This article is a reblog from game informer…
With the release of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, we’ve all got Master Chief’s Bungie adventures on our minds and on our TVs. I had a chance to chat with Tim Dadabo, who played 343 Guilty Spark in the Halo games, and I asked him about what it was like to work on Halo before it was the franchise we know today. I also asked what sort of insight he could offer on working with Bungie on a floating A.I. robot character, much like Peter Dinklage did recently in Destiny.
How long did you work on the original Halo?
Tim Dadabo: I’m not quite sure. You’re in and out of the studio so very much. They may add, take away, or change a scene and want you to come back and forth to the studio. Usually, it’s about a year or two from start date until the time you see it in stores. It could be as much as a couple of trips into the studio or it could be as long as a year, if you’re a major character in the game. [Bungie] were kind of braille-ing their way around to see what scenes worked and what scenes didn’t, like in any game. [The developer] might have you change your character mid-game.
Halo 2 and Halo 3 were probably a little bit more set by the time you got involved – less experimentation.
They directed me to get a little deeper with [Guilty Spark] – a little darker, even. We were coming to this big crescendo in the game, if you will, so that part changed. Especially as we realized that Guilty Spark actually had a laser for an eye [Laughs].
Did Bungie show you anything for the original Halo – what Guilty Spark looked like, even – before you went in to start recording voice-over work?
No, they did not. I think they do that a lot because A) they might not have too much to show yet – developers often animate to your voice – and B) they don’t want to let anything slip. Unfortunately, people are blabbermouths. Sometimes, if the developer shows somebody artwork or scenes or something really cool, it could slip and give away the whole ticket. Most actors don’t really care about that. I happen to be a gamer. I don’t know how many actors actually sit down and play video games – though I’m sure dozens do, especially in Los Angeles – but I’m one of the few who I know actually plays the games, too. So it might not matter to other actors. They’re more invested in who the character is, how deep they should get, what’s the character’s age range, all of that stuff.
So what did you have? Just a script?
I did. They basically gave me a script and said, “Ok. This is 343 Guilty Spark. He’s called the monitor. He is a flying orb and he incredibly intelligent. He is an A.I. You are basically a very nice C3P0 with a maniacal mission. You don’t know this yet but he’s going to get very very dark.” So in the back of your mind you always have to have this dark mission, but you have to sound very friendly.
After you recorded, did you have any idea of what Halo would become? What were your expectations?
We had no idea. Jen Taylor who plays Cortana said it best in a panel we were on together. She said, “You know, I just thought I was doing another gig.” When you do this full time, like Jen and I both do, you think it’s just another gig. You walk in and you’re like, “Ok, I’ve got this character and let’s flesh him out.” Metal him out, since he’s all metal. That’s basically all it was. I had no idea where this was going. Steve Downes has a wonderful story about the first time he realized how big Halo was. My first realization was when I was in another state and they were talking about Halo, and then another country and they were talking about Halo. I started to realize the street cred of being in Halo. I was like, “Wow. This is pretty crazy. This is big.” By Halo 2, we knew it was big.
In Bungie’s most recent game, Destiny, Peter Dinklage plays a similar character to yours in that it’s a floating A.I. robot. Dinklage has received criticism from players citing a mediocre performance. I wanted your perspective on working with Bungie without much context for an A.I. character. Maybe Dinklage didn’t get much context for what was happening, which is why people are disappointed with his performance – he didn’t know enough about his character.
Or they said be yourself. I mean they might have just said, “Be yourself, Peter. We hired you because we want you to be you.” That’s the direction Jen Taylor got for Cortana. They said, “You know what? We just want you to be the girl next door.” She said, “so just me right?” and they said, “Yeah just be yourself,” and they loved her. And so peter probably read and they said, “Yeah that works for me, he doesn’t have to put anything on”. Maybe that’s why people they love him so much in Game of Thrones. Yeah they must love him so much in that, that sometimes people get a little weird about seeing somebody, or hearing somebody in something away from their characters – out of their characters in their mind.
Did you receive helpful context about 343 Guilty Spark while you were recording?
I had a good bit of context between Jason and Joe Staton. They really got deep into their story. Any questions I had about guilty spark, especially cause you’re doing it scene by scene, line by line, and you’re like, “Okay, well, what’s happening here? How would he really react in this situation?” And they would fill me in on the backstory of that particular line or this particular scene and you’d go from there and they’d say, “Okay, now let’s try one like this until they got what they needed.”
Do you have memories of the first time you actually got to play Halo?
I remember playing the game and saying, “Where’s my character?” I actually went out and got an Xbox after Halo came out. My very first Xbox and I started playing and I said, “Okay, this is like crack cocaine.” It was so much fun, I just couldn’t put the controller down. I thought for sure I was doing it for purely ego-driven reasons – to hear myself – and then I got just totally enamored with gameplay and playing it all. so yeah it was a blast and it still is.