Early on in our relationship, I took my wife to a Star Wars Celebration convention (I know, right? I’m a smooth operator).
Anyway, she had never been to such a thing and I wasn’t sure what she would think. But as she wandered around the cosplaying Jedis and homemade droids she got happy tears, as she calls them. Where some people see nothing but nerds, she saw people who could be themselves and revel in the community of something they love.
I have good news for anyone who ever attended Star Wars Celebration, or saw Episode 4 during its initial theatrical run (raises hand), or just wants to fly around in an X-Wing going pew-pew at Tie Fighters:
Star Wars: Squadrons honestly makes you feel like you are in a Star Wars movie. (The good ones.)(I include The Last Jedi on that list, fight me.)
Now, to be fair, the game just came out late last night. I only got an hour or so of playing in before needing to write this up. But that was enough to get me through the tutorial and a solid first impression of the game.
During the prelude story mission you alter between Imperial and Rebel pilots. After a quick tour of the controls you make the jump to light speed and start blasting.
The controls are intuitive and easy to pick up and the action is intense. I really can’t stress this enough, but imagine yourself in a Star Wars movie and that’s what it feels like to play Squadrons.
To be fair, like the prequels, gameplay can feel overstuffed and chaotic. The 360 degree nature of flying in space left me a little confused about where on the map I was at certain points. But the game does a good job of bringing you back so you stay on target, making you feel more Wedge Antilles and less Porkins.
The idea of playing Squadrons in VR is both exhilarating and terrifying. On the one hand, that would be some next level midichlorian counts. On the other, I prefer my virtual experiences to not end up with real world barfing, which is what I fear would happen to me. YMMV.
While there is still a ton to explore, the big puzzle piece missing for this padawan is multiplayer. I haven’t had a chance to form a squad (like Taylor Swift!), but I presume shooting down a Star Destroyer is much more fun with friends.
The point of all this is that Star Wars Squadrons seems to be fully worth the price and I recommend. And since the very dark pandemic pre-empted this year’s Celebration, jumping into Squadrons might just be the thing that gives Star Wars fans happy tears.
Q&A with the Real Arthur Morgan
We’re doing something a little different this week and gettin’ all glossy with an honest-to-gosh Q&A. Some real Vanity Fair stuff.
We’re talking with performance artist (ed. note: not just a voice actor) Roger Clark, who stars as Arthur Morgan of Red Dead Redemption II. Not only did Clark play Morgan, his portrayal won “Best Performance” at the 2018 Game Awards.
What’s it like being a performance artist for videogames? Glad you asked, because I asked Clark a bunch of questions about it via email, which he kindly answered (and I lightly edited for brevity).
40 Bit: What is a typical day for you when you’re on a job?
Roger Clark: It varies, most days will be an early drive to the studio. Get suited up and then have a look at that day’s shot list. Introduce yourself to whomever you may be working with and maybe run some lines with them.
When your scenes are up you walk into the volume. The Volume is the set for lack of a better term. A large room where sensors read your mo-cap suit and render your work into an algorithm to be entered into the video games’ engine. Audio and your facial expressions may or may not be simultaneously recorded. Some scenes can be a simple animation like just walking. Others can be a complicated 3 or 4 page scene. The space is always the same but ‘in-game’ it can vary to a faraway planet, a modern day city or, indeed, a saloon in the Wild West.
How does the videogame audition process compare with traditional acting auditions?
There are many similarities. If it’s for a voice-acting role, it usually involves recording an mp3 file from a script that you have to sign an NDA on. Performance capture would be more like a film or television role. You go to a casting or record a self-tape with confidential sides. Video game auditions are often more physical than film or television roles. Physicality and the ability to adapt and transform it from one thing to another are definite advantages.
What is it like being on a virtual set?
A lot of imagination is necessary when performing mo-cap. There will be a dimensionally accurate set but its all just pipes, scaffolding and apple boxes. Its what you see in ‘pre-vis’ (pre-visualization) where you actually get an idea of where the scene is taking place. With performance capture, you work just as much with the animators as you do with the director. They inform you of your avatar’s environment.
What makes for a good performance in a videogame?
An intimate understanding to your character’s surroundings is key to bringing the most authentic performance you can. You can find a lot of details if you can accurately immerse yourself in what the player is actually going to see. These days linear, passive storytelling in gaming is becoming more and more a thing of the past. Keeping all the storyline options in your head and accounting for each and every storyline possibility is a challenge but when done properly can bring more authenticity and less ambiguity to a character. Personally, my theatrical background has been of the utmost use to me when I’m working in gaming.
What’s one thing people get wrong about your profession?
Years ago all performances in gaming would have been voice acting. An actor in a booth, typically by themselves with a script. This is still employed often but performance capture has increasingly become the more prevalent method of acting in gaming. It is a completely separate medium in its own right. It has more in common with theatre or film than with voice acting. You learn your script and perform a scene until the director is happy. Audience and media perception of the work has not caught up with the technology yet.
Most people still think we’re in sound booths all the time. People whom are kind enough to compliment my work always bring attention to the voice. They are surprised when I tell them that I did everything you see Arthur Morgan in Red Dead Redemption II do except for major stunts.
Do you play games? If so, what are you currently playing?
Yes! I was a massive gamer when I was young. Took a long break after college. Started it up again in my 30’s, there was a lot of catching up to do! At the moment, I just finished Ghost of Tsushima and The Last Us Of II. Have been playing Fall Guys with my two boys a bit. Think I’m going to get the Final Fantasy VII remake while I wait for Cyberpunk 2077 to come out in November.
PS5 install sizes are in and you should probably budget for storage expansion now – Getting the full Spider-Man: Miles Morales Ultimate Launch Edition will gobble up 105GB and Demon Souls will eat up another 66GB. Point is, according to Games Radar, plan on shelling out an addition $200 on top of the price of either new console to store your next-gen game games library.
Speaking of Spidey. You may have heard Peter Parker Looks Very Different In Spider-Man Remastered On PS5 (Spoiler! He looks more like ex-MCUer Tom Holland). And because it’s the Internet, The fallout of Spider-Man’s recasting on PS5 has been swift and ugly. I don’t really care, I’m just glad it doesn’t look like Peter Parker has hair plugs anymore.
The Verge lists its Best Games of 2020. Star Wars Squadrons is on there.
That’s it for this week!
Stay cool. Have a great summer. Class of ’90 rulez.