There are many voice actors to be found in the video game industry, but few are as well-known as Troy Baker. Renowned for his work as Joel in Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us, Baker has since gone on to perform in a number of major games – such as Far Cry 4 for which he received a BAFTA nomination for ‘Best Performer’ for his performance as Pagan Min. In an exclusive interview with Examiner, Baker discusses some of the challenges the video game industry and community faces, his upcoming 2015 projects, which includes Uncharted 4, and reflects on his role in Far Cry 4.
The video game industry is constantly evolving as the medium matures and the community refines their tastes. As the market grows, new challenges are presented to developers and publishers to figure out what the gaming community wants. While discussing this topic, Baker feels that there are challenges on both the player and developer side. On the developer side, companies are trying to create new and worthwhile experiences.
“There’s a challenge on the player side and also on the developer side. We have these new consoles and we’re about a year in. We’ve been able to see what they can do, what they can offer, where they fall short and you have developers that are focusing on substance and not spectacle,” explained Baker.
He continued by mentioning that “it’s about crafting an experience that is worthy of a person spending $60, which for most people is an investment. We’re asking people to surrender 10, 15, 20, or 40 hours of their life into something and not the other thing. From the developer side, we’re trying to make sure we’re crafting an experience worthy of that level of investment.”
When it comes to the gamers, Baker feels that the community is starting to focus on what they really want from games, and that is substance. However, this requires players to show some patience and understanding as these type of games take time to develop. Baker shares that we are no longer surprised by anything that amazing anymore. Instead, it takes something really unique to impress.
“On the other side, I think I’m really starting to see gamers hone in on what they really, really want, which is substance. They want something to give back as much as they put in. Now there is a call for patience from players and a little bit more understanding that the games that come out are going to be good, they just take time to develop. I think because we are so inundated with content, we’re not surprised by anything that’s amazing anymore. It really takes something unique to wow us,” Baker concludes.
Over the course of 2015, Baker will perform several key roles in some of the biggest releases of 2015. With a lead role in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, Baker and his fans have a lot to look forward to in 2015. He does get to reprise a role for Batman: Arkham Knight as he will once again voice Two-Face in the upcoming title.
When discussing his upcoming projects for 2015, Baker shared: “we’ll see, there’s obviously Uncharted 4, we’re in full swing for that right now. As a fan and a gamer, I’m so happy to be a part of that project. I get to come back and do Two-Face in Arkham Knight, and I’m excited about that. There’s Metal Gear Sold V: The Phantom Pain that’s coming out as well, so there are some really cool projects that I’ve really been a fan of for so long.”
What does the future hold for Troy Baker? Well, one company he has interest in working with is Rockstar Games. Though there are no set plans to work with the studio, Baker does credit Red Dead Redemption as a game that changed his life.
“I’ve been a fan of GTA for so long and then when Red Dead came out, that game changed my life. I spent so much time in that world. I clocked more hours in Red Dead than I did in any of the other GTAs before,” said Baker.
He hopes that Rockstar Games does a new Red Dead title and is curious as to what the company could do with the franchise.
“In the game when you go from Texas to Mexico, there was that wonderful Jose Gonzalez song that played and I thought ‘I’m riding on this horse, I’ve got the stick right now, it’s not a cutscene, there’s this beautiful song that is playing and these are the kind of moments that I want in games.’ Instead of it being a movie I [watch], the game and I are moving in concert with each other. I’ve been such a fan of what Rockstar does, I would love for them to do another Red Dead, who knows what they could do with that next? But yeah, I’m a huge fan of Rockstar Games,” Baker shared.
Late last year, Baker had important performances in two major games: Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor and Far Cry 4. Reflecting on the two games, Baker admits that he has “been fortunate enough to play some very iconic roles”. He considers himself to be lucky to now be “part of Tolkien’s lore with Shadow of Mordor”. The success of Shadow of Mordor is very special to Baker. “It wasn’t because of the technique achievements or the amazing narrative; it was all about the experience that we handed to the player. The game allowed them to really craft their own experiences,” he said.
Beyond that, Shadow of Mordor helped to open Baker’s eyes to what gamers are craving from their games: substance.
“It showed me something that is happening within gaming culture, which is number one we’re craving substance and we will give our lives over to something that will give back to us. I would love for that franchise to continue because if Tolkien has taught us anything, it’s that there are a bevvy of stories to be told for Middle-Earth,” he concluded.
While Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor was a special and eye-opening experience for Baker, the role of Pagan Min was a rather unique and interesting role to perform.
“Specifically with Pagan Min, there was a huge challenge because when we first met they said ‘we love what you do and are huge fans. We think this is something you can really have some fun with and make it interesting.’ I said, ‘Awesome!’ They said, ‘this is who Pagan Min is, but one last thing, we don’t want The Joker.’ I applaud them because [they said] we’re not hiring you because we want you to do the same thing in this game,” explained Baker.
As to how Ubisoft wanted the role of Min to be performed, Baker describes their desires as “fresh”. Because of Min’s nature of being a reckless and free, this made him a fun character to play.
“They wanted to make sure [Pagan Min] felt real and was something fresh. He was just a fun character [to play]. He’s moving through life with reckless abandon, he’s bull in a China shop and he’s completely aware of it. That is a fun character to play,” Baker shared.
“Ken Levine had a phrase where he said ‘backstory is masturbatory, it exists completely for you because you’ll never show it.’ If you want to know great backstory, I can tell you but we’re never going to get into that. I wanted to do something that was believable and grounded, so they gave me free license to show them what Pagan sounded like and he just came out as he is,” concluded Baker.