Saturday morning kicked off with a bang at the Comic-Con International at San Diego as Activision hosted a special panel for its upcoming sequel “Transformers: Fall of Cybertron.” High Moon Studios’ Matt Tieger began the panel by answering a few questions about character design and how much it’s pushed past 2010’s “War For Cybertron.” The panelists, Nolan North (Bruticus, Brawl, Cliffjumper), Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime) and Gregg Berger (Grimlock) took the stage alongside senior game director Dave Cravens to disclose some new information about the latest “Transformers” installment.
After showing a trailer for the game and going through introductions, Tieger explained the central conceit of “Fall of Cybertron.” Although many elements from the original “War For Cybertron” made it into the game, there are also new ingredients — including Unreal Engine 3 technology — that help expand levels. The single player portion of the game has an ideal point of view for each character including Grimlock, Cliffjumper and Optimus.
The panel then talked about the popularity of the “Transformers” franchise over the last 30 years, as well as iconic aspects such as the transforming sounds and Optimus Prime’s voice. “Audio, voice acting, sound effects and music are really 50 percent of your experience,” said Tieger, emphasizing how important Cullen, North and Berger were to the game. An emotional story also plays a huge part in “Fall of Cybertron,” as Optimus lets his feelings show alongside his fellow characters as their planet falls into chaos.
Tieger then discussed how sections of the game were dedicated truly to story, where you’re not pulling the trigger but rather exploring Cybertron. This is how the genuine feeling of Prime and other characters transfer into the game. An exclusive gameplay clip was shown with Optimus moving through a constantly shifting part of Cybertron’s underbelly, eventually flipping a switch and activating some strange glowing force, possibly absorbing some Energon in the process.
Cullen, the longtime voice of Optimus Prime since the original “Transformers” cartoon, spoke about portraying the character, the energy he brought to the role and the enthusiasm with which High Moon Studios produced “Fall of Cybertron.” As always, Cullen was inspired to bring quality content to his role. He also felt that he was one of the luckiest people in the world to be part of Prime’s legacy.
Berger spoke about voicing Grimlock, stating in the Dinobot’s voice that he was “driven by aggression!” Without any filters to get in the way, Grimlock’s strength has a great capacity, even if it’s slightly out of his control. Berger thought it was incredible role for an actor to play. He also did a little bit of “Me king!” in Grimlock voice, much to the delight of the crowd, while explaining what a great ally he was to the Autobots team.
North, the iconic voice of Nathan Drake from the “Uncharted” games, explained how much fun it was voicing both Autobot (Cliffjumper) and Decepticon (Bruticus), changing tones for each character. He jokingly poked at Berger in his Bruticus voice, similar to his Grimlock role. He also felt honored to watch Berger and Cullen work, both on this project and the animated “Transformers Prime” series.
The cast was then asked about other favorite characters in the “Transformers” series. Cullen explained how he liked doing Generation One character Ironhide, breaking out into a little bit of his role. “I say, I say BOY!” he said, joking. Berger explained how he enjoyed doing his old Skyfire role (before he became Jetfire). North once played a brown AMC Pacer (left on the cutting room floor, he kidded), and even did some of the high-pitched voice, which made the crowd break into laughter.
Following another video montage (featuring Grimlock bashing a cocky Starscream), Berger described the differences between characters and the true fun of making them real, noting how excited fans will be to play as Grimlock in “Fall of Cybertron.” He also explained that the 405 Freeway played a big part in getting into preparation for his Dinobot role.
Cullen noted that while he didn’t play video games (“I didn’t even play Pac-Man. I played this game called Kick the Can!”), he was in awe over the whole project. “A lot of homework is going to get missed [with this game], I’m afraid,” he said with a sly grin.
North talked about the joy of taking part in game creation and how well teams enhance imagination with them. “It’s a real testament to where gaming has gone,” he said. Berger reiterated how caring folks make great products work — both the quality development team and the fans who embrace it.
After a brief Cliffjumper game clip featuring a ship being torn open (with some help from Jazz), North talked about how he approached his characters. “I did a lot of yoga,” he joked. “I pulled seven muscles. And one day I was stuck for two days in the lotus position.” He talked about how Troy Baker, the voice actor behind Jazz, motivated him, and how they’re great friends, and got pulled in together on the project as a pair. “I wish you could hear the outtakes,” he said. “Social services would take my kids away.” He then tried to voice Jazz, adding a funky tone sounding along the same lines of Chris Rock.
North also voices Bruticus, who the actor described as “raw with anger.” “He’s the big guy on the 405 looking at Grimlock and going, ‘What are you gonna do about it?'” He talked about how the “big guy” could run through obstacles, where most game characters would just try to figure a way around it.
The moderator then asked about favorite lines of all time for Cullen. “Hold on to your dreams — the future is built on dreams,” he answered to thunderous applause. The team then showed the same video they debuted at the Electronic Entertainment Expo the month before, featuring the transformation of the enormous Metroplex.
The floor opened up for an audience questions. After a request for Cullen’s iconic “Transform and roll out!” line and recording motivational advice for someone who couldn’t attend the event, a fan asked about advice for up and coming voice actors. North recommended nasal spray (which he seriously recommends). Gregg stated that folks are looking for characters, not voice actors, so develop as many as possible.
“Never give up,” said Cullen. “Work on the things that come naturally to you, annoy people with sound effects, try and impersonate as many animals as you can in a lifetime, and be Frank Welker.”
Tieger also confirmed that Stan Bush’s “The Touch,” the song heavily featured in “Transformers: The Movie” would be in the game, much to the fans’ delight.
From there, the panel concluded, with a reminder that “Transformers: Fall of Cybertron” releases on August 21 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.