It is written by Mod Adam R and is dated 29 April 2010.
As many of you have noticed, RuneScape’s tutorial now has voice acting on the key characters. If you haven’t tried it yet, we’d recommend doing so the next time you load up the game (and if you use the new instant demo mode, you won’t have to go through the process of creating a new account, you’ll just jump straight to the start of the tutorial).
Everyone has an opinion on how the characters should sound. When we first started discussing voices, it wasn’t long before we were saying things like "She should be older", "He should be more gallant" and "How does a goblin speak?"
We’ve experimented with vocal sounds in RuneScape before, but, up until now, it’s been mostly restricted to certain creature grunts and squawks (such as the troll in this year’s Easter update), but trying to create a realistic human voice without a real recording is incredibly difficult. Naturally, we were very excited to try out new techniques and bring something fresh to the game.
As Jagex is based in the UK, it was a natural choice for us to use British voice actors. We considered other English-speaking countries, as well as different accents from around Britain, but it was felt that our players in other countries might have trouble with some of the more unintelligible British accents, so the result was something fairly neutral. Also, adding voices allows us to pronounce names and places as originally intended, which settles a lot of arguments!
The main thing we wanted to achieve was providing clear and easy to understand instructions to accompany the new tutorial, appealing to new players and making the introduction a more exciting and immersive experience.
Mod John A edited the tutorial's text to make it more 'voice friendly'. Mostly this was to make it snappy and to the point. People generally read faster than they speak, so you can get away with some long sentences in written dialogue that you can't when it's voice acted. We also removed any places where the player character's name appears, since we obviously can't record a line for every possible name! Integrating voices into the game brought up other challenges that we've never had to deal with before, but we tried to consider everything and, after a fair fit of feedback from the teams, we settled on what we thought would be a good result.
After the initial amusement of the auditions, the serious business of recording the vocals started, consisting of a long day in a small London recording studio, a microphone, a selection of professional voice actors and a long list of repeated phrases. There were other considerations, such as whether or not to voice the advisor system or books in the cellar, as well as aesthetic and practical concerns, and striking a balance between ensuring important lines are heard and them repeating too frequently. After the 28th take of the goblin saying "Me get rich!", Mods Adam R and Kris J were going a little crazy, but did an admirable job.
The project appears to have been well received, and we have enjoyed reading threads such as ‘Which famous actors would you like to hear in Runescape?’. Also interesting to us was hearing about the sheer amount of non-English-speaking players who have learnt English by playing the game!
The burning question now is, "Will other characters in the game be given voices?"
Dependent on the overall feedback we receive, we may look into the feasibility of doing this, but this brings up questions of just how far do we go?
For instance, should we concentrate on central characters only, just the advisor, or perhaps go for opening/first line sentences or a kind of ‘faux-speech’ (akin to games like The Sims)? There is also the potential to use accents from around the world to give additional character. Should the player-character have a voice? Discussion on this is something we definitely want to encourage as, although it could add a lot of additional flavour and atmosphere to the game, everyone has their own opinion.
You may not agree on how a character should sound and it will certainly take a fair amount of time to get everything perfect. In fact, we are looking forward to seeing what suggestions players come up with. Our personal favourite at the moment is casting Vinnie Jones as the voice of Zamorak!
There are also the different types of creatures to think about, with a potential cast of thousands. Obviously, with a game as large as RuneScape, this needs careful consideration, as mentioned earlier. Initially, we weren’t going to add vocals to the goblin and dragon in the tutorial, as they already had sound effects attached, plus these kinds of voices are probably harder to get right, but we ended up with something that we think fitted and that might be a bit of fun.
The primary goal for this project was to enhance the tutorial, but perhaps there will be more news on this in the future. In the meantime, we hope you have as much fun listening to the new voices as we had in adding them!
If you'd like to discuss this blog on the forums, please visit this forum thread.