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A video game based on the Scarface license was always going to be a huge challenge to get right. The license itself has a huge following, not only among the original fans of the movie, but among a newer more urban audience who identify directly with the character of Tony Montana in terms of their own experience of rising from nothing, particularly among the hip hop community.
A great deal of
expectation surrounded the game all the way through production and
audio was certainly no exception to pressure and scrutiny. Everyone
involved, being huge fans of the license, made sure that they kept
themselves under enough pressure to get this game sounding the best it
could all the way through the project.
All these elements had to represent Tony Montana’s point of view, and allow the player to feel as though they really were this character. It is fair to say from the outset that this was a character-driven audio direction and that this gave us our cinematic approach.
The entire development team varied in size over the course of the project, at one point swelling to around 100 people. On the audio side we had a Sound Director, Sound Implementer, Sound Programmer and the support of our Advanced Technology Group who created, and maintained, all the audio tools required for our work. Our sound department also comprises of an internal recording engineer, a sound effects designer, Foley team as well as editors and an in-house composer.
That said, even with all those internal resources, there was a great need for outsourcing on the project for editing, music licensing, voice casting and voice direction in order to deal with the sheer quantity and global scale of this audio production.
Designing a flexible and reactive dialogue system that immersed the player was a huge challenge, and one of the core game features we had to get right. The dialogue had to be a cohesive part of the Scarface universe, so inevitably there needed to be a certain amount of fowl language and a great deal of humor.
Designer involvement with the dialogue system was needed from day one of the project and we got this support and involvement in the form of the project’s design lead, Pete Low. Design was therefore involved in script and character development for each and every character, particularly in establishing the emotional range of dialogue that would be required from Tony himself.
Each character that was designed had around 10 categories of reaction, and for each of those categories they had around 10 variants of line that could be played each time one of those events occurred. This meant that each character had around 100+ lines, not to mention all the cinematic lines and mission specific dialogue that were required. A great deal of the additional dialogue for the in-game characters was written by writers local to us in Vancouver, they essentially churned out a huge quantity of situational one-liners for hundreds of characters resulting in over 33,000 individual lines.
Getting the character of Tony Montana right was the core goal of the dialogue; if this couldn’t be done, then we had no game. A grueling process of auditions commenced in 2004, which encompassed the whole of North America. There were only two or three sound-alikes that could have fit the bill and these auditions were collated and sent off to Al Pacino for final selection.
By far the finest,
and the one who was selected in the end, was Andre Sogliuzzo, who, as
fortune would have it, turned out to have been Pacino’s driver around
ten or so years ago, which gave him all the knowledge he needed to
accurately mimic the character of Tony Montana.
With Tony cast, it turned to the supporting cast around Tony to be of as high a quality as we could get. Names like James Woods, Michael York, Cheech Marin, Robert Loggia, Steven Bauer and Al Israel soon began to mount up to what was eventually a great cast.
The recording itself was split into several different phases based on the three different locations for production and the three different times we needed to carry out the recordings. Recording took place in our studio in Vancouver, at Technicolor Studios in Burbank, and at Vivendi Games’ own LA Studio early in 2005. We also had to record at various other locations around the world depending on the location of the voice artists we needed, such as The Sound Company in London where both Ricky Gervais and Lemmy were recorded, J.A. Castle Studios in Syracuse where Richard Roundtree was recorded, and Sony Studios in NY where Huey Morgan et al were recorded. Myself or VO director Eric Weiss, Rob King or Chris Borders would be on site to direct and do b-roll interviews, and often the whole thing was done via ISDN where applicable.
One of the great things we were able to do was to have all our notes on the sessions entered directly into the script via laptop in digital form directly into Excel and exported digitally to html files; this meant that we were able to upload the unedited sessions and a digital version of our session notes to our dialogue editors, where they could begin editing right away. There were no hard to understand handwritten notes and there was no need for the editors to be near a fax machine, this meant that our dialogue editors could be anywhere in the world.
The digital format also meant that for file naming the editors could simply copy and paste the filenames from the digital script, rather than having to manually enter the filenames from a printed page.