Starfield is a big game with hundreds of planets to explore and many sandwiches to collect. But while all the NPCs you’ll meet in Starfield have voices, the game’s main character doesn’t. Bethesda already confirmed this was the case last year, but has now shared more details about why it made this choice, revealing that originally Starfield had a talking protag and that ultimately cutting the main character’s voice helped the game grow in size.
Starfield was officially revealed back at E3 2018. Half a decade later, the game is finally close to coming out. (Depending on where you live, it might be out in August, technically.) Hype is off the charts for this open-world RPG set in a vast galaxy as it is Bethesda’s first big single-player game since 2015’s Fallout 4 and the first new IP from the studio in over two decades. And as I already mentioned, it’s a very big game. Bethesda’s own Pete Hines says it might take you over 50 hours to get through the main quest. According to Bethesda, the reason it was able to make such a big game is because it ultimately decided against having a voiced protagonist, a change from Fallout 4’s talkative main hero.
In an August 28 interview with Polygon, Starfield lead designer Emil Pagliarulo explained that early in the space RPG’s development, the studio actually had planned on your main character having a voice. Pagliarulo said that Bethesda even hired an actor and had them start recording dialogue before the team realized it wasn’t working, adding that the voice sounded “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?” asked Pagliarulo. “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.”
Interestingly, when asked if fan reaction to Fallout 4’s informed Bethesda’s decision to go the opposite direction in Starfield, Pagliarulo admitted that it partially did, suggesting that negative reactions to Fallout 4’s talking main hero didn’t “directly” lead to Starfield’s silent main character, but that it “certainly played into it.”
According to Pagliarulo, there was a time in AAA game development when every main character had to be voiced.
But he says that Bethesda has realized, over the last few years, that maybe that isn’t accurate. He suggested that fans might enjoy the game more if the protagonist doesn’t have a voice actor. The designer further added that there’s a “big argument” in RPGs about having voiced lines that mimic the text or if the text should just summarize the line.
“So then we just arrived at, ‘What if we just go text?’ and it was just really freeing,” said Pagliarulo, explaining that this choice helped the game actually grow even bigger.
“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.”