5 days ago - GSG_Aaron - Direct link

Hello Miners,
Most of GSG is on summer vacation right now, and we're moving into our new office at the end of the month. Things will be a bit quiet around here for a few weeks. In the meanwhile, here's a look behind the scenes: we're going a few months back in time, and stepping into the sound studio with Robert Friis -- the voice of Mission Control. Enjoy!

Mission Control is on air
It’s a delightful sunny Tuesday in May, and Mission Control is in the recording booth.

The order of the day is recording the voiceover for the Season 05 Narrated Trailer. We’re in the only meeting room in the entire office, which doubles as the makeshift sound studio. In the corner, tucked in a blocky bunker of sound insulation panels, stands Mission Control – or as he’s known in real life, Robert Friis, co-founder and Art Director of Ghost Ship Games.

Robert’s got his back toward the room, standing in the corner in front of a t.bone SC 600 microphone. A snare of black AV cables pools at his feet and snakes around the room, covering papers from previous meetings. He strikes a confident wide stance to record: one hand on his hip, the other holding his script up close at face level. He knits his brow as he speaks and leans back at a slight angle, his deep voice filling the room.

Seeing him speak in person feels strange when you’re so used to hearing the voice through a gaming headset. You forget it belongs to a real person.

Today’s recording session for the Season 05 trailer is the last one in this office, which is where Ghost Ship Games has been for the past five years. In July, we’re moving to a new office, with space for a better recording setup. In a technical sense, it’ll be a complete upgrade: better equipment, more room, no sound leaks from people eating lunch outside. Still, it’s a bit sad to be leaving this old improvised setup. Slapdash though it may be, it’s served us well.

It’s not to say this is Mission Control’s last ride, but something about the occasion still feels significant. Like moving out of the home where you grew up.

Robert records a take in GSG's makeshift sound studio.

The man behind Mission Control
Robert might be most widely known as Mission Control, but that’s far from his only role at Ghost Ship Games. As it turns out, he never really expected to become Mission Control in the first place.

When Ghost Ship Games first started up in 2016, Robert was the team’s only artist. Largely self-taught, he was the one responsible for all animation, editing, modelling, character art, and concept art. Now, as GSG’s Studio Art Director, he guides projects’ overall visual development, involved in both Ghost Ship’s own games as well as their publishing projects.

And of course, when needed, he’s Mission Control.

Robert is Danish, not that you’d necessarily guess it by his accent. His real-life speaking voice is pretty much the same as his voice as Mission Control. “It probably stems from the fact that I loathe the sound of the Danish accent in English, so I’m doing my best to eliminate it,” he says. “I know it’s probably still in there somewhere, but at least it’s not at the level of that guy from Gladiator.”

Robert’s role as Mission Control is his first-ever foray into voice acting. It had always been on his bucket list, thanks to an interest he traces back to developing characters during Dungeons and Dragons campaigns in high school. But as he explains, he didn’t start working on Deep Rock Galactic expecting to lend his voice to the game.

“The funny thing about Mission Control is that it was never on purpose for it to be me. We just needed something in a hurry, needed someone to just do whatever. I did maybe three different takes, had the voice, and that was good enough. And it just got established as we went with it.”

Like with so much else in Deep Rock Galactic, an “Eh, this’ll work” solution grew into a big part of the game’s identity. And since those first recordings, Mission Control has found his own identity, too.

The S05 narrated trailer, the final result of today's recording session.

Mission Control, the character
If the dwarves have a friend in Deep Rock Galactic, it’s Mission Control. Not that he’s a close friend, of course. But at least he’s not Management.

The initial idea for Mission Control came from Mikkel Martin Petersen, co-founder and Game Director at Ghost Ship Games. From a game design perspective, Mission Control’s job is to direct the action and tell players where to go. Because of DRG’s nonlinear, occasionally chaotic cave generation, Mikkel felt the need for a ‘foreman’ role to help explain what’s going on, and to put everything in context.

But Mission Control’s personality comes from Robert.

“I had this vision of a world-weary dude who was kind of bored with his work, trying to lead and steer the dwarves as they went through the same things again and again,” he says. “[Mission Control] likes the dwarves well enough, but he’s also seen enough of them disappear down in the caves that he tries not to care.”

The very first placeholder for Mission Control’s character icon was a professional headshot of Søren Lundgaard, Ghost Ship Games’ co-founder and CEO. But it wasn’t long before Robert whipped up some rough character art to put a face to the name – resulting in Mission Control’s hexagonal, green-tinted icon you see in the game today. In that sense, the picture is a self-portrait.

It wasn’t long before the placeholder character grew into one of the game’s most prominent personalities.

“I’m really proud of what the character’s become, and how he contributes to the tone of the game. A lot of DRG’s narrative comes out through Mission Control,” Robert says. “It’s up to him to relate to the dwarves the severity of a situation. To the dwarves, that danger is never really apparent, they don’t care. Bulk Detonator approaching? “Yeah cool, shoot it!”. They’re not aware of just how dangerous everything is.”

Mission Control might not be Management, but it is his job to manage. He might not be at the dwarves’ level, but he’s on their side. He can’t save the dwarves from dying, but he knows they’re not expendable.

And thanks to the DRG community, Mission Control has become a lot more than Mission Control.

A few of many fan-made spins on Mission Control. Credit given on each individual image.

Mission Control, the meme
When asked about AI versions of Mission Control singing cover songs, Robert takes a deep, wincing breath.

“It’s both awesome and terrifying at the same time.”

When he recorded his first lines as Mission Control, Robert never imagined the many memes the character has spawned since. For him, it’s uncanny to hear his own voice (and yet, not his own voice) singing an AI cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” But Robert appreciates it in the greater context of people’s enthusiasm for Deep Rock Galactic.

“It's really amazing. I mean, we started from basically nothing with this game. Now we’re at a point where we see people doing cosplays for conventions, getting tattoos, making art and memes and stuff like AI song covers,” he says. “Regardless of what it is, it’s amazing to see how the game inspires all these forms of creative investment. It tells me we’re doing something right – and that feels very good.”

Deep Rock Galactic doesn’t do a whole lot of lore-dumping. We prefer to drip-feed details and let fans’ imaginations fill in the rest. This is by design, and Robert is one of the main forces behind this strategy. Being the voice of Mission Control also tends to make him the primary conduit for these bits and pieces of DRG lore.

He also happens to be one of the biggest enjoyers of everything that fans come up with.

“I’m extremely happy to see how much people care about the little snippets we give out, and how much lore people come up with themselves. That’s super cool to me, and I always make a point of reading it and commenting on it, if I have the time,” he says.

Joachim (Sound Designer at GSG, foreground) supervises the technical bits as Robert records his lines.

The happy accident of Mission Control
By the time this story comes out, Ghost Ship Games will be moving into a new, larger office space. The crew’s excited for the move. But there’s a bittersweet note in saying goodbye to the workspace where this game, including Mission Control, really grew into its own.

The team is hoping to build a proper recording studio in the new office, to move away from the jerry-rigged setups that we’ve used so far. As Robert records in this slapdash studio, he’s often interrupted by the creaking floors, rattling mechanical keyboards and scattered laughter floating in from the office.

It might not be a dream setup, but it’s been good enough so far. As the old proverb goes: if it’s stupid and it works, it ain’t stupid.

“We’ve always been able to find some kind of little closet we could use for our recording setup. It’s always worked, but it’s always been kind of janky,” Robert says.

Just like the setup where Robert records, the character of Mission Control was born out of improvisation. You could say Robert himself followed the same pattern, being largely self-taught throughout 20 years in the games industry.

If there’s a lesson to be had here, it’s probably about not overthinking things.

“If there’s one thing being an art director has taught me, it’s to combat the artist’s inclination toward perfection,” he says. “There is no perfect. Just get it good enough, get it on screen, and then fix it later if it needs more detail. If you get it to 80 percent, the only one that notices flaws after that is you.”

Soon, we’ll be in a studio with a more sturdy setup, away from creaking floorboards and clacky keyboards and laughing lunch-eaters. But for all the challenges of our slipshod setup, there's still something significant in saying goodbye to the place where Mission Control really found his voice.

Given that this is the last recording session ever in this office, the final line Robert records seems like a perfect fit.

“This is Mission Control, signing off – for Rock and Stone.”