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Lionhead talks about Fable 3 voice stats, emotional storytelling

Kyle Orland

If you thought the amount and variety of spoken dialogue in Fable 2 was ridiculous, then the voice statistics Lionhead is targeting for Fable 3 will... um... also seem ridiculous to you.

Speaking at the Develop Conference in Brighton, Lionhead Audio Producer Georg Becker mentioned that the upcoming title would feature about 80 actors speaking over 460,000 recorded words, representing a full 47 hours of speech in the final game. For context, Becker estimated Fable 2 had a mere 50 voice actors speaking a paltry 370,000 words over a laughably short 36 or 37 hours of speech.

Gallery: Fable 3 (E3) | 9 Photos

Of course, all that speech is pretty useless if a player never comes across it, and could be a little annoying if the player had to stand still and listen to all of it instead of running around Albion. To fix these potential pacing problems, Becker said Fable 3 will have a dedicated AI system directing speech for the non-player characters in the world. Becker said somewhere between 30 to 35,000 lines of dialogue are devoted to this AI gossip system, which will let you overhear random characters talking about the state of the world as you pass by. A villager may mention to a friend that a monster in a graveyard is preventing her from visiting her mother's grave, for instance, obliquely suggesting a new quest for your protagonist.

Becker said somewhere between 30 to 35,000 lines of dialogue are devoted to this AI gossip system.

Much of Becker's talk focused on the difficulties of using storytelling as an emotional device in games. Games have an amazing potential as a storytelling medium, Becker said, because they can evoke direct emotions in the player controlling a character, rather than the merely sympathetic emotions generated by watching a character. That potential is largely unrealized so far, Becker explained, because video games haven't had the time to build a common language of emotional connections in the way more traditional media like books, music and movies have. "We may not know the precise rules, but in movies we know when something feels odd – when something works and doesn't work," he said. "Even in a horrible film, you know when something's going to go wrong or get cheesy ... We're getting there, but we're still trying to borrow a lot from the other industries."

Becker stressed the importance of good staging for game stories -- building up tension with sections that don't have much to do with the core gameplay before releasing that tension through a major gameplay event. He also suggested developers could use gameplay mechanics themselves to increase the frequency of memorable, tell-'em-to-your-pals-later moments. For example, Becker suggested that increasing the power of the last clip of ammo in your character's final gun could also increase the likelihood that a big boss fight will end with a thrilling, skin-of-your-teeth victory.

Becker said he admired Bioshock for its ability to tell its story partly through strong level design and wordless environmental clues, and Portal's ability to impart an emotional connection on a silent "character" like the Weighted Companion Cube.

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