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Cinematics Are Killing Gameplay? 132

Posted by Zonk
from the angry-player-strikes-out dept.
Howard Brown writes "David Rodriguez is a Lead Game Designer at High Voltage Software. His latest article on Buzzscope discusses videogaming's overabundance of cinematics, and how their misuse is taking us further and further away from what videogaming is all about." From the article: "I made it perhaps three virtual feet before managing to trigger another cinematic. Silently biting back a curse I again attempted to button through it, but those rat-bastard developers were bound and determined to have me watch their cinematic magic. Idly tapping the button, as if hoping that somehow the rules would change, I sat and listened as some NPC taught me all about targeting."
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Cinematics Are Killing Gameplay?

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  • AMEN (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jeblucas (560748) <jeblucas&gmail,com> on Friday January 20, 2006 @06:35PM (#14522767) Homepage Journal
    I can't stand these things. I bought a GAME to PLAY. Not a POORLY ANIMATED MOVIE to WATCH. Whenever I get a title that I think might be "rich" with cinematics, I look at the preferences to see if there's a way to speed them up. I turn off the sound in them if possible, I make text scroll as fast as possible, etc. I know they want to "advance the story"; but if a game wants to have any CHANCE at replay value, it'd better allow me to skip the damn cinematics. That's why I can still play Prince of Persia:Sands of Time.
    • by Tyger (126248)
      I don't mind cinematics so much as long as they are not intrusive, and you only have to watch them once. (Including replaying the game. If a game makes you watch a cinematic, it should let you skip it if you've been through there in a different savegame.)

      Tutorial cinematics should ALWAYS be skippable. I got frustrated with the Batman Begins games because I got to a spot where you went through a tutorial that took a few minutes then you had to do two fights with no chance to heal between them. The fights
    • Good example (Score:3, Interesting)

      by neostorm (462848)
      You brought up my favorite example for this argument. Sands of Time stands is not just an example that gameplay does not need cinematics, but that you can have a rewarding and thorough narrative accompanying your game without resulting in endless cutscenes.
      Sands of Time still manages to tell a great story through character monologue and vocal narrative, and that game literally had more depth of character than most games with hours of cinematics.
      I always tell everyone to play it just to see for themselves.
    • "Cinematics Are Killing Gameplay?"

      I could've told you that back in 1997 when Final Fantasy 7 came out, much to everyone's "ooh's" and "ahh's". No one listened to me.
    • Gamasutra had an article on storytelling in games. They commented on the "show, don't tell" rule of traditional movies and books. They talked about the extension of this to games:

      Do, don't show
      Show, don't tell

      In other words, cutscenes are to be avoided as much as possible. Instead let the player work their way through the scene. Player action, then you show things, and then you have the boring exposition dead last.

      Videogames as an entertainment medium are still very young. They're still trying to get the gr
  • Agreed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ZephyrXero (750822) <zephyrxero.yahoo@com> on Friday January 20, 2006 @06:37PM (#14522792) Homepage Journal
    I could write pages, on this but I'll try to keep it brief...

    Cinematics are killing gameplay in many games... not all, something like an RPG, or a graphic adventure should have gobs of them, but I shouldn't have to sit through 5 minutes of cinematics before I start running and jumping in a Sonic or Mario type game... Cinematics and story in general are great, but they should be used in moderation when the story is not the main focus of the game.

    Another issue is that cinematics can take gamers out of the game, and kill that adrenaline rush they had going. Making them short and sweet, and always using in-game graphics whenever possible is the best way to remedy this. Sure, those hyper-realistic pre-rendered cinematics are pretty and all, but it reminds you subconciously that this is seperate from the rest of the game.

    Another big gripe I have for cinematics is that developers want you to watch these movies, but they don't give you a decent control mechanism like you have for DVDs and such. Whenever you're watching a cinematic you should always be able to hit start/pause and be able to replay or skip them.

    • Agreed. Cutscenes in RPGs and adventures, etc. are part of the experience, but in a lot of games they take you out of the action. The suffering had a great solution. All the cut scenes were real time, and you could do whatever you wanted. You could patiently wait for the guy to stop talking, or you could listen to himw while looking around and making sure no monsters were coming, or you could ignore him and be on your way, or you could even just kill him if you felt like it. It was all up to you, and a
    • I was thinking the same thing about cinematics late last week; how modern games are all cutscenes and minimal gameplay.

      but then I started thinking about old-ass NES games and I realized that back then, cutscenes were awesome (ninja gaiden, etc). Although they weren't drawn out (and you could skip over them), they really enhanced the gameplay. I feel that the reason for that is probably the poor graphics of the old consoles and that you kinda needed cutscenes to make up for it and give you a taste of drama b
      • I'm currently playing through Perfect Dark Zero. I think the cutscenes are pretty good, and it looks almost exactly like the game engine used while playing. (It might be the same engine, but the camera angles are different)

        They actually did something pretty cool when the camera zooms into the back of Joanna's head, and takes you into the first person mode.

        And- you can skip the scenes the second time- but not the first. But they are generally pretty short.
    • I think part of the problem with cinematics in games is that game developers are not movie directors. It's a whole different skillset and the level of competence is much lower than what we as gamers/viewers expect from TV and movies. We're all used to watching The Shield and 24, and then a game sticks in something more on par with a student film or cable access show. The pacing is terrible, the voice acting is often sub-par, the dialog is loose and unnatural, and the "camera" is often poorly placed or ju
      • Personally, I wouldn't put GTA3 anywhere near RE:4 in a best games list. I bought the GTA3 and Vice city boxed set. After a coupld of hours of GTA3, I switched to VC thinking "maybe the second one is more interesting". But then I drifted away from GTA3:VC after a couple of hours because it was also basically dull - no involvement, no excitement. It was like they spent all their time creating this huge world to run around in, but forgot to write a game as well. RE:4 kept me playing long into the night.
    • Actually (Score:5, Insightful)

      by neostorm (462848) on Friday January 20, 2006 @08:43PM (#14523600)
      I have to disagree with the RPG comment. Cutscenes in RPGs are a somewhat new thing. RPGs are all about player-driver stories; that's what Role-Playing is.
      Only in the later console generation have we had oodles of over-produced, pretty animated sequences to look at. If you look at PC RPGs they continue in the more traditional direction: YOU are the player, and YOU tell your own story. If I want to play the role of another character in another world, watching someone's camera work and seeing the character I'm supposed to identify with speak his own mind without my input, I immediately detach from the experience.

      Say no to Cinematics. Save Lives.

      • Re:Actually (Score:3, Interesting)

        by russellh (547685)
        Totally. Though I haven't played an RPG in years and years, I quit the Ultima series after having played II-V when the character pictures were all of a sudden detailed (VI). I found I just like the abstract representation better because I had the images in my own mind.

        iirc the first (and of course the best) game cinematics were in Karateka.
      • How are they new? I recall cut-scenes in Final Fantasy II (US) on the SNES back in the early 90s. They weren't exactly lavish Hollywood productions, but there were definitely sequences in which you had to sit there and watch the story.
    • Re: Agreed (Score:3, Funny)

      by Black Parrot (19622) *
      > I could write pages, on this but I'll try to keep it brief...

      Just don't stick in any movies.
  • Simple solution: allow game authors to add whatever cutscenes they want, but make it clear that it's very bad form to not allow the user to skip the cutscene by pressing a key. Then everybody wins.
    • Is it so hard to just check if they've watched it before and, if they haven't, pop up a box that says "You haven't seen this before. It helps understanding of the plot. Are you sure you want to skip it?" to cover the worst-case scenario. Otherwise just let ESC escape.

      Knights of the Old Republic allowed you to escape these, except if it required interaction, in which case certain sub-sequences had to be sat through. (Most notably, the battle vs. the final guy in the arena on the initial planet is tough,
      • But didn't KOTOR let you save mid fight? IIRC, after the 2nd or 3rd time fighting him I managed to remember to save at the beginning of the battle, not a huge deal and it certainly didn't ruin a great game.
        • That's true, but I played it on hard (not that that was that much harder) plus I was delaying levelling up as much as possible, so that when I changed over to a Jedi I'd have many more Jedi levels, instead of just 10.

          Hence I needed every last split second, which allowed the very first volley of grenades yet give me time to run away from his first volley.

          Actually, the 4th time I played through the entire game, my Guardian was so powerful, and had such an amped lightsaber, that I 2-shotted the undead dark lor
    • It's my understanding that this is a standard requirement for console games - for Sony, MS and Nintendo. Any game that has a cinematic sequence that cannot be skipped (at least within a few seconds) will fail it's submission for publishing.

      As someone else pointed out, it would be nice if pause, rewind and replay were also standard requirements. Sometimes when these things kick in, you're not always in the right state of mind to take proper notice of any important information they may be giving.
  • Xenosaga anyone? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Lordpidey (942444)
    Hey some games have lots of cutscenes, some have few. RPGs require more cutscenes than other genres, but having too many/too few is bad for any genre. But, there is a huge difference between a CGI cutscene and a real-time cutscene. Always keep that in mind when talking about cutscenes.
    • RPG Games of all the genres don't need any cut scenes. Every time a cutscene starts it takes you out of character and the game becomes less of a role playing game and more of a "cinematic experience".
      • RPG's *do* need cut scenes... Final Fantasy wouldn't be what it is today *without* cutscenes.

        I always enjoyed watching the cutscenes in Final Fantasy games, and i'm sure any one else would agree.... so beautiful.
        • Final fantasy games don't need cutscenes to be Role playing games but they apparently do need them to be Squaresoft games. Many RPG games do quite well without them, and I hear that Dungeon Masters in pen and paper games often don't have the time and resources to develop short CGI films to make their games more entertaining.
          • I sort of liked how Final Fantasy 7 did it. I don't remember the cutscenes being overly many. It was more of a RPGRPGRPGRPG-break with fancy tech demo of the hardware-RPGRPGRPG. I rememebr some of them being a great way for the story to progress (weapon attacking Midgarr and such). They're good tools for setting mood, and quick plot advances but should not be used to tell the whole story. I don't want cutscene->grind grind grind grind->cutscene.
          • Heh, ok. So not *all* RPG's need cutscenes. But Final Fantasy definatley does, it wouldn't be the same without them. :)

            Admittedly, i have played other RPG's where all the cutscenes have just been in-game graphics, and were totally boring and it wouldn't let me skip them. Those types are definately annoying!

            P.S. Square-Enix haven't been called Squaresoft for years now ;)
          • by Arivia (783328)
            The equivalent of the cutscene in a pen-and-paper game is prewritten read-aloud text. Cinematics come up a lot in pen-and-paper roleplaying games-they're just a bit harder to spot as such(hint: Your GM giving you a stop with one hand or completely ignoring you is generally a good idea.)
            • Hmm, I'm not sure.

              I'd hope that the DM would be setting the scene and adding atmosphere rather than doing some of the things that happen in computer game cutscenes. Do they describe events and conversations that the players shouldn't have knowledge of or take control of your character to do and say things that wouldn't have made your character to do?
          • Cutscenes have always been an issue with computer games, for as far back as I go.

            Set the wayback machine to the early 1970's. Back then I used to play Colossal Cave a lot. It was one of the original text adventure games, preceding Zork by at least 10 years. When I played, it was on a chugga-chugga-ding!ding! teletype attached to a 110 baud modem, which meant 10 characters per second. When you got to some place where the author wanted you to be suitably impressed, he'd "tart up" the description, runni

  • I still cherish the memories of the Wing Commander series, namely the fa-bu-lous Wing Commander III. Great games have great stories, and great stories benefit greatly from cinematic cutscenes.

    You may defend that crappy cutscenes supporting a rubbish storyline hurt games. The emphasys should be, however, on rubbish storylines killing gameplay. Cinematics merely amplify the impact of the story on the game bundle.

    • Ah, but a huge difference between WC3 and cutscenes today is that with WC3 and 4 (and later, Prophecy) was that those games were designed from the start as interactive movies with the gameplay being in the cockpit. The story was good, and the cutscenes were like watching a good sci-fi, but you could do a bit of "choose your own adventure" stuff. The problem was that it was very linear overall.

      Then again, maybe there's a reason there aren't any games like Wing Commander made today. The last best sci-fi fl
  • by readin (838620)
    The most frustrated I've ever been with cinematics in a game was in Zelda the Windwaker. I was trying to sneak up on a guy and hit him from behind. As soon as I got within a few feet, I get a cut scene to him noticing me, then turning around and heading toward me. Of course, I couldn't react during that time. By the time I could react, he was nearly on top of me and I lost some health before I could get away.

    It only happens the first time you approach the guy, but it sure is annoying.
  • by quantax (12175) on Friday January 20, 2006 @06:53PM (#14522910) Homepage
    This article nails the issue on the head and voices a common complaint of mine regardling cinematics in games. The single greatest source of irritation for me is watching a 3 - 5 minute FMV (full motion video) segment and then once its over and the mission/chapter/whatever starts, realizing that whatever was in that video has no effect at all what so ever on the gameplay or how I will continue playing the game. Funnily enough, as a kid, FMV was all the rage (remember the Multimedia/CDROM explosion) and I ate it up without hesitation. Video games with real life video in them, awesome, thats like something out of the movies! But now, about 90% of the time, if possible, I will just skip the FMV (assuming like the author noted, that its possible, damn thats annoying) since its usually not too great and also completely irrelevant to the gameplay that follows. Note that this is also due to the fact that very often, game stories are nothing more than half-hazardly used glue to keep levels/missions together; if you remove the story, the game loses some context but the mission objectives remain nonetheless.

    Its kind of how a soldier IRL is given a set of orders but is rarely given a great deal of context regarding their orders outside of the immediate need of whats required to complete their mission. Johnny Soldier just needs to know that he needs to storm that building and secure 3 known surviving civilians and eliminate any hostiles. Whether that building was is additionally the center of a complex political plot involving several governments and trans-national companies is largely irrelevant to his mission.

    Games with FMV will give you a nice 5 minute cinematic on that whole political plot and then will put you, virtual Johnny Solder into the mission with the actual objectives (secure building, rescue civs, eliminate hostiles), and in the end, that whole cinematic doesnt matter one bit when completing your mission so long as you just follow your objectives. Maybe a scripted event happens relating back, but more often than not, theres only the mission. This is also partially to blame on the saturation of purely linear stories and largely non-open games. The future is surely in games like Elder Scrolls Oblivion rather than Final Fantasy since while Final Fantasy may tell some nice stories, the games are little more than interactive showcases for stories. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed FF as a kid but these days I prefer the gameplay itself to be the sole means of telling the story as well as the ability for emergent gameplay as the article said, and non-linearity. Heres a salute to all those that are forging that road into the emergent future.
    • You make some good points. I agree that cinematics and inane dialogue are overused (especially in console RPGs), but the sad fact is that they're most often used as crutches to prop up poor and/or non-innovative gameplay. The best games - the first Deus Ex for example - weave the story into the gameplay instead of pulling you out of it. Immersion is always the key to quality entertainment, whether we're talking games, movies, TV, books, etc., and with games you can't achieve it by repeatedly blocking out in
    • You know what games I loved back in the day? Doom. And Shadow Warrior.

      Those games didn't have cinematics. They didn't (really) have storyline.

      They had keys.

      You hunted keys. And blew up monsters. And it was fun. There was no real premise. It was an amazing game.

      And not a single cinematic to ever draw you away from it.

      You know what else was a great game? Quake 3. You know what the storyline of that game was? "The arena gods want you to fight!" and that was it. One of the better deathmatch games of all time.

      Pe
      • Simple games have their place, but many people (myself included) want more out of a game these days. I've done Doom and Quake, they were fun, but I want something more. Take the first few scenes in RE:4 - the thing that made me sit up and get interested in the game was the clever use of horror-movie style cutscenes to build tension and fear. They added emotion to the game and made it far more memorable.
  • I hate it when games want to install introductions, company cutscenes, game cutscenes, etc. to the HDD to take up precious disk space. I miss the days when they were on CD. Or at least make an option to install cutscenes or not especially on fast computers. Now, those company logos cutscenes are plain annoying!
  • Didn't I just [slashdot.org] say that?
  • In some games cutscenes are good, in some games they might be bad.

    In some senseless shooting games, it might be pointless to have cutscenes, but in some games where a story is told its nice to watch them.

    I am playing Age Of Mythology right now and I love the cutscenes. After every mission that I complete I see a small cinematic on whats going on and I love it since I still feel I am immersed in the environment, and it gives me a small breather before going into the next campaign.
  • I agree. (Score:1, Redundant)

    by BigZaphod (12942)
    When I sit down to play a game, that's what I want to do - play. I get sick of waiting for some weak story or lame plot to unfold in front of me. For me, it isn't about that. It's about blowing stuff up or solving puzzles. I don't need a whole convoluted back-story to enjoy myself.
  • ...had a home cinematic interface - Play, Pause, Rewind, Next, etc... Everybody wins.
  • Finally! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by XMultiply (947654)
    Someone's got it! I've been hating these for years. All cinemas get immediately skipped as soon as I start a game. In addition, more proof you don't need Blue-frigging RAY for games. I bet PS3 BR discs will have half the media filled up with cinematics.
  • I don't play many console games except when I go over to a friends house (who owns all the consoles pretty much ever made) and he pointed out something interesting when we played RE4 on his game cube. The cut scenes melded perfectly between gameplay and the cenematics.

    He handed the controller to me and I died a few times because I couldn't tell where the CGI sequence began and ended which resulted in me having to start playing right away. I was finding myself just sitting there waiting for the screen to cha
    • That sounds awful to me. I view cutscenes as something to be enjoyed as a reward for completing a level and as a break from the action. Mixing up gameplay with cutscene means you can't sit back and enjoy it.

      Some people hate cutscenes, but when they are done right they can be awesome. Warcraft III comes to mind. Another game that blew me away was FFX when I first got my PS2 (at least the opening scene -- some of the dialogue scenes were interminable).

      • In RE4 cutscenes are part of the gameplay, they are not there for you to sit back, but to keep you busy. In one cutscene you actually fight against another person right inside that cutscene by pressing a bunch of button combinations. It is even more extrem is it in Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy, where virtually half the game consists of 'cutscenes' which you have to solve via pressing button combinations. Of course that might sound annoying at first, the thing why it works however is because you, the player,
    • The reason RE:4 slips between the two so easily is that it isn't CGI. It's all done in the game engine.

      That said, if you played the game from the beginning you would have no problem telling when it was game and when it was cinema. Really it only would show a cut scene when introducing a new area, enemy boss, etc. It's pretty obvious when it switches control back to you as it resumes the regular play FoV.

      Still a stunning game.
  • by firegarden7 (808626) on Friday January 20, 2006 @07:09PM (#14523013)
    Way to support a bad product by paying $50 for it. The author "gave these asses FIFTY dollars" and THEN "went to look at the reviews for the game and saw that it was averaging a 4/10". I almost never buy a game without checking out at least one or two online reviews to see if it's worth my money or not. Had he done the same, I'm guessing he wouldn't have bought it. Even if the game got good reviews, he would have found out that it relies heavily on cinematics, and would've at least second guessed the purchase. If he bought it anyway.. well, he was warned.
  • by Psx29 (538840) on Friday January 20, 2006 @07:09PM (#14523015)
    Fox Hunt(My personal favorite), Dragon's Lair, Psychic Detective, Nightrap...sure these games are kind of campy, but I think they're fun as hell. I want to see some more "interactive movies". As far as cinematics killing gameplay, if it's a game that doesn't need it (sonic, mario, a racing game) then as long as I can hit the start button and skip the video I don't really care. I guess I only care if they're wasting significant resources on making these things. Cinematics actually _add_ to gameplay in those interactive adventure games and RPGs, games with a heavy story. But I still wish they made some FMV games...
    • If you like FMV games, you might like Red Alert II and the expansion, Yuri's Revenge. (Many other old school Westwood titles too.) Of course, they are strategy, but they have those campy videos in them.
    • At the very least, many of Resident Evil 4's cut scenes had interaction akin to Dragon's Lair and the like. I really think that game did it right, and I hope to see more games utlize that style. It's about damn time too, given that games with interactive cutscenes like those you mentioned came out quite some time ago!
    • Best FMV game I've played in years: "A fork in the Tale" with Rob Schneider as the hero.

      5 disks of a crossover between monkey island and Hercules/Xena, with an Ian Anderson-like character playing God. (the guy who turns the stones to warp you back in time)

      Most of the reviews for it are bad, but if you like Rob Schneider's humor you'll enjoy it.
  • I've put some time into Xenosage a couple times through now. It's one game that's HEAVY on cutscences for progressing the story. I don't mind it in an RPG but the one thing they did that I love is give you the option to pause/skip the cutscenes. The other biggies is that I guess they realized how crappy the ps2 can be at reading dual layer discs and when you get read errors, you can actually restart he cutscene.
    • Funny, I would name XenoSaga as the WORST abuser of cutscenes I've seen in my life. Bad acting, poor voice actor selection, incomprehensible storyline, the infamous move 3 feet for another cutscene gameplay, and a to low action:gameplay ratio. I threw the damn thing in the trash, and don't plan on buying it if the other prequels are ever made.
      • Don't get me wrong.. I havent come close to finishing them mostly because of that. I've moved onto other types of RPGs now where the combat part is paramount (tactics styles mostly). I like the idea of a 6 game series story, but the delivery has been lacking. They seem to be catering towards what NA perceives as anime. Bubbly girls and gruff guys. I'm still waiting for a scene in it w/ a girl bouncing up and down w/ giant pink lines drawn around her. I was just making a point of how the cutscenes themselve
        • Xenosaga's problem isn't so much the number of cutscenes as it is pacing. They will throw you into a 45 minute long cutscene and then after that they will throw you into an equally long, or longer dungeon. Basically they throw the same thing at you until you are completely sick of it and just want it to be over.

          Personally I enjoy RPG's that have short dungeons and then a short cutscene and some plot development as a reward for finishing the dungeon.
  • Cinematics are bad when they "play" parts of the game for you. E.g. you are _shown_ how you save the world, instead of acctually doing it. Cinematics should be keept to a minimum, letting players play the game. Otherwise, games risk loosing the things that seperates them from plain old movies: game play, interactivity and the freedom to (well, sort of) create your own stories.
    • Cinematics are bad when they "play" parts of the game for you.


      That's nothing compared to the fact that some cutscenes somehow render the Player Character magically impotant.

      As you know, those PCs have aim-bot accurracy and reaction time but as soon as they enter a cutscene, their arms are permanently locked into the lowered state. The PC can already take out armies of Level 60 Dragons, but is mercy to what amounts to a normal inchworm.

  • Nothing makes me regret a rental like a big unskippable cutscene. What really burns me up Super Mario Sunshine did this very thing. That's the opposite of what Mario should be, dammit! What happened to "Princess Toadstool is missing again. Looks like Bowser is at it again." There's a story you can get behind! Unlike "yeah, some guy who looks just like you except he's a totally different colour (Sonic Adventure 2 anyone?) drew graffiti and stole the shine sprites with a device that lets him do whatever he wa
  • for the most part. I have noticed that games with a lot of cutscene tend to be less game oriented, but won't go into that because of redundancy reasons. On the other hand Halo used cutscenes to great extent, if you could call them cutscenes. Games like Half-Life (1 and 2), Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind and EVE Online are great games, but there are no cutscenes. Granted, Half-life has scripted events, but your player remains in the game, and you are still in control. I think this would probably be the best way
    • ### The feel of control you get by being able to look around and even for the most part stall as much as you would like in scripted events strengthens the illusion.

      For me, I am probally one of the few, Half Life just didn't work very well. The in-game 'cutscenes' sounded like a nice idea on paper, but most of the time I just ended up standing there asking myself what the heck I should do and especially *why* I should do it. Since the game didn't have a real intro, explaining who I am playing and what I need
  • I got tired of MGS2's cutscene-o-rama just as quickly as everyone else. But while some people play games soley for the "Blow stuff up" factor, others play them for both that and the story.

    Starcraft, anything by Bioware, Halo, Final Fantasy and others use cutscenes to advance the plot and also tell you what you need to do. Some games abuse them, many don't, and I know that a lot of them wouldn't be anywhere near as good as they are if there weren't any cutscenes.

    Playing games is fun, but lets also experi

  • If I have to see that unskippable "Knights of the Round" sequence one more time...
  • by DingerX (847589) on Friday January 20, 2006 @08:27PM (#14523525) Journal
    Was gonna write something painful, but I'll keep it short.

    1. Cutscenes are a favorite critic whipping-boy. Nobody likes them in theory. Well, except for the ones we like.

    2. Big problem with video games is the underlying amateur attitude. You give developers huge teams and big budgets, and they get to the cutscene or the fancy camera angles and they ignore the fact that cinema is its own art, with its own rules. Frankly, I don't have a problem with a cutscene, or a part of a game with cinematic elements, if it's done right. An example of this would be the distinction between description and narration. Consider a Covert Ops mission or a social dinner party. Both of these involve a bit of "setting the stage": The FRAGO, The invitation, the layout of the swank uptown digs, the brothel where General Manfredsohn's mistress works. A cutscene is a fine way to show these elements (provided you can skip through it if you've seen it already). Or anything that involves boring, repetitive action. After I've made the drug score, I'm not going to mind a montage of driving around town, delivering it to my boys with Curtis Mayfield in the background.

    But as it stands, it seems that many of these games get it backwards, and use cinematics for the narrative, and leave to the player the boring stuff better spent in montages. When they do get the purpose right, there's no guarantee they'll follow the basic conventions of direction, which are necessary for describing space in a coherent fashion. Instead we get gee-whiz camera angles, flyin gcameras and superzooms.

    Grow Up.
  • No wonder the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory game [gametab.com] was so awful. David was too busy watching cinematics and writing articles to develop a decent game. Fortunately, the cinematics in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory skippable. Unfortunately, skipping some of the cinematics caused bugs.
  • I think HL1/HL2 has it perfectly right. The perspective should never leave first-person. Keep the camera locked in the player's eyes. Any cutscenes that need to take place, do that in-game, in-engine, from the player's perspective.

    Even when HL2 had fixed pov cutscenes (the teleporter, the citadel, etc), it was still from the first person POV, and you could still look around.

    Even if you have your character talking and holding conversations, keep that from the first person perspective.

    I'll admit that there ar
    • I assume you mean for FPSs only, right? Personally, I don't see why many FPS even have cutscenes. I play UT2k4 extensively, and while there's I believe an intro cutscene, I just skip it to blow stuff up. I was never a fan of many FPS, but overall, games with a story should tell the story - whichever way works.
    • You're joking right? The worst thing about half life is sitting in that train thing at the beginning seemingly forever. It ruins the game.
      • Games like HL are generally aimed at people with with more than 5 seconds of attention span.
        • The interesting thing is that I have an extremely short attention span. The list of games that I've completed is 10% the size of the list of games that I've finished 50 to 90 percent of. And yet, HL1 and HL2 were able to hold my attention the WHOLE way through. I've even finished all the HL1 expansions, even though their quality was not on par with the original.

          There is something about HL1 and HL2 that has kept someone like me with an extremely short attention span focused on it long enough to play through
          • The truth be told, I've never played Half Life. My hand-eye coordination is impaired, so I suck at real-time games. Though I've often meant to try HL anyway, because the story intrigues me. And drsquare's childish complaint about the tedium of the first part makes me all the more interested.

            What I'm actually doing is harassing drsquare. Immature, I know, but I get tired of the way he whines at everybody he disagrees with (which is pretty much everybody) usually without getting his facts straight or even p

  • Huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by HunterZ (20035) on Friday January 20, 2006 @09:29PM (#14523776) Journal
    I guess this must be talking about Japanese console games, since as a mainly PC gamer I haven't been annoyed by cutscenes/cinematics. On Japanese consoles, however, I feel that there is WAY WAY WAY too much handholding and inane dialogue (cinematic or otherwise). I think I just have a different idea of what makes a good game (e.g. pacing, timing, quality minimal dialogue, character driven story over combat sysem gimmicks, etc.) than do the Japanese and their fans.

    Handholding is a different issue:
    I often rant to my console gaming friends about how games USED to just make early levels more forgiving and let you learn how to play by PLAYING, but for some reason game designers feel like they need to subject you to a two-hour tutorial level at the beginning to teach you how every little thing in the game works. Next to the issues in the above paragraph, I think excessive handholding has contributed the most to making me stop playing a lot of games over the past few years.
    • I couldn't agree with you more about the handholding part. Tutorials are one of the biggest signs of bad game design, unless those tutorials are really well done and fit naturally with the rest of the game. For example, the original Half-Life wasn't too bad because the tutorial was disguised as an HEV training course. They easily could've put those elements in the first two chapters of the game though.
  • This is actually an issue that has been plaguing me with Kingdom Hearts 2 as of late. It seems like the only time that the game play is NOT in a cutscene is when you're fighting enemies in a pre-scripted battle.

    Fight 20 enemies.
    Watch 10 minute cut scene
    Fight Enemies.
    Watch 20 mintue cut scene.
    Repeat

    Although the cutscenes are interesting, it makes me feel like I'm not playing a game, but rather watching a story where I occasionally get to beat up bad guys. In one section there was a room full of treasures che
  • Eternal Darkness (Score:2, Interesting)

    by xerxesVII (707232)
    That's a game that now sits at the bottom of my stack unfinished because of damned unskippable cinematics.

    I loved that whole game and never really minded the cinematics until I got to the boss, had my ass handed to me, and tried it again.

    So I load up my save, walk through the portal, and sit through probably three weeks of badly compressed video. I mean, that first time I wouldn't have thought to skip it- it was helping develop the story. Check out those elder gods! Second time? Don't need it. Just let me g
  • agreement: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MOMOCROME (207697) <momocrome@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Friday January 20, 2006 @10:41PM (#14524071)
    I've worked in the industry a good 10 years now... and i've got to say that cinematics are the worst excess of the industry, maybe second to crap marketing (read G4).

    Let me tell you, a serious game Dev project involves about 60 people and 12-18 months. A whole lot of that time/effort is spent building the graphics. This involves artists working long hard hours pushing pixels and vertexes around, just to get models, textures and UI ready.

    So why do game projects often take a good half the artists and devote them to these big, expensively rendered, extravagant FMVs? It is especially maddening when you consider that they are almost always skipped by people eager to get to the game play!

    It's all just a matter of self-serving ego or laziness. The artists want 'hot' stuff on their reels, especially since the vast majority of them are sad-sack losers wishing they worked at ILM or Pixar. The Art Directors need to show their state-of-the-art grasp of tools like Maya and 3D Studio (watch for how often 'realistic' looking smoke, fire and water are used in these FMVs) and their ability to wring the fanciest looking stuff out of their artists... The producers go along with it so they are able to show non-gaming bean counters and check writers something flashy in a dark conference room, and the marketers are all behind it so they can show the flash at g3 and the other garish, cheesy game conferences. Last, we have the designers, who leverage these FMVs to give a false sense of 'depth' by establishing some silly context for their weak or uninspired game design.

    In short, these FMVs represent and tie together all that is disgusting and pathetic about the game industry, with a very short list of exceptions. They are both the cause and the effect of and endless cycle of crap games, cheesy spectacle, increasingly more expensive and less entertaining choices we have today.
  • To me, a video game is best when it is a movie that I can play. I enjoy the cinematics when they add to the plot and draw me into the game. But obviously, they should be skippable. I doubt that the testers and developers manage to complete the product without a skip option. And playing the same cinematic more than once during a gaming session doesn't make sense either. This is just plain common sense.

    The problem is not the cinematics, it's the crappy implementation of them.

    I don't mind the FBI warning
  • by British (51765) <british1500@gmail.com> on Saturday January 21, 2006 @02:15AM (#14524897) Homepage Journal
    ...in Tetris. Before you could play, you had to watch this little movie sequence on how the square-shaped Tetris pieces were taking over the land of Tetrisania and were oppressing the T-shaped pieces. Then you ran into the L-shaped pieces and their back story.

    It's only going to get worse when the Tetris MMORPG is released. You have to talk to the RED L-shaped piece to go on a quest to defeat the evil 4-blocks-in-a-line monster, but get a magic item from the zig-zag piece first.

    The shortest in-game movie sequences? pac man.
    • The shortest in-game movie sequences? pac man.

      And I believe, the first in-game movies sequences.

      What's funny is how many times they've tried to build a world (and yes, cutscenes) out of Pac Man, and still keep trying to do so. It's not far off from your Tetris MMORPG.
  • Cinematic elements in games including scripted sequences, fmv's, in game cutscenes etc are closely parralled to the beginning of film.

    They didn't know how to use the medium so they just taped plays and tried to show them in cinema's.

    Game makers are using film in an interactive medium, why?

    Video games are currently a mixture between classic skill and strategy games and film.

    Sports became platformers,
    Martial arts became fighting games

    Chess became things like Quake and CS (Ask anyone who's getting
  • Full cinematics, professional actors (and their union bullshit), professional voice talent... why do you think games are so high priced these days? Each new game must out-do the last, so more money is allocated to hire the people that apply the lipstick and makeup to the pig.

    Good games don't need this.
  • I think ciniematic effects are a thing of balance, but also the developer needs to know if he can tell the story without the cinematics gettin in the way: Two games: Halo and Half Life 2. Halo: Cinematics: Short, to the point, and highly relevant to the story. Could Bungie have told the halo story without cinematics? Perhaps, but I think it would have taken away from the epic scale that I think they were aiming for. half life 2: No cinematics: Excellent story (did the game life up to the hype? Not really
  • Pre-rendered cutscenes are sooooo early 90s.

    Cutscenes are not bad per se. You just have to do it right. A great example of a game where the cutscenes where like they should is Anachronox.
    • Unfortunately, Anachronox is also unfinished and quite buggy. (Although kudos for the volunteer efforts by former Ion Storm employee(s) to release unofficial patches!)

      That having been said, it is one of the best unfinished games of all times in my book. And as you said, it makes supurb use of scripted sequences and (my own opinion) voice acting.
  • FMV in games can be a positive influence that increases the richness of a game but in the last couple of years they have become in increasing burden that the rest of the game has to make up for.

    When FMV really became popular/possible around the N64/playstation time there were good reasons to have it. Twenty seconds of FMV can explain more about a situation, the motivation of the character, the relationships between the characters and why the player should give a damn than a half dozen pages of text (which
  • ... are not so much the cutscenes in games themselves but when game manufacturers market their games by showing NOTHING BUT cutscenes on the TV ads. Check out any of the XBox 360 games' ads other than King Kong to see what I'm talking about.

    Some games, like God of War, are impressively enhanced by the cutscenes and how they add to the storyline.
    • I'm surprised nobody else has mentioned this!! Pre-release marketing seems to entirely revolve around pre-rendered cinematics or cutscenes, and show nothing of the actual gameplay! Witness the original World of Warcraft trailer - not one second of gameplay footage, just pre-rendered crap that isn't even in the game! GTA: San Andreas was also guilty of this; pretty much all three trailers were composed of cutscene footage, though they at least appeared in the game, used the game engine, and were skippable!
  • Now, I'm not saying Fallout 2 was overburdened with cutscenes--it sure as hell wasn't, and since most of those that I can remember involved nuclear explosions, I think we can easily overlook those. However, it had one cutscene of unspeakable unimportance, awkward placement, and inane length: the tanker launch. Yes, it's significant in that the tanker takes you to the final area of the game. Yes, it's a lot of work getting the taker going (relatively speaking--nothing in FO2 was all that much work). Yes, it'
  • I remember back in my Nintendo/SuperNintendo days feeling cheated if they didn't have some sort of cutscene at the end of the game. "What? Just credits? I'm supposed to be rewarded with at least a sliding picture of each of the main characters in the game!" Back then, I'd try to beat a game a second time only faster or after finding all the secrets only to unlock a second hidden bonus "ending".
  • To issue a broad-sweeping statement that all cut-scenes "suck" is well... for lack of a better phrase right now... garbage. CGIs are a dying breed that i'm a fan of. Hating CGIs, I believe, is just a byproduct of twitch-gamers. I don't find that cinematics take away from the game if they're well done, so to issue a general statement saying that they ALL suck is absolutely ridiculous. I appreciate them if they're done well. Like most, I hate them if they do in fact "suck." But there's no way you'll get me t
  • Does anyone remember that cutscene with the guys building the ark, where they'd sing that annoying song that was about five minutes long and UNSKIPPABLE? I think they must have thrown that in there just to poke fun at ridiculous cutscenes.

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