Making a decision
Ahhh, voice acting. To do it or not to do it, that is indeed the question. When we first started thinking about the game, we had pretty much decided that we weren’t going to do voice acting at all (Of course secretly I had other ideas). After all it is probably the item that you will be most heavily scrutinised on. Anime voice acting is considered to be a very very respected occupation, particularly in Japan. Having poor voice acting just wouldn’t do. The voice of the characters can convery so much more than the imagery. Yeh, a picture does tell a thousand words, but a great anime voice actor can tell a million (even when they’re only saying one). It was probably the daunting nature of it which put us off at first.
Over the weekend we spent roughly 12 hours working on the game. Drawing? you ask. Coding? Perhaps a little Beta Testing? No…..um…voice acting. To be honest, I’m really glad we did. Today I showed one scene to a few friends, and though they had seen it before, their reactions to the script were far better when they were listening to the voices. When they played through the game the first time, they chuckled a little, but it was far more reserved, possibly because they were reading only, as opposed to listening. Maybe it’s harder to allow yourself to laugh if you’re purely reading. One thing was abundantly clear though, the speech left no ambiguity as to how the script was supposed to play out. Ok, so maybe with the most awesome script writing, there shouldn’t be any ambiguity, but then we sit back and remember that this is not our day jobs and hopefully, we’re not expected to be amazing at everything.
Living and breathing
Giving the characters voices, gave them life in a way that I don’t think we expected. We found ourselves laughing at the jokes we had read 100’s of times before, even though they were our voices. It’s going to take a lot of work to record the voices for the characters in the game, after all at the moment it would appear that we have 22 significant characters, with maybe 5 or 6 of those being main characters. The most important thing though is that we are doing it for the right reasons. We are not adding voices just because Ren’Py has the capability to do so. We’re adding voices to enrich the experience.
Day 1 – Sitting around, feeling awkward
The first night we tried to do the voice acting was fruitful, but predominantly because we managed to lose most of our inhibitions. Talking strange lines, even infront of friends and family can often be daunting, especially if those lines are embarassing. To us, the number one lesson we learned, was not to be yourself. That may be counter-intuitive and maybe other people would advise against it, but for us, (me in particular) trying to overlay a different persona into my voice, just didn’t work. It was very difficult to break the personality from the voice that the brain has assoiciated with it for so long. The character you are portraying rarely acts like you and so it just seemed to work better to invent a voice to work with. The one problem with the first recording session was that we were sat down at the table facing each other. It didn’t work out well. We learned our lesson and on the second day changed the way that we recorded significantly.
Day 2 – So darn tired
On day two, the three of us stood with a single microphone in the room. We used the kitchen as it was the most accessible place, knowing full well that the acoustics would be awful. Though the final recording was certainly wetter than we had wanted, just by standing up, we gained more freedom to move and express ourselves. We interacted with each other more and whole whole reading became more fluid. What was also interesting was that the script itself became more organic and evolved slightly, with subtle words changing and word orders being altered.
It also seemed helpful to pick a voice actor that we had heard speak many times and imitate them to pick up different ways of adding inflections to voices and lines. Watch a few YouTube clips on voice acting and see how, and what, the director asks of the voice actor. Notice also how the voice actor is able to deliver exactly the same line in almost an identical manner, but altering it ever so slightly to pick up the right intonation.
Obviously we are not professional voice actors. We know this! But we have no way of getting professional voice actors to perform our Visual Novel. To us, voices are hopefully going to play an important part of the story by helping give both tension and levity in the right places. We are in desperate need of practise, but hopefully over time, we can grow into the roles and provide a professional enough experience for the player.