I voted for the third option, because I generally find this kind of solution quite interesting and fun, to have a game set in a non-English environment spoken in domestic language(s) (or character-authentic, think the Inglourious Basterds kind of way) with translating subtitles. It’s not very popular since most people are lazy to read.
Never mind my personal opinion, the second option (despite being very broad and unspecific) is the most pragmatic one. But very much depends on how it will be realised, as the options are wide and the right one is hard to flesh out.
The actual medieval English (like 1400s) is a rather different language than the current one. It’s not even easy to keep up with for many native English speakers. So not really an option.
The “Shakespearean English” (otherwise known as the Early Modern English) would be a good choice if you were really determined to go hardcore on the “historical” sound and feel while remaining understandable enough for the viewer to follow, BUT… this period-authenticity illusion might acually very much hit the wall as soon as the language gets in touch with the first couple of domestic, Czech words and names.
And this bring us to an important point of the problem. Speaking of language and accents we are actually talking about two separate things.
One is the language, the choice and use of words and phrases and the other is the actual delivery of the language in pronounciation - here the accent comes in.
As for the language itself, eg. the game’s writing of dialogue and storytelling, probably the best solution would be to use the “Shakespearean EN” as a reference and write it with some period-written texts at hand to catch the spirit, but decently adjusting it more towards the modern language in parts that would seem too off. Better than the other way around, like writing purely modern speech and just throwing in a couple of archaic phrases occasionally.
- Most definitely have the texts reviewed by someone experienced with English historical writing, of course.
As for the pronounciation - this actually seems to be the hottest topic around here. And the one that seems the most problematic, as it means the actual delivery of the language in the voiceovers. Which accent / what kind of voice-actors to choose?
A British accent? The good old British accents have a solid share of historic roots and ties, could sound authentic for the period, but their fitting in the place of action is debatable.
An American Accent? General consensus seems NO, even by Americans around here. I personally very much agree with everything that @sully9088 wrote way up there (LINK).
Now the Czech accent. A dirty thing to even say. At least if you listen to most Czech guys around this place. According to them, Czech accent simply must be something horrendous to hear.
I have to ask. What does actually a proper Czech accent sound like?
And yes, I mean a PROPER Czech accent. Not something that’s caused by bad English, or deliberate exageration (which is 99 % cases of Czech English sounding ridiculous). Does anyone actually know?
Mostly not. In part it’s because there are very few useful examples out there. Only few Czech actors ever got a notable part in English spoken movie roles (Karel Roden, Jan Tříska,…) and mostly it was just playing Russians with fake exaggerated Russian accent.
What Czech people understand (and utterly hate to hear) as Czech English accent is that thing which they mostly keep on hearing at English lessons from their classmates, or people trying to imitate something-like-a-Czech-accent by simply speaking English words in crudely orthodox Czech pronounciation. Either sounds very bad and neither is a very representative sample. Every accent has levels and the lowermost ones do not stand for the accent as a whole.
An actual Czech accent should be something roughly between Russian and German. A bit more towards the German one. Pretty much like we are placed geographically, things in this world really like to correspond with one another…
I was very amused a couple of months ago when I found out that Karolína Kurková’s Czech accent made its way to the honorable mentions in WatchMojo’s Top 10 Sexiest Accents. The example is painfully short (5-6 seconds), but it really does show a fine case of solid English with some recognisable foreign (Czech) sound to it. If you’ve got the ear for it…
A bit more distinct example may be this funny promo video with Karel Roden and Billy Zane, acting as two design aspects - form (Zane) and function (Roden). Roden shows some very good subtle accent with only a few real excesses that hit you in the ear (like teKnology) and I personally suspect that those are really just made up to make his accent more obvious even to the dumbest hipster.
And if we were not to go all that far from here, go re-watch some of the Warhorse updates and listen carefully to Martin Klíma, or Viktor Bocan, their pronounciation also shows a nice example of good Czech accent.
And this brings me back to the very point - if this game is to be authentic, it needs first and foremost to get to local stuff done right. With foreign voice-actors I’m a bit doubtful about the results, although it could work if they get a thorough assistance and guidance by some skilled phoneticians. But the same also goes if we could get local Czech voice-actors with decent English and the same kind of assistance to make sure the results do sound good.
We need people able to speak well both in English and in Czech. So, would it be easier to train foreigners to speak Czech, or to help some Czech guys to get their English on par, if needed? Nearly everyone in here knows at least a bit of English these days and the number of those reasonably proficient in it still keeps on increasing.
This is perfectly doable, it would only require a bit of work and effort put into it (and a few people skilled in the given field to oversee it). But then again - what doesn’t?
Now, just for clarification - I am a native Czech speaker studying English as a university subject (English Philology, in other words English and American Studies), although only on the Bachelor level so far. It doesn’t really make a man an authority of any sorts, but I guess it does help to get a bit of deeper insight…