There was a time when long cut-scenes were the norm for most story-driven games, including many RPGs and the legendary Metal Gear Solid franchise.

Even in this generation, MGS4 featured some of the longest non-interactive cut-scenes ever. But as technology advances (and attention spans continue to dwindle), completely passive scenes in a game may be unnecessary and in fact, going forward, maybe they should disappear entirely. At least that's what some of the industry's top writers believe.

In speaking to Gamasutra , Valve's Chet Faliszek ( Half-Life , Portal ), Irrational Games' Ken Levine ( Bioshock ) and Frictional Games' Thomas Grip ( Amnesia: The Dark Descent ) all spoke about ways storytelling in video games will have to change in the future. And at the top of the list: "death to the non-interactive cut-scene." Faliszek said he thinks players today "have less and less patience for sitting through a cut-scene, waiting for the story to unfold." Levine agreed and elaborated:

"Modal switches are strange in a narrative. I think the closest thing is probably Broadway musicals. They switch from acting out a scene to singing a song, and that's a bit of a leap to make because it's so different. It's a form that you have to get accustomed to, whereas stage plays take less acclimation because they're consistent."

Grip added that games shouldn't strive to be like films, either. After all, this is an interactive hobby and that alone is a gigantic difference.

"There is a big difference in our relationship to a protagonist when you are a passive observer compared to playing as that character. I think the jump to a cutscene removes much of the empathy that you might have in a movie. Because of this, I believe games can never become as emotionally powerful as movies, even if the cutscenes are done exactly like film. This means that in order to improve the medium, other methods need to be used."

RPG fans came to love the beautiful cut-scene in the early days of PlayStation, simply because it showed what technology could do, beyond the realm of the sprites. FMV and CGI were huge; such advances vaulted video games into another stratosphere and opened the eyes of many. But we're already past that and now it's time to focus on better ways of telling an interactive story.

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TheHighlander
TheHighlander
8 years ago

No. Just no. You're Wrong Ben, as are the folks you're quoting in this article. the non-interactive cutscene has as much a place today as it ever has. If a non-interactive cutscene has no place in games then we might as well just turn off our TVs and close the movie theaters. Non-interactive cutscenes are wonderful instruments for conveying emotion and narrative that cannot be handled within gameplay. Not to mention they can be used for exposition at any stage in the game. I completely disagree with the notion that non-interactive cut-scenes should somehow be jettisoned as if they are no longer viable or are too old fashioned for the cool kids. That's just lazy.

As for games never being "as emotionally powerful as movies", all I can say is that Mr Grip et al, need to climb down from their ivory towers and play some games. If you played through Xenosaga episode 1 and were not emotional at the end of that game, you're a hardhearted ass. If you played All the Xenosaga games and were not crying by the end of Episode 3, you're simply not a human being. Both episode 1 and Episode 3 more than effectively create an emotional attachment to the characters through both game play and cutscene. The ending of Xenosaga was for me as emotional as the ending to almost any movie I've ever seen. So as far as I am concerned Messrs Grip, Levine and Faliszek can take their elitist attitudes and shove them where the sun doesn't shine.

One further comment. We saw this last week in the Kara video. that video conveyed a story and emotion and people gained an emotional connection with the character despite the lack of interaction in the scene. Are we really saying that games do not need that kind of scene to be played out? What rubbish.


Last edited by TheHighlander on 3/13/2012 10:10:15 AM

gumbi
gumbi
8 years ago

What he said ^

Temjin001
Temjin001
8 years ago

Going to have to approve of Highlander's sentiments. Just because there's a perspective that suggests this form of entertainment ought to be only a certain way. I really enjoyed Xenosaga and MGS, and in part to their story scenes.

I like ice cream analogies. These guys seem to me suggest that ice cream must always be mixed, and never layered, like neopaliton. If this were true, I'd never have MGS as an all time fav of mine.

I understand the desire to make gaming more approachable because of attention span reasons, but let those efforts exist for simple pick up and play games and twitch-fests. AAA games are usually triple A because they attempt to create a medoly of many design conventions.

br0d1n
br0d1n
8 years ago

I have to agree. For me, growing up and gaming back before in-game graphics looked as good as CGI/FMV, cutscenes were like a reward. Some of my first favorite games, FF7 and Warcraft 2, exemplified this. Yes the gameplay was enjoyable, but it was always a treat to finish an act or beat a boss and get to sit back and relax and watch an awesome vid.

That's not to say that interactive type scenes can't be a great way to both explore plot and keep the gamer involved, but I don't think this is an either-or situation.

I think all this focus on better story-telling and pushing the medium of video gaming to the next level is great and all, but I hope industry leaders don't lose sight of the classic elements that made us all gamers in the first place. A truly great game needs to balance fun, challenging gameplay with compelling stories and innovation. Striving too hard towards any of these aspects may lead to something good, but more likely than not the end product will lack the atmosphere that really sucks people in from start to finish.

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
8 years ago

Oh no, that's not my opinion. I was only reflecting the opinion of the writers in that interview.

I've never had any problem with non-interactive cut-scenes and I agree with everything you said.

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
8 years ago

Phew! that's a relief Ben, I was concerned that you had somehow gone native with this new generation of cool kids that are too cool for cut-scenese.

frostface
frostface
8 years ago

No. Just no. You're Wrong TheHighlander, I want to PLAY my video games, not sit through long cut-scenes that need to drip feed me the narrative. Why are you so against dev's finding better ways to convey these emotions through GAMEPLAY rather than a CGI filler?

I'm not saying that every game should just do away with cut-scenes but even the Uncharted series has way too many relative to the length of the game.

Now I'll usually just watch through the cut-scenes and I'm not passionate about doing away with them completely, I'm just making my case relative to the discussion.


Last edited by frostface on 3/13/2012 12:08:49 PM

BikerSaint
BikerSaint
8 years ago

I have to agree with Highlander, some of my best WTF "WOW" moments were from emotional N-I cut-scenes…..
….."Sons of the Patriots, or Heavy Rain anyone"?????


Last edited by BikerSaint on 3/13/2012 12:29:07 PM

frostface
frostface
8 years ago

Don't get me wrong, some cut-scenes I do enjoy. But I'm all for new ways of getting the story across without them. I'd rather play the experience than have the game take me out of it.

NiteKrawler
NiteKrawler
8 years ago

I'm glad I don't have to write a huge long post. Highlander did it for me and did it better.

Killa Tequilla
Killa Tequilla
8 years ago

Thats thehighlander i know.

booze925
booze925
8 years ago

You know, I was going t say something, but you said it all. Thank you.

Axe99
Axe99
8 years ago

This is a silly thing to say – particularly by game writers! Without some degree of control over the player (ie, non-interactivity), you _can't_ tell a story (at least, not one you write). You need to be able to restrain their actions, or they'll go and wander off and miss the main event, or shoot someone who does something important, or what-have-you. Even Half-life (the poster-boy of interactive storytelling) had a number of parts where it effectively railroaded the player into listening to what was going on – because if it didn't, it couldn't tell a story. Sure, players could turn their head, but that's hardly interaction (ie, it has no impact on what's going on – so it's not 'inter'-active).

chilker
chilker
8 years ago

That has to be the most thumbs ups I have ever seen on a single post on this website. And you earned every single one of them. Well said!
I don't mind cutscenes at all. They help propel the story forward in ways that just wouldn't really be feasible with a fully-controllable character.

Palpatations911
Palpatations911
8 years ago

Interactive cutscenes are great. However, let's leave it to great game series like Heavy Rain and God of War before they get played out.

I've seen several games rip off God of War's interactive cut scenes and it is already getting annoying. IM LOOKING AT YOU DARKSIDERS 🙂

Personally, my favorite cut scenes are the rendered ones where I can still move about and interact with the game environment a la Skyrim. I love seeing events unfold in front of me while I still have control of the game.

Underdog15
Underdog15
8 years ago

I think he just set a thumbs up record. lol

As an additional note, it's already agreed by 100% of the theatre world that interactive performances have their perks. But you lack the ability to achieve the same depth of story as a performance that is controlled by the performers alone.

Interactivity has it's merits, but even in a non-digital realm, it's extremely limited.

Interactivity is cool, and all. And you can do some things you wouldn't be able to do with a controlled dialogue, but the depth, symbolism, and many other artistic strokes that make a narrative great are simply not possible with a complete interactive model.

Sometimes a non-interactive cut-scene is necessary. It will always be that way. It always has been since the 1500's.

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
8 years ago

Lol Underdog, how dare you use Shakespear as an argument for the non-interactive cutscene…why it's almost like you think a good monolog is needed in a play, or that prologues and epilogues have a place in theater. Why you….you….you traditionalist!

Temjin001
Temjin001
8 years ago

Holy crappers Highlander, 55 and 2.
That's got to be a PSXe record 😉

Crabba
Crabba
8 years ago

Well said Highlander. You really only need one word to understand why this is COMPLETELY WRONG: Kara!! Enough said.

gray_eagle
gray_eagle
8 years ago

cut scenes imo are a must have in games.
the cut scenes in mgs4, i think there was a little
where the player could interact while a conversation
was going on.

JCARROLL
JCARROLL
8 years ago

The idea of the absence of non-interactive cut-scenes worries me. If I play through a 50 hour RPG and get to the end of the game, how would the game come to the end without an epic cut-scene? Would I just defeat the final boss and it would just end? No, that wouldn't be any good. Would I play through a quick time event? Not many people like those. I can't think of a decent way to replace cut-scenes.


Last edited by JCARROLL on 3/13/2012 10:26:58 AM

cadpig
cadpig
8 years ago

TheHighlander for the win!!! That kara video drives the point home.

Beamboom
Beamboom
8 years ago

But that was not a game… That was a short movie. There's plenty movies to see out there, if that's the kind of experience you are after?

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
8 years ago

Beamboom, you're missing the point. The Kara video could easily have been a non-interactive cutscene in a game. As such it nicely illustrates that non-interactive cut-scenes do indeed have a place.

Beamboom
Beamboom
8 years ago

highlander:
Yes of course – and there's also been a lot of *wonderful* cut-scenes in games I'd never want to be without!

All I simply believe, is that it doesn't *have* to be like that in order to deliver a beautiful/emotional scene any more. And that's how I understand this article too. He doesn't say "no story, no emotions, no scenes". He simply says he believe there's better ways of doing it today. And, well, I agree! I believe there may be so.
And I think his comparison with musicals versus stage plays was an excellent point.


Last edited by Beamboom on 3/13/2012 11:25:01 AM

shadowscorpio
shadowscorpio
8 years ago

@ Beamboom

But I think that the reason that non-interactive cutscenes were even implemented are because developers found that it would be an effective way to portray emotion / intensity etc. in ways that couldn't be done before.

If they stripped gameplay completely and replaced it entirely with cutscenes then yes it would be a short film. But thats not the case. Usually the cutscene ratio in video games is signifigantly smaller.

Off topic: TALES OF GRACES F OUT NOW FOR PS3! SUPPORT JRPGS!!!!!!

Beamboom
Beamboom
8 years ago

Exactly Shadow. That was why it was implemented: They did it because all of a sudden they could! They did it because it opened up new possibilities.

Now we are at a stage where other opportunities arise, and with that, new possibilities. Just like back then. A different – and *I* believe – better way of portray emotion/intensity in ways that couldn't be done before.

So essentially this is just history repeating itself, right? Not sure that's what you meant but that's actually a very nice way to see it.


Last edited by Beamboom on 3/13/2012 1:44:09 PM

Palpatations911
Palpatations911
8 years ago

Don't lie, you know you all wanted to "interact" with Kara! haha!

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
8 years ago

There's always one, isn't there?

Beamboom
Beamboom
8 years ago

I fully agree.

There was a time where cut-scenes had a place in games: Back when scenes of this nature *had* to be pre-rendered.

It's not like that today. It's about time to explore the unique properties of this medium. Time to discover the *real* potential of gaming.


Last edited by Beamboom on 3/13/2012 10:47:54 AM

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
8 years ago

You're one of those that believes in change for the same of change aren't you?

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
8 years ago

No, he just doesn't like linearity and storytelling. If that's not your bag, you'll never really want anything but continual action and more immersion via freedom and choice.

Beamboom
Beamboom
8 years ago

@Highlander:
Hmmm… I don't know… Maybe?
At least I'm not against changes in_itself_, not when it changes to something better.

Sometimes you don't know if it is for the better unless you actually try. And in those cases I'm probably one of those who may be willing to try, yes.

And if that is what it is to believe in changes for the sake of change, well then I may be guilty. 🙂

@Ben:
I don't know why you say that, but the part about storytelling is not true. I simply believe that in games it can be told via other means than pre-rendered scenes.


Last edited by Beamboom on 3/13/2012 11:08:45 AM

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
8 years ago

Beamboom, interactive scenes have a place as well, but there are lots of scenes in games that could never be interactive and would lose their impact if they were.

Beamboom
Beamboom
8 years ago

Highlander,
I fully understand how you think, and I understand what you are afraid to lose. And none of us want to lose those magical moments. Yes, we are on the same side there, in that we both want the sensation of a good cut-scene.
There are scenes for example in Mass Effect that really could not have anything to earn from being interactive. They need to be like that, *today*.

The main difference between your view and mine is that I believe there is another way – a *better* way.
This is where I place my trust in the creativity, talent and technology of today and tomorrow. I think they may manage to further merge the game and the cutscene. And I think that is the right direction to go. To become more a stage play, less a musical.

We have already now seen a merge of gameplay and cutscenes in that cutscenes nowadays usually are done live, not pre-rendered. They could not do that before. That's one step.

What's the next step? We shall see! But please all, don't misinterpret me like I think Ben do here in that I want to get rid of fantastic stories, scenes and drama. I do not at all. I just think it may be a better way – a way unique for the game medium.


Last edited by Beamboom on 3/13/2012 11:38:40 AM

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
8 years ago

Well, I just rewatched some of the ending from Xenosaga 3, and it's lost none of it's impact. Funnily enough it's actually generated using the in-game engine, and not pre-rendered. For me, it simply re-enforces the reasons for having cutscenes as they are.

Jawknee
Jawknee
8 years ago

I swear Beam just dips his finger in to see what the community has to say than says the exact opposite just to get a reaction out of the rest of us.

Temjin001
Temjin001
8 years ago

Unless the pre-rendered stuff is truly spectacular (Onimusha 3, Final Fantasy etc) I tend to prefer in-game rendered cutscenes. I like how the it keeps it's visual continuity (no spell checker on my Windows machine =p)

Nagi
Nagi
8 years ago

@Jawk

Because Beam usually has a difference of opinion? I just see it as his tastes substantially differs from the majority of the community. Most of his comments do stick out at times, but he always make sure to either respectfully agree, disagree, support, concede, compromise, and always conduct himself accordingly.

At the end of the day, how do you spark interesting discussions if you everybody chooses to agree with each other all the time?

Guy has a lot of class.

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
8 years ago

I agree temjin, I like the in-game engine rendered cutscenes better myself. Although there are some really effective and epic scenes that are pre-rendered.

But I have noticed that increasingly games will use the in-game engine with an additional rendering pass to enhance quality when presenting cutscenes. Because the cutscenes is non-interactive the designers take advantage of the additional processor cycles and embellish the rendering. They do this in WKC2 where the same world data, scenes and character models are used for the cutscenes, but the rendering of faces and textures is a step up from what you see during game-play itself. It's a nice blend of the higher quality you might see with pre-rendered, and the use of in-game models and engine.


Last edited by TheHighlander on 3/13/2012 12:20:53 PM

Temjin001
Temjin001
8 years ago

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkIhvprU7FI&feature=related

No matter how many times I watch this I'm always blown away.

Temjin001
Temjin001
8 years ago

yeah, Highlander, they look to have finally done that for Assassin's Creed. It always bugged me how poor the character facial detail was in story sequences, making it easy to know they didn't put extra effort (probably didn't have the time) to generate cut-scene models that sport extra detail because of freed up resources. AC Revelations looked to have remedied this as their facial detail looked to have more than doubled.

Temjin001
Temjin001
8 years ago

don't know about htat Nagi, I'm pretty sure BeamBoom said your were gay the other day =p

Nagi
Nagi
8 years ago

@Temjin…There you go again spreading rumors XD.

Man, I love pre-rendered cutscenes, going to cherish the few games that still use them, because they won't be around for very long. For me games are not a seamless experience nor do I want them to be, so a brief change in art direction doesn't bother me a bit.

I really like the implementation of the technique in games such as the FF series, UT3, and I like the use of anime cutscenes in games such as Xenogears and Chrono Trigger.

It's a small way to switch things up, and keep a game fresh during a playthrough. The way I see it, if your going to sink some hours into a game, it doesn't hurt to implement a little visual variety here and there.

BikerSaint
BikerSaint
8 years ago

Temjin001,
I've got good news & then I've got not-as-good news….

The good news:
Capcom has just confirmed that they're putting out "Onimusha Soul"

The not-as-good news:
It's only for Browsers(June 28th, 2012), & smartphones(in Aug this year).

Temjin001
Temjin001
8 years ago

Other than knowing what Capcom is doing with the franchise right now that's pretty much bad news all around =)
Since when do internet browsers steal away console franchises?

FM23
FM23
8 years ago

I need cutscenes in my games. That's why Skyrim will never be a masterpiece too me.

jimmyhandsome
jimmyhandsome
8 years ago

I think at some point the lines will get blurry between interactive and non-interactive cutscenes. Heavy Rain and other games that implement QTE have begun this trend. I'm indifferent either way. I think it depends on the game I'm playing.

Beamboom
Beamboom
8 years ago

Ahhhh – OMG, of course! Heavy Rain! Dude, that's the *perfect* example! That game is essentially a string of interactive cut-scenes!

Guys: Think back to that scene where father and son sat at that playground small-talking, where the father tried to bond with his son.

Now, that scene *could* have been a tear dripping pre-scripted traditional cut-scene where you just sat back and watched. Sure, it could have been both emotional and memorable, like any good movie scene.

But who would have preferred that to actually participate in that conversation there and then, like you did in Heavy Rain? *That's* what we talk about here!!


Last edited by Beamboom on 3/13/2012 12:36:16 PM

slugga_status
slugga_status
8 years ago

Heavy Rain is one game that actually got it right. Yet, some games I don't see that style fitting. Some QTE's are just bothersome. In the long run I don't think everyone will be happy..Im open for a new way of story telling but if isn't done correctly some of us would be po'd..