Audiobook Narration and AI

Like everything related to AI, with the ability to mimic human-sounding voices coming to the forefront, audiobook narrators now also feel threatened and, while I understand being afraid of something new and misunderstood, I see it mostly as an extension of our existing abilities and doing more with less.

First of all, I’m sad that the first thing I see in that article is “circling the wagons”. You can’t avoid new technology. It’ll come no matter what. Some form of legislation can be made to restrict research and development but if the technology is not immediately or excessively harmful (like nuclear weapons or engineered viruses), a lot of people will work towards it and, as a person affected, what you really should do is find how to adapt and where you fit in in the new order.

Secondly, if we move towards an industry in which voices are largely AI generated, the voice templates will still have to come from somewhere. Those providing the templates will still be a part of the process. They will be licensing their vocal likeness, like you do with a visual likeness. It will be up to them and their agents to make sure the contract benefits them and that they may have some right of refusal on projects that might not align with their views. And those around the narration will still be required. A director will need to make sure the reading is what the client wants, an audio editor will be needed to make sure it flows or to add effects or music, etcetera, etcetera.

I see it a lot like using any other asset in game creation, both in video games and tabletop games in which I have some experience. As a creator trying to save money, I would definitely go to the asset store or find some stock art to put in my product. Both in tabletop publishing as well as on Steam, I’ve seen many products reusing art and, yes, it paints the product in a specific kind of light but I can’t really fault someone for being short on means. Of course, were it to be possible, I would love to commission bespoke art for my product to make it unique and special, the nuances and the input I can have on it would make it better in every way but not everyone can afford it.

The way I see it working is that narrators would license their voice phonemes to the voice generation technology company. Narrators would recieve a flat fee up front for participating. A book publisher who can’t afford to arrange for a bespoke reading would contract the voice generation company. The AI voice should cost less than hiring a narrator in person but said narrator should get a cut of the contract and because the voice would be used in bulk, it would become a larger sum over time. Because the reading is AI generated, the audiobook will be worth less and be sold for less than one made with a bespoke narrator. The end-of-the-line customer would be made to understand that an audiobook voice is AI generated rather than specifically narrated, and it will be up to them whether they are willing to accept it, like buying a soft cover over a hard cover.

In the end, I think that just like ‘zero budget’, one-person productions on YouTube can exist next to hundred million dollar Holywood productions, so can fully voiced audio productions can exist next to AI generated synthetic audiobooks.

Posted in Practice, Thinking Out Loud by with no comments yet.

News: Average User has no Concept of How Much Game Dev Costs

Recently, some clueless joe on Twitter said he will pay 10,000$ to the person who adds a multiplayer aspect to Zelda: Breath of the Wild. If he was going to donate to a modder who was working on it, that would have been fine but it seems like he was thinking that he could hire someone to do something like that for that kind of money.

Here is a long, detailed response to this which you should read but here’s the summary: 10,000$ would pay for about two work months of the average+ programmer. Also, networking is hard. The hardest networking challenges in gaming usually arise in fighting games because they usually need to be exactly per pixel and per frame accurate and, probably over distances where network traffic takes more time to go back and forth than it takes pro players twitch reflexes to react. You can see how important this is if you go back and read about the network woes of Street Fighter V.

Now, the demands of a PvE, open world, action RPG would probably be a lot less strict but these are still difficult problems. Especially if you’re talking about tacking on something like this onto a game that was definitely not designed for it.

You want a more current example? On the one hand, Battlefield 2042 is out now and it’s buggy as hell. On the other hand, Halo Infinite’s multiplayer is also out and it’s much better. Probably because the team is backed and overseen by a very strict corporate overland. On the other other hand, Halo’s campaign will come out in a week but the Co-Op campaign will only come out in May 2022. MAY!!!

343 Industries have been working on the Halo games for over 10 years! They are backed by one of the biggest corporations in the world! [According to Wikipedia] They are 750 strong! And it’ll take them — yes, assuming they have more going on than just Halo Co-Op — five months from campaign release to co-op campaign release.

And some people think you can just add co-op mode on a massive game for 10,000$.

Posted in Gaming, Less Interesting News, Practice, Programming, Thinking Out Loud by with no comments yet.

Portugal just became nicer to employees

Portugal recently passed a law they fondly call “Right to Rest”.

It contains various measures to help employees have a better work-life balance such as the ability to work remotely when you need to take care of a child or companies contributing to household bills when an employee is working remotely a lot. But the nicest thing about it is indeed the ban on contacting employees after work hours. I’m guessing there is a stipulation about emergencies or people like server administrators and doctors who are supposed to be on call but the fact it’s enshrined in law is just amazing.

Kinda makes me want to move to Portugal. :)

Posted in High-Tech, IT, Less Interesting News, Practice, Thinking Out Loud by with no comments yet.

How to Make a Unity Package (For the Unity Package Manager)

Let’s say you have a bunch of code you want to drag around with you to every new Unity project, or maybe just the next project you’re doing for the same company. Don’t just copy and paste the same directory over and over again forcing you to also copy changes and updates. Create a package instead!

Unity has switched over to a package model for a lot of the engine’s capabilities. And it also allows you to import non-Asset Store packages straight from GitHub or even locally. So how do you take what you have and make it an easily distributable package? Follow these steps.

  1. In your Project window, below all your regular files is a Packages folder. Right click on it and select Show in Explorer.
  2. In that Packages folder, create a new directory and name it however you like. This will be the root of your package.
    1. Do remember that the folder name can not contain spaces.
  3. Create a new “package.json” file.
    1. This page right here explains everything about the structure of the file.
    2. And here is an example file.
  4. Back in Unity, your new package should be visible with the name you gave it.
  5. Clicking on package file will open it in the Editor UI, allowing you to edit it more conveniently so you don’t have to go back to the JSON.
  6. In that Inspector window, you can also easily add Dependencies if your package requires it which is a much easier workflow than typing them out.
  7. After this basic set up, you’ll want to add your content, this link here will show you the folder and file structure required of a package.
    1. You need the package.json file.
    2. Adding a “”, “”, and “” files is general practice and provides a better user experience.
    3. The “Editor” folder should contain your editor scripts.
    4. The “Runtime” folder should contain your runtime scripts.
    5. And you can add additional “Tests” and “Documentation~” under their respective folders.
      1. Under “Tests” you do have to add “Editor” and/or “Runtime” sub-folders depending on what you’re testing.
    6. You may also add additional folders and files as you wish.
  8. Just drop your scripts, assets, and whatever else you want from your current project into the correct folder in the package (Regular scripts into “Runtime”, editor scripts into “Editor”, and test scripts into “Tests”).
  9. Then, for every folder you have files in, right click it and select “Create\Assembly Definition”.
    1. It is recommended to name them in reverse web notation in a way that is easy to understand.
    2. For tests, you need to add a reference to your relevant assembly definition file (The runtime file for runtime tests and editor file for editor tests) and to the Unity TestRunner assemblies (Yes, both).
      1. Also, make sure that Editor is the only platform selected.
  10. That’s it, your done defining.
  11. If you move the package anywhere else for safe keeping, you can add it from the Package Manager by pressing the ‘+’ sign, selecting “Add from Disk” and finding your package.json file.
  12. But it is recommended that you upload the contents of your package (Not the folder itself but everything in it) to some Git repository and then you can always add it from Git and your users will be much happier for a constantly updated package.

Posted in Practice, Programming, Thinking Out Loud by with comments disabled.

Payment Structure

I’ve heard and read a lot recently about how companies structure their payments, which employees get what and how much should a CEO be paid. For one thing, I agree with California trying to enforce a maximum difference between a CEO’s salary and lowest paid employee. I don’t think it should be compared to the average salary but the median but it’s a good direction. I know that the community sharing type of structure isn’t for everyone but I like the idea of employees sharing in the benefits of a company like the way pirates divvy up treasure: everyone gets one part. Maybe team leaders get two or three parts. Higher management gets five or six parts. The chief officers might get eight or even ten parts. The point is, after you determine how many parts there are, you divide the revenue. This way, even the lowliest employee benefits when the company is doing better. The top brass earn the most because they do the hardest work, but every employee is invested — and rewarded — in the company being successful.

Posted in Humanity, Philosophy, Practice, Thinking Out Loud by with comments disabled.

Podfasting? It sounds like abstaining from listening

Hi. My name is Eran and I like podcasts and audiobooks.

Recently, I found out about the term Podfasting. No, it’s not about abstaining from listening to Podcasts. The average person types at 40 words a minute, speaks at 150 words a minute but thinks at about 400 words a minute. I know I type at 70 words a minute, I probably speak at closer to 200 words a minute, and I think my thinking speed is also higher by a similar percentage (Probably around 450-500). So, I think it makes sense that I like watching TV and listening to podcasts at very high speeds (My current rate is 1.8-2.1x). I even like to speed read, which is how I calculate my thinking speed.

Roughly 30,000 hours of content are uploaded to YouTube every hour. More and better content creators are currently creating more and better content. I want to have as much of it as I can. And, as your brain processes information about twice as fast as a person speaks, this problem is a solvable one. Creators can record their content at their own speed and today’s tools can speed it up without losing the pitch so it still sounds human. It’s only logical for someone with a huge backlog.

Another thing they say in the article above is that understanding drops as you go up in speed but I think that’s entirely variable and dependent on the individual. I only aim for the speed in which I can still follow what’s going on. Right now, I’m at 2x and feeling good about it. Sometimes I’m tired or sick or have a headache so I drop it to 1.6x or even lower. And when it’s a TV show or movie with lots of intense action I want to follow I drop it even lower. Though I do find that even stuff like Warrior I watch at least at 1.2x.

The only question you should be really asking yourself is whether this is something you want. I see it the same as speed reading, blind typing, or juggling. You don’t have to. You can live without it. But is it a skill that would be useful to you, a skill you think you should have? If so, you can train yourself up for it and you can get used to it.

And to anyone who wants to side with the “Speed listening devoids the content of emotional content”, I listen to the Moth and it has made me cry before.

Posted in Life, Me, Practice, Thinking Out Loud by with comments disabled.

Is Urbanisation Over?

With the pandemic on going, and large tech companies telling their employees to stay home for, possibly, the next year, and many realising that having an office to work out of is not a necessity, what I’m mostly thinking about is…
What are the odds the pandemic will just be ever present? Or, what if it will stick around long enough so that the general urbanisation of the planet over the past few decades will just stop and people will start spreading around so that we end up with small rural communities that are more spread out?

Posted in High-Tech, Humanity, Less Interesting News, Practice, Thinking Out Loud by with comments disabled.

Some Thoughts on Difficulty in Games

Idan Zeierman said this on The Last of Us Part II:

Translation: I don’t know what to say. Along with the first game, they are probably two of the best works of art I ever experienced. But they come in the form of tough survival horror games that take 30 hours to complete and contain a lot of zombies. It’s not an easy bar for experiencing them properly.

I replied:

Translation: On the one hand, that is the reason why a lot of people will never experience some of the greatest works of art ever made (because they’re games). On the other hand, these works won’t be the same if you don’t experience them for yourself.

This got me thinking about difficulty in games.

I think the subject of inclusion and exclusion through difficulty has been tread enough but I think it mostly referred to gamer culture. Some Dark Souls fans would like to think that the game won’t be the same unless it was brutally difficult. Now, you can say that easy for one player might still be brutally difficult for another, but we’re still assuming the same level of potential ability and game literacy. I’m not going to talk about the players who’ve seen Dark Souls, know about it, and it’s just not their jam and they prefer to play Candy Crush or Brawl Royale.

I’m talking about my mother.

Works of art are all about the creator trying to evoke a specific emotion or thought in the ones experiencing them. Dark Souls is not above evoking those emotions but its mechanics are about getting good. They’re about figuring out what makes monsters tick, how they move, how they act, finding weak points and exploiting them; they’re about the grueling process of being a weakling and becoming a hero. I don’t think my mother would be in to that.

But I think my mother might be into Portal, or Brothers, or Life is Strange. But she would never touch any of those because they’re games and “she doesn’t understand games” or “she’s not good at that”. And that’s bullshit. And it has to do with difficulty settings. I’m not saying that every game should have “Click Button to Progress” difficulty setting. Having mechanics to manage, obstacles to overcome by yourself, and decisions to make is part of the parcel of a game. But I do think that every game should have an “Experience” difficulty where it’s the easiest it can be without compromising the intention of the mechanics.

And I also think that every game should have ‘Hint’ button. Something that will remind you of important mechanics, remind you of your current goal, explain the challenge of the moment, remind you of the relevant information you already collected, and then maybe go into recommended strategies, and even the developer recommended course of action at the present moment.

Because, when I’m thinking about my mother, I would gladly give her Life is Strange (except for a couple of stressful or timing situations), and I would gladly give her Brothers (once she’s more experienced with a controller), but I would only give her Portal if I could make the last two levels easier for someone with almost zero game literacy who doesn’t have lightning reflexes and might also have trouble aiming. And, back to the original topic, I would never give her The Last of Us until the easiest difficulty setting was much easier. It doesn’t have to be a cake-walk, but it doesn’t have to be gruesome either.

And I also think Dark Souls could be made better. Don’t let up on the need to explore, to collect items, to decide where points go, to upgrade weapons, to find the right path, to calculate strategy, and definitely don’t let up on the need to study the bosses and to approach the battle tactically. But you can definitely make the mechanically intense moments less intense, slower, and you can definitely give the player more help when it comes to knowing what needs to be done and how.

Posted in Art, Gaming, Practice, Thinking Out Loud by with comments disabled.

Guides, not Game Masters

Dungeon Master has been used in the #dnd game since inception and is the most known title for the person actually orchestrating the game. It is definitely used in official settings by @Wizards_DND . However, it is quite exclusive, is easily misunderstood in “normie” society, and even an easy source for silly memes.
Different games have different unique names for the role — be it Space Master or Master of Ceremonies — but the general term has been shifted, or tried to shift, into Game Master.
I still find an issue with this name as Master is a very overbearing title. Even if you lose the connotation of a person completely in charge and in control of the game as opposed to another player whose character is the world, this implies much responsibility that is not necessarily the GM’s purview or singular domain.
In Hebrew, there is another word that is coming more and more into use and that is “Mancheh” (Hard Ch’) which is, roughly, translated as “Guide” (Roughly because it’s missing some of the attached cultural nuances).
This, I believe, is a better way of describing what that person actually does. They take part in the story in the same way everyone else does, they share the responsibility, but they are the guide. Like the Tour Guide, they know the world, the environments, the dangers, and the inhabitants better than the players but their job is to explain and show, not wrangle and Master. The Guide’s role is to respond when the players interact with the world, act on it or ask it questions.
I also believe this term will make the job feel less intimidating and more inviting to new guides who are afraid to be Game Master but could still be wonderful Guides.
Language is powerful and it affects thought. Let’s rethink our use of it and make the dungeon masters and game masters into Guides.

Posted in Gaming, Philosophy, Practice, Role-Playing, Thinking Out Loud by with comments disabled.

במשחקים Tropes עשרה

אז IGN פרסמו כתבה עם 10 ה-Tropes שצריך כבר להיפטר מהם. אני קצת מסכים ובעיקר לא מסכים.

1. אני לא מסכים שצריך להיפטר מהלוגים והפתקים לגמרי. אבל כן אפשר לשפר את ההגיוניות שלהם. דבר ראשון, אם זה קולי אז צריך להיות אפשר לנגן את זה ולהמשיך לשחק בלי שפס קול אחר יקטע את זה בהמשך. זה משהו ש-Subnautica עושה טוב. אפשר לנגן ולהמשיך. ואם יש עוד פס קול, הוא לרוב יחכה. ואם זה מסמכים אז זה צריך להיות מרוכז ולא מבולגן כאילו מישהו כתב יומן ואז פוצץ אותו לכל חדר אפשרי.

2. אני בכלל נגד cut-scenes שנועלות את השליטה כשאני בבירור הייתי עושה משהו אחר. זה בעיקר הציק לי ב-Rage 2. כשידעתי בדיוק מה איריס הולכת לעשות ורציתי לקטוע אותה באמצע אבל אי אפשר. אני לא מבין מה הבעיה. מעולם לא שיחקתם Half Life? זה יצא ב-98′. ושם, היית יכול להישאר להקשיב או ללכת. והיית יכול גם לירות במדענים.

3. הגרסה של באטמן ל-Detective Vision הייתה מפגרת. אני כמעט ולא זוכר את Arkham Asylum בצבעים נורמלים. וב-Arkham City ו-Knight הם ניסו לגמול אנשים מזה. אבל אין עם זה דבר רע באופן כללי. זה רק צריך להיות דומה ל-Mirror’s Edge, Deus Ex או Rage 2. הדברים לא באמת אדום בולט, צהוב בולט או ורוד בולט, אבל זאת דרך טובה להדגיש משהו שהדמות, או שהמכניקה של המשחק, יודעת ואנחנו לא בהכרח וזה מגשר את הפער יופי.

4. אני דווקא אוהב את הרעיון של המיני-משחקים האלו. אבל הם צריכים להיות רלבנטיים. למען האמת, רוב האלו של Spiderman היו גרועים. המיני-משחק של לפרוץ מכונות ב-Bioshock? זה פשוט Pipe Dream. אבל אם המשחק הוא משחק התגנבות וגניבה, ובשביל לפרוץ את המנעול צריך לסדר את השיניים בדיוק על ידי כמה כלים שצריך להחזיק יציב (בונוס נקודות עם עושים את זה עם בקרת תנועה ו/או במציאות מדומה), וזה נהיה יותר קל ככל שהמיומנות של הדמות עולה, זה נשמע נהדר. אם סתם בא לכם לדחוף עוד משחק סטודנטים שנה א’ לתוך ה-AAA שלכם בשביל להאריך את זמן המשחק, עזבו. פשוט גלגלו קוביה ברקע ותגידו לי מה יצא. כמו כן, עזבו אתכם ממרוצים במשחקים שאינם משחקי מרוצים. אף אחד אוהב את זה.

5. עם זה אני מאוד מסכים. בכל נקודה, במיוחד בתפריט בהתחלה, צריכה להיות אפשרות: ‘תפסיק ללמד אותי לשחק’. כי אולי אני חוזר למשחק מחדש, אולי אני מנסה לעשות Speedrun, אולי אני סתם אוהב לגלות הכל בעצמי. בנוסף לזה, בכל נקודה גם צריכה להיות אפשרות של: ‘תזכיר לי איך משחקים את זה ומה קרה עד עכשיו’. כי אני לא היחידי שחוזר למשחק אחרי שלושה חודשים ומנסה להמשיך במקום בו עזבתי.

6. פה אני גם מסכים. אם זה לא חלק חשוב במשחק והדמות לא אמורה להיות טובה בזה, בסדר, שטיפוס יהיה קשה (רק לא Getting Over It קשה). אבל אם זה חלק עיקרי והדמות אמורה להיות טובה בזה, זה צריך להיות מהיר ואלגנטי. אני מצפה שהנסיך הפרסי, לארה קרופט, ניית’ן דרייק ובמיוחד כל ג’דיי יהיו מאוד טובים בזה. פה אני דווקא חושב ש-Assassin’s Creed מצליח. כל עוד לא מדובר בטיפוס-קפיצה-סיבוב-35-מעלות-תפיסה-הנפה שצריך לעשות תוך 2.6 שניות, זה מאוד זורם. והבנתי שמ-Unity זה אפילו יותר טוב.

7. זה אני דווקא אוהב. זאת טקטיקה נהדרת ו-trope מצוין בכל מקום. רק, כמובן, צריך שהתמה של המשחק תתמוך בזה. אחד הדברים שדווקא מאוד אהבתי ב-Assassin’s Creed, עוד מהראשון, הוא שכל הדברים שהמתנקש צובר זה ציוד. הוא כבר יודע את כל הטריקים ויודע מה לעשות. הוא רק צריך את הציוד שלו. וכשלוקחים לו אותו (כי הוא לא התנהג יפה), הוא חוזר למשבצת אפס וצריך לאסוף הכל מההתחלה. מצד שני, כמו בסדרת ארקאהם, אם כבר יש את כל הציוד, אפשר להמשיך לשחק בלי להכריח להשיג את כולו מההתחלה.

8. אני דווקא אוהב Crafting. אני אוהב את החקירה של העולם ושל עץ האפשרויות ולגלות מה עוד אפשר לעשות. מצד שני, למה אני צריך לצאת ל-wiki חיצוני בשביל לדעת משהו? ולמה אני צריך לסדר את המרכיבים בצורה מסוימת בשביל לקבל את מה שאני רוצה. זה עוד משהו ש-Subnautica עושה מצוין, במיוחד אחרי שמתקינים את ה-mod של ה-autosorting: צריך לסרוק דברים כדי להיות מסוגל לייצר אותם ואז הם זמינים. חוזרים לבסיס עם חומרים, שמים אותם ב-Autosorter וה-Fabricator כבר שולף מכל מה שזמין בבסיס. רק צריך להגיד לו מה אני רוצה לייצר.

9. עם זה אני גם מסכים. כל דיאלוג או מונולוג דו-כיווני צריך להיות בר-דילוג. זאת בעיה שלי אם אני לא מקשיב ולא יודע דברים חשובים. וגם, תתייחסו למי שכבר ראה את כל זה ורק רוצה להגיע לאקשן. ובאותו הקשר, כל כפתור, כולל הכפתור לדלג, צריך להיות בר-כיוונון מהאפשרויות. ואף פעם על תניחו איך המשתמשים שלכם עושים דברים. אני כיוונתי את המקשים ב-Rage 2 אבל האופנועים עבדו עם מקשים ברירת מחדל אז לא יכולתי להשתמש בהם. Hob בכלל לא היה אפשר לכוון. המשחקים של Telltale היו מגניבים אבל כל פעם שניגשתי לאחד פחדתי מהמקשים שאי אפשר לכוון. זה כבר בלתי נסבל.

10. תחזוקה זה דווקא טוב. אם זאת מכניקה חשובה. זה שב-Death Stranding דברים כל הזמן מתפרקים זה חלק חשוב מהעולם. זה שבמשחק רומנטיקה צריך לעבוד על מערכות היחסים זה מאוד מתאים. זה שבמשחקי השרדות צריך לשים לב לבריאות, לאוכל ולמים, זה מאוד רלבנטי. ומצד שני, בהתאם, צריכה להיות אפשרות לא להתעסק בזה. עוד נקודה טובה ל-Subnautica בו אפשר לשחק עם כל המדדים כמו שהתכוונו או שאפשר להגיד, ‘לא בא לי כל הזמן לדאוג למים ולאוכל כי אני רוצה לחקור בחופשיות’ וזהו.

11. אני רוצה להוסיף עוד משהו שמאוד מציק לי ואני יודע שמציק לעוד אנשים: פעולה שדורשת החזקת כפתור. למה? מאיפה זה הגיע? למה זה טוב? נתקלתי בזה בכמה מקומות אבל זה בעיקר הפריע לי ב-No Man’s Sky. בשביל להרים משהו אני צריך להחזיק את הכפתור חצי שנייה? בשביל להיכנס לחללית צריך להחזיק את הכפתור? בשביל לסחור? בשביל להתקין טכנולוגיה? בשביל לייצר חומר חדש? אתם יודעים כמה חצאי שנייה כאלו היו ולכמה זה מצטבר כשמשחקים 3, 4, או יותר שעות? זה בזבוז זמן משווע. מילא בקשת אישור אם הולכים לעשות משהו דרסטי אבל החזקת הכפתור זה משהו מעצבן, מטומטם, that we need to disinvent.

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