Ludus Novus Episode 001: Press Enter to Continue

Ludus Novus
Ludus Novus
Ludus Novus Episode 001: Press Enter to Continue

Cutscenes: when are they appropriate, and when do they take away from the game?

Correction: In the original version of this episode, I attribute Nothing But Mazes to Stephen Granade, but it is actually by Greg Boettcher. Stephen Granade wrote Child’s Play, which is also part of IntroComp 2006 (and does some interesting things with the voice of the narrator). I should have a corrected version up shortly.

The music for this episode is “Babylon Bring Me Down,” by spinningmerkaba, and is available under a cc by-nc 2.5 license.

7 thoughts on “Ludus Novus Episode 001: Press Enter to Continue

  1. How does the length of cutscenes factor into their usefulness? You mention that a player in an FPS may not be inclines to spend 5 minutes negotiating a treaty, so a cutscene there is fine and understandable, but what about games that shunt an hour’s worth of drama into a cutscene? (I’m thinking of Metal Gear Solid, of course.)

    Do people want movies with their video games? Even if it (ostensibly) allows for a more intricate plot… an hour? Doesn’t this imply there’s something lacking in the way gameplay works (either in this specific game, in console gaming, or in gaming in general) that so much needs to be cutscened to achieve a complicated plot?

  2. I think that length is a very important thing to consider in cutscenes. I don’t think that an hour-long cutscene is necessarily unacceptable, with two caveats.

    First, having a non-interactive cutscene that lasts that long is pretty extreme. By the time you reach an hour long, you’ve gone pretty far over the border into interactive movie. If I was making a game and found that I had hour-long cutscenes, I’d look at expanding the scope of the game so that I could make some of that time interactive. Of course, as long as you have a good reason for a cutscene that long, and as long as the player knows what to expect, I don’t think it’s a universal no-no.

    However, that brings up the second caveat. Once you have a cutscene that’s longer than about 30 seconds, you’ve gone far enough onto the movie side of things that you need to make sure you provide the same conveniences that movies do. Skipping any and all cutscenes must be available the first time through, and must be easy to do. Also, that hour-long scene should allow you to save and resume in the middle of it — if not at any time, then at least every five minutes. Finally, (and this is something that is rarer than it should be) you should be able to pause in the middle of a cutscene. I can pause and resume DVDs. Cutscenes should not take that ability away from me.

  3. *laugh* I think the hard part about offering a way to pause cutscenes would be telling the user how to do it before they button-mash their way past it or let their bladders explode.

  4. I quite enjoyed your first podcast on this topic! I have actually played “Shadow of the Colossus,” and I agree that the cutscene was well handled … although once you give a player some control, it’s tempting to quit and try again (and again and again) to win what turns out to be a game-controlled unwinnable situation. I don’t mind the “illusion” of control, as long as I know at some point that there was nothing I could do to change things.

    Did you play Ico (by the same people as Colossus)?

    Would you include unusually long “battle moves” in the category of cutscenes? I am thinking in particular of one of the “Final Fantasy” games in which activating a certain spell in battle resulted in a 20+ minute movie of the results of that spell — I actually thought the battle was over and that I’d won (or possibly lost) the game, and I didn’t figure out it was “just” part of the battle until it happened twice in a row.

  5. I agree that there’s the temptation to retry an unwinnable situation, and that that’s never really going to go away. However, I think that the situation in Shadow is hard enough, and the following (non-interactive cutscene) final enough, that the impulse to retry is softened significantly. That’s important… you never want to make the player confused as to whether they screwed up or plot happened.

    I did play Ico. The game did great things with atmosphere and “puzzles” that were integrated into the environment (or as my friends called it: “breaking stuff”.)

    I would most definitely include “battle moves” in the category of cutscenes. Anything that takes control of the game, whether it’s a dramatic scene, a battle move, or a simple conversation, needs to (in my opinion) give the opportunity to skip or pause.

  6. Nice first episode! I’ve been thinking/blogging a lot lately about games that sacrifice interactivity (play) in the name of narrative, and this podcast fit nicely into the context of those thoughts… thanks.

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