Actor Nolan North – who plays Nathan Drake in Naughty Dog’s Uncharted games – has added book author and publisher to his long resume of video game voice acting, television, and film roles.
North has delved into the creative process of how Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception was made in his new book, Uncharted: Drake’s Journal. The actor, who actually started his career after graduating from the University of North Carolina as a journalist, talks about all things Uncharted in this exclusive interview.
How did you end up writing a book about Uncharted 3?
I get to talk to guys like you in the press for each of these games. A couple of years ago when Uncharted 2 came out, everybody was asking me the same questions. It always came up, “How do they make Uncharted?”
I finally got to the point where I had no idea. I thought, “Here I am getting a name in this business,” and I thought, “People will listen. People will say, ‘He must know what he’s talking about. He does all these games.’”
I went to Sony. I pitched them the idea, actually, for an Uncharted 2 retrospective, because there are a lot of funny stories that happen during the process – just silly little things that nobody ever gets privy to. It was too late for that game so we focused on the third one.
What surprised you from your research into the third game?
I think it’s the self-motivation of the employees at Naughty Dog. The self-motivation is like nothing I’ve ever seen, and that goes for their attention to detail, as well. One of my favorite pages is a guy, Doug Holder, who does the squibs and the muzzle flashes.
One of his main jobs was to literally animate every surface that a bullet hits, depending on what caliber bullet it is; whatever gun, from any distance, whatever surface it hits. If a bullet hits a piece of wood, it’s going to look different than if it hits somebody’s chest, head, piece of metal, dirt, or a bag of rice.
What can you share with us about the performance capture in these games?
One of my favorite things that happened to me that isn’t in the book – It just didn’t make the cut – is that one of the first early mo-cap sessions on the first Uncharted had this brown mo-cap suit. You don’t know how bad you look until you put it on and see yourself on camera in a brown mo-cap suit.
I looked like 10 pounds of shit in a 5-pound bag. I remember seeing that and going, “Oh, my God. Burn that. I’ve got to go to the gym.” It was one of the biggest motivators ever – to put yourself in one of those things – but we did. We called it the Turd Suit, because literally…I looked like Mr. Hankey, the Christmas pooh on “South Park.”
THQ is making a new South Park game. They might need you to do some mo-cap for Mr. Hankey.
You know what? I’ve done it. I’d be reprising the role, as far as I’m concerned. The book gets into stuff like that happened during the development.
How has performance capture improved over the years?
We got our own studio for this game. We had the tailor from Avatar came in and took more measurements than I care to talk about of my body. A couple of them he was way off on, for the record.
We had the custom suits for this game, which was nice, because you know that nobody is else is going to be wearing those. It’s got your name on it, and it’s ready to go.
Uncharted 3 has been called one of the best stereo 3D games out there. What are your thoughts on the 3D craze?
I’m not a big fan of 3D in films or anything. I was the kid when we used to go see the 3D and put on the glasses that said, “That doesn’t work.” And it went away; now it’s come back. I don’t mind going to see it. My kids like to see it in the theater.
I was actually just recently about to buy a big screen TV and get a 3D one, but they said everybody has to sit right in front of the TV, they can’t sit off to the side or it doesn’t really work.
I think it’s cool for gameplay. I can understand it more for gaming, because you’re sitting right in front of the TV.
What are your thoughts on the upcoming Uncharted movie?
I really enjoy Neil Burger’s films. I’m sure he has his stable of actors that he likes. The sad truth of big budget movies is sometimes it’s financial decisions about who’s going to get people in the seats more.
They’ve been talking about the film for over five years, so I’ll believe it when I see it. I hope they just make their own and stay as true to who the characters are because a lot of people really care about these characters.