Fly With Norman

Get the voice of Holly as a computer game A.I.

27 March, 2015

If you're into computer games, you may be aware that there's been something of a resurgence in the space simulator genre of late - thanks to the growth of technology that enables "massively multiplayer" (essentially, games in which millions of internet-connected players fly their own ships around a procedurally-generated "universe" fighting, trading and doing whatever else they fancy) titles to exist.

Fly With Norman

When it comes to this type of game, it's only natural that as a Red Dwarf fan you might think "Hey, wouldn't this be even better if I could make it a bit more like my favourite sci-fi sitcom?" Well, thanks to a new downloadable "voice pack"... you can. Sorta.

HCS Voice Packs specialise in creating packages containing thousands of sound clips that cover just about any eventuality or situation these games can throw up - and so when correctly installed as an unofficial add on to a game like Elite: Dangerous or the upcoming Star Citizen, they can essentially give you a customised ship's AI. Think of it as like installing a desktop theme for your phone or computer... but with a voice, instead.

And the latest pack that HCS have released is a character they've created called "Leo", and it just happens to have been voiced by none other than Norman Lovett. Here's their description of the pack:

"LEO" has been professionally and lovingly voiced by stand-up comedian and Red Dwarf actor Norman Lovett - the Red Dwarf star has voiced well over 1000 commands. Take Leo on board with you as your ship's AI - available for pre-order now and due to be released sometime in March 2015.

A planet was discovered orbiting a star in 2020, just 30 light years from Earth in the constellation "Leo". The SETI institute, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, made suggestions that a signal source from constellation Leo was detected by their listening arrays. This invoked worldwide interest, a 'crowd funded' private project to launch a group of four probes to the region began. Physicists from the quantum neural network, or "QNN", formulated an agreement very quickly and joined with both the private organisation and SETI. QNN provided them with an AI named Leo to command the probes. Leo's mission for the journey was to make sure that all of the four probes were redirected to any detected signal sources when they reached the distance stars. To prioritise the "Goldilocks" zones in particular.

The mission failed.

Right from the start, the mission was doomed. Telemetry and guidance problems arose just days after launch. Shortly after the probes left orbit, they were detected going in completely the wrong direction as a result of Leo's probe colliding with space junk. This was no ordinary space junk. It was in fact a small spacecraft. It was launched into space a few years earlier, by an unsanctioned private enterprise somewhere in Europe. The craft was launched, with something inside. A dog. This dog, known as "Dave", was part of some kind of test to see if a particular mix of breathable chemicals, would suspend aging and metabolism processes for long term space travel. Also, details are sketchy but conspiracy theories about the survival of "Dave the dog" are still being discussed frequently on social networks today.

After the initial collision, there was no way for Leo's probe to use enough gravity from planets to accelerate away from the solar system - Leo remained floating around in space. It's said that during Leo's time in the dark void of space with nothing to do, his neural network degraded. His mind wandered. Where? Nobody knows.... Leo was eventually recovered. His behaviour was rumoured to be colourful, erratic. Some say "insane". Although.... these are just rumours. When asked to comment on Leo's reintegration, QNN officials have remained very tight lipped.

If this all still seems somewhat baffling, you can also check out a sample video that shows just how Norman's voice sounds in a typical game of Elite:

And yes, the player is talking to Norman and getting responses in that video - voice commands are another function of the downloadable voice pack. Crikey. It's like living in the future...

Find out more and buy the pack for Elite: Dangerous at HCS Voice Packs!

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