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synth_cat

advice on adding cutscenes?

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Hello all, I recently got the idea of adding functionality for basic cutscenes to my game. By "cutscene" I mean a space of time in which the user is not doing anything (except perhaps skipping the cutscene) and the camera and objects are moving around to provide exposition/entertainment. I've heard a lot of complaints about cutscenes in games, so I thought I should get some advice on how to implement this feature correctly. Here are the kinds of cutscenes I would like to use 1) Story cutscenes: These would be the longest by far. My game would probably only have two or three of these, one at the beginning of a campaign, one at the end of a campaign, and perhaps another in the middle. 2) Very basic cutscenes: Short, simple things like having the camera spin around your ship for two seconds when you complete a level. These are the kinds of cutscenes which I would add purely to give my game a more polished look, and they would most likely be skip-able. 3) Level exposition: I had the idea of setting up certain missions so that they begin with a camera fly-by over a level with scrolling text explaining what the player is supposed to do. These would obviously be skip-able, and would not happen twice in a row. Does my current cutscene plan seem OK?

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I think the complaint is usually more along the lines of not being able to skip the cutscenes or putting them in where they really don't belong just for the sake of having them. However you handle it, just make sure there is an intuitive way for your user to skip it if they want.

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Better yet, to make a text outlining the cut-scene available at any time.
Certain games, like Legacy of Kain series allow you to see the entire cut-scene scripts, which is a little overboard, but still very nice.

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I've honestly never liked cutscenes in games. I think it's too bad that so many have them. They are ok for RPG's or backstory's, or perhaps as you said, flying around the level and explaining the objectives.

I think the worst thing that games do is have a cutscene where the player character is present. You're right there... why would you need a cutscene?

Anyway, yes the best thing to do is make everything skippable, but then you become faced with the problem that if your story is locked in the cut scenes, and furthermore the cutscenes are not either visually amazing or very interesting, most people will not pay attention to the story. Have cutscenes if you must (skip, skip, skipable) but makes sure the story is not locked in them like a breifcase.

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Quote:
Original post by synth_cat
1) Story cutscenes: These would be the longest by far. My game would probably only have two or three of these, one at the beginning of a campaign, one at the end of a campaign, and perhaps another in the middle.

These are usually fine the first time through, but practically no one will want to watch them twice. But as usual, just allowing it to be skipped makes everything okay.

Quote:
2) Very basic cutscenes: Short, simple things like having the camera spin around your ship for two seconds when you complete a level. These are the kinds of cutscenes which I would add purely to give my game a more polished look, and they would most likely be skip-able.

I would make sure something else is being displayed at the same time. Scores, statistics, information, or something. If levels are short, and you halt gaming just to spin around the ship, players will probably be pretty annoyed to even have to press the button and wait through screen transitions to skip it. It really depends on how often it happens, though.

Quote:
3) Level exposition: I had the idea of setting up certain missions so that they begin with a camera fly-by over a level with scrolling text explaining what the player is supposed to do. These would obviously be skip-able, and would not happen twice in a row.

That sounds fine, as long as it can be skipped.

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Quote:
Original post by synth_cat
By "cutscene" I mean a space of time in which the user is not doing anything

I think you've pretty much highlighted the problem people have with cutscenes - if they're watching one, they've stoped playing the game. If they were just having fun, you've yanked it away from them. Keep the cutscenes short (a few seconds, maybe the camera just pans quickly to a character saying "I'm up here") and minimal and people won't get annoyed.

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If your game has a central/strong story, a decent cutscene at the beginning and end seems perfectly acceptable. It lets you show more emotion, and more closely illustrate what exactly is going on. The ending scene is good for the same reason. For a possible 'middle' scene, you need to be careful. A major event could have a cutscene, but be careful not to make it too intrusive, long, or unskippable.

You probably shouldn't put in more than a beginning/end unless you have a very involved story with some major twist or event for the middle scene. But be aware, if you go to the only cutscene in the game (middle), the player might know that something big is about to happen, and it could possibly ruin your story's twist. Might want to consider the cutscene sort of happening around the player, who retains control (Don't move the camera out, allow them to look around but not move) but can't do anything and is nearly forced to watch.

As for the mini-scene, 2 second fly around thing, I'd be cool to see it if it brought you your stats for the mission and such, or to a ranking. But just to see it, well, do it last if at all.

When you stated the third one, I instantly thought of a mission briefing or overview. Having an audio briefing while being flown over a map, or over the level would be fantastic. You could highlight major areas, show enemy strongholds, possible side-quest things (or sub-objectives). Not sure the format or genre of your game, but if it's mission based, this might be an excellent idea. Just don't 'stop' the game to do it if it doesn't fit/isn't mission based.

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Thanks for all the responses.

I expect I will only stick to two "major" cutscenes - the beginning and end. Of course, I might also add a little opening slam-bang thing that runs every time the game is started.

The hardest part of setting up my cutscenes (primarily the story and mission-briefing ones) will be that I'll probably be forced to use scrolling text instead of voice recordings. This is just because I can't afford to pack a ton of sound memory (even compressed) into a game which will be distributed online. I would love to have my own studio and be able to cast people to perform scripts, but I have to draw a line somewhere . . .

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For my 4E5 game (which I never finished), I was considering a form of cut scene. It was a mission-based game and your boss would be giving you the directions. You could look around and peer around at his desk, office, whatever and could zoom into things. So, you could get some hints for the stage by looking at the papers on their desk or watch the fish talk while they were talking (with subtitles, of course).

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I've always liked the cutscenes in the games I've played.

I refer to the kind of cutscenes where you completely abstract away from gameplay and see some sort of story progression. I don't mean the kind of cutscene where you simply _break_ from gameplay and watch your character open a door or something.

Story cutscenes have always been something of a "player reward" for me. I like them not because they will necessarily directly enhance or even have anything to do with the following gameplay, but because they help increase the suspension of disbelief and personal involvement in the world of the game.

Is this idea not in vogue anymore? If so, why do AAA games even have cutscenes anymore?

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