Jennifer, Smith (2020) Worldbuilding Voices in the Soundscapes of Role Playing Video Games. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

Role-playing video games are designed to immerse their players in virtual worlds. In order to create these worlds, certain worldbuilding processes need to be followed to create a coherent, consistent, and organic space that feels authentic for the player. This thesis explores the role of voices within soundscapes that engage with these worldbuilding processes. Voices are examined in various case studies to explore their implementation and effectiveness when building an authentic game world in the, often lore-heavy, worlds of role-playing video games. I propose that the worldbuilding processes which incorporate voices take place across two fundamental areas: environmental worldbuilding, and worldbuilding characterisations. Environmental worldbuilding is the building of features such as climate, terrain, and location which integrate people and culture. Worldbuilding characterisations are the formation of character-based identifiers that the player can engage with, possibly leading to a reflection of self between player and character.

To involve the player in these complex environments, the game world must effectively ‘build’ itself through a combination of gameplay, visuals, and soundscape. An adaptive soundscape can build this organic game world by engaging with the player’s actions, and the agency of their playable character. I identify how voices are implemented within the soundscape to engage with the player’s physical and narrative position in a game world. I demonstrate how voices highlight player actions in order to immerse and engage them within an organic-seeming role-playing game-world, through techniques including the identification of voice as language-based-meaning, and vocalisations that act as communicators of emotion.

Alongside several shorter case studies, the following role-playing games are analysed in detail:
NieR: Automata (Dev. PlatinumGames, 2017, Comp. Keiichi Okabe)
Transistor (Dev. Supergiant Games, 2014, Comp. Darren Korb)
Divinity: Original Sin II (Dev. Larian Studios, 2017, Comp. Borislav Slavov)
Final Fantasy XV (Dev. Square Enix Business Division 2, 2016, Comp. Yoko Shimomura)
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (Dev. CD Projekt Red, 2015, Comp. Marcin Przybyłowicz)

FINAL THESIS - SMITH, JENNIFER.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike.

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