd be expected to replace. If he can't convince them to do that, he's worth less.

  • by kklein ( 900361 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @06:32PM (#23512214)

    1) I think this guy was well-compensated, but I also think a royalty deal (a small one) would be fair.

    2) For me, actually, voice talent is basically the make-or-break point for a video game. I'm serious. Here's a review of Mass Effect [gameosaur.us] to prove it. However, while I don't think I'm alone in that, I think it's fairly uncommon.

    3) If acting is so easy, why aren't you doing it? It's one of the hardest things to be good at out there. That's why it pays. Anyone can do it poorly. But as a guy who does a little acting, writing, and directing, I have to tell you that most people are frickin' terrible. Even trained people are often terrible. It's partly a talent, partly an art, and partly a technical skill. It's really quite difficult.

    4) Y'know, IT work is not the only job that requires expertise and skill. In fact, I've met a lot of dumb IT people. Really dumb. But the dumber they are, the smarter they seem to think they are. It's just a job, dude. We all have them. You couldn't do mine and I couldn't do yours. That's why we have jobs!

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"