Silent protagonists are only good in certain situations in role playing games

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I find that a silent protagonist only works for me from a first person perspective, it didn't used to be that way, but after Mass Effect, that is how I feel. Games like Skyrim, it works because the camera won't pan over to your character while having a discussion, I mean what the hell is the point of that when your character won't show an emotion or respond verbally? It is in fact what I hated about KOTOR (that and Mission Vao).

Of course the opposite is true as well, fully voiced would not be good in first person.

What do you guys think?

For me: do you want your main character to have pre-defined traits or history? You can voice them. Ex: Adam Jensen, Commander Shepard.
Do you want a total blank slate? Make it a silent protagonist. Anytime you introduce a voice, you give a character personality, whether intentionally or not.

RedEyesBlackGamer:
For me: do you want your main character to have pre-defined traits or history? Voice them. Ex: Adam Jensen, Commander Shepard.
Do you want a total blank slate? Make it a silent protagonist. Anytime you introduce a voice, you give a character personality, whether intentionally or not.

Basically this. Unvoiced = more freedom for player-defined character traits, voiced = better characterization for writer-defined character traits.

OT: I think that voiced characters in general are not necessarily a good thing. Not convinced that making developers pay for dialogue by the line is a recipe for a good game.

When you yourself ARE the character -> Voiceless.

Examples: The Warden, The Courier, The Lone Wanderer

When you pick up the role of a character with an established background and personality -> Voiced.

Examples: Shepard, Hawke, JC Denton

I disagree, to an extent. Sure, ME did a great job of giving the game this 'cinematic feel', and as neat as that was... that's not really what I look for in all games. I liked the older approach much better, where it was mostly text and only some lines were voiced. You can give the players a hell of a lot more options and dialogue branches when the story isn't constrained by an audio budget. Also, I find that JRPGs are a hell of a lot more tolerable when there is no voice acting, but that's just my preference.

Still, that said, some games it works better for others. I couldn't really envision playing a FPS or any other action oriented game these days without audio, though I suppose it's possible. I think with RPGs, less voice acting is better overall.

Kahunaburger:

RedEyesBlackGamer:
For me: do you want your main character to have pre-defined traits or history? Voice them. Ex: Adam Jensen, Commander Shepard.
Do you want a total blank slate? Make it a silent protagonist. Anytime you introduce a voice, you give a character personality, whether intentionally or not.

Basically this. Unvoiced = more freedom for player-defined character traits, voiced = better characterization for writer-defined character traits.

OT: I think that voiced characters in general are not necessarily a good thing. Not convinced that making developers pay for dialogue by the line is a recipe for a good game.

aside form having more "options" I dont think one is objectivly better than the other, personal preference is part of it

being voiced means they are somthing tangible, I can get attatched too, but thats not to say I dont get attatched to my silent charachters, as long as they arnt black holes (liek skyrim.oblivion) even if they are silent, I still need somthing to work with

mattttherman3:
I find that a silent protagonist only works for me from a first person perspective, it didn't used to be that way, but after Mass Effect, that is how I feel. Games like Skyrim, it works because the camera won't pan over to your character while having a discussion, I mean what the hell is the point of that when your character won't show an emotion or respond verbally? It is in fact what I hated about KOTOR (that and Mission Vao).

Of course the opposite is true as well, fully voiced would not be good in first person.

What do you guys think?

I can kinda see how that works, first person does tend to work better with protagonists that don't speak up much, third person works better when the character talks all the time.

For example:

Bioshock 1/2: Silent protagonist, but it works because he's alone and doesn't have any buddies to talk to, not to mention Big Daddies have their voicebox ripped out.

Halo: It's a good balance of talking in cut scenes, but mostly silent in gameplay.

I do think that FPS games with a lot of character interaction could probably benefit from a voiced protagonist. For example: Gordon Freeman from Half Life 2 is one that I wish were voiced, there are a lot of awkward moments where Alyx just gushes her heart out to Gordon but he just stands there dumbly and doesn't say a word.

RedEyesBlackGamer:
For me: do you want your main character to have pre-defined traits or history? You can voice them. Ex: Adam Jensen, Commander Shepard.
Do you want a total blank slate? Make it a silent protagonist. Anytime you introduce a voice, you give a character personality, whether intentionally or not.

Pretty much this. Unless the game is so old/low budget as to not be able to afford voice-acting, this is ideally how it should work, and indeed, when does this way it usually works best.

In any game other than an rpg and some horror games (where them talking is breaking tension and tossing me out of the role) I prefer voiced. For an rpg however:

RedEyesBlackGamer:
For me: do you want your main character to have pre-defined traits or history? You can voice them. Ex: Adam Jensen, Commander Shepard.
Do you want a total blank slate? Make it a silent protagonist. Anytime you introduce a voice, you give a character personality, whether intentionally or not.

I know you've already been quoted several times but pretty much this^

I don't need to see my character reacting or hear their voice, I fill that in myself.

I think both systems have pros and cons and either can be used in situations were you are the character or just play a character.

Well we can read into the silent protag's personality through his/hers actions.
And a blank slate can be good, we can fill in the blank spaces with our imagination.

Know what would be absolutely hillarious?

A character who isn't a silent protagonist, but everybody treats him like one.

Battleaxx90:
Know what would be absolutely hillarious?

A character who isn't a silent protagonist, but everybody treats him like one.

so like Shep but treated like Gordon?

interesting

I'm all for voiced protagonists. At least if the other characters are voiced.

I understand the downsides. It costs more, it gives you less control over your character and whatever else.

However, I will happily put up with that if it means the conversations look and sound like actual conversations. Y'know, as opposed to me picking from a list while my mighty hero of the land stares into the middle distance with all the expressiveness of a depressed parking meter.

That style of "silent dialogue" makes my character feel completely separate from the rest of the setting.

Battleaxx90:
Know what would be absolutely hillarious?

A character who isn't a silent protagonist, but everybody treats him like one.

random guy: "hey! solder! over here!"
Solder: "oh thank god! I just escaped a god damn warzone! you alive?!"
Random guy: "the aliens killed half our squad! We've been holding the base..."
Solder: "do have any Idea whats going on?"
Random guy: "listen theyve been hiting us with orbital strikes...weve got some AA guns but they aren't functional"
Solder: "thats not what I-...look I just want to know-"
Radnom guy: "we need somone to climb the towers and reactivate the guns...here, take this, repair kit"
Solder: "what? man I just came from the godman warzone! Im exhasted"
Random guy: "theres aliens bugs swarming around...be careful"
Solder: "-and bleeding...why cant somone else do it?"
Random guy: "radio us where youre done and we'll give those aliens ships HELL!...good luck solder!" *walks off*
Solder: "hey! come back!...whats going on?!.......*assholes*"

A silent protagonist allows the player to project themselves into the narrative, same as how a book written in the first person with only limited description of the pro-T' enables a person to fantastically insert themselves into the story.

A friend of mine loved GTA 3 over the later installments of the franchise (itinerations?) of the game for that very reason.

Saying that though, if a character has written dialouge that simply isn't voice-acted then I'd say that does not mean that they're a silent protagonist. The Chosen from Fallout 2, for example, is not a silent protagonist as he or she will wax lyrical on all manner of obscure topics to the NPCs.

I think it's a bit disingenuous to say one approach is superior than the other; they just produce different results.

Bertylicious:
A silent protagonist allows the player to project themselves into the narrative, same as how a book written in the first person with only limited description of the pro-T' enables a person to fantastically insert themselves into the story.

A friend of mine loved GTA 3 over the later installments of the franchise (itinerations?) of the game for that very reason.

Saying that though, if a character has written dialouge that simply isn't voice-acted then I'd say that does not mean that they're a silent protagonist. The Chosen from Fallout 2, for example, is not a silent protagonist as he or she will wax lyrical on all manner of obscure topics to the NPCs.

I think it's a bit disingenuous to say one approach is superior than the other; they just produce different results.

I dont mind "silent" protagonsit in RPG's (but yeah..they arnt really silent)

I dont like them in other games..however, because most of the time..to me it makes them beyond boring, I cant project myself onto a brown hair 30-somthing guy, if he talks however Ive got somthing tangible there to allow me to sympathise

Vault101:

Battleaxx90:
Know what would be absolutely hillarious?

A character who isn't a silent protagonist, but everybody treats him like one.

random guy: "hey! solder! over here!"
Solder: "oh thank god! I just escaped a god damn warzone! you alive?!"
Random guy: "the aliens killed half our squad! We've been holding the base..."
Solder: "do have any Idea whats going on?"
Random guy: "listen theyve been hiting us with orbital strikes...weve got some AA guns but they aren't functional"
Solder: "thats not what I-...look I just want to know-"
Radnom guy: "we need somone to climb the towers and reactivate the guns...here, take this, repair kit"
Solder: "what? man I just came from the godman warzone! Im exhasted"
Random guy: "theres aliens bugs swarming around...be careful"
Solder: "-and bleeding...why cant somone else do it?"
Random guy: "radio us where youre done and we'll give those aliens ships HELL!...good luck solder!" *walks off*
Solder: "hey! come back!...whats going on?!.......*assholes*"

I like that idea, but it seems like it might be difficult to put a reverse shyamalan like that into a games narrative from the beginning without it becoming really stale.

Unless....

What if you had a small group of characters, al la Battlefield Bad Company, but they are treated as silent protagonists by the entity setting the objectives? That might work and be really funny.

Bertylicious:

Vault101:

Battleaxx90:
Know what would be absolutely hillarious?

A character who isn't a silent protagonist, but everybody treats him like one.

random guy: "hey! solder! over here!"
Solder: "oh thank god! I just escaped a god damn warzone! you alive?!"
Random guy: "the aliens killed half our squad! We've been holding the base..."
Solder: "do have any Idea whats going on?"
Random guy: "listen theyve been hiting us with orbital strikes...weve got some AA guns but they aren't functional"
Solder: "thats not what I-...look I just want to know-"
Radnom guy: "we need somone to climb the towers and reactivate the guns...here, take this, repair kit"
Solder: "what? man I just came from the godman warzone! Im exhasted"
Random guy: "theres aliens bugs swarming around...be careful"
Solder: "-and bleeding...why cant somone else do it?"
Random guy: "radio us where youre done and we'll give those aliens ships HELL!...good luck solder!" *walks off*
Solder: "hey! come back!...whats going on?!.......*assholes*"

I like that idea, but it seems like it might be difficult to put a reverse shyamalan like that into a games narrative from the beginning without it becoming really stale.

Unless....

What if you had a small group of characters, al la Battlefield Bad Company, but they are treated as silent protagonists by the entity setting the objectives? That might work and be really funny.

New take on Voice With An Internet Connection: The guider/giver of objectives is not on your side, and is using some power or circumstances to essentially extort you and your friendlies into doing their bidding.

The super-cliche, elite space marines in powered armor have their powered armor hacked into and hijacked by a third party, and must do his/her/their bidding, or have their air supply in their armor be shut off and be suffocated to death.

Vault101:

Battleaxx90:
Know what would be absolutely hillarious?

A character who isn't a silent protagonist, but everybody treats him like one.

random guy: "hey! solder! over here!"
Solder: "oh thank god! I just escaped a god damn warzone! you alive?!"
Random guy: "the aliens killed half our squad! We've been holding the base..."
Solder: "do have any Idea whats going on?"
Random guy: "listen theyve been hiting us with orbital strikes...weve got some AA guns but they aren't functional"
Solder: "thats not what I-...look I just want to know-"
Radnom guy: "we need somone to climb the towers and reactivate the guns...here, take this, repair kit"
Solder: "what? man I just came from the godman warzone! Im exhasted"
Random guy: "theres aliens bugs swarming around...be careful"
Solder: "-and bleeding...why cant somone else do it?"
Random guy: "radio us where youre done and we'll give those aliens ships HELL!...good luck solder!" *walks off*
Solder: "hey! come back!...whats going on?!.......*assholes*"

Yeah, this right here is EXACTLY what I'm talking about!

Vault101:

Bertylicious:
blah blah blah

I dont mind "silent" protagonsit in RPG's (but yeah..they arnt really silent)

I dont like them in other games..however, because most of the time..to me it makes them beyond boring, I cant project myself onto a brown hair 30-somthing guy, if he talks however Ive got somthing tangible there to allow me to sympathise

Gordon Freeman is, basically, a Mary Sue. All Silent Protagonists are. The thing is though that Valve managed to pull it off with flair.

Dr. Breen's references to Freeman being "an average researcher, not some agent provacateur" help make you feel that yes, this is me kicking combine ass and not some sort of superhuman grunt. I found all the other little meta-swipes at their own approach endearing as well.

In contrast I find the silent approach of The Elder Scrolls distracting. I feel like I'm given choices to interact but am unable to do so. Frustrating.

I really dislike silent protagonists... In some games they come off as completely retarded, since they just stare at the other characters who talks and they're still in charge... wtf

it didnt bother me either way until dragon age origins. for some reason the lack of a voice for the main character really stood out

I think it can be appropriate in RPGs, but not always. It works in artsy games, but maybe thats just because thats the approach taken by every artsy game ever.

I don't think it works in any other genre. there is just no logical reason why my character is mute, so why is he/she?

captcha: the cat lady.
The cat lady definitely shouldn't be silent! her mad shrieking is so amusing...

I think the only disadvantage to voice acting is that you may not be able to put in as much dialogue as you wish due to time constraints/voice acting costs. Conversation branches could potentially be very time consuming for voice acting, but using just text it's a lot easier, and you can make more, which can lead to a more interactive, immersive world and a better understanding of the game lore.

I am fine with unvoiced protagonists in games played in first person or older ones where everything is text based. However if everyone ELSE has a voice, and the game is meant to be cinematic like say...Dragon Age. It just feels horribly out of place to me to have no voice. I couldn't stand every time something epic was happening in a cutscene in Dragon Age: Origins and my character just stood around with this doofus look on his face, never saying anything
I know some people are big on it, but for me, if everyone else has a voice and it is third person, I generally want one too.

Shocksplicer:
I think it can be appropriate in RPGs, but not always. It works in artsy games, but maybe thats just because thats the approach taken by every artsy game ever.

I don't think it works in any other genre. there is just no logical reason why my character is mute, so why is he/she?

captcha: the cat lady.
The cat lady definitely shouldn't be silent! her mad shrieking is so amusing...

Why do they have to talk? Why can't we just leave what is to be said up to interpretation ala Zelda?

I feel that if you're going for a first person game you almost have to have a silent protagonist or not an outspoken one, it's weird when for example you see the demo of bioshock infinite, the girl is trying to help the horse, and the guy your protagonist says something in the vein of "just let it die, that's what horses do" or something like that, it's jarring if it doesnt reflect your opinion, you can't relate, and if you're a girl and your first person character is a dude it's also hard to relate by that very fact.

so unless there is a certain disconnect to the character, like in third person games (only a change in perspective, but it's all mental) you can accept that nathan drake is kind of a douce sometimes, or that ezio is religious or whatever, because they're not "you", they're not someone you can project yourself on even if you can relate to them.

In my opinion if you're doing a voiced protagonist, have options, since they are sorta representing you, have some different voices, male and female, and some dialog choices, sure it's a lot more complex but theres something about voiced first person protagonists that I just don't think works a lot of the time.

another solution might be to Adam Jensen the game, who talks in cutscenes and dialog exchange, but most often in third person, which creates that disconnect that you otherwise don't get in first person only games.

I think it's mostly a discussion about player agency and a clear seperation from you and the character you're playing as.

FatalFox:
snip

same goes for third person games, when it's third person, unless it's all text and dialog boxes, it's kind of jarring to play a silent protagonist because of that disconnect, and it feels more like you're only kinda controlling a emotionless puppet who just stands there awkwardly while characters around you are having a conversation.

I like how Demons souls and Dark souls did it, your character was silent, and you didn't respond with anything other than a "yes" or "no". While the player didn't say a word, it wasnt very jarring because your actions speak for themselves, your animations and actions create your personality, even though you're always percieved the same way.

plus there were no real dialog cutscenes or crafted story moments that required social interactions from the player, it was just your avatar and nothing more, not too different from first person silent protagonists.

It all depends on what story structure you're going for, are you going to have an epic story like for example mass effect with a lot of conversation? are you gonna have the actions speak for themselves in a gameplay pure story like half life or dark souls? or kind of a mixture a la skyrim. Taking broad strokes here of course.

In my opinion the weird mix is what you get with like crysis 2, far cry 2, and on the other side of the fence the darkness (1-2), and bioshock:infinite from the looks of it.

different folks different strokes I suppose
I hated the Gordon Freeman as a silent protagonist, not as a character since I know not a single bit what he's actually like XD

I liked the voiced protagonist of Bulletstorm and Mirror's Edge just to name a few

I generally dislike silent protagonists whey they don't respond to anything the characters ingame say or do it just breaks immersion for me , big time!

silent protagonists like with Breath of Fire 3 + 4 or like in Skyrim/Fallout 3 etc is completely okay with me but a voiced protagonist is always better for immersion in stories
at least that is my opinion ^^

SajuukKhar:

Battleaxx90:
Know what would be absolutely hillarious?

A character who isn't a silent protagonist, but everybody treats him like one.

so like Shep but treated like Gordon?

interesting

nope Gordon Freeman is the opposite. He is silent but everyone treats him like he's not they even ask him stuff sometimes but it's either stuff he doesn't has to answer or they give the answer themselves

It comes down to presentation and writing quality. New Vegas doesn't need a voiced protagonist, because the game emphasizes player customization to such an extent that voicing the character is unfeasible, and because the writing quality makes up for the lack of voice.

I like silent protagonists if you can choose options for what they say, like Dragon Age. If they are silent but just never say anything I find it really strange, like Half Life. Everybody talks at you and Gordon just stands there silently, and they take his creepy silence as agreement.

For many of the reasons above I generally prefer silent. As an example, Dragon Age: Origins was so much better than Dragon Age 2.

I'd absolutely hate being conversationally voiced in a game like Skyrim.

Kahunaburger:

OT: I think that voiced characters in general are not necessarily a good thing. Not convinced that making developers pay for dialogue by the line is a recipe for a good game.

I can see where you're coming from, though, I feel that voiced dialogue most certainly does have a place in RPGs. I think for me, it comes down to what is appropriate within the context of the game, and what the team behind it wishes to achieve in terms of player-experience.

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