Nostalgia, Money and Pyramid Heads

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Posted by patrickklepek (3475 posts) -

The current state of Silent Hill is up for debate, but few would dispute the surreal brilliance of Silent Hill 2. Disturbing, sexual and profoundly scary, Silent Hill 2 seemed to completely realize the original promise of Silent Hill’s horrific ambitions.

Subsequent games have been varying degrees of quality, depending who you talk to--I'd argue Silent Hill: Shattered Memories was great--but Team Silent, now disbanded, seemed to reach Silent Hill’s pinnacle during its second ghostly visit.

Some may have found Silent Hill 2 simply scary, but it was more profound for its devoted fans.

It’s no surprise, then, that fans of Silent Hill 2 would be a rapturous bunch, as devoted fans are wont to do. Messing with nostalgia is a dangerous game, one Konami undertook themselves after revealing a high-definition collection of Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3 was in the works.

This version, however, would not feature the game’s original voice actors. This version, Konami said, would have brand-new voice actors. This version, fans reacted, would not be one they would blindly support.

Fans started reaching out to the voice actors from Silent Hill 2, many of whom who have remained engaged with the community since the game’s release on PlayStation 2 in 2001. Many don't work in games anymore.

Like so many things in life, the problems started with money.

After Konami released the first trailer of the new voice actors, the community was abuzz. "VOTE WITH YOUR WALLET" declared one comparison video. The reaction was profoundly negative, as it usually goes with changes to beloved history.

Guy Cihi, the voice behind Silent Hill 2 hero James Sunderland and both then and today more businessperson than actor, wrote an open letter to Konami on August 28 via Facebook. Cihi claimed Konami never negotiated the rights to use the acting outside of the original game, and he and the cast would be owed money if his contributions to Silent Hill 2 were used again.

The letter came just days after comments from Troy Baker in an interview with The Gaming Liberty. Baker is the new voice of James and a rising voice actor, having contributed to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Batman: Arkham City and others.

"The fact that he’s [Cihi] talking about residuals being in videogames shows you just how out of the loop he is because residuals don’t happen," he said. "They don’t exist. Don’t think for a second that I don’t wish that I had a fraction of a penny for every unit sold of Call of Duty: Black Ops or Modern Warfare 2 or Modern Warfare 3 that we’re finishing up right now. [...] Guy was the one who was outspoken about it and said that unless this happens he wouldn’t do it, so he forced Konami’s hands. So if anybody wants to blame anybody for why they chose new voices, they can go back to the original James."

Strong words.

The issue over residuals has been brought up in the past. The New York Times once profiled voice actor Michael Hollick, who gave life to Niko Bellic in Grand Theft Auto IV. Hollick revealed he was paid $100,000 for his duties on the game. GTA IV has sold more than six million copies since, but Hollick saw nothing past his original payment.

Cihi said he’d been contacted by Konami once to negotiate the release of the rights but never heard back with a written proposal, and simply assumed Konami simply decided to go the cheaper route of employing new actors. In his letter, Cihi announced he'd decided to waive his rights, hoping that would allow the original voices to now be included in the collection.

Konami did not answer my request for comment on the status of Silent Hill 2’s voice acting.

Several moments lead to Cihi's letter, he told me recently, including the fan reaction, and a realization that preserving Silent Hill 2’s legacy was more important than money, informed by a past experience with a business he co-founded in the 90s.

“I sold my shares in that business back to the other partners and I left to pursue other things,” he said. “Immediately after I left, they started systematically erasing me from company archives. Which was hard to do because I was literally everywhere. It was like in the old Soviet Union when they would 'disappear' people from group photos taken with Stalin. When I saw Konami had blurred my face and completely failed to mention me in the making of video, a switch flipped in my head and...I lost it.”

Eddie was another memorable character from Silent Hill 2, though one less remembered for his smarts.

Cihi does not represent the entire Silent Hill 2 cast, however.

A fan video taped a panel at NDK 2011 featuring prominent voice actress (and Silent Hill singer) Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, where she explicitly said the original actors had no rights to residuals. She has reason to know; she directed the replacement voice actors for the high-definition version, and she actually took on the updated role of Mary and Maria. The video's been taken down, but according to her, Konami reached out to Cihi and based on his response, felt re-recording was necessary.

Monica Taylor Horgan, who voiced Mary and Maria originally, also wanted to work out a deal for the original voice acting to be preserved, but in a more private manner.

“I felt like he [Cihi] had some valid gripes but that maybe it was due to misunderstanding the VO [voice over] industry and the corporate structure at Konami regarding Silent Hill 2,” she told me. “Guy is a very smart, educated businessman--but that doesn't necessarily make him an expert in the narration/VO industry. Anytime a savvy businessman gets handed a waiver or contract and is asked to sign without knowing what it's concerning, it would raise concerns. But a phone call may have been a better option maybe.”

“I think everyone concerned wishes at this point that they had done things a little differently,” she said.

Schaufele (Eddie) and Cihi (James) signing the paperwork to hopefully pave the way forward.

At least for fans, it looks like everything might turn out just fine in the end. Konami accepted Cihi’s offer, as did other cast members from Silent Hill 2. Cihi released a photo of himself and David Schaufele, who played Eddie, signing a rights waiver. Even though Konami did not release an official comment to me, Cihi specifically thanked Konami producer Tomm Hulett, who is working on the upcoming high-definition collection.

That's a good sign.

Cihi said he plans to meet up with Horgan, Schaufele, and Hulett for pizza and beer next month.

That's another good sign.

All this friction is driven by a connection people have to the material, a story of torment and discovery. And monsters. A decade later, Cihi and Horgan are still hearing from fans who were touched.

“I have a friend on Facebook now," said Horgan, describing her favorite memory with fans. "A young man with cystic fibrosis, who can't get close to people in his hospital because of protective clothing, etc. who relates more to Silent Hill and how Mary feels about being a burden to her family--than he does to people around him. Hearing from him, that was unforgettable, and being able to connect him with others out here that might feel the same.”

While Konami remains quiet, the likely scenario is the ability to switch between both sets of voices.

Silent Hill 3 is getting reworked voices, as well, but a reference by fansite Silent Haven suggests it may get the same treatment as Silent Hill 2. Konami's been silent. There's no set release date for the collection, but Konami had been aiming for this fall.

Staff
#1 Posted by patrickklepek (3475 posts) -

The current state of Silent Hill is up for debate, but few would dispute the surreal brilliance of Silent Hill 2. Disturbing, sexual and profoundly scary, Silent Hill 2 seemed to completely realize the original promise of Silent Hill’s horrific ambitions.

Subsequent games have been varying degrees of quality, depending who you talk to--I'd argue Silent Hill: Shattered Memories was great--but Team Silent, now disbanded, seemed to reach Silent Hill’s pinnacle during its second ghostly visit.

Some may have found Silent Hill 2 simply scary, but it was more profound for its devoted fans.

It’s no surprise, then, that fans of Silent Hill 2 would be a rapturous bunch, as devoted fans are wont to do. Messing with nostalgia is a dangerous game, one Konami undertook themselves after revealing a high-definition collection of Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3 was in the works.

This version, however, would not feature the game’s original voice actors. This version, Konami said, would have brand-new voice actors. This version, fans reacted, would not be one they would blindly support.

Fans started reaching out to the voice actors from Silent Hill 2, many of whom who have remained engaged with the community since the game’s release on PlayStation 2 in 2001. Many don't work in games anymore.

Like so many things in life, the problems started with money.

After Konami released the first trailer of the new voice actors, the community was abuzz. "VOTE WITH YOUR WALLET" declared one comparison video. The reaction was profoundly negative, as it usually goes with changes to beloved history.

Guy Cihi, the voice behind Silent Hill 2 hero James Sunderland and both then and today more businessperson than actor, wrote an open letter to Konami on August 28 via Facebook. Cihi claimed Konami never negotiated the rights to use the acting outside of the original game, and he and the cast would be owed money if his contributions to Silent Hill 2 were used again.

The letter came just days after comments from Troy Baker in an interview with The Gaming Liberty. Baker is the new voice of James and a rising voice actor, having contributed to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Batman: Arkham City and others.

"The fact that he’s [Cihi] talking about residuals being in videogames shows you just how out of the loop he is because residuals don’t happen," he said. "They don’t exist. Don’t think for a second that I don’t wish that I had a fraction of a penny for every unit sold of Call of Duty: Black Ops or Modern Warfare 2 or Modern Warfare 3 that we’re finishing up right now. [...] Guy was the one who was outspoken about it and said that unless this happens he wouldn’t do it, so he forced Konami’s hands. So if anybody wants to blame anybody for why they chose new voices, they can go back to the original James."

Strong words.

The issue over residuals has been brought up in the past. The New York Times once profiled voice actor Michael Hollick, who gave life to Niko Bellic in Grand Theft Auto IV. Hollick revealed he was paid $100,000 for his duties on the game. GTA IV has sold more than six million copies since, but Hollick saw nothing past his original payment.

Cihi said he’d been contacted by Konami once to negotiate the release of the rights but never heard back with a written proposal, and simply assumed Konami simply decided to go the cheaper route of employing new actors. In his letter, Cihi announced he'd decided to waive his rights, hoping that would allow the original voices to now be included in the collection.

Konami did not answer my request for comment on the status of Silent Hill 2’s voice acting.

Several moments lead to Cihi's letter, he told me recently, including the fan reaction, and a realization that preserving Silent Hill 2’s legacy was more important than money, informed by a past experience with a business he co-founded in the 90s.

“I sold my shares in that business back to the other partners and I left to pursue other things,” he said. “Immediately after I left, they started systematically erasing me from company archives. Which was hard to do because I was literally everywhere. It was like in the old Soviet Union when they would 'disappear' people from group photos taken with Stalin. When I saw Konami had blurred my face and completely failed to mention me in the making of video, a switch flipped in my head and...I lost it.”

Eddie was another memorable character from Silent Hill 2, though one less remembered for his smarts.

Cihi does not represent the entire Silent Hill 2 cast, however.

A fan video taped a panel at NDK 2011 featuring prominent voice actress (and Silent Hill singer) Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, where she explicitly said the original actors had no rights to residuals. She has reason to know; she directed the replacement voice actors for the high-definition version, and she actually took on the updated role of Mary and Maria. The video's been taken down, but according to her, Konami reached out to Cihi and based on his response, felt re-recording was necessary.

Monica Taylor Horgan, who voiced Mary and Maria originally, also wanted to work out a deal for the original voice acting to be preserved, but in a more private manner.

“I felt like he [Cihi] had some valid gripes but that maybe it was due to misunderstanding the VO [voice over] industry and the corporate structure at Konami regarding Silent Hill 2,” she told me. “Guy is a very smart, educated businessman--but that doesn't necessarily make him an expert in the narration/VO industry. Anytime a savvy businessman gets handed a waiver or contract and is asked to sign without knowing what it's concerning, it would raise concerns. But a phone call may have been a better option maybe.”

“I think everyone concerned wishes at this point that they had done things a little differently,” she said.

Schaufele (Eddie) and Cihi (James) signing the paperwork to hopefully pave the way forward.

At least for fans, it looks like everything might turn out just fine in the end. Konami accepted Cihi’s offer, as did other cast members from Silent Hill 2. Cihi released a photo of himself and David Schaufele, who played Eddie, signing a rights waiver. Even though Konami did not release an official comment to me, Cihi specifically thanked Konami producer Tomm Hulett, who is working on the upcoming high-definition collection.

That's a good sign.

Cihi said he plans to meet up with Horgan, Schaufele, and Hulett for pizza and beer next month.

That's another good sign.

All this friction is driven by a connection people have to the material, a story of torment and discovery. And monsters. A decade later, Cihi and Horgan are still hearing from fans who were touched.

“I have a friend on Facebook now," said Horgan, describing her favorite memory with fans. "A young man with cystic fibrosis, who can't get close to people in his hospital because of protective clothing, etc. who relates more to Silent Hill and how Mary feels about being a burden to her family--than he does to people around him. Hearing from him, that was unforgettable, and being able to connect him with others out here that might feel the same.”

While Konami remains quiet, the likely scenario is the ability to switch between both sets of voices.

Silent Hill 3 is getting reworked voices, as well, but a reference by fansite Silent Haven suggests it may get the same treatment as Silent Hill 2. Konami's been silent. There's no set release date for the collection, but Konami had been aiming for this fall.

Staff
#2 Edited by sungahymn (986 posts) -

ah

EDIT: FIRST! HELL YES!

EDIT 2: Cool article. Thanks Klepek.

#3 Edited by imoTEP12 (13 posts) -

Good read.

#4 Posted by Qodot (105 posts) -

This news story was informative and made me feel good.

#5 Edited by MrOldboy (868 posts) -

I think I prefer the new VO from that comparison video. Is it a big deal? I never really thought this sort of thing was a big deal. Why not use use the original audio? I never played much of SH, never finished the first one.

I hope one day Microsoft releases an HD+ upgrade of Halo 3 and adds a sprint.

#6 Posted by Creamypies (4051 posts) -

Great article, Patrick! I really am sad to see the way this HD collection is going. Nothing but the visuals should've been changed.

#7 Posted by boylie (305 posts) -

While I will say that Silent Hill 2 is probably one of my top 5 favourite games of all time, the voice acting was not the thing that made me love it. In fact, I remember the voice work being pretty terrible. Well whatever, good to hear the remake is one step closer to being a thing I can own.

#8 Posted by ComradeCrash (558 posts) -

That was interesting. And I'm glad they are redoing these because I have never played them before. For me, I don't have the past memories so having updated voices will make the first time experience great when I play it.

#9 Posted by MooseyMcMan (10479 posts) -

I still think this should be the voice acting:

Online
#10 Posted by CornBREDX (4813 posts) -

This whole thing is frightening just because I felt the original team silent games were done so well (I even liked SH4) making changes to them is a scary proposition. I mean I already own all of them, so I'll never lose out on the originals, but it'd be nice if they were the same in the re-release. 
 
In the end, I'd probably buy it anyway. I just really like these games and really hate that the new ones don't quite grasp what was so great about them. Shattered memories was close.

#11 Posted by Olivaw (1215 posts) -

@MrOldboy said:

I think I prefer the new VO from that comparison video. Is it a big deal? I never really thought this sort of thing was a big deal. Why not use use the original audio? I never played much of SH, never finished the first one.

I hope one day Microsoft releases an HD+ upgrade of Halo 3 and adds a sprint.

Silent Hill 2 is as much a classic as anything. A lot of the original performances have a very surreal, dreamy air to them that I think helps the game.

But more than that, I think it's just a matter of preserving what the original game was. Silent Hill 2 is as much an argument for Games as Art as Shadow of the Colossus. If we go around changing the original voice acting, which was a key part of the experience, we're not preserving that original for future generations of people to see.

It's not like they're fixing a bug or adding something new. They're changing something that's fundamental about the game. It's like if Lucas changed the noises Chewbacca made to something completely different. It just ain't right, far as I'm concerned.

That being said, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn is a genuine talent who has been in this business a long time, and she's right - ain't no such thing as residuals for voice actors. It's just not the way that industry works.

#12 Posted by Dross (296 posts) -

Great article, Patrick. I never played the original back in the day, so I've been looking forward to this collection.

#13 Posted by Bobby_The_Great (1002 posts) -

I'm excited for an HD remake of Silent Hill 2.

#14 Posted by Parsnip (1077 posts) -

When I heard about this earlier I just laughed because of all the nerd rage the changed voices caused.

#15 Edited by John1912 (1830 posts) -

Replacing the VO is never a great option if it can be avoided. Its jarring as all hell to people who loved the original work. I prob would not have cared if the VO had been swapped, but I know how fans that care felt. I bought a CE of Akira that was re-released on DVD. I couldnt fucking stand the new VO. Not sure if I didnt know the VO was going to be changed, but it hit me pretty hard. Just ruined the DVD for me.

#16 Edited by beard_of_zeus (1669 posts) -

I didn't know any of these issues were going on with the re-release - appreciate the article, Patrick.
 
I checked out the comparison video, the only character that was noticeably different for me was James. I think it's a combination of me being able to identify Troy Baker when he's doing VO now (since he's fairly prolific at this point), and remembering James' voice pretty well. And this is coming from someone who loves Silent Hill 2.
 
It would be weird if there was different VO in the re-release, but then again, the voice acting isn't really what makes the game so great. But there's something to be said for preserving art. Some people may not think this is a big deal, but for every person that feels that way, I could probably name a game they love and then suggest changing an important part of it, and it probably wouldn't go over too well. So I guess I'm a bit conflicted, but at least it sounds like they might end up working things out after all.

#17 Posted by Veotax (6 posts) -

New voice acting sounded better. Shame it's gone.

#18 Posted by CaLe (3911 posts) -

I read it and it was good.

#19 Edited by verysexypotato (207 posts) -

Mary? Oh, Maria? Whatever.

#20 Posted by Brodehouse (9588 posts) -

I thought the only good acting in SH2 was Mary. James was inconsistent, and rest were plain old bad (god, Angela).

I would be very concerned if they changed Heather in SH3. Heather was maybe the only time before Shattered Memories in which the voice acting was perfect. I won't flip out because the original is always there, but if they're trying to make the best version possible, they'd leave her work as is.

#21 Posted by George_Hukas (1317 posts) -

So is the original cast redoing everything or are they using the original, terrible VO?

Why are Silent Hill fans so fixated on Cihi's return? Did I mention how terrible the original VO is? Don't you think there is a reason these guys haven't done more VO work?

Konami should've took their ball and went home.

#22 Posted by Joeyoe31 (820 posts) -

Good article Klepek.

#23 Edited by Chop (1994 posts) -

Whatever.

All the new voices sounded marginally better. Baker, especially, sounds way better than Guy.

#24 Posted by Ronald (1342 posts) -

I'm still mad Capcom replaced the original voice actors from the first Resident Evil. None of the new actors have been able to match the brilliance of those perfect performances.

Now to the serious side, Konami isn't stating whether they will include the original voice actors are they? So we still have no idea what is actually going to happen with this, and whether it might include both versions?

#25 Posted by mutha3 (4985 posts) -

Eh, the fans were being incredibly whiny and dumb. Much like RE1 got new VA in the gamecube REmake, I reckon the real reason they rerecorded new voices was because the old ones sucked ass.

#26 Posted by DeadPan (313 posts) -

Great article PK, I agree with the statement that SH 2 should be preserved as is, even if the voice acting is weird compared to the new stuff, its right to keep as is.

Question for you, Do you think that Konami will ever speak about this? Maybe after the game comes out? Would be interesting to hear from them on why they thought it right to change (for me anyway) an integrel part of the SH 2 expierence

#27 Edited by TOYBOXX (310 posts) -

First off, great article Patrick! You bring interesting, and informative, discussion pieces to the table as a way to spice things up here on Giantbomb. Thank you.

As for the article itself, disgruntled fanboys, of any kind, are seemingly the one's that destroys franchises. They speak up, the developer responds to the minor few, and what was a great game suddenly changes to not become a great game anymore. But hey those fanboys are happy now - right? The Mass Effect franchise is a prime example of fanboy influence gone awry.

Personally, I strongly believe in the saying "If it isn't broke, don't fix it". And when the price tag is $60 per game, you sure as hell better not "try" to fix a great game, or you'll lose my support.

#28 Posted by Sword5 (150 posts) -

Glad that they are keeping the old actors. Most of the new group were the from the 5 anime actors in Canada that voice everything. They are good actors, but I can only hear their careers at this point.

#29 Posted by Vexxan (4615 posts) -

Great article!

#30 Posted by faustyn (615 posts) -

Yay! That's great news! New voices were pretty horrible. Thanks Konami for fixing this :)

#31 Posted by Nemesis2K (156 posts) -

I hope there is still an option to listen to the Troy Baker VO. If not for the better acting but for the common decency of paying the new comer to be a part of such a popular game then just having Cihi waltz back in and change things like he is the most important building block of SH2. The original voice acting sucked, people have to tight a grip on their memories. If your really that big a fan you already have the game. This is like saying I hate the SOTC remake just because the framer ate doesn't hit single digits. A better frame rate improved that game, better VO will improve this.

#32 Posted by Duecenage (205 posts) -

I kinda hope they give us the option for both. The original performances to keep the nostalgia intact, and the new ones cause they did sound like better performances to me.

#33 Posted by Shaka999 (453 posts) -

Oh man I won't even hesistate to download Silent Hill 2. Or buy it. However it comes out, I'm getting it.

#34 Posted by mutha3 (4985 posts) -
@Nemesis2K said:
I hope there is still an option to listen to the Troy Baker VO. If not for the better acting but for the common decency of paying the new comer to be a part of such a popular game then just having Cihi waltz back in and change things like he is the most important building block of SH2. The original voice acting sucked, people have to tight a grip on their memories. If your really that big a fan you already have the game. This is like saying I hate the SOTC remake just because the framer ate doesn't hit single digits. A better frame rate improved that game, better VO will improve this.
Haha, yeah, that's the perfect comparision.
 
....Why do I have the feeling that someone actually DID complain about the framerate being fixed in SOTC/ICO HD.
#35 Posted by Still_I_Cry (2494 posts) -

I have only played one silent hill game and it was Homecoming. I didn't like it :(

Wasn't scary at all nor was it psychologically disturbing.

I like weird stuff and all but it just didn't engage me.

#36 Posted by benjaebe (2783 posts) -

Great article Patrick. As a huge fan of the series and someone who has followed this closely, I'm happy to see you write it up in a way that doesn't just blame one side or the other and leave it at that. Keep up the good work.

#37 Posted by blake_brown (116 posts) -

I love the Silent Hill series, in particular Silent Hill 2 which is without a doubt the high point, but the voice acting in that game totally sucks. What little I saw of the HD trailer before the revert wasn't that great either.

#38 Posted by Video_Game_King (36015 posts) -
@patrickklepek said:

The current state of Silent Hill is up for debate, but few would dispute the surreal brilliance of Silent Hill 2.

I would :P. (Also, I can't get rid of that picture. Not sure why.)
#39 Posted by blacklab (1525 posts) -

Sounds to me like Cihi is broke and looking to make some money off the re-release.

#40 Posted by RE_Player1 (7549 posts) -

Well I hope you can still listen to Troy Baker, dude is an awesome voice actor.

#41 Posted by Little_Socrates (5675 posts) -

Here's hoping they end up offering both versions. I prefer Troy Baker to more than half of the VO industry.

#42 Posted by blake_brown (116 posts) -

@Still_I_Cry: Homecoming was awful. It was basically a tie-in to the movie, which also wasn't that great.

#43 Posted by Catolf (2653 posts) -

I actually preferred the new VA.. that and if this is happening didn't the new VA spend hours and hours.. days.. weeks infact on a product to not even have it used now? Will they even get paid for their hard work in the end?

#44 Posted by Still_I_Cry (2494 posts) -

@blake_brown: Oh, well I am actually looking forward to playing Silent Hill 2 if/when it comes out in HD since I don't have my Ps2 anymore.

Do you know any on current-gen consoles that are any good?

#45 Posted by lockwoodx (2479 posts) -

Patrick has really grown on my with his fact digging articles. Keep them coming.

#46 Posted by glasswall52 (66 posts) -

There's a frailness to the original James' voice that really made him feel disturbed and utterly filled with guilt about what was going on.

I mean, the guy murdered his wife and is being punished for it

The new voice actor feels much younger, much less broken than the original. I think that could really take away from the feeling of James being torn apart by something inside of him that we don't initially know anything about and instead make it just seem like a normal guy thrown into a scary situation.

I mean, look at the opening shot of the game (the screenshot from the top of the article)...that guy is meant to be completely drained.

#47 Edited by CoruptAI125 (76 posts) -

Great Feature truly. My only complaint is how you list Troy Baker as an up and coming voice actor. He's definitely been around for quite a while between games and anime.

#48 Posted by blake_brown (116 posts) -

@Still_I_Cry: the series really started going downhill since Silent Hill 4: The Room. I'd wait for these re-releases of 2 & 3, they are as good as this series gets.

#49 Posted by Still_I_Cry (2494 posts) -

@blake_brown: Ok, thanks for the advice

#50 Posted by TheHakku (359 posts) -

I love that you spent the time to write this up, Patrick. Already knew about all of this, but just having it all laid out is fantastic. Never saw that photograph, either. So awesome.

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