With the hype coming in for the release of the newest expansion to the hit MMO Final Fantasy XIV, I was able to get the chance to interview some of the scions of the seventh dawn voice actors to see how they feel the characters have grown over the years. The game has hit its 8th anniversary so they have plenty of stories to tell, and with the new expansion wrapping up the story of Hydaelyn and Zodiark there was not a better time to ask them.
Interview With The Cast Of Final Fantasy XIV
PSU: With A Realm Reborn reaching its 8th anniversary, were there any parts that really shined for you when it came to voice acting in the story? And on the other hand are there any bits you wish you could have gone back and redone?
Bethan Walker – Alisaie: “Too many to count. I am so privileged to play a part I love so much. Alisaie has been on a huge journey since I’ve been playing her, and as we know it’s not finished yet. Some special moments I hold close are Tesleen’s transformation, Alisaie’s explosion at being confused with Alphinaud, and the twins meeting Fourchenault. Though I can certainly see the development in my performance from when I first started playing Alisaie, I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s such an organic process and I think the performances that you have heard most recently and will hear in months to come are an accumulation of many year’s hard work having learned through trial and error what helps bring Alisie to life in the best, most believable way.”
Timothy Watson – Urianger: “Since I joined the cast in Heavensward I have enjoyed every aspect of this character. I do particularly like his wry, almost naive sense of humour.”
Robyn Addison – Y’shtola: “Any moments of solidarity and togetherness were always enjoyable to voice. I don’t think I would go back and redo anything, I’ve enjoyed the adventure along the way!”
Peter Bramhill – Thancred: Ah yes! There is always a niggling thought in the back of your mind that you could have voiced things differently or ‘better’ after you have finished a voice session, but normally even if you did get to go back and do it again, nine times out of ten your original takes would still be the favourite. That’s because it’s normally that first instinct that sounds the most natural. When we are in the voice studio, we mostly will only say the line or lines in a section twice, each with a slight variation and the director will select the one he or she felt was the most natural or effective. Not only does this save time but it also keeps your delivery fresh. We have some great directors on FFXIV who use all kinds of methods to get that perfect read, it can be vividly setting the scene for you or suggesting a particular emotional state or it can even be a totally crazy trigger like, ‘imagine you’ve just swallowed a mouth full of vinegar!’ Basically, it’s all about trusting the director, if they’re happy then it’s time to move on! Personally, trying to get all the countless character and world names pronunciations can be a real challenge, to say the least. I often have to create mini picture mind maps in order to remember them all correctly. Plus standing in a glass box in a sound studio and doing an hour’s worth of different battle noises, grunts, groans and every other noise you can think of can be pretty hilarious!
Robert Vernon – Estinien: One of my favourite moments so far was Ysale’s sacrifice, while Estinien was on the airship at Azys Lla. When I saw the final scene on YouTube, I thought it was beautiful. Voices, music, art direction. In terms of going back, I almost wish there was more of that moment.
Gemma Lawrence – Krile: I think the great thing about recording this game over so many years is that you have no idea where your character is going to end up, or what is going to happen to them, unlike with most things where you have your journey mapped out from the word go. So it was amazing to be able to play Krile in ‘real time’, both me and her knew nothing about what the future held! If I was to go back to redo anything, I’d worry I’d bring too much foreshadowing of what was to come.
PSU: With the game being online, and there being tons of people who will view the scenes in a different manner and perhaps select different options, does this affect the way you voice your character?
Bethan Walker – Alisaie: “Though I am very aware of how many ways it could come across all I can do is stay really truthful to the moment I am asked to play. Thankfully there is a genius team behind the scenes who hold it altogether and ensure it is the best it can possibly be.”
Colin Ryan – Alphinaud: “No it doesn’t. I just focus on the character, staying true to the writing and what Alphinaud is striving for. Storytelling is my main concern when I’m in the booth. I leave the technical stuff to the talented technicians working their magic! Just to give you an idea, it’s pretty bare bones in the making of it which I kind of love, just me in the recording booth with the script and a microphone. Not to forget the brilliant directors, translators, technicians and every one else who works on it, but at the core of it, we’re all working to tell the story as best we can. Most of the time I don’t see any of the animation, which has its pros and cons – sometimes it’s good just to focus on the script, but other times people have sent me videos and I think about how I could have done things differently!”
Timothy Watson – Urianger: “The awareness that players have options when navigating a story is a key component for any voice actor in video games. It is one of the challenges and the joys of the recording sessions. Continuity of storytelling (that word again) and compatibility are vital, obviously. I really enjoy rising to those challenges.”
Robyn Addison – Y’shtola: “I try not to think too much of the finished product when I’m in the booth. I enjoy the moments I’m voicing and have fun with the character… If I thought too much about all the possible scenarios and interpretations I think it might interfere with the sheer enjoyment of playing Y’shtola.”
Peter Bramhill – Thancred: “OK, this is where the director and the people I call ‘The Oracles’ come in (they are the game makers/developers that I’ll hear through my headphones, sometimes all the way from Tokyo) during a voice session. They have a forensic knowledge of everything that happens (and has happened previously) in the game. It’s my job to be in the moment as much as I can as Thancred and so they do an amazing job of setting the scene and giving me all the information I need to know, in order to get the voice delivery correct. For example, is Thancred being ironic or totally earnest if he has a line like, “Oh, I’m sure they’re all excellent warriors.” It could be either with a character like Thancred, so I’ll need a bit of context.
Also, for me, I prefer not to know too much about all the different ways a scene could play out, as it’s often better if you just play that first instinctive read and you haven’t already decided how to say it. Occasionally if a line is read in a way that wasn’t originally intended it can add an unexpected new flavour to a scene, which is why it’s such a fun job.”
Robert Vernon – Estinien: “I would say, not so much, as if you tried to be too broad and cater to everyone, he would stop feeling like himself. I would say, the performance needs to always be true to the character. Of course that character can at times grow, change, or be enigmatic in their motivations. Everyone will have different takes when they play through, when viewed through their own lens. And that is great.”
Gemma Lawrence – Krile: “We often record a few ‘alt’ lines depending on what the players choose. It’s so fascinating to think of all the different ways in which the story could pan out.”
Question for Bethan Walker – Alisaie
Alisaie really never had much spotlight till recently, with her skipping most of A Realm Reborn with her only appearance being the coil series. How do you feel the character has grown since her first appearance?
“She has come a long way. She is stronger and more resilient than she was when we first met her, she has suffered a lot like they all have but has shown so much strength of character, to get up and keep fighting time and time again. She knows her mind now and what she believes in she is willing to fight for, she is full of heart and is utterly driven towards justice.”
Question for Colin Ryan – Alphinaud
With the character having a very emotional arc in the most recent expansions, and showing how much he has grown up, how has this changed the way you voice act him over the years?
“Alphinaud’s development has definitely affected the way I voice him, I don’t think it’s even been a conscious thing; as the writing changes it’s inevitable that the voice follows, it’s happened in quite a natural way. It’s what I’ve loved so much about voicing Alphinaud, seeing him grow into this accomplished leader who has really stepped up to the plate and embraced his role, always rooted with humanity and compassion and doing what is right. What a guy.”
Question for Timothy Watson – Urianger
With the character always speaking in old British English, did it take time to get used to the way certain words were pronounced? Some of the fanbase finds his conversations quite confusing at times. I wonder if this ever has the same effect on you?
“I’ll admit I sometimes need pointers and reminders from the writing team and director about aspects of the backstory and the world of Final Fantasy – it is a vast and magnificent creation, after all! But I’ve never worried about the specifics of Urianger’s poetic and ancient language. It makes a studio session all the more fun!”
Question for Robyn Addison – Y’shtola
The fanbase has really started to love Y’shtola a lot more ever since certain moments in Stormblood and now with her character development in shadow bringers with Runar. Do you enjoy playing the character with her most recent changes in character as she has seemed to have become more sassy since her first appearance in a realm reborn?
“Y’shtola has certainly gotten sassier! She has always been forthright and honest, but now I enjoy her wry quips and the moments where she lowers her guard… Moments of vulnerability are always a lot of fun to play.”
Question for Peter Bramhill – Thancred
Thancred had a really rough time the last few expansions with the passing of Minfilla and now getting close to Ryne but having to leave her due to going back to the source. Did these moments affect you and how you voiced the character?
“Absolutely, I feel like the whole Minfilia and Ryne conundrum has been a pivotal part of who Thancred has become. He has always been a deliciously witty and enigmatic character to play with his laconic and juicy quips, but with the development of his brotherly relationship with Minfilia and the grief of losing her, he has slowly become a more brooding and hardened presence. This coupled with his difficult but ultimately rewarding relationship with Ryne has really given me much more to play with vocally. I particularly enjoy it when he gets momentarily lost in his thoughts, (usually at the bottom of a beer glass!) This allows me to use a much more gritty and broken voice, a more mature and thoughtful Thancred, but one that can still deliver that killer one liner!”
Question for Robert Vernon – Estinien
He was a character in the DRG job quests, then got a main role in the Heavensward storyline a fan favourite for some people Estinien is now kind of part of the scions, with this change do you think he has mellowed out and if so will this change how you play the character?
“I think perhaps it is something of a return for Estinien. I would imagine that side of him was always in there, but it had been locked away. Buried beneath his thirst for revenge, and all the things he had lost. That said, he is very out of practice, so definitely needs some hand holding before he is truly mellowed out.”
I hope you all enjoyed the interview, and maybe learnt a thing or two about some of the stuff that goes on behind the scenes of your favourite characters and how the people who play them bring the characters to life in FFXIV. I hope to be able to do this again sometime in the future and perhaps have some more thrilling questions to ask.