Nolan North is Nathan Drake. He’s played the character for the past five years, averaging at least once a week since last June, so it’s not surprising that the character and the actor are starting to merge.
In a recent interview with Eurogamer, North cannot contain his excitement for the upcoming Uncharted 3.
“Uncharted 2 was not the pinnacle,” he explains. “It’s up to the public to see if 3 is. If 4 is Drake in space and he’s fighting alien shark people, it’s over. But until then, we avoid the shark people and the moon and I think we’re OK.
North and the team at Naughty Dog are still working on developing Uncharted 3, a process more similar to filming than conventional game-making. The actors’ full performance, including voice acting and motion capture, is performed on set. All performers are involved at any given time, making the whole effect quite organic and fluid – to a point.
North says it’s not quite as simple as just stepping into one role for the day, either. “We don’t just play Drake and Sully. Sometimes I’m mo-capping the guy whose neck I’m breaking. Everybody kind of doubles up on that when necessary, so it’s a real collaboration.”
Bringing this human element to the game means that Nathan Drake isn’t completely scripted. North ad-libs part of the script, a process he admits probably leads to “90 per cent crap”, but is worth it for the remainder.
Having been in the industry longer than most, North says the job is changing around him. Where once a “games performer” was written off as something lower than the rest of the acting world, he now notices some sort of respect from his peers.
“I’ve gone to jobs now, on-camera jobs, and I’ve had one of the production crew come up and they’re like, ‘Can you sign my Uncharted?’ And others see it and they’re like, ‘You’re Nathan Drake?!’”
And before you ask, yes, he acknowledges the fact that – for a while there – he played the starring role in virtually every video game released. North describes this as “unfortunate timing”, explaining that it was far from planned. Playing prominent roles such as Desmond in Assassin’s Creed and Will Grey in Dark Void mean North runs the risk of overexposure, but the actor says Drake’s success – which uses his natural voice – means that he can now be a “little more selective” when picking roles.
That’s why you probably didn’t recognise him in Portal 2. And that’s the way he likes it.