WARNING: You’re gonna want these TL;DR’s. This is 10k words in total.
Well here’s a topic that most people don’t think about. I’m hoping I can change that, at least a little bit. Maybe if I can convert at least a few people, then perhaps shatfark might make some body moves - and I do believe that ‘some body moves’ may end up all that’s needed, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
‘Career differentiation’ is how I’ll be referring to the concept of different careers using different voice lines for various scenarios, lines that reflect the change in that hero’s character/role based on career. Each hero went down a specific, different fork in their path to end up being one of their three careers after the events of V1, and that brought with them a change in their personality and combat role. These changes are outlined in the official career descriptions on vermintide.com. Have a link and check them out, this post is already massive. These are more detailed in the blog posts, which I’ll post in the next part.
The purpose of this topic? Mainly, it’s not to suggest stuff or give the devs advice. It’s actually to, uh… clear up some community feedback.
Because I already know where most people’s minds are going after they’ve read all this. I know, ‘cause I’ve seen it all – these pop up every time something like this gets brought up. All the different ways of telling you that this idea is ludicrous, that it can’t be done, that it won’t be done, and why don’t you go complain about something important for a change. This first post will address the most common excuses people provide for why career differentiation isn’t important.
Why am I doing this? So that the devs can see something other than the common consensus that what we’ve got is good enough. Anyone who wants and expects more are left silent, and most any feedback on the flavor voicework is people posting funny conversations on Reddit. It’s very surface level. I mean, some people think that Rothelms are Maulers, or don’t even notice that a good portion of combat dialogue is lifted straight from V1. That creates a very… stagnant pool of feedback, and what I wish to achieve is to get the devs just a little bit provoked, to make further strides in this regard.
Furthermore, I’m putting forward a hypothesis, which I’ll try to reinforce with this thread.
I believe that VO career differentiation is core to V2’s identity, that its current state is in no way intentional and was likely borne of whatever caused the game to release as early as it did, that every aspect of the career system shows career differentiation has belonged and still belongs in the game, and that its implementation is not the worthless resource sink that you may believe it is. As such, asking Fatshark to not be Shatfark and get away with a waste of potential is not unreasonable – in fact, now is the time.
Below are these comments, which I’ll try to reasonably refute with only a small amount of speculation and talking down to readers. It’s pretty hard.
- This isn’t possible and they would never do this
This argument here seems to be based on the idea that career differentiation would imply that all the dialogue would be changed per career - or, at least, the majority of it. That, of course, isn’t the case. It’s fairly evident that the implementation would be limited to select map comments, occasional combat lines differing, career-specific conversations with other heroes (Hero A Career 1 X Hero B, career-irrespective). Why do I say that as if I’m in charge?
Well, the other lynchpin is the implication that the devs wouldn’t even be trying to attempt it. And to be blunt, that’s plain wrong. There are things upon things to indicate that this was, possibly still is, and more than likely will be the plan moving ahead. Who knows why the game released with it in a nonexistent state, but then, it’s plain as day that something happened at the office that caused the release to be what it is, when it was.
Now, what are the ‘things upon things’ that I refer to? Off the top of my head:
1: The devs stated their plans
@Fatshark_Hedge utright stated that there will be different dialogue depending on different careers shortly after the game was revealed. Sadly I can’t attach a link as that happened on Reddit, sometime around October 19th-21st, which is more than the seeming 8 month limit Reddit has on storing posts. You’ll have to take me on my word. I have a very vivid memory of it because I was in that thread, and I am pretty sure I was the one Hedge replied to in the first place.
2: A small chunk of it exists
Dialogue proven to be career-based exists, albeit in a highly limited state. There’s exactly three lines in the base game that are career-dependent - Bardin’s potential responses to Bodvarr at War Camp. He has a Slayer line, an Ironbreaker line and a Ranger Vet line. They are designated as such in the source code - and are the only such lines in the base game. That is entirely too random to be normal, and almost certainly the sign of something that was meant to be a lot more of a thing, but the whole March release thing happened. Also, they don’t work properly - despite the code, you can get any line on any career, though the only one I ever heard was Slayer (on all three).
2a: The game seems primed to use this system
This isn’t so much fact as speculation, but parts of the existent dialogue seems to have been career specifc. Kruber will talk about being paid for the mission in the intro to ATG, for example. Bardin says “Urgh, through my armor”, which makes that unique to RV/IB by exclusion. Sienna calls Saltzpyre ‘zealot’ in two of her praise lines - I doubt the writers would have just randomly thrown that word in considering this is one of his three careers. She also has an incredibly rare combat praise conversation with Saltzpyre where she refers to being a Battle Wizard. Kerillian routinely calls herself various wood elf things, even when she’s meant to be cosplaying a high or dark elf. Many of the reused V1 lines make reference to what became careers - Ranger, Pyromancer, Witch Hunter; there were plenty of lines they could have recycled that didn’t end up with an Ironbreaker being told “Stop that, Ranger” after he showers Kruber in flame from his drakegun. (admittedly I devalue point 1 with this because Hedge also stated that absolutely none of the V1 lines would be reused, instead they’d be re-recorded with new twists on them - yet those while existent are a minority)
3: More was added with Keep conversations
The keep conversations that have been added are the biggest tell of all, as many of them directly reference ‘different paths’ and ‘careers’. All of them are blatantly meant for the default 5 careers - Kruber is starting a mercenary concern, Bardin is still a former Zulunbaki Ironbreaker, Sienna is torn between being a good and a bad wizard, Saltzpyre is officially a Captain who believes he’d never stray from his path. So on and so forth; there’s no way in hell that when Sienna and Kruber have a conversation where she pitches a name for his mercenary squad that Slayer Bardin wouldn’t have special conversations about just what the [wordfilter] made him glue an orange wig to his head and literally die by dwarf standards. And then Kerillian randomly starts talking to Kruber as if he’s Huntsman, yet again proving that this is a feature that’s at best a quarter way implemented.
3a: More was added with DLC
Career based dialogue has continued to be added with Bogenhafen. There are numerous instances of map lines that are blatantly, outwardly career specific, and actually do function. On Blightreaper, WHC Saltzpyre will say that he will have the Bogenhafen revelry judged while BH Saltzpyre will say that there are doubtlessly wanted men among the attendants of the ball. On The Pit, Slayer Bardin will make reference to seeking a glorious death and Merc Kruber will mock Sienna for saying there’s more to living than money. So on and so forth. Once again, if the devs had no intention of furthering this aspect of the game, then there would be no point in bothering with this, however limited it is in Bogenhafen. Furthermore, it makes no sense to do this for the two random DLC maps while not doing any of it for the main game… save War Camp.
3b: And even more was added with ambient map conversations
This one’s solidly in the realms of speculation, but still. The major patch before the BBB re-enabled conversations between heroes that aren’t tied to maps and aren’t based in the Keep – i.e. how they used to work in V1. Aaand they’re broken; you only ever hear the first line, they are never followed on. Whoops. But if you pay enough attention to when your heroes just randomly say off-the-wall stuff that makes no sense, you’ll likely notice a few that seem like they’re meant to be career specific. YMMV, but I’ve heard Sienna start raving like an absolute lunatic – something that I can only imagine Unchained doing. Saltzpyre also raved, mumbling to himself if ‘the vision’ he saw was truth or just a dream; he also says he ‘cannot return to the Order until we are finished’, and WHC is the only career where he even wants to do anything with the Order anymore. Kerillian occasionally starts talking softer and mentions Isha. There’s no way of knowing for sure, but these very much seem like they are tied to careers. Yet, being broken, it’s hard to use them to judge.
TL;DR: The devs publicly said that they intend for heroes to have different lines based on careers, the game’s existent VO and code imply that it was designed to have such a system, and small chunks of it continue to shine through in both the base game, the post-launch patches and the DLC.
- It’s good enough as it is
Very often people just brush career differentiation of with an ‘eh, what’s there is good enough’. I guess it’s not up to me to tell you that your priorities are wrong, but I’d make a case for why what’s there isn’t good enough.
Most people only really notice the VO when they hear a funny line, or when there’s a special callout. They only care about it being the barest degree of functional. Anything else is just extra. And yeah, I’m aware that that’s the majority. I’m pretty sure that if anyone reads this far down, then I’m likely to get a comment saying that they don’t want gameplay related chatter changed because they’ll have to get used to career specific lines. It’s that sort of min-maxing.
However, there are some things to consider as to why the devs would sink time and resources into something like this.
1: They set a heavy precedent in V1
V1 had absolutely no business having as much careful characterization and flavor as it did. It would have easily been the hit that it was with 1/4th of the voice line diversity. They were not selling more copies by making sure that each hero was a heavily detailed complex character that lived and breathed in the Warhammer Fantasy world. The art design alone would have gotten them all the attention from people attracted by this. What I’m getting at is that the devs were immensely passionate about detailing the world of Vermintide and its characters.
Last I checked, the devs have remained the same. The writer, Magnus, is certainly still the same (not sure about his partner). Yet their approach in V2? Compared to the meticulousness with which V1 was performed, it’s night and day. Forget career differentiation, VO as a whole remains quite the mess compared to their previous game, which, mind you, had a smaller budget and required a lot more figuring out. While I like to rag on how incompetent Fatshark are (and refuse to call them Fatshark), it’s significantly more likely that things happened that made proper recording, archival and implementation of voicework a low priority.
They did not need an incentive to flesh these characters out as much as they did in V1 - so why would they just drop the ball so hard on V2? That is not to say they haven’t dropped that ball.
That is to say that I see very little reason as to why they shouldn’t go find it and pick it back up. And with how very small, highly sporadic bits of it are creeping through, it seems misguided to believe they aren’t already doing that.
2: The careers are ludicrously underexplored
With the dev argument in mind, consider the fact that in all honesty, the majority of the game’s careers really just isn’t what it says on the tin. Disregarding the fact that Kerillian cosplays as other elves, we should face the fact that Slayer, Ironbreaker and Shade are the only careers in the game that couldn’t easily have been “Character in different clothes they felt like putting on for this mission”. And the only reason these careers apply are their unique weapons. And to be perfectly blunt, it’s feeling a lot like the only reason they went with ‘careers’ as opposed to ‘gear setups’ or w/e is so they could have a melee-only Slayer, because Slayers are popular.
Indeed, that’s a good argument - most of these careers are easily recognized archetypes from WHFB. Mercenary, Huntsman and Foot Knight sounds a lot more exciting than Normal Kruber, Light Armor Kruber and Heavy Armor Kruber. That’s good enough for most people, too… …but as I’ve established above, these devs aren’t ‘most people’.
If you take a close look at how V1 was designed from a hero characterization standpoint, it will become apparent that there’s no way in hell that these same developers would go “yeah Bardin is a slayer now, whatever”; “eh, Kruber just puts on a hood and gets liver failure to go invisible”; “Sienna has skin made of fire and spontaneously combusts, nothing’s too special about that”; “Saltzpyre hunts random things for a living and works entirely outside the Order, why’d he be any different”. That’s simply not a thing that’d happen.
For people who care a lot about Warhammer, they sure were all too eager to have a game where a Slayer makes no reference to his oath, where a pseudo-High Elf devotee of Isha still refers to herself as an Asrai and continues to be a total Drakira-powered [wordfilter], while a Kruber who spent several months squatting in the forest drinking heavily and being depressed continues to be cheery, bombastic and goofy.
I can see Shatfark doing a lot of stuff lazily, or suboptimally, or just generally screwing them up, but intentionally bungling something this key to the game’s identity? Limiting any lore justification for the careers to blurbs on their official site, with no indication in the game? That’s not sounding very likely. Once again - yes, it did, in fact, happen… but that doesn’t mean it happened by design, or that we shouldn’t be reminding them where their standards should lie.
TL;DR Even with the devs being wonky, disorganized and sometimes incompetent, keeping career differentiation this minimal is very uncharacteristic of them. The use of recognizable, lore-flavored archetypes makes the lack of differentiation extremely noticeable. The bar was set very high in V1, with no buts or real incentive - the devs are passionate about the world and the characters they created, while the current implementation is anything but. And the game launched in early access state at best… Curious, isn’t it?
- Go complain about something important instead
AKA "literally unplayable lol!!"
Flavor is more important than many think, in the end. I didn’t play V1 for 850+ hours, tolerating its worst periods and dealing with updates that did more harm than good, just because of the gameplay loop. I played it because the world and the characters really worked - they glued it all together. I’d run certain maps because they created an engrossing image, and I’d do run after run on the same difficulty just for the different interactions, or to hear ones I already heard many times. The game had a very real feel to it, something with its own gravitational pull. It was this - not even the gameplay - that grabbed me; for the first time in years I could safely say I was a hardcore fan of something.
I used to dream of what sorts of cool interactions a BH Saltzpyre would have compared to a WHC, I’d wonder just how they’d handle Bardin becoming a Slayer, I’d imagine all the different kernels of characterization we would have. After all, they did such an amazing job in V1, and clearly they were intending to top that in V2, right? It just made so much sense back then. How it’d all mix together, how much it’d extend the game’s replayability. And then March happened.
Perhaps I’m not the only one who feels like this game’s longevity will greatly increase if this is paid attention to. That’s sorely missing from V2 - it set itself to achieve so much more, and then came short of approaching V1. It doesn’t feel right anymore… right, or complete.
1: You’re not getting that much less content or fixes if this is focused on
Yeah, so, that sort of thinking just relies on the assumption that developers are fluid between all jobs at a dev studio. I really doubt that having developers focusing specifically on fixing VO would mean you aren’t getting your weapon/AI/geometry/talent/balance/silent patrol fixes.
There’s a valid counter-argument: if there really are devs whose job it is to just comb over VO files, then why is it still as broken as I say it is, 9+ months past release? Several potential answers to that one. One being that there aren’t devs who strictly work with VO, but rather ones whose job it is to generally comb through files and see if things fit together - considering we know for a fact that communication and proper archival aren’t things Shatfark practices, it’s reasonable to assume these devs were overloaded with spaghetti code in other areas of the game (the typo-borne hero power bug says hi).
If this is the case, then now IS the best time to start pestering them about flavor things such as career differentiation. The game’s in the best state it’s been in, however sad that statement is. Few things require truly urgent fixing. The core is no longer as rotten as it’s been for months - so maybe now it’s a good time to care for the shell.
But my personal pet theory is a decent answer to the other concern.
2: Why should they waste so much money on voice actors when we need content?
It’s no secret that voicework ain’t exactly cheap, and implementing variations on existing lines is defnitely not vital to the game’s survivability. It’s not nice thinking that a few hours that result in maybe 20-30 takes being accepted could possibly have paid a programmer’s monthly salary.
Partly, this is answered by the above-mentioned priorities these devs held in the past. A lot was spent on VO for V1, which wasn’t even meant to be the huge success it ended up being. V2 exploded much the same, whether we think its release state deserved it or not. With it being their only project for the foreseeable future, I doubt they’re cash-starved, even if V2’s early release happened because they were running out. But this is me thinking as a consumer and not a developer, of course.
You can believe what you want, but do also entertain another theory… Which is that all of what I’m complaining about possibly exists. If not all, then at least most of it.
VO for different careers reacting differently to maps/conversations/gameplay elements, missing VO for enemies (berzerkers, gas rats, chaos taunts, Maulers), missing VO for gameplay elements (grimoires, jump spam conversations that were referred to once and never saw the light of day instead being patched over with more reused content, boss dialogue for Halescourge and Spinemanglr), VO for maps that hardly have any (FG, TSB, Brax), VO for future content… But it’s in a raw state - disorganized alphabet soup at best, and recording sessions that haven’t even been spliced into separate takes at worst.
Multiple things make up the backbone of this theory.
The voiceline dump we received a few months ago was a glorious mess. They called it a V2 VO dump, but instead it had literally everything from V1 with maybe a couple of things from V2 in it. It was highly disorganized, most files being alphabet soup, and often appearing in folders where they didn’t belong. Looking through this? Yeah it’s a nightmare, yet this is how they store their own files.
A number of lines in V2 are obviously botched takes. I’m referring to “By the Eight Winds— BY THE EIGHT WINDS, CHAOS WARRIOR!!!”, “Lileath, I can’t keep going! … Gods, I can’t keep going!” and others. These are clearly incorrectly spliced from the actors’ session recordings. Which means that voice line splicing is a thing that needs doing, and at some point they had to hurry. Do I need to mention that one time Kruber speaks a line clearly meant for Sienna on Skittergate? Calling the skaven ‘ratties’ and saying he has a ‘burning need’ to avenge Helmgart or something? You bet they were in a mad hurry near release!
When I refer to career differentiation, I don’t always mean different lines entirely. It can be something as simple as a different take of the same line, to reflect the different tone that this career has. In the past, they already did change many lines from one take to another in patches, meaning that unused takes are saved somewhere - even if it’s in a messy alphabet soup format. Something as simple as Merc and Huntsman having two different ways of calling out supplies can go a long way.
Magnus, the writer, was meant to have a public Q&A on @Jsat 's stream shortly after the game’s release. It was repeatedly mentioned before suddenly never materializing, and him generally staying silent, even on Reddit. Not the strongest of arguments, as literally anything could have happened, but chances are that it simply wasn’t going to be possible to really talk about anything writing-related when so much of it wasn’t in the game. Perhaps existent in a manner of speaking, but not available to players.
TL:DR Focusing on VO for a while won’t completely kill other fixes - fixes that are now far less vital than in past months. The devs that’d be handling this aren’t the ones working on the spawns or the stability. Monetary concerns aren’t as major when you consider Fatshark’s history of putting quality flavor above pure profits - and especially when you also consider that there are numerous indicators that far more VO, including such that is career related, already exists and simply is in an uncut/unimplemented state.
And there you have it. I hope that whoever manages to read through this wall of text leaves with less skepsis surrounding the idea of exploring the heroes’ different career paths. At best, I’d really like for the enthusiasm to come back.
I remember the times before release, when hype was on the air, and things seemed so bright. Back then, on Reddit, every new career reveal would provoke post after post of people excited – some about the gameplay style, but many, and I mean many wanted to see how Fatshark would handle our heroes transitioning into these careers. People wanted Huntsman Kruber to have different interactions with the elf, speculation was abound as to what made Bardin go Slayer and how the others would react to it, many were stoked that Kerillian would have to actually try and sound like less of a [wordfilter] as Handmaiden, and boy was I ready to be sold on the idea of Saltzpyre going Bounty Hunter. I’m serious right now – these discussions were as wide-spread as anything gameplay related.
And then the release happened, and things got bad. But maybe now it’s time to stop dialing our expectations back. I hope I’ve made a good case for why it isn’t a lost cause. Maybe I sound like I’m convincing myself more than anyone else, maybe it doesn’t make sense that I simultaneously believe that it’s almost-there-just-a-little-longer AND that it won’t make it unless we show interest. In truth? Ever since Fatshark went Shatfark, it’s been really hard to predict things. I just hope I can make them see at least some interest, whatever that’d result in.
Stick around for the next post, where I’ll go into full armchair developer mode and try to explain how I think career differentiation could/should work! Yeah, people will totally read that!