Putting yourself in the shoes of a character is one thing. Trying to figure out how that person’s behavior changes when they become either good or evil is something else entirely. But that was the kind of world the actors had to live in for Infamous: Second Son.
Coming out on March 21 exclusively for the PlayStation 4, Infamous: Second Son is an open-world action game where you play as Delsin Rowe, a graffiti artist-turned-superhero who can absorb different powers from other people. Just like past entries in the series, the choices you make will determine if Delsin becomes good or evil, which can change your story, missions, and powers. A new addition to Second Son is the ability to influence other characters and how they carry themselves, adding a bit more complexity to the morality system.
In order for that to work, developer Sucker Punch Productions needs the right performances to make these characters feel believable no matter what choices players end up making. It may have found that group with actors Troy Baker (Delsin), Laura Bailey (Fetch, one of the characters you can influence), and Travis Willingham (Reggie Rowe, Delsin’s older brother). GamesBeat spoke with the cast during a recent preview event.
If their real-life chemistry is any indication — Baker and Willingham said their close friendship made them a natural fit for their roles as the Rowe brothers — Sucker Punch may have something special on its hands.
GamesBeat: Since Delsin and Fetch have distinct good and evil paths, was it hard to switch gears between being bad and being good? How do you stay true to a character when you’re doing that?
Laura Bailey: It comes from the same place, essentially. That makes it less complicated.
Troy Baker: Your feet never change, if you know what I mean. You’re still grounded in the same place. But that’s absolutely it. What that meant was that, very early on, we had to define what good and evil were. To me, evil could simply be selfish. There are definitely things in the story that you’ll see, where there’s a war between selfishness and selflessness. It wasn’t just like, “I’m gonna go kick a puppy!” I wanted to be more like, “Do I do something for myself, or do I do something that’s for the betterment of our tribe?”
We had to be able to switch on a dime, because we would do the same scene and then go, reset, and now you corrupt Fetch. It was like, OK, wait a minute: There’s a whole branching storyline that goes along with that. It’s completely different. Huge. It’s not just one little thing. You go down this rabbit hole. It’s crazy.
Travis Willingham: It branches off real quick.
GamesBeat: We usually don’t see actors from a game attend preview events. What is it about your characters that makes them so special?
Willingham: We get to put so much of ourselves into these characters. When the three of us to get to work together on a project like this, with roles that have this ability to breathe and be organic, it becomes very dear to us. Troy and I were especially looking forward to it just from the brotherly aspect. There were many scotches had, many hugs. The scenes that we have really get to show all the different layers and all the different moments that brothers go through.
Reggie really wants to help Delsin, but now he has this superpower, and he really doesn’t know how to help him. He wants to direct him and try to give him some guidance, but at the same time, he has that short patience, that short fuse that all brothers have. Being an older brother myself, I’m like, there’s so much realism in these characters. In the Infamous franchise, there’s already so much that’s fun to play. The more you care about those characters, the more real those moments are. It makes it not just fun to go out and blow things up and fly and do all these incredible things, but you’re also tied to those characters.
It makes you think for a little bit longer about those choices. It’s not just an instant kill or instant save. It’s really thinking about how we reacted to this person in the scene before, and what’s going to come up next. What does that mean to Reggie? What does that mean to Fetch? I think it’s really cool the way they brought in these true moments for these characters.
Bailey: Another thing that made it so different was the tech that was used and developed for this project. The face-[capture] tech.GamesBeat: So you wore the full suit and everything?
Bailey: Yeah. We had the whole spandex — an amazing outfit — on.
Baker: Each of us spent an entire day down in San Diego getting a 360-degree high-res scan of our face, in addition to everything that we did.
Bailey: So after the scan, you have to go through every emotion. You would do every facial expression that you could possibly think of — anger and sadness and happiness. That way it can register in the game. They can capture all of that. I think the reason we’re more involved is because so much more of ourselves was invested into the project, more than just going in and doing voice-over. Which is still really involving, but to go in and give so much of yourself, and your likeness in some situations, it’s … .
Willingham: It’s the difference between puppeteering and being.
Bailey: It feels much more cinematic, for sure.
GamesBeat: Were there times when all three of you recorded in the booth together? You weren’t just recording by yourselves?
Baker: It’s a huge picture sound stage. There are 240 cameras surrounding you in a 360-degree space. We’re sitting there in the suits. So we have this entire sound stage that we’re treating as the world in Seattle. We actually create sets for that. There are times when, obviously, there’s a parkour element to what we do. There were times where we were actually climbing up things and helping each other up. So everything that you see, everything, even a lot of the in-game movements and stuff, are things that we actually captured in that space.
Bailey: It feels like a film when you’re working on it. Because you’re working on it for, what, a year and a half? Almost two years on this project.
Willingham: You certainly can’t have a deficiency in your imagination. You have to have it all in your mind and laid out there to make it real. They have things to touch and move on, but the rest of it is … .
Baker: The theater of the mind!
Willingham: Yeah. Mutually agreed-upon imagination. [Laughs]
GamesBeat: The Last of Us had this really funny outtake where everyone on set bursted into an improvised opera scene. Did you have any goofy experiences like that on this project?
Bailey: There were so many.
Baker: Oh, my god. Every day. Nate Fox, who’s the creative director on the Infamous series, directed all the performances — he’s standing right behind us, looking at us. [Laughs] It was all stuff like that. There was a lot of — at the core of any Infamous game, we want it to be fun. There are some heavier things we’re dealing with, narratively. To offset that, a lot of the time, we’re being … especially with this man [points to Travis].
Willingham: I’m a very serious person. [Laughs]
Baker: We had fun. The camera may not have been rolling like it was for that Last of Us thing. But there were so many moments like that, where we were just being goofballs. Actually, some of it — we found out — ended up in the game.
Willingham: Those are real moments. They captured it. [They were like,] “We have a place for that.”
Baker: “We can use that! We can use you being an idiot.”
Bailey: If you’re on that stage and moving around, it’s probably being captured.
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