Bethesda contemplated giving a voice to Starfield’s silent protagonist

We’ll be exploring the massive world of Starfield in little over a week and finding out for sure whether this space-faring role-playing game lives up to all the hype. But before that time comes, a fascinating discovery has been made about the game’s protagonist, particularly the reason for his silence.


Emil Pagliarulo, the primary designer of Starfield, recently spoke with Polygon about the game’s lack of a vocal protagonist and his reasoning for it. He also confirmed whether this particular choice was influenced by the criticism of Fallout4 by saying:

Not directly, but it certainly played into it. 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 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 [in Starfield] you can make every different type of person. 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.

Like Starfield, Fallout 4 by Bethesda Game Studios was one of the most eagerly awaited titles in 2015. When the RPG first came out, many players complimented its extensive backstory, the freedom it gave them, and the fascinating soundtrack, among other things.

However, a sizable portion of players criticized the spoken protagonist of the game, mostly because of the weak conversation delivery. The majority of respondents believed that Nate and Nora’s player character voices did not match their player character designs, which detracted from the immersive RPG experience.

Pagliarulo also noted the AAA industry’s infatuation with vocal protagonists, but Bethesda’s break from this tendency allowed it to focus on enlarging and improving the expansive Starfield environment.

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].

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.

Fallout 4 earned $750 million within the first 24 hours of its launch.

Protagonists with voices aren’t always a terrible thing. Just consider the Witcher, Mass Effect, or Dragon Age: Inquisition series. For instance, The Witcher shares its structure with Mass Effect (although Commander Shepard is spoken by two actors) and centers on Geralt as the only character.

Get our newest content first by following Xfire on Google!

In contrast, the protagonist in Dragon Age: Inquisition can be a Human, Dwarf, Elf, or Qunari, and each of these four character possibilities is available in both male and female forms. The trick is figuring out whether a vocal protagonist actually adds value to a role-playing game. If in doubt, it’s advisable to err on the side of caution and choose a voiceless protagonist.

Todd Howard of Bethesda earlier expressed a similar opinion about how having a vocal protagonist takes away from the immersive RPG experience, especially in games like Starfield that have a New Game+ mode.

It gives you the flexibility and options to carve out a unique identity, and even adds a unique and exciting twist on New Game+ to incentivise continued and repeat play. The team did, initially, record player character dialogue, like in Fallout 4, but eventually stripped it out having a preset voice and intonation took too much from role-playing whoever you want to be.

It’s possible that the identity of the actor who was supposed to play the Starfield protagonist will always be a secret. Even if he may have been excellent in the part, we should consider ourselves fortunate that their work was cut from the game’s final release.

Starfield is the studio’s first game made using Creation Engine 2.

For Xbox Series X/S and PC through Steam, Starfield is slated to debut on September 6, 2023, while a select few US players will be able to begin their cosmic trip as early as August 31.

Do you believe that Starfield would be better off without a vocal protagonist? Or should Bethesda have given players the option to choose? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.

Leave a Comment