There Came an Echo: (echo, echo, echo) - Games Weekly

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

There Came an Echo: (echo, echo, echo)

There Came an Echo is a brave premise. Played entirely through voice commands unless, of course, you opt to use a controller, but that’s just a bit boring, isn’t it? the game’s more about strategically ordering the little people on-screen around rather than the more typical getting-your-hands-dirty approach of most games.

“Most games abstract away the control of living, breathing soldiers to buttons on a controller,” says studio founder and developer Jason Wishnov. “We’re used to that as gamers, but it isn’t realistic. Commanders don’t control humans with invisible puppet strings they command them, and trust their units to take care of obvious minutia, like reloading and aiming and not standing around out of cover like idiots.” There Came an Echo aims for this more realistic approach units are aware of how to do things; they just need you to tell them when and where.

The sounds made by human faceflaps are a big part of this game, from your voice yelling out commands to the voices of the characters themselves. A fairly stellar cast, from Wil Wheaton and Ashly Burch to videogame veterans Laura Bailey and Yuri Lowenthal, accompanies the story to great effect. “[Celebrity voice acting] definitely helps an indie’s visibility,” Wishnov says. “It’s getting tougher and tougher to stand out these days as an indie, so you have to do something really special.”
Units know how to do things they just need you to say when
But while it’s a bonus to have star names attached to your project, it’s also a pragmatic choice. “Even a great story can be ruined by sub-par acting,” says Wishnov, and sub-par acting is clearly not a problem the team had to deal with. Superb script writing, clever fourth-wall breaking and monologues dripping with raw emotion are all in a day’s work for these acting pros, and that natural chemistry between the cast matches the intense story incredibly well.

The real question is does it work? Microsoft’s on-again, off-again relationship with Kinect has made many of us lose faith in voice-controlled gaming, and there haven’t been too many examples of good, ready-to-use voice control in the rest of the tech world, either. But extensive testing and constant updating of the game has proved fruitful, with Wishnov saying that he is aiming for “clean and accurate” voice recognition.

The advanced voice recognition in There Came an Echo allows for customised commands, making it one of the most personal control systems we’ve ever seen. “I usually alias Corrin [Wil Wheaton’s character] as Wesley,” admits Wishnov. “[I change] ‘open fire’ to something with a lot of profanity. But… I’ve done my absolute best to try and break it, so I’ve tried things like ‘buckminsterfullerene’ and ‘the artist formerly known as Prince’.” Just don’t set your voice commands to ‘Xbox turn off’, yeah?

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