Chris Avellone Interview, Part Two

After serving us a very interesting first part for his Chris Avellone interview, Will Ooi has publish the second part both on his blog and on Gamasutra (for those who could have problems reaching his blog). Alpha Protocol's story and reception, gamer's expectations on graphics and story and whether they're mutually exclusive, the "Honeycomb mission structure" and more all get tackled in this interesting piece. We're also promised a part 3 for this interview, so stay tuned for more. Here's a snippet:
WO: Is there any character that you've written which has been based on you, or shared aspects of your own personality?

MCA: There's a little bit of my take on religion with Kaelyn the Dove in Mask of the Betrayer. I don't generally try to write based on my personal views outside of gaming or based on anyone I know, I feel it muddies the point of the character and doesn't help the narrative. Plus, I'd feel weird about incorporating elements of someone I knew into a character, since I feel it ends up being distracting to your evaluation of the character as you're implementing it and can sometimes feel "off" to someone who encounters the character in game.

There are a few exceptions, and these were all done in the context of questioning their world or questioning game mechanics: One is Kreia in Knights of the Old Republic 2, who captures a lot of the questions about the Force and Star Wars, another is Elijah in FNV DLC1: Dead Money, who is speaking about my frustration with hand-holding in RPGs, but considering both are franchise and/or game mechanic opinions directly related to the universes they are trapped in, I feel they get a pass. Lastly, Ulysses in Fallout New Vegas DLC4 (Lonesome Road) and his intentions there categorize how I feel the Mojave and the West should be dealt with in Fallout.

WO: Who are some of your own favourite companion characters in games you have and haven't contributed to? And have you ever worked with a voice actor who was absolutely perfect for any particular character?

MCA: So our audio department at Obsidian (Mikey Dowling, Scott Lawlor, Andrew Dearing, Justin Bell), are aware of the type of games RPGs are, how much dialogue is in them, and how important it is that that dialogue comes across well. We were also fortunate that in Fallout New Vegas, our Bethesda producer Jason Bergman, took the voice acting budget and did something new in (1) contracting Blindlight, (2) spreading out the budget amongst a number of prominent actors (Danny Trejo, Felicia Day, Kris Kristofferson, Wayne Newton) for various roles rather than hooking it on to one central voice actor only.

I've also had the fortune to work with a lot of great voice directors: Chris Borders, Jamie Thomason, and most recently, with Blindlight and Wes Gleason. If we can't get a performance, they'll make it happen or get a new actor who can do what we need (although that's pretty rare).

There is one wrinkle in the process, however, and that's sometimes, once we get an audition that we really like, we will rewrite a character or change their tone because we think it'll compliment the actor better. Ulysses in Fallout New Vegas changed as soon as I heard Roger Cross's voice, and I kept his audition playing in the background while I was writing, and it helped me give direction for the character. In addition, once we got James Urbaniak for the role of Dr. O in the Think Tank in Old World Blues, I rewrote Dr. O from the frenetic, hyperactive newscaster personality I intended and had more fun with doing a scientist-whose-aware-he's-not-brilliant-or-valued, which I thought might be a nice change from the Venture Brothers, where Rusty Venture's arrogance tends to blind him to that realization 99.9% of the time.

Sometimes, we'll need to change an actor when a character's role in the story changes (which is rare) - when we did the overhaul to Alpha Protocol, this happened with a few of the roles once we needed the cast to assume different roles in the story (this was mostly Mina and Parker).

And we take chances on new talent. Veronica Belmont surprised me in Old World Blues (I don't think she'd done any voice acting up to that point). I had no idea how she'd be in the studio, but she really delivered her lines well, and we were lucky to have Roger Cross in the studio at the same time so they could do their lines between each other, which works much better (and is rare to be able to pull off). Jace Hall was brought in initially as a skit for the Jace Hall show to be bad and then fired, then we went ahead and recorded him for real, and people seemed to enjoy his character in Old World Blues a lot.

But to answer your original question: For games I haven't contributed to - some of the "companions" that jump to mind, although they're not the same type of companions we usually set up for games: Wheatley (Stephen Merchant) in Portal 2, GLaDOS (Ellen McLain), SHODAN (Terri Brosius), just about the whole cast of Arkham Asylum (we got the pleasure of working with Mark Hamill in Icewind Dale), and HK-47 from KOTOR 1 (Kristoffer Tabori).