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Dan Abnett Picked Up A Cockney Accent While Writing The Orc Dialogues For Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

Dan Abnett is renowned for his novels set in the Warhammer universe. The novelist was recently announced as the co-writer for Fatshark’s upcoming Warhammer 40,000: Darktide. The fanbase will no doubt be excited about his involvement in the project, due to his in-depth knowledge of Wahammer lore. He has previously written for video games like Alien: Isolation as well as The Middle-earth series, where he wrote dialogue lines for the orcs.

Thanks to the Nemesis System in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, each orc you encountered had not only a unique personality, but would also remember your previous encounter. These permutations and combinations resulted in Abnett having to write hundreds of dialogues and creating personalities for them as well. Of course, the task was multiplied with the larger scale of it’s sequel, Shadow of War. The game not only included a larger map, but more than double the number of orcs, as well as Olog-Hai.

In a conversation with PC Gamer, he talked about how the orc personalities rubbed off on him. “Both games I was recruited specifically to write that dialogue and create those characters,” he said. “I can’t remember, I think the first time around it was 60 [orcs], there was more the second time. I have to say, once you get past about 30 orcs you’re really struggling to think about, ‘What can a different orc be? How can I do this in a different way?’ But it was fun.”

Well, Abnett did manage to carve out some memorable orcs. You wouldn’t walk about Mordor thinking that you’d come across a poetic orc who writes verses about how he’ll stick you like a pig, or an orc that’s a bard with a voice as sweet as maggoty bread. A nerdy orc, an orc that only screams, and an orc played by Kumail Nanjiani that constantly second-guesses his threats; it’s safe to say that the novelist gave us a wide range of orc personalities that we never thought existed.

“The decision was made, not by me, but the decision was made to make them all sound like Cockney gangsters from a Ray Winston film,” Abnett continued. “So I ended up saying all the lines to myself in that kind of Bob Hoskins voice, which is great, because it made the whole process very efficient. I was very good at doing it. I could turn out a surprising number of lines a day. But I get to the end of the day, and I wouldn’t be able to stop TALKIN’ LIKE THA’, WOULD I?” he says, sounding like Michael Caine in The Italian Job. “My wife would come in and say what do you want for dinner? ‘I DUNNO, LUV!'”

Thanks to his deep dive into orcish personality, Abnett now has the ability to slip into a seamless Cockney accent at will. “It was weird.I usually try and spread jobs out and mix them up so that you don’t stay somewhere too long. But that was almost like some kind of bizarre indoctrination that I’ve never recovered from,” he concluded.

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