Hey, everyone! Proof: pic, IMDB

We've put up a Kickstarter for our latest game, There Came an Echo, a voice-controlled real-time strategy game starring Wil Wheaton! We know a lot of people are a bit reticent about voice controls, but we wanted to answer some questions and share our design philosophies.

You can also ask about Sequence or anything Nocturne-related. DAAARRRKKKNNESSSSSSSSS

Comments: 177 • Responses: 71  • Date: 

Kylzei15 karma

Just wanted to say, Sequence was one hell of a game, not what I was expecting at all. Plus it was hilarious. One of the best purchases I ever made. So is it really pronounced "maw-nah"?

Also what made you want to produce an rts, let alone a voice controlled one? Endwar tried the same thing and iirc it didn't do so well. What separates There Came an Echo from Endwar?

One last thing, whoever is doing your art is fantastic.

Feep12 karma

Definitely "mah-nah". = D

Well, voice recognition tech has come a long way in five years, primarily thanks to smartphones. Still, There Came an Echo is much more narrative-driven, and focuses on creating relationships between the player and units. EndWar, for better or for worse, is a Tom Clancy game, and travels the standard military route. And, of course, we'll be throwing in a lot of our trademark humor.

Thanks! His name is Noe Leyva...we'll let him know. = D

Hammerfall8912 karma

Was there one specific game that made you say "fuck it, I wanna make video games for a living"?

Feep28 karma

Actually, it was Braid. I've always wanted to make video games, but prior to Braid and indie games being a viable commercial endeavor, the prospects of code monkeying in some cubicle for a hundred hours a week was immensely unappealing.

Braid was essentially made by one guy, and it was stunning. It was like, "Okay, I can do this."

buddyrubino11 karma

[deleted]

Feep3 karma

Thanks!

GrognakTheBarbarian10 karma

My question is, how "rigid" do you have to talk? For example, could you say "Feep, hide behind that pillar until the coast is clear, and then move up to the bunker"? Or would that be too complex?

Feep13 karma

Theoretically you could "alias" a lot of that stuff, but the system doesn't support "and then" commands...they become too long, and too inaccurate.

Instead, to give a soldier a sequence on commands, you'll give them individually, appending "on my mark" to each one. So,

"Feep, hide behind that pillar." "Move up to the bunker on my mark." "Mark."

Avarion9 karma

I loved the feeling of ordering people via voice in Endwar. But I experienced the situation more then once to say a command and resay it a couple of times because the game did not understand. In Endwar you had the option to give the command by mouse if everything goes wrong.

Is there a backup plan for There Came an Echo too?

Feep8 karma

Absolutely. If voice recognition isn't your thing, we'll have support for keyboard, mouse, and gamepad controls. No worries!

Avarion3 karma

Oh I love voice recognition. Unfortunately my German accent seems to be a bit hard for the software.

Feep12 karma

Send in your accent to iridium@playiridium.com! We can test it with our system. You can basically say anything...we'll just alias it to an existing command.

Avarion7 karma

What happens if one or more of my group die? Do I have to start again or is there a way to revive the "dead" ones?

Feep2 karma

We're still experimenting with this. The story establishes that only an extremely close range shot actually "kills" a soldier, so they're incapacitated. You might be able to revive soldiers, and different missions may have different failure conditions.

Your units will need to survive, though, for story purposes.

jgf11237 karma

I backed the game because like tactical games, and my Ph.D. research was in speech processing. Can you describe the voice recognition software? Are you using something off the shelf or homegrown? Are you using a limited vocabulary to reduce recognition error? If so, how are you able to add custom aliases?

Feep8 karma

We're using the Microsoft Speech Platform Runtime 11 (though we're also experimenting with the open-source Sphinx engine, from CMU). It's remarkably easy to use, and has native support for the following acoustic models: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh378476%28v=office.14%29.aspx

Definitely using a limited vocabulary...under a few hundred. We've already accounted for the custom aliases in that number...we're only going to allow one alias per command...but, of course, the players should be smart in how they do it. Aliasing character's names to "Lara" "Laura" "Tara" and "Mara" might not be such a great idea.

Awesome on the Ph.D., by the way!

imagine_me_naked7 karma

Hi there! I was curious: how long do you plan on making the campaign? Also, will there be a skirmish mode? I think that'd a lot of replayability.

Feep4 karma

We're looking at around six to seven hours, with a few extra bits adding some replayability on top. We're not looking to add any multiplayer components for release, though...the dev cycle would just get too long.

targetOO7 karma

Have you tested the voice recognition with non-American accents?

Feep7 karma

Absolutely, and they work great. In fact, to show everyone what's up, we're inviting literally anyone to record some commands in their own voice, and send them to us at iridium@playiridium.com. We'll play the audio back in front of our system, and compile a video showing what happens.

For more information: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/iridiumstudios/there-came-an-echo-0/posts/411196

clns4 karma

Given the current rate of funding do you expect you'll reach the stretch goal for Mac support?

Feep3 karma

Good question. Based on a bunch of metrics, we're right on-track to complete the main goal, but how much we go beyond is based on a lot of random factors in the final few days.

Stretch goals guarantee certain things (Mac/Linux support, Localization), but we're still extremely interested in porting regardless...the response for them has been huge. We'll have to switch voice recognition engines, but hopefully we can have a simultaneous or near-simultaneous launch on Steam.

clns1 karma

With that said, are there any plans to go back and port Sequence to Mac?

Feep2 karma

Assuming we use and get familiar with MonoGame, it's reasonably likely. We might have to rewrite the particle engine (compiled for XNA by a third party), but it shouldn't be terribly difficult.

Jenmarie13 karma

In the prototype footage in the kickstarter video the area is marked with different points and you give the command go to C2. In the art there are no marked points. Will rooms be marked with waypoints (like C2 or E1) for us to command our people to go to, or will it be more free form like go behind the left desk!

Feep3 karma

The art shows nodes, seen as sort of "spotlights"...the text isn't terribly clear, we'll probably rework them.

The soldiers see nodes as a sort of augmented reality overlay, so most of the game will use them specifically for navigation. The first couple missions, before the acquisition of armaments, might use more colloquial directions. ("Get to the stairs!")

mistabeon3 karma

Do the non player characters mercilessly follow your commands or will they be bothered by being sent to their deaths over and over? You say the characters under your command have little or no military experience coming into this, so I was wondering if there would be some exasperation at doing things the wrong way or, conversely, satisfaction from doing something right.

Feep6 karma

Telling them to do something stupid will, hopefully, result in some serious backtalk and criticism. They'll also make decisions independently, which you may or may not agree with! Feel free to yell and them and correct the mistake.

They'll learn to listen to you, even if they think it isn't the best idea, but there might be some sass.

Chrisser0003 karma

Hello, I'm really looking forward to There Came An Echo and I backed it as soon as it was possible!

I really loved Sequence and I was wondering if you're planning on making a similar game? Maybe a sequel or just the same type of game?

I hope your kickstart is successful!

Feep7 karma

We've had a lot of requests for Sequence 2, and trust us, it's something we're always looking to do. There are a lot of reasons why we went to TCAE first, but it's extremely likely you'll be seeing a continuation to Ky and Naia's stories sometime in the future.

Chrisser0002 karma

Thanks for answering! Sounds awesome and I hope we do!

2 questions:

Will Sequence 2 have to be a kickstarted project? Or do you think you'll have the funds from TCAE?

How enjoyable will TCAE really be to play with mouse and keyboard and without using the voice commands?

Feep3 karma

We're hoping TCAE will do it. We'll see. = D

We think it'll be plenty enjoyable...all key gameplay components will be just fine without voice controls. We think it'll lose a bit of immersion and excitement, but if you don't want to wake up your neighbors, it'll be just fine to play. = D

Hellwemade2 karma

Backed your new project, but if I am 100% honest I would absolutely love a sequel to Sequence. Hopefully one day!

Feep2 karma

Thanks, though! If TCAE does well, Sequence 2 is a definite possibility.

InternationalRoots2 karma

For people who are studying game design at university, do you have any tips or stories to share regarding what it takes to succeed?

Feep3 karma

I would say to just get something under your belt, so you can show it off to potential employers...founding your own game studio sounds great, but it never hurts to get a little industry experience first.

If you do decide to go it on your own, you have to separate yourself from the crowd. No 2-D platformers. No puzzle games. There's almost literally no way to compete in those spaces, currently. = P

ZAD-Man2 karma

How did you come up with the idea for TCaE? Obviously there have been similar attempts in the past, but what inspired you to try again? How confident were you that you would be able to pull off the voice commands when you started?

Feep2 karma

Actually, the voice recognition in Mass Effect 3 was a big point...the past fully voice controlled game was EndWar, back in 2008, and the technology has advanced quite a bit in recent years. The stuff in ME3 was completely supplementary, but by and large, it worked great.

I've always been a bit annoyed at the utter lack of control and tactical ability the player has in standard first-person shooters...I don't want to be the one pulling the trigger, I want to be the one in the earpiece. That's what this game is about.

mike946562 karma

There Came An Echo looks amazing in concept and execution from the Kickstarter video you posted. I love the idea and it looks like it will be a fun and involved game. I pledged 15.00 for the cause. Not the most by any stretch of the imagination, but I hope it gets you a little closer to achieving the goal of getting the game up and going.

I suppose the only real question I have is this. How accurate are the voice controls overall? I feel like it needs a high level of accuracy in being able to understand what is said in order to execute different commands on the fly.

Feep2 karma

We're hitting around 96% recognition with a standard American accent, though as long as the player enunciates clearly, we haven't dipped below 91% in any of our tests for various accents. The Microsoft speech models include native support for several different acoustic models!

mike946561 karma

Also, one follow up question. Will the controls of the game be 100% through voice controls? Or is there keyboard/mouse interaction within the game as well? Voice control navigation through menus seems like it might be cool, but also seems like it could be tricky.

Feep3 karma

Not 100%, exactly. While menus will work just fine with voice controls, you can decide to use a keyboard, mouse or gamepad as well. In fact, even with voice controls, we find it's easier to use a mouse for camera movements...you can do this with voice controls, too, but it's a little slower than it should be.

We use the mouse for panning and zooming, and voice controls for everything else. But it's up to you!

ploogle2 karma

As an aspiring voice actor, can you give any pointers for how to break into and do well in the market? I'm having a hard time finding any gigs without a demo reel.

(Side note: how did Wheaton get on board?)

Also, are you going to be at PAX East or Prime? :)

Loved Sequence, love this project!

Feep1 karma

We're definitely not ready for PAX East...PAX Prime remains a distinct possibility, though we're a little worried about showfloor noise.

You sort of answered your own question...make a demo reel! It doesn't have to be a terribly expensive endeavor, but you have to have something to send out. Also, living in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, or Dallas doesn't hurt.

draggles2 karma

Sequence was a great game, really looking forward to TCAE, and I love Nocturne's voice in League of Legends! (TIL that was you)

My question is where did you start with coding games? Was it Flash and AS? Or did you start with something like C, or Java? Or further back than that?

Feep5 karma

Would you believe Pascal? Made some cheap stuff in high school, it was my first language. I then moved on to C, C++, Java, Python, and eventually C#/XNA, which is what we made Sequence in.

And thanks!

Krypsis2 karma

Have you ever beat Sequence on Spasmodic?

Feep8 karma

Spasmodic was literally balanced for me. So, yes. Many times.

AxelCaprio2 karma

In that one episode of the A-Team they drove the van through the base of this watch tower. The tower fell over and they guys drove off. Now I know the guys in the tower were bad guys, but it seems like a callous disregard for human life. What I am driving at is, what happened to the guys in the tower?

Feep1 karma

I get what you're saying, man.

But it's a secret.

gustavpezka2 karma

Hello! This video on a KS is really cool! Love the concept of a game already. I've played Binary Domain (which has similar voice recognition), just yesterday, and it was neat, but I don't like shooters much. Tactics - that's the way) And Wil Wheaton! Just one question (sorry if it has been answered already): my native language is non-english, can I record commands in russian? and then assign them to alias?

Feep2 karma

Yup! If it's on this page: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh378476%28v=office.14%29.aspx

You can use it. Russian is listed.

Chrisser0001 karma

What other languages can you use?

Feep1 karma

Anything on that page!

tvteck2 karma

truly looking foward, Geek fam. early in the production. will we be able to pick skins for our players? will we be able to add crew members as we level up? i pushed this out to every one i know.

Feep3 karma

Skins are an interesting idea, but it would probably be a post-game unlockable. With regard to crew, no, you're rather bound by the story in that respect...it's Corrin, Miranda, Grace, Syll, and perhaps one other mysterious soldier who joins you late in the game. Having a limited cast helps to build an emotional rapport with each unit, as opposed to treating them like disposable commodities.

And thanks!

Frozon2 karma

Hello!

I wish to say thanks for sequence once again! Thinking about the game still sends shivers up my spine! Matter of fact I was about to play it and saw the AMA.

So are you happy with the soundtrack of Echo so far?

Feep1 karma

We've only done preliminary work so far, but the team is amazing. We've got Ronald Jenkees (composing original stuff!), Jimmy Hinson (worked on Mass Effect 2 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2), and Judith de los Santos for vocals. Couldn't be more excited. = D

TChosenOne2 karma

How many "marks" are you allowed to set, because if you need to move people to different areas doing the battle, it might be easier to say those commands beforehand and use different "marks" to store them.

Feep2 karma

We have no current set limit. Maybe a hundred, or something?

MoreOfAnOvalJerk2 karma

Did you both program Sequence and do the voice of Nocturne? How did you end up dabbling in both programming and voice acting? Did you originally train to go the voice actor route and did programming as a hobby?

Feep1 karma

I did do both, which is a weird combination. However, it's the opposite of your conjecture: programming was more of a training/school/college thing, and voice acting ended up as a hobby. A bunch of interesting events conspired to land me a minor place in the industry. = D

GeoSole1 karma

I played Nocturne for the first time today. I sucked. Any to tips from the demon himself?

Feep4 karma

I'm not terribly good with Nocturne, but in general, try to keep his fights on his Trail of Darkness...passive healing, W, and lifesteal make him more capable in early 1v1 than you would think. Commit!

Also, make him say lots of intimidating voiceover lines. Your opponents will be too terrified to think correctly.

Smith7131 karma

Have you ever played DotA?

Feep3 karma

Yessir. DotA and LoL are fun, but I admit, I'm more of a Starcraft man.

etidure1 karma

[deleted]

Feep1 karma

Let's just say I'll be contacting a few people at the end of the KS project. = D Can't give away too much...

mechanimated1 karma

I've never tried a vocal-command driven game, but I really like the google voice thing on my smartphone. Will the game work like phones and voice-to-text programs do, learning to recognize your speech patterns better the longer you play? And how do you get a game to recognize hundreds of different inflections, vocal tones, and differences in pronounciation (e.g. Californian vs. New Yorker)?

Also could you somehow force Riot to make a human Nocturne skin? You know the one. Where his chopped off legs are tied to his arms...

Thanks for the AMA!

Feep2 karma

We aren't sure if we want to use vocal training...the system works well without it, it's a bit of a pain, and it lowers accuracy for others if they want to join in. We do plan to experiment with it, though.

Re: human Nocturne skin, I'm sure they're aware, but I can always send them an E-mail. = D

cubsfan134441 karma

Would you be willing to teach a "script kiddie" basic JavaScript game development?

Feep3 karma

Errr....no.

Dr_Chillz1 karma

Okay first of all I love your voice acting as Nocturne. My question is have you ever been offered/thought about/done voicing for other games?

Feep1 karma

I have done some other games, actually...Sequence, of course, but I've also been in Skullgirls, Blazing Souls: Accelate, and a few others.

Haptens1 karma

How was your day today?

Feep5 karma

Good! Made some delicious waffles, man, that just starts it off right.

Haptens1 karma

What type of waffles? Also I just checked out your Kickstarter for nocturne (which looks like an awesome idea) and your previous game Sequence. It looks like you focus on original control mechanisms for games. Have you thought about ideas for the console games, especially utilizing their controller features?

Feep2 karma

Belgian! I roll deep pockets.

The game already supports the Kinect, so it'd theoretically be an easy move to the 360/Durango. Things are really up in the air right now with the next generation, so we're focusing on the PC market at the moment, but we're definitely going to be looking into the console space.

ZapRousdour1 karma

Do you play farming stimulator?

Feep2 karma

Ahahah.

"Stimulator".

Stormygeddon1 karma

What's your favorite kind of flower?

Feep1 karma

The one by ThatGameCompany.

ippikiwoof1 karma

A little left field of a question, so I doubt it's been asked already.. But, a bunch of games have made a point of allowing people to use youtube monetization on their videos.

Examples:

http://carbongames.com/2012/10/Permission-to-Broadcast-AirMech/

http://www.ftlgame.com/?p=388

Will you guys be doing this?

Feep3 karma

We see no reason not to!

ippikiwoof1 karma

With how the game works, the interaction with the units.. I can see so many people doing letsplays and the like. Giving people monetization permission means there's going to be a lot more incentive for people to make videos, and consequently more advertisement for you! :D

But no, seriously; I am all for advocating for monetization. I don't personally do it, but it feels like we're fighting back against establishments such as EA or Activision, whom sound so hard to get monetization permissions from. Most people I've spoken to say you're better off going through a group like pixelenemy or machinima, but even then, you're stuck in a contract, don't have full control of your videos, and only get a small cut of the ad revenue. It sounds like everything I'd hate.

Going off topic now, are you going to have non-command interaction with the units? I think having the characters strike up a conversation with you occasionally would be quite interesting and great for immersion. Also, maybe having the characters talking between one-another, giving you the chance to listen in, but perhaps ruining their response time and awareness if you don't tell them to focus, causing them to trigger tripwire traps or fail to respond in ambush situations.

Long post is long.

Feep2 karma

Not much...it's nearly impossible to predict any sort of random interaction between the player and soldier, and record dialogue accordingly. You can tell them to cut the chatter, but that's more of a "skip ahead to the gameplay part already" type of thing.

Kenzhiki1 karma

How often do you play Nocturne?

Feep3 karma

Probably only 10-20% of the time. I like Cho'Gath >.>

captinyogurt1 karma

Are you getting tired yet?

Feep1 karma

Yes.

Silversalt1 karma

As Nocturne is my favorite champion, i must thank you for your good deeds.

Feep1 karma

YOUUUU AREEEE WEEELLLLLCCOMEEEEEEEEE

yaksman1 karma

Would I be able to use more than one alias for a command? "Weapons Free", "Light 'em up", "Go for it", "Oh for the love of Zeus, somebody fire"

Feep3 karma

We have to experiment with this, but it's unlikely. Allowing for any arbitrary number of aliases invariably decreases the accuracy of the overall recognition system. We might allow two or three for certain, extremely common commands, though.

Dooraven1 karma

How was your experience working with Riot?

Feep1 karma

Riot guys are absolutely awesome. I would probably say that anyway, but really, they were. I even got to tour their offices one time! It was awesome.

Mysta021 karma

I don't have any questions right now, but I'll say that I've been waiting for a good voice-controlled game since the original SOCOM and a good RTS since AoE II and Starcraft, so I'm EXTREMELY excited for two of my favorite game genres to be melded together:) It's looking pretty awesome!

Feep1 karma

Thanks! <3

Devlus1 karma

As an aspiring voice actor myself, I must ask - How did you go about getting roles?

Feep2 karma

Long story...it involves Anime Expo, a convention here in Los Angeles. The more traditional way is make demo -> submit demo -> get auditions. It definitely helps to live in LA/NY/Chicago/Dallas, in that order of preference.

Nickamin1 karma

I just lost a game playing as Nocturne, can I blame you for losing?

Feep5 karma

Yes. It is my fault.

MaDNiaC1 karma

Will you make any LoL-related voice acting in the future?

Feep1 karma

NDA prevents me from answering this one. = (

PairOfHuevos1 karma

[deleted]

Feep1 karma

This is a year and a half old, but here you go! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cveugatoNEo&t=11m02s

Frenphics1 karma

Do you play league of legends yourself, and if so, who is your favourite champion? :)

Feep1 karma

I do, though not as much as most. I enjoy playing Cho'Gath and Nocturne (for completely narcissistic reasons).

yaksman1 karma

Any chance of porting to Ouya? Or would Android be too much of a stretch?

Feep2 karma

It's unlikely on release...though post-release remains a distinct possibility!

l2othschild1 karma

nocturne is tight man, how did you get the chance to be a voice actor for riot games?

Feep1 karma

Pretty standard stuff. Audition -> got part. = D

l2othschild1 karma

do you ever play nocturne in league?

Feep1 karma

Yup!

VengefulLegatus1 karma

A little late, but Nala (from seq), Wil, and Nocturne.

Are there any other high profile voice actors, like Cristina Vee and Todd Haberkorn?

Also, how much of Wil will we see? How many painful puns are you going to put us through? WHY ARE YOU SO EVIL?

Feep3 karma

Cristina's actually a good friend of ours...her voice is actually in the Kickstarter pitch! She hasn't been officially cast, but we'll see. = D

SO MANY PUNS

polalion1 karma

I bought Sequence during one of the Steam Sales and as somewhat of a fan of rhythm games I LOVED it.

Backed There Came An Echo immediately when I saw on Kickstarter that it's from the guys who did Sequence, and also because it has Wil fucking Wheaton in it.

No question, just wanted to say I'm looking forward to this game.

Feep1 karma

^

Retallic1 karma

[deleted]

Feep3 karma

I'd love to! Gotta audition, though. No auto-casting.

Moncole1 karma

I found the writing in Sequence to be great. Was it hard to come up with the lines? I have a speech impediment, will that stop me from using voice commands in Echo?

Feep2 karma

Nah, writing is one of my favorite parts of game development.

It depends on the severity of speech impediment, of course. That said, there are several alternate control schemes available via keyboard, mouse, and gameplay to help you play in either case. = D

ZAD-Man1 karma

Since you called the Fibonacci numbers thing an "ARG", will it tie into full-blown ARG, or was that the extent of it, at least for now?

Feep2 karma

That was it for now. But I'm a big fan of hidden riddles and puzzles, so you can certainly expect some more both pre-release and hidden in the game itself.

KiwiBennydudez1 karma

Why did you decide to create a RTS game as opposed to "Sequence 2"?

Feep3 karma

There are a few reasons. We were afraid that without a much larger budget, we wouldn't really be able to expand the ideas in Sequence 2 far enough...it might feel like DLC, or a Left 4 Dead 2 situation.

We'd be toying with the idea of a voice-controlled RTS for awhile, as we're big fans of the genre. We think it's something that can be an incredible experience, but just hasn't been done right yet. Adding an involved, complex narrative on top is something we've wanted to do for awhile.

But Sequence 2 isn't dead! We'll see how TCAE does. = D

parso1331 karma

Will there be Easter Eggs in the game? Like if we say "Die, Wil Wheaton, Die!" or similar?

Feep2 karma

Well, there will be, but probably not that one. You can always alias that command to an existing one, however.

There will be an achievement entitled "Fire at Wil." We'll let you figure out how to get it. = D

Sbadiglio1 karma

I have just one question. Did you voice also Eternum Nocturne or just the base voice?

In any case, wonderful work. Noct's voice is the one I like the most in the entire game, and to congratulate to the one who made it feels awesome.

Feep2 karma

I did voice Eternum Nocturne as well. = D

And thanks!

Dusty_Ideas1 karma

Please end this AMA with an edit saying "Thank you for your assistance". Feep pls.

Feep1 karma

Nah, that's no fun!

goodBEan1 karma

at 2:53 you said "the game can use a few coats of paint", can I just send you a few paint cans that I have in my basement?

I do love the concept, are you planning to develop for other platforms besides PC/steam?

Feep1 karma

We are focusing on development for PC/Steam, but the outcry for other platforms has been pretty intense. We're gonna do everything we can for a simultaneous Mac/Linux release, and even if we can't hit it at the same time, we'll almost certainly get there a little later.

goodBEan1 karma

So do you want the paint cans?

Feep1 karma

Yeah sure

ericisatheist1 karma

Were there any "sayings" or "catch phrases" for Nocturne that weren't used, that you can remember? If so, what were they? :D

Feep1 karma

I actually think all the ones we recorded were used in-game! This is the least interesting answer I could possibly give, but it's true. = (

UsernameSayWha1 karma

Would you do another voice in league? Which champion's voice is your favorite?

Feep2 karma

Absolutely...in fact, my regular voice is essentially inaudible in Nocturne, due to all the layers and effects they put on it.

I really love Riven, done by my friend Cristina Vee. She's adorable!

HotPikachuSex0 karma

Do you have Tomb Raider nude codes?

Feep7 karma

Yes?

Yes.