The Secret World: When my death comes

death

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.  Unlike Guild Wars 2 or SWTOR, none of the player characters are voiced.  We can prod NPCs to open up by clicking on subjects, but us asking them to talk about these things is left up to our imaginations.  Apart from that, all of the other characters seem more than happy to talk up a storm (and to do so quite entertainingly) in cutscenes without our assistance.

Some people love this approach and some miss having their character being more involved in these discussions.  It certainly avoids the issue of having voice actors that some players will invariably hate or feel don’t match their character, but it also puts us more on the sidelines in the cutscenes than I’d like.  This game world and its inhabitants are so incredibly interesting, but I still don’t quite know who I am.

I start thinking about this a lot when the NPCs start making judgment calls about who my character is and what I represent.  Sometimes there’s some venom directed toward the secret society I’m a part of, or how they have to live in these places while I’m just passing through.  The Vampire Hunter in Transylvania ripped me a new one the other night while telling me that I had to go on a tour to see the human cost of the dark things going on.

But that’s not my fault, I wanted my character to say.  Once in a while I want my character to intervene or have the NPCs ask me about myself.  My character is a consummate listener, but absolutely mute.  I’d love to defend myself against such attacks, or to offer comfort to hurting NPCs, or to offer up a wisecrack of my own when Nassir is goofing it up.

Maybe it’s all supposed to be in my head.  Maybe that’s where the personal roleplaying begins.  It’s not the game that’s filling in the speech blanks for me, but my own imagination.  Am I jaded by what I’ve seen?  Horrified by it?  Do I have sympathies for certain characters or factions over others?  I guess that’s up to me to decide.

What I want to know more than anything else is that my adventures are helping the world and these people instead of just being self-serving and an instrument of my secret society.  That I’m not just a mindless killing machine, but a soldier sent to protect innocents from the brunt of the secret war.  I may be death, but I don’t want to be the NPCs’ death.

Who am I?  I don’t know yet.  Maybe the bees took that too.

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17 thoughts on “The Secret World: When my death comes

  1. I 100% love it. I wish all MMOs would copy it. No matter how brilliantly voice-acted or scripted my character’s responses might be, they are NOT the responses of my character. Only my character knows what those are – even I am not privy to what goes on in my character’s head or heart.

    I am merely the facilitator, the agent, for my characters. Their lives and their thoughts are their own.

  2. Personally, I love it. One of the big problems with Guild Wars 2, imo, is that they have the character going around saying and doing all kinds of stuff… that their character is saying and doing. That character, then, doesn’t always feel like mine. The only effect I have on my character is essentially how they are dressed. There is a disconnect there. The fact that The Secret World’s characters are mute allows me to feel like I’m connected more. He’s not suddenly spouting off about something that I would have never wanted him to say.

    And you play Templar, don’t you… the Illuminati mentality seems to be more “bad stuff will happen to good people and sometimes we cause that to happen. Deal with it.”

  3. I’m with Bhagpuss, I felt far more sidelined by some of my characters’ voices in SWTOR, and especially in GW2, where I can’t even decide what they say. There is reasonable storytelling in both games, but I don’t feel personally involved. The less my character speaks the more I can put my own reactions into the game.

  4. I don’t like voice acting for my characters. They never sound the way that I think they should.

  5. It always amused me because it’s something the NPCs notice as well. There have been several occasions where the NPC will comment on the fact that I never speak. Like the fact that my character can’t die because MMO, it’s something that the game has actually brought into the fiction in some way.

  6. I’ve never been a fan of the whole “silent protagonist” thing, so if it were up to me, I would have had our characters be fully voiced. I find it much harder (though not impossible) to be engaged by my characters or form any attachment to them when they have no personality whatsoever.

    That said, I sort of understand why Funcom took the route they did, and I’ve learned to live it. The NPCs are so entertaining that it’s easy to forget that we as players are essentially just wallpaper.

  7. As some people say, I’m much more pleased to have a silent character in TSW than a much too talkative one in GW2. At last I can have, in front of my screen, the reaction I want my character to have to that special situation (did I say how much I hate the paladinesque way humans have to behave in GW2 – even the thief I play, hoping to have something a bit more ‘bad guy’…)

  8. I guess it depends on your expectations –

    1) Take on the role of a character. You experience their life, but don’t determine their personality (Halo, Tomb Raider, Starcraft…). You get to BE the hero or whatever other awesomeness the writers intended.
    2) Take on the role of a character. You are supposed to be acting as a character, like in theatre. The character’s personality is supposed to be whatever you decide it to be. You get to BE yourself or whatever else you choose.

  9. “But that’s not my fault, I wanted my character to say”

    And your character did say it… in your head.

    Wouldn’t it suck if the developers had predetermined answers that were nothing like how you’d imagined your respones would be? SWTOR had this issue, where the conversations felt more like watching a movie… the player was detached and watched what was happening.

  10. Heh, I hated when the choices on SWTOR’s conversation wheel didn’t actually match up with the spoken dialogue.

  11. @Rowan — they never matched exactly. and I found a couple of weeks ago when playing my Agent that even though I was supposed to be mind-controlled one of the options appeared to be to answer as though I wasn’t. I was curious so I selected that option, and the character responded as though mind-controlled … completely opposite of what the wheel said.

    So Bioware ruined “immersion” by giving me as the player an option that the character didn’t have, then pulled it back with a “just kidding! your character can’t do what we said it could and you tried to do!” Kind of funny, yet kind of annoying at the same time.

    I much prefer my own inner dialogue in TSW while my character is silent.

  12. @pk — Yeah, that was actually supposed to be part of the IA plot. Since you were under the “spell” of your mental conditioning as an agent, no matter what you wanted to say or do, you were forced to comply. While frustrating, it did simulate what the agent is going through. I’m talking about about relatively simple responses that either ended up as completely jerk-ass or, conversely, wimpy doormat dialogue. This happened to my wife’s Bounty Hunter all the time.

    Far better, IMHO, to leave the PC’s verbal responses to the imagination of the player, as I elaborated on in my own blog post yesterday.

  13. I like them NOT giving me a voice – In SWTOR – some of my characters I felt matched my avatar – others did not. Guild Wars 2 was even worse – I don’t feel many matched my thought of how they should sound at all. (Thinks of the original Norn female voice just before release – I was NEVER going to roll a Female Norn if they left that voice in)

    I like responding in my head. I was surprised how well it actually works with me never talking. Im not a small talker in RL anyway! I’m a listener!

  14. I like the fact my character is silent. No pre-arranged responses would ever be satisfactory as my character is a man of his own. he has his own thoughts and not even i have the privilege of knowing exactly just what my character thinks. And i love it that way, because i can only wonder from time to time what he must think, never quite knowing for sure. My mind fill in my own blanks in thought just wondering.

  15. At first the way the characters are presented felt a little wierd but as i played more and got used to MY chara ter it felt dar more natural. Without any conflicting information coming from dialogue i’m free to interpret the situation and how my character may respong how i want. with all the heavy themes going on i think it helps with letting the player really think about the morality and depth of situations.

    I dont think i would have liked playi g half as much if these the characters were as badly represented like others

  16. I love playing my characters against other people’s in unscripted RP, and in that situation I don’t allow them to dictate what my character says or does, either. But it’s different with the writers of the game, since we don’t get to interact directly. I find it makes for an interesting creative excercise to take the bits of dialogue provided and try to build my character around them in a way that makes sense. To put it in improv theatre terms, I say “yes, and”.

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