In case you haven’t heard, Starfield’s protagonist will be silent throughout your adventure, but Bethesda has shared that this wasn’t its initial decision.
In an interview between Starfield’s lead designer – Emil Pagliarulo – and Polygon, it was asked whether the RPG’s voiceless protagonist had anything to do with the criticism that Fallout 4 had previously received.
“Not directly, but it certainly played into it,” shares Pagliarulo. “Early on in the game, we did have a voiced protagonist. In pre-production, the plan was to have a voiced protagonist. We hired an actor, we got the voice, we listened to him and we were like, you know what, this guy is too specific.”
So, Starfield’s protagonist originally had a voice to go alongside them, but it didn’t appear to be the right fit. It became apparent to Bethesda during development that perhaps this is something that actually limits its players’ experience, rather than enhancing it.
Pagliarulo continues, “So, then what are the options? Do we have, like, some RPGs do four voices? Do we have one voice, but hire someone else who’s more convenient? But you can make every different type of person [in Starfield]. We realised that the only way to really do it and let the player be the person they want to be was to have an unvoiced protagonist.”
Starfield’s lead designer then continues by talking about how the AAA industry has changed over time, and how this has impacted Bethesda’s decisions when it comes to creating Starfield. Hopefully, for the better, but you can be the judge of that in just a few days time.
“There was a time in the industry where every protagonist was voiced. It was an AAA thing. We started realising, you know what, maybe that’s not the case, and maybe fans will actually enjoy the game even more…” details Pagliarulo.
Pagliarulo then details that “There’s a big argument, if in Fallout 4 and other RPGs, player’s don’t like reading a line of dialogue, a player’s response, and then they click it and get [a different spoken line]. But the problem is, then you read it, and then you click it, and you have to wait for them to say the same thing. So that’s not ideal either. So then we just arrived at, what if we just go text? And it was just really freeing.”
All in all, voiced protagonists aren’t bad or out of style, by any means. Though, it appears Bethesda has realised that featuring a voiced protagonist in Starfield might actually be limiting for players’ experience, especially the head-canons that so many of us Bethesda fans like to conjure up at times.
Pagliarulo wraps up the question regarding Starfield’s protagonist with “It was not having a voiced protagonist that allowed us to create such a big world.” I guess we’ll see exactly how well this lands when we finally venture into space on September 1.
For more to keep you busy while you eagerly await Starfield, take a look at our podcast episode on the best Bethesda games that aren’t Bethesda games, and when Starfield unlocks in your region. Best to be prepared!