We're celebrating the first anniversary of Psychonauts 2, and as part of that we wanted to delve into some behind the scenes content. In this piece, our Principal Sound Designer, Paul O'Rourke, gives us a little insight into the world of Scratch Dialogue. Take it away Paul...
Nearly everyone knows and appreciates the power of voice acting and what it brings to the characters in Psychonauts 2. So much of our final work on these characters is driven by those performances. What you may not know is there is an equal, if not greater amount of voice over work that happens before we ever record the professional voice actors. We call this process, “Scratch Voice Over.”
Scratch VO serves several purposes, first being that we can get the dialogue hooked up in game by gameplay programmers and designers. This lets us front load a lot of work which helps us avoid an even more painful bottleneck towards the end of production. Secondly, this lets us hear the dialogue in game and get blocked out animation and cutscene scripting into the game, which in turn lets us review the scenes and make changes that might not have been obvious from reading the script alone.
Once all of the dialogue is reviewed and then iterated upon, it gets marked as ready for professional VO to record. After there is a certain amount of professional VO to record, we start booking recording sessions with our casted actors and the process of getting those lines in game is as simple as overwriting the scratch files in the game, since we already did the work to hook them up months ago.
Our scratch VO actors are unsung heroes of game production. They bring their own enthusiasm and life to these characters and their work never sees the light of day. Being able to record my coworkers and direct their performances is always a joy and there are even some cases where I miss their versions of the performance.
The next time you beat a game and are reading the credits, know that a lot of those names more than likely lent their voices to the team to help pave the way for the final voice over you get to enjoy.
Below is an example of Scratch VO being used in a cut scene, featuring Environment Artist, Geoff Soulis as Coach, Art Director, Lisette Titre-Montgomery as Milla, Character Artist Dave "Rusty" Russell as Sasha, Senior Artist, Emily Johnstone as Lili, and Principal Sound Designer Paul O'Rourke as Raz.
It also features an old line of dialogue that was ultimately changed in the final game!
There's another way scratch dialogue was used in Psychonauts 2, and that's by the art and design team as they start to plan out and share ideas for certain scenes.
In this video below you'll see an animatic of the game's introduction created by Senior Artist Gianna Ruggiero and Senior Video Producer Paul Levering, created while planning out the intro of the game that would first be seen in our demo and trailer for E3 2019.
We've got more behind the scenes content coming your way, so watch this space!