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Talking vs Silent protagonist

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by Randommerade, Dec 20, 2014.

  1. Randommerade


    May 29, 2014
    Which do you think is better for each game genre? Or which is better in general?

    If you don't know what I mean, I mean games like Dragon Quest, Skyrim, Fallout, Bioshock, where the protagonist of the game has no dialogue and only speaks through choices of the player.

    Sorry if this is in the wrong forum, I'm a little new here with posting to the forums.
  2. AcidArrow


    May 20, 2010
    It mostly depends on whether you want the main character to have a character of his own (hence the player is "playing" a character), or if you want to the player to be your main character.
  3. Kinos141


    Jun 22, 2011
    A talking protag means they have a personality, a la Metal Gear Solid or Tomb Raider. Most times, you can see their faces such as a thrid person shooter. So the game and gamer will have to play around the protag's personal belief system.

    A silent protag allows the player to put their own beliefs on the character, the player be the charater. However, they are still bound by the rules of the game. For instance, in Call of Duty, they player can be anti-war all they want, but you are going to be shooting lots of non-white Americans.
  4. renman3000


    Nov 7, 2011
    As with. It's creative matters, it is ultimately what works better. I imagine, given the correct circumstance, either could work. There are no concrete rules in subjective matters.
  5. TonyLi


    Apr 10, 2012
    Hi @Randommerade - Game Design is the perfect forum for this topic. You might find some interesting insights in an earlier thread on a similar topic regarding silent protagonists and voiceover. Some points made:

    - If recording voiceover, silent protagonists can be 1/3 as expensive. (Only NPC voices, versus NPC + male PC + female PC) Cost is a big consideration for indies.

    - Talking protagonists let you deliver PCs lines cinematically. The PC can speak (and a good voice actor can make even a dull line come alive), show facial expressions, and take actions such as leaning against a bar. It would look very awkward to do this with a silent PC.

    - Talking protagonists sometimes say unexpected things. This can be good (a pleasant surprise or insight) but usually bad (the player no longer feels like they "are" the character, but that they're just guiding someone else).

    I'll throw in my lot with @AcidArrow and @Kinos141. Here's my thinking:

    Prior to playing Mass Effect, I used to argue that first-person perspective was for exploration games and third-person was character-building games. (This is a generalization, of course. As renman3000 writes, there are no concrete rules.) After all, in first-person, you only see the world, so your focus is on the world. In third-person, your player character is front and center on the screen at all times.

    Now I'm leaning more toward the idea that first-person with a silent protagonist is useful in games that focus on how the player's choices affect the world, and third-person with voiceover is better for games where the player character changes physically (e.g., more muscular, better armor, developing a limp, etc.), has its own personality, or you're involving the character in cinematic exposition.

    EDIT: Adding another wrinkle: People are very empathetic. Guys reflexively cringe when watching those "funny" videos of a dad playing catch with his kid who, shall we say, doesn't quite have perfect aim. For games that focus on interpersonal interaction, perhaps a voiced PC is better because you can visually involve the PC when delivering lines. When you see the PC hugging, or punching, or otherwise physically interacting with an NPC, it hits us at a deeper level than abstract text dialogue.
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2014