Is silence truly golden?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by The Mighty Palm, May 5, 2015.

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How should the Protagonist of Role-Playing-Games talk?

  1. Completely Silent (Only speaks in yes, no, and charades)

    12.1%
  2. Semi-Silent (Has dialogue options but doesn't "speak" them)

    30.3%
  3. Neutrally talkative (80% of the dialogue they speak is up to you)

    42.4%
  4. Talks your ear off (Aside from a few choices, they behave how they want)

    27.3%
  5. Other

    21.2%
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. The Mighty Palm

    The Mighty Palm Resident Palm Tree Restaff

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    So lets be honest here... who like immersion? It may make me a mountain dew drinking doritos munching neckbeard, but I actually enjoy when I feel like I'm the main character. So this begs the question... how much dialogue is the right amount for games that

    offer(or even sell) immersion?

    I've made a poll, but I want to also hear detailed opinions as well. 

    Silent characters.

    One side of this argument is that these characters are boring, lazy, and generally not thought of too well. The other side of it is

    that a silent protagonist is the best way to immerse, as it allows you to be in complete control of your characters personality.

    Link from Zelda for example. My sister and I have always had different opinions on how we viewed Link's persona. She always

    viewed him as a ladies man, who was only doing the quest to save a pretty girl. I viewed him as a loser, who was socially awkward

    and didn't really know how to refuse a request, and that's why he blindly went headfirst into danger. And since Link doesn't talk...

    there's really infinite ways his personality could go. He could even be sinister if you had the imagination for it. 

    Silent Characters (with dialogue options)

    Then there was Skyward Sword, which gave us dialogue options. This kinda put a limit on the amount of variation ones imagination could have. Link still never spoke, but it was implied that he did. Because of this, we could more easily see what kind of disposition

    he would have. Was he Reckless? Heroic? Kind of a joker? This made for replay value, and some interesting dialogues as well. 

    Skyrim (Elder Scrolls) would be a better example though, as it had more options. Your character never REALLY spoke... but 

    they did say things. The question is... is that enough? Or can we do better?

    Characters who speak (when spoken to)

    More prevalent in visual novels than games. This technique is basically that when you choose a dialogue option, your character will say something along those lines. For example... "So... do you like fried eggs?" 

    Option A-I love fried eggs: Do I? I love fried eggs! Love em!... but what kind of weird question is that?

    Option B- I HATE fried eggs: Blaergh! I hate fried eggs! They're disgusting! Why would you bring up such an unpleasant thing!?

    (props to anyone who recognizes this :D )

    This gives the player something to read, and can add alot of replay value... but can it possibly take away from the role playing experience by limiting your imagination? 

    Namingway Syndrome (Mary sues with a few options)

    Think Fire Emblem Awakening, Rune Factory, or the earlier Final Fantasy games. 

    You are the character... but your personality is pretty neutral. This way you can kind of play around with the idea of what goes

    on behind the scenes, but the fact is that these characters are pretty much the same person every time. Robin(FEA) is always stuck

    in his/her books. The ideal strategist: cunning and calm. Suave and well-spoken. But is this you? Is it what you wanted to be EVERY

    time, in a game that is all about replaying and changing fate? What about Raguna (Rune Factory) He had *amnesia, so it's pretty

    safe to say that he could be you... but there were certain times when you would want to say something and it wasn't an option.

    (Like when my wife made me a bowl of Noodles in a sack lunch. I wanted to tell her that she was the best wife ever and that this was a stroke of pure genius... Raguna's response was "What kind of wife from what kind of world puts noodles in a sack lunch?!")

    Other? Innovations or unmentioned?

    Is there a better way? If so I wanna know all about it. As a writer, a game maker... and someone who's really really bored sitting up

    at 1:30am writing this instead of sleeping... I ask for your input.

    *Amnesia is by far the laziest most overdone excuse for a game to allow "you" to be the hero. I do not endorse this kind of writing.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2015
    #1
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  2. Yui

    Yui Rond's Personal Grammar Nazi Veteran

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    it really depends on the game for me, I love Neptune, and she talks ALOT, but her game is a comedy, and it makes sense

    BUT I also play alot of visual novels, and for example I love persona especially persona 4... and in it Yu is silent other then the choices, and that works perfectly

    it really depends on what type of story you have and which type fits your story... you can have a great silent protag (dragon quest, chrono trigger) or a great loud protag (Neptunia) it just depends on how you build your world!
     
    #2
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  3. The Mighty Palm

    The Mighty Palm Resident Palm Tree Restaff

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    Yes but I'm talking about games in which YOU are the main character. As in create a character, or games like Harvest Moon where the game is all about you and your decisions/life
     
    #3
  4. Yui

    Yui Rond's Personal Grammar Nazi Veteran

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    Ahh, well Rune Factory 4 is my all time favorite game, and when I was playing as the male avatar, some of the things he said really pissed me off but the overall charm of the game kept me from hating him too much...

    I guess for me I'd want the character to be more like Yu Narukami from Persona 4/Skyrim Dragonborn, because then I feel like I'm more in the drivers seat then just a spectator!
     
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  5. Kvich

    Kvich Veteran Veteran

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    It all boils down to the story of the game I think.

    Take FF7 for instance, if Cloud didn't speak or only spoke a little, the whole story wouldn't go so well, where Skyrim is a different type of RPG really, where the hero's dialogues come from the options in the dialogue window, like questions to ask etc.

    In my current project, the hero is talking like Cloud, because it fits the story, and I'm more working on making the player relate to the hero.
     
    #5
  6. Kes

    Kes Global Moderators Global Mod

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    This is a classic "...well, it all depends" question.  And what it depends on is what type of story you want to tell.  A silent character implies that there are a range of story-telling options that are closed off to you.

    I disagree with one of your basic contentions, however, and that is that dialogue limits the imagination of what this character is like.  Listen to people discussing a movie or a tv programme, and sometimes you wonder if they watched the same thing you did.  Yet it will have been full of dialogue.  That is because a well written story will be open to more than one interpretation.  The same is true of books and the theatre.  Debate can get very heated about characters and what they are like, what their motives are etc.  This goes counter to your arguments.  How we "read" a character will depend on who the reader is, their assumptions, cultural background, experience, personality, etc.  There is no such thing as a 'neutral' character, it does not exist.  All characters are 'read' through the eyes of a particular reader.

    Also, if we follow your logic through to its logical conclusion, it would be necessary for the player to choose a range of attributes e.g. gender and skin colour, so that they can be "immersed".  Yet in the examples you gave, that was not true.
     
    #6
  7. Prizmik

    Prizmik ликвидатор Veteran

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    The assumption at play, when saying that silent protagonists help immersion, would be that- the ability to impose a "character" upon your character is a benefit to immersion. In other words prayer agency begets emersion.


    This is false, because were it true it would not be possible to become immersed in books or films, which are media that largely precludes reader/viewer agency. Hence silent characters do nothing for immersion, they do something else though. It is an attempt, in some cases, to transport the player, as the player into the world. This is of course is silly, because the player is already a somebody in a world separate from the fictional game world, not only is transporting the player into the game world impossible, because their expression will always be limited (making the pc silent, is trying to get around this, by trying to allow any interaction be present with a vacuum left by the silence), but it also creates a greater disconnect between player and game world (think half life 2, its almost a joke that Freeman is silent, it is silly).


    Even though silent protagonists do nothing for immersion, player characters, that are already characters on their own terms, with their own organically integrated motives, personalities, motivations and histories, truly help the player internalize being a certain person in a certain place. You don't just think what would make sense or be fun to think for you as the player, but what would make sense for you as a character enmeshed in a world. It is roleplaying, you are playing the role of that character, it is a collaborative story building effort.


    The game Pathologic is the perfect example of this. In that game every dialogue option is not a bland generic choice, but something that that character would say, in his/her style and history. This is immersion.
     
    #7
  8. Dark Horseman

    Dark Horseman NPC Veteran

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    If the story is strong and doesn't focus on a singular character, original characters are best in my opinion. FFVI would have sucked with a silent protagonist.

    The "choose a choice and say dialogue" is the hardest to implement because of the sheer number of responses you'd need to program and account for. And many times, I just feel cheated when the dialogue feels it's always tailored for the heroic, altruistic response and gets the same reaction even if you chose "I'm a big idiot" or "to hell with that" response. I've never seen this done properly except in official WRPG games where they probably have a team of writers for this exact thing. I'd prefer no choice to one where the dialogue doesn't affect the interaction, or where one choice preference is simply always inferior.
     
    #8
  9. Caitlin

    Caitlin \(=^o^=)/ Kitten shall rule the world!!! Veteran

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    The whole silent thing only works with games that you can truly create with back story, give them a goal and a personality like in D&D, but as for other games... I do not like silence in my main characters.  I think one of the worst games had a silent hero, who was nameable and the characters had spoken voices.  Well, because you could give your character a name, they had to call him something... which wasn't the name you give for obvious reasons. It made the whole thing worthless.  I think that as long as the character has a voice, you could have options like choosing what he responds and a personality or even straight talking.  I think a lot of people forgot or never knew why old games have silent heroes and it wasn't for the reason that many people thought.  No, it wasn't for the 'so you could put yourself in the place of the hero', but rather for the 'we don't have enough memory and a talking hero would use more memory.'

    If anything, the silent hero should turn into the chose what your character says, with personalities, of course.  I think that's the best option, but me, I like to create characters, so I would like not use it.
     
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  10. hian

    hian Biggest Boss Veteran

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    I prefer a character with character, but whose characer is moldable by me, the player.

    I usually like to think of characters in games as being Links, Clouds, or Squalls.
    Link (Zelda) is the silent protagonist, who exists purely for the player to project him- or herself unto,
    Cloud (FF7 is "his own character", but he was written with several character-types in mind, meaning that
    the player still gets to decide, in a significant way, who Cloud is (or rather which of the Cloud types he is),
    and finally, Squall (FF8) is the character that is defined so strongly that players have little to no defining
    control over his persona.
    I usually include Squall in the list because, not only is he singularly defined, but he is a good example
    of how not to design a character - not because I necessarily disliked his personality or the writing,
    but because he was given dialogue choices like Cloud before him, but they were all essentially counter-acted
    by the narrative a second after you chose them if they weren't consistent with Squall's personality as defined by
    the writers (Like, if you tried to be nice to Rinoa, once a choice was presented to you, even if that choice
    clearly said something to the effect of "you look nice today", after you picked it, Squall would go "you look nice today...
    for a person with the face of baboon's backside..."
    ).

    Anyways -
    I prefer Clouds - Characters with several possible personalities laid out for the player, so the character
    is still a character, not just an avatar. This adds to the totality of the writing and the narrative,
    and also allows the player to immerse themselves in the narrative because they are the ones defining what
    sort of person the protagonist ends up being.

    Voiceless protagonists bore me, and completely ruins the immersion for me because
    1.) if they don't have any dialogue, they're only nominally interacting with other characters, and
    since my real voice can't very well reach into the game to touch the NPCs, that means that there is a huge gap
    between me and the narrative.
    2.) when writers make voiceless protagonists they usually take focus away from what
    could otherwise have been a characer-driven plot - and generally, I don't get engaged with plots
    that aren't character driven. What do I care about the fate of the world, or about political machinations,
    if I don't know nor care for the characters that are involved?

    Statically voiced protagonists, or ones only provided false choices, are a big hit and miss because
    it completely depends on how well I relate to the protagonist and his or her struggles.
    The more static a character is, and how alienated I am from that character, is directly proportionate
    to how many stupid choices he or she makes, and how much stupid sheep he or she says.
    If I am going to be forced into the boots of a voiced character, I should either have the choice
    to pick what that character says and/or does, or that character must be really perfectly written
    to suite me as a person.
    The latter is pointless for a game developer to try, because they have to be concerned with a
    bigger audience than just me, and thus the optimal option is the only one left -

    A voiced protagonist provided plenty of varied dialogue options.

    (don't conflate that with a game having multiple endings, or the choices having to have meaning from a game-play
    perspective etc. I am satisfied as long as I can make choices that shape the personality, and by extension,
    the social interactions of the protagonist with the rest of the party and other NPCs.)
     
    #10
  11. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

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    It's contextual to the game experience you want to convey - even archetypes I don't usually like as much, such as the semi-silent character, can be extremely enjoyable if done well and matched to the appropriate gameplay experience, e.g. Persona 4.  The main character was just there as a body to give you a chance to express yourself, and didn't need to be likable or compelling on his own to make the game or story work (because other characters, together with your choices, would bridge that gap for you).

    In general, I like it more if the main character has a strong, well-defined personality, even if it doesn't necessarily match my own.  I didn't think of Lloyd from Tales of Symphonia as an extension of myself in any way; I thought of him as a character in a story that I could root for, and maybe affect in tiny ways.  He was likable and compelling, and didn't need to offer me any type of expression to make the game or story work.

    I think in my dream game, your character would be talk about as much as the other characters, and often initiate conversations and topics, but you'd get a lot of choices about what you want to say, and - imporantly - those choices will shape your character's "default personality", which would determine how your player talks and acts when you don't get to make the decision on your own.
     
    #11
  12. Tigersong

    Tigersong Furry Fellow Veteran

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    I enjoyed hearing my characters speak in The Old Republic, but there were two drawbacks-

    1)The text in the menu doesn't always convey what the character says accurately.

    2)This being a Bioware game, you're always aware of what your companion thinks. Depending on who you are, this can be maddening.
     
    #12
  13. Clord

    Clord Nya~ Veteran

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    This is so matter of viewpoint and not everyone immerse themselves the same way.


    Let's take Arkham series as a good example.


    Batman doesn't follow your lead, you follow Batman's lead. You're a puppet master of the story and Batman is your instructor to tell you where to go via talking to the other characters, making mental and spoken comments.


    Essentially you're not Batman and it still works.


    I know that many of the gamers get into this "I'm the character" mode even if the game clearly shows that they're their own person. For example Day[9] thought that he was Batman while playing Arkham Asylum.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2015
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  14. Demon God Démigra

    Demon God Démigra Veteran Veteran

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    It's a competition between Neutrally Talkative and Talks Your Ear Off, with a slight partiality towards Talks Your Ear Off. It has the shinier coat. I do enjoy my characters fully baked... However, I can do having some elbow room for choices that nudge the personality or story a smidgen either way without breaking the character's pre-established role. I don't believe I could muddle through with a main character that is supposed to be 'me' in a virtual world skin, though. And that's coming from someone who is naturally full of himself.
     
    #14
  15. arekpowalan

    arekpowalan Veteran Veteran

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    I don't mind silent heros, but I admitly don't enjoy working with them. Usually I tend to have protagonists who both talk and convey non-verbal gestures. It helps whenever I want to make him/her emotionally powerful and having deeper personality.

    - One protagonist guy I work with is an extremely hotblooded and determined badass-wannabe, so it's not possible to make him silent as it'll take away half of his character.

    - One protaganist woman is a confused woman who struggles through the world of facades and surreality, so I made her asking a lot question while allowing player to choose her responses to questions.

    - Another male protagonist I work on is initially an antisocial, so he rarely speaks, but generally not muted, as he become more talkative and open to his friends once he's developed.

    The only case I go full mute is when the protagonist really cannot talk in-universe, which I believe may open up newer ways a character is presented in an RPG.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 15, 2015
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  16. CzarSquid

    CzarSquid Veteran Veteran

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    Just keep it consistent.

    If you decide you make your character talk then have he or she talk the entire game. Make the character likable that will make the player want to discover their backstory.

    Personally, when you take away the voice of the main character it gives the player the ability to interpret what is being said. That is important because you are not speaking for the player nor do you need to worry about complex dialogue trees. I find this style of not speaking works well when games are more focused on the world around them (Dark Souls) versus games that focus the game on the player (Skyrim).
     
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  17. The Mighty Palm

    The Mighty Palm Resident Palm Tree Restaff

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    Everybody is misunderstanding for some reason ¿(.-.)?

    I dont mean all main characters in general. Just the ones you name/make/whenever its supposed to be YOU
     
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  18. CzarSquid

    CzarSquid Veteran Veteran

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    Well the question you asked was "How should the Protagonist of Role-Playing-Games talk?" The underline statement shows a lack of information and can be interpreted as broad as all the games.

    For me, I use the silent protagonist for several reasons. The player is a mere observer in the game that can influence the character they control with simple choices like yes/no but never beyond that. I did it this way because the player is not the focus (main character) of the story in the games I make.

    I've been dipping in FromSoftware games and they have an incredible way of making interesting plots. Now you can play the entire game of Dark Souls and never know why you do the things you did in the game. Or, you can take the time to talk to NPCs for clues and read item descriptions to help you to figure out what is going on. Dark Souls has incredible lore if you look deep enough and not once does the player ever speak except for yes and no. Heck, you are just some random Joe witnessing a world of events occur. Very little is actually spoken directly to the player.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 17, 2015
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  19. hian

    hian Biggest Boss Veteran

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    You didn't clarify this in your OP, and you even specifically used games in your examples where the main character


    is neither made by the player, nor supposed to be the player.


    The fourth option in your poll even directly contradicts what you're now saying, as this option


    clearly refers to a character that behaves how "he/she wants"(according to the sentiments of the writer,


    not the player), which would make it very distinct from the player.


    Also, having the option to name the character does not mean it's necessarily supposed to be you,


    so when you mention characters that you can name, that would include characters like the protagonists of


    Final Fantasy etc. despite each of these haning distinct personalities from the player.


    In fact, in most games with character-driven stories, the protagonist and the player is distinct -


    yet the protagonist is supposed to be the players avatar in the game-world.


    I.E if people are "misunderstanding" your topic, it's because you didn't make it clear enough.
     
    #19
  20. Saltwater Croc

    Saltwater Croc Voice Actor/Frelance Composer Veteran

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    It depends on the game. Stick to one style of protagonist.  In tale of the Cursed Lantern, the protagonist is COMPLETELY SILENT.  (Well, except for one single scene in the end of the game, and that's an unlockable!)
     
    #20

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