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Videogame Actors Just Went On Strike!

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Arowx, Oct 23, 2016.

  1. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    Indeed. Note what I said earlier about how unions usually work, by facilitating a series of ongoing discussions. I think our viewpoint is skewed by the fact that we don't usually hear about unions until things go bad enough to warrant a strike.
     
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  2. dogzerx2

    dogzerx2

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    I fully agree. :-]
     
  3. ShilohGames

    ShilohGames

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    The US steel industry has been damaged more by competition from disruptive innovations from the bottom end of the market (like mini mills) than by unions, but I get what you are saying overall. I've have also been a business owner over the years. Even as a business owner, I still see that unions can be a very valuable thing for workers, though.
     
  4. goat

    goat

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    Well they ae overestimating their clout, but let them. The Autoworkers Union and plenty other unions have been made to feel the effect of too much greed on their part and in the gaming industry claiming you as a voice actor deserve what programmers and all other workers don't get is really shortsighted. There comes a point where you have enough and angling for someone else's innocently earned good fortune is pride and a sort of epidemic silly bitterness and envy against Bill Gates and other such people. If you aren't earning enough, well then, move on to another job. I did that when a union made it impossible for me to be scheduled for more that 16 hours in one work week. How did that union benefit it's workers? It was just a vehicle that served as a pyramid scheme for the union's 'leadership'.
     
  5. gian-reto-alig

    gian-reto-alig

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    I HOPE this means more and more games start abandoning voice acting and switch back to text in speech bubbles / boxes.

    Call me conservative, but I never had a problem actually READING text in games. I have a ton of problems with the average mediocre voice acting.
    Don't get me wrong, I do like the high quality examples, IF the animations can keep up with the quality. But we are talking big $$$ now... I rather see that $$$ invested in more game than more glitz during the cutscenes. These conversation cutscenes seldom improve the story for me. Bad bang for the bucks, so to speak.


    As to the voice actors. Its their damn right to go on strike. Just as it is the damn right of the game devs to not employ them anymore if they get their way.
    Sadly for them, they never got the status of some movie stars because their vocal cords.... well... are more replacable than the visual appearances of a star in a movie.
     
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  6. Ryiah

    Ryiah

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    Go play Twinsen's Odyssey. You'll be wishing for the average mediocre voice acting again. :p
     
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  7. MV10

    MV10

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    Now that you mention it, I always turn on subtitles, and if there is a consistent way to skip audio, I do so automatically as soon as I've read the subtitle... and here I was thinking I kind of liked good voice content. (I will add a mostly off-topic rant about Deus Ex using a font that is so small I feel like I need to hire an attorney just to be on the safe side.)
     
  8. Kiwasi

    Kiwasi

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    I have subtitles on too. But mostly because my kids are too noisy for me to catch all of the dialogue. Just as often I'll play games on silent to not interfere with their media.

    It's not my first choice, but it turns out that way more often then not.
     
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  9. MV10

    MV10

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    I'm also half-deaf (ok, not really, but definitely not 100%)... too many Judas Priest concerts in my formative hooligan years.

    Every time this thread pops up, I keep wondering what the first game was to hire an actual movie star to do voice work. I think I can safely say the first one that I remember was that forgettable Rockstar Games murder-mystery thing. Oh yeah, LA Noire (took me awhile to find it even with Google). But maybe I remember those because they also modeled the actors themselves (and did a pretty good job of it).

    Hmm, come to think of it, it's probably some TV-show or movie spinoff game.
     
  10. Kiwasi

    Kiwasi

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    When in doubt, Wikipedia.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Video_game_actors

    Apparently there have been actors desperate enough to risk there vocal cords in the dangerous work of making games since the early 90s
     
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  11. Ryiah

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    Oldest I remember with voice acting was Return to Zork. That game was positively evil with the way it approached mazes like just about every other Infocom game now that I think about it. Only one of them forced you to solve it in a traditional manner.

    One maze that frequently comes to mind involved riding a cart down a mineshaft. Our first successful attempt came from mapping it out the traditional way only to realize the NPCs standing outside the mine were giving the directions in their dialog.

    "How much illuminite do we have left? Right now we have plenty left! Where, I don't see it? Right over there to the left! *makes eating noises* Looks about right."

    Very crafty of them. We barely noticed it at all. :p
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2016
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  12. MV10

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    I don't think I ever got around to trying that one.

    Apparently Rockstar Games did a lot of this in GTA V. While looking up something else, I stumbled across some sort of years-long controversy ("Mystery of Mt. Chilliad" I think it's called) about all these clues hidden throughout the game. Some of the clues are buried in dialog, others are symbols, and written clues scattered throughout the game world. (I gather a lot of it only shows when you reach 100% completion and I've never had that kind of time or dedication.)
     
  13. angrypenguin

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    When I think of voice in games cutscenes are hardly the first or most major thing to come to mind.

    Try playing something like one of the Arkham Batman games and taking note of every sound you hear that's made by a human mouth. In the grand scheme of things very little of it comes from cutscenes.
     
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  14. dogzerx2

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    Some games can do without voice acting and others not so much. A game with fantastic audio in general is Alien: Isolation. Very immersive. Can't imagine that game without voice acting.Though in other cases, say a top down shooter, logically not everyone cares about voice acting, as the focus is on making things explode into pieces. Also other techniques such Nintendo style gibberish have their own appeal.
    So, when planning a game, and deciding you want to hire game actors, there's really no excuse not to meet their demands if they're reasonable. In OP's article they demand reasonable things such as knowing what motion capture actors are getting into before signing a contract.
     
  15. Deleted User

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    I did find the "risk" factor a little funny TBH, they should try singing in a metal band when recording an album for 12 hours a day over the course of two / three weeks.. It does get strenuous but I can't say I've ever caused damage and I've been doing it for years.

    Seems a matter of training more than anything else.
     
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  16. derf

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    I'll weigh in here.

    One of the things on their list of demands is a cut of the gross profits from sales both store and online. If they get this we could see the beginning of the end of some of the game studios out there.

    Reality is many games do not go on to earn Hollywood movie revenue in relation to their budgets or man hours put into it. Considering the amount of voice actors used in a game, who all want anywhere from 1% (common ones) to 5% (voice actor for protagonist or antagonist) of gross revenue each and after all overhead is deducted some game may end up in the red for some studios while others may see a drastic drop in final profits, but at last they get a profit; which could lead to less voice acting being used.
     
  17. ShilohGames

    ShilohGames

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    I agree regarding the revenue cuts. That union demand might drastically reduce the amount of voice acting required in some games in the future. It sounds like voice actors want to get the respect that Hollywood actors get, but games are different from movies.
     
  18. dogzerx2

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    The difference is that a Hollywood actor basically makes its entire self a brand.

    But you don't become a brand by demanding it from your contractors. Hollywood actors become a brand by exposing themselves (and by having great talent), their whole persona is known and recognized by the public. Even their personal life is under the spotlight. They gain and sacrifice a lot by accomplishing it, and live the pros and cons of being famous.

    That gives them a value that allows them to demand big paychecks, and sometimes even some weeeeird diva-like demands.

    I don't know if voice actors can do the same, by forcing it to happen. The problem is that, much like any other person working on a game, a voice actor is hidden, behind the game, and game character. So it's the game and game character that become a brand. Only way for anyone to become recognized above all that, would be to have a very unique style that is capable of generating a particular demand in the public, a recognizable art style that people would notice if it's gone or replaced.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2016
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  19. ShilohGames

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    One thing I am curious about are the typical terms for voice actors working on animated movies. Are voice actors getting a cut of revenues for animated movies?
     
  20. Aiursrage2k

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    Half of what made the arkham games great was they got Mark Hamil and Kevin Conroy.
     
  21. Murgilod

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    Yes. They also get cuts for ads, TV shows, and literally everything but videogames.
     
  22. Murgilod

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    They're asking for scale every 2,000,000, 4,000,000, 6,000,000, and 8,000,000 sales. Scale is $825. If your profit margins are so narrow that $825 is killing you dead after 2,000,000 sales, you've got some serious budgeting issues.
     
  23. tiggus

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    One of the first ones I remember *well* was Wing Commander. The Kilrathi still crack me up today if I hear that voice.
     
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  24. MV10

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    Curious where you saw that, it wasn't in the Wired article linked by the OP (it just mentions $825 is the 4-hour rate).
     
  25. Murgilod

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  26. dogzerx2

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    Are you saying Elijah Wood didn't get his cut for his LOTR games voice acting?

    When someone is in a real position to request cut revenues, they'll likely get that agreement. They don't go without professional advice in these matters, there's good money at stake.

    Now if I had a pretty good voice (which I don't, my voice is notoriously terrible) and hypothetically tomorrow I decide I want to make some money from that, I don't think I'd be in a position to ask for a lot of crazy things, other than a reasonable pay and the basics. A good voice actor DOES deserve to be paid well, obviously, that's only fair.

    Though the second thing you've posted about getting scales every 2,000,000, 4,000,000, and so on, doesn't sound extraordinary at all. In fact if the actor is good he could ask for a much more frequent scale, I think.
     
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  27. Murgilod

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    If he got residuals, they were negotiated as part of a contract that expands upon the standard SAG AFTRA terms. It's very likely, however, that he just got increased pay. There's no way to be sure without asking him or his agent and for obvious reasons they're going to be pretty cagey with that information.

    There is no "real position" to "request" revenue cuts because according to the union guidelines, as I said before, there are cuts available for literally everything but videogames. Revenue cuts are the norm, not the exception.

    Right now, voice actors get paid $825 per 4 hour session, with larger projects (and I'm going to the far upper end of the scale here) lasting maybe around four days. That's $3,300 for a few days work! Now, that seems like a lot until you realise that that doesn't include things like health insurance or retirement benefits. On top of that, there can be months between jobs because voice acting is a very competitive market. The reason things like scale exist is to establish a sort of minimum wage. It means that voice acting can be a viable profession even though the work isn't consistent. In spite of this, loads of voice actors still have to work second or even third jobs.
     
  28. neginfinity

    neginfinity

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    In 1990s and probably before that FMV intros were a thing.


    So, most likely around that time.

    Speaking of which, I'm quite certain that actress that voiced Apple's Siri didn't get any cut from sales.There was an article about that somewhere.
     
  29. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    If we look at this in the context of big movie stars getting residuals, sure. If we look at it in the context of the people who already get residuals or similar from their work in software or games... it really doesn't have to be that crazy. I know that residuals aren't exactly common but they can work, and they can be fair, and if handled properly they don't have to become a "thin-edge-of-the-wedge" risk.

    They can be handled like other bonus pools or residuals agreements. The points are that a) you wouldn't generally pay residuals until after you're well into profit territory and b) the amount of residuals shouldn't break your income. Also, for the sake of everyone else who works on a game, that wouldn't have to be limited to just the voice actors - and nor should it be!

    I think that the reason it's such a sticking point for everyone is the assumption that game actors expect the same type of residuals that high end film actors get. If that is the case then clearly it's unreasonable because they're not providing comparable value to back that, but is that really what they're asking for?

    On the note of silly demands, though, check these out (once again courtesy of Wil Wheaton's blog post):
    Note that the Chinese Whispers are strong, here - this is my copy from a blog post where someone's paraphrasing from a letter where their union described some demands to them. So from what we know it's hard to tell who, if anyone, is actually being unreasonable.
     
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  30. gian-reto-alig

    gian-reto-alig

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    Question is: is it really needed to enjoy the game? Games way back already had ingame voice overs. On the NES and SNES these sounded horrible, altough everyone was mightily impressed by the soundeffects of Street Fighter for example.

    Would Street Fighter have worked just as well without the gimmicky voice over soundeffects? Of course. I would have missed one gimmick to wow the players at the time. It would have made the matches hardly less intense and enjoyable.


    Does a Batman game need oneliners and more than just grunting and screaming? Maybe, if the goons do more than just stupid oneliners and actually communicate their AI decisions through voice output. But besides that, grunting and screaming would most probably work just as well.
    Some people might think "its cheap for an AAA game not to have voice acting" (while sometimes not even noticing when a game they play misses it). Most people simply wouldn't care.

    That is why I call it bad bang for the bucks, just as are overly cinematic cutscenes. Not because it doesn't matter at all in setting a tone, or making a game more immersive. It does matter. To some degree at least.
    But because a lot, sometimes MOST of the development budget of a game gets wasted on these things, often saving bucks where it really counts, the actual game.
    (And I am not even getting into how this fixation on cinematic effect makes some devs turn even a seemingly history oriented game into a B-Movie Flick, see the new Battlefield 1 Story campaign. As totalbiscuit says, "so much wasted potential"!)
     
  31. angrypenguin

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    Seriously, go play one of the Arkham games. It's not about cutscenes, and it's not about goons.

    On this note...
    ...precisely where do you think the grunting and screaming comes from?
     
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  32. neginfinity

    neginfinity

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    Yes, it is really needed.

    Try taking witcher 3 and then reimplement as a text adventure with no voice and visuals. See how that one goes.

    If anything, I think that quality voice acting (if it is used) and quality music is much more important than realistic graphics.

    Japanese actually take it very seriously, If you take something like Persona 4 or Way of Samurai games, they tend to hire professional grade actors to voice dialogues. It pays off very well.

    For non-japanese games, take a look at Bastion or Transistor. Narrator there is a key element in the story/gameplay.
     
  33. Ryiah

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    Borderlands 2 is a good example too. Most of the enjoyment comes from listening to the NPCs.
     
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  34. gian-reto-alig

    gian-reto-alig

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    I beg to differ. Well, maybe not in case of the Witcher, which is quite dialog heavy. I think RPGs did just fine when they were text only, and would still do fine without voice over or lip-sync or all that.
    Sure, when your game has become so photorealistic and over the top AAA-A that text would somehow look weird among all the shiny graphics, people start to expect it. And yes, the chattering in the background modern games do a lot is actually not possible with text only.

    That affects SOME games. Some would do just fine without. Especially Borderlands. Is some of the wacky dialog and oneliners adding to the immersion and tone? Yes! Would the game suffer a lot without it? No, I don't think so. The big point in Borderlands is gun porn, collecting, and shooting stuff. Story is still a second thought.
    Not to mention that I didn't enjoy the BL2 story too much, whereas I loved the BL1 story. BL2 just tried to hard and took itself to serious at parts, no matter how cool the antagonist was. But that is besides the point.
     
  35. angrypenguin

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    The first "SOME" there covers a heck of a lot of today's high budget and/or big IP games.

    Sticking to Batman, since I already mentioned it, voice is used in loads of places to set scenes, characterise areas, introduce puzzles/gadgets/scenarios, provide context, and to present various characters. Plenty of the banter from "goons" is also used to expand on characterisation, fill in back story, drop hints, and other things.

    Yes, if the game was made 20 years ago or on a smaller budget it could have been designed around text instead, but that would necessitate significant design changes across the game - not just swapping some audio files for text popups.
     
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  36. neginfinity

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    No, that doesn't fly.

    Narrator does not cost hundred million usd, and voice acting applies to significantly wider variety of games than "AAA" quality. It is one component that is relatively inexpensive (compared to GTA-level development) and can breathe life into your game IF it is done right. In order to be done right, it requires a high quality actor. Without a good actor one messup can ruin the magic.

    The whole visual novel genre is built around voice acting. Because you'd have static pictures and text, music and voice acting is what makes everything look alive in this case.

    If anything, I'd say that voice acting seems to be undervalued in a lot of western games. American voice acting for non-american games tend to be atrociously bad.

    Should I remind you that nowadays gamers tend to demand voice acting? A lot of shadowrun reviews were basically saying "It haz too many letterz".
     
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  37. MV10

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    I have read that major productions usually have terms that require a certain amount of participation in derivative products of all kinds. Just like they're contractually obligated to go to conventions, for example. So that's kind of a different situation altogether.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2016
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