Developer Diary #5
It has been an exciting and somewhat hectic time since my last Developer Diary, as we prepared for and then recorded half the English speech. Now that that is complete, it is nice to have a moment to be able to pause and bring you up to date.
We have handled this project quite differently to normal. Rolf was available to come to the UK up to mid July, but had to then return to the US for a play to which he had already committed. But mid July would be too early to record the full game. So we decided to split the recording into two halves – the first half in mid July, and the second half in September.
Recording voices requires the dialogue to have been ‘script locked’ which, as the name suggests, means that the dialogue is completed and won’t change. To get to this stage, the design / dialogue elements of the game need to be finished – so the logic, puzzles, incidentals and voice overs all need to be completed, tested, and approved. Script Lock is a really important milestone – it allows the voice recording to take place, and translations to start. However, at script lock the opportunity to make any changes is lost – once the voices are recorded and the localisation undertaken, the chance to tweak or improve has gone. So the game has to be absolutely right.
Of course I have played through these sections many times – but now I was approaching my final chance. And so I spent a lot of time playing through the first half of the game, getting very stressed (and sometimes grumpy) when I encountered elements that were weak, and working with Neil to improve dialogue, and the scripters to improve design.
A game, like other creative endeavours, requires a balancing of: cost, schedule, and quality. So, for example, if an aspect is weak then it can either be improved at additional cost, improved with a delay to the project, or not improved at all. Public companies need to launch their titles to meet their revenue and profit forecasts for a particular year (usually ending in March – which is one reason why so much product ships at that time as they rush to make up the numbers). Through your generous support, we are now funding the game ourselves, so can control all three elements of the equation. This gave me the opportunity to announce, in the last Developer Diary, that the game was due to ship in October. We are still pretty much on track for this – and were grateful for the messages of support that urged us to focus on quality and, if necessary, push out the release date slightly.
So… back to the point. Rolf had a few weeks free before the recording so came over to the UK early to visit friends (he lived here for over 20 years) as well as to get an update on the game. He came up to York, and we went through the scripts, played through the game, and he gave really valuable feedback. He added Rolfisms to some of George’s lines, and honed some exchanges between George and Nico. This intimate knowledge meant that when we went into the studio, he knew exactly what was going on in each scene.
Prior to Script Lock, I felt that it would be valuable to have someone review the game who had not played it at all. As winners of the Papercraft competition, we invited Hannah and David who happen to live quite close to York. They played the game for half a day and gave really valuable feedback – thankfully the feedback was very positive, and none of it was scary. Many thanks to them for taking the time to do this. They have put together, by the way, a sequel to their excellent Glass Banana movie called Broken Sword – the Rusty Doorbell. Spoiler assurance: none of the puzzles that appear in the movie bear anything more than a passing resemblance to what they played in the game…
A couple of weeks before the recording was to take place, the studio OMUK organised auditions. I had Tweeted (username @CharlesCecil) to invite any budding actors / actresses to contact them directly if they wanted to be considered for an audition. Apologies to anyone who missed it – if you want to be considered for the second session, then please email Vicky - email@example.com. Although I attended most of the auditions, it is OMUK rather than Revolution who decides who to invite. Noirin, Tony, Simon (our Audio Director) then listened to the samples for each actor / actress (without knowing the actor’s name), while looking at an image of the character on screen, and made the big decisions.
The recording itself took place at OMUK’s studio near Kings Cross in London. OMUK have two studios – both have a control room looking into a sound-proofed dead room where the actors perform their lines. The actors wear headphones with a microphone attached – and read the lines from a large monitor. This allows them to move around the room, and gesticulate as they deliver their lines rather than having to stay close to the microphone and read from printed scripts.
Hazel Ellerby wasn’t available to play Nico again – but fear not, she will be playing other parts in the second recording. So the part has gone to a new actress, Emma Tate. I really hope that you will think that she is great for the part – I certainly do (as do Tony and Noirin who have just heard her in game).
Some of the actors from previous games returned. In particular the wonderful Toby Longworth who appeared in Broken Sword – Angel of Death (I don’t remember which part he played), and played M. Carchon in Broken Sword: Director’s Cut. I offered to buy him and Rolf lunch, which consisted of cartons of speciality foods from the Exmouth Market near the studio – I had Ghanaian curry (not goat before you wonder). We sat on a public bench - you can have confidence that the development money is not being squandered on lavish entertainment!
I was very pleased with the recording – I hope that you will agree. Here is a George line that may sound somewhat familiar, but quite different.
"The sound of traffic. The sun shining. A crime to solve. And Nico back in my life."
Download it here: SC03_GAL_EXT_LOCATION_034
Due to the need to focus on the recording earlier than had been originally anticipated, the Alpha complete date has been pushed out slightly into August. Obviously the first half is well past Alpha state, so the focus is really on the second half. We defined this Alpha as:
- Each scene on the game’s critical path is fully implemented. All game areas are accessible.
- All key artwork associated with the game implemented. Black and white layouts for 20% of scenes acceptable. Limited facial animation / speech animation. Placeholder art on menus, title and option screen acceptable.
- Intro cut scene time locked so composition can start. Other in-game cut scenes and outro won’t be complete.
- Menu screens, hints, save and restore all functional, but will require cosmetic work.
- The game is free of bugs that stop the player from completing the game.
I am well aware that we haven’t shown much of the game to date – this is to avoid spoiling the final experience, so thank you for your patience. But things are now beginning to move fast. In the next few weeks we are planning to put together and release a short teaser trailer, and should be in a position to talk about some new formats. So I should be able to update you soon on all these exciting things, as well as reporting back on when we hit the Alpha dates.
In the meantime, why not follow Tony’s blog, http://tonyrevdev.tumblr.com/, which he updates pretty regularly with everything from the mundane to the profound (he was very flattered at the use of the word ‘profound’).
And finally… A band called The Ponches have composed a song all about George Stobbart. We think that it’s brilliant so we wanted to share it. Let us know what you think. Download it here.
He used to be on a vacation
but he didn't care at all
suddendly crashed in a relation
and nobody should talk, but everybody knows
Stobbart in Paris nobody's watchin' him
And Collard knows it
Stobbart in Paris alright it's her and him
And i will take them home
It's not your home
It's not your fault
I'll drive you home
So as we enter this particularly exciting part of development, with the end starting to come into sight, I would like to thank you, once again, for your support. As I keep saying, without you, this would not have been possible.