Rozovian’s Music Log

www.ocremix.org/artist/4795/

I thought this was a game

Posted by Ad on October 27, 2010

I wanna talk a bit about cutscenes. I’ve been thinking about the kind of decisions I’d make if i ever got to make a game, and the kind of things I’m advocating in the game I’m involved in (tho only in charge of the sound).

I tried to think of games where I enjoyed cutscenes. FFX came to mind as an example of having annoying characters say annoying things to other annoying characters, and occasionally Auron or Kimahri would grunt or something (which captured my feelings about the other characters quite well). As annoying as these überproduced modern FF games are, the older ones handled this so much better, despite being far simpler in design. On that note, playing through Seiken Densetsu 3, there’s a lot of cutscenes. How come these don’t bother me?

Granted, there were cutscenes in FFX that I enjoyed. The spectacular ones, the ones that showed you a world rather than showed the characters I didn’t care for steal the spotlight and ramble hormone-induced whines and conceited rants that stem from a sense of entitlement. Seriously, Tidus or Seymour, which one was more annoying?

Another example of games with cutscenes that don’t bother me would be from the Monkey Island series. While the dialogue tends to be interactive, even the parts where it isn’t don’t bother me. Why? Because it’s funny. Much like a terrible ad can really irk you, a funny ad both serves its function of making you aware of the product but can also be enjoyable and thus memorable. This is why I’d much rather use 020202 than 0100100 as my go-to service for finding ppl/places (in Finland at least). 0100100’s sponsor message got REALLY annoying when you’re watching a show like Lost and it cuts to the sponsor message… which is LOUD!

Metroid: Other M’s cutscenes give us information we either don’t care about or that we already figured out. There are a few scenes that, at least in retrospect, were good. The killer rabbit scene is one, tho it feels as if having to stop the game and have a “Where’s Waldo” minigame in order to see the cutscene is the wrong approach.

With Bobby Kotick thinking of making movies out of cutscenes in games, and a lot of big games treating cutscenes as their sole storytelling device in their games, I can’t help but wonder if we’re heading in the wrong direction. We already have cinema, and it’s _so_ 20th century.

If I could call the shots? if the cutscene isn’t spectacular or funny enough, don’t use a cutscene. portal’s storytelling is done within a fully interactive world, the game never stops the game to tell the story, never takes control away from the player, never has the story running in like a clown into an operating room shouting at the surgeons: “Hey look at me, I’m here and I’m explaining what you guys are doing and why! Hey! Listen!” Tho if I were a surgeon, I at least have the choice of going after the clown with a scalpel. I think the Hippocratic Oath has, or at least should make an exception for situations like that.

Yes, there are things that you need to stop the game for to explain, but as useful as cutscenes are for telling the story, the story should never be a clown in an OR. You can tell that the patient in surgery is important by having guards outside the OR, or somewhere else where we can see them. We don’t need someone stopping the game to tell us that.

Cutscenes can also be used as a reward, but then they’d have to be enjoyable. When they’re overused, you get a “success” jingle and a cutscene that shows you what happened. While it’s useful to somehow cue the player’s attention to whatever they just achieved, grabbing and turning their heads and pointing to whatever they just made happen is a really annoying way of doing that. I mean, we have stereo sound, we have particle effects, we have all kinds of stuff. Just widening the field of view and moving the camera slightly would be enough. You don’t need to stop the game to tell us we did something. (this is where I grab and turn your head and point to the Metroid Prime series)

It’s much more rewarding when it’s either funny or spectacular. When it’s not, it a break too short and unpredictable to be a snack/toilet break yet long enough to break immersion. And the more often it happens, the more annoying it gets. Just imagine if ever sentence you typed correctly would result in a jingle and a “nice work” screen that would last 5 seconds. Unless you’re the kind of writer that makes really long sentences or simply don’t write a lot of them you’ll get annoyed. Fast.

I think the big problem is that the visuals now rivals that of the movies, so game directors think they’re movie directors. That’s when we end up with games that play themselves while we wait for an opportunity to do something. If this evolution keeps going, all the video game industry will have accomplished is to make actors obsolete. Oh and players, too.

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