Ever since Oblivion became the first fully-voiced Elder Scrolls game, the series’ huge open worlds have been known for their surprisingly small number of voices. The fact that almost all male Imperials in Oblivion share one highly distinct voice—including the huge number of in-game guards—quickly became a meme that has lasted to this day. The number of voice actors increased in Skyrim, but it still doesn’t take long at all for players to realize just how many repeating voices there are in the game. Many fans understandably suspect that The Elder Scrolls 6 will continue the trend.
It would be nearly impossible for Bethesda to give all of the NPCs in its open-world games unique voices in the traditional way—hiring that many voice actors would be a logistical nightmare. The use of repeating voices also helps Bethesda take advantage of generic dialogue that characters can share when they aren’t talking about things specific to their character. One industry trend, however, could completely change the way The Elder Scrolls 6 handles its voice acting. Here’s how AI could transform the voices of Tamriel in The Elder Scrolls 6.
Obsidian, AI Voices, And The Witcher 3 Mod
Game developers have been using artificial intelligence to generate character voices for years, and it has proven particularly useful when developing RPGs with large worlds and hundreds of characters. Obsidian Entertainment’s studio audio director Justin Bell spoke in a video for AI voice developer Sonantic’s Youtube channel in March to discuss the way the studio had used AI voices in the development of sci-fi RPG The Outer Worlds.
Demonstrating the software Obsidian used, Bell showed how AI could recreate a performer’s voice with extreme accuracy. He also showed that developers were able to adjust the tone of the AI voice, as well as the extent of that tone’s effect. The tonal options included neutral, expressive, anger, fear, happy, sad, and shouting, each with its own low, medium, and high-intensity options.
Obsidian initially used this technology during the development process to ensure that a line fit will within a scene, and then took the lines back to the voice-over artists for the final cut. The AI voices are so believable, however, that it’s easy to see how developers could begin using AI voices for their characters without getting actors to record any lines once the AI has enough samples to generate a copy of their voice.
Bell describes how this process “empowers” the developers when creating their story, but for many voice actors, the implications are very different. This came to the forefront back in April, when a mod for The Witcher 3: The Wild hunt titled “A Night to Remember” recreated Geralt of Rivia’s voice using AI software CyberVoice without the involvement of Geralt’s voice actor Doug Cockle. Voice actor Jay Britton from Divinity: Original Sin 2 and Total War: Warhammer 2 took to Twitter to voice concerns: “Yes, AI might be able to replace things but should it? We literally get to decide. Replacing actors with AI is not only a legal minefield but an utterly soulless choice.”
Unfortunately for many video game voice actors, however, it seems likely that AI technology is here to stay. It also seems unlikely that many developers will be able to resist the economic incentives, cutting down on the amount of studio time needed for voice actors and giving their writers far more flexibility to add and edit dialogue on the fly throughout a game’s development.
Voice AI And The Elder Scrolls 6
This technology could have a huge effect on a series like The Elder Scrolls, which is known for populating its worlds with just a handful of actors. AI technology could allow The Elder Scrolls 6 to have a far greater variety of in-game dialogue, and AI tweaking could allow for a wider range of voices to be heard in-game, making every character feel truly unique.
It would also allow The…
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