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Disco Elysium: Bring a Million Words to Life for The Final Cut

That’s over a million words in Disco Elysium. It is not hyperbole. For a scale, see the entire The Lord of the Rings – all three books, plus The Hobbit for good measure – twice. And all those millions of words, most of which previously sat silently on the screen, will be read aloud in the upcoming Final Cut edition of the game. Full voice acting comes to Disco Elysium, and – as you can probably guess – it has not been a small undertaking. Want to know more about how this achievement is achieved, I sent some questions to developer ZA / UM. In response, Disco Elysium lead author Helen Hindpere sent me a response of 1,549 words, written in such a way that I felt our interview had become an extension of the game itself. Words seem to be as important as breathing in the studio.

“I just saw an interview with a Soviet poet from the fifties,”

; says Hindpere. “Arvi Siig, a hero of mine. He said: poetry must belong to the masses.

“I was like: f ** k yes, Arvi! With all my heart I agree. Disco Elysium is a wild and unique adventure, but it is also intended for the widest possible audience. ”Currently, Disco Elysium’s most speechless original form is only available on PC and Mac. But with Final Cut, it will come to PlayStation in March, and on Xbox and Switch later in 2021. And with the extra platforms, the potential will reach a much wider audience. “Games are just so much more accessible with full VO [voiceover], especially role-playing games, ”says Hindpere. “And it’s also crucial to the console experience … TV screens are just not made to read like screens. You need VO. ”

Adding voice acting is not just about making Disco Elysium accessible to more people. ZA / UM wrote the game with VO in mind, and then the Final Cut script remains “99% the same” as the original release. As such, the addition of the disco brings Disco Elysium closer to the intended vision.

“Our intention was always to simulate how real-life conversations work,” says Hindpere. “Not movie talks, or even book talks, but real conversations. Ours is probably the most wild dialogue trees ever written. This is because Disco Elysium is a conversation simulator. VO brings us even closer to it. ”

Of course, bringing these conversations to life requires the right talent. The original version of Disco Elysium features a small amount of voice acting known for its authentic, scratchy feel, partly generated by a “ragtag band of criminals, friends and friends of friends”, for which ZA / UM is still grateful. These recordings serve as a plan for The Final Cuts approach.

“We had to express whole character this time, not just the beginning of the dialogues, ”notes Hindpere. “Your conversations lead you to some pretty extreme places psychologically. So we threw again with professional actors. We also kept many – from the original. Favorites like Kim Kitsuragi and Evrart Claire (Jullian Champenois and Tariq Khan). It’s a mix. Hopefully we kept the colorful vibe, only now with extra actor chops. ”

Finding the right cast has been a daunting task. “You need people from all over the world to do this kind of project,” says Hindpere. “One day – a Moroccan rapper from the Canary Islands. The other – a Taiwanese rapper from Taiwan. Then a Liverpudlian scary comes in and tears it up like Cuno. The casting process has been very planetary. That’s how we found the right voices, I think. ”Finding the ideal actors for the likes of Deserter and Paledriver has been one thing, but the biggest challenge ZA / UM faced was finding a voice to bring the whole experience together. “The narrator is the voice of Disco Elysium,” Hindpere emphasizes. “He reads all non-direct speech. This means every object, every parenthesis, and so on. Only when we miraculously stumbled upon Lenval Brown we knew: ok, we have the voice of Disco Elysium now. We can really try to do this. ”

Brown, who can hear the voice in the trailer above, is a jazz musician when he does not bring video game dialogue to life. He expresses about half of Disco Elysium’s scripts. As a reminder, it’s half a million words, the same as Tolstoy’s war and peace. “No Lenval – no Disco Elysium VO,” says Hindpere. “It’s so central.”

The role of the narrator in Disco Elysium is much more than a voice that guides the player between conversations. In addition to being a storyteller, Brown is also the voice of the 24 different skills, which manifest themselves as individual ‘characters’ in the protagonist’s mind.

“It seems like a natural choice to have each skill expressed by another actor, but believe me, that would be awful,” Hindpere says, answering the most obvious question. “Shake, cartoonish, hyperactive. There’s something about Disco Elysium that not many people are aware of – it’s actually a very calm and cozy game …. It’s cozy, like watching a series of dark detective fiction – while curled up on the couch with SO. Or reading a book. It has that mood. Taking the skills as a narrative, rather than a band of harpies tearing at you, was important to keep the experience level. ”

“As a final comment – I’m getting pretty thorough now, but hey! you read an interview with a Disco Elysium device, so you get what you pay for – in our psychological system, the 24 skills are all in the same part of the character’s brain: Posterior Neocortex, where modern science says consciousness lies, “adds Hindpere . The casting sheet literally says: POSTERIOR NEOCORTEX. So all the skills share the voice of the Posterior Neocortex. There are different brain voices in the game as well: Ancient Reptilian Brain, Limbic System and Spinal Cord (all tell your dreams). They have different voices, because they really are different parts of the character’s brain. ”

Finding the right actors, inviting back beloved voices and recording over a million words has taken ZA / UM around 14 months to do. The small studio has done almost all of this while the world has suffered from the impact of what Hindpere refers to as “the microorganism”, Which has meant recording sessions over Zoom and a lot of re-planning.

“It has also been a challenge throughout the studio,” Hindpere makes clear. “Everyone is on VO in one way or another. We have our own internal trio of directors who work with the actors. Plus every single author who is on duty and performs quality assurance. We all share the responsibility to get it right. Final Cut really needs to be the ultimate edition of Disco Elysium. ”

Disco Elysium: 18 screenshots

In addition to being the ultimate edition, I also think The Final Cut will help deliver the true version of ZA / UM’s world. I owe it to myself to grow lyrical about Revachol’s world and its highness, but Hindpere reminds me that Disco Elysium is also weird and wild and crazy.

“Disco Elysium has just as much in common with the Eurodance band Scooter and the comedy 2006” Dude, Where’s My Car? “as it has with … what have we been accused of lately? Hauntology? Existentialism ?, says Hindpere. “We are about it, but we are also about Scooter. Faster, harder, scooter! ”

And … well, yes. It’s all in the title. Disco Elysium. Of course it’s wild. This is a game where you can have debates with your own tie. The Apocalypse Cop route, in which you act as a prophet for the end of all things, comes with playful absurdity. Full voice work will bring these aspects to life in a way that will balance the dark, haunting sound of the British Sea Power score, and hopefully create a version that conveys Disco Elysium’s full personality spectrum for the ears as well as the eyes.

“It feels pretty luxurious,” Hindpere says, summing up VO’s impact on the game. “High production values ​​usually do. But then it also feels more direct and personal. ”

Disco Elysium already feels like it speaks directly to the player. But for now, the relationship is similar to a writer talking to a reader. It in itself has a certain type of intimacy, and is certainly part of why I think the story is so influential. But the promise of experiencing it all again, where the relationship is replaced with more authentic conversation, is something that has led me to The Final Cut. And for those on the console who have never played this conventional RPG, Disco Elysium’s upcoming incarnation will hopefully be the best possible way to experience it first.

Matt Purslow is IGN’s UK News and Entertainment Writer.

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