Weekend Question: Do you like bad guys who talk a lot?

PCG Jody

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Dec 9, 2019
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I ask the PCG staff a regular Weekend Question and post the answers on the site. If you'd like to throw in an answer here, I'll squeeze the best into the finished article!

This week's question is: Do you like bad guys who talk a lot?

Halo Infinite blessed us with the most amusing grunts in the series, which is quite an achievement considering they've been chatty since the original. According to the deep Halo lore they learned English specifically to insult humans in combat, thanks to a flourishing alien black market for Earth soap operas. I'm not making this up.

Talkative enemies are a feature of stealth games—think of all those taffers in Thief, thugs fretting about Batman in Arkham games, and guards discussing criminal sociology in No One Lives Forever—but even genres where NPCs don't need to announce their presence so you know where they are at all times sometimes have mouthy bad guys. That's not always a good thing. How do you feel, are you pro or anti bad guys who don't shut up?
 
i don't think there is a problem with chatty bad guys. I mean, look at Shodan who taunts you all throughout citadel station and responding accordingly with murderous intent and mockery. It might be boring to hype a bad guy all through the game only to make a grand appearance at the end.

So like all things, it all boils down to execution of the dialogue, how interesting the bad guy is and the length of it. What I don't want to see is long, unskippable, pretentious and/or irrelevant monologues from an unlikable character (even for bad guy standards).
 
Nov 27, 2020
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If done correctly I think it helps flesh out the personality of the "bad guy", so that he/she/it is something more than just a generic bullet sponge at the end of the game. Whether it gradually reveals a tragic past that forced this individual to do evil deeds, or shows the sadistic mind of a truly depraved character, or even something in between. As @Johnway stated the execution is critical, and his example of Shodan from the System Shock games is a perfect example.

Another example that comes to mind is Jon Irenicus from Baldur's Gate 2. Corrupted by the lure of power and cast out by the elves, he descended into deeds of depravity and torture that is gradually revealed through his dialog in a few short cut scenes as well as brief encounters with the player.
 
GLaDOS can talk all she wants. Another baddy that I liked hearing from was Pagin Min from Far Cry 4. Basically I enjoy it when the bad guys are funny. When they are just hurling clichés and threats at me, I tune them out. And I often love listening to what the NPC bad guys in Far Cry games, in general, are saying and how the lines are voice acted (usually over-acted). It's often hilarious to take someone out and leave the body to be found. I don't know why, but when they are screaming their anguish and furiously hunting for the culprit it just cracks me up. And then a minute later, they'll calm down and say, "I can't find them. They must have left," and immediately go back to whatever they were doing before.
 
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^ Everything Zed sed ^

I dislike cutscenes for bad guys to pontificate at me, but it's fine if they come thru via phone or radio—in short, don't get in the way of my gameplay.

Another cool thing is when the baddies speak their own lingo, like say in Crysis at the hardest level, the NKA speak in Korean—nice touch.

Similar in Far Cry Primal, where Ubisoft went the extra mile in constructing 3 prehistoric languages for the 3 tribes—I enjoyed figuring out a few phrases while stalking the opposition.

C&C Generals ZH had some fun taunting from opposing generals.

In general, as long as it's not a small collection of bland 'noises' repeated ad nauseum, I'm fine with chatter.
 

McStabStab

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Jan 13, 2020
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In the Witcher 3, Eredin said 12 voice lines in my whole 100+ hour experience, and I honestly felt unfulfilled with our rivalry. His actions spoke for him, but I like someone nagging and taunting you, building to that moment of satisfaction where you get to shut them up for good.

As mentioned above, SHODAN and GLaDOS were great examples, but some others that spring to mind are Higgs from Death Stranding, Andrew Ryan and Frank Fontaine from Bioshock, and Deathshead and Frau Engel from Wolfenstein.

As for standard "grunt" foes, I don't mind them being talkative, but if the voice lines get repetitive I can take it or leave it. Like Skyrim attackers saying "this is the part where you fall down and bleed to death!" is alright the first ten times you hear it, but after that it's a bit much.
 
I like scripted and/or one-shot dialogues from enemies, moreso if they're important. It's not always clear by their actions that they deserve to die (oh, no, they're killing things? I've never done THAT before), so sometimes what they have to say gives you sufficient motivation/justification to get rid of them.

That being said, I don't like dialogue that ruins the verisimillitude, like the infamous bandit with an arrow in his chest saying "Guess it was my imagination." I also don't like it when I'm 99.9% certain someone hasn't detected me but are still like "That's close enough" or "What are you doing there." (Unless there is a valid story/environmental reason as to why they can detect me despite all other indications.) I also prefer that games know when I've "overheard" something and then choose not to repeat it later, because it's just weird to hear two guards have the EXACT same conversation they'd had with each other not five minutes earlier. Don't loop it. If it's important, add it to my quest log or something as having overheard it.
 
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I'm reminded of the Penny Arcade strip of Splinter Cell: Conviction, parodying the long-winded, unthreatening and excessive banter enemies would call out frequently. I don't mind villains having explanations for their actions, that's my favourite thing about Fallout, but cannon fodder having more voice lines than threat, life or rounds expended is annoying at times.



The exception of course being Dishonored. I have frequently engaged in the unexpected RP of forum conversations that begin with "shall we gather for whiskey and cigars tonight?"
 

Sarafan

Community Contributor
Jan 14, 2020
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The more they talk the better! Dialogues or even monologues of bad guys give the opportunity to present a detailed psychological portrait of our adversary. It makes such characters more believable and real. Imagine Joker from the Batman Arkham series that doesn't talk. The whole character is based on dialogues and I can't simply imagine him being silent. All of the jokes that he expresses are the quintessence of his character creation. Without them there's no Joker.

Silent bad guys aren't bad in every case however. Let's take a closer look on Dark Souls series. Bosses from this game rarely have something to say and the game is great nonetheless. It's a case where believable psychological portraits aren't needed however. The game relies on different aspects than Batman Arkham series and is very good in doing what it does. We can say that Dark Souls are even more atmospheric with this feature, as it makes the gameplay more mysterious and gloomy.
 
I've been thinking through this some more. If we're talking about NPCs chattering during gameplay, I'm all for it. But if we're talking about a long monologue during a cut scene, I don't need that. Just give me a brief summary of what I need to know, and let me play the game.

In movies, a bad guy's long monologue is great because it gives the hero time to escape. But in a game, you're usually trapped and can't control your character during the monologue.
 
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In movies, a bad guy's long monologue is great because it gives the hero time to escape. But in a game, you're usually trapped and can't control your character during the monologue.
I can appreciate important antagonists having a monologue because, as one person put it regarding Dungeons & Dragons, it's the Dungeon Master (DM) saying goodbye to their character, as a player would want their own death to be memorable in some way. It's different for video games to an extent due to checkpoints, control, cutscenes and so forth, but I can still understand the designer wanting their character to have a firm place in the player's memory and gaming history.
 
I'm reminded of the Penny Arcade strip of Splinter Cell: Conviction, parodying the long-winded, unthreatening and excessive banter enemies would call out frequently. I don't mind villains having explanations for their actions, that's my favourite thing about Fallout, but cannon fodder having more voice lines than threat, life or rounds expended is annoying at times.

The exception of course being Dishonored. I have frequently engaged in the unexpected RP of forum conversations that begin with "shall we gather for whiskey and cigars tonight?"
Personally i found splinter cell conviction's enemy banter pretty amusing and added a bit of smack talk that made taking them out all the more satisfying. Plus it was tailored per level "where are you fischer? you hiding with the nerds?" and " its the fun house for you fischer!" always brought a smile. understandable how it got annoying as they mimicked each other parroting the same phrases but it kept me entertained. but yeah hearing Shall we gather for whiskey and cigars tonight constantly did grate.

Speaking of chatty, playing Middle earth shadow of war (and its predacessor) the game wouldn't be the same with the trash talking orks. Its generally entertaining /amusing and does a good job of creating the rivalry. They gloat when they kill you ensuring that you remember the humiliation for some time. Plus they make an interesting entrance. A real highlight is when they make their last stand and they just can't help themselves but throw one last insult in your face making killing them all the more satisfying. A recent session one ork made a pretty hurtful insult along the lines of "you might kill me, but it won't change the fact that i bested you the first time!" Set up the vendetta mission and took him out on his victory feast by torching his face off with the grog. twice.
 
I can appreciate important antagonists having a monologue because, as one person put it regarding Dungeons & Dragons, it's the Dungeon Master (DM) saying goodbye to their character, as a player would want their own death to be memorable in some way. It's different for video games to an extent due to checkpoints, control, cutscenes and so forth, but I can still understand the designer wanting their character to have a firm place in the player's memory and gaming history.
Yeah, that's a good point. But let's take a game, like one of the Zelda games, for instance. You fight several bosses along the way, and then usually at the end, you're going to fight Ganon as the final boss. It's the climax of the game. In those situations with a final boss, I'm perfectly fine with decent length cut scene monologues. But I just don't want that for every single smaller boss along the way.

But I really love the example from the original post with the grunts in Halo. I love fighting a bunch of grunts and hearing the funny stuff they say during gameplay.
 

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