Talking protagonist


When would the protagonist talk? When finding an item, chatting with NPCs, or in cutscenes only?
For me, if the protagonist must talk, it should be relevant in some form. It can be something that adds to the character or just a funny joke, but make it relevant. And, if you are going for talking protagonist, don't make it go suddenly silent if something's going on, unless it makes sense.

What is your opinions on talking protagonists? Do you find them annoying?
I usually don't have any problem with them unless is Tidus. I couldn't finish FFX having to hear his stupidness.


How am I still alive
I think I have found some ways to make a solid talking protagonist in Pokemon.

1) In my game jam project, a talking protagonist is necessary to bridge the gap between the player (human) and the player character, who is a Zoroark. So if your player character is a Pokemon, it is very safe to make it talk.

2) Build a solid character with clear motivation. This is to establish personality and what goal the player must achieve. The reason people hate talking protagonist in Pokemon is because, usually, it's not the player who's talking (by giving multiple dialogue choices) and not even the character you're playing. But rather, the one speaking is the game dialogue writer. When the player doesn't relate to the character they are roleplaying, any words that came out from the protagonist will feel like "Oh, the devs are making jokes/trying to break 4th wall/random out of character statements." So a blank character is what you want to avoid.


Elite Trainer
When would the protagonist talk? When finding an item, chatting with NPCs, or in cutscenes only?
If you're going to make the protagonist talk, then make him talk just in cutscenes and when chatting with NPCs, this way nothing can go wrong. Don't let the player-character talk to himself when finding items, that's not right! For example if someone finds money outside they don't talk and don't scream to themselves, that they found something- the same way it makes sense that the PC don't speak to themselves when they find items.
hope that helped.

What is your opinions on talking protagonists? Do you find them annoying?
It depends on just one thing: If your player character will have a defined name or not.
So, if your gameplayer will have a name and we can not name him and not rename him, then yes it makes sense that the playercharacter talks.
If we can rename the player character in the intro, then it doesn't make any sense to have a talking PC.
hope that helped.


Arbiter of Doggos
Oh, what an interesting topic!

As many have already said, it is indeed a matter of design choice. Since we're talking about an existing franchise, then this design choice should probably follow this order of priority:

A) Does the game adhere to the pre-existing formula/ are you aiming to imitate the "official/authentic" type of game?

> If yes, silent protagonist is best. (Also, Red is officially not a silent protagonist hehe, see COPYCAT event) In case you wish to use the MC as a means to give out hints / direct the attention of the player somewhere, there are plenty of ways to do this outside of dialogue. There's the visual and the auditory approach. E.g., Link in LoZ:The Windwaker usually stares at nearby objects of interest whenever design dictates so. A strong sound or a faint one coming from a particular direction might also draw the player's attention. Emoticons/ sprite animation works too.

> If no, meaning our character can talk, consider the following:

B) Do you want your game to approach things in a conventional videogame way?
If yes, then:
1) Use the MC's perception to have the player notice things ("Seems like they're heading north")
2) Don't fall for the prolixity trap (e.g. repetitiveness of stated stuff, frequency of MC talking)
3) Avoid too much exposition ("so this is the famous so and so who does this and that")

4) Is the protagonist a predefined character with a predefined personality?
> If yes, then: You may have them comment in various ways, though you should still be careful in order for their writing not to feel forced.
The one who does the talking is the character.

> If no, then: The MC is still a reflection of the player, MCs remarks should be "neutral" and "colorless", eg:("It's a chair") not ("Don't tell me this piece of garbage is a chair, sheesh!"). This is not necessary if your character uses a "Mass Effect" dialogue option style where remarks are
categorized into particular responses.

The one who does the talking in this case needs to be the player.

5) MC talking should be a consistent feature, e.g. not disappearing (or appearing) when the player does not expect it.
6) Avoid passive voice and obscurity
7) Indirect remarks are still a great option for NPCs, even if the MC talks
8) Don't be breaking the 4th wall now.
9) No out of place/time/character remarks
10) Avoid letting your own approach to things/ views on a subject / take on a phenomenon slide into the MC's remarks.
11) No need for basic YES or NO, though that's not a bad choice per se.
12) Avoid exaggerated responses (of course in dire situations where something really bad happens, this could be different)
13) Avoid inner/outer monologue, except for cases where this is gameplay or "chapter" related. (e.g. a lot of stuff went down, devs have decided a recap should be shown)
14) It's a conventional game, not a book. Dialogue needs to be relatively simple, to the point, and laconic. Must not get in the way of gameplay and flow.
15) MC's choices are the Players' choices.
16) Be very careful - typos and, most of all, grammar, can make or break a game for some people.

If no, then:
1) Consider whether your main character is the narrator, if a narrator even exists
2) Naming the player can be used in....interesting ways (e.g. maybe you're actually naming a different family member, or it's a surname). Are you really naming the main character?
3) Don't let the main character expose everything, no matter how talkative they are.
4) Frequency, way of talking, idiomatic expressions, out of place remarks etc are relative to the idiosyncrasy, quirks and personality of the main character.
5) An annoying and logodiarrhea-ridden main character can be a deliberate design choice (in all other conventional cases, a No-No!)
6) The main character doesn't need to be a "link" to the player, nor a blank slate for the player to project themselves on.
7) Feel free to wrestle control away from the player, if they are starting to think that they're connected to the MC in a videogame "agency" way (e.g. disobedient to the player MC).
Does a predifined character have enough agency to break free from the player? How can this be exploited in a game design approach?
8) You do have to consider character development in an in-depth fashion.
9) The setting can be used to decide how you'll have your MC respond (e.g. is he in a foreign nation? Is the place there full of less-talkative people?)
10) Is your MC deliberately mute? By accident, from birth, etc. This is something that can be used in interesting design ways. Also, NPCs should remark on the MC's state.
11) If your protag is quiet by nature, you may use that as an opportunity to have him grow into a talker (and thus his talking will be a gameplay/story point of reference - and much more enjoyable to the player)
12) Make sure there's an indication of who's talking (visual, text, auditory. E.g. Name window, Mugshot, Emoticon/Arrow, JRPG low-budget voice-over "ahh" "hm" "I see" sounds)
13) Make the MC either relatable, annoying (yet bearable), flawed, and either ethical/non-ethical/mixed. Of course the latter might be "fluid" and not apparent at first.
14) Again, avoid letting your own approach to things/ views on a subject / take on a phenomenon slide into the MC's remarks - however, your MC will in all likelihood haev their own set of beliefs, opinions etc on something. Don't let your own personal opinions influence your MC or hinder you from creating a unique character.
15) MCs choices do not need to be the player's choices. A predefined character can make a choice of their own.
16) The MC can have a sort of inner/outer monologue even during inappropriate times or during particular events.
17) Put yourself in your character(s) shoes! That way you'll understand their..reasoning and you can tailor their responses/remarks appropriately!

Anyway, good examples of pokemon fangames which do the talking character thing well are: Super Pokemon Eevee Edition and Legends of the Arena.
Last edited:


^ I strongly second all of this.
An example of what can happen is the Dark Rising series, where the protag has a personality and voice, which fits in the cutscenes where s/he is interacting with the other (too many...) characters. Sadly s/he's also prone to cringy remarks and failed humor attempts, plus the terrible catchphrase and some protagonist clichès. All the dialogue from the NPCs suffers from the same problems, so they just extend to the player character, who instead could have been saved, too. That ends up ruining the effort and makes cutscenes longer too.
In general if the character talks, his personality should be different from the classic I WANNA BE THE VERY BEST because of redundancy; a pokemon game player already feels like that and expects his character to do the same.


A wild Minun appeared!
I think it's important to keep in mind what kind of fantasy you're trying to deliver.

What comes to my mind when I think of dialouge choises in many games there's often a self confident/egoistical and a modest/shy answer. I always knew what kind of answer I wanted to give at once because of my ideals. Funnily my brother would choose the other one most of the time.

But if the character would choose the other option I wouldn't be able to reflect the fantasy I'm trying to get from this game in the character. And I guess that this would also be true for the people choosing the other choise. And like that risk is there at every line the player does.

GTA V is tackling this by letting you choose who you want to play. All of them are talking protagonists who all have different characteristics. They also get different quests and properties to buy. I'm not 100% sure whether this game counts as you seeing yourself or watching somebody else. But I believe that at least if you're continuing after the main story then most of the players will choose the character they can identify the most with and play in a way that reflects their ideals what is at least very similar to a character named by the player.

Also I don't feel "I wanna be the very best" is redundant. If the fantasy people get by playing Pokémon is "I wanna be the very best" than that's the most reasonable approach since the people playing Pokémon fan games usually are the ones that like playing Pokémon.

But then there are different approaches to Pokémon which reflect different fantasies:
There are those that just power through the game with their overleveld starter. This is a power fantasy that isn't "I wanna be the very best" but "I am the very best" mowing everything down that is in the path to elite 4 without exploring much of the game.

Then there are those that catch whatever Mon looks the cutest/coolest and make a team out of those. Playing with them, feeding them Poké Beans and petting them after the fights(gen 7). This is a fantasy of caring about his pets/friends and havin an adventure together.

Another one is the guy that interacts with every single object in the world to find every secret the world holds. He's the guy who when he sees a mach bike only area and has an acro bike will go back to Mauville City changing bikes and explore said area. This is a fantasy of unravaling the mysteries of the world.

Then there's the ones playing nutzlocke to get the feeling of beeing able to manage the challenge. This is the fantasy of the player having to work hard to be able to make it.

I won't write many more examples but I think it's enough to see that there are many differen't types of fantasies that people play Pokémon and that it is hard to fit in every character without alianating anyone. But I think that a talking mc can also help manifesting the fantasy you're going for and improving the experience for the player who want exactly that fantasy. It can flesh out a character that the player can still reflect themselfs into.
Just make sure whether or not the character would say such a thing. Also give it to a person that wants such a fantasy to playtest. If they find a scene offsetting then maybe you should rewrite the sentence. But also be aware that you're getting closer to a book/film by doing that.(Wich is not a bad thing in itself!)