On Silent Protagonists

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Yahtzee Croshaw:
When the game is character-based, full of fully-voiced non-playable characters, and when a name, personality and reputation has been assigned to the mute. And especially when the game is trying to take itself seriously. Because in a world of rounded characters, silence just makes you seem like a mental deficient or a stubborn, aloof prick.

And this, my good man, is why I felt that anyone who called Bioshock one of the greatest storytelling experiences in gaming was off their damn rocker.

AcacianLeaves:

And this, my good man, is why I felt that anyone who called Bioshock one of the greatest storytelling experiences in gaming was off their damn rocker.

... Because he'd just talk to himself? Or what? I mean, he did in the opening sequence, but after, he picks up a one-way radio transmitting device that gives him directions.

TimeLord:
I think they should give Gordon Freeman, Stephen Fry's voice in Ep3.

Then watch all the hardcore Valve fans go kill crazy!

That's one of best ideas ever, a true recipe for epicness. And that's coming from a rabid Half-Life fan.

i prefer for my character to have a voice.

it seriously irritates me when i play a new CoD game and dont know my own (multiple) characters names yet. then all i hear is the AI shouting my characters name and telling them to do stuff. itd be nice if my guy would say "Roger that" or SOMETHING to show that i am that character.

its also annoying in Half-Life to have everyone carrying on long conversations with your character, but Gordon isnt saying anything. its just awkward

i also hated that in Halo 3: ODST, the Rookie basically communicated by shifting his body around in cutscenes.

Jhales:
For some games, I don't mind having a silent protagonist. But ODST annoyed me with it. Not only did it have an awesome cast of voices, they let play as each of those characters, having their voice come out of the player. Then, after enjoying the cast of Firefly, you're thrown back into the Rookie. It's completely idiotic and jarring. Why bother saying that the Rookie is the player, but then have the player be characters with personality?
When I heard Reach would have a silent protagonist, I groaned. And then I saw that the cover doesn't even have Noble 6 on it. Why bother making the character for single player campaign if he isn't even going to be on the front cover?

Because your character could look a number of different ways depending on how you designed him. I don't know how that would work.

Also he isn't silent, but he dosen't talk that much either.

I immediately had to think of GTA III and GTA: Vice City. They went from a mute, nameless hero to Tommy Vercetti. And I loved it.

Sturmdolch:

AcacianLeaves:

And this, my good man, is why I felt that anyone who called Bioshock one of the greatest storytelling experiences in gaming was off their damn rocker.

... Because he'd just talk to himself? Or what? I mean, he did in the opening sequence, but after, he picks up a one-way radio transmitting device that gives him directions.

He's a character that has nothing to say about the strange setting he finds himself in after a completely random plane crash? He has nothing to say when he feels compelled to inject himself with a lightning shot. He has nothing to say when he's led around by Atlas. He has nothing to say to Fontaine, Dr. Tenenbaum, or maybe Andrew Ryan when all is revealed?

The protagonist has nothing to say about any of the events in the story, and thus the story fails on every level. Don't get me wrong, it's a great game that's a lot of fun and the setting is fantastic, but the actual meat of the story fails due to the silent protagonist.

He didn't need a lot of lines, but keeping him quiet except for a few lines in the opening sequence was a failure on the part of the developers. It looks like they'll be fixing that with Infinite.

Even if they had made Samus silent in this one, her turning into a child at the first sign of Ridley is freaking ridiculous. I refuse to believe that "The Hunter" that voiceless, faceless, force of nature that the Space Pirates feared like it was the bloody apocalypse is terrified, to the point of curling up into a fetal position, of a lousy space dragon, especially since she had already kicked the crap out of it twice, at minimum, by now.

Gordon isn't a true silent-protagonist--while we do know he's quiet, the other characters act as if he speaks, (No one's going around asking if his tongue's been cut out, they just note that he doesn't talk much)--the point is, we're supposed to imagine what he's saying, thereby heightening the immersion.

Ryokai:
Gordon isn't a true silent-protagonist--while we do know he's quiet, the other characters act as if he speaks, (No one's going around asking if his tongue's been cut out, they just note that he doesn't talk much)--the point is, we're supposed to imagine what he's saying, thereby heightening the immersion.

QFT, as they say.

There is one related subject.
In adventure and roleplay games, when I select a dialogue option, I don't want to hear my character say what I just selected. I've obviously just read it, so it's redundant.
Any opinions about that?

GoWithDAFro:
Was I the only one expecting to see a Jak 2 reference? The voice he was given was unexpected, but it worked quite well. The world around him changed drastically, so Jak himself changed accordingly. It even made sense that he had such a dark personality after being tortured for 2 years.

I was expecting him to bring up Jak also. Totally agree with you, the voice he got really worked out. Glad to see I wasn't the only one thinking that.

KDR_11k:
I think Metroid is generally better the less talking there is. The games just aren't designed in a way where a story makes sense and any attempt to alter the game to make it able to contain stories just makes it less fun. I liked Prime 1 way better than Prime 3, mostly due to the different level structure that the lack of talking allows Prime 1 to have. There's no objectives barked by any officers, just you and a whole bunch of things that need a sample of your plasma beam.

I guess I agree with this but that's because I had little faith in whoever to write a great script and give her a great personality. Yes, for a hero that was already perfect to me I have high standards for her.

Super Metroid had a decent story, the little info they go into at the beginning worked well and the rest was told by the animation. To me that was already perfect, that's what Metroid was known for and I believe that should be the future of gaming because I find it way more immersive.

HermantheGerman:

QFT, as they say.

There is one related subject.
In adventure and roleplay games, when I select a dialogue option, I don't want to hear my character say what I just selected. I've obviously just read it, so it's redundant.
Any opinions about that?

Well, I like how Mass Effect did it. You chose from options of Short Phrases that summed up what you wanted, then your character said an entire sentence that said it.

If you're using dialogue options that are whole sentences, do what Fallout and Oblivion did--have your character not actually say anything.

MonkeyPunch:
Totally OT and the link has probably been made by someone before... but seeing those two images one after the other in that article...

Yahtzee Freeman? Uncanny.
image

omg the resemblance!! all he needs is a thicker goatee with the soul patch connected to it.

JuryNelson:

GeneticallyModifiedDucks:
Damn, I really need to get around to playing Saint's Row 2 one of the these days.

It really is that fun.

just saying, the protagonist in Saints Row 1 actually spoke, but he only had one line for each of the 3 final missions, and then I think one or two lines on the end cut-scene.

Why is everyone blaming Team Ninja for screwing up?
Not that I particulary like them, but Sakamoto himself was the one who just decided to give Samus a definite personality.
So yeah, THIS is how Samus has always been apparently, at least the creator himself says so now.
You just misunderstood the previous games.

From an interview with Sakamoto: (http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=263225)

Depicting the story of Samus Aran in this game was one of the most important game design concepts from the very beginning because before Other M I did not think about what kind of person Samus Aran was and how she thinks and her personality.
If many people have different ideas about what kind of person Samus is then there will be some problems about making the future franchise games. So with Other M I really wanted to determine and express what kind of human Samus Aran is so that we can really tell what kind of natural step she should be taking in the future.

That's right, her new personality will return in sequels.
R.I.P. Metroid

But to be fair, neither Sakamoto nor Team Ninja are to blame for the horrible English voice.
That's at least worth something I guess.

MonkeyPunch:
Totally OT and the link has probably been made by someone before... but seeing those two images one after the other in that article...

Yahtzee Freeman? Uncanny.
image

Soo...what you're saying is that if Valve ever DID decide to give Freeman a voice, they would choose Yahtzee?

mr_rubino:
There's one issue I have with silent protagonists.
I'm sure I'm not the only one who notices that the big "argument" people inevitably use for JRPG characters is "It's supposed to be youuuuuuuuu. Youuuuuuuuu're supposed to put youuuuurself in the character's place."

This is my thought as well, and I love that it was brought up in this article (and, amazingly, actually pinned on a game that gets so much praise) I get that in many silent prot games you are supposed to be the protagonist, but that just doesn't work when the game world and, more importantly, the character you are playing as are so defined. I'm sorry but the character I'm playing as can't "be me" and be someone else at the same time. As the article says, particularly in relation to HL2, Gordon Freeman is not an example of a good silent protagonist.

Staskala:
Why is everyone blaming Team Ninja for screwing up?
Not that I particulary like them, but Sakamoto himself was the one who just decided to give Samus a definite personality.
So yeah, THIS is how Samus has always been apparently, at least the creator himself says so now.
You just misunderstood the previous games.

From an interview with Sakamoto: (http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=263225)

You mean those made by Retro or those where Samus personality was expressed by her actions?

Staskala:

Depicting the story of Samus Aran in this game was one of the most important game design concepts from the very beginning because before Other M I did not think about what kind of person Samus Aran was and how she thinks and her personality.
If many people have different ideas about what kind of person Samus is then there will be some problems about making the future franchise games. So with Other M I really wanted to determine and express what kind of human Samus Aran is so that we can really tell what kind of natural step she should be taking in the future.

That's right, her new personality will return in sequels.
R.I.P. Metroid

But to be fair, neither Sakamoto nor Team Ninja are to blame for the horrible English voice.
That's at least worth something I guess.

Yeah, and the new edits of the old Star Wars movies are what Lucas meant to do in the first place.

If they didn't let her talk, the media would go into a frenzy about sex discrimination.

MR.Spartacus:
So Gordon Freeman is like Gromit with a pry-bar fetish?

No, he's like Chuck Norris in a geek form!
(cookie for reference!)

Mrr...glad that he brought in Saints Row 1 in this. The protagonist for that game (named "Playa", was etched with hilarity with all the odd things that he didn't say, and just made a face at. When I realized what he was from the first game, I did feel just the tiniest bit disappointed that they couldn't make him/her silent in Saints Row 2, but I understood due to the fact that s/he was now the boss of the gang.

Plus I laughed really hard once when I passed a few Ronin thugs and heard one mutter "You were better when you kept your mouth shut" or something very close to that.

Gordon Freeman is pretty much the self-explanatory silent protagonist, and he'd probably share the same looks that the guy did in Saints Row 1, the instant 'reaction' that would keep people in the conversation...

...so what was I going to go with this....Silent Protagonists are kewl, and when you have to give them voices, actually give a good reason, like the "Playa" of Saints Row 1 is now "Boss" for the 2nd.

Painkiller had cinematics. And there were even some admirable moments involving Lucifer and Alastor in them.

When playing through Half Life 2 for the uncounted time. I still have the impression of Gordon actually speaking ... no really, everyone reacts like he talks etc. Maybe the point is for you to come up with your own dialouge.

Just saying... and Ben Croshaw Freeman?
I think our dear Croshaw have something to explain.

Queen Michael:

MR.Spartacus:
So Gordon Freeman is like Gromit with a pry-bar fetish?

No, he's like Chuck Norris in a geek form!
(cookie for reference!)

#Fight for freedom
with a brainstorm#
#Gordon Freeman saved my life#

To be honest, I always imagined that Gordon Freeman and Link are mute (although the fact that Link speaks in Wind Waker throws that theory out the window). I don't know, I just thought that they can't speak at all, period.

I think Samus was one of the rare Nintendo characters where a voice was appropriate. That said, it does kind of take away from the mystique of the character if she talks too much. For future games, I think Samus should be silent most of the time and only speak on rare ocassions. That way, her words would have a greater impact.

Is "pet brick" a Father Ted reference I wonder?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speed_3

I think he's right. Giving a silent protagonist a voice isn't bad. It can make the game even better, you just have to do it right. For example, Snake used to be silent in metal gear 1 and 2 but the they gave him a voice in mgs1. I don't think there are many people who complain about that decision.

Lol. The Painkiller that I downloaded really didn't have any cinematics. Whoever put it on the internet cut them out. I like it that way.

I too dislike the abuse of voice acting in some games. It was somewhat better in the 8-bit era to have to use your imagination with characters, or rely on terribly written text that was often misspelled. What is sometimes annoying is when you can't turn on subtitles, and then everyone in the game starts to whisper during a crucial point in the story. You can't hear what they are saying, you aren't sure who is saying them, and then you get stuck having to climb the dialogue tree in the dark. It would be like being a blind koala being guided by a bat to avoid stepping on the wrong branch and falling out of the tree and breaking your ass.
A good example of character dialog was Ray Liotta in GTA:VC. They didn't give him some overly dramatic purpose, just a sociopath trying to make some money and get revenge. He'd throw out a decent one-liner at the end of cut scenes, giving enough personality to the character to suit the need without having him dominate the audio space. We don't need a main character who likes to pontificate whenever they have a free moment between dodging bullets to tell us what is on their mind at the time. Just trudge your way through the cut scene, keep your mouth shut and let me play the game without hanging on my shoulder, giving me your running commentary like some third-rate sports announcer.

The problem with other M is they destroyed the character samus is meant to be a strong loner anything els is daft and forcing a Freudian excuse is also stupid.

Talcon:
I know EXACTLY what scene you're talking about, and damn did I love it. Wasn't my FAVORITE scene, but I did appreciate the British accent I gave my character

"Do you know where the Sons of Samedi stash is?"

"Well... no..."

"Well shut the fuck up then"

or another good one

"For fuck's sake, die!!"

I bought that game 'cause you recommended it, Yahtzee. I got the shitty watered down Steam version, but despite all the frustrating bugs, I still put it down as one of the best stories in a game. The Brotherhood arc was probably the most emotionally grabbing for me

the steam version has its pros this for example

http://community.saintsrow.com/forums/topic/43953

Yahtzee Croshaw:
A similar problem occurs even if the game occasionally cuts to third person but everyone is wearing expressionless helmets so you can't see their lips moving. This is incidentally a problem I'm having with Halo:Reach.

Seriously? I thought there was NO chance you'd play Halo: Reach after you seemed to hate Halo 3 so much. Does this mean we can expect a review? I hope so! Of course, I know you'll hate it, or at least I expect it, but I don't care, here's hoping to a Reach Review

snowman6251:
I'm curious as to who Yahtzee would have voice Gordon Freeman in the event he begins to speak.

Half-Life games are when I do my absolutely horrendous Malcolm Tucker impersonation. It tickles me to imagine the cast saying and doing all of that stuff, and Gordon berating them with baroque and dirty language with a Scottish accent.

I actually prefer well-voiced characters as opposed to mutes. It makes me feel more connected to the character than a floating gun(silent FPS).
I do agree with how they made the writing terrible for Other M, just seeing one of those cutscenes caused me to forget about picking up the game.

AcacianLeaves:

He's a character that has nothing to say about the strange setting he finds himself in after a completely random plane crash? He has nothing to say when he feels compelled to inject himself with a lightning shot. He has nothing to say when he's led around by Atlas. He has nothing to say to Fontaine, Dr. Tenenbaum, or maybe Andrew Ryan when all is revealed?

The protagonist has nothing to say about any of the events in the story, and thus the story fails on every level. Don't get me wrong, it's a great game that's a lot of fun and the setting is fantastic, but the actual meat of the story fails due to the silent protagonist.

He didn't need a lot of lines, but keeping him quiet except for a few lines in the opening sequence was a failure on the part of the developers. It looks like they'll be fixing that with Infinite.

Yeah, I'm going to have to agree with you on the lightning shot part. I mean, I would have understood it more if Atlas had kindly asked him to inject himself. But the camera just jerks away and he jabs himself with it. I'm pretty sure that's not the first thing you should be doing when you find yourself in an undersea city where some guy just tried to kill you.

And I'll also agree with your other points. The story could have been better if he had a voice in some parts, as long as he's not talking to himself the whole time. Narration might have worked, too. But the game did work without a voice and I hardly noticed except for some jarring parts, i.e. any time you interact with characters.

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