Peter Dinklage's Destiny Performance Is... Not Great

Peter Dinklage's Destiny Performance Is…Not Great

We were all pretty excited when Bungie announced that their much-hyped multiplayer shooter Destiny would feature beloved actor Peter Dinklage, best known for his show-stealing portrayal of Tyrion Lannister on Game of Thrones, in a large voiceover role.

For the past week or so, Bungie has been running an early-look alpha of Destiny, which gave many of us an opportunity to play a small chunk of the game. I get the sense I'm not alone in having a pretty good time with the game itself, and I also suspect I'm not alone in feeling underwhelmed by Dinklage's dull voiceover performance.

Dinklage's voice is one of the first things you hear when you begin playing the Destiny alpha. He plays a "Ghost" in the game, and is your robotic companion as you adventure from planet to planet. He floats around and offers you advice on your current situation, provides history on your surroundings, and sometimes offers running commentary on what's going on. Your character doesn't talk, so that means that Dinklage will more or less be the voice of Destiny.

Unfortunately, his performance is awfully wooden, a far cry from his often riveting scenes on Game of Thrones. I cut together some of his lines from the alpha's main mission:

It's flat, it's muted, it often sounds phoned-in. The second clip is decent, but things swiftly deteriorate from there. Game Trailers captured some more of his lines from other places in the game, some of which are even flatter:

In fairness, Dinklage is playing a robot AI. But if the sci-fi genre (including Bungie's own Halo series) has taught us anything, it's that robot AIs can be entertaining, beloved characters. At times, it almost sounds like Dinklage is hesitating or stumbling over lines ("The Fallen have ss...ealed this gate"), or reacting as if he were reading the script for the first time. He sounds like an actor unsure of his character, without a director to indicate who he's supposed to be. Every time he begins talking I'm pulled out of the game and reminded that, oh yeah, the guy who plays Tyrion Lannister isn't particularly interested in convincing me to give a shit about what's happening around me.

Of course, the alpha we've been playing isn't the finished game. (Though it does come out in a little over two months.) It could well be that these aren't final vocal takes, or that Bungie will add some sort of vocal filter or effect that will make this performance fit into the world better. And this isn't all on Dinklage, either. The lines he's given — "That wizard came from the moon!" — aren't exactly The Station Agent.

All the same, when I heard that such a fine actor was joining Destiny, I expected something more. Here's hoping that by the time the final game comes out in September, Bungie will have had time to add some sort of missing special sauce to Dinklage's performance, and our quest to save the galaxy won't sound quite so dull.


Comments

    What did the expect? Peter is a actor who's talent is beyond simply his voice, it's in his facial expressions and body language. Unfortunately transfering him to a disembodied robot is going to have issues because you aren't using the man's actual skills.

      Plus everyone knows him currently as GoT character. How the hell Bungie thought it'd be a great idea is beyond me.

      This is a really common problem because a lot of people don't realise that voice acting is a fine tuned art much different to traditional acting. It annoys me a lot because often big name Hollywood actors wind up in animated films so their name on the poster will drive ticket sales, but you can tell they've had little to no voice training and it's just them sitting on a stool reading a script and it drags the whole thing down.

        i remember reading an interview with some well known voice actors and they were saying the same thing about big name hollywood actors taking roles.whenever i hear chris rock now i picture him as a zebra. dee bradley baker on the otherhand has done so many characters you wouldnt know its him half the time

          It's an Alpha it will get better, it was most likely phoned in a place holder.
          I guarantee they will re-do the voice.

            I've come to realise things only get worse from the first time you see them.. that's right I'm still pissed at watchdogs!

              This can often be the case but I think Bungie will listen to this one , everyone seems to be a meh on the Dinklage voice, guess we will have to see how it pans out.

            I like your optimism, but considering the game is out in less than 3 months, I can't see this happening. Unless, of course, they have already redone the lines and just didn't have time to put them into the Alpha. The Beta is out in a bit over a month so I guess we will see then if there is any improvement.

              Fair duce you make a solid point, here's hoping

          Yeah. I think it was Tara Strong I was listening to talk about how having a funny or unique voice doesn't make you a voice actor. Being able to say 'ok, I'm playing Supergirl, and she talks like this, and when she asks a question she does it this way, and when she's sad she talks this way because even though she doesn't succeed she wants be like her hero Clark', that's voice acting. Not just talking in a different voice or accent, but adapting the way individual words come out. Slightly shifting emphasis, adjusting the speed, pausing.
          It's a really interesting subject to hear a very talented professional talk about.

          That said I don't like being too tough on big name actors who try voice acting, just the studios that treat star power as thought it's a substitute for talent. There are plenty of performers, particularly comedians, who appear to be naturals at making their normal speaking voice come out in a way that's totally animated and full of life. Even if you don't like his comedy Jack Black's work on Tenacious D can really make you feel like he's moving and gesturing. There are a million Game Grump fan animations because Arin's speaks in a way that's just perfect for animation.

          Last edited 17/06/14 3:04 pm

            It's definitely a different skillset - some 'traditional' actors are good voice actors, some aren't.

        Without a doubt my favourite voice acting in any animated film - Robin Wiliams as the genie in Aladin... so so good. He should have a received an award!

      Strangely enough though, he was chosen purely for the quality of his voice in the 90s. He was the voice over the phone of the wake up call guy in that Seinfeld episode.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLhfJVJtBl0&feature=kp

      So it's not like he hasn't done this sort of thing before.

      I think the real problem is he's been doing that (not fantastic) British accent in GOT for so long now it's seeped into his regular speaking voice. A lot of the time in the Alpha little bits of his attempt at a British accent came through. "Picking at its bones" was a notable example.

      Last edited 17/06/14 2:50 pm

    Oh man, I had no idea he was the voice. Regardless when I watched the alpha videos it was so bad I thought it was just the devs placeholder voice.

    I noticed this when watching some footage.
    Didnt know it was him, but was immediately struck by how bad the voice acting was. Almost to the point i turned it off.

    If its on purpose then they arent doing it right.

    Overrated actor is overrated

      You can't say that because he's short!!!!!

    I wasn't surprised because in GoT he is a character whereas in Destiny he is a floating AI robot from the Traveller. Completely different. I think he does a fine job. Would you really want Tyrion to be the AI companion because I know I wouldn't want a rehash of the same character in another IP.

    I was mentioning this to someone last night and I think it's far from his fault, a lot of the more flavoursome information is good, it has a very forlorn tone to it, which is what I'd expect from what seems to be some sort of empathetic AI but the action stuff the script is terrible and no matter how good the actor is lines like "that wizard is from the moon" is awful and nobody can make that sound serious

    I can see "That wizard is from the moon" becoming the next great meme.

      and by great, I mean "great until we all get sick of it within a week"

        It was at that point I was convinced it was a placeholder. A really weird piece of writing in any case.

    This is what Activision's $500,000,000 paid for... some sub-par voice acting from a television celebrity.

    I think it may have been tricky for him to perform - as an AI, he doesn't really have other characters to bounce off, or perform with, you know? Also, voice acting is entirely different from screen acting, so that's to be expected.

      Yeah it could be tricky, but take Stephen Merchant as an example of quality in portal 2. He doesn't even consider himself an actor and he smashes it, because he gives a damn.

        Because he gets given good lines and a personality. The Destiny robot is supposed to just be exposition. Shouldn't really be a surprise if he's boring if he's written that way.

      I think you're right. The lack of any other actors to interact with is a large part of the problem.

      If it's just going to be a single character talking (and an AI at that) with a silent protagonist, then the writing really needs to be really spot on. If you look at something like Portal 2 for example, it's a very similar situation (silent protagonist, AI companion), but the writing lends itself so much more to building the character of its NPCs through humour and one-sided banter.

      In the case of Destiny they were obviously going for a much more somber post-apocalyptic tone, but in the end the writing makes it sound like something out of a documentary than an epic action game.

      Last edited 17/06/14 3:16 pm

    It doesn't matter how much they paid him or how much they wanted to be on the Dinklage hype train, that VO is up there with the worst I've ever heard, and I hope somebody at Bungie steps up and get's it rewritten and rerecorded. For a game that cost half a billion dollars, they needed to have a better audition filter to make sure something that is clearly very low quality doesn't get in to the final game. I could listen to Cortana for hours, but Dinklage's AI voice made me want to immediately turn the video off. The first thought I had when seeing the E3 trailer was "That's Dinklage" followed quickly by "That's awful". Especially for a game which is meant to have a long tail, they really need to do better than that.

    As an actor I think Dinklage does a fine job on Game of Thrones, though I think we can all agree he's a bit hammy at times. But this goes beyond bad acting, you can't get a performance that poor without also having bad writing and bad directing.

      I'd have loved a female voice. :(

        Oh hell yes. AI/sidekick should always be female, it just sounds so much nicer to me. Male AI disembodied voice can end up sounding really creepy haha - ala Space Odyssey 2001 or Kevin Spacey in Moon.

        Not sexy female, but more like mum female. I want my AI to be like my mum. There, I said it.

          nothing more comforting than you mums voice while being shot at unless she is doing the shooting that is

          "Sweetie, you really need to find a medkit right now. Look at the tears in your armour! Tsk tsk"

          "You're not going out without your M7 Assault Rifle are you? This IS a PVP arena."

          "My goodness, that armour barely covers your boobs! What WILL the boys think of you?"

      Well, I personally don't mind. I felt the voice over was 'acceptable', and he had emphasis where he needed it - mostly in reveals throughout the mission. My immediate thought was that he did some of these lines between filming GoT, and wasn't able to dedicate his full attention or performance methods to it; another thought, after re-watching the Seinfeld clip, was that it seemed as if the Destiny devs 'asked' him to act like the wake up phone guy [similar tone, method of speaking, etc].

      Additionally, we don't know what they plan for the Ghost. From the Alpha, I noticed several slots available for 'changing' the Ghost; so for all we know, there's upgrades, which might be available throughout the game, which in turn have some function that affects the Ghost - such as additional emotion programming, or self-awareness upgrades, etc. Of course, said slots might be purely cosmetic, and simply allow us to change the look - who knows?

      Personally I don't mind. As much as I love Troy Baker, and a bunch of other prominent voice actors, I don't mind giving someone else a shot at voicing a game character.

      Is it a shame he didn't put everything into it? Sure. But sometimes you have to match the tone of the game, too... and I think an overly excited, overly emotional, voice throwing AI wouldn't suit the forlorn, solemn and very post-apocalyptic setting. I personally see the voice acting brief stating: "Dark, depressing, humanity almost destroyed, the Earth left in ruins - not a happy time."

    They should get Arnold Schwarzenegger to do the voice.
    "Dat wizard is from the mooooon!"
    I don't know, you have to imagine it.
    I agree that it was OK for the most part, I also don't watch game of thrones so I didn't have any preconceived notions.

      I read that the same way he reads "Give deez peepuhl AIR" in Total Recall.

    I have been in on voice sessions with game companies, and they usually fuck it up.

    Typically the actor is only filled in briefly on arrival as to what is happening, then they have a few hours to read through some poorly written material with little context, and unsurprisingly, it tends to be wooden and awful, no matter how good the actor is.

    The few game companies that have sent the actor the script months ahead of time, and had re-writes with the actor and sent them footage of the scenes they would be involved in, end up with great performances.

    I get the feeling Bungie went the first route.

      Exactly. I was going to say I would need to know how long was spent on the lines and how many lines before I could judge.

    There are plenty of professional "Voice Actors" out there who could do a far better job. Billy West, John DiMaggio, people whose voices you know but not their face. (I'd love to hear the ghost tell me to bite his shiny holographic ass!) Acting and voice acting are very different skills. They got Dinklage for his star power, sadly they didn't get any voice talent with it.

      plus from what we've heard of the script, it's not interesting or fun to listen to

    I think some one from Bungie should stand up to defend Tyrion! It's not all his fault if he was doing something they didn't like they should have directed him away from it so everyone who is upset with Peter dinklage is directing their anger and disappointment at the wrong person. What about the people who audition/ had the final say about his performance in the game.

    While the Halo series did have some naff voice acting from time to time, it also had some incredible voice acting. Jen Taylor as Cortana. Keith "mother fucking" David as the Arbiter. Steve Downes as MC. The list goes on. It's not like Bungie are new to this whole casting for voices thing. Even horrible lines can be delivered well.

    "This cave is not a natural formation..." anyone?

      I love the fact that the most human characters in that universe are (ostensibly) either AI or alien. Even Master Chief sounds dull and lifeless when compared to Cortana and 343-GS.

        "Master Chief sounds dull and lifeless"

        Kind of the point of the character.

    don't they have those people in studio that direct the voice acting. tell the actor how they want them to sound? ..... if they're not doing their job properly then of course dinklage is gonna sound flat and phoned in.

    they just need to change it.

    it was seriously jarring having this beautifully presented world that became almost cringe worthy when your companion (that i assume will be with you for most of the game) speaks.
    its too big of a game from a developer that has done this well in the past for this to be overlooked.
    i am just hoping that it really is a quick take to get some voice for the alpha

    Even if they kept the general information, and removed the voice over in the action parts, because, as mentioned, the information about the history of the area sounded alright, but as soon as the action started it got bad. Rewrite it so that the explanation of the enemy is after the encounter

    You're comparing a character from a game that is in it's alpha stages with a performance based on a character from ASOIAF that is as rich as the books are in detail. There's an old adage from show business that goes: " If it ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage". Pretty sure that applies here too.

    I'm fully expecting-hoping it's just first-pass Alpha stuff and not the finished result. As the game goes into beta, they'll be firming up the storyline and content, not just mechanics, and THAT'S when I expect he'll do the actual work and have some context provided for... well. Everything.

    Alpha is, "Do the guns shoot?"
    Beta is, "Does this quest flow?"

      It's more like:
      Alpha is, "quick, fix these bugs!"
      Beta is, "Forget about the bugs, lets launch anyway!"

      Alpha is, "Do the guns shoot?"
      Beta is, "Does this quest flow?"

      No, this is not what Alpha and Beta testing is about. A better way to describe it (in simple terms) is that alpha testing is about testing functionality (some of which is done by having access to the code, and is far more complex than just whether or not the guns shoot) and beta testing is more along the lines of "end-user' testing i.e. playing the game the way gamers would and seeing what goes wrong. Alpha tests usually conclude when it is decided that a piece of software is "feature complete", that all the intended final functionality is present. Beta tests are about testing for bugs, performance issues and stability issues. They wouldn't enter a beta test unless the story and functionality of a game had been decided upon and built. You don't make big changes in beta, you test what you have already built. As such the idea that things will get firmed up story wise, or that voice will be recorded 'properly' during beta is essentially false, as the very concept of beta testing is that they already have the software complete to a certain degree and are now looking for bugs.

      Think about the public ESO beta testing. Do you really think they changed storylines/missions/voice acting as a result of that? No they did beta testing to iron out the bugs before releasing the final product. THAT is beta testing. If Skyrim had that kind of public beta it would have released with far less bugs too. Games of the scope of Elder Scrolls games are hard to bug test, because there are so many different paths that a player may take through the game.

      If they re-recorded the voice during testing it was done in alpha, if not done by beta it likely won't be happening.

        Haha. That's a lot of words to 'fix' a twelve word oversimplification of nebulous terms which are not actually codified anywhere by a governing body and which vary dramatically by developer - especially in these days of beta-as-marketing for MMOs and similar, which have escalated the perception of how advanced the process is.

        Edit: Have another oversimplification: You're wrong.

        ;)

        Last edited 18/06/14 9:22 am

    I thought he sounded calm and inquisitive, which i enjoyed. Meh, understated performances usually get called things like "wooden" by the average dude. Much the same way the average joe doesn't understand horror-comedy or uses "plot holes" to ascribe worth to a film.

      Lol let me guess, you aren't average and you "get it"?

    Apparently the Alpha build is months old, so they could've already recut that audio. Guess we'll see in beta / final release.

    Has anyone considered the possibility this is story related? It might be a character arc that the robot thing sounds like a flat wooden annoying tit and over the course of the story becomes a character that's somewhat likeable

    I thought it was an AI voice - this is what you'll be hearing throughout the game.

    Unlike, say, Cortana who was over the top and ended up being quite shrill, I think there is an appropriate deadpan thing happening with Ghost. It's not a character, it's a tool that you use that has been given a sublime human-esque feel.

    To have given it a more lively or human characterisation would defy its purpose in the game. Or turned it into a JarJar Binks-esque sidekick. And no-one wants that.

    Last edited 17/06/14 4:52 pm

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