Dishonored EP16: Realm of the Bad Dog

By Shamus Posted Thursday Apr 18, 2013

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 88 comments

Link (YouTube)

We keep harping on how dull the performances are in this game, but are they really? Are they really that bad, or are they bad because their faces don’t follow the performance? (Aside from the Outsider. Let’s ignore him for now.) I can close my eyes and imagine the actors giving really intense performances. Tight face. Suspicious eyes. Clenched jaw. I’m reminded of the Skyrim preview where we could see Christopher Plummer side-by-side with the character he was voicing, and how his performance came off as dull and wooden because none of it showed up on his character’s face.

This game feels the same. Pendleton doesn’t show any emotion in his face when he’s talking about his brothers. Not anger, or sadness, or anything. It’s possible that if Derek Phillips had put more energy into his performance it would have come off as overblown and hammy, because again – dead face.

We made a fuss over The Walking Dead, but I’m starting to suspect the secret of that game was that they had characters who could really emote. Sometimes we get dudes that can glower or rage, but outside of TWD I can’t remember the last time I saw really good facial performances of regret, loss, confusion, etc.

I don’t know. I’m mostly thinking out loud. I’m not convinced I’m 100% right, but I suspect that over the years I’ve been blaming voice actors for the sins of the animators.


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88 thoughts on “Dishonored EP16: Realm of the Bad Dog

  1. Regarding the faces/animations, that’s got to require at least HL2 graphics to pull off effectively, but since they (Valve) did it so well, then I’d say the animators in Dishonored could be said to carry some of the blame. HOWEVER, I wonder if they’re as in the dark as the voice actors when it comes to facial animation. That is, I’m given the task to code/animate an NPC to speak and have it match up with various vocalizations. I think Bethesda’s Fallout and recent Elder Scrolls games have a built-in lip-sync module that (IIRC) takes its animation cues from a “mood” flag and a kind of speech-synth interpretation of whatever dialog you type into it.

    So let’s say I program that. I’ve gotten no input about the voice actor’s delivery or mood, so just like the voice actors (who don’t have much to go off of, either, unless it’s maybe a cutscene) I’ll shoot for the middle of the road and make bland facial animations.

    On a related note of things that bug me: This game has the most stable hanging chandeliers I’ve ever seen. I don’t think they’d sway in an earthquake. Either that, or working for the Outsider makes you waifishly thin and light.

    1. Humanoid says:

      Putting it that way, it feels like most games now are still at about the Wing Commander 2 level of ternary neutral-happy-angry facial animations, or even earlier. Bluehair’s voice was awful of course, but quite liked Tolwyn’s VA in the intro (and also the Emperor, Thrakhath and Khasra).

      Sure I’m comparing 2D to 3D, but WC2’s faces were essentially mechanical constructs just like the typical 3D face, as opposed to ‘proper’ animation.

      And for what it’s worth, it’s still probably the most memorable intro to a game that I can recall. I don’t know how much my dad paid for that Sound Blaster 16 megabundle, but it was worth every cent.

  2. Target182 says:

    Not really on topic for this post, but,Youtube absolutely refuses to play the past couple episodes at any resolution over 360p, and even then it buffers at an insanely slow pace. Did something change? does anyone else have this problem?

    1. newdarkcloud says:

      I’ve been having tons of problems with YouTube lately. Sometimes videos refuse to buffer, but then reloading will make them buffer extremely quickly. Sometimes I have to restart my computer to get videos to buffer.

      It’s annoying.

    2. Shamus says:

      I’ve been hving tons of problems with YT for the past couple of days. Videos stalling in the middle, not playing at all, playing in abominable quality, etc.

      Not sure what the deal is. I’ve noticed other people complaining about it as well, but no official recognition of the problem.

      1. Target182 says:

        it’s a little frustrating when it takes almost 2 hours to watch a 30 minute video, but it’s nice to know I’m not alone… I guess?

      2. impassiveimperfect says:

        Well, given how much content they have to handle (videos, of (very) varied lengths and resolutions, comments, subscriptions, content filtering, and all sorts of stuff), it’s actually a miracle that it manages to run smoothly, most of the time (I think). Only really thought of that just now.

      3. The resolution problem: For some reason, occasionally a video will reset my YT preferences from “automatic” to the lowest rez possible. Even when I reset it to automatic, SW (especially if I’m watching it minutes after it uploads) can vary wildly in resolution. Perhaps “fresh” YT videos aren’t on the highest-priority servers?

        Vids starting in the middle are a result of a “pick up where I left off” feature, but I’m not entirely sure how to invoke it. I get it sometimes when I’ve paused something and FF crashes or I just close the window and come back later, so I suppose that’s a bookmark-y kind of thing. Still, it seems to be somewhat random.

        What I really hate is the banner ads at the bottom of many YT videos. I don’t begrudge them the ads, as that’s how some people (myself included) earn a living. What happens a lot lately is that the video will start, it’ll get to that little yellow line, and then it chokes because it can’t load the ad and it won’t just let the video play without it. It usually can’t be solved by refreshing the tab. Most of the time I have to close out the session and open it in a new window to get it to pick a different banner or play a pre-viewing ad.

      4. Jokerman says:

        I had to download a few, i went onto the youtube video page so i hope it counts as a view…

      5. Hieronymus says:

        I’ve noticed that if YouTube’s quality is set to ‘Auto’ (huzzah for them setting that to default!) it simply will not continue buffering. It will always buffer a small amount, and then stop until you get closer to that mark. So what’s likely happening is people are getting bursts of high speed from YouTube’s servers, then they catch up to that point and get lulls in speed that result in a lower quality being displayed.

        If you manually set the quality to a higher resolution, it will (eventually) buffer all the way.

        Side note: Having the quality set to ‘Auto’ also prevents you from seeking earlier segments of the video. It will simply restart the entire stream from whichever point in time you choose.

        1. False Prophet says:

          Thanks for the suggestion. I’d actually noticed the buffering issue weeks ago, but assumed it was some universal change on YouTube’s end to manage traffic.

      6. MikhailBorg says:

        It’s been making me crazy. I’ve been trying to watch Jef Space Program as someone here recommended, and some videos will happily play through at the highest resolutions, others Just Won’t Play. And it’s the same ones, too – a video that plays fine once will continue to do so, while one that refuses will keep refusing.

        I wish I knew what the problem is. I want to see what happens with the JSP HerpSnake!

      7. Target182 says:

        It’s almost as if you’re videos aren’t hosted in 720p, I’m trying to download them straight from youtube and every resolution BUT 720p can be downloaded (clicking the link to download 720p has no effect) something definitely seems amiss with youtube as videos from other places are having the same issues.

    3. HiEv says:

      I’ve been having very mixed results when attempting to watch any YouTube videos since around last Friday (4/12). Some load fine, some start fine then stall or stop, and others load at an absurdly slow crawl.

      Lately I’ve pretty much given up on watching videos in the browser anyways, since Flash is such a terribly inefficient video player. Now I just download the videos first, and when they finally finish downloading I watch them in my video player instead of my browser. (I use Opera’s “Download YouTube Videos as MP4” extension to download the video and Zoom Player to play it.) It usually ends up downloading faster and playing smoother that way as well.

    4. X2-Eliah says:

      YT’s been okay for me, but on my slow internet I have te 360p set as the default, so maybe YT just has their basic streaming working fine and more intensive streams being compromised.

    5. Thomas says:

      Just recently I’ve even been having the thing where it’ll get two minutes into a video and then suddenly decide that that’s the total running time and act as if it had literally ended (the time bar changes from 20:36 to 2:11 too)

      1. I’ve noticed that same problem on Google Chrome, but not Firefox.

        1. Thomas says:

          Oh that’s interesting. I was on Firefox when I had the problems. Haven’t had it happen for a couple of days now though

          1. Hm. That *is* interesting.

            I’ve been using YouTube a lot these past few days and my only ‘problem’ was the slow loading due to crappy college internet.

            I wonder what’s up with that?

    6. GM says:

      I started noticing that after the ddos attack youtube is slower at buffering so yes i noticed.

  3. impassiveimperfect says:

    (Reading the title)
    Heh, punny.

    Also, “I can't remember the last time I was really good facial performances of “. A word (or two) got accidentally?

  4. newdarkcloud says:

    I was also quite frankly shocked that they resorted to such an obvious plot twist. Honestly, I same it coming a mile away, but thought for a second that it was too cliche to do. Then, I heard people groaning about the game’s obvious plot twist, and made the most logical conclusion.

    As Josh noted, this is the point where the Chaos system really becomes a moral choice system. Tons of characters, including Samuel, Emily, and even fucking Daud have different dialog and behavior for Low and High Chaos, which makes Corvo out as either a paragon of virtue or a massive dick.

    Emily in particular becomes creepy as all hell. It was actually pretty disturbing to hear some of the things she says during High Chaos. Things like “When I’m Empress, I’m going to fill two ships full of people, and slam then into each other. I can do that, right?”. The whole thing becomes infinitely more ham-handed than stability vs. instability.

    And then the final mission, which is totally different depending on the Chaos. In Low Chaos, it’s nice and sunny and on High Chaos, it’s a dark and stormy night.

    I want to give Harvey Smith and Arkane the benefit of the doubt, but it’s such so freakin’ forced that it’s irritating.

    1. Humanoid says:

      Hey, crashing them together is what most kids (well, boys maybe) of that age do with their toy cars, no? :)

      But in all seriousness, yeah, that’s the first I’ve heard of that type of line, and that’s spectacularly over the top. I only knew about the paintings she did.

    2. anaphysik says:

      Emily in particular becomes creepy as all hell. It was actually pretty disturbing to hear some of the things she says during High Chaos. Things like “When I'm Empress, I'm going to fill two ships full of people, and slam then into each other. I can do that, right?”

      Naw, she says that for both high and low chaos, but for low chaos she says she’s only going to subject less than 20% of the population to it.

      1. Tomas says:

        I wish I could vote up that comment. :-)

    3. kenup says:

      Yeah, the chaos system doesn’t make much sense, as noted many times. The thing is though, the conspiracy expects you to kill people, the targets and any problematic guard(which may be one or many) at least, so Corvo is blamed for following orders.

      And yeah, Emily’s line is way over the top. Honestly, I can’t see how the two could be realistically connected. The only thing that line shows is that Emily needs a psychiatrist.

      1. James says:

        bare in mind, he mother was murdered in front of her, while her father stood, stunlocked and helpless, a father she hadn’t seen in mounts if not years, then she gets locked up in a brothel under the care of the pendeltons, when suddenly a masked man finds her and BAM its her dad, who then goes on the MURDER ALL THE PEOPLE IN DUNWALL.

        to portray her as stable would have been a disservice imo.

        it would help if the animation and delivery were less shitty maby paint her as a child in need of a father, her father who was absent then presumed dead, and her only remaining link to her old happy life, who spends all his time away killing or framing people, maby Dishonered 2 will be about Emily directly, and have a voice protagonist so we can have character development.

        we need more games with female ninja-assassin’s is what i’m saying

        1. newdarkcloud says:

          Corvo was only in prison for 6 months, so there is no way it’s been years since they last saw each other.

          But I get your point.

        2. kenup says:

          I’m not disagreeing she had a lot to go through(though the game does little to show it effecting her). This would still be a reason to get help from a doctor(they are not evil) though.

          However, if we assume that her mother and father/Corvo taught her to play nice with her subjects, her thought process isn’t logical(in my opinion at least). And regardless of that, if Corvo killed only those needed, including the guards out of necessity, still resulting in high chaos, why would she turn evil? She could be a bit more cold sure, but turning into an evil bitch doesn’t make much sense.

          And there is no need for voiced protagonists(though it can work well with pre-defined PCs) to have character development. Just give more dialogue choices and other ways to define their character. Hiding the protagonists thoughts from the player doesn’t help, at lest if you don’t use it later.

        3. The first part, sure. But I’m not convinced Corvo’s “work” would impact Emily much (if at all) considering she spends all her time in the tower or the pub while he’s running around. It’s not like she has any way of knowing how many people he’s killed or not, and I can’t imagine the others would sit her down and say, “Daddy’s off to stab some politicians in the face!” I think there’s even a place or two where Emily (or someone else) states, “We’re/they’re off to handle ‘grown-up business.'” I’m sure she hears snippets of conversation in her running/sneaking around, but I think the disconnect between her and what’s happening outside the walls is a little too great for a murder quota to matter.

          1. Thomas says:

            Emily uses an ineffective form of random sampling to get her ‘how many dudes has Corvo murdered?’ data, thats why you can get away with it as long as you keep it under 1 in 5

            1. I know that. :P

              What I’m saying is, realistically or logically, there shouldn’t be a way for her to know that.

              1. Thomas says:

                Are you saying that it’s unrealistic that the daughter to the empress and the heir to the throne can’t have her own private statistics team, which feeds her reports on how many people her father figure has killed?

  5. newdarkcloud says:

    I agree with Chris that Daud is by far one of the most interesting characters in the game. He gets so little screen time outside of the new DLC, but you learn so much about him in the brief mission he’s in that you really get a sense for the depth of his character.

    1. Grudgeal says:

      Daud would have worked so much better if he hadn’t been more or less the “surprise guest” during a mission I otherwise had designated as “get stuff back, find conspiracy that blatantly betrayed me and feed them their own livers. Nonlethally.”

      As it was, Daud was basically a speed-bump to me at that point and I sped through his area mostly in vague annoyance over who this guy was and why he was standing in my way, and why he’d hired the Ghost People from the Sierra Madre as his guards (which shows just how much emotional impact the empresses’ death had on me).

      It’s a bit sad that the best-characterised character in the game isn’t even the focus of his own mission: He gets mentioned at first when you’re distracted by the conspiracy betraying you, and then you hunt him down while you’re distracted by the conspiracy betraying you.

  6. Sabrdance (Matthew H) says:

    I saw the essay Corvo is not an Honorable Man the other day, and that persuaded me to pick the game back up after 4 or 5 months.

    I was astonished at how much better it was than I remembered. For all the grousing, I actually think there is some pretty good voice acting in this game. It may be undercut by the animating -but I think the real problem is that Corvo doesn’t talk. All of these characters talk way too long for someone ostensibly speaking to Corvo. Instead, they are obviously monologuing because Corvo is standing there.

    1. X2-Eliah says:

      I agree. In the new DLC, Daud is (obviously) voiced as a protagonist, and it works extremely well. There’s no reason whatsoever to not have a voice for Corvo (especially as you don’t really get to choose from tens of answers per dialogue anyway).

      1. newdarkcloud says:

        I agree. The fact that Daud has a voice and a personality really adds weight to the proceeding. Playing Dishonored as Corvo is almost like playing Deus Ex as a mute version of JC Denton.

        I’m still baffled as to why they gave Corvo no voice. They really should have. It would’ve given them much more opportunity to flesh out the characters and/or world.

    2. anaphysik says:

      It would probably be a lot more interesting if Corvo (being a /cultural/ foreigner & of clearly different origin, regardless of how the governing system works) had been treated as a person who couldn’t really speak the language of the people of Dunwall/Dunwall’s island (I don’t care to look up the in-game names, but obvs Dunwall is on the English island, and Corvo’s from the Italian one, Sokolov from the Russian one, there’s a Scottish island, etc.). That would actually justify some monologuing, and would tie into the concept of cultural dissonance.

      1. X2-Eliah says:

        Afaik there’s no indication that the isles contain different languages. Isles vs. the continent (home of the plague rats) – maybe, yes, but the isles? Not that I know of.

        1. anaphysik says:

          Radical idea: maybe /they could have tweaked the setting to match the ideas/ <_<. Seriously, it's not like they're working with a predefined setting – it is whatever they make it.

      2. Shamus says:

        They should have cut Corvo’s tongue out when he was arrested. Since all of your responses are basically “yes” and “no” anyway, this wouldn’t impede your ability to (say) tell Samuel you’re ready to go or Piero that you don’t want to bu anything.

        1. X2-Eliah says:

          Good idea. There’s already a full sequence where you are strapped into a chair and tortured – having the Torturer pull out your tongue with some kind of pliers or such would be far more impressive than him using a heated-up bar of iron, as well…
          And it makes sense thematically from the regent’s perspective, as they really only need you to sign a paper, and having you unable to shout out anything during the executions is just a bonus.

          So, er, great idea.

          1. But then the Heart would need an entry about Corvo’s tongue, and that could get all different shades of wrong.

            1. tengokujin says:

              How many shades? Say… 50? :3
              What shades? Grey? :p

  7. rrgg says:

    Also interesting, the non-lethal option on this level also makes a lot more sense from a gameplay perspective. You grab the note, stick it in the thing and your done. But if you play it high chaos then the lord regent will be hiding in a roof top bunker surrounded by guards. I think this was probably the most difficult fight I had on my high chaos run.

    1. newdarkcloud says:

      It’s almost paradoxical that the Non-Lethal Takedown is actually EASIER on a High Chaos playthrough because the Lord Regent is in the room in a Low Chaos game.

      Alternatively, playing a Low Chaos game makes the Lethal option easier, because the Lord Regent is right there as opposed to being in his lockroom and being relatively unguarded.

      It makes sense, actually, both in the sense of the narrative and the gameplay. I really like the Lord Regent mission.

      1. X2-Eliah says:

        Non-Lethal Takedown is actually EASIER on a High Chaos playthrough because the Lord Regent is in the room in a Low Chaos game.

        Not necessarily – once you enter the tower (the tower building itself), he has that talk through the security monitor, and then starts to walk down. Yo ucan easily manage to get to the broadcast tower, back into the regent’s room, and get all the safe stuff well before the regent gets to his room.

        Even if he is there… well, taking out a single unprotected unalarmed person is a piece of cake.

        1. burningdragoon says:

          It’s also easy to go straight to his room before he does, especially if you come in through the vents, and just wait for him to show up and knock him before doing anything else.

  8. Gruhunchously says:

    I would love to see a game that had a game over screen that simply said ‘You did it wrong’.

    1. Humanoid says:

      Or, as noted in the MW3 Hitmas:

      You did it wrong.
      – Winston Churchill

  9. rrgg says:

    I think the problems with me and Dowd were first of all, I had completely forgotten who he was, you glimpse him for a couple of seconds at the start of the game and that’s pretty much it, so he was already about on the level as the torturer. And second I guess I never actually bothered to fight him or listen to him my first playthrough, I was sneaking around, choking out dudes, and realized “oh wait, that’s that leader of the assassins guy. What do I do?” So I carried his unconscious body around for a while. Then I came across this giant hole I could carry him down and dropped him, he made a loud squishing sound and that was it, that was his character for me.

    1. X2-Eliah says:

      In the main game, his characterization definitely was a subtle thing, expressed mostly through Daud’s journals/books and his ‘description’ by the heart. There were some details as to Daud himself spread throughout the level, to be sure, but aye, it was all easily missable if you weren’t specifically seeking the info out.

    2. Karthik says:

      > he made a loud squishing sound and that was it, that was his character for me.

      I love this. He’s just a guy, and Arkane doesn’t shove him in your face with a scripted scene the way Human Revolution did with Zhao (among others). They aren’t afraid that the player is going to miss the precious content they prepared for Daud.

    3. newdarkcloud says:

      I admit, it also took me a while before I connected him to the Empress’s murder, simply because I barely glimpsed him in my playthrough.

      When I DID connect the dots, and learned about him, I thought he was an awesome character.

  10. Radansour says:

    I like to think that the leaders of the conspiracy betray Corvo because they need to kill all their servants; they’ve decided that these maids and whatnot are a liability. The main conspirators don’t intend to tell the world exactly how they came to power (since admitting that “yeah we sent this guy to kill a bunch of aristocrats and soldiers” isn’t going to endear them to the military or aristocracy). So, for the conspiracy to work, they need to tie up the loose ends.

    And they don’t trust Corvo to support their murdering all the maids, so then Corvo has to go, as well. Otherwise, it would have made a lot more sense to keep him around.

    Alternative thought on the ending: they tell you to kill all of the staff at the Hound Pits, and then the player gets to choose between covering up the conspiracy, or staying loyal to Samuel, Callista etc and instead murdering the admiral, but thus giving up the possibility of putting Emily on the throne. . .

  11. Half Life 2 has had more honest to God character animation in it than any other FPG I’ve played since. It’s ridiculous.

    To be fair, I’ve heard good things about Rage in this regard, but never got round to checking it out.

  12. Tomas says:

    I think the reason for killing Corvo is perfectly valid. These are all men craving power, and the only way of achieving this “legitimately” is to control Emily after she becomes the Empress. Having the protective father-figure Corvo around would probably make that very difficult.

    1. Grampy_Bone says:

      Yep. This. They want 100% control over Emily so Corvo has to go.

  13. Rack says:

    It’s surprising how few games really commit to using workarounds to how unnatural game “acting” is. Bastion is surely an example more games should follow, with one good narrator it achieved a huge amount more than most games do with armies of voice actors and animators.

    Think how much better Human Revolution could have been if they did the majority of conversation over radio and put the rest of the effort into face to face conversations. If Bethesda did a game where the main character was haunted by a few main characters who were involved in more of the dramatic exposition.

    1. Fleaman says:

      A character you’ve put a lot of effort into making resemble a real human is going to take as much and more to get it to MOVE like a real human, and when it doesn’t work it REALLY doesn’t work, because human brains pick up ridiculous amounts of information from facial muscles.

      This is another of those areas that gives a massive advantage to stylized aesthetics vs. photorealism. Contrast how relatively easy it is to put even quite nuanced expressions on Team Fortress 2 characters.

      An interesting case to consider: Portal 2. Wheatley in particular exudes suffocating amounts of personality, much of it expressed through “body language”. It clearly took a lot of work to do all that animation (although probably not as much as it would have if he’d been a human), but it has a massive role in building the game’s aesthetic. Strategically important, considering that Portal 2’s major selling point was how smart and funny it is (remember the “Cave Johnson marketing” marketing).

  14. Phantos says:

    “The Realm of the Underwyrm!

    The Realm of the Star Crow!

    The Realm of a Thousand Horrors!

    The Realm of the Bad Dog, VERY BAD DOG, that was a new carpet! …He knows what he did.”

  15. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “We keep harping on how dull the performances are in this game, but are they really?”

    Yes.You just have to listen to piero when he is caught peeping,or to emily when you rescue her.Those two instances are the worst voice acting Ive heard in a long time.

    1. newdarkcloud says:

      I honestly think it was more the writing and direction than the actual acting.

      I would again point to Peeping-Piero as my example.

    2. Shamus says:

      Compare it to Grima Wormtongue, which was another character played by the same actor. Imagine he’s tense, slightly scared looking, a bit wild eyed, looking to one side as if he’s wishing he could dart out of the room.

      I dunno. I wish I could see the actor’s face as he recorded this. Was this a deadpan reading, or an understated subtle reading that loses everything when performed by a calm face?

      1. Phantos says:

        Now now, children. There’s nothing saying that the acting, directing and animations aren’t ALL terrible!

      2. Thomas says:

        It’s still bad even then for this particular bit. The problem with peeping piero isn’t necessarily the monotony but he goes from lying to confessing without taking a breath or changing tone. It’s bizarre to listen to

        The dialogue probably isn’t helping the guy though. If we can find an example of good voice acting with bad facial animation that solves this problem right? Then it doesn’t mean they’re bad VA’s but that they’re unfamiliar with games and don’t understand the different things you need to do in them.

        So examples of good voice acting in any Bethesda or pre-2006 game? Metal Gear Solid did fine with unmoving triangle faces but it’s designed to be a little over the top

        1. Thomas says:

          Hmm okay, well KotoR 2 seems like a good example of good voice acting with bad facial animation

          But maybe they make up for it with having much less of a focus on people’s faces.

          Okay so I found some better examples
          Brother Daniel
          Malik DX:HR
          Belethor Skyrim
          And a lot of VtM: Bloodlines doesn’t have noticeably bad voice acting

          So I reckon it probably is possible to give performances that don’t suck even if the animation is terrible and there’s no motion capture w/e. It might be true that the Dishonoured people gave good performances that just weren’t suited for games or mediums where good animation isn’t guaranteed but I think if you chose carefully you’d be able to select people to not be like that.

          Besides Dishonoured would have worked well with slightly over the top voice acting. The story’s not Oscar material and it’s a pretty magical world with a not completely realistic art style. Something a step below Metal Gear Solid would have probably worked well. Maybe these actors were just too good at their jobs

        2. Ofermod says:

          There were good voice actors *before* all this 3D animation stuff. I mean, look at the old Infinity Engine games.

          1. Thomas says:

            That’s different though, if Shamus’ hypothesis is good voice acting combined with bad facial animation creates the impression of bad voice acting, then games that avoid facial animation together should be safe (which would explain Portal for example). If it is true it’d be a good reason to try and skip 3D animation or do more narration based dialogue/people with obscured faces (Joshua from F:NV) for example

      3. The more I think about it, the more I’d bet on the problem being that the animations, voice acting, and (for lack of a better term) direction of the various scenes are all done by different teams simultaneously, meaning they never really get the chance to compare notes and make sure they’re working together towards the same goals.

        “Well, yeah, I knew character X would be pissed, but they couldn’t tell me if it was going to be a slow-talking cold-as-ice pissed or a hot-blooded in-your-face pissed, so I just tried to make it all of the above. I used the side effects of my antidepressants as a model.”

    3. Ninjariffic says:

      I always got the impression that Piero is always thinking about a project whenever he’s interacting with someone. He’s just not paying much attention to you.

  16. Thomas says:

    So I agree the voice acting isn’t bad. But what it is, is the perfect storm of really subdued measured performances that are deliberately very unexpressive and emotive except in the most subtle ways, along with boring as crud dialogue, overstretched exposition and then bad animation.

    I was listening to this with my eyes shut and my mind still switched off. They aren’t saying anything interesting and they’re acting as people who are completely suppressing their emotions and trying to be as refined and give away as little character as possible

    They lose me in 5 seconds. (Also the background noise is way too loud for performances like that)

    1. Thomas says:

      And that was a fairly positive example. Take a look at the Outsider with your eyes shut

      He’s actually got a really similar delivery to the loyalists. They all do, this thing, where they say, a few words, and then pause. And then say a few more, in a higher pitch.

      EDIT: =D Now with that in mind, listen the peeper bit.

      1. newdarkcloud says:

        I still think the Outsider would sound better without seeing him and with more of a echo, to signify that this is a powerful entity speaking to you through your head.

    2. Cupcaeks says:

      I think you hit the nail on the head here. For the most part, the voice acting fit with the tone I think they were going for. It was deliberately subtle, any more than what they did and it would have come off as hammy and forced to me.

      I still mostly blame the writing for the character dialogue, which is more monologue than anything else. The non-exposition dialogue for the characters usually sounds great. Listen to the brief bits of dialogue you can prompt the characters for. In those brief lines you can hear that hint of insecurity and bitterness in Pendleton’s voice, you can hear just how downtrodden Cecilia must be, even Piero comes off as eccentric instead of boring. Any plot related dialogue, however, just runs way too long, and it isn’t particularly well written either (Pendleton’s speech post-fratricide is the most glaring example I can think of. I have no idea what tone they were going for there, and from the sounds of it, the writers didn’t either). I don’t think the animations on their own would be enough to bring the performances down, but when you have to sit through boring, one-sided exposition while locked in place for a few minutes, it definitely exacerbates the problem, especially when you have all that time to notice how stiff the animations actually are. It is, as you said, the perfect storm.

  17. MrGuy says:

    All I want is a rune somewhere…

  18. Alex says:

    Will you guys be playing the Knife of Dunwall as well?

  19. Peter H. Coffin says:

    IIRC, the voice acting is one of the first actual production things that tend to happen, with regard to the characters. It happens before animation, often before exactly what the circumstances of the cut-scene actually are. So the voice performance might be with, in mind a completely different situation than what ends up in the game. A exposition conversation originally planned for a quiet office might get changed to being in a moving vehicle or in a tavern by the time that the game script is actually frozen, which will lead to a soft-voiced conversational presentation when the characters SHOULD be trying to talk over traffic and engine noise, or six other nearby conversation.

    Plus, there’s my personal bugaboo of that the acoustics of a space tend to get completely ignored in video games. Everything sounds like it’s recorded in a studio with it’s low-echo but quiet environment, in contrast to an office (which may or may not be quiet, but will be medium-echo with a mix of hard and soft surfaces) or a bathroom (high-echo, quiet) or restaurant (high-echo, noisy) that would COMPLETELY CHANGE the speaking tone a character should be using, even if it doesn’t change that actual volume.

  20. burningdragoon says:

    Josh is so concerned with getting every rune that he has skipped over the ones that you can find at the hideout.

  21. Taellosse says:

    Regarding the subject of your comment in this post, that’s actually what Cage was talking about (badly, certainly, but it was the point he was aiming for) when he was going on about graphics and emotion. I know you don’t need to have 10 billion polygons to convey emotion – cartoons were proving that decades before video games even existed – but in the case of a game whose visual aesthetic is aiming for realism, having hardware and software that’s capable of dynamically rendering facial expressions is a powerful tool for visual storytelling that has, for the most part, been missing from games to date. Admittedly, having the tool still requires that it be used effectively, and there are few games that are written well enough for it to make a difference, and also few that are utilizing the tricks of animation already available to them to effectively convey emotion and storytelling, either.

  22. Wuvly says:

    Any plans for playing Knife of Dunwall? I can confirm there will be even more thrilling interactions with the outsider! Unmissable……

  23. harborpirate says:

    The more I look at this problem, the more I’m convinced that facial expressions in many games need to be exaggerated in order for players to pick up on them.

    The Walking Dead is a great example of this; it has exaggerated expressions that are easy to read at a glance, and doesn’t muddle things with a lot of “in between” face states. (Watch how quickly the engine flips between facial states in a Spoiler Warning episode or on your next play through)

    Video games right now are like the early days of 3D animated movies and shows. Emotions with that tech have to be big to be seen. Sure, Pixar can do pretty subtle stuff now, but they’re doing pre-rendering with cutting edge tech, huge loads of horsepower, and dozens of passes to get it right.

    I suppose if every game used the facial capture tech of LA Noire, we could have all these really subtle emotions in games. But the cost associated with doing that is untenable for anything but the highest of high end games right now.

    Most developers, assuming they want characters to show emotion at all, should probably be treating video games much more like stage plays than like movies.

  24. Galad says:

    What happened on 21:10?

    Josh: Aside from maybe Sokolov
    Assassin underling(sounds like one of them): Sokolov? He’s not that interesting.

    1. anaphysik says:

      That “assassin underling” was Rutskarn. Maybe you’ve been watching too much Season 6.

  25. Astor says:

    What I thought would happen is that we would get attacked. Especially after visiting the room that’s crossing the street from the bar? Well, there’s a suspicious unopenable door there. “Oh jeez, I wonder *who* will escape through here when the Conspiracy gets attacked!” I thought smugly to myself.

    But yeah, the betrayal is languidly laying there in the back of your mind too. When they handed me the glass I jockingly thought to myself: “Ah, so *now* you’re gonna poison me!”, alas it was no joke.

    Also, that Emily looks up to Corvo is rather obvious, so I can somewhat buy the reason they ditch you is to be influential over the heir to the Throne! But then, I agree fully with Rutskarn: the problem with the betrayal’s justification is that you are just a mute henchman who does the bidding of all the conspirators. I wouldn’t feel threatened by a dog that solves all my problems for me and never dares question my commands!

    (Of course I would have made it so that Emily wasn’t so privy to the betrayal, that’s silly! I would’ve sent Corvo to one “last mission” and poison his mask, or prepare an ambush, or something enroute. All the while making sure she gets to see that Corvo is just doing bussiness as usual. Then, I would be all like “oh, my dear Emily, I’m *so* sorry! Oh, what’s that? hurryweneedtocrownyou! Oh, don’t worry, darling! I know I’m no Corvo, but I’ll try my best alongside auntie Callista and uncle Martin! You are not alone! Nowwhydontyousignthesedocumets? Yes, yes we’re really helping my- I mean our- I mean *your* Empire be a better place!”)

  26. tengokujin says:

    Speaking of fantastic facial animations paired with fantastic voice work, how about Elizabeth? Bioshock Infinite would not have been the same without her :p

    Mass Effect’s great voice work can occasionally clash with the banal facial animation, which is rather unfortunate. Thankfully, there are enough alien faces that we wouldn’t know how to interpret the facial animations for, so they hide that particular bit well.

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