Speak up, Jagex. We Can’t Hear You.

posted by on 17th September 2015, at 3:42am

So, I’ve been catching up on some questing and other things after taking a break from RS, and I sat down to do A Light Within, a quest I have been eager to start as it is all about Seren returning. Finally, the last God that has been absent from the Sixth Age is joining in! What will this mean? What kind of power will she wield? How will this change the balance of the storyline unfolding? So finally I’m given the chance to talk to her and she just seems so…dead still. I’ve talked to Zaros, Saradomin, Armadyl and all of them feel alive and dynamic when I speak to them, what’s wrong here? Then it hits me: She doesn’t have a voice. Even with the other Gods not being voice acted they still have sound when I read the chat box. I apply their old voices to the text and the voice says it, if only in my head. Seren doesn’t have this. I have no idea what she’d even sound like. How is it that the god of the singing crystal elves doesn’t have a voice?

There has been numerous complaints about RS in the lack of voice acting in the game. We have heard this before this was ever a thing and now we are hearing this after they spoiled us and have decided to stop doing it. Jagex has come back at us saying that it takes too long and it’s too expensive – a total and inexcusable cop out that I can’t allow them to pass with. It is, to put it blunt, bullshit. A game company with considerable budgets, a good sized team, and plenty of assets and recording equipment that they use daily and they say it can’t be done? It isn’t worth the effort? I disagree.

Like how the orchestral scores give RS3 a modern game feel, voice acting takes Runescape from a java game to a full-fledged (soon to be) client-based game. So often we’ve heard people speak about Runescape as a lesser game, but when people hear the music and the voice acting they change their tune (Ahaha. Puns.). I don’t have to explain it to you that it doesn’t make sense that a modern game wouldn’t have even the most basic of voice acting in it. Even if they were to do something like the Fire Emblem series recently did for their Awakening title on 3DS, where they used short expressive blerbs like “What?” “OK!” “Is that so?” no matter what the full dialogue was, it would still enhance the experience so much more. Again, this was a HANDHELD game from NINTENDO, which is notorious for not or severely lacking voice acting in their titles. These would be simple, rehashable enhancements to the game to give characters more life.

But no, they shouldn’t have to resort to this. Jagex does a weekly behind the scenes video with a voice over, they do live streams, they do interviews with developers. They have the equipment at their disposal. In the behind the scenes they showed where they went to a studio with professional voice actors and spent the whole day recording. Yes, obviously this would be very expensive to do every time some content was released, but surely they don’t do this to record the voice overs and interviews. They must have a studio in the building that would be plenty capable of capturing decent sound quality clips to put in the game.

And they don’t need to use professional actors, which could be a major budget buster as well. For the Cabbage Face Punch Bonanza update they had Mod Michelle voice the gorilla god Marimbo. Mod Raven voiced Brassica Prime. Jagex even held a contest and had two players lend their voices to NPCs in game. You can’t tell me that there wouldn’t be volunteers just lined up at the office to voice characters. Sure, computer programmers may not be masters of speech craft to the likes of Peter Marinker’s portrayal of Sliske, but they would do a fine enough job to enhance the characters they voiced. They could even continue to outsource the voices to players, maybe having a few they can rely on that are semi-professional and have decent equipment to record lines and send them in. Non-disclosure them and give them a small payment for their work and it would be well worth it. Even if you couldn’t keep the character voiced by the same person from quest to quest, that’s completely understandable. So long as they have the same feel and tone in the script written it shouldn’t even be noticeable by the time I hear them again.

Sorry Jagex, you can’t get away with this anymore. Voice your characters. You don’t have to do it for every week’s bit of content and I’m content with it even being reserved for major quests, but to have a god not be voiced the first time she is put in the game shatters the immersion. You want to wear the big developer’s pants but still cut corners on a basic aspect of modern gaming. It’s not acceptable. No matter how much effort you put into a piece of content, no matter how much you deliver what you know your players want, and no matter how captivating and unprecedented a character is – even if they are a god – if they don’t have a voice they will still feel as lifeless and fragmented as the shards they were created by. If you plan on walking the walk, you and your characters will need to talk the talk.

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