Why is English voice-acting in foreign-made games notoriously bad?

Jul 2, 2009
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#1
While it is common in anime and other media, but why is it that English voice-acting in foreign-made video games notoriously bad? Is it just simply that most studios do not care on voice-acting quality that they allow poor voice-acting to appear in foreign-made games?

This is a question I asked after watching the English version of a Project Zero/Fatal Frame trailer and how many people on a video game forum I frequented were turned off over the English voice-acting.
 
Jul 5, 2011
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#2
One big reason is that they don't do simultaneous cast recording

The voice actors can only come in on certain days and rarely, usually never together.

This is why conversations sound really stilted many times in dialogue.
 
Sep 27, 2014
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Pennsylvania
#3
From what I've heard over the years it's what Nyoro SF said, as well as some studios rushing to get all the voice acting done as fast as possible, even if it means doing it all in one day which leads to a huge drop in quality.
 
Jul 10, 2006
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#7
The quality of English voice acting is pretty good lately. I think a better question is "why do people still just automatically assume it's bad?" because that seems more apt to me. Not to say that there aren't examples of pretty crappy VA, and the reason for those tends to be poor voice direction more than anything else, but I think that's bandied about a great deal more often than is remotely warranted.
 
Jun 7, 2013
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#8
Right now I'm playing Type O HD and it adds a delightful camp value to the game's story moments. Not only are the actors bad but it seems like many of them have trouble reading sentences, so they'll like stop and start awkwardly. You can tell the script's formatting must have ended a line at a certain word or something and they didn't opt for doing many extra takes.
 
Jul 5, 2011
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#10
Right now I'm playing Type O HD and it adds a delightful camp value to the game's story moments. Not only are the actors bad but it seems like many of them have trouble reading sentences, so they'll like stop and start awkwardly. You can tell the script's formatting must have ended a line at a certain word or something and they didn't opt for doing many extra takes.
I love bad dubs. Well, not bad, but truly awful dubs.
I've expressed this before but I would totally pay for a bad dub DLC, provided that it was actually terrible enough to enjoy.
 
Apr 17, 2012
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#12
There was a panel at an anime con last year where D.C. Douglas explained why Resident Evil's VA was so bad

Think about Resident Evil 1… Think of Sergio Jones playing Albert Wesker in that one, and how everyone talks about how his performance was so horrible.

You know what? He’s a good actor. It sounds horrible because they probably had 300 lines on an Excel sheet, and you have no idea [about the context of the scene, so you] just keep repeating the line.

So it’s like, “Open the door.”

“Let’s just do three different takes on that.”

“Open the door. OPEN the door. Open the DOOR.”

And then some Japanese engineer goes, “I like the rhythm of that last one.”
 

tbd

Member
Jun 4, 2015
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#13
There's plenty of exceptions. Any Souls game, most of Atlus USA's work(meaning stuff Atlus JP developed), The Last Story, No More Heroes, Killer7(which was released in Japan with English dialogue), etc.
Who was that guy voicing Dagran anyway? Amazing job.
 
Mar 17, 2015
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#14
While it may just be age getting to me, I don't much mind the English VA in older Japanese games. I know the older Resident Evil titles get a lot of flack for it, but I consider it rather charming. So long as the actors at least TRY to emote on some level, I'm receptive it. Chaos Wars is the go-to example of a localization that lacked any effort whatsoever. Also keep in mind that "good" acting is subjective. What might sound right to you might not sound right to others.
 
Dec 26, 2014
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#15
Post release localisation is usually on a very tight budget that has to be divided already by a localisation team which includes writers, programmers, and sometimes artist if some art needs to be redone due to various reasons like unacceptable cultural differences. Which leaves the localisation team already strapped for cash, so they hire cheap voice actors, and you know they're cheap due to their performance.
 

Htown

STOP SHITTING ON MY MOTHER'S HEADSTONE
Feb 19, 2008
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#20
I feel like this isn't a problem for the vast majority of games these days. I think you're unfairly generalizing based on one bad dub.
 
Mar 5, 2014
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#21
Right now I'm playing Type O HD and it adds a delightful camp value to the game's story moments. Not only are the actors bad but it seems like many of them have trouble reading sentences, so they'll like stop and start awkwardly. You can tell the script's formatting must have ended a line at a certain word or something and they didn't opt for doing many extra takes.
Actually, the majority of the cast there is pretty solid, and have done way better work elsewhere.

It's the VA direction in that game that makes it so terribly bad.

And that's probably because Square kinda stopped giving a fuck about their localizations sometime ago, and the drop in quality was huuuge.

Bad VA direction goes a long way in ruining something. I still remember laughing at Kingdom of Paradise's VA, and then during the credits I saw that one of the main characters was being voiced by Nolan North, which did quite the terrible job (that of course was not really his fault).
 
Aug 15, 2006
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#23
While it is common in anime and other media, but why is it that English voice-acting in foreign-made video games notoriously bad?
.
It's not, you are only thinking of japanese to english dubs, which do have a history of being awful and extremely low budget. But you probably didn't even think of all the European games with english dubs that are just fine. This is not a foreign dubbing problem in general, it's specifically the japanese industry has a history of going extremely cheap on their localizations.
 
Apr 1, 2006
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#24
Because so much entertainment is produced in English that we don't have a well-established industry to support the importing of foreign entertainment.

Japanese voice acting is considered as good as it is because they have a whole industry of talented people who work to make Hollywood movie dubs accessible and watchable to the Japanese audience and those individuals bleed over into other voice-over work in Japan, and no one there would stand for the hackney broken dialogue that became an inside joke among the American populous when they recall their first viewing of the super-niche foreign film imports into North America.

Most pro voice-over talent in North America is geared towards the overly-expressive dialogue of children's animated programming. The ones that grew past that really shine, but they're few and far between, and don't have nearly the same amount of industry support as they do in Japan across all types of media.

So when Japanese companies budget for voice-over work, they're budgeting like it's a throw-away job, because to the pros in Japan, anime and video game work IS throwaway work compared to what they're paid for their Hollywood dubs. But because the pros are few and far between here, they end up paying for the dregs of the profession, instead.
 
Dec 10, 2014
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#27
The quality of the voice actors available has gone up quite a bit in recent years. Now I think the difference in quality between English and Japanese voice acting for dubbed games is due to poor VA direction more than anything else.

See Xenoblade for a pretty easy example. The voice actors themselves are good, and major story cutscenes are well done. But there are tons of minor voiced scenes where the delivery is just off, like the actors didn't know the context of the lines or weren't in the same room and whoever was directing them in the booth didn't care enough to make everything sound right.
 
Aug 23, 2006
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#28
It's not notoriously bad anymore, not like it used to be. The thing you have to realize, is usually these days if the English voice acting is bad, so is the native language voice acting. You just can't tell because you aren't a native speaker. And some times the English voice acting is better than the native VA.
 
May 27, 2013
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#34
The quality of English voice acting is pretty good lately. I think a better question is "why do people still just automatically assume it's bad?" because that seems more apt to me. Not to say that there aren't examples of pretty crappy VA, and the reason for those tends to be poor voice direction more than anything else, but I think that's bandied about a great deal more often than is remotely warranted.
This.

It's not notoriously bad anymore, not like it used to be. The thing you have to realize, is usually these days if the English voice acting is bad, so is the native language voice acting. You just can't tell because you aren't a native speaker. And some times the English voice acting is better than the native VA.
Completely agree.
 
Nov 13, 2013
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#35
In today's world I'd say its tied to directly to budgeting and the talent of voice directors/actors. Plus localisation I guess. Sometimes cultural stuff probably doesn't translate well.

Back in the day I'd say it was due to the infancy of the gaming medium and also Japanese developers not knowing what good English voice acting actually sounds like. Like the original Resident Evil for example.
 
Apr 1, 2006
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#36
It's not notoriously bad anymore, not like it used to be. The thing you have to realize, is usually these days if the English voice acting is bad, so is the native language voice acting. You just can't tell because you aren't a native speaker. And some times the English voice acting is better than the native VA.
This has always been a weak argument to me. You don't have to understand the language to know by tone and pitch alone what emotion is meant to be there. And for those that are bilingual, they tend to agree with people who are voicing their complaints.
 
Oct 29, 2014
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#39
FFXII seems to be the apex of SE voice acting quality, though I haven't played a lot of their recent titles. Not only does it have an incredible localization, the script is great and the voice acting is amazing as well. Has any post-XII SE game (or any JRPG at all really) reached that level of voice acting?
 
Dec 11, 2008
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#40
But they aren't notoriously bad now though. Maybe a few crappy ones like Type Zero, but I'd say it was kinda rare to find a truly bad dub in games and anime nowadays. Things have been better now than they ever have IMO. They certainly have matured beyond the days of stuff like this....

Shadow Hearts- Sea Mother- https://youtu.be/k9R-SSUXiL8?t=112

Final Zone 2- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDn_pWCnQ-Y
 
Nov 27, 2013
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#41
You should have heard german dubs. That stuff made me want to learn english as a kid as fast as possible since even then I knew these lines weren't supposed to sound like that. Add some pretty rough translations too for good measure.

Don't know how good they are these days though. I've played all my games in english or japanesebwith subs for like 15 years as a standard now.
 
Apr 21, 2015
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#46
FFXII seems to be the apex of SE voice acting quality, though I haven't played a lot of their recent titles. Not only does it have an incredible localization, the script is great and the voice acting is amazing as well. Has any post-XII SE game (or any JRPG at all really) reached that level of voice acting?
Well FFXII has one of the best voice actors in the world Gideon Emery so that helps quite a bit :)
 
Aug 17, 2014
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#47
The quality of English voice acting is pretty good lately. I think a better question is "why do people still just automatically assume it's bad?" because that seems more apt to me. Not to say that there aren't examples of pretty crappy VA, and the reason for those tends to be poor voice direction more than anything else, but I think that's bandied about a great deal more often than is remotely warranted.
With the quality of actors out there in the English dubs (both Anime and games) it has drastically improved over previous years. I agree at this point it is more of an issue of people just not wanting to break from tradition.
 
Jul 29, 2012
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#48
So when Japanese companies budget for voice-over work, they're budgeting like it's a throw-away job, because to the pros in Japan, anime and video game work IS throwaway work compared to what they're paid for their Hollywood dubs. But because the pros are few and far between here, they end up paying for the dregs of the profession, instead.
It looks like typically Japan tends to go for stunt casting for big Hollywood stuff, so they cast famous actors or singers for Hollywood voice roles instead of actual voice actors, so unlike anime or games (or VNs or drama CDs) the acting is not up to par, so I don't get why you think it's 'throwaway' work.

http://www.kitakubu.co/2014/07/how-much-do-japanese-voice-actors-actress-get-paid/

Apparently video game work pays the best followed by pachinko, then anime... then Western movie dubbing at the bottom. Where did you get the idea that Hollywood films tend to pay big bucks for Japanese voice actors?

And tbh, most people on most forums have a bad misconception about English dubs. Most people who complain about them probably haven't even heard one recently. Older ones were bad because of reasons stated in this thread or the voice director was Japanese and had the final say on line deliveries which is kind of why a lot of things end up sounding awkward.
 

Dio

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Apr 3, 2013
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#49
Even the good recent dubs have had problems that actually changed perception of characters to the point where it affected people's opinions of that character.

Drakengard 3's dub is fantastic. Taro's games usually get great dubs actually, like Nier.

The problem with the dub, however, is that the main character Zero was characterized very differently in the dub via her voice than in the Japanese version.

Zero in Japanese is an aloof, murderous person who finds the people in her way to be 'exhausting' and would rather kill them than bother to talk to them, and go on her way.

The way the dub decided to characterize her was as an eternally angry character that came off really, really bitchy.

If you played the dub of Drakengard 3, you're almost getting a completely different version of Zero thanks to voice direction. I'm not saying Japanese Zero never got angry (she did,) I'm saying that a central part of her character finding everything a pain came off very differently in the dub. I was really glad I got the JP voice DLC for that game because of this difference.
 

AAK

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Sep 30, 2006
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Ottawa, ON
#50
FFXII had a really good english dub, but that's probably an outlier.
Final Fantasy XII has the best voice acting I've ever heard despite being plagued with Vaan and Penelo as main characters. That's quite the accomplishment.

Simultaneously, Metal Gear Solid is up there as well.