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Cinematic versus voiceover

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What are your opinions regarding using a cinematic or simply a voice-over during the game to forward the story? What would be a reasonable balance or should diving deeper into the story be an optional “push of a button” feature? There have been some games worth a mention when it comes to lengthy cinematic scenes to prolong the story, most recent we have ‘Metal Gear Solid 4’ which totals around 8 hours of sequences split across 5 acts and an epilogue. The ‘Final Fantasy’ franchise is also known for its cut-scenes. However, there are hordes of games that opt for using voice-overs to prolong the story, not a personal favorite however it saves time and allows players to keep playing, not to mention completely ignore it often resulting in missing a piece of the puzzle or not knowing where to go. Some stories tend to be multi-layered riddled with subplots, themes and clues regarding what has been and what’s to come, should revealing the story be optional to the player? Allowing the player to choose between a need-to-know basic story, with only the minimal of information needed to understand enough of what is going on to complete the game and feel rewarded or choose for more deeper experiences and understanding by pushing a button during certain moments of the game to reveal additional expanded scenes providing towards the games completion and for the player to walk away having learned something new. Lets share our opinions and ideas.

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I usually welcome non-interactive cut-scenes (preferably in-game) as a short break from (often stressful) gameplay. It gives the player a moment to relax, review what he has accomplished and prepare for the next step. The feel for progress is also stronger when gameplay is interrupted for a short time.

Personally, I prefer short but plentiful in-game cutscenes over cinematic monstrosities like Wing Commander 3-5. In such games you generally just play to see the next movie and the game is not the main focus of the product.

If you have voice-overs in an interactive scene, though, most players concentrate more on the game part than the story. Bioshock and System Shock come to mind. While you usually had all the time in the world to listen to those voice-tapes, listening to them felt rather 'idle' in the game world.


Players can always press Escape a scene if they don't want to listen to/watch it. It's not like you force the player to care for the story.

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There is no need for cut-scenes in a game. Ever. There are far, far better ways to integrate Story with Play. (In fact, I'm writing a book on this very subject.)

Hegemon has suggested that cut-scenes offer respite from stressful gameplay. This is an excuse, not a reason. The correct solution is to simply reduce the stress in the gameplay. More variation in pacing is a good thing. It adds a contrasting element. Slow the game down a little and let the player explore the Story elements in his own way.

If your game is Story-centric and you're deliberately aiming for a more linear experience, there is more leeway for introducing explicitly linear, non-interactive Story elements. That there's room in the market for such games is undeniable, as sales figures clearly attest. However, if poorly implemented, the resulting chimera can barely even be called a "game". If the Story is merely a reward element that is utterly uninfluenced by the Play itself, the result is essentially two products: a separate story that uses Play merely as a user interface.

There are umpteen casual game titles that use this technique. Essentially, you're reading a novel that requires you to solve a puzzle merely in order to turn the page. The puzzle is Play. The novel is Story. Neither have any influence on the other, aside from providing a molecule-thin veneer of motivation for the player -- a veneer that other, story-less implementations of the same puzzle genre show is not actually necessary and merely increases the cost of the game's development while providing negligible play (and no replay) value.

For more complex games, the possibilities for embedding the Story elements directly within the Play context, rather than treating it as a separate layer, are far greater and arguably more rewarding.

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I think Gears of War had the most annoying dialog system ever conceived. It wouldn't have been so bad if they didn't...

1. Interrupt the game with them so often.
2. Prevent the player from breaking out of them.
3. Make the player inch forward so slowly during them.
4. Save nearly every checkpoint right before them.
5. Use them for the most trivial dialog.

All of those choices, compiled together, had to be one of the dumbest design decisions in the history of game development. I would take a cinematic over that, any day.

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Many of those sequences in Gears of War are actually hiding loading from the player. This is why they happen so often right after a checkpoint. But honestly, I'd rather look at a loading screen then those. It's entirely psychological. With a loading screen, I know what I'm waiting for. I know the game is doing something. With the dialog sequence, all I know is that I'm stuck in this damn dialog sequence.

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There is no need for cut-scenes in a game. Ever.

I'm in this camp too. If you want to use them to advance the plot you should make a movie.

However, if you insist on it, at least make the cutscenes skipable so I don't have to watch them every one of the 13 attempts it takes me to beat boss X.

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Original post by Deyja
Many of those sequences in Gears of War are actually hiding loading from the player. This is why they happen so often right after a checkpoint.

For the PC version (the only one I've played), checkpoints still make use of loading screens. One of the later areas is the worst situation - the one where you find the first torque bow. The checkpoint already needs to load with its own loading screen, and the player already has to run a mile to get to the first signs of combat. It doesn't make much sense to slow him down even more. One of my friends gave up trying to win on the hardcore setting because of that single checkpoint + long slow travel + dialog situation.

I would post some advice about how to avoid this type of thing, but it's probably obvious to everyone. Oh well, here it is anyway..

+ Load all data (on checkpoints) before the game starts.
+ Don't place checkpoints before long distance traveling.
+ Don't place checkpoints right before cut scenes or dialog sequences.
+ Checkpoints are supposed to save from danger, not repeat story elements.

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Original post by stimarco
There is no need for cut-scenes in a game. Ever. There are far, far better ways to integrate Story with Play.

Would you care to give some examples of games that use these superior ways? I can't think of any, and surely there must be some?

Quote:

If your game is Story-centric and you're deliberately aiming for a more linear experience, there is more leeway for introducing explicitly linear, non-interactive Story elements. That there's room in the market for such games is undeniable, as sales figures clearly attest. However, if poorly implemented, the resulting chimera can barely even be called a "game". If the Story is merely a reward element that is utterly uninfluenced by the Play itself, the result is essentially two products: a separate story that uses Play merely as a user interface.

That is a poor argument. If the gameplay is poorly implemented, the result cannot be called a "game", since it is unplayable. Hence there is no need for gameplay?

Quote:

There are umpteen casual game titles that use this technique. Essentially, you're reading a novel that requires you to solve a puzzle merely in order to turn the page. The puzzle is Play. The novel is Story. Neither have any influence on the other, aside from providing a molecule-thin veneer of motivation for the player -- a veneer that other, story-less implementations of the same puzzle genre show is not actually necessary and merely increases the cost of the game's development while providing negligible play (and no replay) value.

For more complex games, the possibilities for embedding the Story elements directly within the Play context, rather than treating it as a separate layer, are far greater and arguably more rewarding.

Games are (usually) entertainment. Your argument against two layer (story/play) approach is invalid, since people experience games to be entertained. Good story adds value to that experience, no matter how it is implemented.

Cut-scenes are usually done to show something that games engine is not cabable of doing (in terms of interactivity or visual presentation) or to get player more involved in the story (dialogue, changing viewpoint, adding dramatic camera angles, close-ups etc). If you take away cut-scenes, you basically have a movie where the leading actor decides what is going to happen, and where the camera always points at him/her. Granted the game may have replay value, but the experience is still linear, without the added benefit of the director holding the strings and making sure that everything goes as planned.

Now, I don't think that every game need cut-scenes, but they certainly have their place.

PS. How do you define cut-scene? Is prolonged dialog a cut-scene? Can losing control of your charecter for a two seconds be considered as a cut-scene? Im assuming we are talking about every occasion you lose control of youre character (without a good reason).

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Original post by teebee
Quote:
Original post by stimarco
There is no need for cut-scenes in a game. Ever. There are far, far better ways to integrate Story with Play.

Would you care to give some examples of games that use these superior ways? I can't think of any, and surely there must be some?

Nearly all games use them, in some form or another. In a nutshell, the story unfolds without removing your ability to interact with it.

For example, you could watch a short story about a single round of Blanka vs Guile in Street Fighter II, or you could just pick up the controller and make it happen.

We've all seen the cut scenes where the final bad guy has his last mouth off session while the hero stands there and listens to it. Wouldn't it be nice to pull out your weapon and start sprinting at him while he does so?

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Original post by Kest
I think Gears of War had the most annoying dialog system ever conceived. It wouldn't have been so bad if they didn't...

1. Interrupt the game with them so often.
2. Prevent the player from breaking out of them.
3. Make the player inch forward so slowly during them.
4. Save nearly every checkpoint right before them.
5. Use them for the most trivial dialog.

All of those choices, compiled together, had to be one of the dumbest design decisions in the history of game development. I would take a cinematic over that, any day.


This point alone made me want to kill every GEAR i met. I hated them all. Stupid fat gits. GOW - its either Gays-Of-War or Queers-Of-War. YADDA YADDA YADDA!!! drove me mad.

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