Naughty Dog and Nolan North play good cop/bad cop on Team Bondi’s L.A. Noire
There are a hundred reasons reviewers have found to laud the massively popular Uncharted series, and Naughty Dog’s uncanny ability to render beautiful visuals nears top of the list. On the other hand, its character models (especially from the shoulders up) have always seemed slightly weak in comparison to the hyper-realistic jungles, waters, and dunes of Nate’s globetrotting adventures. Speaking at the Eurogamer Expo 2011, Nolan North, the voice of Drake, along with Richard Lemarchand, the award-winning game designer of Uncharted 3, dished on how their own methods compare to the industry’s current top dog in facial capture: L.A. Noire.
“We’ve been working so hard on Uncharted 3 this summer that my game playing has sadly fallen away,” Lemarchand began. “I did have some friends around and we looked at the first hour of L.A. Noire and I’ve got to say that I was really taken aback by that facial capture technology.”
Soon, however, the conversation moved toward the less known disadvantages of using such a precision method. When asked if he would be interested in acting under the requirements of Team Bondi’s method, North answered: “That would be incredibly inhibitive. I’ve talked to some of the actors who’ve done it. You literally, especially for L.A. Noire, can’t move.”
“And you also can’t riff off the other actors,” Lemarchand interjected.
Currently, Naughty Dog has handled Uncharted’s character animations similarly to the way that most studios do, with the use of standard motion capture suits. It may not produce the same stunning graphical results as the way L.A. Noire handled things, but Lemarchand brings up a good point: At what cost is Team Bondi able to achieve it? Would Uncharted be as good if some of the natural snarky banter between Drake, Sully, and Elena didn’t feel as real because of the conditions in which the actors read lines? North doesn’t think so, and he should know. Aside from Uncharted, he’s also done key voice-work in Shadow Complex, Arkham City, Dragon Age: Origins, and more.
“We’ve been relying on these brilliant animators,” said North. “They’ve got it down to a science. And thank god, because the performance becomes much more organic. Much more real.”
“Whenever we talk to people about the creative choices we’ve made – in terms of the way we handle story,” Lemarchand then explained. “A game like Grand Theft Auto handles story quite differently to the way that Uncharted does…”
“Yes,” North finished, “Nathan doesn’t beat up hookers.”
Thanks for clearing that up, Nolan.