At a recent EA press event, we had the quite surreal experience of playing a Command & Conquer 4 multiplayer match against Kane. In person. The unmistakeable pool-ball head of the Nod supremo gleamed from behind a monitor in the opposing bank, ordering his units around with less mad-villain intensity and more relaxed, arm-over-chair-back insouciance than we've been led to expect by 15 years of RTSC (real-time scenery-chewing). The roll-neck sweater and blazer was a new look for him, too.
It was, of course, actor Joseph D. Kucan, in London to promote Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight and his return to the role that dominates the all-but-defunct field of actual, on-screen videogame acting. While the brief hands-on didn't leave us with much to add to our initial preview - it wasn't long enough to tell whether our muddle of excitement and disquiet about the mobile bases will swing one way or the other - a chance to chat with Kucan was too good to miss.
According to the Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition, he's the longest-serving recurring actor in any game series. Kucan's been involved in C&C since 1994, when he was hired by then-developer Westwood studios to direct as well as star in the game's FMV [full-motion video] cut-scenes. Although his involvement's been limited to acting in recent years, he's still got a unique perspective on the entire series - and its unique style of story-telling.
Eurogamer: So, I haven't seen much of Command & Conquer 4 myself yet...
Joseph D. Kucan: Oh, it's been very low-key, we're trying to be very quiet about it. We haven't even brought it here. All of the demonstrations you've seen in there have been done with flip-books, so we've just drawn frames of gameplay, and flip it by you really quickly.
Eurogamer: So you just think you're playing?
Joseph D. Kucan: Yeah, exactly. We're keeping it under wraps because it's... a very hypnotic game. We're actually concerned about the lawsuits that are going to come from people being completely addicted to the game, being unable to eat, drink, go to school, have sex with their wives - or husbands, depending upon. We're looking at a big class-action lawsuit due to the addictive quality of the game. It's kinda scary, actually. I don't want to be held personally liable.
Eurogamer: You've been involved in the FMV, the storytelling and acting side of Command & Conquer since the beginning.
Joseph D. Kucan: Yes. We still call it FMV? After all this time?
Eurogamer: I guess I'm old enough to. But I mean real video, real actors in the cut-scenes.
Joseph D. Kucan: We're the only ones that are doing it any more, this is it.
Eurogamer: What were the origins of that approach?
Joseph D. Kucan: Well, when I got started with Command & Conquer was back in the days of Westwood Studios. I was brought on as the director of dramatic assets for the game. You have to understand, this was back in '93, '94, this was just as floppies were starting to be replaced by CDs. So suddenly we had all this spare space on the disc. It just seemed logical to go from text dialogue to recorded dialogue, and the next logical step seemed to be video. So that's how we did it. We started with very early experiments into compression technology and how we could get video on to CDs, and that led to FMV.
Eurogamer: And you say you're the only people still using that style...
Joseph D. Kucan: As far as I know, unless Myst is making a huge comeback or they want to take another swing at Wing Commander...