Silent Protagonists just don’t cut it anymore.

This is the conclusion I reached after playing through Suikoden IV and V recently, though it extends to just about any other recent game.


The concept behind the silent dude was so that the player could “better integrate with the character”. To be honest, it always felt to me like an excuse not to write a script for the main character, but it never really bothered me that much because… well, some SPs actually managed to get their message across with just body language or simply a timely nod or shrug like Crono, Serge or, although not quite as well, the Ryus from BOF I-IV. In addition, although having a talking protagonist was generally better (Maxim), it by no means suggests that they are ALWAYS better than the silent ones, as some of the most modern games began to prove. I’m talking to you Cloud and Squall.

The problem came with voice acting. Nowadays, pretty much every game has nearly every single character voiced, which is great, but the fact that everyone else is talking does nothing but emphasize the fact that the main character isn’t. It’s laughable to see a scene with full-blown 3D characters going…

Generic Soldier #1: Sir! The enemy is here!
Generic Soldier #2: They outnumber us by a hundred to one! What should we do!?
Silent protagonist: glance nod point nod
Everyone: Sir! Yes, sir! Brilliant as always sir!

C’mon, I can’t be the only one who finds this ridiculous.

Speaking now individually, Suikoden V suffered particularly because of this. Suiko IV’s story was so mediocre that it helped mask most other stuff (And I still liked it better than Suiko III), but Suiko V practically contradicts itself: On one hand they tell you to believe you are the Prince, and on the other hand they give the Prince an appearance that I imagine nobody even remotely has, give him an array of facial expressions and responses to situations which he uses regardless of your command and, the most pathetic part, during a few scenes his lips actually move even while he’s not saying anything. If I were adept at lip reading, Japanese lip reading at that, I imagine I would discover he was saying “GET ME A FUCKING VOICE ACTOR!”.

Somewhat unrelated, but at least they somewhat managed to circumvent the problem of the name not being spoken (Scenes like “Lyon! [Blank]! Georg! Wait up!”) by having mostly everyone calling him Prince or Your Highness, but it still showed up once or twice. Nobody has pulled a Tidus quite as well ever since FFX.

What IS the point of this anymore anyway? A good reader doesn’t need to be able to believe he is the character to care about what happens to the character. When I read a novel, I fool myself into believing everything actually happens and thus feel sad/happy/angry/whatever in accordance to the situation, I don’t fool myself into believing I’m the one that those things happen to, because the moment the character in the novel does something I wouldn’t, the illusion is destroyed. And now with the ever-increasing usage of meticulous 3D-rendering based on anime-styled art (Read: Just barely recognizably as male) and the now practically mandatory voice acting, who on earth can possibly fool himself into believing he is on THAT guy’s shoes?

Well, that’s about it. I just needed to get that out of my chest.

I don’t really mind silent protagonists, but I think it only works if the other characters have enough to them to make up for it. Not all silent protagonists are bad though. Okage does really well with it’s frequent agree, disagree, wise ass choices.


Indeed. I’ve never been one for SP’s. Their character development is stunted, becuase they dont say anything.

I’m with you all the way here. Even Tidus grated on me because they all called him “new guy” - even Yuna. It got especially ridiculous in FFX-2 because everyone had to refer to him as “him”. As for silent protagonists… yes, in modern RPGs it’s simply ridiculous. DQ8’s hero had an actual role in the game, so relegating him to no-personality nods just sold him short. This idea only really has a role in non-voiced games or games that don’t focus on story.

I’d love it if they’d just badly pronounce the name you select. Like, with the cheapest text-to-speech program you can find. It’d ruin scenes so very well.

I thought DQ8 pulled it off rather well. The hero didn’t really need to speak, and I don’t see where having him do so would really have added anything.

I think Star Wars: KotOR did it reasonably well, though it did have the whole “avoiding saying his/her name” bit. I suppose it also helped that practically everyone was talking directly to him (so they could just say “you” and stuff), and a lot of merely talking about him happened off-camera (I assume).

He didn’t need to speak precisely because he was a nondescript, personality-less cipher.

This is exactly what I was thinking. The KotOR games pulled off the silent protagonist fairly well, simply because you had a choice of lines. You actually could integrate with the character because, y’know, his reactions were determined by you. Barring that kind of thing, there really isn’t any reason for a silent protagonist, in my opinion, but it doesn’t bother me too often. For some reason, though, I found it extremely annoying in the Digital Devil Saga games…


I’ve never played either KotOR so pardon me is I’m wrong, but what I’ve heard of it suggests that dialogue is handled somewhat like in the Infinity Engine games like Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment, so let me clarify that those games do NOT have the kind of character I’m talking about. Those games give such a wide array of dialogue choices that you can seriously make your character be whatever you want, not only limited to the regular good, bad and neutral choices, but branching off into politeness, rudeness, seriousness and many others, specially the ever-so-wonderful wiseass choices. The character I used throughout Baldur’s Gate I and II has some of the most hilarious lines ever. Actually, that one choice in which you can flip out on Portalbenderwinden in BG1 has to be one of the single greatest lines I’ve ever seen.

That is completely different from games in which you are given Yes/No choices. Golden Sun has to be the worst I’ve ever seen in this aspect, because the “Yes” and the “No” could mean anything. “Yes” could be “Yes, let’s save them” just as easily as it could have been “Yes, let’s sit here and watch them die a slow painful death”, and there was no way to know what the heck you were saying until it was too late.

On the topic of names and voices, I really hate when I’m asked for a name at the beginning of a game. Except for what I just mentioned, it nearly always means that I’m stuck with a personality-deprived android. This is why games should come with a default name, and then an option to give him/her a nickname if you want. Remember Phantasy Star II? When the characters introduced themselves as “I’m [Name] but you can call me whatever you want”? That would work. Everyone just uses the default name and you can use the nickname for the gameplay text. It also makes a goddamned mess when talking about the game: I understand very well why the Suikoden fan community had to integrate the novel names into their vocabulary, it would be a complete mayhem to constantly talk about “Hero”.

I always liked the quiet and stoic thing, since that’s the way I am in real life.

As for why Square and other rpg makers do that, I always thought it was because it makes the hero seem tough, philosophical, and tortured, which is the way the Japanese like their heros.

Female love interest: “PLEASE SAVE US (Dr. Sbaitso voice) ‘DOUCHEBAG!’”

Yeah, I can see that happening.

I thought Wild ARMs Alter Code: F handled it well. Rudy’s gestures and facial expressions said more to me than words ever could.

I think it works in some games, where you make a more custom protagonist to a degree, or other times because you can kind of think how the character you’re playing would respond when a certain decision is made. While it may be a cheap excuse not to write a character, I’m arrogant enough to think I can write better than many of the people writing videogames do, so I’m down with them leaving writing my dialog to me.
Although, sometimes it really does just piss me off when they do the nod shit, because it is pretty fucking stupid.

You have a name at least. They could handle the “nameless” part of the silent protagonist like a western. Call him stranger, or one-eyed dog.

You got me Bill -----::doh::

I never considered Rudy a true silent protogonist, especially in Alter Code F; rather, he’s a hero who just happens to not speak much. The game did a good job of conveying that.

That said, I too prefer heroes with actual personalities over SPs. And I almost never rename my charachters in games where your heroes are not just generic charachter classes, such as the first FF. To do so feels like you’re tampering with their persnality in some way. And I would have really prefered it if you had been unable to rename Tidus in FFX. I mean, seriously. No game with voice-acting should allow you to rename the main charachters, hands down.

Though that crappy TTS idea would probobly be pretty hilarious.

I totally agree about SPs; when I play a (video) RPG, I never think of the main character as “me”, except maybe if I played a MMORPG (which I haven’t so far.) I play the game to enjoy their stories, not mine.

Speaking of character interaction, I’ve always liked it when they gave you choices of dialogue to say, especially if they affect some aspect of the game (like with Cloud’s date in FF7.) The PERSONA games had a great interaction system- too bad you could only use it on demons! You could get them to give you items or even leave peacefully (how ironic that a game with “demons” on it happens to have a non-violent alternative to combat.) But if you said the wrong thing (each type of demon had its preferences) they would attack you. PERSONA II was my favorite, in that you could get several party members to act together some kind of act to fool the demons- I loved the one where a female character would call a cop on a demon and accuse him of “lying to her about wanting to marry her” Hilarious! :smiley:

Oh, and I’m also reminded of Thousand Arms, where the main characters get voice acting but most NPCs don’t. (They even had one comment, “Hey! Why don’t we get voices? Are we not important enough? That sucks!” (or words to that effect.) :stuck_out_tongue:

Oh yeah, I just remembered an idea I had where a Silent Protagonist isn’t exactly a Silent Protagonist, more of a Silent Bob. Then maybe you can throw the player a fast one when they suddenly fire off a one-liner (or, well, two-worder) or something.

EDIT: Oh yeah, the idea was for a game involving “Jet and Silent Gordon” (i.e. Jet Bradley and Gordon Freeman), whose respective genres are so wildly incompatible I’d have to come up something really nuts to bring them together…