Cutscenes Stole My Thief Game

Cutscenes Stole My Thief Game

According to Shamus' analysis, the real thief in Thief is actually the cutscenes. The pervasive use of mo-cap has rendered a vague-but-tolerable story into the target of much derision.

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I think the problem with this new game is not the story, it's the presentation.

Absolutely agree on this. The story beats themselves didn't bother me, it was the way they were dolled out. I felt the whole introduction and setup was particularly lacking in good narrative structure.

Aye. When the game started I found myself hoping they'd just have a bunch of cutscenes early on, setting everything up before you're let loose to pilfer to your heart's content.

Sadly, that wasn't on the menu.

I never wanted games to be like Hollywood. Also, the games that are considered to have the best stories have almost no cut-scenes whatsoever. It's all about in-game world building. When there are semi-scripted events, you are still maintain at least partial control of your character - able to look, listen, or ignore whatever you like.

There are plenty of games out there with absolutely fantastic cut-scenes, but they are increasingly rare, attributed mainly due to the fact that they exist to allow our characters to do things that the game engines themselves were incapable of doing.

Totally agree and its not just Thief its so many other games too now, where far too much time and money is spent showing a piss-poor story, money that could have made a far better game

Playing new Thief, I haven't seen a single benefit of the mo-cap. Garrett is especially afflicted by it, in that he spends almost every scene standing awkwardly, slouching, and never changing from that slightly open mouthed, spaced out expression. In that old Thief cut scene, you can immediately read Garret's personality: he's impatient, he's arrogant, he doesn't mix words, but he is also cautious and inquisitive. This new incarnation of Garrett doesn't display any apparent quality.

The thing is, most games tend to skimp on the opening credits. How many use stylised still images with voice over to set the story? And compare that with how many games have actually memorable opening scrawls? Thief: The Dark Project is uniquely memorable, and as Shamus said, it is all down to the excellent presentation.

Personally, I found the cutscenes to look incredibly cheap. They are visually unpleasing (no color, no light, no real play of shadows or anything) and to be honest the animations don't look like they are done by (good?) actors. At first I thought they had just been done by some guy not that great at manually animating 3d models.

Plus the sound design (and the too low cut-scene volume). It is just so incredibly horrible and the ambient NPCs won't stop I can talking STILL in see incredibly your loud FACE! voices.

There will always be issues when cut scenes and exposition in a game like this are made so prominent. The value of exploration and discovery is muted, and the gameplay can become mechanical to the point of making deficiencies in that realm all the more obvious as well.

Making a game similar to a Hollywood movie can work sometimes, but it's very hard to do and not always the best option, I really hope that game studios realize that.

Cutscenes suck, unless they occurr at the end of the game when you're expecting them. If they happen 5 minutes, 20 minutes, 35 minutes, 45 minutes, and 55 minutes (etc.) into a game, ITS SO DAMN BORING.

My biggest takeaway from this was that I've gotten about halfway through a Steam copy of Thief Gold which I now realise has missing cutscenes. Weird.

More on topic, this seems to be a similar situation to what happened with Metroid: Other M. The other games had hints of plot with a lot of lore behind it (just thinking of all the stuff I ignored when scanning in the Prime series boggles my mind), but when they tried to bring it into the spotlight, we got some ham-fisted detective plot with abysmal voice acting that destroyed Samus's character. Both games had a lot of potential, but the execution failed.

i can honestly imagine the scene

ubisoft executive "motion capture technology is the future of games!"
me "so just like fmv was back in the day?"
UE "no of course not! its motion capture not FMV"

it feels like the fmv fad all over again. and why i didnt mind that it had some painful moments.

SirBryghtside:
My biggest takeaway from this was that I've gotten about halfway through a Steam copy of Thief Gold which I now realise has missing cutscenes. Weird.

More on topic, this seems to be a similar situation to what happened with Metroid: Other M. The other games had hints of plot with a lot of lore behind it (just thinking of all the stuff I ignored when scanning in the Prime series boggles my mind), but when they tried to bring it into the spotlight, we got some ham-fisted detective plot with abysmal voice acting that destroyed Samus's character. Both games had a lot of potential, but the execution failed.

Look around for guides on how to register the player codecs. Thief used some strange-ass codec that somehow turns itself off and doesn't play if you look at it funny. I know there's a .bat file you can make that makes them play again.

wombat_of_war:

it feels like the fmv fad all over again. and why i didnt mind that it had some painful moments.

Eh, I kind of disagree. It did revitalise the point and click adventure games, yeah most of them were bad but there are a few that I can enjoy. The mocap feature is just an excuse to bring-in some A list celeberity into their game even though LA noire did okay with it.....It could've been better.

Still, at least you can play all the FMV games on youtube now.

I'm surprised more people aren't disappointed most of the game is stealing from poor people in dumpy apartments.

Nurb:
I'm surprised more people aren't disappointed most of the game is stealing from poor people in dumpy apartments.

What really gets on my tits is the 5-second QTE "tap E to open the window" every single time you want to enter those apartments.

Finding that there's only 4 gold worth of stuff in there is just the icing on the cake.

I'd argue an equally big problem is the setting. The original Thief games had a vibrant and imaginative setting that simply oozed style. You see and hear it everywhere, from the way so many of the Thief cutscenes would begin with a passage of scripture or some rambling pagan poem to the unique dialects you found throughout the game. Hammerites being all 'thee' and 'thou' while Pagans have that weird Gollum style approach to their speech. Even the generic guards and random pedestrians have their own slang which makes them stand apart, the most obvious one being 'Taffer'.

The new game by contrast really just has no character. The city is pretty enough graphically but it's washed out and boring artistically. There's no vibrance to it, nothing unique to set it apart from any other generic medieval style city. The characters meanwhile have no life to them either. Everything is just... there.

In the original games I wanted to know more. I wanted to actively search out books I could read in-game or situations where I could listen in on conversations. The new game just completely lacks that by merit of being so damned generic. And I'd argue that's as big a problem with the story as is its presentation. Or would that could as part of the presentation? In any case it's not good.

Atleast you can skip past it, i assume. With that said, it does kinda suck that so many games rely so much on storytelling, when most games are horrible at it. Itīs just a waste of time to have it front and center if all you have to show us, is a couple of creepy wax dolls acting out a c-grade straight to vhs movie. More often than not, itīs just a lot of boring and unrelateable characters spouting exposition while being void of personality. These days i only really enjoy a handful of stories, and they are mostly from japanese developers (And even they tend to be bogged down by filler dialouge, but atleast they are better at making relateable characters, take the Yakuza series for instance). But for the most part i just want it to end so that i can play the damned game.

I donīt think iīm a fan of mo-cap either, most games, even Tomb Raider and L.A. Noire look absolutely terrible in cutscenes for the most part. Itīs impressive, but itīs also lifeless and unappealing. I prefer a stylized look, like in Final Fantasy XII or similar where it doesnīt look creepy and stiff.

Stopped reading when you said the hackneyed, soap opera-level story of the new Thief was better written than the subtle and atmospheric tale of the first few Thief games.

That being said, I agree with your general premise. I still don't understand why games resort to lengthy cutscenes to tell a story.

SirBryghtside:
My biggest takeaway from this was that I've gotten about halfway through a Steam copy of Thief Gold which I now realise has missing cutscenes. Weird.

It's a dumb mistake with the codec of the movies. You can play them in VLC, but it does take away from the mood.

The cutscenes are like a moving comic, with the sound really setting a great mood.

I absolutely agree with Shamus. As a veteran Thief series player, this new Thief tried to be something else in those cut scenes, and every weekly TV show out there beats this multi-million-dollar game by orders of magnitude when it comes to film craft.

Oh well. Hope they do better in the next game :) .

You know, I have enjoyed the thief game so far. I love the more open environments, but I have to say that not being able to jump whenever I want drives me NUTS, not being able to carry a tonne of arrows bothers me, not having a sword (just so I can ignore it, and never use it) bugs me and I just wish I could use rope arrows whenever I wanted.

That said, the game is fun, running is certainly much easier than in previous thief games and compared to Blink in dishonored, I really do miss having the ability to do a short distance teleport.

Airon:

SirBryghtside:
My biggest takeaway from this was that I've gotten about halfway through a Steam copy of Thief Gold which I now realise has missing cutscenes. Weird.

It's a dumb mistake with the codec of the movies. You can play them in VLC, but it does take away from the mood.

The cutscenes are like a moving comic, with the sound really setting a great mood.

Ha, it's a little weird - I've always been really confused about why people were saying there was a story in Thief for the new game to ruin, and now I know :P

Nurb:
I'm surprised more people aren't disappointed most of the game is stealing from poor people in dumpy apartments.

I'd certainly enjoy more side missions about robbing rich people but the robbing of the poor isn't really worth it anyways. At least for me, when a rope arrow costs 75 G (or 56 or so with the bond?) and an apartment contains maybe 25-45 G in loot, it is more about the challenge and less about the gain.

I'm enjoying the game so far, but yeah... 100% agreed with how horribly presented are the cutscenes.

I don't mind the (massive) changes in the story, it more or less follows the basics, but yeah... I almost completely forgot it had it's much touted "cutting edge" mo-cap, because it definitely isn't even noticable.

Hazy:

Nurb:
I'm surprised more people aren't disappointed most of the game is stealing from poor people in dumpy apartments.

What really gets on my tits is the 5-second QTE "tap E to open the window" every single time you want to enter those apartments.

Finding that there's only 4 gold worth of stuff in there is just the icing on the cake.

For me it's realizing I just spent 5 seconds mashing 'X' to get into an apartment, just to realize I'm in the wrong one.

As for story ...

The whole intro thing with Erin is ridiculous. Why should I care that the psychotic kleptomaniac falls? From everything I saw in the intro she's a horrible human being that should've received a crossbow volley the second she hit the floor.

Other than that, I enjoy the gameplay, though I wish you could carry more rope arrows.

Artea:
Stopped reading when you said the hackneyed, soap opera-level story of the new Thief was better written than the subtle and atmospheric tale of the first few Thief games.

That being said, I agree with your general premise. I still don't understand why games resort to lengthy cutscenes to tell a story.

I'll tell you why, and it's same reason certain types of games sell so well. The reason is the shape that so called general audience has taken. The shorter attention span, the fact they grew up on all those hollywood movies, the fact that they don't want to go and find out stuff on their own, they want all the bits handed to them.

People, in general, want things that are familiar to them, and this style of storytelling where there is over abundance of exposition is pretty much what we've been seeing for a while now in many commercially successfully works. The media "raised" that type of viewer, the type that is unable to read between the lines, draw their own conclusion and connect the dots. Entertainment got simplified by a lot in last decade and that's just the consequence of it, TV is probably the best example of that.

It's the sad reality of modern era, and while every now and then you can find some nice bits hidden for those with keen eyes, they often feel as if smuggled against some company policies. I just hope something will change because if not, today's consumers will become producers in near future, and as they grow up without the requirement of abstract thinking, the plots and their presentation may become even more bludgeoned to make sure absolutely everyone understand what's going on.

Enjoy the future.
/get_off_my_lawn
/rant

Keava:

Artea:
Stopped reading when you said the hackneyed, soap opera-level story of the new Thief was better written than the subtle and atmospheric tale of the first few Thief games.

That being said, I agree with your general premise. I still don't understand why games resort to lengthy cutscenes to tell a story.

I'll tell you why, and it's same reason certain types of games sell so well. The reason is the shape that so called general audience has taken. The shorter attention span, the fact they grew up on all those hollywood movies, the fact that they don't want to go and find out stuff on their own, they want all the bits handed to them.

People, in general, want things that are familiar to them, and this style of storytelling where there is over abundance of exposition is pretty much what we've been seeing for a while now in many commercially successfully works. The media "raised" that type of viewer, the type that is unable to read between the lines, draw their own conclusion and connect the dots. Entertainment got simplified by a lot in last decade and that's just the consequence of it, TV is probably the best example of that.

It's the sad reality of modern era, and while every now and then you can find some nice bits hidden for those with keen eyes, they often feel as if smuggled against some company policies. I just hope something will change because if not, today's consumers will become producers in near future, and as they grow up without the requirement of abstract thinking, the plots and their presentation may become even more bludgeoned to make sure absolutely everyone understand what's going on.

Enjoy the future.
/get_off_my_lawn
/rant

I really hope you don't actually believe any of that insane speech. Firstly it's widely agreed that the last 5-10 years have been just about the best scripted television has EVER been. Justified, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Hannibal, The SHIELD, Rectify ECT. (I could go on for days). The massive burst in weird and abstract indie games of the last two-years also contradict you. Rising technologies have just caused some confusion in the AAA gaming world. The industry is going through some growing pains and is working out what works for where. Über expensive motion capture tech was probably not necessary or appropriate for a thief game. All the over budgeted failures will teach a hard lesson to game companies. The future is bright.

Also, please stop trying to be Hollywood because Hollywood sucks.

I think you may be right, though. What made The original Thief games work was that it suggested a story and let you fill in the gaps if you wanted by exploring the world and reading the filched diaries and documents. It found a solid way to let your imagination do the work and what you can imagine will always be better than what you can achieve.

It also probably doesn't help that the new Thief came out so soon after Dishonored, which I think had a lot more going for it then this one.

wombat_of_war:
i can honestly imagine the scene

ubisoft executive "motion capture technology is the future of games!"
me "so just like fmv was back in the day?"
UE "no of course not! its motion capture not FMV"

it feels like the fmv fad all over again. and why i didnt mind that it had some painful moments.

Some days I feel like I'm living through the 90'S FMV era all over again, especially when we get games like Beyond: Two Souls that try so hard to be like movies.

Maybe we can get Christopher Walken to be in a David Cage game next. Dat' guy.... he is un-F&#KING believable!

Many decades ago, possibly before you were born Shamus, I bought a laser disc with the latest computer animation examples. It was really good, excellent ray tracing, cutting edge for the time, some section were done on Evan and Sutherland equipment while many used state of the art computer workstations. My best friend was a CS guy and we were both heavily into computer animation. We were fascinated with the right way to do animations, the various styles, myriad solutions but the piece that captivated us was a woman in motion. It was used in the trailer and was a significant factor on my decision to buy the LD in the first place.

Imagine our horror when we realized that the very excellent animation was only some motion capture of a lovely model. The woman was clad in some tights (maybe a body stocking type of thing, we didn't care) and now I think the was most likely a dancer. Her moves were fluid while elegant and were quite mesmerizing.

These were not, nor can they ever be computer animations. It is merely motion capture. There is nothing magic about it. It is simply cheap digital movie making with an expensive final processing step that is wasteful, slow and requires little computer animation skills.

Motion capture doesn't belong in most games that currently use it, IMHO. While I would defer to your thoughts on those it might benefit I don't buy them. It is a hack solution to not knowing how to do proper computer animation. The studios are a huge expense, the actors are as well and I would be amazed if the motion capture doesn't double the price of the game. At the least it triples the cost of the cut-scenes (which mostly I dislike).

Thanks to your column, I will never own the current Thief. I appreciate that.

 

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