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How do you feel about digitizing Hollywood stars into video games? [roundtable]
 
I am, of course, referring to the upcoming PS3 game Beyond: Two Souls from Quantic Dream (Heavy Rain, Indigo Prophecy) which stars Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe. And by stars I do not mean voice acting, I mean literally stars; they have been motion captured and digitized into the game itself, and the advertising for the game has been completely based around their starring roles.


This isn't the first time the video game industry has put famous people into games, but most of the past examples I can think of offhand were either using actual (generally poorly compressed) video, such as several Sega CD games did, or having the person in question play themselves, such as the old Michael Jackson game or that terrible 50 Cent game. This seems to me to be the first time that actresses and actors are being used "seriously" as actresses and actors in a high profile video game in the same way that they are in movies, not just from the acting side but from the advertising side.

While talking about this with a Facebook friend I realized that it kind of turns me off a bit, and though it is tough to really put a finger on why, here are a few of my reasons:

1. Uncanny Valley gets taken to a whole new level for me when it is using real people that I have seen before.
2. I'm kind of not a fan of the Hollywoodization of video games to begin with, and this feels like it could be (if successful) a big step towards more Hollywoodization in general.
3. It kind of kills the immersion for me (ironic, since it's supposedly being done to be more immersive) because I can't not think "that's Ellen Page in digital form", etc. I have this issue with film casting famous people in multiple roles as well to some degree, which is why I love going into movies that don't have anyone I recognize in them, but I guess I'm more used to it there?
4. It just feels sort of unnecessary and contrary to what I like in video games, which is the unique worlds and characters. I'd rather see Nathan Drake than see Nathan Fillion stars as Nathan Drake. This is especially an issue to me if this trend catches on and the same actors and actresses end up playing multiple roles in multiple games.
5. Honestly? It just feels a bit cheesy to me.

Still, that's just me, and I totally acknowledge how subjective a lot of this stuff is, and how, if it did become a trend I would adjust to some of it over time, and maybe a lot of these concerns would diminish.

What do you think?

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Posted: 10/05/13, 21:04:02
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Depends on how well it's done I guess.

I thought L.A. Noire's MotionScan capture tech was kick ass.

It may not have been perfect, but it didn't need to be to impress. I'd love to see the tech used more in future titles.
Posted: 10/06/13, 05:24:26
I'm personally not too into it unless the game is based off of a movie in the first place. I have no interest in this developer or their pretentious games, quite honestly, but this practice seems unnecessary and distracting. Hell, one of the most unfortunate things about famous actors in their actual movies is that after awhile you start to see, for example, Johnny Depp and Tom Cruise as themselves in all of their roles rather than their characters.

But hey, if it ends up paying off by attracting people to the product who would otherwise ignore it, then I guess I can't blame them.
Posted: 10/06/13, 06:55:54
I'm fairly outspoken about not liking this drift toward "games that think they're movies," and I mostly see this as a corollary of that.

But, even deeper, I'd say I think mo-cap and face-cap are pretty cool technologies. No problem there. My real issue is more lack of interest in seeing Hollywood stars raise the budgets of games. And, actually, see their presence do to video game voice acting what they already did to animated movie voice acting.

Wait, let me get out my rocking chair... That's better. Cue Stephen Foster soundtrack...

You see, when I was a kid, Hollywood actors didn't star in animated movies. Instead, we had groups of talented people called "professional voice actors" and they devoted their lives to developing high-quality, recognizable voices for different animated characters. And they were great! But gradually a series of animated movies came along with celebrity voice actors that made enough money to buy the Moon (Aladdin, Lion King, Toy Story, Shrek). Companies making animated films took notice. Hey, why hire talented nobodies when you could hire well-known celebrities that you can then use to market the film? Come see David Schwimmer in... MADAGASCAR!

Celebrities like it because they're lazy and they can make a paycheck for a couple days of work. The marketers like it because it makes their job easier. Some audience members like it because they want every opportunity possible to worship Hollywood stars. But me? Give me trained voice actors every time. (And I see actors like Alan Young and Mark Hamill who've been successful in voice acting as film stars who eventually made a career change to voice acting.)

Basically, I feel the same way about games. I don't want to hear or see Ellen Page in a video game. She's not that great of an actor in real life, to be honest. She's okay, but I don't see how her presence adds much other than some unnecessary "Hey, I recognize her" factor. I'd rather leave that job to someone who's actually good at it.

Not to mention the justice of more work for jobbing voice actors and less for pampered movie stars.
Posted: 10/06/13, 16:54:43
@kriswright

Yeah, pretty much. Billy West (one of the most legendary voice actors of today, I'd say) has a problem with this too, and it extends to characters who basically "become" the voice actor anyway (Shark Tale, anyone?). Most actors don't have particularly unique or great voices; I'm tired of hearing characters in animated films that just sound like regular guys.

That said, it's not quite as problematic as it was a few years ago, and there're still a good number of celebrities who actually DO some solid voice work (Alan Tudyk as King Candy in Wreck-It Ralph, Mike Myers' Shrek, Steve Carrell in Despicable Me, pretty much any Pixar film). But it's a pretty tiresome marketing tool overall.
Posted: 10/06/13, 23:08:59
Not a fan as a whole. I mean, even David Hayter got jobbed because Kojima got Keifer Sutherland to do Snake's voice in MGSV and that's supposedly a selling point (except to the millions of fans who know Hayter as Snake) and that's just on the voice side of things.
Posted: 10/07/13, 16:22:10
The bigger games get, the more actors will go to the money. I do think uncanny valley is in effect here, however, and I know I would nitpick a digitized performance to death.
Posted: 10/07/13, 17:04:21
@ludist210

Really? They bounced David Hayter for Kiefer Sutherland. Well... that's exactly what I'm talking about. What the hell, man...
Posted: 10/07/13, 17:06:38
@kriswright

Oh yeah, that was a big deal at E3. Technically it's "Big Boss" and not "Solid Snake", but Hayter voiced Big Boss in MGS3, so...yeah, a big deal to gamers.

I somewhat play the series and it took me aback when Sutherland's voice came out of his mouth.
Posted: 10/07/13, 17:28:27  - Edited by 
 on: 10/07/13, 17:30:46
I liked that one of the reason Kojima gave was that Snake is an American so they should have an American voicing him. But who knows, he might have been conscious that Sutherland comes from Canada just like Hayter and was making a joke.

Anyway, it's not as if Hayter was a legendary voice actor. I think he's pretty terrible. But I also think he doesn't have much to work with.

"A Hind D?!"
Posted: 10/07/13, 19:32:19
Sutherland seems like he is doing a fine job based on the trailer, but... again, is it worth the extra money it no doubt costs to put a celebrity in the role over a professional voice actor? Metal Gear is pretty cornball anyway and switching the voice of a main character in a title that isn't even a reboot is pretty awkward.
Posted: 10/08/13, 05:15:25  - Edited by 
 on: 10/08/13, 05:16:17
I'm generally good with actors being digitized into games, be they Hollywood actors or voice actors or stage actors or whatever.

I am a fan of cinematic games and the ever-improving performance capture technology is enhancing those games tremendously. I don't particularly object to making the game character look like the actor even if I know that actor from other acting roles. If they do a good job acting, then I will accept them in whatever role they're cast in regardless of if I'm familiar with their face or not.

I'm NOT a fan of Hollywood actors who just phone in a quick voice performance with minimal enthusiam or understanding of the role/script. But that's not the case here in the case of Beyond: Two Souls. The actors here were VERY involved in the game and their roles and put the effort into it that gaming deserves as a legitimate story-telling medium.

For the record, and since no one's mentioned it - I'm very thankful that Elena Fisher from the Uncharted series looks just like Emily Rose (her voice actor).



Posted: 10/09/13, 02:15:46  - Edited by 
 on: 10/09/13, 02:29:56
@GameDadGrant
Hmm, I'll concede a bit. Voice clips are fine (except for Toad's). It's just the lengthy dialogues that bother me.
Posted: 10/12/13, 03:02:29
Playing Beyond Two Souls. Holy heck, I'm about two thirds of the way through now and I'm absolutely loving this game. So good. I just want to keep playing and keep playing. It's gotten tremendously mixed reviews with some people loving it and some really not. I'm thoroughly on the love it side of the fence.

I have to say, the graphics are really amazing for a PS3. Can't believe how good most scenes look. Occasionally it gets marred by some octagonal curve, but for the most part this is a polished looking game.

Some critics really dislike the way it jumps around Jodie's life from chapter to chapter. I think the non-linearity serves the game fine. It keeps the pacing well done while preserving enough mystery to keep me intrigued. I don't think I'd want to play through the chapters in a linear fashion.

The genre-changing doesn't bother me either. It keeps every chapter feeling fresh and like another chapter in a life that has seen many different events. One chapter is survival horror. The next is action. The next is drama. The next is sci-fi. Love it.

Can't wait to play the rest.
Posted: 10/16/13, 01:57:41
apparently Ellen Page did a good performance so having actors digitized for games can help the gamer with being more invested into the story - sometimes... It doesn't really matter to me.

Speaking of Page, there is nudity in a shower scene (hidden camera angles) thanks to a crack - no I won't post pics, but Sony is trying extra hard to get those images off the web. If you look hard enough, I'm sure you will find what you seek. This is hot coffee all over again...
I'm wondering if having a celebrity digitized gave the programmers more incentive to create this stuff.. Link to news only
Posted: 10/23/13, 06:15:42
It is odd that they found it necessary to put nipples on the character model... I understand why they would start with a nude model, but why not just render it as a Barbie doll, considering the player is never meant to see anything? In any case, it's not like it is Ellen Page's actual body, so I don't see why anybody should be so upset about it.

Oh, and it's hilarious that they think they can have the images magically erased. That's not how the internet works. Ask any celebrity that has had her phone hacked and real nude images leaked.
Posted: 10/23/13, 12:22:48  - Edited by 
 on: 10/23/13, 12:27:21
@Hinph It's not actually her, but it's supposed to be her... isn't that the point? I can see why she might get a bit peeved having not just her name but her naked digital body connected to this "controversy", although ultimately it seems to be a bit overblown.
Posted: 10/23/13, 17:34:31  - Edited by 
 on: 10/23/13, 17:34:50
@Zero

Yeah, what I mean is... it's not like she actually stripped down naked in their studio and that those are actually what her nipples look like. So in that sense, it's no worse than those silly fake celebrity porn pics where they Photoshop a celebrity's head on another woman's body (and you know there are plenty of those that already exist for Ellen Page), and this is a 3D model that isn't even lewd in nature. It's just nudity.

But yeah, like I said, I don't see the need for putting nipples on the model in the first place. That's the developer's fault.
Posted: 10/23/13, 19:33:44
@Hinph
I think it's highly possible they rendered the whole model with the planning of possibly having nudity in the game and then the final decision was not to - likely due to Ellen's request or contract agreement. Quantic Dreams' previous games have shown nudity after all, including male and female shower nudity. The wouldn't go back and change the character model, they'd just change the camera angles.
Posted: 10/23/13, 20:51:56
Then they have nobody but themselves to blame for this silly controversy. Developers should be aware at this point that there are always going to be people out there who enjoy looking through unused game content.
Posted: 10/23/13, 21:19:42
@nacthenud @Hinph Well that is the thing, I'd imagine that Ellen Page would not want to be linked to in-game nudity with a character that looks like her. I'd also imagine that, whether anyone will see it as a big deal or not, it's going to be seen as a breach of trust to some degree, and other actors and actresses might hesitate to get involved in these type of projects.
Posted: 10/23/13, 22:13:57
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