Talking protagonist

Mantager

LOVE TOGETHER
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91
#1
What are your thoughts on talking protagonists? I have a few questions.
  • Which characters would the protagonist interact with? Any old NPC, or only story-related characters?
  • When would the protagonist talk? When finding an item, chatting with NPCs, or in cutscenes only?
  • What is your opinions on talking protagonists? Do you find them annoying?
Personally, I'm debating including a talking protagonist. On one hand, it gives the MC a personality, turning them into more of a character. On the other hand, it takes away personalisation of the game.
 

TechSkylander1518

Wiki Dweeb
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237
#2
I think a good way to keep a talking protagonist from being annoying is to think of their dialogue as a conversation with the player, not necessarily their own inner chatter. Sometimes they'll say something funny about the world around them or point out something interesting, but they're not constantly talking-sometimes, they just notice things. (a point where it's better to let the "narrator" take over and just point out basic details when the player's interacting with stuff)

Super Pokemon Eevee Edition has a pretty great talking protagonist. He'll make quips about certain objects and interact with characters, but isn't distracting. (especially since that's stuff that's not required, it's just a little bonus)

Personally, I think either one is a perfectly fine choice. It's nice to imagine your own dialogue for a character, but it's also nice to feel like you're journeying with someone with their own personality. (which, you kinda always are in Pokemon-even if they're silent, you're still not fully in control of how they react to things.)
 

Rhyden

Shuckle Kheen
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75
#3
I think it's fine if they talk if they're taking part in a conversation. It always kind of bothers me when an NPC asks you a question like "What's your name?" and it's just answered by a gap of silence. But I don't think a protag should be talking to themselves that much since it's up to the player to assess what they're doing and make their own choices / have their own thoughts. If your character talks to themselves too much, then you'll feel like the game is on auto-pilot and you wouldn't have to figure anything out for yourself.
 

kirlial

Novice
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29
#4
A talking protagonist can definitely work, I think it should be especially for games that are light-hearted or humorous, with the protagonist displaying a bit of dry wit or being serious to play off other characters wackiness.if you want to use it then I think it should be a consistent feature, used in pretty much every conversation. Whether you want to include it with items or signs as well could be your choice.

Its possible their agency might clash with how the player might see themselves playing but if it's done well then it could lead to a very engaging main character.
 

Luka S.J.

Wastage of Time
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79
#5
I'm not a fan of a talking protagonist. This may be due to my "old-school" gamer nature, since I've grown up playing exclusively silent protagonists. Anything other than that turns the game into more of a "cinematic" experience, rather than an explorative one. Link, to this day, is still a silent protagonist (in the mainline canon games), and I think he fits really well into whatever storyline he's thrown into. Imo, it depends largely on the execution. I wouldn't mind having options to respond with to dialogue, per se; but talking protagonist always feels a bit weird to me. Just a point of view I'm throwing out there. By no means is it the right one (it's all subjective anyway).
 

Jephed

Trainer
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Posts
98
#6
I'm using talking protagonists in my game and in my opinion it works fine if the protagonist has a character of its own. If the proganist has his own personality, his own feelings , his own backstory and his own experiences it makes more sense for that protagonist to talk.
If the Protagonist is merely a customisable avatar like in the original games, it doesn't work, because the avatar is supposed to resemble the player or at least be silent so that the player can feel like he is the one in control.

That's my look on things anyway
 

Pixel Profligate

Lazy Artist
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53
#7
I think a talking protagonist can work, but it has to be done right. I think, if you're trying to follow the traditional Pokemon formula, with gyms, an evil team, etc., then you should probably stick to keeping the protagonist silent. It could work if they talked, but a lot of people might find it jarring, which may not be good. However, if you're trying something different from that, go ahead and experiment with it.
 

Hematite

Elite Trainer
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103
#8
I have to agree that it's dependent on how much of their own character your protagonist is and the circumstances of the story/game.

For example, I'm messing around with a few things right now, and aside from my serious/main project, I have a smaller one where the player is a researcher studying a particular area and periodically reporting back to their lab. In this game, the protagonist speaks normally because it's pretty important to know what they're saying back to their lab/what they've communicated and what they haven't. In, say, the PMD Explorers games, if memory serves, the player repeatedly showed a talking animation and then the NPCs responded as if they explained a given situation, but you never saw what they said; something like that is good enough for a game like the main series games, but in this case, with the player character being alone for much of the time and with no other researchers around to restate specific observations, it's important for the player to be able to see the protagonist's thoughts. In addition, while the player character is the only researcher, there are other characters who aren't researchers, and for the player to be a silent protagonist would rob what is becoming a pretty important juxtaposition between the player's scientific, detailed perspective and the other characters' different views on the setting. Things like this really make it worth having a speaking protagonist - the game won't be out for a long time (it goes hand in hand with my main project, so they're probably going to be released around the same time even if this one is smaller and likely to be finished first), but whenever you finally get a chance to play it, it'll be really easy to see what a different game it would be without the player speaking.

That said, it's really dependent on the story you're trying to tell - for instance, Journey was designed to be silent and made really effective use of that to add to the emotion and exploration; just like the aforementioned project wouldn't be the same without the player talking, Journey would be a much less captivating experience if there was dialogue in it, and it's the silence that makes your solitude so emotional; breaking that by having the player comment on things every ten minutes would be really awkward and rob it of its value. Even the few times when you do meet other characters, all of your interactions remain silent (some important information was conveyed through visions, but never text or speech) and it kept a forlorn, mystical feeling.

Meanwhile, in a project that's focused on a Pokémon Trainer's journey like the official games or my Divide and Unite, it makes sense that you'd want to give the player as much of a blank slate as possible even if there isn't a reason for them to be silent. And even then, other NPCs sometimes react to what the protagonist "said" but didn't say (to let players fill in the blanks of how they might have said it), and the player can have dialogue options that are more interesting or specific than "yes" and "no" (I appreciated how Sun and Moon occasionally gave snarky observations as dialogue options... I feel bad that I can't think of any examples now, ahaha) to make them feel more like you as a character ("would I say x this way or that way?" even beyond just "is the answer x or y?") rather than no character. So there are more ways to handle silent protagonists than just "silent, yes/no, silent" and so on, and some developers might prefer to do that to make the experience fun and engaging while allowing the player to project more rather than be superseded by a preexisting protagonist.

Personally, I don't mind vocal players and generally welcome the protagonist as their character (as long as they're not unspeakably dim), so it's good to remember that even if something is a tradition in the official Pokémon games, it's not sacred and you can reconsider it if it would work better for your game. But I also see the appeal in a silent protagonist where it adds emotional value, or when you're actually meant to be a blank slate; it depends very much on the game and what the developer wants (and, as Luka pointed out... if the developer just prefers to play games with silent protagonists, why wouldn't they make theirs silent? XP), but there are a lot more options and reasons to consider than "Game Freak does x, so x!"
 

leilou

A wild Minun appeared!
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182
#9
I personaly wouldn't let the protagonist talk directly. I'd prefer either having choises as player or letting the protagonist talk indirectly through NPCs say something like "So you say...". But hearing myself talk is kinda strange in my opinion ... In flashbacks/visions it's ok though
 

Dragonite

The cake is a lie, so give it to me
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191
#10
i'm on mobile so you'll have to excuse my relatively short response, but talking protagonists seem to be this: they're way easier to do badly than silent protagonists, and a bad talking protagonist is way more insufferable than a bad silent protagonist or bad NPC because they're there for the entire duration of the game and there's probably no way to shut them up.

1. Depends on you. If I was doing a voiced protagonist I'd just have them talk throughout, but then again, I guess there's nothing wrong with doing a hybrid protagonist who only talks when things get dire. It's perfectly believable that

2. a talkative person would have something to say about basically everything in the game world, while a quiet person would only speak up when failure to do so would screw us all.

3. See above. I've played plenty of okay games made worse or bad games made unbearable by airhead remarks by talking protagonists, and not a while lot where I think my day was improved by them.

The other thing you could do is "talk" via text promps in place of the usual yea/nay responses, the way games like Skyrim and probably a lot of other games do. On the one hand that lets conversations feel a bit less linear and more organic but on the second hand you're basically asking for your game to never be completed if you try to do that in RPG Maker.

Also, if you do make talky protagonists: PLEASE EASE PLEASE make it obvious when they're speaking. Change the text color or put an arrow between their head and the speech bubble or AT LEAST lead off the block of text with \PN or something. This should be common sense.

edit: "relatively short response," he says, and then proceeds to write almost three hundred words. Whoops?
 
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Sparta

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167
#11
It's an idea I've tossed around for a little bit. Personally, I think talking protagonists work best when they're a set character. When they're already named, already have their own personalities, etc.

As for a typical Pokemon game protagonist, I would think that it could work, if done right. I point toward Fallout 4. They give the player options to respond. That's likely the best way to do things, especially if you give the player a decently wide range of responses. That way the player isn't locked into being someone that they're not, if you know what I mean.
 

Taq

Sandwich Master
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138
#12
I think that while having them be silent is important for you to be the character, it does make you out of place. (Sun and Moon's story arguably could have still existed without the player).
I think the best middle might be that when the conversation is going you can pick various options of what to say and then it repeats itself in your characters chat box (the might be repetitive but it would also make you be a part of the world while still having a blank slate).
Example:
Rival: What do we do now?
you then are given these options:
-We fight back!
-I don't know...
after your decision you character speaks
You: I don't know...
it just repeats it though and will only happen once or twice in a large conversation/cutscene.
This is so then you can be actually more involved in the world.
 

Sauce Goblin

i miss my wife karen please dont leave
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#14
I feel like a Talking protagonist can work, but you need to be really cautious. The whole reason why your character doesn't speak is because it needs to be a relatable thing that anyone playing can insert themselves into. If the character speaks it detracts from this as it's almost as if you're not the trainer, and are instead controlling someone else.
However, in a game a lot more story based, it can be good to have a talking protagonist as it's usually more about their story and the way they interact with environments and other characters.

All just depends on the narrative of your game overall :eyes:
 

Diverscope

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#15
I think that's a very interesting topic. In my fangame, I let the protagonist talk. I don't remember exactly why I started this, I think, back then it was just the "young naive, I do what just comes in my mind"-sorta thing. But I stuck with it, becauce I like the idea of a protagonist, who joins conversations and influnces the npcs around them. Well and I love to break the 4th wall, make fun of my own game and kid around with the npcs...

I think it's personal taste. I know people, who like a talking protagonist and people, who don't. It's breaking with tradition, considering that none of the official main games have a talktative hero. But lately even Gamefreak is breaking old traditions, like the concept of gyms and leaders in Sun and Moon.
 

Brom

Crobat Appreciator
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17
#16
I agree with the people saying that the player should have a few responses in dialogue. I think that there should be small moments of commentary when you are doing things like checking a bookshelf or a TV, but having the protagonist just talk as commonly as you run into a Pokémon in Gen IV is just awful. The Persona series does this pretty well, although sometimes I don't agree with the choices provided being too optimistic for my liking, although it could just be my cynical side showing.
 

Djaco75

MasterMind
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Posts
155
#17
Personally, I would avoid it, but if it becomes necessary then I have nothing against it.

I feel like there are a few more creative ways of doing this, however, such as having your Pokemon sense what you are talking about or having other characters try to predict what you say. It just adds a bit more engagement with the game.

Overall, I think it should be avoided, but if it's used once or twice during the game, then I don't see an issue with it.
 

RayDrive25

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4
#18
Personally its best to keep it to a minimum. Mostly towards when interacting with certain objects and characters to the point that it doesn't feel forced.
 

Brom

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17
#19
Okay, I kinda wanna just scream at me from like a year ago, but anyway, I think talking protags are only okay if they're actually fleshed out, but otherwise, I don't think they should talk much outside of flavor text.
 

Keileon

Sardonyx's Kyuubi
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#20
I feel like if done properly, a talking protagonist can work out really well. If they have their own personality, are their own character and not a blank slate for the player to project themselves on- that's doing it well. I'd like to point to Pokemon Mystery Dungeon for an example, particularly the Explorers line of games, as I feel that the protagonist was done perfectly there. The talking was almost entirely an inner monologue pointing things out, recapping important events, etc and really only involved actual conversing with the partner at one point. The rest of the time the game let you "talk" to yourself and have a personality through the choices it gave you.
 
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