Comic-Con 2011: Uncharted’s Characters Created in Collaboration with Actors
If it’s striking how similar Emily Rose or Nolan North appear to their Uncharted series alter-egos, Elena Fisher and Nathan Drake, it’s not an accident.
The fact is, the characters of Uncharted have a lot to do with the actors who portray them, and their appearances are a result of the collaboration of Uncharted developer Naughty Dog and its work with the actors.
“We sent concepts to the actors when they were auditioning,” said Amy Hennig, Uncharted 3‘s creative director. “That was part of what attracted them to the roles.”
Hennig was speaking on a panel entitled “Developing Interactive Entertainment: The Performance Capture Techniques of the Uncharted Franchise and Today’s Film Industry,” which also included North, Rose and Richard McGonagle (who voices Victor “Sully” Sullivan), during which she and other Naughty Dog developers discussed the methods of working with the game’s actors, its motion capture processes, and the way actors influence the development of the game’s story.
When the discussion turned toward character development, Hennig and the others mentioned that there’s a lot of give and take between Naughty Dog and the game’s cast. Motion capture for the game actually has the actors working together on a sound stage provided by Sony, rather than recording voice work in a booth, alone. Since the actors provide the motion capture for the game as well as the voice work, it leads to a lot of improvisation in the process and reactions from the players — and those things, in turn, have helped North, Rose and McGonagle embody the characters they’ve been portraying for the last five years.
“(Nolan) is Nathan Drake,” Hennig joked, “but with less upper-body strength.”
Rose echoed the sentiments when discussing what drew her to the character of Elena.
“I saw the concept art and said, ‘This is me. I need to do this. I know her,’” Rose said.
While Hennig is responsible for the game’s scripts, she said that early in the process, the characters were defined more in broad strokes and outlines. It was through the involvement of the actors that the characters really started to become fully fleshed out, which probably accounts for why they have so much resonance with gamers. Judging from the reactions at the panels, that resonance is heavily felt.
During the question-and-answer portion of the panel, the actors were asked how they would feel about playing their characters in the stalled but still seemingly developing movie version of Uncharted. All responded that they’d be excited for the opportunity, and as others on the panel put it, the players have grown to fully embody the characters.
But it would take some work on the actors’ part, as North admitted.
“I feel a lot like Drake, and I recently joined a rock climbing gym,” he said. “It’s hard. His legs must be hollow.”