It wasn’t that long ago that Lost Words: Beyond the Page dropped for the Nintendo Switch. In case you missed my review, I absolutely adored the game. Recently though, I had the honor of having a chat with the narrator/voice of Izzy, Sidonie Marie Šakālis about her time working on the game and potential plans for the future.
If you are unfamiliar with Lost Words: Beyond the Page, here’s the trailer which also gives you an excellent peek into just how much work Sidonie pumped into the vocal work for this title.
Let’s get into it.
Eric Halliday: Right off the bat, can you tell us about how you got into vocal work? Have you done other projects? What brought you to Lost Words?
Sidonie Marie Šakālis: I got into voiceover purely by coincidence – I was originally an animator/concept artist on Lost Words, but shortly after my initial contract ended, Mark Backler asked me if I wouldn’t mind recording some placeholder lines for the Lost Words demo. A year or so later, I was asked to audition for the part of Izzy! So far, that’s the only vocal work I’ve done. I hope to do more, but at the moment it’s heavily dependent on my schedule as a student nurse.
Eric: So you’ve never actually done vocal work before? This was your first professional go? Because it is phenomenally done.
Sidonie: Yep! Never done voice acting (or any kind of acting for that matter) in my life. Unless you include a couple of school musicals when I was little!
Eric: In addition, the artwork for the game was incredible. I am a lifelong fan of the Pratchetts and the art paired so well with the message of the story. Did you have a lot of control over the art direction? And if so, did you take inspiration from anything?
Sidonie: So, I was only involved in the very early stages of the game development. I had a hand in creating some initial concepts, and animations, but that’s where it ends. All the animation and illustration you see in the finished game is the creative handiwork of talented Sketchbook team members, Luke Peek and Emily Zhao!
Eric: So how did you end up working on Lost Words in the first place? What were your initial thoughts on the project?
Sidonie: So, six years ago, when I was a newly graduated animator, I was looking for local projects to get involved with, and I stumbled upon ‘Shark Infested Custard,’ which is/was the name of an indie game development project based at the University of Essex. I passed around my reel for people to see, and just told everyone there that I was available for collab projects, no charges; I really just wanted to get into the industry somehow!
Anyway, Mark was there, and he liked my work, and asked that I email him a showreel (which I did). And then I just got involved in the early development of Lost Words! I was a waitress at the time, so was happy to be involved with a creative project in my free time. I worked for free for about 3 months (maybe more?) and then when the game got some initial funding, I secured a paid role there for a while.
My initial thoughts were that the game (which was mostly conceptual at the time) had huge potential, and I wanted to help realize it and contribute creative work that would enable it to get off the ground. My main reason for this thinking was that it was the kind of game that I’d have loved to play as a young girl growing up; so that thinking fuelled my belief in the project as a whole. It was a sensitive and gorgeous idea for a game, and I knew that it would attract a significant player base – if only because it was going against the grain and doing something different!
Eric: I fully agree with that feeling about that game. The moment I was done with the game I introduced my seven-year-old, Damian, to the game and not only was it one of the first games he played and beat, but he actually came out of his shell talking to his classmates about it.
Not only that but it spawned a lot of conversations with family about it. Especially as he played it with his five-year-old brother, Malcolm, sitting next to him, watching like he was having a story read to him.
Sidonie: Aw, that’s so wonderful to hear! I’m glad your little one enjoyed Lost Words!
I don’t have any children, but it’s definitely the kind of heartwarming game that is great for kids. I can’t speak for Sketchbook, but on playing it through, it does seem as though it was definitely built with younger players in mind.
Eric: Now, did you know that Rhianna Pratchett was involved going in? Did you end up meeting or exchanging words? If you did, what was it like working with her?
Sidonie: As for working with Rhianna – I didn’t, really! I didn’t know she was involved in writing it until I was a paid animator on the project- although, it was pretty cool finding that out – I’d really enjoyed playing Tomb Raider (2013), and grew up reading Terry’s Disc-world Novels!
The thing with game development – particularly that of the indie variety – is that a lot of it is done remotely. So never really needed to correspond much with the other team members! Lost Words, like many indies, relied heavily on file-sharing from a distance.
Eric: Now that you’ve worked on Lost Words and made such a killer first impression, where would you like to go from here?
Sidonie: Well, ideally I’d get some more awesome voice acting roles! In a dream world, I’d be a voice actor for Bethesda’s 6th Elder Scrolls game, whenever that comes out. Reckon I’d have a blast with Wes Johnson – the voice of Sheogorath, (among other characters) in Skyrim. I love the Elder Scrolls games, so it would be pretty sick to be immortalized in Tamriel, somehow!
As for upcoming projects… I don’t have any at the moment. Like I said, Lost Words is the only vocal work I’ve ever done. But hopefully, it won’t be my last!
Eric: Now, before we go, last thing…where can people find you and your work?
And, I’m a musician in my free time, so here’s a link to my Soundcloud, just for good measure!
[Note: Her song “shores.” is a personal favorite. The build at four minutes in is a journey. -Eric]
Also, thanks ever so much for interviewing me – it’s been lovely!
Eric: Same! Honestly, I hope this helps bring more exposure to your work because as someone who listens to audiobooks in his car instead of music, I don’t know how you’re not famous.
So that was the interview with Sidonie Marie Šakālis. Honestly, having played the game I would have never expected this to be her first go. The vocal work in Lost Words was phenomenal and her performance was the equivalent of finding out what baseball is and on the same day stepping up to a plate and hitting it out of the park. It’s insane.
You can check out her work by checking out Lost Words: Beyond the Page on PS4, XBox One, Switch, Steam and Stadia and I can’t recommend it enough.