Why is the Main Character in Fallout 4 Voiced?

Shamus Young

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Why is the Main Character in Fallout 4 Voiced?

Bethesda makes some questionable game decisions on occasion. This time around, Shamus wonders why the Fallout 4 protagonist has a voice at all.

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Soviet Heavy

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How about your interview with Nick Valentine or visiting Abernathy Farms? You could avoid both of those places for hours, but when you get there you are stuck with questions even the most ignorant player would have figured out on their own.

"What's a tato?" "Why do we use caps instead of cash?" "What's a Brahmin?" "What are Supermutants!?" (this last one is especially stupid because you fucking fight a bunch of supermutants on your way to Diamond City to begin with!)

Also, your character must not have lived in Boston very long before the war. A guy was wandering around asking for directions to Bunker Hill, and the player character didn't know where it was.
 

Legion

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If it wasn't for how disappointed I am with pretty much every major change Bethesda made with this game, I'd be saying "I told you so" to pretty much everyone who told me I was being pessimistic about thing such as the voiced protagonist.

You've basically highlighted all of the issues I could see happening and even shown some which I never imagined they'd be dumb enough to do (making your character choose to attack someone in a game they advertised about being about freedom). At least in most games when you are forced to fight someone it's because they wanted to attack you. Making the character choose to do it in a game such as this is ridiculous.
 

Bindal

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Soviet Heavy said:
Also, your character must not have lived in Boston very long before the war. A guy was wandering around asking for directions to Bunker Hill, and the player character didn't know where it was.
That's not too unrealistic - it depends just where your guy/gal went to in her lifetime. I personally also know barely any of my surrounding streets here, despite living here for 25 years simply because I don't get out much.
 

Michael Dunkerton

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In Skyrim, I didn't exactly roleplay, but I did try to have my character act with some consistency (or think of a narrative excuse for what I wanted to do). Skyrim's barebones character interaction in the midst of (in my opinion) very compelling and interesting main storylines (particularly the main quest, Dragonborn, and the Dark Brotherhood story) was the perfect balance to me. I felt like big, cool things were happening in the world, but my response to them was my own. For instance, I wanted to make a generally good-natured, but pragmatic and martial mercenary. He was a two-handed sword user, so I wanted to use the sword that grants lifesteal--but you can only level it up by "betraying your friends". I managed to find a way to do it that was consistent with my idea of the character--he wasn't malicious, but he hated orcs. He's a human soldier, orcs are the enemy (at least in most fantasy stories, despite being downplayed in TES). So he joined an orc clan, went into their stronghold, and slaughtered them all. Despicable enough to satisfy the daedric weapon but completely justified in his own mind. The sort of thing that never would have worked if my character had to talk.

(Side note--I do wish there were more "lawful good" options, like having at least as many Divine weapons as daedric ones.)
 

Pyrian

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Not a very convincing argument, I'm afraid. The mind-numbingly stupid dialog wouldn't become magically smarter just because it wasn't voiced.
 

IceForce

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To answer the question specifically: Because it adds to immersion.

And to be frank, no one seemed to have an issue with the voiced protagonist of the Saints Row games, which is also billed as a 'blank slate' character in an open-world game. (Although perhaps the main difference there is that you actually get to choose your voice.)
 

Shamus Young

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Pyrian said:
Not a very convincing argument, I'm afraid. The mind-numbingly stupid dialog wouldn't become magically smarter just because it wasn't voiced.
Lack of a voiced main protagonist means more potential options for everyone else since all other voice actors have a fraction of the work-load that voiced protags would. So that means you could at least triple potential responses from everyone since the main protagonist has no voice to record and is thus not limited in their response number. Obviously that would depend on who you were talking to, but the idea is sound. Since options open, the dialogue that is available wouldn't have to be so mind-numbingly LCD.
 

Zelderahn

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IceForce said:
no one seemed to have an issue with the voiced protagonist of the Saints Row games, which is also billed as a 'blank slate' character in an open-world game. (Although perhaps the main difference there is that you actually get to choose your voice.)
Well that and the Saints Row series is absolutely nuts. Like.. taking anything serious or attempting at connecting with characters and not just behaving like the deranged batman villain you were made to be is plain impossible, so it doesn't really matter that your derp of a character speaks.
 

Mister K

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Pyrian said:
Not a very convincing argument, I'm afraid. The mind-numbingly stupid dialog wouldn't become magically smarter just because it wasn't voiced.
Yes, but if developers didn't need to add a voiceover for EVERY dialogue choice PC makes, I think they could add at least a few more.

OT: But... But Shamus! How can you say that?! Fallout 4 is ze bast gaim evur, right? Right?! RIGHT?!!!! It can't be a big huge lie! Internet Hype Train Fueled By Paul Marketing never lies!
*Chugs Doritos and Mountain Dew*
 

Thyunda

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I don't think the issue is that the protagonist has a voice - I think the issue is Bethesda weren't quite prepared for the sheer amount of work it would have taken to make it convincing. The single voice actor isn't good enough, in my opinion. Sure, the voice is talented enough and it works for my character, a charisma-focused, revolver-toting PI in the Silver Shroud costume, but my brother's character has a mohawk, a bandanna around his mouth and welding goggles. He has a knife that he named Bastard and is constantly hopped up on Psycho Jet. Our two characters speak with the exact same calm, level tones and it's just plain disconcerting.
 

hentropy

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IceForce said:
To answer the question specifically: Because it adds to immersion.
My main complaint would be that the dialogue is done pretty badly throughout the game, it never truly feels authentic, and that's not because the voice actors do badly, by the game script and dialogue options are just not handled well. You add this to the fact that it's just confusing sometimes- you don't know really what you're going to say all the time when you choose that option, and the summaries are often ambiguous. It breaks immersion more than helps it.

If we're comparing it to Skyrim, it's not loads worse, because Bethesda in truth have never been known for their writing and stories, and when it come to RPGs they've never been into deep quests with a ton of different outcome and complex dialogue trees. However, compared to old-school RPGs (or even New Vegas in some ways), it's supremely lackluster. I don't think Fallout or TES should be voiced because those are supposed to be true blank slates- a stand in for you. Not characters.

Personally I don't hate the dialogue wheels in Mass Effect and Dragon Age like others, I think it's leagues above what they did in this game. Not only are there more options but I think the biggest thing is consistency- it adds to immersion and the sense that you can craft a character with their own motivations and tendencies. It's not a blank stand-in character but that's okay, because that's not how they designed it. I simply didn't get the same sense in Fallout 4.

And to be frank, no one seemed to have an issue with the voiced protagonist of the Saints Row games, which is also billed as a 'blank slate' character in an open-world game. (Although perhaps the main difference there is that you actually get to choose your voice.)
Personally, I WAS bothered by that. In all games you're told you can create whatever kind of character you want, even between three different voices, but you just end up being a cool psychopath spouting one-liners throughout. I think it would have been better if at least I could have different approaches to the same outcome, like if I want to be psycho clown or a gruff psychopath of few words. So yeah, I did think that having one script for your character did break immersion in some ways. Really the European voices in the last two games were the only ones worth it, as the script did change a good bit.
 

Shamus Young

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Thank you Shamus. While this was blindingly obvious to a lot of gamers, it's absolutely vital that this is actually posted on news sites - only then does it become "real" and something that might get the attention of developers.
Also, it lowers the sudden influx of hyped up "fans" that will defend Fallout 4, because otherwise their feelings get hurt (really - it's okay to like the damn game, just don't pretend that it's immune to criticism).

I miss more of these articles that show the things Fallout 4 did wrong and what could've made the game better.

IceForce said:
To answer the question specifically: Because it adds to immersion.

And to be frank, no one seemed to have an issue with the voiced protagonist of the Saints Row games, which is also billed as a 'blank slate' character in an open-world game. (Although perhaps the main difference there is that you actually get to choose your voice.)
(sorry for the long response - I took your post as an excuse to go on a short rant :) )

Mass Effect is also a good example of a "blank" character where the voice over works just fine.
The reason I put blank in air quotes there though, is that both Shepard and the Boss in Saints Row are not entirely blank characters.
In Mass Effect you have a talented person affiliated with the Earth military, with a distinguished career.
In Saints Row you have someone who wants to be a gang leader, a criminal and someone with highly questionable morals.

In both cases, the characters are already somewhat defined and I believe that's why the voice acting works.
(In the case of Saints Row, we're talking comedy - not worth taking seriously.)

If you take the first Fallout games as an example, those characters are more blank. They have an objective, but they're not defined by anything else than where they start (Vault 13 "Vault Dweller" and an Arroyo tribal).

Your answer isn't true everywhere - it's like movies and books. Some are more immersed when they read, others when they watch scenes unfold before their eyes.
Personally I feel more immersed by written dialogue and the voice acting is not only distracting, but actually rips me out of the immersion.
Mass Effect was the exception for me as Shepard generally had good voice acting all around and only rarely broke my immersion (usually due to the Renegade choices which as in Fo4 were way too aggressive).

Bethesda tried to have their cake and eat it too in Fallout 4. You have Nate (veteran soldier) and Nora (lawyer) that have a child together and live in a suburban home.
This is an interesting start to the story and had they stuck with the characters and their individual view on the world (Nate knowing that war never changes (strength) and Nora being a career office worker (charisma)) then the dialogue could've been more specific and interesting.
Instead they had the character go blank immediately after leaving the vault.

You can't even play these characters according to where they came from - they basically understand the world after twenty minutes and act like veteran wastelanders, only to come across a random NPC where they suddenly don't understand the most basic things about the world (like brahmin).

I don't know if you think the immersion is actually present in Fallout 4 through the voice acting though.
 

sXeth

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Soviet Heavy said:
How about your interview with Nick Valentine or visiting Abernathy Farms? You could avoid both of those places for hours, but when you get there you are stuck with questions even the most ignorant player would have figured out on their own.

"What's a tato?" "Why do we use caps instead of cash?" "What's a Brahmin?" "What are Supermutants!?" (this last one is especially stupid because you fucking fight a bunch of supermutants on your way to Diamond City to begin with!)

Also, your character must not have lived in Boston very long before the war. A guy was wandering around asking for directions to Bunker Hill, and the player character didn't know where it was.
My personal favorite is when you get to Goodneighbour (after Diamond City in the main quest) and can still ask what a Ghoul is, and the shopkeeper Ghoul expects you to be frightened of them. Even assuming you somehow avoided all the free-roaming ghouls, and didn't run into the dialog with Preston about pre-war Ghouls, they've already featured in two prior missions to that on the story.


Your character not knowing or reacting to anything recognizable in Boston also just seems poorly written, yeah. The only real glimmer of it I've seen is when he tells the baseball fanatic in Diamond City how baseball was actually played, and one option in Piper's interview that acknowledges a bunch of people squatting in a sports field. You can even find the Veterans hall place with a terminal mentioning your speech invite (from the intro), or Vault-tec's office discussing the cryo experiment, and he doesn't even briefly acknowledge it.

Getting back to the article's thesis though, this isn't a problem with the voice, its a distinct lack of options, and illogical writing. Other games have certainly given voices, with archetypes like "Joker", "Sociopath", "Nervous Breakdown" etc that would allow for more of a chosen personality, and the character provided is just inconsistent throughout.
 

Fox12

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Thyunda said:
I don't think the issue is that the protagonist has a voice - I think the issue is Bethesda weren't quite prepared for the sheer amount of work it would have taken to make it convincing. The single voice actor isn't good enough, in my opinion. Sure, the voice is talented enough and it works for my character, a charisma-focused, revolver-toting PI in the Silver Shroud costume, but my brother's character has a mohawk, a bandanna around his mouth and welding goggles. He has a knife that he named Bastard and is constantly hopped up on Psycho Jet. Our two characters speak with the exact same calm, level tones and it's just plain disconcerting.
It's a little weird that my guys naked, except for a sack on his head, and he's the most level headed guy in the room. It was amusing to see him quietly talk down a group of drug dealers, though.

They put so much work into letting you choose a name and build a character, and it's wasted because they all act the same. I wish Bethesda would think these things through.
 

Shamus Young

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Because they've always said stuff and now there's just a voice behind them? What kind of question is that? You know you can skip it like in every game prior right?
 

Shamus Young

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I'd say called it but, well, almost everybody did. At least around here anyways.

Honestly, having seen what a lot of people have said that was bad about Fallout 4 it really only amounted to this bizarre dialogue decision, which helps facilitate bad writing, and the bugs, which is something that will eventually be fixed.

Pyrian said:
Not a very convincing argument, I'm afraid. The mind-numbingly stupid dialog wouldn't become magically smarter just because it wasn't voiced.
Its not that voiced dialogue itself is necessarily bad (although it does take away from some player imagination for some folks), its that it uses additional resources that dialogue without a voice actor doesn't require. With every line of dialogue you're paying the voice actor. Its, frankly, expensive. It works with Mass Effect because there really isn't too much divergence in the series - you can be a goody two shoes or a sadistic prick but you're always fighting against the same forces in the same quests the same way. There's not a lot of choices but there doesn't need to be a lot of choices. Mass Effect is a very linear RPG, both in gameplay and narrative. Its fine and works for the series but it has the illusion of being an open-world while Fallout actually is an open world. In Fallout you have almost complete freedom both in gameplay and narrative. Mass Effect asks you whether you want to be a "paragon" hero or a "renegade" hero, but both are heroes, whereas Fallout historically lets you be a hero to a dastardly villain with plenty of room in between. You need a lot more room to do the role-playing aspect and voiced dialogue makes it much, much more expensive to role-play.
 

IamLEAM1983

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IceForce said:
To answer the question specifically: Because it adds to immersion.

And to be frank, no one seemed to have an issue with the voiced protagonist of the Saints Row games, which is also billed as a 'blank slate' character in an open-world game. (Although perhaps the main difference there is that you actually get to choose your voice.)
That's where I'm sitting, honestly. I like my guy having his own voice seeing as it anchors him in the world. I know *not* having recorded dialog opens up options for potential responses, but most of the missing options aren't those I personally would've chosen, in any case.

Take the zany Low Intelligence responses in New Vegas, for instance. Okay, so I designed a blockhead, but said blockhead apparently knows enough to manage coherent sentences - except where the designers thought it'd be funny to have us dip into Caveman Mode. Those responses felt less like the devs trying to accomodate my low Intelligence score and more like their going "Hey, selective cartoony mental retardation is fun! A-hyuck!"

That was more jarring for me than entertaining. On the other hand, Fallout 4's dialog options are consistent. Even if you go for a low Intelligence score, your character remains competent on the most basic level. It feels more realistic to me than spending my entire trek across the Mojave thinking that the bullet Benny lodged in my head turned my frontal lobe into a serving of tapioca.

This means that you can spend your time in the Commonwealth being a socially competent bruiser or sneak or what have you - or an above-average character with a high Intelligence score, in which case only hacking is affected. I can suspend my disbelief long enough for this to work, honestly. Maybe high-Int characters have a background in programming or computer engineering, as it is.
 

Mister K

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Siesta45 said:
Because they've always said stuff and now there's just a voice behind them? What kind of question is that? You know you can skip it like in every game prior right?
As others (me included) mentioned before, even if the voice actors were good themselves, it would still be worse than "mute" protagonist. The reason being that if you go with voiced protag, not only do you have to spend money to pay writers, but you also have to spend A LOT of time and money on actually voicing the lines. The time and money ammount is doubled if you are having one voice for a guy and one for gal.

The reasoning behind anti-voice acting arguments is if those lines weren't required to be voiced, developers could put a lot more of them in the game and give players more role playing options.

I mean, if it's a RPG with pre-established character (Deus Ex, Witcher), where you do not influence characters development, but their decissions only, then it's fine. But if it's a game with a blank-state protagonist (Fallout, Arcanum, Shadowrun) then it actually hurts the game by nullifing immersion to some extend.
 

Pyrian

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Pyrian said:
Not a very convincing argument, I'm afraid. The mind-numbingly stupid dialog wouldn't become magically smarter just because it wasn't voiced.
ravenshrike said:
Lack of a voiced main protagonist means more potential options...
Mister K said:
Yes, but if developers didn't need to add a voiceover for EVERY dialogue choice PC makes, I think they could add at least a few more.
MarsAtlas said:
Its not that voiced dialogue itself is necessarily bad (although it does take away from some player imagination for some folks), its that it uses additional resources that dialogue without a voice actor doesn't require.
We've got Bethesda's considerable prior oeuvre as evidence to the contrary. There is simply no evidence that any money freed up from voice acting would therefore go into more dialog options. Indeed, I do not expect that having a huge number of available dialog options is something they even desire, as it entails significant costs to player experience in its own way (read read read).

Look, there's no cure for bad writing except better writing and extensive editing.