Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling remarks from my mad, muddled, meandering mind.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Finding a Voice: the Player Characters of TSW

While I consider The Secret World to be one of the best (if not the best, period) storytelling engine that I’ve seen in MMOs, it’s a little strange how my character has yet to say a single word in the entirety of her adventures... This game world and its inhabitants are so incredibly interesting, but I still don’t quite know who I am.
~Syp, When My Death Comes
Syp is wishing that his character could speak for herself. Seems that many—though not all—of his readers disagree; I happen to be one of them.

My characters' voices are different than whatever the devs and artists would think of. A perhaps ironic  example: I "pictured" Zen Rafell, my Smuggler in SWTOR, as having a gravelly voice like the guy in the SWTOR cinematic trailer, "The Return":
Contrast that with the actual smuggler voice in the game. He sounds reasonably tough in this trailer, but trust me when I say his milquetoast voice and tone made him practically unplayable for me:
I felt sidelined by some of my characters' voices in SWTOR, and even more so in GW2, where I can't even decide what they say. There is reasonable storytelling in both games (YMMV), but I don't feel personally involved. The less my character speaks, the more I can put my own reactions into the game. This may be why I feel such an attachment, even now, to my STO captains and crews.

I know exactly who my TSW characters are. Well, maybe not exactly. But we've settled into a comfortable relationship. And I hear their voices in my head. (That's sounds creepy, doesn't it.) I can imagine their voices clearly.
I hear my sister-in-law's low-toned Japanese when Poppyshock "speaks." Dortmunder has a baritone German accent (probably a Bavarian lilt, to be honest, since that's the region I have most experience with). And Lone Star Belle pronounces her words with a slight Central Texas drawl.
Some of this sense of my characters happened almost immediately. Other parts have developed over time, due to circumstances in the game or seeing their expressions. LSB, for instance, while always a strong female character, didn't start out a tough-as-nails gunslinger. But that came as I have played and shifted her weapons.
So in the end, while I have enjoyed those other games where my characters have voices bestowed by the developers, I personally prefer the times when I can interpret them my way. It makes them more real to me, not less. Maybe someday our games will be sophisticated enough for us to customize character voices the way we now customize their faces. Until then, I prefer that they remain the strong, silent type.

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