Idle Chatter Builds Character

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Spec Ops: The Line is also a good academic study for those who care about game writing, with Fourth-wall breaking sequences, character arcs, and the idle chatter you hear from the soldiers before you're going to kill them.

Some silent protagonists work and others don't. Link and Gordon Freeman are probably the foremost examples of ones that do work, in different ways. For Link we have the benefit of seeing his face emote and his body language. For Freeman we rely on interactions and dialogue with other characters in the game world to characterise him, and they do form a subtle personality.

The Rogue Wolf:

Dastardly:
What we say can reveal facts about the world around us. How we say it reveals who we are in that world. Too much dialogue is written from a "what" standpoint rather than "how."

As to the voice acting... I think the cardinal sin is recording lines in a vacuum, devoid of context. I can't tell you how disheartening it is to be playing an otherwise great game, but hear a botched exchange like:

"That guy is never on time."
"I know, it's like he wants to get fired."

And all you're left thinking is, given the context, it's obviously meant to go, "I know, it's like he wants to get fired." And it becomes obvious that the voice actor was working with half the script.

So much truth to this. It really shows sometimes, too, even with a single voice actor. Case in point: Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth. There were times where the main character would be in some mind-twistingly bizarre situation and would comment on something like he was making a snack recommendation to someone he didn't really like... but other times, there was a real sense of confusion and fear being conveyed. It was clear that the voice actor was actually making an effort but hadn't been given clear context on all of the lines.

Giving voice actors context and letting them play off of each other always helps, especially when the actors are good at what they do. Disney tends to grasp this.

This is one of the reasons why I'm really looking forward to BioShock Infinite.

ciancon:
At least Samuel had some kind of personality in Dishonored.

Meanwhile all the guards have died of lung cancer from all the cigar's they've been having....

I liked Samuel as a character. Probably the only one who seemed "real."

I didn't understand all the smoking either, I'm pretty certain I either heard or read something in game that said people who smoke succumb to the plague faster than those who don't which really doesn't fit with what we see. If it had helped prevent the spread then it would make more sense.

Perhaps I'm remembering wrong though.

I'm definitely enjoying my current playthrough of the Thief series (maybe I'll get Thief 3 instead of Dishonored), they're definitely a breath of fresh air simply due to the subtle and infrequent dialog of Garret, even simple stuff like "It's a long way down..." makes him incredibly likable and it definitely surprises me that such a masterful game in storytelling came from the late 90's, heck, not even many modern games do that anymore, the last FPS were it had a likable character speaking maybe was Prey with Tommy Domasi expressing his concerns about his girlfriend, his doubts about the spiritual world and the fucked up situation he's in.

A shame the AI is very weak for a game trying to do more.

I prefer Corvo as a silent protagonist. I can play him as entirely different types of characters without having to bother with a potentially contradictory voice persona. I also think it works better for a character who is never seen in the third person.

The voice acting in Dishonored struck me as rather well done. It comes across to me as subtle, intelligent, and measured--not at all dull. I don't need an exaggerated and oversimplified delivery to tell me how to react to an in-game situation. The actor's performance in the peeping scene is fine, and he's even better on one of the audio logs when he's discussing human experimentation. No, there's no Benny, but the game isn't as lighthearted as the Thief series, either, and it does have The Heart. Perhaps her dialogue could have been expanded even further, but I really enjoyed the fact that players have to remember to use it. Player agency matters on multiple levels of gameplay, which I appreciate.

As far as Gordon Freeman goes; I like consider the HEV Suit commentary as being Gordon's admittedly feminine, emotionless voice.

Think of it: youngest graduate from MIT, barely out of university and already running ground breaking physics experiments, and impervious to any kind of social interaction. The man sounds pretty damned ASD to me.

Gabanuka:
I still thing Mass effect nailed the line between dialogue for exposition and dialogue for characters sake.

One of my favourite things to do after a mission in those games was "do my rounds" and talk to everyone to see what they had to say.

Jeah, i did the same. After every mission there was the obligatory talkshow :)

For me Shepard was the perfect balance between a character on his own and as a player-avatar. Specially the whole moral/choice dilema one had.
When i had to fell the decision at Virmire in ME1 the first time i was sitting infront of my screen for a few minutes thinking "Fuck, i'm screwed, what to do.. what to do..". But sometimes you heard stuff from your chosen backstory or other people who knew/know you, so you could explore the person you were playin' by yourself.

Shepard is the new Gordon Freeman.

I think the lack of speech for Corvo probably has something to do with freedom of action you are given for completing the game. It would be exceedingly difficult to write lines for the guy that would still make sense regardless of whether he'd been sneaky pacifist who showed mercy on all his targets or a raging berserker who kicked in the front door and murdered everyone who moved, including helpless civilians.

You'd have to record like 3 or 4 versions of each line of his dialogue to cover each of the different emergent personalities he could have based on your actions. That's a lot of work and money to do, it's a lot easier to just make him silent and let the player imagine an appropriate response that fits their play style.

ciancon:
At least Samuel had some kind of personality in Dishonored.

Meanwhile all the guards have died of lung cancer from all the cigar's they've been having....

I was thinking: It's very true that the guards in Thief 2 had far more personality. Still, the executions in Dishonored were far more brutal. If the guards in Dishonored had more personality, I wonder if I'd still feel comfortable sneaking up on them and shoving a sword through their necks, instead of just bashing them with my sword/blackjack and watching them fall over.

Altered Nova:
I think the lack of speech for Corvo probably has something to do with freedom of action you are given for completing the game. It would be exceedingly difficult to write lines for the guy that would still make sense regardless of whether he'd been sneaky pacifist who showed mercy on all his targets or a raging berserker who kicked in the front door and murdered everyone who moved, including helpless civilians.

You'd have to record like 3 or 4 versions of each line of his dialogue to cover each of the different emergent personalities he could have based on your actions. That's a lot of work and money to do, it's a lot easier to just make him silent and let the player imagine an appropriate response that fits their play style.

I preferred to think of him as conflicted. Thinking about it that way, just about anything he said would have made sense. I must admit though, it would have been pretty cool to have his side comments vary depending on which ending he's headed towards.

good lord

I truly did not notice any of this in my 3 consecutive playthroughs and even now that it was pointed out I don't care in the slightest.

Dishonored is a splendid piece of gaming. That it happens to have subpar writing and delivery doesn't even count as a blemish.

Especially since the world-building is excellent, and that is all the character a good game needs. You spend 90% of the time running (or in this case Blinking) around in the world, every time. It has to be a good one for that. All the talking just gets in the way. Even in games where the dialogue matters one tends to skip the familiar bits really quickly.

A silent protagonist isn't the problem, the problem is everyone else talking. Dialogue? How original. What's next, games set in the real world with realistic weapons and histor- oh you gotta be kidding me! Really?

Maybe every Dialogue Writer should have to DM a few sessions of D&D with a proper RP group to get the hang of how to drop plot points in actual conversation. Sure, you can be, as Yahtzee put it, A rhino on a sled. But if you're playing with a group who wants a half-decent experience, they're going to get quite annoyed that you're just saying "ALSO DID I MENTION THERE'S AN OLD HAUNTED BUILDING AND I WANT YOU TO GO KILL THINGS."

Maybe something more along the lines of;
"Around here? Nothing's really been happening much. The crops have been growing a bit slow of late and people have been steering clear of the Old Quarter. Word is, there's a haunted house around there. Sure would explain my Farm Tools ending up buried in the wood of my house. That or my wife's angry again."

INDEED, I BELIEVE SO

...I hope that goes in the bad gaming dialogue hall of fame, along with "I said come in, don't stand there!" from STALKER.

This is why Toon Link from Wind Walker works so well. He never says a word except for "come on" and "yay" but the facial expressions he does pretty much show his emotions and that's why he is the best Link with most built in character.

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