Video game VA Jay Britton worries about the future of voice acting due to AI in a Witcher 3 fan-made quest, but it may not be a concern so soon.
By Ian McCollum
Published 3 hours ago
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has a popular PC mod called “A Night to Remember” by Nexus Mods user Nikich340.?The mod features a brand-new quest that took its dev team a full year to create, yet recent focus has not been on the quest itself. Instead, fans are more focused on The Witcher 3?icon?Geralt of Rivia’s new dialogue?options.
Without access to Geralt of Rivia’s voice actor Doug Cockle, Nikich340?needed a way to give Geralt new dialogue options. He solved?this problem by using the subscription-based voice generating AI program called CyberVoice. Upon the release of the quest, voice actor Jay Britton took notice of the AI replacing Cockle and presented an ethical dilemma. He claimed in a Tweet that if voice acting AI continues to progress, it may cause problems for professional voice actors.
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It’s only inevitable if it’s a choice we make. I’d never sell my first to an AI voice bank, I have enough respect for the craft and myself.
If it’s my AI voice, it’s not my performance.
— Jay Britton (@JayBritton) June 27, 2021
Voice actor Doug Cockle’s raspy rendition?of Geralt of Rivia’s voice is used in the fan mod. Geralt speaks through an AI program, and it does not take long for one to recognize that it is an artificially generated voice than a real human. Britton?called attention to the ethical problems with the use of AI as a replacement for real voice work. He argues on behalf of a now-unavailable linked tweet that the use of AI to generate voices instead of using voice actors might be the future of the games industry, and takes a clear stance in the comments?against the idea.
Britton’s concern with the?AI program?may be warranted because voice acting could be replaced by better vocal generating AI in the future.?CyberVoice?utilizes voice actors’ performances to use for content creators and mod programmers. The program’s website mentions its use is intended for mods, indie games, and/or any?creative projects where a characters’ voice actors are too expensive. It could potentially give small content creators a reason not to use voice actors in their creations, which ultimately could have a negative effect on contemporary voice actors looking to be featured in video games or other content. However, for known professional?voice actors, this could be more beneficial than harmful.
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Geralt of Rivia’s voice?is used in an official CyberVoice YouTube video. For this to happen, the company needed Doug Cockle’s?permission to use his performance as Geralt in order to program the AI. The fact that his voice is?prominently featured in the video shows Cockle has given the company that permission, which also works out for him financially. The information provided by CyberVoice’s website shows that voice actors involved?are compensated for their contributions. It?does not?specify the?amount of compensation that voice actors get for their vocal integration, however.
In a side-by-side comparison of the original voice of Geralt and the AI-generated voice, there is something off that the human ear can identify. It sounds just close enough that players might not mind its use in a fan-made quest mod such as “A Night to Remember,” but while?Geralt is known for being monotoned the vocal AI speaks with seemingly no human nuance.
Other Twitter users on?Britton’s thread have?claimed?that vocal technology will advance to the point where it is indistinguishable from human speech, which is a possibility.?Using that kind of AI would be a?cheaper option than hiring people for long hours in recording booths. There is some hope for voice actors’ futures because the program’s website says it gives contributors?compensation for their voice being used. It gives smaller content creators a unique program where they can use the voice of an actor or a character for any number of creative projects related to video games or other media.
Britton suggests it is the bane of creativity to use a voice actor’s character in this way. He is right that any use of someone’s voice without permission is a breach of copyright laws, but creators can get around that legal barrier with the use of?a program like CyberVoice. CyberVoice was created for creative purposes to help content creators who cannot afford big-budget voice actors, so it’s unlikely major AAA titles will take a similar path in the near future. None of the voice actors from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt have expressed worry over the program, yet other Twitter users seem to agree with Britton that voice actors may have reason to be concerned for the future of their careers.
Britton has a career in video games voice acting, so it stands to reason he might have?felt concerned?in April 2021 when?the mod launched. He has every right to his?opinion, because the threat to the voice acting community could be more real than expected down the line. However, there is not enough evidence yet to support the claim that voice actor’s jobs are currently on the line. The program CyberVoice is reportedly only meant to be a workaround for smaller content creators to engage with the games and characters they love, and in the case of this mod it certainly seems to have been effective.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt?is available now on Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, and Xbox One. PS5 and Xbox Series X/S versions?are currently in development.
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