Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Story-telling.....cutscene or not!

I don't know about you, but I remember the first ever story-driven-cut scene-decision-making game I ever played;  Indina Jones and the Fate of Atlantis.  What a game! A classic of the 1990s. The game of games that started me off on my journey. I was always a fan of the Indy franchise - I mean who wouldn't be of Harrison Ford! It was the first puzzle solving game I played and it was brilliant. It drew me in like the moth to a lamp, though I didn't get burned I got hooked.  For those who aren't familiar with the game Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis was a point-and-click adventure by Lucasarts and sees Dr. Jones searching for the lost city of Atlantis and the puzzles he must solve to finally discover it's whereabouts.

I enjoyed the cut scenes in the game. They gave me a sense of direction, eventhough I never felt as though I was Jones, only that through my choices I directed his actions. In those cut-scenes I was also given a number of questions I could ask to get more information about a particular object or location. I guess I was just the third person helping Jones on his way. There was nothing really personal about it really.

I felt this was more of the same thing when I played as Lara Croft in all the Tomb Raider games, with the difference that I wasn't really give any questions to ask, but the cut scenes definitely drew me in and eventhough I didn't become Lara I did feel I was there with her......an invisible presence guiding her along the way. I guess this might apply to most games, but then again I'm sure general opinion will vary.

So I ask the question, do cut scenes behave the same way in on-line games? Firstly, I believe that having a game seeped in lore gives it more depth, a sense of direction. The player knows that there is a mainline to follow, but there are other options along the way. In Lord of the Rings Online the main story is lore-brimming, nevertheless you are given you the freedom to discover Middle Earth at your own pace. I am sure there are many like me who through character creation "become" their character - to a certain extent of course. I guess investing so much time in a character you're bound to feel attached and the fact that you're given the opportunity to create a background for that character, which I thought was pretty neat. You're given a page in the character sheet where you can write your character's biography. This, in a way, helped to make my character feel more present in the game. However, I felt that the cut scenes didn't really have any baring on my character or my story, for that matter, they seemed to be only there to tell me what was happening to the nine and where they were believed to be. Though having said that I did get to meet - in the cut scenes - the main protagonists, Aragorn being my favourite!

Wondering through the cold landscape of Forochel

Now Guild Wars was a different kettle of fish! To my amazement my character actually participated in the cut scenes, she spoke, she moved with the other characters. She spoke to Prince Rurik, she walked to meet King Adelbern - she was involved in the story. Here I felt those cut scenes did have a baring on my character. She had something to do with them, some form of influence. Here those cut scenes pulled me into the story, they explained what was going on and "I" was part of it. I wasn't given a set of questions or answers to chose from - the story just unfolded without them...........and, to be honest, I didn't mind. I enjoyed it because I felt I was leaving my imprint on the lore - my part of the lore.

On the other hand Star Wars: The Old Republic gave me choices. I could either lean towards the good or succumb to evil.  Again in the cut scenes my character spoke, I participated in what was going on. Is everything predefined? Well, it has been programmed by other people and the developers have already set predefined lines, all that's left for you to do is chose. Good or bad? Well, I guess a game can never be completely open, unless of course you're in a social interactive environment like Second Life, where you make your own rules and script your own commands, but that is a completely different realm and can't be really placed on the same levelling plain as lore heavy, combat charged games.

Alistine of dragon kind, Spirit and Fire
(in Second Life)

Alistine in scripted combat

I appreciate cut scenes. I find they help the storyline - personal story. In Guild Wars 2, having participated in both beta weekends, I enjoyed the cut scenes because they were so different from what I had experienced already. I wasn't given options to chose from, though I have to point out that they were eventually given to me when the cut scenes ended and I spoke again to the quest giver and depending on what I chose would influence what I did and what happened to me along the way. So in actuality I was given a choice, but I didn't directly influence the cut scene as I would have done in SWTOR.  Guild Wars 2 gives a whole new presentation to cut scenes, they are not only stylised, but they feel classic close to being vintage.

So do we need cut scenes to tell the story? I believe we do. I feel they give added depth to the story where information can be given without the player feeling too overburdened. I enjoy cut scenes and sometimes I don't feel I need those choice integrated into the scenes as long as I am given the opportunity to choose somewhere down the line. I want my character to feel part of the story. I want to be part of the lore, but then again I am a lore-aholic!

"All the world's a stage........"


  1. Oh I share your love, nay need, for lore 100%. It was easy for me to dive into LOTRO last year because I'd always been a Tolkien fan and in all truth the only thing that had ever stopped me was the thought of a monthly subscription (well, also the fact that the few examples of MMO gameplay I had seen didn't grab me). Still, even the lore wasn't enough to save me from the hell of grinding yet I feared the exact opposite with GW2 - a game designed to be as fun & grind-free as possible but without a rich setting for me to lose myself in.

    How wrong could I have been?

    I absolutely LOVE the lore of Tyria and I'm devouring everything I can that tells me more about my new adopted home. For me to really buy into a world I really need a detailed history to surround me first. Now I didn't much like the two novels, but the information about the history of Tyria they contained was wonderful.

    Ahhh give me a world and let me explore it - is that to much to ask? ;)

    1. Ah Tyria! I think it's just brilliant the way they've written it all! I know most definitely that I'm going to be exploring to my heart's content! That's what I did most of the time during the BWEs, I just couldn't help myself. Well, I'm just going to have to make sure my travelling shoes are up to scratch......and my journal!

      Now where to next! :-)

    2. Heh, there's nothing wrong with your journal - you and Suzita have my favourite blogs because I recognise so much of where you gus are coming from :-)