Games and Writing the Silent Protagonist

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD FOR UNDERTALE!

 

One of the stranger polarizing issues I’ve come across in the game community is silent protagonists.  Some people love them and think they add to the immersion.  The player is not forced into a character’s dialogue choices, and they can feel more like they are the character due to the silence.  Other people hate them.  They often view it as a developer being lazy, and they also believe that it makes a character very flat since they have no real personality without dialogue to convey it.

This being the case, indie devs and homebrew devs may find themselves in an odd situation.  Should they risk people’s ire and make a silent protagonist, or should they risk a different people’s ire and have their character have spoken dialogue?  This can be a crucial decision when handling the writing of a game.  However, it is my opinion that what matters more is the protagonist is written and executed well, regardless of whether or not they’re silent.  Thus, today I would like to bring to you three questions you can ask yourself before you decide to make your protagonist silent or not.  These will prioritize the quality of the story versus other factors.

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Mechanics Transparency: Tales of Xillia Edition

Twice before on this blog I have discussed having transparent mechanics in games being a good thing.  The first time I addressed GUIs and how they functioned in Subnautica.  In the second post, I addressed the use of enemy waves in Dragon Age II.  Today, I would like to revisit this topic with a different series and specific topic nuance: leveling in Tales of Xillia and Tales of Xillia 2.

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RV Game Reviews: Dream Daddy

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD FOR DREAM DADDY!

 

In the vein of trying something a bit different, today I’m going to write a review for Dream Daddy, a VN dating simulation game that came out July 20th.  Before beginning, keep in mind all the opinions in this review are mine alone.  If you disagree with the opinions, that’s awesome, and I’d love to hear it in the comments.  However, I ask that you take no personal offense to them, and know that I respect everyone involved in the project for the hard work they put in.

That being said, let’s begin.

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Why The Walking Dead: A New Frontier is a Disgrace Part 2

SPOILER WARNING: This article contains extreme spoilers for the entirety of Telltale’s The Walking Dead series.  Read at your own caution.

 

 

Welcome to Part 2 of my complaints in regards to The Walking Dead: A New Frontier.  Last week, I discussed how the character writing was subpar and also how numerous parts in the story were plot deviced to suit the twists.  Today we’re going to discuss three more shortfalls of the writing: namely the flashbacks, the predictability, and the pacing.  Please be sure to check out Part 1 if you want to catch up.

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Why The Walking Dead: A New Frontier is a Disgrace Part 1

SPOILER WARNING: This article contains extreme spoilers for the entirety of Telltale’s The Walking Dead series.  Read at your own caution.

 

 

Even though I’m a fan of Telltale’s The Walking Dead series, I hesitated for a long time to get A New Frontier.  This was due to the numerous bad reviews on Steam that criticized the game for having immensely short episodes.  However, with the 2017 Steam Summer Sale in full swing, and the game having released all the episodes, I decided it was finally time to take a swing at it.  After all, these critics were probably just being very harsh, right?

To my surprise, no.  If anything, these reviews on Steam were being overly lenient.  The game is, to me, a full on disgrace to its predecessors.

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The Power of Sound Effects

As someone who is a big fan of Subnautica, I often keep up with updates to the game, usually via various Youtubers who cover the game extensively.  Without spoiling too much, a huge portion of the end game is in development right now (when this article was written anyway).  Since it’s a key story point, it’s being tweaked to be as impactful as possible.  Animations, voice acting, textures, and tons of other aspects keep being overhauled to present the most satisfying moment that could be achieved.  However, in some of the more recent updates, one additive that added a ton of impact caught my eye: the sound effects.

Sound effects are one of those aspects of creative media that often get overlooked.  Whether the sound effects are audio or implied to with words, they make a huge difference despite being minor additives.  Unfortunately, in numerous indie industries, they can often be underused.  While certainly you run the risk of oversaturating a piece with sound effects, they are still an essential that should never be neglected.  To hammer in this point, let us examine why the sound effects make a difference in two industries: gaming and comics.

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Side Quests: Making Interesting “Fetch Quests”

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Dragon Age: Inquisition (specifically the Hinterlands).

 

The week before last I analyzed side quests and how you could make them more compelling than the generic fetch quests one might see in a grind-like MMORPG.  At the heart of the matter, I illustrated three ways one could make them interesting, namely: having side quests add to the story, having side quests with worthwhile loot, or having side quests with an enormous gameplay challenge.  In regards to story, I discussed certain aspects in Dragon Age II and how some of its side quests vastly change outcome of the story.  However, today I would like to expound on this point some more, and also tackle fetch quests which I didn’t talk about fully in that post.

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Side Quests: Interesting vs. Boring

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Dragon Age II and Kingdom Hearts.

 

Anyone who has played any sort of mission/quest based game is familiar with side quests.  They’re those pesky optional quests that the player can choose to complete or not.  Some are simple, such as delivering a package to the NPC in the next town.  Some are challenging, like cave diving for a treasure.  Then there’s also the invariably hard and cruel ones that have you defeat some optional boss that takes every ounce of your being to defeat.  In either case, side quests come in a variety of flavors and vastly help to buffer the gameplay time.

However, not all side quests were created equal.  In fact, some can be outright snore fests.  Take, for instance, pretty much any optional quest in an MMORPG.  In general, these fall into one of a few categories: kill a certain number of creatures, collect certain ingredients/items, or deliver something to an NPC.  MMORPGs are very formulaic when it comes to this matter.  While these side quests do earn you experience points (exp) and virtual money, they have little else to offer the player.  They are, essentially, what makes a lot of MMORPGs grind-fests as it were.  Single player games can often be guilty of the same thing, especially for the RPG genre in general.

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Another Argument for Mechanic Transparency: Dragon Age II Edition

Warning: Semi spoilers ahead for Dragon Age II.

 

Enemy waves are no new concept to video games.  They have been around for years and will probably remain for as long as they offer value to players.  While from my experience their existence can be a bit polarizing, it’s hard to discount them completely given the numerous amounts of players that like the challenge.  That being said, there are cases in which its execution is flawed at best.  One such instance that I wish to discuss today appears in Dragon Age II, where a lack of transparency makes the experience somewhat infuriating.

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