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Croal vs. Totilo - The God of War 2 Letters 28

Posted by Zonk
from the ready?-fight! dept.
I've mentioned previously how much I enjoy the writing of Newsweek's N'Gai Croal and MTV's Stephen Totilo. All this week, then, it's been a pleasure to enjoy their witty exchange on the PS2's most recent blockbuster, God of War 2. The conversation is spread across both Croal's LevelUp column and Totilo's Player Two blog, and features ruminations on the title from a number of viewpoints. If you have some time this afternoon I highly recommend you give their full correspondence a look. More than just a discussion about a single game, they manage to capture some of the greatness of the medium, with their conversation ranging across genre, time, and content to get at some of the most fundamental elements of videogaming. From N'Gai's final post: "I've said before that we 'see' videogames with our hands. Extending that analogy further, the way cutscenes are used today is the film equivalent of title cards during the silent film era: even though the audience came to the movies to watch people move, they had to do a fair bit of reading to get the full measure of the filmmaker's vision. Similarly, cutscenes leave gamers watching when they should be playing. Sure, cutscenes can communicate critical information; they allow for dramatic and spectacular sequences that might be too difficult to pull off interactively; they provide a nice breather or bookend to lengthy gameplay sections. But just as silent film gave way to the talkies, cutscenes need to keep giving way to gameplay so that our eyes--excuse me, our hands--are constantly engaged."
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Croal vs. Totilo - The God of War 2 Letters

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  • by Sciros (986030) on Friday March 30, 2007 @05:02PM (#18549185) Journal
    The paragraph appears to imply that the interactive portions of video games are some sort of objective evolution from non-interactive film. Why would games need to wholly abandon the latter if we still enjoy the occasional trip to the movies or watching a DVD at home? Video games don't need to constantly engage your thumbs to be wholly immersive or compelling, and to abandon cutscenes on the basis of some arbitrary need to always be "in control" ignores the fact that these scenes can serve to communicate something that interactivity will not. A cut to the villain plotting your demise many miles away, a flashback to a prosperous city you now see before you in ruins -- these are scenes that you need to know, but you will lose nothing by not being "in control" of those scenes. Some games don't need cutscenes and do well without them, but others need them badly. Where would FFXII be without its FMVs and plot-progressing cutscenes? Can you really replace that game's opening movie with equally compelling gameplay that tells the same story?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 30, 2007 @05:50PM (#18549813)
    Basically, from what I got out of TFA, one guy thinks cutscenes should be interactive always, even if the level of interaction is low. The other guy says there's nothing wrong with non-interactive cutscenes.

    As with most things, I think the best result is usually a happy medium. As the guy who is okay with non-interactivity says, sometimes, a scene is more powerful when you can't control it. He uses the big plot reveal from KOTOR as an example. The cut scene makes you wait as the camera pans around to reveal the big twist. You can't hurry it along. Moments like this make much more sense in a non-interactive form, because the director can time all of the various elements to his vision -- the sound goes dramatic, the camera sweeps in, right as the voice actors say their line.

    In other situations, keeping the story telling interactive makes more sense. Some games go overboard with cutscenes. Xenosaga is one example of one that went too far, imo. If you've got a lot of meat to the story, tell it during gameplay, not during a 15 minute cutscene. Have party members talk about the issues while I'm navigating a dungeon, or whatever.

    I don't think there's a concrete right way to do it. It just depends on the situation, and its up to the designers to find out what works best for what they're trying to do.

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