Exclusive Interview with ADR1FT’s Cissy Jones

Photo Credit: Riker Brothers
Photo Credit: Riker Brothers

TNWU sat down with acclaimed voice-over actress Cissy Jones of Firewatch & Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead fame to discuss her latest venture as Commander Alex Oshima in ADR1FT.

This virtual reality experience is being released as a launch title for OculusRift VR system and has many fans excited to come aboard what’s left of the HAN-IV and see space from a darker perspective.

Here we’ll get into the background of this amazing title, talk about some of what made this game special to both Cissy and its creator Adam Orth, and the importance of breathing!

How would you describe ADR1FT to someone new to narrative-driven adventure games?

ADVENT is a first person experience game where you play as Commander Alex Oshima who wakes up amidst the absolute destruction of her space station, and everyone around her is dead. You have to figure out 1) how to survive, 2) what happened, and 3) how to get home.

So a lot of the gameplay is going to be completely dependent on the player’s choices?

Yeah — so your suit is leaking oxygen, and there are oxygen canisters strewn about that you have to find and essentially plug-in to your suit in order to keep breathing. It’s very intense!

Commander Alex Oshima, Jones’ character in ADR1FT

It’s safe to say that things are pretty dark for your character from the start!

Yeah, pretty much! (laughs)

What were some of your first thoughts when reading over this script?

I was really taken by it. I originally auditioned for Elizabeth Hudson, who I also play as one of the side characters. I was able to actually audition for this game under its real name. Usually, a lot of games are under fake names because of the notorious secrecy of the games industry. So I was able to Google “ADR1FT,” and learn about Adam Orth, and learn about everything he went through that lead him to this point.

This game is an allegory for a moment in his life when he had to figure out how to survive. “How do you survive, how do you protect everything you hold dear?”

I’m sure when developing the script, it led to some strong emotions being introduced.

It definitely did, and for me to be able to go into the first session knowing all of this — a little bit of background: he (Orth) was working at Microsoft and made a flippant comment on Twitter about how consoles were going to be “always online,” and people were kind of freaking out about it. He basically said, “I don’t know what the big deal is. #dealwithit.”

It basically set off Gamergate before Gamergate was Gamergate! He was viciously attacked on Twitter – people were threatening his life, people were threatening his daughter’s life, he lost his job. It was catastrophic from a personal standpoint, and he was able to take all of that (after a lot of introspection) and create this game as an allegory to that situation. It still gives me goosebumps!

The whole point was to create this game where the threat is real, but the enemy has no face. It’s not an alien you can kill and survive the game. You have to figure out how to survive just on your own wit.

So we won’t be in a situation where we see the monster pop up at the end, and we finally get to see the face of our enemy?

(laughs) There’s no MacGuffin, no.

One of the bigger themes in ADR1FT is loneliness, and not knowing what to do, who to call out too – especially in the emptiness of space. How did you go about tackling such a heavy theme in portraying the character?

It’s loneliness and it’s also owning up to your mistakes and realizing that you let people down, which are really dark places to go to. Getting there — you know, you have to dig deep. You have to find some places in your life where you’ve felt those feelings and you’ve felt the despair of being ‘one.’ And that’s it. Finding a way to bring that to the character without completely falling apart, that’s another story! (laughs)

Without spoiling too much — do you have a favorite moment you can’t wait for players to encounter?

Oh god, I do. I do and I can’t tell you! So here’s the interesting thing about my role as Alex in ADR1FT – I have five words in the entire game. The rest of it is just me, breathing. So those moments when I say the words– those are heavy, heavy moments. I would also say the opening sequence, when you first wake up and you realize, “Holy shit, this is what’s going on right now.”

I’ve heard from people that are experiencing it in VR, because it’s just me breathing, at first, the sound of my breath is very jarring. But then eventually, you kind of get into a rhythm and you start breathing with the character. The moments where you’re panicking and running out of oxygen, you as the player are also panicking and running out of oxygen! So I think the opening moment is terrifying. I’m so excited to see how people take to it!

I gotta ask too – did they just have you breathe or how did that work out when you were recording?

(laughs) I may or may not have almost passed out in the session! It’s great because Adam had a real distinct idea of what he wanted in his head. So there I was in the booth and he was pacing back and forth outside of the booth, moving his arms to how he wanted the rhythm to go for each breath. It was me, kind of matching that. Then as the oxygen starts to run out, the motions are getting a little bit faster and a little bit faster! Then the suffocation, and the asphyxiation, that was just a whole different feat!

In the ADR1FT comic, we learn a bit about Oshima’s childhood hero and eventual team-mate, Sebastien Oliver. Will we be hearing more about him in the game, as well as the other HAN-IV personnel?

You’ll definitely learn about everybody on board, especially if you take the time to explore the station. Explore the space around it. The more you explore, the more you’ll learn. You’ll find audio logs of the people who were there and can piece together not only what happened to the station, but who these people were. What was important to them, what drove them. Which I think is really fascinating!

The other thing is — Adam’s got a whole litany of continuing projects around this world, and I can’t say much about them but you have not seen the last of this world that he’s created. He’s got such amazing ideas, and I’m so excited for people to not only play this game, but to see what he does next. He’s gonna be one to keep an eye on!

Elizabeth Hudson, Jones’ other character voiced in ADR1FT

Could you tell us a bit more about Elizabeth Hudson, the other character you play in the game?

She’s a scientist on board the space station, and she has a close personal bond with Alex. They’re childhood friends, and I’ll let you kind of discover the rest of their relationship through the gameplay. While Alex is very driven and competitive and almost robotic in her sheer determination — Elizabeth is more vulnerable and more human. More prone to the human experience and human stakes. I think that the way that the two of them complement each other and offset each other is really fascinating and it’s a relationship I’m so excited for people to explore and learn more about through the gameplay!

Have you found any similarities to the characters you play in ADR1FT with others you’ve played in the past, such as Delilah in Firewatch?

I think Delilah is most similar to Elizabeth! Just in the sense of sheer fallibility. I think Elizabeth also has personal demons that she’s just sort of running from, and rather than choosing to face them, she chooses to go to space! Just like Delilah goes to the wilderness.

That’s the thing about what I do – there’s always a little piece of me in every character that I voice. With Alex, her absolute determination is something that I have with my career. You know — “This is what I’m going to do, and no one’s gonna stop me! If they’ll hire me.” But if it fails, it’s on me. That’s how I approach my voice-over career, and that’s how Alex approaches her drive with this space station. Hopefully, I don’t wake up one day with everything ruined, but… (laughs)

Then in terms of emotions for Delilah, we’ve all got a back story. We’ve all got something that happened along the way that we don’t necessarily want to face up to or it hurts too much to really think about. We just close it off and do crossword puzzles for the night! There’s always a little piece of me in every character that I do. 

Having done quite a few adventure games that are story-driven, are you finding it to be an area you favor in comparison to other voice-over work?

I love it, and to be fair I do a lot of other work. I do commercials– actually, I do a lot of celebrity soundalikes in movie trailers and stuff like that, which is fun! But in terms of video games, it’s really fun to step into this world where the characters are so fleshed out and have incredible back stories. There’s a lot of thought and a lot of care that’s gone into the crafting of these characters.

There’s always gonna be space for first-person shooters, there’s always gonna be room for the — “Hey! Get down! Take cover!” And that’s great! But for me personally, it is so much more fulfilling to have a full narrative and to really understand what’s going on in these characters and to get to slip in their shoes every now and then. Especially with something like Firewatch, which went into two full years of recording, and going back to Delilah was like putting on an old coat.

How long did it take to record ADR1FT?

ADR1FT was just a couple of sessions — we did one session as Elizabeth, and that was when I auditioned for it. Then Adam called me up afterwards and said, “Hey, I originally wasn’t gonna have anybody to do Alex. I was just gonna use some breathing that we found online, but I really like what you did! Do you want to be Alex?” And I was like, “Yeah!” So I went back in for another session and we did the breathing and the five words! (laughs)

Were there any big differences in recording for a virtual reality title or was it the same as recording for a standard video game?

It was pretty much a standard video game recording session at the time. Now we’re starting to see some members of the press have played the first few minutes and we’re getting to see their responses — especially to something like breathing and how that really makes you inhabit the character. That’s been really fascinating because I think if it was only a 2D game, it might get really annoying! But if you do get the chance to play it in virtual reality, to have it be an all-encompassing thing. You’ve got your movement, you’ve got literally the world below you. You’ve got stars above you, and this wreckage that you’re floating through, and the breathing just becomes an involuntary function. I think it’s been really, really cool to see how that’s been received and accepted. 

I guarantee you’re going to have some fans coming out, and your breathing is gonna be their ringtones! 

(laughs) Great — all the asphyxiation weirdos are gonna come after me!

Do you see ADR1FT really influencing future virtual reality titles?

I hope so! I really hope so because they’ve put so much love into this game! I mean, everything aside from Adam’s story — the visuals are stunning, the music is amazing! By the way, some of the music was done with a little help from the band Weezer, which is so cool. They put so much time and energy into making this whole game not only stunning, but really building it for virtual reality! You know, it’s not like a 2D movie where they go, “Hey, let’s make it 3D!” They built it for virtual reality, and it shows. It’s absolutely, jaw-droppingly gorgeous! So I hope it influences other games!

Have you had a chance to play any of ADR1FT?

Yes, and I died. (laughs) I’m such a terrible gamer, I’m the worst! I learned to play on the old-school NES paddles, and rather than learn to play with my thumbs I learned to play with my finger and my forefinger so that I could run really fast and then jump at the same time and not have to take my finger off the A-button! So when the new paddles came out, I was like “I don’t. Understand. This.” 

And with it being a virtual reality title, it’s a whole new ballgame outside of modern console gaming! I’m excited to play but I’m almost scared I’m going to die within the first ten seconds too!

Right?! (laughs)

ADR1FT does allow players to experience a childhood dream of being an astronaut – did you ever dream of going to space or any other larger than life job when you were younger?

All the time! My favorite book is Cosmos by Carl Sagan. I’ve always kinda geeked out on space! When I was a kid, we would go camping in the mountains in Idaho and you can see the milky way. You can see every star in the sky, ’cause it’s Idaho, it’s not Los Angeles! My cousin and I used to lay out under the stars and dream about going up there, together. It’s always been this unattainable dream.

You start hearing about SpaceX and all these companies talking about sending people out there — god, it’s so exciting! So to get to be an astronaut in this world and truly, when you play the game, just explore. I mean when you look down and see the day turn to night and the Earth below you and the stars above you, it’s like living out this fantasy. Especially in virtual reality, it’s really really amazing!

ADR1FT’s publisher 505 Games asked fans this and I’m curious about your answer – what one item would you bring with you on to a space station?

That’s a good question! My computer, and here’s why — because I have all of my photos on my computer. So if I’m ever lonely I can look at pictures of my family, or photos of a place that I love, or photos of my cat, or photos of my childhood! To me, there’s something very comforting about photos. You know, whether it’s looking at people who I miss, people who I love, or places that I love — there’s a solace in that. So, I would bring my computer — with a fully charged battery and a recharging cover!

I’m glad you added that detail because I was a little concerned with the choice of a computer — because there’s no wifi in space!

(laughs) I’m not looking to go to YouTube or anything, just having access to photos! 


ADR1FT is available today on both Oculus and Steam! Players will be able to play in both virtual reality and standard 2D, giving everyone access to this stunning title. Also available is the ADR1FT Collection’s Edition which includes two game download codes, 756-piece jigsaw puzzle with two exclusive designs, a space station patch like the ones worn by the personnel aboard the HAN-IV, and astronaut ice cream!

Be sure to follow Cissy Jones on Twitter, as well as ADR1FT’s official Twitter for more updates and exciting news about this amazing game!

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