Half-Life: Alyx dev says it’s ‘liberating’ to have protagonist speak

The developers of Half-Life: Alyx recently hosted a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) to discuss everything related to the upcoming VR game. Interestingly enough, many of the questions users asked pertained to the protagonist Alyx herself. More specifically, users asked about the decision to make her speak. In a word, the developers said the decision to no longer feature a silent protagonist was “liberating.”

In the AMA comments, Reddit user worldwithpyramids asked if using “a speaking player-character” had any effect on how the game was written or designed. The game’s co-writer Erik Wolpaw then chimed in to describe how working with a mute hero had been a hindrance in the past. Wolpaw said now that the team is working with a hero that speaks, writing dialog is much easier:

“Having the viewpoint character speak is mostly liberating,” Wolpaw said. “It certainly makes writing scenes easier when you don’t have to write around the fact that the main character is a mute. It’s also easier to have the player feel they’re actually an active participant in the scene.”

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Wolpaw went on to describe how past Valve releases, notably games in the Portal series, got around having a mute player character by having other characters acknowledge the fact that they don’t speak.

“I think it’s a lot more tricky when you have to maintain a fragile fiction that the player character can talk but simply isn’t for some reason,” Wolpaw said.

Portal fans may want to read that one again — the developers themselves hold that (Portal protagonist) Chell can speak, but just chose not to. It’s not an easy angle to work, to hear Wolpaw say it, but the series certainly managed to be successful enough despite its silent protagonist.

Thankfully, these concerns won’t be playing into the writing in Half-Life: Alyx. Alyx will have speaking parts, and both the dialog and the story should feel more natural because of it. To learn more details about the game from the AMA, be sure to head over to this page on Reddit.