July 28th, 2021 Today, Chernobylite, a new Horror survival videogame, hits the market digitally on PC. Later this year, it will be available on Consoles Xbox One and PS4, both digitally and via hard copy. It's been a fascinating narrative to follow. Its Kickstarter campaign was launched in 2019. Farm 51 are the developers and All In! Games are the publishers.
One of its interesting backstories is the fact that the team travelled to Chernobyl in Ukraine and gained permission to film and scan the buildings and surroundings that bring an uncanny realism to the game's environment. And like Assassins Creed did for Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, so Chernobylite has done for Pripyat and the Chernobyl Power Plant in Ukraine creating a unique historical archive of an area, that is crumbling into decay.
As a voice actor, I have been involved since July 2018, when I responded to an audition notice and was cast to voice an initial trailer.
I have now been working with this game for 3 years and here is my personal Chernobylite video game diary
July 2018 – Auditioned and cast to voice a game trailer with a Ukrainian/Russian Accent. As is often the case, the developer and game title was unknown/unannounced at this point. I think the title of the audition was “Mysterious Narrator” It was posted on one of the online casting sites. The writing was solid, and so was the tagline “It's not how you face your fears, it's how you survive them!” As with much of this type of work you record, send, get final approval, and move on to the next project. As most video games go, it was fun and done or so I thought...
A year later
August/Sept 2019 – I received an email from Farm 51 asking for my availability for some more trailers. I then recorded 6 trailers some with a Russian/Ukrainian Accent and some with a British Accent. They were used to support the Kickstarter campaign and to generate excitement. Farm 51 did an excellent job with the merchandise that was available for significant investors. I regret now not putting some money in myself!
Sept 2019 – The Kickstarter has been successful and I received another message. Would I be interested in recording some placement audio for the lead character 'Igor', localizing the character into English? You bet...
October 2019 – Game development is progressing because a month later, I received another email from Farm 51 -somewhat paraphrased but the conversation went something like this:
Farm 51 – “URGENT – we need more audio quite quickly for the release of the Alpha version of Chernobylite onto PC"
Me - “Of course, what do you need and how quickly”?
Farm 51 – “Here is the Excel spreadsheet. We need them by Friday 11 October (It's Monday 7th) and each line needs to be an individual file, can you do it”?
Me – “I'm on it”
Initially, I didn’t really look closely at the character spreadsheet.
I was playing the Lead Character ‘Igor’ - 610 lines
Key Companion ‘Tarakan’ - 273 lines (He became quite vocally stressful as his character developed!)
20 other NPC characters ranging from 2-20 lines. (CIA agents, Russian Soldiers, Newscasters, etc)
A total of 22 characters with just under 1000 lines separated into individual files.
For the record, I did complete and send by the Friday deadline. As is often with voice overs, it can be one of the last pieces put in place. Chernobylite was released for Early Access on October 16th, 2019.
Spring 2020 – Farm 51 sent me a code, so I could review my work and when February 2020 came around, I decided with their approval, that I would put the work forward to the One Voice awards in the Game Performance category. I spent almost a whole day playing the game and capturing samples to make a compilation video. When the nominations were announced, I was delighted to see my performance in Chernobylite nominated as best Male Game performance 2020 – I didn’t win in the category, but I have no doubt in my mind that it contributed toward my nomination and subsequent win in the 2020 UK Male Voice of the Year category.
Oct/Nov 2020 – I was very pleased that Farm 51 asked me to reprise my role as ‘Igor’ for the final release version of the game. Much had changed in the storyline, so we needed to record new lines. I was also asked to reprise ‘Tarakan’ and to take on a new role as ‘Black Stalker’. It was incredibly important for me to create characters sufficiently different that the player will not be distracted by the thought that they are voiced by the same actor. Igor has conversations directly with both, which brought further performance challenges in making the dialogue feel seamless. I was also delighted to be able to help cast some of the other characters, including that of ‘Glyeb’, played by my own daughter (Eva).
During this 8-week period, I had 11 live recording sessions of between 2 and 3 hours long. I personally think it was a great move by the game directors to get dialogue actors in the sessions working together. What a joy to work directly with other performers and I can’t help but feel that all the performances were improved as a result of their decision.
Nov 25th, 2020 – A landmark moment when both Eva and I occupied the recording studio together to record the dialogue between her Character, ‘Glyeb’, and ‘Igor’ – I cannot overstate how proud that made me feel.
Jan 2021 – Final recording session for both Eva (She was asked to record some background in a couple of scenes) and myself, sweeping up some missing lines.
June 2021 – It was the gift that kept on giving when the publishers and developers hired me to provide some narration for several ‘Behind the Scenes’ videos which provide a fascinating glimpse into the making of the game. The trips to Chernobyl, the motivations of the developers, and the development of the story.
July 28, 2021 – So here we are, the game is launched today. My journey as Igor is complete for now. In the next couple of months, I will get a hard copy of the game and some merchandise keepsakes. I am thankful to have made so many new friends along the way. The experience over the last three years has taught me a lot about the process involved in game development. It’s most certainly NOT a straight line. The dedication and collaboration of everyone involved with making this game was considerable and will most certainly shine through in the game! Thank you Farm 51 and All In Games; I’ll see you in the Zone!