Thursday, April 12, 2007

Needed: Voices for World of Warcraft

Players of World of Warcraft sometimes use software--the programs I am familiar with are Teamspeex and Ventrilo--to talk to each other while playing. This is particularly useful for large group activities--raids--where many people are trying to coordinate what they are doing.

There is, however, one small problem. The character you know as a middle aged male dwarf--that being how he appears on the screen--is speaking with the voice of a teen aged girl. That makes it hard to stay inside the fantasy, to pretend the game is real while you are playing it.

There is an obvious solution. Techniques exist for changing the sound of a human voice. Someone should write software, designed to be used with such programs, that automatically alters the player's voice to fit the character. The speaker would set preferences: Age, race, gender. The software would modify voice accordingly.

Or does it already exist?

16 Comments:

At 9:18 PM, April 12, 2007, Blogger Joe Bingham said...

I can see your perspective. I, however, enjoy a sort of "halfway-real-life" social aspect of the game. Raiding with my friends on Vent, I feel a bit like I do when I sit in a room with three friends playing X-box. We're all immersed in the game, but we're a real-life social group immersed in it together. I'm not sure I've articulated this well; the analogy to playing a console with friends in the room is the best I can do.

(I speak in the present tense though, sadly, the demands of the semester's course schedule have forced me to cancel my sub.)

 
At 12:30 AM, April 13, 2007, Blogger akqjterrence said...

Wow, I never thought I'd hear someone complaining about a teenage girl pretending to be a middle-aged man on the internet and not the other way around.

 
At 2:10 AM, April 13, 2007, Blogger bbleeker said...

If it exists, I want it!

 
At 2:43 AM, April 13, 2007, Anonymous P. George Stewart said...

It's a cool idea David, and software that could theoretically do the job does exist and is used in music production. With a suitable "front end" and algorithms that turn the "knobs" in the appropriate fashion to transform husky male into dainty elf, it's quite feasible.

The only problem with it is that the more realistic the transformation will be, the more processor intensive the programme will be. In music production the most realistic transormations still have to be rendered "offline" at the moment.

But I'm sure something like this will be possible in the future - the way Creative is going, they could well offer that kind of transformation as part of a later gen of sound chips.

 
At 4:25 AM, April 13, 2007, Blogger Joe Bingham said...

The worst is when you finally see the picture of that attractive, sweet female voice you've been hearing on WoW for a year... *shudder*

 
At 4:29 AM, April 13, 2007, Blogger Charles Pooter said...

Such software would also be useful for anonymous podcasting...

 
At 7:59 AM, April 13, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Back when I had a sound blaster live sound card it had a variety of filters such as a pitch shifter and distortion that you could set up to be applied to the line in or the microphone. I had actually used it when chatting to try and mess with people. I've seen some software filters too, but nothing that I would know how to pipe into another program.

 
At 8:16 AM, April 13, 2007, Anonymous bbartlog said...

Pitch shifter was the first thing that occurred to me too. Doesn't even need to be digital, let alone software-based.
Anyway, once you go beyond simple transformations you enter the realm of voice synthesis. I worked very briefly with Alan Black, who founded Cepstral, a speech synthesis company - if you wanted something approaching total voice replacement, you could run a speech recognition engine on your words to generate text, and then use the Cepstral technology to synthesize speech from that text in the voice of whoever. But given the current error rate of speech recognition applied to poorly structured speech (like you would probably have on a WoW raid) I think you're better off with the pitch shifter for now...

 
At 10:22 AM, April 13, 2007, Blogger Arthur B. said...

bbartlog: this implies a lot of useless work, finding how sounds relate to words, and finding how words are pronounced. If you want total voice replacement, you go from speech-to-phonetics to phonetics-to-speech.

Now I'm thinking of a system to generate transformations. You record sentences with a dwarf voice. The sentence is played to the teenage girl, who repeats it in her mic. You then decide on a parametric transformation model, and regress the parameters on the training set. A good model would change pitch and speed based on the context.

 
At 12:20 PM, April 13, 2007, Blogger Max said...

Well, this is somthing that is available since the age of the old General Midi-soundcards. If I rember correctly, there was a tool integrated in the Soundblaster AWE 32, which allows you to transform the microphone voice into whatever you wanted: female, male, aged etc.

So, I think even software for doing such a thing is already available, though I don't know where since such thing hasn't interested me :)

 
At 7:01 AM, April 14, 2007, Blogger Mike Hammock said...

Would such a program prevent people from uttering such non-fantasy words as "aggro" and "mob" and "buff" and the rest of the MMORPG lingo? The sound of another player's voice is one of the least of the immersion-breaking factors for me, compared to the HUD, the lingo, the floating text, and so on.

 
At 11:51 PM, April 14, 2007, Blogger GGOLDSKY said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 11:55 PM, April 14, 2007, Blogger David Friedman said...

"Wow, I never thought I'd hear someone complaining about a teenage girl pretending to be a middle-aged man on the internet and not the other way around."

I'm not complaining--I'm suggesting a way she can do it better.

Joe explains why he wouldn't want to use the feature I describe. That's fine--I'm proposing an option, not a requirement, one I suspect some players would like.

Mike points out that word choice and the like is a more serious problem. It is not, however, one with as simple a solution.

 
At 2:50 AM, April 15, 2007, Blogger Charles Pooter said...

I notice no one has actually given any links to software that does it yet... It surely must exist.

 
At 7:34 AM, April 17, 2007, Anonymous P. George Stewart said...

Well there's loads of things that can do a rough version, but when you are talking about professional results, you are looking at things like Melodyne which does its best results as a render (although it works realtime well enough to get a rough idea), or expensive realtime hardware like the TC Helicon. Those were the high standard a few years ago, there are probably better and cheaper things coming out atm.

 
At 10:59 AM, April 17, 2007, Blogger Pace said...

It is funny you are into WoW. Personally, I had to give up video games because I find them too addictive. I recommend the South Park episode 'Make Love not Warcraft.'

 

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