A Shootout For One

A Shootout For One

Bombastic, explosive and flawlessly executed, set-pieces are the most boring part of shooters.

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I have to protest the part about Devil May Cry controlling like a kid on a bouncy castle, since I feel awesome once I actually learn how to use the weapons. I mostly agree with the article, though.

While I prefer some level of challenge, it's clear that, commercially, people prefer the set-pieces.

CoD used as the ur-example of the set-piece? Me and my crowbar would like a word sir...

There's something to be gained from considering the differences in approach to set-pieces. They have merge seamlessly with the regular gameplay. Even if you use QTEs, they avoid the cutscene/gameplay dissonance mentioned in this article if QTEs are a core part of gameplay.

In an ideal world they also have to feel organic. If the player feels themself being railroaded, then you've failed. That's why half-life 1 and 2 take place in mostly enclosed buildings and streets, so that your movement feels naturally constrained, whereas I always felt annoyed that I couldn't jump off the cliff in the first mission in Russia in MW1 and join the Russians on the ground.

grigjd3:
While I prefer some level of challenge, it's clear that, commercially, people prefer the set-pieces.

Citation needed. It's certainly clear that developers believe people prefer the set-pieces, and the set-pieces make for good trailers and "demo" footage since they can't be botched, but I've yet to see the results of a survey, focus group, or experiment that show people prefer set-pieces over being a badass on their own.

I just played through Spec Ops: The Line, and it did a great job of weaving cutscenes and gameplay. The cut scenes were primarily for dialog or setup, but I can't think of a single bullet that Walker fired without my pulling the trigger. Even during a number of what in most games would have been cutscenes, you were allowed (in fact, expected) to keep walking, keep moving, while the characters talk or something outside Walker's control happens.

mightybozz:
CoD used as the ur-example of the set-piece? Me and my crowbar would like a word sir...

The type of setpiece he's talking about doesn't have much to do with Half Life or Half Life 2.

CoD's setpieces are games where something exciting and whizz bang which makes the player feel like they are threatened, when it's actually all scripted so that they aren't even if they arse around.

And between the lines of the article is why they are popular, because it makes you feel like you did something impressive even if you suck. Whereas to do something impressive in DMC or Bayonetta you have to actually be good at them, understand the game and your character and how you can do the impressive sequence of dodges, backflips, and attacks that gets you through that fight taking no damage and looking and feeling like a baller no matter how hard it was.

grigjd3:
While I prefer some level of challenge, it's clear that, commercially, people prefer the set-pieces.

I agree with you, but I don't think games should be tailored to commercial success.

Azuaron:

grigjd3:
While I prefer some level of challenge, it's clear that, commercially, people prefer the set-pieces.

Citation needed. It's certainly clear that developers believe people prefer the set-pieces, and the set-pieces make for good trailers and "demo" footage since they can't be botched, but I've yet to see the results of a survey, focus group, or experiment that show people prefer set-pieces over being a badass on their own.

I just played through Spec Ops: The Line, and it did a great job of weaving cutscenes and gameplay. The cut scenes were primarily for dialog or setup, but I can't think of a single bullet that Walker fired without my pulling the trigger. Even during a number of what in most games would have been cutscenes, you were allowed (in fact, expected) to keep walking, keep moving, while the characters talk or something outside Walker's control happens.

Well, I said commercially, so I am going to fall back on sales number of MW#, BF#, God of War, Uncharted and the commercial successes of so many other games. I'm not saying that these games produce the best gameplay experience, but that they lead to the greatest commercial success - which is the only thing that publishers ultimately care about. Even the example you bring up, Spec Ops: The Line, is largely a commercial flop. It may well be a better game (I have heard great things about it but I haven't played it), but commercially, gamers are showing a clear preference for military porn. Anyhow, I think we are agreeing on everything short of semantics.

grigjd3:

Azuaron:

grigjd3:
While I prefer some level of challenge, it's clear that, commercially, people prefer the set-pieces.

Citation needed. It's certainly clear that developers believe people prefer the set-pieces, and the set-pieces make for good trailers and "demo" footage since they can't be botched, but I've yet to see the results of a survey, focus group, or experiment that show people prefer set-pieces over being a badass on their own.

I just played through Spec Ops: The Line, and it did a great job of weaving cutscenes and gameplay. The cut scenes were primarily for dialog or setup, but I can't think of a single bullet that Walker fired without my pulling the trigger. Even during a number of what in most games would have been cutscenes, you were allowed (in fact, expected) to keep walking, keep moving, while the characters talk or something outside Walker's control happens.

Well, I said commercially, so I am going to fall back on sales number of MW#, BF#, God of War, Uncharted and the commercial successes of so many other games. I'm not saying that these games produce the best gameplay experience, but that they lead to the greatest commercial success - which is the only thing that publishers ultimately care about. Even the example you bring up, Spec Ops: The Line, is largely a commercial flop. It may well be a better game (I have heard great things about it but I haven't played it), but commercially, gamers are showing a clear preference for military porn. Anyhow, I think we are agreeing on everything short of semantics.

My note on Spec Ops was a separate point, related to the original topic but not intended as a direct refutation of your point.

As far as sales numbers, we can't directly compare MW to even BF on such a narrow aspect of the game, and certainly not to Spec Ops, God of War, Uncharted, Max Payne 3, or some mythical AAA title that has zero cutscenes. The only way to get hard data for something like this would be to have two versions of the same scene, one a set piece and one character controlled, then see what players actually preferred.

Or, as one of the Bioware writers suggested, allow players to view fights as cutscenes if they chose, then track how many people choose cutscene vs. player control.

(Gotta love semantic arguments. ;-) )

Yeah the BF3 jet mission on rails was a complete and utter let down. The missile firing was so boring and I got seriously depressed I wasn't able to go all top gun.

Good one Ed. Yep. I know that feel bro.
Marston if controlled by the player, could have taken the firing squad. Dynamite would have really lowered their numbers.

For games and taking control to truly demonstrate your mastery, warband and dark souls come to mind. They take so long to learn, but once you get it, you can take out so many and overcome so much.

Ok, yea nevermind.

bibblles:
Yeah no. I completely disagree with this article. I hate being railroaded around like the game is afraid I'm going to blow myself up if it gives me full control. It was like at the end of Bulletstorm, where after 8 hours of being an unstoppable killing machine (almost entirely of my own control) the ending sequence wrenched away all of the control and did quick time events. I was outraged...

"Like I couldn't have just done that?" I screamed "hell give me a flail gun and another enemy and I'll show you what real baddass means!"

But no, every goddamn game assumes that I've never played a game before and railroades me around with button sequences and set pieces to make sure I don't cramp it's style. Maybe there should be some sort of cross roads where I admit that it looks cool, or maybe there should be a retard setting on every game to turn on the set pieces and the rest of the time the game is more free flowing. But I'm not going to make that admission. I've seen too many awesome looking games that are nothing but gaudy flash and flare being driven by set pieces and cutscenes. If I get attacked for this opinion on these forums then so be it, but I've had enough of the 'cinematic experience games' I want games to be more than a movie with quick time events!

Ummm, is it possible you didn't read the whole article?

Amazon warrior:

bibblles:
Yeah no. I completely disagree with this article. I hate being railroaded around like the game is afraid I'm going to blow myself up if it gives me full control. It was like at the end of Bulletstorm, where after 8 hours of being an unstoppable killing machine (almost entirely of my own control) the ending sequence wrenched away all of the control and did quick time events. I was outraged...

"Like I couldn't have just done that?" I screamed "hell give me a flail gun and another enemy and I'll show you what real baddass means!"

But no, every goddamn game assumes that I've never played a game before and railroades me around with button sequences and set pieces to make sure I don't cramp it's style. Maybe there should be some sort of cross roads where I admit that it looks cool, or maybe there should be a retard setting on every game to turn on the set pieces and the rest of the time the game is more free flowing. But I'm not going to make that admission. I've seen too many awesome looking games that are nothing but gaudy flash and flare being driven by set pieces and cutscenes. If I get attacked for this opinion on these forums then so be it, but I've had enough of the 'cinematic experience games' I want games to be more than a movie with quick time events!

Ummm, is it possible you didn't read the whole article?

Er yea, I skipped through most of the second page because the first page hit my rage button...

If it makes you feel any better, I did fail that escape from the sinking ship in MW4 the first time, so failure was possible.

And I can't for the life of me understand WHY Battlefield 3 put you in the copilot seat. I mean, in a CoD game I could understand it as a shooter-on-rails is easier to program than a flight sim. But BF3 came with the mechanics, multiplayer allows you to fly that jet yourself. And it allows you to fly over a much larger part of the map than you're allowed to walk or drive. So the engine is capable of handling a bigger map with less ground detail. Someone really dropped the ball on the BF3 singleplayer when they scaled their game's capabilities down just to emulate CoD.

Same deal for the coop. Only one fun mission where you fly a helicopter. But why not some missions where one player has an AA vehicle and the other a tank. Or a misison where one player is on foot in a building with walkways and open windows, and the other in a scout chopper giving support with the miniguns?

bibblles:
Er yea, I skipped through most of the second page because the first page hit my rage button...

In that case I'd strongly suggest you go back and read it properly before commenting.

grigjd3:

Well, I said commercially, so I am going to fall back on sales number of MW#, BF#, God of War, Uncharted and the commercial successes of so many other games. I'm not saying that these games produce the best gameplay experience, but that they lead to the greatest commercial success - which is the only thing that publishers ultimately care about. Even the example you bring up, Spec Ops: The Line, is largely a commercial flop. It may well be a better game (I have heard great things about it but I haven't played it), but commercially, gamers are showing a clear preference for military porn. Anyhow, I think we are agreeing on everything short of semantics.

Well you can drop the first two on your list, unless you are implying that all those sales were due to the single-player campaign.

Yeah, scripted setpieces are the bane of my existence right now. I remember the first time I played Uncharted everyone was telling me it was a "More adult" platformer. Apparently adults need more handholding than children because when I was a kid I was pulling off jumps and flips that where ten times more challenging and a hundred times more satisfying in Mario or Crash Bandicoot, the latter of which was MADE by Naughty Dog. We've done some major backpedaling on interactivity and I think the medium as a whole has suffered.

Oh and DMC and Bayonetta are two games where you can pull off stunts that rival the craziness of the cutscenes. You just have to be really, really good. :P

mightybozz:
CoD used as the ur-example of the set-piece? Me and my crowbar would like a word sir...

There's something to be gained from considering the differences in approach to set-pieces. They have merge seamlessly with the regular gameplay. Even if you use QTEs, they avoid the cutscene/gameplay dissonance mentioned in this article if QTEs are a core part of gameplay.

In an ideal world they also have to feel organic. If the player feels themself being railroaded, then you've failed. That's why half-life 1 and 2 take place in mostly enclosed buildings and streets, so that your movement feels naturally constrained, whereas I always felt annoyed that I couldn't jump off the cliff in the first mission in Russia in MW1 and join the Russians on the ground.

Exactly, set pieces are a game design tool. They don't make a game good or bad on their own. They are good if they contribute to the game and bad if they don't.

grigjd3:

Even the example you bring up, Spec Ops: The Line, is largely a commercial flop. It may well be a better game (I have heard great things about it but I haven't played it)

You should. It's fantastic.

mightybozz:
CoD used as the ur-example of the set-piece? Me and my crowbar would like a word sir...

There's something to be gained from considering the differences in approach to set-pieces. They have merge seamlessly with the regular gameplay. Even if you use QTEs, they avoid the cutscene/gameplay dissonance mentioned in this article if QTEs are a core part of gameplay.

In an ideal world they also have to feel organic. If the player feels themself being railroaded, then you've failed. That's why half-life 1 and 2 take place in mostly enclosed buildings and streets, so that your movement feels naturally constrained, whereas I always felt annoyed that I couldn't jump off the cliff in the first mission in Russia in MW1 and join the Russians on the ground.

I agree with you. Set-pieces are best used when they follow the main thread of the game, giving you a chance to use what you learned while magnifying the effects.

The best example I can think of is the end of Fallout 3, when (SPOILER) you storm the pumping station with the Brotherhood and their giant robot to destroy the Enclave. I took the opportunity to get my power armour and biggest guns out of storage, and just lay waste to everything I came across. I got to enjoy the fact that I'd taken the time to assemble and master such a destructive arsenal, while still enjoying the massive explosions of Liberty Prime clearing the way.

The moment I realized I hate what cutscenes have become was when I played through Max Payne 3- the part with the boat, the hostage and the 5-6 bad guys. First time, I was convinced I had failed due to the shitty controls but no- apparently you're SUPPOSED to fail.

I think interactivity or lack thereof in this case is just a symptom of a larger problem. The way I see it, developers are trying to appeal to a broader audience which ends up losing them the core hardcore fans (because they don't feel like the game is made for them anymore).
Still, plenty of games are trying to satisfy that niche of hardcore gamers- Dark souls being an obvious example. The new Hitman and Dishonored also look promising.

I think part of the problem is that games no longer have to be just games. Back in the day, a game was a game. You had a few blocky pixels that you're told represented something if you squinted just right, so all the entertainment had to come from actually playing the game. Now, however, games can look as good as, or better than, many films. Compare something like Crysis with the latest SyFy channel crap. So many games no longer want to be just games, because there's so much more they can do in the way of looks, story, and so on.

And remember, people like watching films. Think how much money has been made just in the last few years from films of shooting at aliens, giant robots fighting and superheroes generally superheroing. Obviously it's going to be pretty tempting to include that sort of thing in addition to the pure gaming because it's popular and you can. And the results speak for themselves, because it turns out that's exactly what people want to buy. Of course, the change isn't one way either. What's the best selling film of all time? A computer generated fight between aliens and robots on a fantasy world full of dragons and cat people.

Personally I like my films to be films and my games to be games, and I have yet to see an example where trying to do both at the same time didn't spoil both. But there's no point in my getting upset about it, because the simple fact is that I'm in the minority. Modern Warfare 3 wasn't just the biggest video game launch, it was the biggest entertainment launch of all time. By including all these film-like features in a game, we now have games that can actually beat films in popularity and profits. Even if you don't like some of the ways games have changed, you have to admit that's pretty big considering games are still often considered a waste of time fit only for kids and nerds.

 

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