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Interview with Matt from nDreams about character voices

nDreams Audio Director on Building Believable Characters

This month at Matinée we had the pleasure of Dylan joining the team. Dylan is an intelligent sixteen year old high school pupil who underwent his one week work experience placement in the Matinée office in Glasgow. He was particularly keen to learn more about the games industry and how they fit in with voice over agencies like ourselves. Dylan’s curiosity led him to create a list of question to interview Matt, an Audio Director at nDreams.

nDreams is a games development company, that makes games for Virtual Reality platforms. The nDreams team started focusing on VR in 2013 when they fell in love with the Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR development kits. They have since released titles such as “Danger Goat”, “Gunner” and “Perfect Beach” for VR.

Matt was only too pleased to answer Dylan’s questions and help out with the interview.

  1. Which games & characters have you helped develop?

I’ve worked on a few narrative-heavy games over the years, a couple of the more notable ones would probably be titles in the Silent Hill series.  From my work at nDreams I enjoyed Cal’s character from The Assembly the most.

Matt nDreams

Matt nDreams

Character development is usually handled by the design and script writing teams, with audio more in control of how dialogue is structured and plays in the game.  We also work on any post-processing FX for characters that require it.  Examples of this would be fantasy creatures or if the dialogue is playing through something, such as a radio.

  1. How do you avoid making the voice acting in your game unconvincing?

All script recordings aim to have a believable delivery of lines. It’s important to decide before the recordings start who is going to guide the session, this means the actors have a direct source for any information they need. Depending on the project this can be either a dialogue director hired for the job or a session director or lead at the studio/VO company. Failing this, one of the writers or developers close to the project.

Whoever takes that role would be familiar with the script and characters in advance, and not have to defer too much to the client.  They can also help to relay any extra ideas the client has during the session in a more concise way.

  1. What are the most critical aspects of a character to consider when building one?

Personally, I think game characters are close to any other medium. If it’s a player character you’ve got to have empathy with them. Let them have flaws, it’ll make them more interesting. You can only make a character perfect if you’re aiming for them to be unknowable, which is fine for only a few game roles.

  1. Have you ever used the same voice artist for multiple characters?

Yes, it’s common practice in games to try and share voices if possible. This is less likely with the main leads, but we will try and get 2 or 3 roles from the same actor for the smaller parts.

  1. What are your difficulties when trying to find the right voice over for your character?

When it comes to thinking about voices there are a few ways we can go about it. In the same way that an artist will provide a ‘mood board’ for the visual style, we may start with a list of personalities that have some traits we want to convey. Sometimes the setting of the game might give us ideas for voices instead. During the writing stage, each character has a basic personality background written for them, and these things together are usually enough to kick-start the audition process with a VO company.

 

  1. How do you locate your voice overs?

We usually start with a basic in-house script or game premise. Depending on the timeframe we might add to that script over time in-house but at some point it will be passed over to professional writers we’ve hired. This is to really polish the dialogue and narrative direction in the style we’re aiming for.

While the script is in production we might record a basic first-pass at a smaller studio with a couple of actors sharing roles. This is so we can drop a full script test into the game and find which parts need the most work because reading it on the page isn’t the same as experiencing it. It also allows other people in the studio to play through the narrative at an early stage.

As the scripts close in on a final draft we audition the final roles with a VO company and plan recording sessions. We use a variety of studios and companies, it really depends on the scale of the product we’re working on.

  1. How difficult is it for the team to come to an agreement on a character’s voice?

We’ll have several meetings in the run-up to a script recording. During the audition phase we go through the test recordings and each member of the group will compile a list of actors they feel are best for the roles. I think, for the most part, if the development team is on the same wavelength they’ll tend to gravitate towards the same couple of actors for a role, which makes the process much easier.

A big thanks to Matt over at nDreams for taking the time out to answer all of Dylan’s questions about voice overs in the games industry! We’re sure his curiosity has been well an truly itched!

For quality character voices or narrators for game productions please contact us at project@matinee.co.uk