Doug Cockle and the case of the re-recording of voiceovers in the remake of The Witcher 1

In October, CD Projekt Red has announced that they are remaking the first The Witcher game with the help of an external studio called Fool’s Theory.

We know the game is codenamed Canis Majoris and will be built in Unreal Engine 5, but that’s all we know. We don’t know how or if the content of the game will change. We don’t know how far CDPR is willing to go.

I was talking to actor Doug Cockle of Geralt during the last episode of One-to-One, my podcast series, now available to everyone (search “Eurogamer Podcasts” wherever you listen). I wanted to know what he thought of the remake and if he was working on it.

Cockle, remember, is the voice of Geralt in all the major Witcher games. He’s the one you hear in The Witcher 1. So if CDPR wants to re-record or expand that performance, it’s Cockle they’ll have to call.

“I’ll be there in a moment,” Cockle tells me, if the CDPR calls, but he hasn’t rung yet.

“I know as much as you do about it right now,” he says. “All I know is that CD Projekt Red has announced that they will be remaking Witcher 1 in Unreal [Engine] 5, and that’s what I know. So I don’t know if they’re going to bring me back to do a re-recording of the dialogue, I don’t know if they’re going to use the Witcher 1 dialogue as it is. I do not know.”

But the more we talk about the remake and what things were like when he recorded The Witcher 1, the more obvious it becomes how much things have evolved since then. And the more convinced I am that re-recording performances is precisely what CDPR will do.

There are several reasons for this.

The full podcast with Doug Cockle, with audio embedded above.

Continuity – many actors changed after The Witcher 1

The English voice Triss you know and recognize from the games is Jaimi Barbakoff, but she didn’t play Triss in The Witcher 1 – a lady called Jules de Jongh did. Likewise, John Schwab wasn’t Dandelion before The Witcher 2.

Indeed, the production between the two games has completely changed. Cockle himself almost missed being Geralt in The Witcher 2. If it wasn’t for a friend who auditioned for the same role, he might never have realized it was up for grabs and s is featured for it (again – a story I told when I first met and interviewed Cocklesix years ago).

As Cockle tells me now: “CD Projekt decided between Witcher 1 and 2 to start with a clean slate. They made a new engine for Witcher 2, to build Witcher 2 they decided to go with a whole different studio of production – studio voice production – and as part of that they were also recasting everything. I ended up being one of the few to come over from Witcher 1 and continue into Witcher 2 and 3.”

This means that the characters we’ve come to know, and who were cemented by the best-selling The Witcher 3, will sound different if CD Projekt decides to stick with the original performances from The Witcher 1. And that will confuse people. and jar.

Quality – production improved significantly after The Witcher 1

The Witcher 1 was recorded in 2005, according to Cockle, over 15 years ago. Not only were technological capabilities different back then, but the entire video game voice acting profession was. And CDPR was new and inexperienced – The Witcher 1 was its first game.

“It was a completely different environment,” Cockle says, “because it was 2005, so the whole industry was working differently. I didn’t have a director per se on Witcher 1, I was led by the developers I can’t remember exactly who was there, but there were at least four guys from CD Projekt Red, who were there and they were serving as directors, and they were great, for being people who, I think, n had never managed a voice actor before, and we got through it and did all of that and it turned out to be a great game.”

But that meant that when The Witcher 2 came out and CDPR decided to make it right, professional directors were brought in. And as Cockle points out, “the director’s impact on the quality of the recording cannot be overstated.”

Evolution – Geralt has changed a lot in the decade Cockle played him

By the time Cockle recorded his final lines for the Witcher 3 expansion Blood and Wine, he had been playing Geralt for over a decade. And by that time, not only had his performance as Geralt evolved, but the things CDPR wanted had changed, and so had the writing behind it.

“If you play all the games, Witcher 1 through 3, and then the DLCs, you’ll see that Geralt, over the games, becomes a much more emotional being,” Cockle says. “And I think there’s a combination of factors in there. One is that I was constantly pushing that envelope, consciously and unconsciously, to give it more of an emotional life – because if it wasn’t as an emotionless monster hunter, what do we have to connect in character? So I was always pushing that envelope a bit.

“And as CD Projekt, and that’s not a criticism of them at all – it’s actually, in my mind, a celebration of their willingness to evolve – [but] whether it’s my gentle push, or whether it’s the trust of the writers, producers, directors or whoever […] I definitely noticed that the writing got more complex and gave me more opportunities to go there as the games matured.”

Suddenly rewinding this progress, then presenting it in a new shell, would be strange.

Opportunity – Unreal Engine 5 means the potential to do more

The Witcher 1 was built on BioWare’s creaky Aurora Engine, which once powered Neverwinter Nights. In game terms, that was ages ago. There were limits to what he could do, to what he could show cinematically, but there are no such limits now, and I imagine the urge to make the most of this new abilities and showing how far things have come will be strong.

“I imagine in an ideal world if they rebuild in Unreal 5 they’ll have to change the script because they’ll have the ability to do things that they didn’t have the ability to do when they made Witcher 1. for the first time,” says Cockle, “so it could well mean that they could decide to re-voice some or all of the game.

“I just can’t imagine,” he adds, “that with the technology they have now, that they’re trying to recreate the same combat system, the same look of the characters […] I imagine with the technology they have now they will want to make changes, I just have no idea what those changes might be.”

But how far are they willing to go?

This brings us back to the question of how far CD Projekt Red is willing to go with the remake, because as soon as the team starts updating some things, they might find they need to update others. , and all of a sudden it’ll be making what feels like a whole new game. And while The Witcher 1 is an old game, it’s no small game. It took 100 people five long years to manufacture it.

I asked CDPR if they would re-record the vocal lines for the remake, but they told me it was still too early to talk about the remake.

Fool’s Theory is not a big studio either. I have 59 employees listed on his website. How many more CD Projekt Red will add, I don’t know. Can such a team cope with the magnitude of the potential changes we are talking about?

This isn’t the only Witcher game that CDPR also has in development, remember. The studio has announced that it is working on a fourth great Witcher gameone that would start a new trilogy, and one that will also use Unreal Engine 5. This is in addition to a new IP the company is working on and a second Cyberpunk game, as well as various other tracks and bobs.

Today, CDPR is a huge company that does a lot of things. It’s no longer a team of 100 that proves it can make an RPG. Now, there are expectations, and The Witcher 1 remake will have to meet them.

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