Many sports videogame title offer a "create-a-player" module so that one can create a virtual character to compete in the game environment. The create-a-player module for EA Sports' NBA Live '06 is quite sophisticated, allowing one to customize the standard elements like height, weight, skill level, etc., but also skin tone, hairstyle, and choice of tattoo. Naturally, the icing on the cake for such a module is to allow for the individual's name and number to appear on the game jersey.
NBA Live '06, among other games, accomplishes this with a virtual keyboard that one "types" with the game controller, as seen below.
My question is: When are we going to take it to the next level of customization, and type with sound?
We have discussed already that the voice track for a sports title is made up of thousands of voice fragments variously stitched together and recombined. Would it not also be possible to record a library of phonemes and then use these to construct personalized names for the game, "spoken" by the game announcers?
First of all, when creating a player, you would be able to go through the existing rosters in the game to see if anybody had the same last name as you. If so, associate yourself with the last name voice file already in the system, and move on.
If not, then we use the alternative, a virtual keyboard similar to the one used for typing letters. The difference in this case, however, is that you are typing phonetic symbols. By mousing over the phonetic character on the keyboard, one would hear the phoneme being pronounced. Tapping the key would add it to your phoneme-chain display. Hitting a "play" button would allow you to hear the phoneme-chain being pronounced, with adaptive technology in place to "smooth" the phonemes together into one word. Saving it creates a unique last name voice file. Additional functionality might be put in place for advanced smoothing and tweaking of the pronunciation.
There is obviously little incentive for a company like EA Sports to have Marv Albert or whomever record every name that might possibly play the game. But there is an incentive for each individual player to have his or her own name in the library — the incentive of greater personalization. It would be advantageous for the game publisher to create an open web-based library for unique last name voice files (similar to what EA Sports did with golf course files in Course Architect) so that players could upload and share their creations, while others could see if their name was already in the system before creating one of their own — sort of a Web 2.0 perspective on sports games.
Of course, I have absolutely no idea of how to accomplish this technically, just that it, or something comparable, will happen soon. Maybe it already exists. If not, can a game programmer please contact me? ;)