Irrational Games’ creative director Ken Levine, voice actors Troy Baker (Booker DeWitt), and Courtnee Draper (Elizabeth), spoke during an ‘Irrational Interview’ about BioShock Infinite. The focus of this 45 minute interview was character casting and character development through the creative process of developing Infinite. After hearing this interview in its entirety, I can’t help but to somehow feel even more excited for this title in progress. If everything the trio talked about in the interview is dead on, this game will be beyond phenomenal.
BioShock Infinite is the third game in the BioShock series. While not taking place in the underwater city of Rapture, elements of the previous two games will still take place in the floating city of Columbia. One of these features will be the near perfect voice acting and storytelling we expect from any game with the BioShock title.
Ken Levine hand selected both Baker and Draper from the interviews. For both of the voice actors, instead of creating characters of Booker and Elizabeth, they speak in their natural tones. By this, I mean they aren’t attempting to voice a character but rather speak through their normal voices.
Courtnee has found a deep connection to Elizabeth. When voicing her, she becomes the character despite her lack of voice acting experience in video games. As seen in previous spotlights on the voice actors in BioShock Infinite, Courtnee is seen becoming very emotional when reading her lines to the point of crying in the soundstage. During this interview, she comments that the tears are never written in the script but are instead just her natural emotional reaction to certain scenes and events. The concept of having different lines to read for different player choices is something she had to get used to.
The phrase “drain the swamp” is something Ken Levine has repeated over and over to Troy Baker to remind him to not elaborate on his script of Booker. The character of DeWitt isn’t as loud and boisterous as Baker is himself. This leads the voice actor to desire embellishment but Booker is written in a very specific way. The term drain the swamp means to just erase your mind and not think about your lines – to just say them without thought. Even as an established gaming voice actor, Baker recognizes the process of Infinite and absolutely digs the challenge.
The BioShock games are like Ken Levine’s babies. As the process of making a new game develops, new layers of difficulty must be added. For Infinite, one of these layers is the process of adding voice to a ‘third person view’ character.
To have engaging dialogue with an NPC, such as Elizabeth, while you are only shown as arms and a gun takes some serious work and clever writing. So much expression, even in gaming, is shown through facial movements and mannerisms. Giving a third person view character the sort of depth that the team is aiming for with Elizabeth can’t be easy. Not only do the lines have to be perfect, they have to be delivered perfectly. I would say this is the major challenge of the creation of Infinite.
The script alone is a whole ordeal. While Levine had an idea for the story from start to finish, the recording session alter the process. Changing the script is normal for Levine once he actually hears the lines delivered, rather than written on paper. The dialogue and delivery of the lines in this franchise have been done to perfection in the past, so Infinite will not disappoint. While working on the script, Levine is open to suggestions from his team for feedback and changes. This shows his dedication to making the best possible product.
Part of the process of playing BioShock Infinite is trying to become Booker. As you play the game you are playing as both Booker and yourself. The goal of the script writing and voice acting is to make the player think they are Booker. As other BioShock games, there will be decisions to be made with consequences attached. How will these decisions affect you, affect Elizabeth, affect Columbia?
So if you are a BioShock fan, into script writing, or into voice acting, I strongly suggest listening to this interview. Again, the link is HERE. The voice acting in Infinite is just one of the dozens of reasons I personally look forward to this game.