Interview: Dan Lovell Is Muchly Merrick In COD: Ghosts


I was on Facebook one day a few weeks ago when a status popped up from one of my friends announcing that he could finally go public with the news that he had been used as the model for a major character in a Triple-A game to be published by Activision, Call of Duty: Ghosts. I excitedly contacted him and told him I wanted to do an interview with him about the process and the experience for PS Nation and he agreed. The interview follows.

PS Nation: Hey Dan Lovell! Tell our readers something about yourself. Your age? Where are you from? What do you do for a living? How long have you been gaming?

Dan Lovell: I’m 35 years old. When I was 3 I got an Atari 2600 for Christmas and my hands never let the controller go. Born and raised in the high desert of Los Angeles County, Lancaster, I finally moved to LA after finding the job where I work now. I work at a product packaging print company as a pre-press and digital layout operator. I also gogo dance and model and do graphic design on the side. I have a Bachelors in Computer Animation so some day I hope to work in the gaming industry.

Dan Lovell 1

Dan Lovell

PS Nation: How much do you game in an average week?

Dan Lovell: Not nearly as much as I like, with my schedule now I’m lucky to get 5 or 6 hours in. I need to get my priorities back in order. LOL.

PSN: Did you start on Consoles or PC and which ones are your favorites?

DL: It’s always been Consoles for me. I’d rather get comfy on the couch playing on my big flat screen than a 21″ monitor. I am looking forward to the Steam Box coming out to help change that.

PSN: What are your favorite games and genres?

DL: Action/adventure primarily. I’ve always loved RPG’s but the direction that Square Enix took the Final Fantasy series over the past few years really got me away from the genre. I’m so glad that Skyrim made me fall in love again! And I’ll definitely be playing TESOL.

PSN: Clearly you are a Kratos fan. Are there other characters you enjoy for cosplay?

DL: I did a decent Pyramid Head for Halloween last year, and recently a sexy “Tom of Finland” Super Mario. Being a gogo dancer and cosplayer I always jump on the chance to mix the two. I occasionally get  requests for Pyramid Head for big circuit parties.

Dan Lovell Pyramid Head Cosplay

Pyramid Head Cosplay

PSN: Do you have a collection of retro games and consoles?

DL: Looking for a decent multi-platform retro console at the moment but I have a decent number of NES and PS1 titles. I still have a copy of Chrono Trigger including the box and booklet.

PSN: Do you have any other hobbies? I know you are a biker as well.

DL: Lately work keeps me so busy that I don’t have much time for hobbies. I love my bike and periodically go on rides with a couple buds. Ever since I learned that I work near the best Parkour/Free Running gym in southern California I’ve been wanting to jump in on that. Part of their gym is decked out like a level from Super Mario Bros. I also draw, make 8-bit paintings and help out with my handful of friends that are film makers. I used to be part of a gay gaming podcast called Silly Frags but we’ve been on hiatus for some time now.

PSN: You attend different geek culture conventions each year where you participate in different ways including displaying your own artwork. Do you sell your art online?

DL: My podcast and the podcasters Gayme Bar all got together and did a panel at PAX 2012. I had a few 8-bit paintings up in the art gallery at the gay comic book convention in LA, Bentcon, a couple years ago. It’s not anything that I do consistently enough to have a website, but I would love to change that sometime.

PSN: What is GaymerX?

DL: GaymerX is a video game convention for people with similar interests that all come from the same community to get together and geek out about video games. Geared toward the LGBT community it’s the first of it’s kind and took place in San Francisco this past August. I had a great time making new friends and seeing how big the crowd was that took an interest. It was amazing to see the support it got from heterosexuals in the industry. Ellen McLain, the voice of GLaDOS from the Portal series and her husband John Patrick Lowrie, known for being the voice of the sniper in Team Fortress 2, were guests of honor and speakers for the convention. I even had the privilege of having breakfast with them one morning. GaymerX is no different from any other con where people of a particular interest get together in the name of video games. Minecon is a video game convention that centers on Minecraft, GaymerX just has a different focus. I would have had an easier time growing up if I knew that there was something like this out there where I knew I could fit in. As it happens, GaymerX2 is in the planning stages now! Anyone who is interested can find the site here.

PSN: So now on to COD: Ghosts! How did this come to be? Do you know someone at the developer? Was there an ad?

DL: I’m signed up at a casting agency in Burbank from being in an MTV pilot for a show that never aired. Representatives from Activision, mainly the lead developers at Infinity Ward, went through photos of the people that they had on file. They had a specific look in mind already for the character. When they came across my picture I was what they wanted.

PSN: How long did your scan take? How much of you did they scan?

DL: The whole process took about an hour and a half. There was a set for lighting, color and texture mapping. Photography for all angles and facial expressions and then I sat in the 3D scanner for the the actual scan. They were only interested in my head and face, mainly my beard, so it was only from the neck up. Clothes, uniform and gear would end up covering the rest of the character anyway.

Dan Lovell 3dScan

Dan’s Scan for Merrick in COD: Ghosts

PSN: You weren’t told anything about how you might be used even after they scanned you, were you? Why was that? When and how did they inform you about how they had used your likeness?

DL: No, it was 7 months til release. They like to control any and all information of the upcoming title so they can start hyping the game right before it’s about to be released. All I was told was that Activision wanted to scan me for a character for an upcoming game with the code name “Phantom”. There were plenty of clues however. First hint was when I was instructed that I would be meeting the developers from Infinity Ward, the only game they make with Activision is Call of Duty. In the meeting I was sitting next to the lead animator and his laptop had a Call of Duty background. When I was sent to the motion capture studio for the 3D scans and some of the basic photographs all of the walls were covered with Call of Duty posters, and the whole time they said they couldn’t say what game it was for. And finally, the last sheet of paperwork that they had me sign, I noticed it had the name of the game and even the name of the character I was scanned for.

PSN: Did this make you rich?

DL: That’s a great question, Keith, and the answer is “I wish it did”. Being cast through an agency that primarily casts film and TV background actors I only got the basic pay as an Extra. I was paid for 8 hours even though it took just over an hour. The check I received for doing it was just enough to buy the game. Honestly though, I would have done it for free.

PSN: Did you do any motion capture? Did you do any voice work?

DL: No, they only wanted me for my ugly mug, the full head and face scan. For the mo-cap they hire people that have military experience handling weapons and infiltration. As for voice acting, they generally pay decent money to people who can do that a lot better than me. Merrick ended up sounding like he was from the South.

PSN: So when we look at Merrick, how much of him is actually you?

DL: They had warned me in advance that he might not look exactly like me. That they might blend my eyes and nose with someone else. They were very adamant about the beard though. That and the shaved head stayed, with the exception of the long goatee, and the eyes and nose did end up being a little different to make him unique.

PSN: He seems like a BAD ASS! Is he an NPC or do we get to control him?

DL: I was initially hoping to be a bad guy or something like that. To be one of the main characters in the game… I never would have imagined. I’m currently halfway through the campaign in the game now and the feeling I got when first running into Merrick was like a childhood dream coming to life. In the campaign you play as the character called Logan who you never get to see at all in the game. I guess it’s a good thing he’s not playable otherwise you’d never see him. LOL

Call of Duty: Ghosts - Singleplayer Screenshots

Merrick stalking in COD: Ghosts

Written by Keith Dunn-Fernández

Keith Dunn-Fernández

An actor/director and more lucratively an Administrative Assistant at a small paper company in NYC, Keith loves his games. And he loves to write. And he is a bit of a sarcasmo.

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