Bethesda has revealed that Starfield almost had a voiced protagonist similar to the main character of Fallout 4 before the decision was scrapped in development. Depending on the type of game, a voiced protagonist in an RPG can possibly ruin some of the immersion or add to it. Games like Mass Effect are an example of a good-voiced protagonist while Bethesda’s own Fallout 4 is on the opposite side of the argument. However, Bethesda chose a silent protagonist for its next sci-fi epic and it’s easy to see why.
Speaking to Polygon in a recent interview, Starfield lead designer Emil Pagliarulo discussed the decision to feature a silent protagonist in the game. “We hired an actor, we got the voice, we listened to him and we were like, ‘You know what, this guy is too specific,'” said Pagliarulo. “We realized 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 designers wanted to ensure that players could have the maximum range of emotions and expressions when choosing dialogue and being able to project those feelings into the in-game text options essentially allows for greater player agency and immersion. This is in stark contrast to Bethesda’s last single-player game, Fallout 4, which featured a set of voice actors (for male and female each) that would often say the complete opposite of what player’s might’ve interpreted in the text, pulling away from the immersion.
Pagliarulo went on to explain why Bethesda chose to remove the voiced protagonist altogether from Starfield:
“There was a time in the industry where every protagonist was voiced. It was a AAA thing. We started realizing, ‘You know what, maybe that’s not the case, maybe fans will actually enjoy the game even more…’ I mean, we played with different things. There’s a big argument, if in Fallout 4 and other RPGs, players don’t like reading a line of dialogue, a player response, and then they click it and get [a different spoken line].”
Pagliarulo continued by stating that a silent protagonist gave the team a lot more freedom to work with the dialogue options:
“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. And, I mean, we have over 200,000 lines of spoken dialogue in Starfield with no voiced protagonists. And it was not having a voiced protagonist that allowed us to create such a big world.”
Starfield is only a few short days away from release, though leakers managed to reveal a lot of details about the sci-fi RPG ahead of launch. Make sure you read up on when you can begin preloading the game as well as all the details that weren’t leaked like the jail system, pacifist routes and more right here.
Starfield launches on 6 September 2023 for Xbox Series X/S and PC. It will also arrive on day one on Xbox Game Pass.