Adamís Venture II: Solomonís Secret

 

Developer Diary entry #3: Voice Acting

Landing the role of Adam Venture is something like a dream come true for me.  I've been into acting in general, and voice acting in particular, for only a few years, but I've been a video game fan since childhood.  I'm very excited to see and hear my work help bring this project to life!

One thing for sure: it's been a learning experience.  My initial audition, through an online casting service, was only for the role of Adam.  But in early communications with Tristan (Lambert, co-founder of Vertigo Games), I quickly learned that the team wanted me to voice something like twenty distinct male characters, spanning wildly diverse accents, ages, and personalities.  I suppose they came to that decision after listening to one of my character demos-- either that, or they were taking an awful lot on faith!  "Welcome to the game industry," Tristan teased, and it dawned on me that this was going to be a challenging project, operating (I would also learn) on a fairly tight timeline.

I've handled several types of voice work (commercials, documentaries, audio books), and have a fair bit of stage experience as well, but voicing a video game is a different creature altogether.  The biggest adjustment: I had to learn to play everything bigger than my first instinct.  The graphic and animation teams craft stunningly lifelike characters, but as Tristan phrased it, "our 3D models rarely give Oscar winning performances".  So it's up to people like myself and Emma Dingwall (Evelyn) to help convey the emotions behind the onscreen action.

My first test reads for Adam and James were apparently pretty good, but Tristan needed more.  When Adam's ego took over he had to sound supremely cocky; when James grew angry I had to express the barely restrained rage of a truly dangerous madman.  I've attached a couple of sample clips, so you can hear how each character sounded before and after some direction from the Vertigo staff.

For all that it's been a challenge, voicing Adam's Venture II has also been an absolute blast.  As of this writing, I'm told that the team has almost finished integrating my voice into the game, and it's reportedly coming together well.  Not to get too far ahead of myself, but I have an inkling that there may be an Adam's Venture III on the horizon... if so, I hope my mic and I get a chance to put words in Adam's mouth again!

Ray Sizemore - Norwalk, OH

http://raysizemore.com / www.adams-venture.com

Ray on voice acting

Developer Diary entry #2: Animation commentary

Hi everyone and welcome to the second entry of the Vertigo Gamesí developer diary of Adam's Venture Episode 2: Solomon's Secret, which is currently scheduled for an early Q1-2011 release. In this chapter, Animator Nick Brugman will give you an inside look at the motion capturing that is currently being implied to the game.

First off I want to say Motion Capture AKA MoCap is awesome! It's a type of technology that helps create more realistic movements for virtual characters in movies and video games.

My name is Nick Brugman and I'm an animator at Vertigo-Games. I'm in charge of making kick-ass animations for the video game; Adam's Venture Episode 2: Solomon's Secret.

Motion capture techniques have been around for a lot of years and were originally developed for medical research in the field of prosthetics. But as the years go by, the entertainment industry is using this technology more and more. For instance, Andy Serkis really got a lot of attention as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, and Avatar was shot with an even more advanced type of mo-cap.
But video game production is where most of the action is.

I'm able to use a state of the art Motion Capture suit. The best thing about the suit is, it's camera free! Meaning The capturing can take place anywhere. The capturing is all done via blue-tooth. One drawback to blue tooth; having the suit near any random metal objects results to one hell of a weird animation. Limbs can be out of proportion, un-human movements can be made and stretching characters far beyond their reach is also a possibility.

To make these kick-ass animations, a lot has to be done. Scripts have to be made, levels have to be analyzed, story-boards have to be made and Shot-lists have to be made. There are endless lists of things that are needed and have to be approved. All of this has to be done before the MoCap session starts. Being prepared for anything is half the work load.

Once all of the endless lists are approved, It's time to walk through the scenes with my fellow animators here at Vertigo-Games. You didn't think I did this all by my lonesome, did you now? We walk through camera positions, character positions, specific movements characters have to make, lines that have to be said, everything and anything that is in the current shot has been accounted for. We know it all, and we are prepared to look silly in a spandex suit, to make that kick-ass animation.

Luckily we are using an audio/visual-studio that has some pretty nifty curtains, so not too many people see us looking silly.

Anyone of us can be a motion capture actor. We are all, different shapes and sizes, but in the computer our dimensions can be manipulated and moved around. so often we use one person to play several different characters. Resulting in one silly looking person at a time.

The MoCap suit registers every movement made by the person in the suit. It does this through some mathematical mumbojumbo I don't understand, I'm just happy it works. Because the suit registers every little motion, it becomes a lot easier to make a character look more realistic and especially, more human.

Alas, the MoCap suit we use, does not record facial expressions. The suit only records the movement of an actor. There is no way of capturing emotions. But if an actor only moves, how do you portray emotions you ask?

Well...we tell our actor to actually act surprised. It is up to the actor to overdo the action. In my experience, exaggerating specific emotions in a MoCap suit works better than not doing so. In the end, it makes an animation realistic.

This stuff is really cool, but working in an empty environment can be challenging to get used to at first. There isn't much of a set to work with. The set is mainly an open room and the result on screen is a few dots moving around. Luckily we have software that transform the dots into a basic character, so we have some idea of what the take will look like. The rest we can ďImagineĒ

I like to use the word "Imagine".

I tell the actor to "Imagine" she is sitting in a car, to "Imagine" that she is getting away from the evil corporation and to "Imagine" there is going to be an explosion behind her. The rest is up to the actor.

To say the least, The first try is never the best. The first try results to something I like to call "Don't quit your day-job"

For no apparent reason the fourth of fifth try is consistently the best.  We like to keep the "One level per MoCap session" standard. It makes planning a lot easier and makes deadlines way more accessible.

Once we have "The one take", It's time to edit.

The data gathered by the MoCap software is useless to me. Through some software handy work I can take that data, and can make a character move exactly like the actor did.  There are usually some minor glitches in the animation. So after a nice tweaking session, it's time to put the animation in the game.

Once I think the animation finally looks good in-game, it's time for the boss' opinion. And that is an entirely different matter all together.

Hear hear to our little insider about Motion Capture. Stay tuned for our forthcoming video blog about Motion Capture at www.adams-venture.com

Developer Diary entry #1: Music commentary

Hi everyone and welcome to the first entry of the Vertigo Gamesí developer diary of Adam's Venture Episode 2: Solomon's Secret, which is currently scheduled for an early Q1-2011 release. In this chapter, music composer Jonathan vd Wijngaarden will give you more in-depth information about the development process on the gameís music.

My name is Jonathan vd Wijngaarden and I'm the music composer for the Adam's Venture series. In the past year I've also been writing music for Ghost Pirates of Vooju Island and Eyepet Move Edition.

For Adam's Venture, what started out as a modest adventure game, quickly became a series in which Vertigo wanted to explore the undertakings of Adam and his friend Evelyn; the episodic Adam's Venture series. In line with this, the team asked me to compose the musical score to Adamís Venture Episode 2: Solomonís Secret as well.

Adam's Venture Episode 1: The Search for the Lost Garden

Adam's Venture initially featured a mini soundtrack, about 15 minutes in length, using a dynamic system to add in new pieces of music as the player moved forward in the game. At the time, the gameís script, gameplay and puzzles were still being written, but we all set to create something that would pay tribute to the classic exploration franchises out there, such as Indiana Jones. However, it had already been decided by then that the entire game would play in and around cavernous areas, entrance puzzles, built to protect the legendary Garden of Eden, so that gave me something to work with for starters.

The main inspiration for the first score, were the classic adventure games of golden age. Setting the bar high to create something interesting to listen to, and to make it as non repetitive as possible. Ironically we ended up with a score that would wander around the same themes and instrumentation, subtly moving around in different arrangements and passages rather than offering huge variation. Without drawing the playersí attention directly, my main target was not to have music running alongside the game, but rather through its core. A very dense and tension-driven exploration score that would allow the player to focus on the puzzles but which would tie together the different areas in the game at the same time. Using minor differences in instrumentation and melody for each area, we had a system in place that would nearly play wall-to-wall music, a continuous stream of music.

 Now for something different ...

As development progressed on Adam's Venture 2, the Vertigo team showed me the game for the first time with all the puzzles already in place. This time around I was going to work off something tangible, giving me a clearer idea of where to go with the music for Adam's Venture 2.

Immediately I knew it would not be possible to approach this score the same way as was done for the first game, for two reasons; first of all, the game was a lot bigger and secondly, it dealt with many more different settings and locations. There had to be a more aggressive approach, directly scoring the different situations. There was now a whole different layer of tension, needing musical cues rather than wall-to-wall music. This second score will be characterized by re-occurring melodies and sounds though as well as a main theme introduced at the end of the first game that will resurface every now and then.

Constructing a soundtrack

As said, the music for Adam's Venture 2 will follow a different approach than that of the first game. The music is written for specific moments, adding more depth and room to develop themes for certain areas. With an eye on classic adventures, there will be moments where the music is really supportive, however there will also be moments when the music is less subtle and more of a driving factor.

 

Throughout the game, as the player travels to different locations, the music will introduce new instruments. In general the instrumentation of Adam's Venture 2 moves more towards small ensemble / orchestra, in contrast to the first game. This is due to the locations of the game being more down to earth and recognizable.

Tension is more important than ever in this sequel. From the start on, Adam and Evelyn will have to be creative and be one step ahead of their foes, solving riddles and puzzles as they go. The music reflects this constant tension though again the target is to have music that players will be generally aware of, without distracting them while they are solving puzzles.

Main philosophy for the music of Adam's Venture has always been to provide tension in a way that keeps it enjoyable and mysterious, rather than scary. While this time around we'll definitely see more tension, the music will mainly be driving and pleasant to maintain the sound that people liked from the original game.

After launching Adam's Venture 1, we received a lot of great feedback about the music for the game. With Adam's Venture 2, I'm aiming to go beyond what we've done previously while still reaching out to people who loved the first soundtrack.

A small music preview is available on YouTube for those eager to hear some music from Adam's Venture 2. I hope you enjoyed this music commentary and I'm looking forward to hearing reactions on my second score to Adam and his mysterious adventures!