Starfield Dev Explains Decision to Have the Game Feature a Silent Protagonist | Games Rants
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Starfield Dev Explains Decision to Have the Game Feature a Silent Protagonist | Games Rants


  • Bethesda’s decision to have a silent protagonist in Starfield was driven by the massive script and the ability for players to create any type of character.
  • The studio initially planned to have a voiced main character, but ultimately dropped the idea after considering alternative approaches and player feedback.
  • Fallout 4’s voiced protagonist, although aiming for more emotional storytelling, had flaws in how dialogue worked, leading Bethesda to go back to a silent protagonist for Starfield.

A senior Bethesda developer went on record to explain the decision to have Starfield feature a silent protagonist. This insight into the highly anticipated RPG arrives a year after the studio confirmed that the Starfield protagonist won’t be a voiced character.

Bethesda’s AAA role-playing games have historically featured silent protagonists. However, the Rockville, Maryland-based developer ended that tradition with the 2015 Fallout 4, which featured a fully voiced main character. While that presentational shift proved to be a polarizing move among the fandom, lead designer Emil Pagliarulo explained that the decision to have voiced main characters in Fallout 4 was rooted in a desire to deliver a more emotional story than what mute protagonists would allow.

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Eight years later, Pagliarulo found himself explaining Bethesda’s reversal of that decision in regard to Starfield, having described the return to a silent protagonist as “really freeing” in a recent interview with Polygon. Elaborating on that notion, the veteran developer revealed that Starfield has over 200,000 lines of spoken dialogue, adding that such a massive script could not have been voice-acted if the studio also had to record the main character’s lines.

Starfield planet discovery promo with game logo in the foreground

In spite of that benefit, Bethesda wasn’t planning to have a silent Starfield protagonist from the get-go. On the contrary, the studio was originally looking to do a repeat of Fallout 4, having gone as far as to hire a voice actor and do some recording sessions before ultimately dropping the idea. Seeing how Starfield allows players to create any type of character, the most immersive way of presenting such a protagonist is to leave them voiceless, Pagliarulo said.

Asked whether the player pushback against Fallout 4‘s voiced protagonist influenced Bethesda’s decision to abandon that practice with Starfield, Pagliarulo conceded that it “certainly played into it.” Nevertheless, he insisted that the developer only decided to go the silent protagonist route once it considered all alternative approaches. As part of that train of thought, the designer also acknowledged that the way dialogue worked in Fallout 4 was imperfect, not least because many players disliked selecting an abbreviated response only to get an entirely different line from their character. However, reading the entire response before selecting it often leads to players skipping their character’s voiced lines, making the developer’s effort to record them less worthwhile, Pagliarulo suggested.

All of that ultimately resulted in Bethesda deciding against doing another voiced protagonist for its next AAA RPG. And while it remains to be seen how that decision will play out among the fandom, there is little doubt that Starfield’s silent protagonist will benefit choice-driven role-playing.

Starfield launches September 6 for PC and Xbox Series X/S.

MORE: What to Know About Starfield Before Release

Source: Polygon

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