Archive for 2008

About Suzie To Cutscene, or not to Cutscene?
September 11th, 2008 by Suzie | Digg | Technorati | Reddit | Stumble Upon

Bioshock AudioJon, from The Clockwork Manual, got in touch with me the other day. As fellow video game fans we hit it off, until the subject of cutscenes loomed its ugly head. Jon was all for them. As a Metal Gear Solid fan he could hardly be against them. I, on the other hand, am vocally anti-cutscene. Jon’s initial email can be read here. He points out some of the defining and memorable video game cutscenes, and wonders how we could ever tell a story without them. My response was as follows.

In the film-making community, flashbacks and ‘dream sequences’ are considered a crutch. It is one of the first mistakes amateur film makers make. It is a weak way to tell most stories, and is usually used as a shortcut, or to cover up weak writing.

There are, however, no rules in any creative media that can’t be broken. Memento used flashbacks brilliantly. Spellbound contains a famous dream sequence. These are great films, and they know exactly what they are doing.

So let’s talk about video games and cut scenes.

In a video game, you have two elements that should reinforce each other: the story and the gameplay. Most amateur game developers, when they want to tell you something related to the story, use a cutscene. Is this bad? Yes. Cutscenes are jarring, they take away our player control, they break our identification with the player character, and in most cases - video game budgets being what they are - they are poorly acted and badly written.

Much like flashbacks, they are usually the ‘most obvious’ way of telling the player something, but rarely the best. Intertwining the story into the game play is a far superior method. Using a ‘breadcrumb trail’ of in-game information to allow a player to puzzle together the story themselves is an art in itself. As an example: the Bioshock audio diaries.

About Gloria Once Upon a Video Game
September 8th, 2008 by Gloria | Digg | Technorati | Reddit | Stumble Upon

Epic, but not epic enough?When most people think of epics their minds immediately drift back to nights in highschool spent hunched over their copies of The Iliad and Paradise Lost. When gamers think of epics, we tend to think of those nights learning Sunwell Plateau. Even from the earliest days of side scrolling adventures, most video games have told (or attempted to) a story. Blowing up a space alien isn’t necessarily on par with Odysseus’ long, poetic journey, but it’s true that some literary elements exist in every well made game’s plot.