Sackboy’s Voice – Full Of Eastern Promise

I’m back from a two week trip to Japan. It’s the longest and most far, far away holiday I’ve had for many years. There were lots of temples, photos, temples, walking, temples, eating, temples, a proposal of marriage and more temples. I even managed to make a few sound recordings; the massive ravens which are everywhere, lots of other birdsong, Buddhist chanting, trains, pedestrian and level crossings. I’m looking forward to giving them a listen and a bit of an edit. Oh, and did I mention the temples?

So, I’m feeling refreshed and ready for the year ahead. Mr. Credit Card isn’t looking so healthy. He could just about handle the holiday; I seem to recall he was actually quite looking forward to it as he doesn’t get out the wallet much, never mind the country. But he started to turn a strange colour when I asked him to take on the engagement ring. “That’s what you’re for” I told him. He said I had to “give him lots of money” if we were to remain friends. The bastard!

In other news, LittleBigPlanet has been nominated for 8 GANG awards. There’s some symmetry there with the 8 AIAS awards the game won at DICE last week, ignoring the fact that none of those were for audio BUT you don’t win Game of the Year and Console Game of the Year without good audio so I’m a winner too. Or so I keep telling myself.

Interestingly, Sackboy won an AIAS award for Outstanding Character Performance, so I am now officially an Academy Award winning voice actor. Yes, thank you, thank you ladies and gentlemen. No autographs please, put those pens away. If you’d like me to cough or hold my breath in the Sack-stylee as some after-dinner entertainment then contact my mum. Be warned though, she drives a hard bargain, and you’d be best advised not refuse her offer of a wee cup of tea.

Seriously though, I think the sound design decision not to litter the Sackfolk with inane voice samples contributed significantly towards that award. This is something which some sound designers find hard to resist – there are a couple of 3rd party trailers and adverts out there where some arse has added chipmunk voices to the Sackfolk to make them sound comic and cute. This is a great example of something which is easy to do in the linear medium (so deceptively easy it doesn’t actually require any thought) turning out to be almost impossibly hard to do [properly] in the interactive medium. Which would be purely academic were it not for the fact that an inability to speak is a strong component of the Sackboy/Sackgirl IP.

Ignoring implementation issues such as contextual blindness and technical limitations such as memory constraints, not having a voice allows players to feel that their Sackboy, which they lovingly dress, customise and emote with, is theirs. This sense of ownership would be hard to achieve if the character you were controlling had a mind of their own, voice and language being the most personal way of communication and expression. Which is why when Sackboy does speak it is with the voice of his player, his lips moving to match those of his puppet master.

Anyways, in addition to the 8 nominations from GANG, there are also nominations for the two audio categories at the BAFTA video games awards and the audio award at GDC, so there’s still the chance for some award winning audio love coming towards LittleBigPlanet over the next couple of months.

If you want to read more about the audio in LittleBigPlanet then check out my recently published article at Music4Games, and keep an eye out for the March edition of Game Developer Magazine.

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