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Astarion's actor was deployed to replace the missing mocap of around 150 lines of Baldur's Gate 3 dialogue: 'I just had this dog's breakfast'

 Astarion, a very pretty and silver-haired vampire spawn from Baldur's Gate 3, smirks coyly, dressed for celebration in an ornate ruffled shirt.
Astarion, a very pretty and silver-haired vampire spawn from Baldur's Gate 3, smirks coyly, dressed for celebration in an ornate ruffled shirt.

Astarion is a stand-out performance in Baldur's Gate 3—with his voice actor, Neil Newbon, earning several awards because of his stellar work. That's not to say he outshines anyone (the game is filled with incredible performances) but in my mind, Astarion is special because of the sheer variety of emotion he portrays, which is as much a product of the game's writing as it is Neil Newbon's exceptional acting chops.

Turns out, Newbon also wore a lot of other, non-Astarion shaped hats during the production of Baldur's Gate 3—not as a voice actor, but as a mocap artist. That's per a talk given by Greg Lidstone at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2024.

Lidstone was a performance director on Baldur's Gate 3, though his current role is the director of animation at Larian Studios. It was Lidstone's job to work with the writers, actors, and animators of Baldur's Gate 3 to help "create the performances of the companions, the villains, and the people of Faerûn," a task that—as he points out, could get extremely chaotic.

"Because the schedule is so compressed, and there's lots of things going on, we would use the stunt actors for [mocap] … One of the stunt actors I use fairly regularly is actually the guy who plays Astarion." This becomes less of a surprise when you go into Neil Newbon's professional history, which has its roots in Mocap itself.

Back when I spoke to him in November of last year about how he feels like he was "saved by games", Newbon described mocap as "so amazingly freeing … It meant I could play anything". His company, Performance Captured Academy, specifically mentors game devs, actors, and directors to help them get a feel for the tech. Basically, Newbon lives and breathes this stuff—in addition to his voiceover work, and he even directed that one bear sex scene.

An image of Neil Newbon in various mocap poses displayed at GDC 2024.
An image of Neil Newbon in various mocap poses displayed at GDC 2024.

"He was just really good at communicating the movements of these characters," Lidstone says. "We actually had this point where we were starting to discover that, every now and then, we would find [scenes] where we had the voice recording, but the mocap was missing for some reason, so we had to do reshoots."

Lidstone describes a day where they brought in Newbon, and had him tear through motion capture for a whole bunch of the Sword Coast's NPCs. "I just had this dog's breakfast of like, 150 lines of dialogue that had no mocap for them … for him, it was just like, a safe place. It was a really good and fun challenge."

Earlier in the talk, Lidstone also highlights the flexible use of actors as one of the many advantages of mocap, saying that Newbon was indispensable with characters like Gortash and Minsc too—though it's only when the voice actors themselves are unavailable: "We had to adjust. It's never perfect, but it's the best we can do at the time. For all the other dialogue sequences, I record the body and the voice at the same time."