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Interview With Fryda Wolff

Say Hello to Andromeda’s Finest!

While these days she’s mostly known for her killer voice work in the world of video games, you’d be hard pressed to find someone with as much insight into the technical side of the industry as Fryda Wolff!

Aside from her stellar performances in hits such as Octodad: Dadliest Catch, Mass Effect: Andromeda and the odd Telltale epic, Fryda is also a former Sound Designer who’s more than a little vocal in her support of those who aren’t always recognised for helping to bring a masterpiece to life.

As you can see, we couldn’t miss out on the opportunity to chat to Sara Ryder herself about her experiences and viewpoints in this crazy medium we call gaming.

First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to let us probe your brain!

“Of course! I live for the probing and the talking.”

Going back to the days before your work in the booth, you have been very open about your time as a Sound Designer for video games. After getting such a keen look at how it helps to build the worlds we know and love, would you say its contributed to your acting in any way, shape or form? 

“Having been a Sound Designer for games is precisely why I’ve had an easy time as voice actor. Voice actors are expected to record and edit their own auditions from home. If you’re like me and you own a vocal booth, you’ll also be called upon to conduct sessions from home and simultaneously act as both talent and engineer. My learning curve wasn’t as steep thanks to those 9 years spent as a games Sound Designer.

Beyond the technical knowledge, having been a game developer means I have a clearer perspective on how the sausage is made, versus someone who’s only worked at one particular station in the assembly line. I understand how games are made and how voice overs are implemented, so when in sessions for I use a lot of shorthand and ask clients relevant questions, like ‘is this line playing over combat,’ ‘how far away am I from the person I’m talking to,’ ‘is this line part of an earlier dialog branch, etc.’

If you play games at all, or at the very least go online to observe them via Twitch or YouTube, you will already have an advantage over those who can’t be bothered. If you’ve never watched a TV commercial before, then it would be difficult for you to understand what you’re auditioning for or conceive of how your VO will be used. If you don’t research what kind of game you’re auditioning for, then you’ll come up short, unable to cater to certain publishers’ trademarks or a genre’s basic expectations, for example.”

Do you think Sound Designers for video games don’t get enough credit? And could you possibly give a few examples of who you believe to be some of the modern greats and why their work is worth checking out.

“Sound Design is the most thankless job in the video games industry. Sound Designers will joke that they’ve done a great job when nobody says anything about the audio, because everything feels good and correct, as it should be. People usually only comment to say the audio is bad. Thus, Sound Designers are typically pleased with themselves when they hear no feedback about the audio and can pat themselves on the back for a job well done. It’s icing on the cake to receive accolades or compliments for game audio, unexpected and always appreciated.

Some of my game audio heroes:

Damian Kastbauer. He’s a technical audio wizard, specializing in middleware implementation and programmatical solutions. Damian is world renowned for his tireless efforts to bring the game audio community together, provides resources for anyone who asks, and makes the game audio industry at large feel like a family. He’s everybody’s Game Audio Dad, even to his contemporaries.

Don Veca. Don was the Audio Director for the original Dead Space. He changed the way game audio was thought of by using “fear emitters,” volumes that when triggered would increase the layers and intensity of sound effects and music, dependent on the player’s proximity to an enemy NPC.

Matt Uelmen. Matt, at the young age of 24, was the core Sound Designer and composer for Diablo. Matt’s music for that franchise is, in my mind, still unmatched for how iconic and memorable it is. I can’t think of any iteration of Diablo without Uelmen’s music. In fact, I only played Diablo III with its shipped music turned off and with Uelmen’s music from Diablo I and II playing instead. It only seemed right.

Matt Campbell. Matt is actually a programmer, specifically he’s responsible for the AI Director in Left 4 Dead. Left 4 Dead is to this day the only game I’ve ever played where I felt not only that its sound and music were integral to the game, but that the game cannot be played as successfully without the music and sound effect cues which communicate what the game’s AI is doing. A genius move, and one of the few times I felt compelled to keep the game’s original music turned on.”

On a scale from Twilight to Christopher Lee’s Dracula, where does Mira from Killer Instinct stand? And was it fun to let loose that much hissing?

“Christopher Lee’s Dracula all the bloody way! Mira’s not vain, she’s hungry. Voice over work is absurdly taxing. I vomit my emotions at full bore. Often afterwards I’m curled into a ball and go hours without speaking for vocal rest, and for my nerves. Hissing on command for profit is of course the best time ever.”

You managed to make a lot of fans weep through your performance as the adorably strong-willed otter Lylla in Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Did her death scene bring a tear to your eye as well?

“Lylla is a crown jewel for me this year. Namely because she gave me the excuse to launch myself at Nolan North. Nolan and I hadn’t previously met or worked together (voice actors usually work in solitary, particularly for games). I happened to run into him at a different job. I introduced myself and told him I’d played Lylla. Nolan immediately went off, bestowing me with extremely high praise, but here’s the best part. Because Telltale was kind enough to feed us each other’s lines during our individual recording sessions, Nolan had heard some of my performance. Nolan told me “You made me cry!’ It’s fine and well to have made players cry. But knowing that I got Nolan North worked up and bawling has made my life. No further awards needed.

Good acting is good because the actor genuinely feels and expresses the emotions the character is meant to have. If it’s not real to us, it won’t be real to you. Telltale’s great at twisting the sadness knife to begin with. Add an otter on top and guaranteed you’ll feel some things.” 

Do you think the revelation about her father at the end of Octodad had any effect on Stacy at all? Or do you think she’s just going to stay away from seafood from now on?

“Stacy’s so comically, creepily bland about her dad being an octopus [normal human]. Stacy’s a little crazy and a little savage, much like me. I’d bet she’d think her fish sticks probably had it coming.”

Octodad was truly a gem of a game that fans would love to see more from. If a sequel does get made, what direction would you like to see it go story-wise?

“Oh gosh, I wonder what Young Horses have to say about that. I think Part II would be something about Octodad easing into retirement age. Navigating things like his kids’ graduations and life events. All the while slapping everyone in a six foot radius, of course.”

Legions of fans fell in love with Sara Ryder. In spite of the multiple ways players could customise her personality, in your mind what kind of person was she at her core?

“Personally, I’ll use sarcasm and cynicism to cope with hardships. It’s so much easier than being vulnerable, though being vulnerable has much larger gains and returns. I’d play Sara as a tough-shelled turtle till somebody got at her soft center with the right relationship. Tsundere me straight into space.”

Everyone has their favourite, but who is your squad and ideal romance?

“For squad I have to lean into banter since I’m not a hardcore Mass Effect player. Liam’s a cute sweetie and his side quest with the console on/off gag is hysterical. Drack is old and cranky and that’s just my type (I’m into headbutts).”

The hilarious relationship you have with Tom Taylorson has become somewhat legendary in the gaming industry. If you had your way, what project would you love for the two of you to work on next?

“Mass Effect: Andromeda II! Now that both siblings are up and about after the end of Andromeda, it’d be nice to see their relationship fill out and see where their paths take them, what kinds of callings they’d settle into in that new world.”

Fryda, thank you so much for your time! If fans want to get in touch and show you all of their Ryder x Vetra artwork, where can they find you?

“I’m on Twitter @frydawolff and you can see what I’m up to at frydawolff.com. Send me all of your fan art! I can never get enough, fan art is amazing.”

And finally, as an honorary member of WatchMojo.com, if you had to choose a topic to be turned into a top ten, what would it be?

“Top Ten Games to Eat Ice Cream and Cry To. I feel like this is an area of entertainment that could use further examination.”