The Heroes of Newerth has built up a cult following since its release in May this year. Kenny Lomas spoke to Dave DeAndrea, who plays the voice of Witch Slayer, to talk about the importance of precision and preparation in voice acting.
It’s amazing how a person’s voice can completely alter the way we perceive a certain character.
Dave DeAndrea plays Witch Slayer in the Heroes of Newerth, a science-fantasy, Action RTS for the PC. Dave says the participant’s reaction can differ hugely depending on the characters voice: “The first thing that comes to my mind is the Pixar movie, ‘Up’. There’s that first moment where we meet the mean dogs and the tension mounts as we see the leader dog.
“He’s so vicious looking and we expect this evil sounding devil dog, but his communication collar is broken, so he sounds like he just sucked in a balloon-full of helium. It was hilarious, and totally changed the way we looked at the character.”
Moulding a character can be tricky, and Dave says that it is a mixture of what the character looks like, and the voice of the actor: “So the look and the sound really work together to shape a character. Even the simplest little things, like the cute little noises that Yoshi makes, or the screeches and screams of some of the HoN creation round out the “character” of the character.”
Dave has played lots of characters over the course of his career, with each one distinctly different from the next. For most people it would be extremely difficult to vary each one from the next, but for voice actor’s, it’s fairly easy, as long as the direction s there: “Sometimes the game creators have something very specific in mind. Case in point, Witch Slayer. When I was approached to do that voice, they wanted a sort of Van Helsing feel to it, so I did my Hugh Jackman homework and found the right vibe for the character.”
This isn’t always the case however, and that’s when the whole process becomes significantly more difficult: “For other characters, they gave me a couple of pictures and a brief description and turned me loose.
Dave believes that seeing someone’s vision for a character is pretty easy, in his experience: “I’ve been on the creative end of things (commercials, radio imaging, promos) enough to know that sometimes you just don’t know exactly what you’re looking for until you hear it. So I welcome the chance to become part of the creative process of the characters.”
Even though this may well be the case on most occasions, Dave says it’s not un-common for a character to end up sounding nothing like what it was originally intended to: “I think it’s just part of the creative process. Sometimes a concept for a central character fizzles out and a character that was originally designed to be on the side-lines takes on a life of its own and ends up stealing the show. When creators are sensitive to those subtle little things and are flexible, the end result is better.”
Preparation is also key in the creative process. As much direction as an actor may be given, if they do not do some leg-work themselves then the end resulting character may be affected: “I try to find out as much as I can about the character and study the pictures of it. I pay particular attention to the mouth, nose and neck. Are the corners of the mouth turned down? Is the nose small? Does the character have a thick neck? All of these things can play into how it might sound. Then I try my best to apply these things, sometimes contorting myself into the character.
The choice of actor can also dramatically change the way a character turns out.
More and more movie actors are beginning to cross over and do game voice over work including Gary Oldman and more recently, Lord of the Rings star, Andy Serkis, in Enslaved. Whether this is just a passing fad amongst Hollywood actors or a growing trend remains to be seen. Regardless of whatever which one this may be, Dave believes it’s a fairly obvious reason why this is been happening: “I’m pretty sure it’s probably for the same reasons everyone else likes to voice games, it’s fun, it’s challenging, it’s another way to utilize their talent, another stream of revenue and a new and different fan base. Plus, how cool is it to play a game and hear yourself on it!”
“Honestly, I get paid to talk, I’m thankful to God for every moment.”.”