Jimquisition: Cutscenes Aren't A Failure State

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I dunno about you guys, but I've always liked cutscenes.

Souplex:

lord.jeff:
I found Half-Life 2's way of telling story was just as bad as cutscenes, stand here for a minute while I talk, it worked just the same as a cutscene but without the camera control and other dynamic elements of a video it just felt like it dragged on, most of the time I ended up throwing randow thing around the room and missed what was getting said.

Thank you, you saved me some keystrokes.
Half Life 1 worked without cutscenes, because it was about isolation and loneliness, filling the hole Metroid left in the second half of the 90's.
Going without cutscenes instantly falls apart when you put other characters into the equation.

Thanks for agreeing with me but I do have to disagree with your last statement, mostly do to the fact that it sounds like a rule that limits the amount of freedom you have with the story telling much like the episode was talking against. Plus there are times it has worked going with Half-Life 2, it didn't work for most the game but in Ravenholm it did, probably because the guys line were short and because the game didn't feel a need to lock you in a room for the dialogue, it felt like the game was still going when he talked.

There aren't many rules to art (the two really big important rules that apply to any artistic medium, for example, are 1. Remember that you can totally fuck up; and 2. Don't fuck up. These are both rules that George Lucas broke), but I like to think there are guidelines that you shouldn't stray from unless you know what you're doing and why. For games, a good guideline is avoid taking control away from the player when you can effectively achieve the same results through gameplay.
I will say one rule of video games would be this: Never make your cutscenes unskippable. In a medium where your choices might mean you die and have to start a section over, being forced to watch the same cutscene repeatedly gets really fucking annoying.

I was baited into watching this because I read the title, failure state, and assumed it referred to Commander Shepard's state of fail whenever a cutscene would start, disparaging games that would use them to railroad the player into the plot despite and other outstanding factors. That could be used as a topic all on its own.

I got my truck busted into for Easter! glass all over my seats just to get to a GPS >.<"

Doing good Jim, keep it up

At the end of this video I realised my neck was a little tired - I'd been nodding for almost four straight minutes.

Insightful analysis, lucidly presented, and still sufficiently entertaining to keep me fully engaged throughout; well done Jim.

Bloodtrozorx:
Thank God for Jim, It's alright Jim if you had died for our sins we would be without your wisdom to guide us.

I wasn't aware there was hate for cut scenes, I disagree with 40 min cut scenes but I find them on the whole to be very useful for story telling.

That's not so bad if it's an end game sequence after gameplay is over so long as it's pause-able.

I always found the method used in Half-Life inferior to cut-scenes. You get interactivity (somewhat, you can move around, but you canīt really do anything of importance), but on the other hand, you loose camera angles. The Scene turns from something that could be carefully orchestrated with interesting compositions to a room where people stand around and talk without doing anything.

Zachary Amaranth:
But...But First Person perspective an silent protagonists are immersive!

By Odin's beard I hate silent protagonist. It has it's place and can be done very well, but 90% of the time silent protagonists actively detract from the game. No thing pulls me out of a game more than when a situation demands speech but no one talks. I am only able to get through Half Life 2 without raging by assuming Freeman is an actual mute. Because otherwise he is an asshole.

I'm surprised Mr. Crowshaw's name wasn't mentioned in this video. If I remember correctly yathzee has tends to have a problem with anything that doesn't fully embrace the video game medium. And cutscenes can be one of those things. Personally I like cutscenes because all they tend to be pretty fun. I don't mind not interacting every minute if the storytelling gets a chance to shine.
Those first person semi cutscene moveable cutscenes I don't really like cause its very undynamic and for the games I play which aren't first person shooters. Usually means the characters tend to fall out of earshot.

Where I disagree is that where you can't put rules on artwork itself, they can be part of a medium. Sort of like how a sculpture requires a freestanding object, or a painting requires the creation of a two dimensional image (whether it requires paint is a matter of debate, and one of the reasons why there is an increaisng seperation into things like 'visual arts').

When it comes to a game, I tend to agree that cutscenes detract from it being considered a game or it's "art". Largely because we already HAVE a catagory for cut scenes in the form of animated movies. When you start telling your story through non-interactive scenes and movies, your effectively leaving one medium and entering another.

While it involves invoking a non-ending part of "Mass Effect 3", an example of why cut scenes don't work is the entire prescence of the "Leng" character who generally just does whatever moves the plot along, irregardless of any kind of gameplay or the evenets that took place before the scenes he's in (such as kicking the player's butt AFTER he lost a boss fight).

My basic arguement is that to be a game, the story must be told entirely through the game itself and interactive. This is VERY hard to do, which is why so few games have done it, but that just means gaming is a hard medium to work with, not that cut scenes become valid. To do otherwise involves entering an entirely differant medium, at the most becoming an "interactive movie" which was a term intended to differentiate works from games back
when CD-Roms were becoming the norm. It's especially bad when the cut scenes tend to invalidate or trivialize everything the player actually did in the game by removing their control of the events (such as with Leng).

I think defending the use of cut scenes, undermines the entire medium. Pointing to GOOD cut scenes just means that someone made a good bit of animated video (a short), not a good game, and as good as the scenes might be it shows that the developers lacked the skill to acheive the same effect in a way that didn't interfere with the actual gameplay and player control, something that we know CAN be done by a skilled developer.

For example, could Valve have done the entire "Xenoblades" thing within the gameplay engine and achieved the same effect if it wanted to? Going by say the "Half Life" series, they probably could have. This kind of realization makes the cut scenes a failure on the part of the game developer, rather than a part of the medium. Not everyone can be a real artist even if they want to be. One big thing about art is that the rules of a medium don't change based on the creator, it's all about who can work the best within an established medium. When someone creates something incredible that doesn't fit within an established medium it can create a new one... in this case we're looking at "interactive movies" as the proper medium label, and really the guys developing those should stop calling their work "games" to avoid detracting from the work of those who actually develop games.

Yes. Thank you. I remember a time when cutscenes were universally regarded as a reward for your mindless button mashing, not a barrier from it. Hell, that's the very description of the Dragon's Lair series verbatim. In Saints Row 2 my favorite part of the game was seeing my increasingly elaborately dressed avatar in cutscenes, I would hurry through missions and track down diversion just to see what he'd do next. Yes, Half-Life and Portal did well without the use of cutscenes, but all the same you're still being locked in a room and fed exposition until the game arbitrarily deigns to throw you back in the wild. Aren't there times where taking control from the player to deliver creative camera angles, musical scores, and powerful dialogue improves your experience? To put it more bluntly: Would the cutscenes in Silent Hill 2 really have been improved if the designers granted you the ability to derp around the set dressing and crouch-jump for while Eddie was giving you shifty looks in that meat locker?

I really don't mind as long as it's done well.

I liked the MGS1 and MGS3 cutscenes, because I was interested in the characters and the story. I hated the cutscenes in MGS4, because the entire story had gone off the deep end.

It's not about whether or not a game should have cutscenes, but in what way the developer wants to engage the player into the story/setting.

This entire video seems like a giant strawman. I haven't seen anyone saying cutscenes should never, ever be used in video games. I see people disparaging the overuse or incorrect use of cutscenes that have started to plague the industry.

An example I'll always remember, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. Apart from a short scripted tutorial, you spend over 25min reading and watching cutscenes before you're allowed to participate in your first real fight. Say what you will about cutscenes, but when used like that, it's just a sign of bad design.

I think you'd actually agree with the majority of the people you seem to be targeting with this video, because their point is that if you don't need to use a cutscene to explain something, then don't.

I agree completely. Cut scenes are fine when done right and don't detract from gameplay. There are all sorts of argument both for and against them. But the fact is, not every game can be done as effectively without cut scenes. And games that choose not to use them many times are also very good games. I personally have always like cinematic cut scenes that break up action and that transmit the story in a very fun and interesting way. As with many things, there is mediation necessary on this subject. I can't stand it when people argue that there should be none in the games. The beginning of videogames had a complete lack of them and often times the stories themselves were non-existent. Also, while I loved almost every moment of Half-Life 2, I also felt the parts where it made you walk around the lab following somebody were far from the best parts of the game.

Well I agree with you, cut-scenes are fine. I also think that even when delivering the Word of Reason to the unwashed masses, one's argument should be honest, so there were a few things I found jarring.

Would removing cut-scenes really mean that 'all games would present their narrative exactly the same way' thereafter? I don't think that's a very good estimate on what's being proposed. This is all discussion on good game design, so differing opinions are important. Some voices perhaps lack humility in their delivery, but you'd have to say an awful lot to come across as 'ignorant and close minded'.

I thought you did a great job in describing the experience that makes cut-scenes worthwhile -- even if you then went for the silly-artsy-people-coming-for-our-games angle in your closing.

Thanks for another good video Jim.

I really think people who say "games should only ever be X" or "they should never do Y" just don't seem to understand the point of creative mediums to begin with. Every form, style and method of presenting interactive or non-interactive media is as valid as the next, theirs no reason any game should only do one thing or another outside of the artistic and design choices the creators feels suit their work.

Granted not every game is made with the right decision. I would say MGS quite often is a good example of excessive uses of cut scenes but then again that's Kojimas thing so I wouldn't go telling the man how to do his work.

I think that if a game is going to have cutscenes, they should have to follow some rules for how the cutscenes work. Nothing to do with art though, these are for player friendliness.

One, they should have a pause button, especially if the cutscenes are quite long. Metal Gear Solid 4? Doing it right. Sadly, the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection? Doing it wrong (a real shame; they already messed with the game's code to add achievements and play with graphical things. would have been so hard to throw in a pause button too? they don't even pause if you hit the guide/xmb button). Metal Gear Solid is known for its long cutscenes, we all know this. But sometimes life throws you a curveball and you can't just sit and keep watching until it ends. Sometimes you suddenly have to go take a shit. Sometimes the phone rings. Sometimes someone starts talking to you. Sometimes someone comes to the door. You never know when you'll have to quickly get up from the game, and not letting you pause cutscenes sucks because then you have to go and find it on YouTube. Plus, it leaves you exposed as the game resumes after a cutscene and you aren't there to hit pause on the gameplay right away.

Two, they should always be skippable. Sometimes we don't want to see the cutscenes again. If I die on a hard boss fight, I don't want to be forced to watch the minute long pre-fight cutscene over and over and over again. If I'm playing the game multiple times in a row within a short period (one example would be playing the game and enjoying the story on a normal difficulty, and then playing again on the hardest difficulty right after for more challenge), I might not want to watch all the cutscenes again so soon. Or maybe one particular cutscene is uninteresting and I don't feel like watching it. Or it could be a game like Mass Effect 3 where I'm replaying it to see the outcomes of alternate choices, but have no desire to watch the cutscenes that stay exactly the same for the 3rd time.
And a sub-section to this rule: don't make the cutscene skip button something easy to trigger by accident, such as L2 and R2 on PS3. Just setting the controller down can activate them, and if they skip a cutscene, oops. Combine it with the pause feature: press start to pause and then have options for "resume" and "skip".

Three, if you're going to mask loading times with cutscenes, too bad. Rules one and two still apply to you. The only difference is that we obviously can't skip until the loading finishes.

Killzone 3 is the perfect example of doing it right. Press start to pause any cutscene you want. However, the cutsccnes are also used to hide the game loading. If you press start before the loading finishes, it says "loading" in the corner and you can only resume the cutscene. But once the loading finishes, you get an option to skip the rest of the cutscene and go to the next bit of gameplay. Massive kudos to Guerrilla Games for doing it perfectly. Take note, other developers. Feel free to use as many or as few cutscenes as you want, just make sure we have the options to pause and skip so we can either not miss anything or skip things we don't want to see again as needed.

lord.jeff:
I found Half-Life 2's way of telling story was just as bad as cutscenes, stand here for a minute while I talk, it worked just the same as a cutscene but without the camera control and other dynamic elements of a video it just felt like it dragged on, most of the time I ended up throwing randow thing around the room and missed what was getting said.

See, this was my thought as well. Every time there's video of one of Half-Life's "lack of cutscenes", it's just the player standing there watching some guy talk. Or the player is just wandering around trying to entertain themselves until the other characters shut up and gameplay resumes. They are, in essence, cutscenes. They serve the same purpose as most cutscenes, which is "you can't do anything until we get done telling you stome story bits". They're just cutscenes without taking away player control and fancy camera angles.

Tipsy Giant:
I have no problem with cutscenes, I have a problem with really long cutscenes that half way through demand QTEs then when failed replays the entire cutscene, that's just BULLSHIT

Oh yeah, good one. I wasn't thinking of QTE's at the time, but this surely belongs on the list of what not to do within a cutscene if you're going to have both cutscenes and QTE's.

Good job Jim.

The "Cut Scene" as a tool in the box, is an excellent lead in to the discussion.

Examine the final fight from "another" Japanese game "Persona 3".

A Cut scene...

LEADING INTO...

Game Play...

Where the only effective attack the player has at their command is a "sacrifice". All the social links developed through the game give the player an opportunity to see their effort pay off with further attacks.

LEADING INTO

A final cut scene. It works. What an AWESOME game.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBpVEfJV3Ps&feature=related

Compared to...

Mass Effect 3... sitting around the crucible... what a boring scene... so poorly done... Utilizing the Unreal 3 Engine? Is Bioware kidding me?

Other than valve's Half Life... every game displayed in Jim's video was Japanese... coincidence?

What about another game using Unreal Engine?

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

Lost Odyssey... weee, and there we go. When did that come out, 07, 08? 4 years ago?

Like any tool, ya gatta know which end of the G'Damn screw driver to hold. Take a class on film ffs.

If a developer feels compelled to offer a philosophy paper to explain the work... they haven't done enough.

Cut scenes are merely a period instrument developers are stuck with until technology makes in game video quality meet the needs of the immersion to the story. The only exception is when a cut scene is used in some artistic purpose. In other words the developer wants to take you out of gameplay for a moment.

An excellent of example of this are dialog cuts in silent film. They just served the purpose needed at the time.

Whether cut scenes are integrated properly is a fault on the developers side and that is something that has to be judged on a case by case basis.

People that complain about cut scenes wouldn't go without them it's just superficial complaining like being mad bread doesn't come out of the bag toasted yet.

I can't say as it's worthy of your time making a video, but it's your show not mine. I honestly believe people complaining about the existence of cut scenes are in a far far minority.

Film makers can really be ignored entirely when it comes to games. It's like watching Fox news pundits try to examine economic trends. You watch, you laugh, you move on.

S Club 7? Wha?

Therumancer:
Where I disagree is that where you can't put rules on artwork itself, they can be part of a medium. Sort of like how a sculpture requires a freestanding object, or a painting requires the creation of a two dimensional image (whether it requires paint is a matter of debate, and one of the reasons why there is an increaisng seperation into things like 'visual arts').

When it comes to a game, I tend to agree that cutscenes detract from it being considered a game or it's "art". Largely because we already HAVE a catagory for cut scenes in the form of animated movies. When you start telling your story through non-interactive scenes and movies, your effectively leaving one medium and entering another.

While it involves invoking a non-ending part of "Mass Effect 3", an example of why cut scenes don't work is the entire prescence of the "Leng" character who generally just does whatever moves the plot along, irregardless of any kind of gameplay or the evenets that took place before the scenes he's in (such as kicking the player's butt AFTER he lost a boss fight).

My basic arguement is that to be a game, the story must be told entirely through the game itself and interactive. This is VERY hard to do, which is why so few games have done it, but that just means gaming is a hard medium to work with, not that cut scenes become valid. To do otherwise involves entering an entirely differant medium, at the most becoming an "interactive movie" which was a term intended to differentiate works from games back
when CD-Roms were becoming the norm. It's especially bad when the cut scenes tend to invalidate or trivialize everything the player actually did in the game by removing their control of the events (such as with Leng).

I think defending the use of cut scenes, undermines the entire medium. Pointing to GOOD cut scenes just means that someone made a good bit of animated video (a short), not a good game, and as good as the scenes might be it shows that the developers lacked the skill to acheive the same effect in a way that didn't interfere with the actual gameplay and player control, something that we know CAN be done by a skilled developer.

For example, could Valve have done the entire "Xenoblades" thing within the gameplay engine and achieved the same effect if it wanted to? Going by say the "Half Life" series, they probably could have. This kind of realization makes the cut scenes a failure on the part of the game developer, rather than a part of the medium. Not everyone can be a real artist even if they want to be. One big thing about art is that the rules of a medium don't change based on the creator, it's all about who can work the best within an established medium. When someone creates something incredible that doesn't fit within an established medium it can create a new one... in this case we're looking at "interactive movies" as the proper medium label, and really the guys developing those should stop calling their work "games" to avoid detracting from the work of those who actually develop games.

I would say they could not have, especially going by the Half Life series. Lets take, or example, the cutscenes of half life 2 (which is what they are, don't pretend they are not). They are exposition dumps where we are told what is going on and never allowed to participate with in any meaningful or entertaining way. Just like all cut scenes. The Half Life 2 cutscene is, by comparison to a normal cutscene, total crap. They are boring. Sure, we can dick around and throw a box while the NPC's speak in our direction or we are occasionally asked to flip a switch, but they does not change the fact that they are very boring and really are not justifiable in how much they derail the flow of the game. Your own example proves you wrong.

You are putting an arbitrary rule on what can and cannot be considered a game. A game is interactive, but why does it have to be 100% interactive? After all, the medium is video game. All that is required is that there be some video element and some game element in there. Your artificial restriction of video games to 100% interactive story telling is insulting to anyone who takes video games seriously as a medium. You say including cutscenes changes it from a game to an interactive movie. Does including text change it too a electronic, interactive book?

As i see it YES YES YES! Cutsceens can be a great tool indeed. But there are situations where it is used WAY to much.. I bring as a point World of Warcraft Cataclysmen. In one of the level 80 "start" zones an under water naga infested area there are roughly 40minutes of cutsceens in a area that takes about three hours to run through. Some of them you can't skip by as your just for ten minutes walking around listning to npcs going on about the same thing for about 10minutes before your let of a boat...
In other cases Cut sceens are great... And here i bring Star Wars the old Republic as an exsample.
Its damn awsome when you walk up to a boss see alittle cutsceen before your allowed to fight him and then ending the fight with another 1minute cut sceen. As i see the major difference betwhen how WoW and SWTOR do is. The SWTOR cutsceens are used to tell the story where the WoW cata ones just feel like they are there but hold no deeper meaning.

As video games has become intertwined with story telling, cinimatography becomes more and more essential. There's a reason I have Metal Gear Solid practically burned into my brain, but can't remember most of what I did in Skyrim, and it's all cues from minor movements, to proper music timing, to proper visual flashes rather than look at the guy standing there while he recites exposition. Still, there is room for abuse, particualaly from those that are more into making movies but the profit's in video games. Square Enix has pushed this boundry for some time now, but at worst we get MGS4, which is I think the only time it is literal thtat you spend more time watching movies than playing. Then there's ME3's ending where the problems seem to start from a point of "how would I end this if I were making a movie" and got worse from there.

Still, the right tool for the right job. Bioshock was told beautifully though little more than audio logs.

Used properly, they're good. Even great.

Used improperly, they're one of the worst things you can subject the user to. It pulls them out of the experience and throws a wrench into the finer parts of pacing.

I think most of the knee jerk reaction to cut scenes comes from the ones that are poorly implemented, and / or are the product of shoddy production values. It's one thing to simply not know when to use them, its something else entirely when the voice acting, translating, and dialogue are simply off-center.

DrOswald:

I would say they could not have, especially going by the Half Life series. Lets take, or example, the cutscenes of half life 2 (which is what they are, don't pretend they are not). They are exposition dumps where we are told what is going on and never allowed to participate with in any meaningful or entertaining way. Just like all cut scenes. The Half Life 2 cutscene is, by comparison to a normal cutscene, total crap. They are boring. Sure, we can dick around and throw a box while the NPC's speak in our direction or we are occasionally asked to flip a switch, but they does not change the fact that they are very boring and really are not justifiable in how much they derail the flow of the game. Your own example proves you wrong.

You are putting an arbitrary rule on what can and cannot be considered a game. A game is interactive, but why does it have to be 100% interactive? After all, the medium is video game. All that is required is that there be some video element and some game element in there. Your artificial restriction of video games to 100% interactive story telling is insulting to anyone who takes video games seriously as a medium. You say including cutscenes changes it from a game to an interactive movie. Does including text change it too a electronic, interactive book?

It all depends on how the exposition is delivered, the thing with "Half-Life" is that the gameplay did not stop, leading to an entirely differant form of storytelling, nor did the crucial plot points happen when you were not in control like "OMG, Leng just kicked my butt and there was nothing I could do about it". Boring it might be, but it didn't interrupt the general flow of the game, it was like how a person might explain something to you, and to be fair you have to make allowances for the differances in technology.

What I'm saying is more "insulting" (if you view it as insulting to anyone in paticular) to those who don't take gaming serious as a medium, by using cut scenes as a way of doing things for the storyline that they cannot find a way to acheive in the actual gameplay. Which to be fair is a criticism that can be leveled at a huge amount of the gaming industry right now, as cut scenes have become an increasing crutch, relied on more and more by developers as an easy way to handle parts of a game that would otherwise take a lot of work and creativity.

Ignoring the absurdity of your claims, you ARE correct that making too much of the game dependant on text could put it into the visual novel catagory (which also exists, largely in Japan). Those distinctions do exist for a reason.

Qitz:
Cutscenes are like QTEs. They're great when done with a purpose and some prior thought to the matter. When just thrown in willy nilly and distract from other features is when they become a problem.

awww.... i was gonna say that :( *grumbles about ninjas*

Getting Xenoblade Chronicles today and the delivery guys late. Come to watch the Jimquisition and GOD DAMN YOU JIM!!!

OT: Cutscenes are like any other game element, it's all in how you use it.

FINALLY! Jim points out something that I have agreed with for years, it isn't what game mechanics are used, it's the context in which that are used.

This weeks jimquisition would be valid if most cut-scenes were brilliant works. In the majority of times these non interactive parts of video games only serve to spite the gamer with giving bosses a plot-shield or wresting control away so that you as a gamer feel cheated or your efforts get invalidated, and that's why we cry foul.

In an age where Kai Lengs exist, and developers like Bioware would rather turn their games into movies that keep story and gameplay seperate I cannot see why the majority of gamer's should rush forward to defend cutscenes nor do I see why Jim Sterling should make an episode praising them either.

"art" really does have a pretty murky definition depending on who you ask...

lord.jeff:
I found Half-Life 2's way of telling story was just as bad as cutscenes, stand here for a minute while I talk, it worked just the same as a cutscene but without the camera control and other dynamic elements of a video it just felt like it dragged on, most of the time I ended up throwing randow thing around the room and missed what was getting said.

Immersion? NOT IF I CAN JUMP AROUND LIKE A MADMAN.

First time I've said it. Thank God for Jim.

I had no idea it was popular to disparage cutscenes. It's a bit thoughtless to discount them when they can become such useful story-telling tools. If done correctly, they can become the best part of a game. For example, I've recently started playing Odyssey: Journey to West which has really dull gameplay that really drags but luckily has fantastic cutscenes with great character interactions. Without the great cutscenes I would have stopped playing this game within the first hour.

He sounded kinda stuffy this week
is it a new mic, or were you sick?

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