Talking to Gamasutra, Fable II
creator Peter Molyneux has revealed how Lionhead used a film director and a sound stage to act out the entire plot of the game -- but as reference for staging and emotion, rather than for motion or voice capture-related reasons.
Explaining the motivation for this -- essentially to get the story and script exactly right before the animators and voice-over artists started working on it -- Molyneux detailed:
"We... hired what's called a sound stage. It was a huge vast white room. We got seven actors in. We flew in a film director from Hollywood who was experienced in doing some film work, but also experienced in teaching people to direct. And we acted out the entirety of the story of Fable II
, within this white space. We had never done that before.
And what we found is that we could get to that [result we wanted]. You've got to put it in... It's got to be there before you know it's there. We got to that before we had to put it in the game. So the story, the narrative, the emotional points of the story were there, acted in this sound space."
So how did this help? Molyneux explained that, when you're creating interactions that occur in real-time and it's not possible or sensible to use motion capture, these kind of staging points helped realism immeasurably:
"Because the problem is that when you've got a dramatic scene, you say to your scripters -- they're coders actually -- "Yeah, Okay, the hero is talking to Balthazar, and saying these lines."
The poor old scripters have no idea how to stage that. Should that Balthazar character be looking at you? Should they be walking over here? Should they be nodding their head? Should they be shaking their head?
So what we did is we filmed the entirety of that process. The actors ad-libbed all over the place which was absolutely fine -- because we rewrote the scripts again. And when the scripters went to put the script in the game, they watched the video."
Even better, as Molyneux concluded when talking to Gamasutra
about the critically acclaimed title, this allowed additional rewriting and workshopping so that the script was perfect for when the important, high-end voiceover actors worked on the game:
"Then we got the voiceover talent. And you have to work like that, because the voiceover talent here -- there's Stephen Fry and Zoë Wanamaker... and these are big name people.
You can't mess around with them and say, "Oooh! I don't know what you're going to say next, but just make something up!" And that's what we would have done in Fable I, probably."