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The Sound of Skyrim

By Shamus
on Tuesday Nov 8, 2011
Filed under:
Video Games


I’ve always said that one of the most unhealthy things about videogame journalism is the fixation on previews. Critics are always gazing at stuff on the horizon, furiously plowing through current releases, and rarely looking back. This means there is very little thoughtful analysis, and a great deal of hype-mongering. (After all, in a preview you can comment on what marketing chooses to show you.) I’ve always tried to avoid doing a lot of previews on my site, for this very reason. However, I hope you will forgive me for doing another preview today. I’ll try to make up for it by combining it with analysis of Oblivion.

Bethesda has put out a promotional video, showing off the Sounds of Skyrim. Let’s have a look:

Link (YouTube)

The first half of this video shows off the epic environmental music. It’s very impressive, but I’m sure I’ll shut it off after an hour. After a while it feels sort of silly wandering around lost, shopping for gear, and sorting inventory with something akin to Flight of the Valkyries is swelling in the background. The problem with epic music is that most moments aren’t epic.

Still, that music is incredible. The fact that it makes sense in a made-up language and also rhymes is also really cool.

Timestamp 3:23: One of the big complaints with previous Elder Scrolls games is that their characters are robotic and dead-eyed. It looks like they will not fix this problem in Skyrim, but they are taking some steps in the right direction. This character is folding her arms and moving about as she delivers her dialog. The guy at 3:57 looks even better.

One of the things that messes this up is that the voice acting is so tremendous. Check out the side-by-side of Christopher Plummer at 6:32. That guy is delivering his lines masterfully. You can close your eyes and feel the weight of his performance. Then you look at his character on the right and the whole thing suddenly comes off as kind of wooden because his in-game character just doesn’t seem to be into it.

Just a bit of facial emotion would help a lot in situations like these, along with some eye and head movement. It’s just a bit strange to have everyone lock eyes with you and stare throughout the entire conversation. Have them look down when they’re reflecting on the past, to the side when they’re being evasive or sly, and up when they’re trying to remember. Just an occasional bit of movement can help a lot.

Another possible route is to take the Ubisoft / Bioware shortcut of moving the camera to third-person and AWAY from the faces of the characters. Then we can focus on body language instead of facial expressions. Assassin’s Creed 1 and 2 features a lot of deadpan performances, but we don’t notice because the characters are walking around and the camera is a couple of meters away. The Bethesda method of FOCUSING on faces only highlights the weakest aspect of the entire scene. Dead Island had the same problem. (Yes, you could go the LA Noire route and try to face capture everyone, but that’s still an expensive new technology. I don’t expect to see that enter common use for quite some time, and it might never be feasible for a game with a huge cast like Skyrim. I’d much rather solve a problem with tricks and shortcuts than throw money and technology at it.)

Timestamp 3:33: So the camera switches to third-person when you do a stealth kill? I guess that’s the thing now. (Deus Ex: Human Revolution did the same thing.) I wonder is this only happens in certain scripted places, or if this is how all stealth kills will work. If it’s still possible to enchant yourself a 100% invisible suit, then I could see this getting to be a little tedious. If these moments aren’t scripted, then I wonder how they’re solving the problem of camera position. It’s hard for the AI to know where to put a “cinematic” camera when clutter, shelving, walls, or other characters might be standing in the way or moving through the shot.

Timestamp 4:20: 70 actors for 100 roles? That’s really amazing. The first number has increased by an order of magnitude. However, that second number sounds kind of low for an Elder Scrolls game. I know Morrowwind and Oblivion had thousands of characters. However, he might mean “characters with whom you have meaningful interactions”. That is: Not generic street traffic. I like this approach.

Timestamp 4:30: Three voice studios working at the same time? Amazing. I would LOVE to see the budget breakdown of a AAA game these days. Just a simple bar graph of how much money was spent on textures, animations, writing, voice, music, environments, and programming.

Comments (215)

  1. Mark says:

    I do recall Morrowind and Oblivion having some nice low-key tracks more suitable for unloading your inventory or trudging down the road.

    • Nyctef says:

      Judging by the demo ( http://youtu.be/imH4Ncoe9Gs?t=31s ) there’s going to be plenty of background ambient music, which is good.

      Re: 3:33 There are some examples of first-person killing blows (like http://youtu.be/En3jCg7KYjs?t=1m11s ). Hopefully it’ll be a setting.

    • ENC says:

      I agree, they are appropriate tracks for the boring parts of adventuring that books also highlight.

      Also, like to note that lots of animations can severely bloat filesize like for LA Noire. Even without their faces in the mix as their bodies are continuously moving.

      The music doesn’t seem to make much sense in real life history but it is a videogame, they can just throw random genres together! TBH the closest thing historically I can think of is Reformation music, which makes absolutely no sense in a tribal setting, when this is supposed to be like a medieval/renaissance setting which was pretty much pure vocals, maybe the occasional lute/flute/organ accompaniment.

  2. cyber_andyy says:

    Sounds good. Also can’t believe how creepy the NPC’s still look.

    And, wheres fenix when you need him?

    • rofltehcat says:

      Always reminds me of dolls. If a doll is staring at me nonstop, I get a bit creeped out. Making those dolls look extremely realistic doesn’t exactly help.

      At least they are moving their body a bit.

      • Aitch says:

        Yeah, small amounts of motion can really add a lot to the depth and believability of what’s being said… if it’s done right. But at about 3:25, watch the lady – her head speaks while her body breathes out of sync. It looks absolutely absurd to me, not to mention those emotionless eyes. Sure, there’s a slight brow raise every few seconds, but it lacks context. Her eyebrows should raise when she asks the question, not every two seconds just for the fact that her mouth is moving. It’s creepy. It’s lazy. It’s boring. And worst of all it distracts from any emotional punctuation the voice actor actually manages to convey.

        Also, at about 3:40 – that voice acting between the two guys is just terrible. It’s written awkwardly and performed stiff and stilted. Like the actors were given no context whatsoever and no opportunity to hear the person they were supposed to be talking to. I’m not sure what to call it- emphasis? emotional context? pitch and tone? Either way, it just doesn’t seem like it matches up.

        Just my opinion, of course. But from seeing just this one short video I know that I will never ever buy this game. There’s no way I could be forced to care about any quest, no matter how awesome, given to me in such a bizarre fashion in a world that seems dreamed up and written by a 10 year old. And the creators seem kinda… douchey to me. No way am I giving people like that any of my money if I have any choice about it.

        On the plus side, they do employ a lot of artists. So there is that, although it seems sort of like hiring Michelangelo to fill in a third rate coloring book…

        I really worry that I’m just getting too old and bitter for video games anymore.

        • krellen says:

          I was just telling me friends a couple weeks ago that I was too old for video games. You’d think those of us that grew up with them would be making them now – and that the games we were making would also appeal to us. But apparently not.

        • Klay F. says:

          When you are vowing to not buy a game because of how character animations look then I might say that yes, you are much too bitter to be playing videogames. I remember the first time I tried to play Deus Ex after missing it when it came out and getting turned off because it looked like shit. I got called all sorts of names.

          But it apparently okay to shit all over a game that isn’t even out yet because of some issues animating the human body which will most likely never actually be perfected in any of our lifetimes.

          I don’t understand the double standard is all.

          • Audacity says:

            It’s not a double standard. Though I agree rejecting a game purely because the animations are wonky is stupid. (Most of my favorites have sub-par animation, like Alpha Protocol.)

            However, there is a difference between rejecting an older game, that looked amazing in its day, because the visuals aren’t up to modern standards, and rejecting a modern game, with a budget many 100s of millions larger, because its visuals aren’t anywhere close to its contemporaries. Again I think doing either is silly, but the latter criticism makes sense.

            • Soylent Dave says:

              Both criticisms have merit – and both are judging the game on its appearance.

              Someone approaching Deus Ex now will be comparing it to games that are available NOW – you can’t unremember that games look better.

              Just like you can’t unremember LA Noire when you’re looking at Skyrim.

              It might be unfashionable in game critique circles to judge a game by how it looks, but lets not start pretending that we don’t ALL do it, to some degree. It’s usually possible to get past graphical issues if the gameplay is good enough (whereas good graphics don’t make up for a shit game), which is why we like to insist that good graphics don’t matter.

              But they do – it’s our first impression of the game.

  3. UtopiaV1 says:

    “I'd much rather solve a problem with tricks and shortcuts than throw money and technology at it.”

    Hello, this is Activision/Blizzard? We’re giving you a callback on the job interview, and we’re happy to say you are EXACTLY what we’re looking for! :)

    Just joking. Everything aside, this game is shaping up to be something special. Oblivion was a pile of fun and a great game… so long as you mod it up to the high hills! This game will hopefully provide a better experience without having to wait months for a decent mod or 20 to come out, to fix all the little niggles.

    Barbarian choir sounds very similar to the Bulgarian monks used for Halo, but I do prefer the Eldar Scrolls theme, not quite as overdone. Male choir does seem to be a bit of a sure-fire method for making you music carry dramatic weight, which is both good and bad. Good as it does give the music a great deal of pomp and emotion, but bad because it’s been done so many times before, and it is a bit of a shortcut.

    Still looking forward to this game. Can’t be bad now they’ve got Mr Plummer and Joan Allen!

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      Mods are part of my problem, I carelessly allowed myself to get slightly caught up in the hype surrounding Skyrim, I do not expect it to be a revolution towards Morrowind or Oblivion but I do feel the urge to play a game based around similar ideas again. That said I only played those two a good while after they were released (in fact a good while after the expansions were released as well), had a ton of mods both for quests and mechanics (not really a great fan of the basic levelling mechanics for this engine) and I have a deep dislike of replaying games. So I’m torn between wanting to play this game soon after it’s released or waiting for some mods, and possibly expansions, to come out.

  4. 4th Dimension says:

    They don’t even need special gesticulation animators. Simply look at how the actor is gesticulating and copy that.

  5. Zukhramm says:

    Not to diminish the performance of the “barbarian quire” but it seems like with every game they manage to make the theme sound more and more boring.

    • Simon says:

      Are you serious?

      Hearing the theme in the first preview I watched gave me chills, it sounds amazing.

      But to each there own I guess.

      • ccesarano says:

        This is the first time the theme was able to stick in my head, actually. I love it. Sounds very Riddle of Steel, Riders of Doom.

      • Eärlindor says:

        I love the Skyrim theme as well. I love the whole “viking choir” feel, and I think it’s even cooler that it rhymes and makes sense in both languages. It actually boggles me a little as it seems like one of those things which is usually not possible between languages; I honestly suspect that the dragon language’s structure is very similar to that of English. A linguist may feel free to enlighten me. :)

        Anyway, I like this video. The beginning with the choir and the whole language thing is my favorite part. I’m glad Shamus brought this up.

        • Simon says:

          When you get to make up one of the languages yourself though, it’s not that hard. Just make sure that all words that end the same in English also end the same in Dragon, and you could also make all the words have the same number of syllables in both languages (and the Dragon language isn’t a real language with complete grammar like Tolkien’s Elven language)

          However, they’ve also translated all the songs bards sing in the game to French, Spanish, German, Italian and Japanese. That’s certainly a feat.

          The Japanese version of a song you got to hear on the Bethesda Podcast did not sound very good though. The problem is that there is a huge difference in the number of syllables English and Japanese use to convey the same information. English is one of the densest languages when it comes to information per syllable, while Japanese is one of the loosest (the information per minute is the same though, as Japanese can and is spoken at a much higher tempo).

          • TSED says:

            The dragon language could be like Italian, where 60% of the words rhyme with each other anyway.

            Or, the guy who did it could have been a translating genius. Occasionally you get those translations that are incredibly well done and they change the sentence structure around a little bit to keep rhymes, etc. etc. They’re VERY rare but I’ve seen a couple of them in my life.

    • Groboclown says:

      To me, the “barbarian” style tried to imitate a bit of Basil Poledouris, but ended up sounding like a pirate theme.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “The problem with epic music is that most moments aren't epic.”

    What are you talking about?Every moment is epic if you put epic music over it.Observe.

  7. Robyrt says:

    I think the voice acting / animation problem is an Uncanny Valley thing. The voices in Dark Souls sound fine, even though there is no animation attached to them whatsoever, precisely because this makes you work your imagination instead. Whatever awful shrug animation they would program isn’t as good as the one you are thinking of when you listen to a vocal performance.

    • Hal says:

      Oof, it feels like that is getting worse these days, not better.

      I played Deus Ex 3 last night for the first time, and it was the very first thing I noticed. When the NPCs talk, their mouths move, their eyes might dart about, but no other part of their face moves. It is distinctly unsettling. It’s like their jaws are unhinged or something.

      Incidentally, is there any Deus Ex discussion waiting to be written, Shamus, or did I just miss it completely?

      • Raygereio says:

        Oof, it feels like that is getting worse these days, not better.

        Me thinks that’s mainly due to the faces in games getting more and more realistic so it’s basically the uncanny valley syndrom at work. If the face is really cartoony or stylized it wont bother most people when the animations aren’t realistic.
        But with faces that look pretty lifelike small problems in the animation look huge.

        Also for me DX3’s bigger problem animation-wise is the jitteriness of a lot of NPCs as they talk. Sometimes NPC’s have pretty okay to more then decent animations – especially during the social battles, but at other time it looks like the NPC is suffering from parkinson’s disease. The inconsistency is really odd to me.

        • ps238principal says:

          I’d contrast that notion with Half Life 2. They manage to incorporate decent body language and facial work that isn’t disturbing.

          Either they’re concentrating on the wrong things, or they need a new “director” or whatever you call the guy they have who apparently thinks the pinnacle of human simulation was “Thunderbirds.”

        • BeardedDork says:

          This problem made the new Tron movie unwatchable for me. I hated young Jeff bridges and Clu so much.

      • Shamus says:

        We’re discussing the possibility of doing DE3 for Spoiler Warning. If we do that, I’ll probably save it for the commentary. If not, I’ll probably write it down. I might even do both, but I’m waiting to see how things go with Spoiler Warning first.

        • 4th Dimension says:

          So you are dropping Assassins Creed?

          • ps238principal says:

            Is there really a need to do more?

            I’d almost favor jumping (with or without rooftops) to the key plot point scenes, or maybe even the ending, just to get it over with. This isn’t to complain about the Spoiler Warning crew, it’s just that there doesn’t seem to be much meat left to chew on.

            I think it highlights how RPG-style games (Fallout, Mass Effect) are easier to critique because there’s more of an ongoing story with less button-mashing in between, and you can avoid parts of the content if you so choose.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Nah,its because they didnt properly finish the game before doing the show.Which is also a good reason for going on to deus ex.

              • Sleeping Dragon says:

                I dunno, I’d be sorry to see the season end without finishing the game (unless something really hilarious happened, like the game bugging out and making the main quest impossible or corrupting savegames after many hours of gameplay… bet that would raise an interesting commentary, especially if it was a bug first reported 4 years ago and still not fixed…), it would feel kinda disappointing in the “gave up” way.

                That said, the fact that only a small part of the team played the game in earnest IS a bit damaging to this season. Rutskarn’s reactions to ME2 stupidity were precious (especially during the finale) so A person who hasn’t played a game may do a season a lot of good but 3 people… not so much.

            • 4th Dimension says:

              The biggest problem is that without background conspiracy things that are gotten via Glyphs, AC2 is a relatively simple Roaring Rampage of Revenge in an cool setting. And since the crew won’t be doing those, and Mumbles and Ruts haven’t played/finished it, there are problems. But I still would like them to finish this thing.

          • Josh says:

            Let’s just say that dropping AC2 is on the table. We’re not there yet though, and even if we do get there, we probably won’t drop the whole series cold without skipping to a few good parts and the end or something like that.

      • webrunner says:

        The thing I notice about Deus Ex is how everyone won’t sit still while they’re talking, waving their heads about like they’re suffering from a concussion. It’s like Jensen downed a gallon of coffee before leaving the office every time.

      • Eruanno says:

        That’s interesting, because I think the third-person conversations look like complete crap in DX:HR, but the first-person ones (where you talk to important characters like Hugh Darrow or David Sarif) are pretty well-animated. Which is the complete OPPOSITE of the problem Shamus described above. Hmmm…

        (I suspect they added more detail to the first-person conversations, though, to highlight that “this guy is important”.)

  8. Naota says:

    “Three voice studios working at the same time? Amazing. I would LOVE to see the budget breakdown of a AAA game these days. Just a simple bar graph of how much money was spent on textures, animations, writing, voice, music, environments, and programming.”

    You and me both. I think it’s a safe bet to guess where it probably isn’t being spent though. It figures that I write my blog post complaining about absurd budget wars in the games industry costing us fun mechanics within hours of a prime example I could have used for it going up here :P.

    Incidentally, whatever happened to games using text to convey interesting and well-constructed prose? Pun (?) completely unintended, but I’ve always found those errant in-character journals and notes to be infinitely better written than most voiced dialogue. Hell, even textual character dialogue often reads better (ugh, I did it again) than the voice-acted equivalents in modern games.

    • Someone says:

      Oblivion had many problems, but the lack of in-game texts was not one of them.

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      Also, much, much easier to mod. With everything being voiceacted there will either be huge visible seams where the modded content starts (if it’s not voiced it’s from a mod) or the modder needs to include this bit as well. Amateur voice acting is mostly horrible and it’s impossible to get pros without a budget in your free time. I even remember that one game (I think it was either FO3 or Oblivion) had this thing when it timed how long the text was on screen to how long the soundfile for it was playing. Someone did figure it was possible to “trick” the game into playing a silent file in all instances where it could find none but until then it was pretty much impossible to run a mod with new text added as the entire dialogue was gone within milliseconds.

      • Tizzy says:

        Huh. You mean that, if it wasn’t for that text timing issues, someone would have been able to make FO3 into a logical, well-plotted gripping story that’s a treat for players. We can’t possible have modders do that!

        • Sleeping Dragon says:

          Well, possibly not FO3 main storyline itself, I haven’t seen a mod actually attempt to fill the plotholes or change the main questline dialogue so motivations make sense. There ARE some good quest mod for FO3 thought, in fact I’d risk saying that there may be more than there are for FO:NV (again, talking about mods with plot, there is a ton of tweaking and new items and such). Could be because of the time difference since the release but I’d risk saying that a lot of modders “spent” their storylines on FO3.

          Oh, and whichever game that was I do believe the timing issue was solved by using a silent “dummy” file, apparently the game could be told to just call on this in all cases, or did this by default once said file was provided, or something, and I think there was no need to do it for each mod separately or manually so there was just one simple fixmod.

      • Exetera says:

        I dunno, The Stanley Parable was professionally voiced. I don’t know how much money was spent but I can’t see there having been a huge budget…

  9. Rack says:

    I can’t imagine they’ll allow you to become perma-invisible, as I understand it spellcrafting is out and these guys have learned a whole lot since Oblivion. As for the music I’m hoping they’ll stick to understated stuff 99% of the time then pump up the epic occasionally to exciting moments.

    • Ringwraith says:

      Game are pretty good at dynamic music now, changing as the situation unfolding in the game does to best suit it.
      Even RTSs have this by now, like Red Alert 3.

      • Naota says:

        Even the original Syndicate had two adaptive tracks for combat and the inevitable pre-combat urban lurking it was so famous for. I can only imagine Skyrim does the same… although I do wonder exactly how much choir we’re going to be getting this time around.

        Ah well, at least it can’t be as bad as the painfully generic Dragon Age combat music. That infernal score was already so absolutely generic that it hurt to listen to, but they had the additional audacity to have used the exact same track in Neverwinter Nights and NWN2 as well. Why must every fantasy game sound exactly the same? Wouldn’t actual medieval music be a nice change of pace now and again?

        • TSED says:

          No, please no. Medieval music is not something I am a fan of, and my personal music preferences range from death metal to swing jazz to Aqua to ambient post rock.

          I can’t imagine the general populous enjoying that soundtrack, either, though I will point out the only thing close to “popular” in my tastes there is Aqua. (No R&B, no country, no -core, no pop punk, pop in general’s pretty awful, etc.)

          • Zukhramm says:

            I just want a fantasy RPG with a jazz soundtrack. Is that too much to ask for?!

            • Naota says:

              I’d gladly take some classy jazz music over yet another “fantasy” themed orchestral score. That does beg the question of combat music however. Does combat jazz work?

              I believe this requires my immediate investigation.

              • TSED says:

                I’ll save you some time:


              • tengokujin says:

                Maybe combat swing?

              • Ringwraith says:

                I know some JRPGs with some rather unusual soundtracks, like a wild west theme (which also dips into strange things at times like techno-violins or bizzarely, this, with no warning, although it fits the character in question perfectly). Also, who knew ominous latin chanting went so well with jazz?
                Drawing upon the ever mad world of Disgaea yields some more unusual battle tracks as well, that’s not even counting when they break out the guitars or when they decide to do actual songs, (although being in Japanese I have no idea what it’s on about excatly, although there’s a jazz song or two in there as well.

                You could also just play the recent Fallout games with their ever-present radio stations for Jazz specifically, although that’s not really the fantasy setting intended.

                *stops with the link spam now, as it’s triggering the filter*

              • rofltehcat says:

                Hm… I liked how they used Jazz in some fights in the anime series Cowboy Bebop.
                I could see myself playing a roleplaying game with jazz. Maybe something in a steampunk-setting?

              • Jakale says:

                I refer you to at around the 3 minute mark.

                I would say that if it shows up it should try to fit and make sense in context, which a game with a jazz soundtrack probably would. As entertaining as the music for the first part of in the 4th Star Ocean was, it was more that it came out of nowhere and was surprising to hear in a boss fight than that it was right for the scene, as you can understand from the music that follows the fight(2:35).<

              • Eärlindor says:

                Yeah, I don’t know. None of this music sounds fitting for a fantasy/medieval setting. I’m not a fan of using more modern pieces for older settings, it completely breaks immersion for me.
                While I would like to see fewer “epic” fantasy soundtracks, I’d prefer it was kept to said medieval/fantasy roots.

                • Zukhramm says:

                  The fact that is seems completely unfitting is why I want to see it. I like unfitting, sometimes.

                  On immersion I will not comment because I’ve never seen it done.

                • Naota says:

                  That was sort of my point with the medieval music suggestion. “Fantasy” orchestral music bugs me immensely because it has nothing more to do with fantasy than any other genre… it’s just the one they chose for a handful of fledgling fantasy IP’s when the idea first hit it big with film and video games. If those first few producers had a thing for smooth jazz, I’d be willing to bet that everyone would consider smooth jazz to be the natural choice for fantasy-themed music.

                  “An orchestra? For a fantasy game? That wouldn’t fit at all! The hell are you smoking?”

                  Medieval-inspired music at least has the benefit of being from a time period upon which the setting is based. It’s worked wonderfully where I’ve seen, though obviously not everyone enjoys it (a fact true of any good music).

                  • Eärlindor says:

                    Haha, orchestras are actually one of those things I don’t really think about and are the exception to my rule (thus revealing a personal bias). I love orchestras and all the different things going on inside one to deliver an overall experience. For me, an orchestra works for most things; but by golly, if I hear so much as an electric guitar while a knight rides on horseback, I rage.

                    Though none of this means I wouldn’t want to hear more appropriate instruments for the period.

              • Kayle says:

                Think Cowboy Bebop…

            • Zukhramm says:

              In reply to all the three posters above. Not that your examples are not nice but what I want to see is a game, not with a setting “fitting” the music but rather just a normal “generic/classic” fantasy setting that just has a jazz soundtrack.

        • Eärlindor says:

          Ah well, at least it can't be as bad as the painfully generic Dragon Age combat music. That infernal score was already so absolutely generic that it hurt to listen to, but they had the additional audacity to have used the exact same track in Neverwinter Nights and NWN2 as well. Why must every fantasy game sound exactly the same? Wouldn't actual medieval music be a nice change of pace now and again?

          There is an RPG coming out next year, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, which claims to be taking care of this problem–doing away with the epic, sweeping fantasy soundtracks, though still keeping to fantasy/medieval roots. It’s spearheaded by ex-baseball player Curt Schilling, RA Salvatore, and Todd McFarlane. I think it was Salvatore who recommended getting rid of the sweeping soundtrack, but I don’t remember.

          Anyway, that’s looking like a pretty cool game.

    • Destrustor says:

      Wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait WHAT??? No spellcrafting??? If this is true, the series is DEAD TO ME.

  10. According to the 20 minutes gameplay trailer, the game switch to 3rd person during the finish move when you kill a dragon, wich by the way looks a lot like Dragon Age’s Origins’ finish move…

    What I’d like to know is if they’ll throw the same money to hire as many actors for the dubbing in other countries ’cause most of RPG games at least in France do not keep the original language… And it’s a real pain in the ass since the same actors are hired for Bethesda games and Bioware games… I’d love RPG games to take the Rockstar way, keeping the original language but using subtitles in the local language…

    Anyway, I’m really excited for Skyrim !

    PS : I don’t know if you guys got to see the beta gameplay videos of Mass Effect 3 on Youtube before it got taken down but I noticed that Male Shepard’s voice actor slipped into his canadian accent quite a lot, there’s especially an awesome “a-boot” at some point… Having never played the english version of the Mass Effect series I don’t know if that happened in the previous games but I imagine that must be really disturbing when it happens :D

    • TSED says:

      Mark’s from Alberta. We here in Alberta do NOT say “a-boot.” Ever. It’s like expecting someone from New York City to have the southern twang of Arkansaw or something. Just because it’s the same country doesn’t mean that the accents will remain the same – I mean, jeez, look at how many English accents are in England, and then look at how Alberta is a bigger *province* than the entire country of France.

      Now to try to impress some of the scale at work here: AB: 642,317 km2. Metropolitan France: 551,695 km2. Time taken to drive from capital city of AB to capital city of Newfoundland (where that accent is from): 3 days 6 hours, nonstop. Time taken to drive from Paris, France to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan: 3 days 4 hours. Of COURSE the accents are going to be different given that much geological and historical difference. I mean, do you think you could even understand the average Ashgabatian?

      Manshep’s “aboot” must be a joke.

      EDIT: I’m not being hostile, or anything, merely going “I don’t think so…” I tend to be abrasive and confrontational in my writing; sorry for that.

      • Zukhramm says:

        You start by saying no one says it “Ever.”, yet follow up with an argument about how great these things can vary over great distances.

        • TSED says:

          Yeah. Funny thing is, Alberta’s in one of the largest regional accents in the world. The region, if my hazy memory of the wikipedia article is correct (and the wikipedia article was correct as well) is roughly the size of Europe itself.

          The reason for that being that the North American prairies have basically the same history across all of it. “Let’s go west and become farmers or something!”

          And fine, fine. I know a lot of those maritimers have moved to Alberta, so I GUESS they could say it if they retain their accent. In my anecdotal experience, they drop that accent FAST because, well, Alberta’s kind of an awful place and will not hesitate to discriminate against you for being a “newfy”. But, to my knowledge, Mark Meer is born and raised in Edmonton. Please correct me if I’m mistaken.

          • Zukhramm says:

            Maybe his parents were just weird?

            Also, Europe is not that small. Albert is maybe a tenth of it.

            • TSED says:

              No, but this accent extends past Manitoba and deep into the States. North America is definitely a bigger continent than Europe, which is actually kind of a tiny continent. Well, depending on where you make that Asia break (and if you just go with Eurasia, yeah, you win).

              • Zukhramm says:

                The only reason Europe is considered a continent is because we want to feel important.

              • BeardedDork says:

                I don’t know about this whole deep into the States thing. Alberta is completely bordered to the south by Montana, where I was born, raised, and currently live. Montana is the fourth largest state in the union being just slightly smaller than California, we have four or five (at least) distinct accents here, with the greatest variation occurring along the Canadian border.

      • Naota says:

        Do excuse the abysmal onomatopoeia, but more likely it’s just an “abouwt” rather than the typical American “abauwt”. They seem sensitive to this distinction, though in practice I can’t tell any difference between the two when hearing them aloud.

        Of course, I do live in Toronto myself.

        • Sooo… Can you tell us what this “aboot” is all… about ? :)

          Edit : It was meant for TSED…

          • TSED says:

            As far as I can tell, some people spoke French, and then a few hundred years ago England won a war, and was all “give us Canada, yo” and France was all “eh, k”, and then English sort of became more and more internationally dominant, and somehow some of the people on the Eastern shore of Canada stopped speaking French for some reason I don’t know about, and started speaking English, but they never spoke the Queen’s English because they were native french speakers and no one really corrected them on their pronounciation.

            Or something?

        • Zukhramm says:

          I guess that explains why I’ve never heard it.

      • tengokujin says:

        Hey, someone from New York City *could* have an Arkansas twang.

        Not very likely, but there’s still the possibility!

        • Nick Bell says:

          Exactly. I have a close friend here in Michigan who has a delicious Texas drawl. People move all over the place. Accents tend to fade a bit, but not for everyone.

          Family makes a difference too. I speak with a Upper Peninsula “Yooper” accent, despite living in the lower mitten my entire life. My mom, born and raised in the UP, definitely affected my speech patterns.

          • swenson says:

            Yooper accents are fun. I only wish mine was better… I’m also from the LP, but I’ve been to the UP quite a few times, yet I still can’t quite manage it!

            I’m told I have a bit of an accent different from people in my area, though. My mom’s from Lansing area and I talk like her, while my dad’s from the Saginaw area, and my sister talks like him. Apparently my mom and I talk slightly differently. Accents are funny things!

          • TSED says:

            I’ve read more than once that children being raised in an area tend to drop their parents’ accent and pick up the one from their surrounding peers. I suppose that was more aimed at English as a second language parents / native tongue English children, though.

            Also: man, I’m really starting to feel bad about where I live. Most(English speaking) people drop their accent within 2 months of being here. And I’ve been asked a few times in my life by strangers where I’m from, because I have “an accent.” Turns out speaking with proper grammar and enunciation ostracizes me.

      • Simulated Knave says:

        People in Newfoundland don’t say aboot, either. They say abowt.

        • TSED says:

          My bad. Where is the aboot from them? Us Albertans know pretty much nothing about the maritimes – honestly, the only things I’ve learned about them were from CREATIVE WRITING CLASSES! Short story analysis is one of my biggest educational sources on the east side of Canada.

      • Soylent Dave says:

        Accents aren’t developed by geographical distance, they’re developed when populations are isolated from each other for enough generations to develop a distinct way of speaking.

        Measuring the distance between places isn’t a reliable way to determine how different an accent is – Manchester is 20 miles from Liverpool, we have markedly different, stereotypical, easily mimicked, accents. 20 miles isn’t far now, but it used to be).

        I’m only 200 miles from London, where people have difficulty understanding what I say (because they talk wrong, obviously). There are lots of silly accents in between and further afield in each direction. Most of Europe works like this.

        Canada is both sparsely populated and hasn’t been settled for very long – this is why England – and Europe – gets to have scores of accents in a tiny area, and Canada doesn’t.

        (the fact that radio and TV were invented not that long (in terms of generations) after North America was settled has probably hindered the development of accents, too)

  11. Airsoftslayer says:

    Hopefully the ‘third person death animations’ which also occur in normal combat, will use an improved ‘v.a.t.s’ system

  12. TSED says:

    This kind of reminds me of EverQuest – The Shadows of Luclin. It was an expansion pack where they hired professional linguists to construct a new language from the ground up. Where ever that language was used it felt incredibly appropriate, but it usually didn’t detract if you had no interest in it (there were a few books and whatnot written entirely in it, and someone had to become fluent enough to translate these books in order for the sense to be made).

    Unfortunately, that language was to this weird specific-Goddess-made species that was definitely in their twilight (heh, pun for you other EQers-or-exEQers), and had made a huge experimental step in game design for MMOs. Keep in mind this was many years ago, so the experiment of “let’s make everything have low dps output and ridiculous hp” hadn’t really been explored in anything yet.

    Yeahhhh. Game design was bad, but the actual lore was amazing. And the graphics for the time? Also amazing. It was beyond incredibly awesome, especially to a 12-14ish year old.

  13. Nick C says:

    To be clear, the “face zooming” of Oblivion and Fallout has been completely removed. NPCs will now continue to do whatever they were doing while talking. The examples in the video aren’t very good at showing it, because those characters are already standing right in front of you. Check out the 3 part 20 minute gameplay trailer released earlier this year to see what I mean.

    Additionally, the soundtrack has a LOT more music, and will queue when appropriate, such as where you are located, the scenery, if in town and a dungeon. It won’t be “always on, always epic, all the time” like Morrowind and Oblivion.

  14. Sam Crisp says:

    Irrational have just put out a video on the voice acting for Bioshock Infinite, too. It’s not entirely the same sort of game, so it is feasible for them to have the two main characters of the game in the recording studios at the same time, interacting with one another.

    But it suffers from the exact same thing mentioned in this article. When you watch the footage of the voice actors playing their lines, it is incredibly touching and powerful. When that same audio is played over the in-game character’s significantly more wooden animation, the weight of the performance is lost. It’s a shame.

    • tengokujin says:

      Ooh, they took clips they showed at that panel at… PAX East, I think. Love the explanations they had during the clips. :3

      EDIT: The PAX panel.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aD6oWFwEN20 (Roughly 3:20, here)
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_szO-p2uAU (The emotional bit)

    • Klay F. says:

      Um…did you watch the same video as me? The dialog animation in that video are some of the most varied and believable animation I’ve seen in a VERY long time. At no point in the video do the characters just spout their lines face-to-face, unmoving.

      I don’t know about you, but I don’t gesticulate wildly as I talk to other people.

      • Ringwraith says:

        *flails arms around like Stan*
        Why the hell do you not?

      • Robyrt says:

        The body animation is fine, but the facial animation is quite uncanny. When I talk to someone, I am constantly making slight movements of my eyes, neck, and mouth, while these characters will stand like a deer in the headlights, like they’re frozen in shock.

        • Klay F. says:

          Therein lies the rub. The only game I have ever seen that has done facial animation really well was L.A. Noire. However even with the excellent facial animation, that game still failed completely with the eyes. You can tell just by looking at the characters’ eyes that the actors/actresses had no idea how to act with their eyes. This was because they weren’t actually having a conversation and in actuality were sitting alone in a studio as still as they could possibly sit with like a million little cameras pointed at them.

          People really need to just except the fact that videogame makers will most likely never replicate the human body accurately enough to clear the uncanny valley without huge increases in the cost of actually making the game. Videogames are already too expensive to make, another jump in production costs will only serve to bankrupt the entire industry.

          • Ringwraith says:

            *cough* Valve *cough*

            Seriously, their facial animation stuff is pretty darn impressive, and they do subtlety well.
            There are many times when a character simply just have to look at you and that says it all without a word.

            • Klay F. says:

              Personally I wasn’t that impressed. The first time I played the game, I remember thinking, “Why are all of their movements and expressions so exaggerated?” Then I remember, “Oh yeah, its 2004 and Source kinda sucks.”

      • X2-Eliah says:

        I don't gesticulate wildly as I talk to other people

        Clearly you haven’t had to converse to people with next to no understanding of English/your own language.

        But I agree with your point, sometimes the expectation for body animations is way over the top – most people (hopefully) don’t flail all over the place as rap singers in videos.

      • swenson says:

        Must not be Italian, then.

        I keed, I keed! :D

    • Darkness says:

      The amount of emotional energy the voice actress put out was amazing. Her face conveyed a significant portion of it. If they had captured that in the animation it would have been … beyond anything I have seen so far. She had tears running down her face, her mouth was twisted in agony and the reaction to getting bashed on to get into the mood was complete. A brilliant performance.

      Then the animation was … not. The voice was still great but the eyes and mouth did not convey nearly the weight of the original. Better then Obivion and Skyrim but way short of the actual potential.

      A great add-on would be the complete tapes of Courtnee Draper’s performance. Oh if we only had the technology to do picture in a picture to play the game and see her performance at the same time.

  15. X2-Eliah says:

    Yeah, the music might be a bit ‘epic’ at times, but I think that they will keep it fairly low-key for most of the time – more ambience than epicosity.

    And, this already is MILES beyond the infernal ridiculous piece of garbage that is the Dragon Age 2 soundtrack. Hell, the actual OST disc is just plain unbearable to just ‘listen’ to, the songs aren’t even retouched to work in non-game form at all.

    Also, you know what really makes me weep inside? Hearing people who replace all in-game sounds (ambiance, battle, atmosphere) with heavy metal / rap / rock songs from their favourite albums. I mean.. I get it that you don’t want the game sound because it’s too laid back / epic, but replacing it with something that’s absolutely and totally immersion-breaking and unfit? GAH. Btw, I’m looking at you, Mumbles :|

    • TSED says:

      Please explain to me how music that takes some technology and 5 people to make is more immersion breaking than music that takes 30+ people to make and would require similar technological levels to get the instruments (and people!) to the locale you’re hearing it at.

      It’s immersion breaking to me either way. When I get sick of the in-game music, I either turn it off or replace it.

      • X2-Eliah says:

        Why? It’s my opinion, and you agree or disagree. This is not a thesis dissertation that I have to fight for tooth and nail by proving every single statement with n references.

        So no, I will not explain it, thank you. Last I checked, I was allowed to post personal opinions.

        • TSED says:

          Well, seeing as I already make you “weep inside”, maybe I was feeling a bit defensive about my own listening habits? And that, in posing a question that difficult to answer succinctly, I could partially discredit your opinion and make me feel better about mine? I mean, I didn’t even agree with you on DA2’s soundtrack! Definitely a “subtle” attack.

          P.S. I agree with everything you said on DA2’s soundtrack.

          P.P.S. I am an English major. EVERYTHING’s a thesis to be attacked. Or a phallic symbol. Of a phallogocentric thesis to be attacked. [Highfives from the lit theorists out there?] Sorry.

          • X2-Eliah says:

            Fine, the answer I’d give is that 1) the sound design of a game is a major factor in contributing to the experience of playing the game and absorbing the vision the creators tried to produce. Yes, it is true that you don’t have a symphonic orchestra walking behind you anywhere, but the key is that the music from the ost does (ok, well, it should – ofc it can fail to do so) support and highlight the rest of the virtual environment – setting the mood, setting the scene, providing ambient life (e.g. wind, crickets, falling leaves). 2) the game’s music is thematically bound to the game itself, and does not produce a discord. The game mechanics are working in conjuction with the audio, manipulating the flow of music adjusted to the situation – so hopefully you don’t have the same music in battle as at home, in an inn, or underwater.

            All that is nulled and voided if you put on your Megadeth or Eminem tracks playing at 100% non-stop over the game’s audio. I don’t know about you, but I Do find that far more immersion-breaking than sticking with the OST.

            As for why I mentioned that? Because there are people who brag about the fact that they are doing it and advise others to do the same / view people who dare to *gasp* enjoy the original music with slight contempt.

            As for why the knee-jerk reaction to your post… Well, its not on this site, but I’m truly and well fed up with people viewing any discussion as a battleground of opinions, where every single little thing must be backed, explained, proved, rebuked in order to utterly crush any expression of opinion differing to oneself’s. And I guarantee that “Explain to me how” is a very classic entry-line for such posts.

            Disclaimer – ofc none of the above can be considered valid if the soundtrack is unfinished, cheesy and plain bad for one’s musical tastes (e.g. Dragon Age 2, again).

        • Raygereio says:

          Last I checked, I was allowed to post personal opinions.

          Very true, just like other people are allowed to say your opinion is dumb. But I can’t help but wonder why you care so much about what other people are doing. Said actions not affecting you in any way, shape, or form by the way.
          Or do Mumbles’ hired goons drag you from your cozy home, put you in a bee-costume and ductate you to the roof of Mumble’s room? Because if that’s the case, I reckon you have other, bigger problems then the status of your precious immersion.

          • X2-Eliah says:

            We could go in circles about this as well ;) Why do you care about what I care? Why do I care about what you care about what I care? Why do you care about what I care about what you care….

            Also… Call me weird, but imo immersion does matter in games of this type. games that aren’t foot-to-ball simulators or peggle.

            Also, those goons were hired by Rutskarn. They were all named Jibar, incidentally.

            • TSED says:

              To the recursive questions: basic human empathy.

              Immersion was also summed up quite nicely by someone down below. His comment on the epic swelling for a rat…

              Also, curse those Jibars! How they gibber so! ‘Tis infuriating, maddening, Rutskarninating!

            • Raygereio says:

              Also… Call me weird, but imo immersion does matter in games of this type. games that aren't foot-to-ball simulators or peggle.

              True. Though I’ve grown to dislike the term immersion. Might be due to reading too many complaints along the lines of “I can’t kill children in this game. My immersion is ruined!”.
              But that’s besides the point: music – when done well – adds a lot to the atmosphere of a game. Agreed.
              Example: Fallout 3 with the vanilla music == meh.
              Fallout 3 with the music from Fallout 1 and 2 == sweet.

              But that’s not what you said. You were complaining about what someone else likes and does. Does it really hurt your immersion knowing I for example listen to the works of Thomas Bergenson instead of the ingame music while sneaking around in Deus Ex?
              Not hearing the music in question; just knowing that? If the answer to that is yes, you have a serious problem and I’m am indeed calling you a weird person.

              • X2-Eliah says:

                Then you are calling me a weird person in vain, for that is not the case. Just don’t rip out the music to replace with your own and afterwards complain all over various forums about how the game didn’t pull you in.

                To make it crystal clear:

                Does it really hurt your immersion knowing I for example listen to the works of Thomas Bergenson instead of the ingame music while sneaking around in Deus Ex?
                Not hearing the music in question; just knowing that?

                No, that’s not what I said nor meant. So lay off, please.

                • Raygereio says:

                  Your first post:

                  Also, you know what really makes me weep inside? Hearing people who replace all in-game sounds (ambiance, battle, atmosphere) with heavy metal / rap / rock songs from their favourite albums. I mean.. I get it that you don't want the game sound because it's too laid back / epic, but replacing it with something that's absolutely and totally immersion-breaking and unfit? GAH. Btw, I'm looking at you, Mumbles :|

                  If you meant something completely different with that, I do apologize for attacking you. Who knows; maybe it’s the language barrier, but you being weird is what I read in it.

                  Well, regardless of what you meant, let’s just end this.

      • tlgAlaska says:

        I think I know where he’s coming from with this. In-game music is especially made or chosen for fitting the mood, the setting and the situation in the game you are playing, like for example the jazz soundtracks in the Mafia and Fallout games. If the music does it’s job, it immerses you further.
        Unfitting music can do quite the opposite. Imagine playing a Silent Hill with a Benny Hill Loop in the background… or playing any stealth game with Trash Metal.

    • Dovius says:

      Hey, I dare you to come up with something more awesome than fighting Dragons with Amon Amarth playing in the background.
      */Death In Fire*
      Granted, that’s only on the Dragon fights after I got bored of the soundtrack for them. Until then, I’ll enjoy the OST, because it sounds great so far.

  16. ccesarano says:

    So Plumber is the actor they have for the character that dies in the first ten minutes of the game, then?

    If the bland animations are no different, then I can’t imagine them changing any of the problems I tend to have with the franchise. On my skip list.

  17. AlternatePFG says:

    As much as I try, I cannot for the life of me get excited for this game. Oblivion was always a game I remembered being more fun to play than it actually was.

    Music sounds really good though at least.

  18. TheArtfulNudger says:

    This is actually the first time I’ve been genuinely excited about Skyrim to be truthful.

    Also “quire” is spelt “choir” people (although I don’t think anyone cares so perhaps disregard)

    • Zukhramm says:

      Woah! That’s me! I should know this, how could I do that?! The shame!

      This is one of these strange things that happens only when I use a keyboard. Somehow my finger movements are more tied to sound than the spelling. I keep writing ‘p’s instead of ‘b’s and ‘f’s instead of ‘v’s. But, of course I do not want to blame myself, so I will blame the English language, for being a mess.

      I wish the window for edits was (were? Again, English!!) longer so I could pretend this never happened.

      Also, I have quantum physics on my mind, which explains the “qu”. That’s a good excuse, right? Right guys?! Tell me it’s a good excuse!

      • TSED says:

        …Window for edits was longer so I…

        “Was” because the subject it is being conjugated by is the “window” – and the “for edits” is technically an adjective, in the grammatical sense.

        Mind you, I actually have never studied grammar. I could be completely off, but that’s the logic behind it to me.

        Also, your excuse may or may not be a satisfactory one. (please don’t hit me)

        • Zozma says:

          “I wish the window for edits were longer”, I think. The subjunctive mood. Saying “I wish the window for edits WAS longer” means you wish it used to be longer.

          And: In my opinion, quantum mechanics are a good excuse for ANYTHING.

        • some random dood says:

          Wait-a-sec – you’re an english major, and have never studied grammar? I don’t know what the terms used in your education system mean exactly, but I think my brain just assploded from the concept of studying language in a “major” way without studying the fundamentals underpinning the language.

          • TSED says:

            Yeah. They cancelled the grammar classes a few years before I showed up.

            Mostly, my classes are either studying lit, studying theory, or writing. 80% of my classes so far (approximately) have been the lit side, but it’s not a literature degree because my college / University doesn’t offer that on this campus.

        • TSED says:

          I brought this up at a CrWr group I have; one of the members is incredibly well-versed with grammar and used to be a writing skills workshop guy for the entire college, so on and so forth.

          He said that the difference between “was” and “were” is basically (to dumb it down) whether or not the act in question is possible. If it IS theoretically possible, like, say, “I wish there was a pony in here” you use the was. If it’s not theoretically possible, you pull out the “were” instead, as so: “I wish I were transformed into a pony.”

          In this case, I guess either is correct.

  19. Someone says:

    Oh yes, I’m looking forward to the epic bombastic soundtrack starting up and then awkwardly tripping over itself and crawling away every time I come across a rat and strike it down in one fell swoop.

    • TSED says:


      You have basically summed up this huge problem that will undoubtedly plague CRPGs for the next decade. It’s so frustrating.

      It’s triple frustrating if you were currently REALLY enjoying the song you were listening to, and some stupid 2 second event changes it to another song.

      Fighting a battalion of skeletons while dodging booby traps in the heart of some dungeon you’ve found yourself lost in? That can be epic. Hunting down a bear and engaging it in fisticuffs to prove a point to some old man, thus cementing your own foolish pride, but still somehow winning? That can be epic. Stumbling into that same bear while picking flowers to make healing potions and hitting it once with your SuperSword as it flies off into the stratosphere? That’s… that’s not epic.

      • Someone says:

        Before long, one starts to wonder if the game is taking the piss.

        Still, it’s better than it was in Morrowind: random Cliffracer flags you down for combat and gets stuck on terrain out of your reach, forcing you to either try and take it down with unreliable ranged weapons or walk away and listen to the fighting music for the next five minutes.

        • CTrees says:

          Everyone seems to say the ranged weapons in Morrowind were unreliable. They took getting used to and learning how they moved, but after that (and with some points in the skill)? I was a friggin’ sniper in Morrowind. I actually loved using a bow – seeing enemies just pop into existence on the side of a hill, just pixels tall in glorious 1280×1024, and sniping them to death before they could get anywhere remotely close to me.

          Alternatively, magic fired in a straight line, which solved the cliffracer-stuck-on-terrain problem, if you couldn’t manage the bow. Still, that was just one reason cliffracers were terribly, terribly annoying. Running along and having ten of them come down directly over your head, hovering and pecking you, that was annoying.

          Man… I forgot how much I hated those. The first mod I always installed when replaying was a “remove all cliffracers” one. Of which their were many. Killing those bastards and prettier graphics were really the only two improvements on Morrowind which Oblivion made, I thought.

          • Someone says:

            I’ve never really played a range-oriented character in Morrowind, so I can’t speak with certainty, but to me the problem is that, due to the “hit,miss,hit,miss,miss” nature of the combat system, all weapons are unreliable, but the melee ones don’t break as fast as ranged ones run out of arrows.

            What Oblivion gained in polygons and textures, it lost in the art direction. Sure, it looks more realistic, too bad it’s squandered on depicting a cookie-cutter fantasy bog-standard middle earth ripoff we’ve seen in every other RPG since the nineties.

            • MelTorefas says:

              See, I know this bugs a lot of people, but it’s never been a problem for me. I don’t care how cliched a setting is if it is implemented well (it doesn’t need to be innovative to be interesting, for me). Which was my problem with Oblivion; it was not implemented well, at all. What finally killed my interest in the game were the oblivion gates.

              A couple hours in and I would literally have five of them on screen at a time, and inside every single one was one of four really similar dungeonscapes. It got to the point where even turning on noclip and flying through the walls to the end was too annoying, but just leaving them there felt like a betrayal of the setting. So I gave up.

              • Aldowyn says:

                … five visible at once? That’s … impressive. I never really got to the point where they were really annoying :/

                Oh, and I’m with you. I actually really like well-done cliched games.

            • Klay F. says:

              Too bad the entire Elder Scrolls world IS a cookie-cutter fantasy bog-standard middle earth ripoff then. And has been since Arena.

              Not saying thats a bad thing. Some people are apparently physically unable to enjoy something unless it is completely unlike everything ever.

              • CTrees says:

                Some areas of Morrowind really, really aren’t. The giant mushroom cities come to mind…

                Oblivion, I’m totally with you, though, on the cookie-cutter nature. Guess they just couldn’t handle a black elf bein’ in power.

    • Veylon says:

      There need to be several combat themes, depending on how powerful the enemy is. The music shouldn’t even start up if it’s something harmless that dies in one hit. The epic bombast should only be in a few parts of the game, to cement the connection between it and “you’re screwed”. Final Fantasy handled this pretty well.

  20. TSi says:

    I couldn’t help bu notice a lot of z-fighting in nealy every scene, poor shadowing when they allow some of it and low rez textures … It really looks like it will have lower graphics quality than oblivion. That’s sad and i hope the Pc version will have specific options and/or allow some tweaks.

  21. SolkaTruesilver says:

    Finishing moves are definetly not scripted. In some of the gameplay demo, there was a Finish against an attacking wolf. I really doubt they would have gone through the trouble of scripting a finishing move to kill a random wolf.

    Which means their camera work will be intelligent, or really annoying. Since it’s Bethesda, I am not a 100% confident, seeing the Conversation Track Record Through a Fence of Fallout.

    However, it’s a new engine. So… ye know, maybe?

    • rofltehcat says:

      Rat’s nest:
      Critical finishing move!
      Critical finishing move!
      Critical finishing move!
      *camera spins around every time a rat is killed, completely desorienting the player, camera clips through rock, earth and rubbish everywhere*
      Critical finishing move!

    • The Hokey Pokey says:

      The long demo shows first person kill animations, so maybe it doesn’t change the camera. I can’t remember if the dragon kill in that demo was done in first person or not, but they did zoom out the camera for the kill animation. I wouldn’t mind dramatic third person kill animations for significant enemies like dragons (even if they are ripped from Dragon Age).

      Also, it is not the game’s fault if 100% chameleon makes the game boring. At least in Oblivion you have to go out of your way to get it, so any consequential tedium lies squarely on the player’s shoulders. In my first play through of Oblivion I put together 100% chameleon, thinking it would be useful. I quickly discarded it once I realized how boring it makes the game.

  22. Kerin says:

    I don’t get it. Alyx Vance, Half-Life 2: Ep 2. 2007!


    What on earth is Bethesda DOING?

    • X2-Eliah says:

      Actually releasing the next game and not holding it ‘in development’ (ep3)?

      • swenson says:

        Yeah, but… Episode One (that clip’s from the first episode, not the second) was released. In 2006. And now it’s five years later and here’s a very big company releasing a very big game that’s not half as good with that kind of animation.

        • Raygereio says:

          Alyx Vance is one NPC. In fact let’s move beyond that. Take Alyx and add all the animations from NPCs in HL2’s cutscenes. I’m thinking that is nothing compared to how many animations of that kind would be necessary for a game like Skyrim.

          I reckon they purposfully made the animations as generic as possible to make them fit on as many NPCs as possible in order to avoid having to hire an entire regiment of animators.

          • Shamus says:

            I suspect this is the case. I seem to remember from the developer commentary that there’s an entire team of people dedicated just to bringing Alyx to life.

            Having said that, I’m sure Bethesda could do better.

            How I’d handle it:

            Make some general tools for different stances: Leaning on the edge of a table-high surface, leaning against a wall, sitting in a chair, freestanding and looking over the entire room with sweeping eye movements, etc. Make a few transition animations for getting into and out of these states. Then the person making the cutscene can have Duke Fancypants begin by talking to you from a “throne” (chair state) get up, walk over and look out over a balcony (sweeping eye movements) then turn around and lean against the railing (leaning against a “table”).

            If you want to save yourself some headaches, ignore collision objects for these scenes, so that the actor will walk through the player (or physics objects). This will avoid all of the horrible things that can go wrong from unexpected player behavior. (And really, if you’re stacking crates in the Duke’s throne room, you’re obviously not really on board with the whole “immersion and verisimilitude” thing.) By mixing & matching these states, you can enact conversations in a lot of different places.

            This would only be used for the long conversations with big-name actors, obviously, but those are the powerful performances that would be hurt most by rooted actors.

            That’s the approach I’d use, anyway.

            • Raygereio says:

              And really, if you're stacking crates in the Duke's throne room, you're obviously not really on board with the whole “immersion and verisimilitude” thing

              But then a bunch of really annoying guys calling themselves Spoiler Warning will come in, do a LP of your game and complain about the NPCs completely ignoring the fridge they just put in the NPCs’ path.

              But yeah, that modular approach does sound good. Well, it does to me – someone who knows nothing beyond the mere basics of the subject – at least.

            • rofltehcat says:

              I liked the way that one barbarian was shifting his weight while talking in the trailer. By moving his head, the whole staring thing didn’t look so weird and overall it seemed more like “I’m fit and aware, and I’m keeping an eye on YOU”

              For arena battles or whatever this could be used, too. Arenas have always been more or less: “Walk up there, kill the other guy and then come back here for your rewards. Don’t even dare looking up to the audience because we’ll even send multiple enemies at you!”

              The fighters could circle each other ath the beginning, locked in dialogue (ranging from “sorry young pal, I need the money” to “I’m here because I enjoy ripping guts out” and maybe something like “so you’ve finally come for revenge? I won’t make it easy!”)
              During this time, the player would have time to look at the audience a little, notice details like lost weapons slightly covered by sand in the arena, the concentrated look of the enemy as he focuses on you (very slight eye movements to assess body language… is that player guy going to strike at this moment? what do his feet tell me?) and in such a situation the whole staring thing would actually make sense!

              Yeah, movements could be used to increase immersion in the game. Even in sidequest events like the arena. How hard can it be to make two combatants circle each other in some distance?

              In Oblivion for example, instead of the prince magically knowing that enemies are coming while he is locked in dialogue with you, he should storm to the window, look out and just dodge away to one side when an arrow or a fireball is crashing through the window. That would really increase immersion and would make the whole “oh, we’ll just spawn some enemies outside that will attack you once you zone through the door (also a horrible thing)” less ridiculous.

              • Aldowyn says:

                This distinctly reminds me of Uncharted and it’s idea of in-engine cutscenes or whatnot. It’s really hard to tell in Uncharted sometimes :D

                It could be really cool if adapted for RPGs, though… really, really cool.

  23. Rayen says:

    this is really ineresting to me specifically because i’ve worked in sound engineering. sadly not on a game but i’ve done several small stage performances.

    As for the epic music i’ve never had a problem with it being epic even when what i’m doing isn’t. I remember Morrowind in particular only had like 3 songs and 2 for when you were fighting (although i think that expanded with the exspansion packs). It felt epic when it needed to and otherwise was just ambience. I think the music added to the flavor of the world, a background to whatever was taking up you’re attention at the moment. And looking at this game the lanscapes are going to be gorgeous so that crescendo moment for every nice valley might be dimmed a little by repetition rather than by non-epicness.

    As for the voice actors. I dunno bethesda just doesn’t do characters animations well. they didn’t in morrowind, they didn’t in oblivion, and from your fallout 3 series that was lacking as well. Some developers are good at some things some are good at others. i think more voices will help in some ways (although honestly i think they should go back to the text boxes of morrowind[i’m such an old man]).

    I want skyrim to be good, at least better than oblivion, preferably as good morrowind. gonna have to just wait and see.

  24. SolkaTruesilver says:

    Speaking of “Sound” and “Skyrim” together.

    Here’s something that might strike your interest


    I usually hate rap, yet can’t help myself from liking this one.

  25. rofltehcat says:

    I really wonder if they’ll manage to only play the epic music when appropiate. I’m currently giving Gothic 3 a replay and it switches from calm flute music to horrible fight music all the time. When something is attacking me from behind, I hear it as soon as it gets into aggro range.

    Epic music works so well because you hear the theme mostly at the beginning and at the end and because they use music in a very controlled way. In video games, however, we are listening to music nonstop. It gets especially bad with MMOs imo. Look at how the music is used in movies to controll the tension when fighting big enemies or important battles. Now look at raid encounters in different games. Don’t tell me you can’t script your music to form a ever-rising crescendo as the battle escalates with the different boss phases.

    Also, in video games there is no middle-ground. There is noncombat music and there is combat music. Often just 2 or 3 themes when there could be boss combat music, strong enemy combat music, weak enemy combat music, better flee music, combat against demons (add some of those devil powervoices) music and of course forest music, grassland music, mountain music, mountain view music…
    Of course it would be best if combat music were the only music to be used and always used appropiately and ambient music actually not existing.

    Why do I need to hear music when I enter a bar (unless it has a minstrel)? Why do I need to hear music when I walk through grassland? Why do I need to hear music when walking through a forest? Why do I need music when in a city (unless there are musicians at one corner and even then I don’t hear them in the whole town).
    A bar has its own sounds. You hear people talking in the background, hear heavy tankards being placed back on the cheap wooden tables, maybe hear people clinking their tankards.
    Same for a city. You’ll hear the blacksmithes, you’ll hear town criers in the distance, you’ll maybe hear the horses in their stables or on the side of the road. You’ll hear (and see) children running by playing. You’ll maybe hear church bells or an imam at the appropiate times of the day.
    Forest? You’ll hear a few birds, your own steps (earth, muddy earth, dry earth, rock, dry leaves, wet leaves, sticks under your heavy boots, tree needles… there is just so big variety of stuff to step on!), maybe some plants brushing along your legs. A deer getting startled by your noise and making a run, your own breath and heavy steps as you chase it… (start wild chase hunting music)
    And don’t forget about the wind!
    In grassland you might hear the wind, the long dry grass brush along your heavy leather trousers and be bent under your boots, maybe a bunny jump up and race away through the tall grass…

    Why can’t games do this already?

    • X2-Eliah says:

      That’s a fair point, indeed. Why do so many games have non-stop music when ambient soundscape is already active… Again, HL2 did this rather well, with sparse audio cues to set the mood, which fade off and leave only the world-atmosphere sounds.

      Well, ok, HL2 is a bit too sparse with music, perhaps.. some kind of meeting point between HL2 and ..idk, Oblivion, ight be pretty nice.

      • Zukhramm says:

        A lot of games seem to take it too far in the other direction with a wind chime going off ever 400th second. Wow, yeah, that sure sets the mood. The thing is, I don’t want music to just be background for the mood. Although I as well would probably prefer a little more of it Half-Life 2 does find a pretty good balance.

    • Hitch says:

      Shamus’ comment about turning off the music got me, because that’s defeating one of the central mechanics of the game. When you’re riding down the road in Oblivion you need the music playing and the volume turned up or you’ll never know to get off your horse and pull your weapon because the fight music starts several seconds before you can see your enemy.

      • Aldowyn says:

        it actually works a lot better (not as an indicator, but in the way its supposed to) when you have it on default. You don’t notice the ABRUPT shift so easily unless it’s on a little higher.

    • RariowunIrskand says:

      I personally prefer music on… Maybe not ALL the time, but most of it. In sandbox games (Especially Oblivion/Skyrim style sandbox games), most of the time there’s no stuff happening, and, as a person who spends a lot of their time on long hikes, I can tell you that ambient sounds get old a lot quicker than music does. Apart from this, I feel music, especially in games like Skyrim, tends to only be epic when needed, such as during combat. Sure, it’ll tip you off from your wonderful atmosphere taking-in, but it’s better than DOVAHKIIN, DOVAHKIIN! NAL OK ZIN LOS VARIIN! shouting in your ear the entire time.

      I really agree linear games should stop playing music constantly, as they can actually plan for epicness to come in at the right moment (Hey, you don’t need ULTIMATE KILLING SPREE THEME CXII playing throughout the entire boss fight, it can be much more menacing if it starts of slow, like the whispering part of that one very iconic song from Karmina Burana, which, to be fair, wasn’t the beggining), but in non-linear games like TES or even Deus Ex, it’s fairly hard to plan when what plays, especially considering that TES has never been about the main quest, and the bajillion sidequests can’t, in any sane person’s expectations have the same level of planning. But in say, MMO raid dungeons, it is reasonable to expect at least some setting of atmosphere by NOT playing music.

  26. Grampy_Bone says:

    I don’t know if its possible for me to get sick of listening to Jeremy Soule’s music.

  27. RariowunIrskand says:

    About the whole “It's very impressive, but I'm sure I'll shut it off after an hour. After a while it feels sort of silly wandering around lost, shopping for gear, and sorting inventory with something akin to Flight of the Valkyries is swelling in the background.” thing, I really doubt that all the music will be like the theme. Both Oblivion and Morrowind had very calm music when you were out of battle. I expect the music they showed off (The main theme) will only play on the menu screen, or maybe also during battle. There’s a whole lot of more “music from Skyrim” on YouTube, but I doubt most of it is actually whawt it claims to be, apart from this one:


    Which is from a channel I find to be pretty good with “Official” stuff, and I actually believe this’ll be in the game. Much more chill and suitable to everyday, non-epic stuff. Also pretty damn atmospheric.

    To be honest, I was hyped for Skyrim, then skeptical, and I’m now hyped again. Watching and reading all the information that’s come out, it reminds me a lot more of Morrowind than Oblivion (Except for the dumbing down inherent to all modern gaming, it seems). And though Oblivion was my favourite of those two, it was simply because I really can’t handle Morrowind’s combat system. I’m really thinking if Skyrim is the perfect mix of Oblivion’s pretty good controls and Morrowind’s amazing sense of exploration, it might just beat Deus Ex 1 on my scale of “Best games ever”

    • Aldowyn says:

      I haven’t played Morrowind, but my biggest issue with Oblivion is that I suck at it because you HAVE to game the system for your character to not be completely gimped. So I always have to turn down the difficulty, which is lame. :(

      • WarlockofOz says:

        I’ve come to the conclusion that the Elder Scrolls series character improvement system isn’t just broken but deliberately so. Nothing gets through four (presumably now five though I haven’t checked how Skyrim does it) major releases over years with such glaring flaws intact unless they want it that way. I presume the munchkin market really is bigger than the roleplayer market, otherwise they’d have fixed the system by now.

        • General Karthos says:

          Except that the systems are broken in different ways. I only have two games to talk about here (I haven’t played any of the other Elder Scrolls games), so if I’m wrong, feel free to correct me.

          In Morrowind it was creating potions that increased your intelligence (I think) then using your higher intelligence to create better potions to increase your intelligence, etc. etc. Until you could put together potions to increase, for example, your strength by 9,351,206 for 62,128,941 seconds. Of course, that led to the result that if you jumped you jumped out of the world. But it also meant you killed anything in a single hit with any weapon for the rest of the game. Or you could increase your constitution (or whatever contributed to your health) and could thus take a million hits from the strongest enemies in the game, and keep standing stabbing away at them. (Incidentally, I loved the scrolls that increased your jump by a huge amount, but only for a few seconds. You’d jump, then it would wear off, and on hitting the ground, you’d die unless you had a ring of feather fall or something.)

          Then in Oblivion it was “Chameleon” that was the major breaker (though invisibility was close) because if you got a set of items that brought Chameleon 100% every attack you made would be a sneak attack and enemies would not attack you because they couldn’t see you. There was also the sign that caused you to absorb magic 50% of the time instead of being damaged by it. My friend just got it so that he was absorbing magic 100% of the time, and beat the game with ease since in Oblivion at least, almost all your major opponents were spell casters. And those that weren’t… well, he had powerful magical abilities.

          I don’t think I ever saw him die, but it is only through watching him that I ever saw the game get beaten. Since I like having conversation skills, but the game leveled up with me, after about level 5, standard enemies became tough, after level 10, I had to run from them, and by level 15, I rarely had the TIME to run. Going through an Oblivion Gate was committing suicide. In Morrowind I remember the time I walked across the continent (because I missed the fast travel way to get to the other side) and some enemies I had to run from, others I could fight. I’m really hoping that system comes up again, rather than the stupid level-as-you-go system, otherwise, there NEEDS to be a way to break the system, or you don’t stand a chance.

          Walking across the entire continent of Morrowind btw was an EPIC journey. Though I had to fight so many effing Skyracers, or whatever they’re called. Sometimes needing to fight them while being pursued by a Skeleton Warrior…. Fun times.

          • General Karthos says:

            Did some independent research and found out that enemies do NOT level as you do. Some enemies will be too strong to start, and weaker enemies will not get stronger as you do. I know this was something that bothered Shamus about Oblivion (and a number of other games) and as far as I am concerned, this is one of the biggest improvements they could have made.

          • WarlockofOz says:

            I was referring more to the second sort of broken you mention – including but not limited to the way playing to the strengths of your class led to the opponents growing stronger faster than you did, while use of combat skills not appropriate to your class would let you max them out without leveling; also, if you did choose to level it was best to plan out exactly which skills to use that level so as to maximise your stat gain per level. The potion trick is worse, but you can choose not to use it.

  28. It’s weird
    If I’m playing in a First Person perspective, I almost always switch the music off
    If I’m playing in a Third Person perspective, I leave it one
    I mostly depends on what the music sounds like, But I never realized I was being effect by PoV so much
    I’m most likely going to skip Skyrim due to it’s relation to Bethesda
    But since we were talking about music in games, I thought I’d share a weird observation

    • General Karthos says:

      I think this is an aspect of feel. If you ARE the character (not gonna get into immersion, this is just a perspective issue), you don’t feel the need to have music highlighting every moment of life.

      But if you’re WATCHING the character the way you’d watch a movie, you want music. (If you’re me though, you spend a lot of time humming or whistling music, so I leave music on NMW.)

  29. rrgg says:

    From what I’ve heard the kill cam only comes on when defeating the last enemy in a group. If true then I don’t think it’s a bad idea at all, sort of like a dessert.

  30. Michael says:

    It’s interesting that you mentioned the disconnect between the expressiveness of the voice acting and that of the animation; I’ve been wondering recently if this isn’t more important than the precise quality of either.

    I’ve just been replaying Deus Ex: Not Either of the Sequels and it really struck me that if either the voice acting or the character animation were better then no one would be able to stand it any more. Expressive voice acting would just serve to highlight the blocky wooden character models and vice versa. What keeps it bearable (albeit the subject of gentle mockery) is that there’s consistency between the two.

  31. Piflik says:

    I don’t think that Theme will be played in a loop throughout the game…but it would be nice to hear it in epic moments…at the right time, good music can do wonders…

    Example: The Ladder scene in MGS3 – Snake Eater…you literally are just climbing a ladder for 2 minutes with an a capella version of the snake eater theme playing in the background… the best 2 minutes of the game, and I really liked it…easily the best installment of the series…which makes this the best 2 minutes in Metal Gear history…

  32. Lesquille says:

    Me: See, look. It’s still way too robotic. It doesn’t look like a real person, just a marionette acting out a series of simplistic pre-scripted actions.

    My Brother: That’s not from Skyrim, that’s an interview with Todd Howard.

    Me: …

  33. Tharwen says:

    I’m starting to think this is looking more and more like Fable. Aside from the obvious family-raising aspect, the graphical style looks a bit like a high-resolution version of Albion.

  34. Alex says:

    I’m glad someone else noticed the disparity of Plummer’s body language in the recording booth, and the STANDING PERFECTLY STILL nature of the game footage.

    If there’s any one thing that I’m looking forward to about Skyrim, it’d be Jeremy Soule’s soundtrack. That guy made my faceless armor guy wandering around killing wolves feel a lot more poignant and personal than it really ought have been.

  35. Sekundaari says:

    Clearly, Bethesda just has done their extensive research on northern body language and facial expressions and arrived at the correct conclusion: The less, the better.

  36. Regiment says:

    I suppose I’ve never minded the fixed eye contact thing in Oblivion or Fallout 3. Partly that’s because I tune out the visuals when that happens. They might as well just put up a big static picture of the person you’re talking to.

    I agree that what Bioware does seems to work better. If a game wants to feel cinematic, it helps to ape film conventions. No movie (that I know of) shows a conversation by zooming in on someone’s head and keeping the camera stationary. Then again, I thought the facial animations in Dragon Age were pretty good, but then again the Warden does have the most stoic expression ever.

  37. Scott (Duneyrr) says:

    I just played some Skyrim about two hours ago. (Free tickets to the official launch party!) I am very impressed, even though I couldn’t hear a thing in game. The feel of the game is excellent.

  38. rofltehcat says:

    Incidentally, the new Extra Credits kinda deals with this topic, too.
    So I’ll just drop this off here, maybe some people interested in this will follow the link :)

    In Skyrim, the uncanney valley may be just a little too close, imo. But overall I’ll have to see if it feels ok.

  39. Michael Wilson says:

    I just switched to professionally composed music and 80% procedural sound (stitched in real-time from microsamples) for my indie game, and it has made a huge difference to the atmosphere compared to the old stock music and canned samples : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZbgyL7UDxg Now I just have to find a way to improve the voice acting!

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