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RandomRob 11-14-2011 07:43 PM

please rate this op-ed piece: “Cinematic” is not a good thing for games...
 
“Cinematic” is not a good thing for games, but maybe there’s still hope.

By RandomRob

Im going to be bold and not apologize in advance for my opinion. I don’t think there’s any merit to be had in apologizing for ones opinions in these days. If people resort so often to angry hysteria to make points, the answer to that problem does not lie in being obsequious and reflexive about what we know. The answer is in argument. And if we can’t all be reasoned, we can at least be seasoned, right?

Alright.

Let’s talk about film, and why it works.

Film is a passive medium. That means film has no expectations of your involvement with it. It does what it does, and maybe you get something out of it. It has a history of countless millions working on it and refining it for many decades. But it’s important to note that with all the stylistic tools film has gained as the result of great technological pushes in the last 20 years, this has had no effect whatsoever on storytelling.

Stylistic tools do not help you tell a good story. They can accent, but they can’t do the job of knowing the audience like a writer does. A good story is born out of the self-knowledge, life experience, understanding of irony, compassion, revenge, etc. that the writer brings to the work.

If you look at a recent film like Zack Snyder‘s ‘Sucker Punch’, there is a disconnect from the film’s desire to entertain with all it’s tools, and it’s ability to otherwise convey the themes and emotions necessary to involve the audience. A similar disconnect happens when a 5 year old tries to tell you a story. There may be great imagination and unintended insights and humor in the telling, but a 5 year old is not going to lay you flat with truths learned from a life rich with experience. They see everything as surface level archetype.

That’s fine for children, but adults live in a world of layers; of confused archetype and subtext, secret loves, grudges, deceits and hidden truths. You will notice I just compared Zack Snyder’s film to a 5 year old telling a story. Actually I didn’t. I said that a awkwardness results from both. That’s because infantile bombast is an accepted and expected part of our film culture right now. The fact that “Green Lantern” is currently one of the most expensive movies ever made should tell you something about where our media is at right now.

So let’s dispense with a popular myth of film:

Film is better at telling stories than other mediums.

No, it’s not. At all. There’s just a lot of films out there, and in those, quite a few with great stories that came from talented writers, and from directors with vision. The ones who want to tell a great story, and know the tools are just tools. And the key: the film, the story, is not actually about the action, but about what those actions say about life, and how that makes us feel as an audience. James Cameron’s “Avatar” was not a bold critical success because of the technology it used, it was a success because it used a story formula that always works with a certain audience. Being a watershed of CGI did not make people LIKE the film. It was the story. It had heart.

Let’s talk about videogames.
Videogames are an active medium. They require your input, and create storytelling motifs by cleverly fooling you into thinking you are creating narrative with your actions. They are story-like, but have a different task than a story. In a videogame, there might be room for some different possibilities within the framework of one story thread that you would have in a film. And this has long been the great promise, or the great tease, of videogames:

Choices that matter.

Honestly, there have only been a handful of games that ever really pulled this off, and the ones that did it best were not all that fun to play. Rather than mention the obvious recent titles, I‘ll mention ‘Broken Helix’ by Konami. Here was a game that had 5 different story lines about an outbreak of extra-terrestrial weirdness going down at Area 51. It wasn’t particularly cinematic, but it did have some choice. But that didn’t make it a good game, and it didn’t make the story work, either. Why? Well partly because the game was a botched effort, but clinically, it was because:

Story, Cinematic, and Choice don’t go together.

Broken Helix failed because it was hamstrung by having it’s team working out 5 different story threads while the gameplay had fatal problems that didn’t get fixed. Videogames can’t make choices matter by apeing the format of film. Nor can they throw their controls out the window at a crucial moment and shoe-horn all the possible complexity of an open design into a Quick Time Event where you are pushed like Pavlov’s Dog to push a single button rapidly. Both things remove you from the action. So they are neither cinematic, nor choice.


So where are we at?

This is not some happy hand-holding time for either medium. This is a time of cross-contamination of media, and it’s not healthy for films, or games.

Do gamers want “cinematic experiences” in games? I don’t think they do. I think this is just some mid-90s Madison Avenue buzzword hype that’s gone on too long, and with the benefit of unchecked and uninformed opinion mongering online, off the deep end.

There’s good reasons the line gets blurred. Film is a linear medium, so it’s easy to discuss videogames in cinematic terms because it gives you handy reference points. Beginning, ending, call to action, climax, false climax, etc. But none of these things really apply to a game’s narrative, which is about control and response being determined by a player. A game’s narrative is told by your interaction with it’s controls, and how those controls affect the environment.

A well implemented control scheme makes a player feel ‘free’ within the games environment. Free within limits. Plug in the game ’Prototype’ and run up a building, and then do a crash-dive into the middle of a crowded intersection. All the parts of that control system have been planned out in advance, physics implemented, etc. Nothing is left to chance. Yet if feels open and ‘free’.

That’s the “freedom” gamers want. They want to be entertained, with the illusion of freedom. Real freedom is turning off the console and the TV and leaving the room.

So herein is the core of the issue. “Cinematic gameplay” hype isn’t about what gamers want, it‘s about what businesses want. And games certainly can’t deliver choice while they’re kowtowing to film tropes. Film is a passive medium, and game designers pushed to create cinematic games are turning that uninteractive passivity into forgettable videogame slush.

Why not? It’s easy. Cinematic gameplay is a move AWAY from game design. Fewer designers, less choices, less options, more scripting, more spectacle, bigger art departments, bigger budgets, less authorial control, fewer writers, less play testing, ease of compartmentalization of staff. These are all positives from a company position, and an investment position, but certainly not from the point of view of design.

Design? If cinematic games are the future, then game design is over.

It’s not that games are becoming more like film, but that game production is becoming more like film production, because there aren’t enough competing business models out there for the business to grow into, and Hollywood wants a piece. TV is nothing like film in the way it’s made, and books are nothing like TV in the way they’re made… so why are games supposed to be like film?

Because it makes everything simpler to digest on the supply chain. And it fits in with a bloated business model that’s currently churning out quarter billion turkeys like ‘Green Lantern’ during the worst economic downturn of all time.

The solution? Video game design needs to be reclaimed by the new generation of programmers and artists, and embraced by people who love games not for the story or the character development, but for the games themselves. Gaming needs to get back to gaming. Film needs to get back to film.

I’ll never forget my friend Dan McLaughlin, who used to Dungeon Master for a close group of friends who I used to play D&D with on weekends. After roughly 2 years of playing with the same characters, Dan started what would be our final module to play. He called it ‘The Valley of the Mage’. Which is where our characters were all going to be buried.

You see after 2 years, D&D had for us gone from a casual game, to a monopolistic slog of one-upmanship and anal rule-bending that had no end. Everybody had to buy every book, every die, every figure, the flexy hex maps with the acetylene overlay and the colored dry erase markers and custom folders for carrying all our character info, etc. It was disgusting. By the end we were all so self-righteous about what the rules meant that we spent no time playing.

We just ate Doritos and argued about rules all night.

And fought.

The Valley of the Mage ended all that. It had a brilliant death scene for every character. I remember my 15th level Illusionist got crushed under a ton of bananas. A fitting end. But it was the best thing because it preserved our friendships with each other, and it made us look at all the baggage we had brought to that game in terms of trying to outdo one another in a social competition that had NOTHING to do with gameplay.

I can’t help but feel when I look at the bile coming off the internet about low game scores and fan boys and outliers.. Game culture needs it’s own Valley of the Mage, I think.

It could even be cinematic.

crackajack 11-15-2011 03:51 AM

Re: please rate this op-ed piece: “Cinematic” is not a good thing for games...
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by RandomRob (Post 199094)
“Cinematic” is not a good thing for games

Cinematic is good when it makes sense, just works, but there is room for a more game-ish cinematic.

Quote:

Being a watershed of CGI did not make people LIKE the film. It was the story. It had heart.
Fuck heart.
It's not always necessary to have a good story, sometimes the tools are the fun part of the movie.
Ong Bak or your mentioned Sucker Punch (although the latter has certainly more depth to it than one might expect on a quick glimpse) are just about the hyperstilistic action. Like John Woo movies or almost every Karate hero gets beaten down afterwards revenge movie.
Those have nothing i call heart they are just plain fun to watch. Enough for a good movie, maybe in some future even for an excellent one.

And i'm not really sure that people did not like it just because it looked awesome. I haven't seen it so far, but all i heard was 3D was great, never was the story or heart a big topic, rather a pretty average forgettable story.
Like the criticized slush games?

Quote:

Do gamers want “cinematic experiences” in games? I don’t think they do.
...
That’s the “freedom” gamers want. They want to be entertained, with the illusion of freedom.
...
“Cinematic gameplay” hype isn’t about what gamers want, it‘s about what businesses want.
There are certainly a ton of gamers who want to tell their own story, i guess Skyrim is the best current example, but others want no freedom at all and just shoot their way through predefined paths like in BF3, MW3 or DNF. Experience a game in a linear, previously pretty monotone, today rather cinematic way. Nothing wrong with that.
Or something in between...

Quote:

turning that uninteractive passivity into forgettable videogame slush.
...
Cinematic gameplay is a move AWAY from game design.
cinematic might have meant in the 90s non interactive and i already said that there is (vast) room for improvement, but cinematic usually does NOT prevent interactivity within a then certainly tighter "All the parts of that control system have been planned out in advance, physics implemented, etc. Nothing is left to chance."

Quote:

so why are games supposed to be like film?

Because it makes everything simpler to digest on the supply chain.
I'd say because gamers want them.
They want slush fast food as you might call it.

Quote:

Gaming needs to get back to gaming. Film needs to get back to film.
agree, but hardly with the same underlying thoughts i guess.
A film does not necessarily have to have a good story to entertain and games neither, although the game core has to at least wok to some extend while in a passive role the consumer might swallow more.

You want films to have great stories and argue that they can't be good, loved when there is only style and no story, no heart and on the other hand you think games must be game-ish games and cinematic, which is usually story, hinders the success of being games?
That makes imo no sense at all. One important thing in one media is the Antichrist in the other?

Films, Books and Games can be good with just style, or just a good story, or just heart, or just art, at best all combined. But i can't determine in which media one or the other is more important.

Just as an example: The Hitchhiker's Galaxy Guide books are imo not at all good in their story, but the 5 year olds tale is super funny. Sucker Punch might not have equally success with forcing those fantasies into a satirical comment on how women are treated in movies, but there are certainly greater fails in 5 year olds storytelling.

Are The Cell, 300, The usual suspects, Karate Tiger 3, Matrix, L'année dernière à Marienbad film-ish films?
What is a game-ish game: Super Meat Boy, New Super Mario Bros or Super Mario Galaxy 1, Portal, Supreme Commander, World in Conflict?

Nah, i can't see the point why games would become better when they would be just games. Only game-ish games would be boring as hell.

Odofakyodo 11-16-2011 10:11 AM

Re: please rate this op-ed piece: “Cinematic” is not a good thing for games...
 
Wow, Rob. There’s a lot to process here.

In terms of overall writing, it comes across a little bit like a blog post. I certainly don’t mean any offense by that – blog posts are fine. What I mean is that I think it can be tightened up a lot (like how you did for your Enslaved review). It’s pretty long as it is (for starters, I don’t care about the first paragraph about not apologizing – it’s distracting from the actual topic).

The big challenge you have in my opinion is that you touch on so many broad topics but need to be clear and support them all, without being too long.

I dig these topics of discussion, and there are some interesting points made. I’d like to comment on a few places.

Quote:

Originally Posted by RandomRob
Film is a passive medium. That means film has no expectations of your involvement with it. It does what it does, and maybe you get something out of it. It has a history of countless millions working on it and refining it for many decades. But it’s important to note that with all the stylistic tools film has gained as the result of great technological pushes in the last 20 years, this has had no effect whatsoever on storytelling.

Stylistic tools do not help you tell a good story. They can accent, but they can’t do the job of knowing the audience like a writer does. A good story is born out of the self-knowledge, life experience, understanding of irony, compassion, revenge, etc. that the writer brings to the work.

If you look at a recent film like Zack Snyder‘s ‘Sucker Punch’, there is a disconnect from the film’s desire to entertain with all it’s tools, and it’s ability to otherwise convey the themes and emotions necessary to involve the audience. A similar disconnect happens when a 5 year old tries to tell you a story. There may be great imagination and unintended insights and humor in the telling, but a 5 year old is not going to lay you flat with truths learned from a life rich with experience. They see everything as surface level archetype.

That’s fine for children, but adults live in a world of layers; of confused archetype and subtext, secret loves, grudges, deceits and hidden truths. You will notice I just compared Zack Snyder’s film to a 5 year old telling a story. Actually I didn’t. I said that a awkwardness results from both. That’s because infantile bombast is an accepted and expected part of our film culture right now. The fact that “Green Lantern” is currently one of the most expensive movies ever made should tell you something about where our media is at right now.

I see your overall point here that life experience is important, but I think you need to define exactly what you mean by “stylistic tools” because it comes across as up to my own interpretation by what you mean and it’s a bit blurry. To me there’s a difference between coming up with an interesting story, which requires life experience, and telling the same story, which requires the media. I think that new technology is a tool, yes, but those tools can be critical to telling a story by enabling different ways to communicate. Deep-focus in Citizen Kane (contrasting the symbol of Kane playing with his sled with his life being signed away) or color in The Wizard of Oz (showing that something is different about this place), or bullet-time in The Matrix (conveying to the audience how Neo perceives things). So I cannot agree that “all the stylistic tools film has gained as the result of great technological pushes in the last 20 years, this has had no effect whatsoever on storytelling.” If you have no appropriate or useful way to effectively communicate a particular idea, then you can’t tell the story! And certainly if you can't master your tools, then you are not going to craft a good product, regardless of the story.

Quote:

Originally Posted by RandomRob
Story, Cinematic, and Choice don’t go together.

Broken Helix failed because it was hamstrung by having it’s team working out 5 different story threads while the gameplay had fatal problems that didn’t get fixed. Videogames can’t make choices matter by apeing the format of film. Nor can they throw their controls out the window at a crucial moment and shoe-horn all the possible complexity of an open design into a Quick Time Event where you are pushed like Pavlov’s Dog to push a single button rapidly. Both things remove you from the action. So they are neither cinematic, nor choice.

I think this point needs far more support. I can name a few counter-examples off of the top of my head of games that offer interesting, meaningful “story and cinematic” choice involving things like character development. Dragon Age: Origins, Heavy Rain, or Façade spring to mind. I would argue that the reason we don’t see more of these types of games is because they are hard to make – it’s far easier to simulate space and physics than it is to simulate a character’s personality. Dragon Age and Heavy Rain essentially use the branching path story line structure, but they are so interwoven that it’s difficult if not impossible for two players to experience the exact same story bits. Façade has a more focused and procedurally generated story that I think is just the tip of the iceberg. The “game” part was simply talking to two people – not the traditional physical space oriented game, but definitely a game nonetheless. When we start to get some more procedurally generated characters processing voice input from the player, then we’ll start to see the medium’s true potential.

Quote:

Originally Posted by RandomRob
Do gamers want “cinematic experiences” in games? I don’t think they do. I think this is just some mid-90s Madison Avenue buzzword hype that’s gone on too long, and with the benefit of unchecked and uninformed opinion mongering online, off the deep end.

I don’t disagree, but what kind of proof or support can you offer that gamers do <em>not</em> want “cinematic experiences”? Are there polls taken? Are they buying something else?

Quote:

Originally Posted by RandomRob
There’s good reasons the line gets blurred. Film is a linear medium, so it’s easy to discuss videogames in cinematic terms because it gives you handy reference points. Beginning, ending, call to action, climax, false climax, etc. But none of these things really apply to a game’s narrative, which is about control and response being determined by a player. A game’s narrative is told by your interaction with it’s controls, and how those controls affect the environment.

I don't really think that the game aspect of a game only can affect the environment (meaning space and physics relationships). I think it can affects things like character development.

Quote:

Originally Posted by RandomRob
A well implemented control scheme makes a player feel ‘free’ within the games environment. Free within limits. Plug in the game ’Prototype’ and run up a building, and then do a crash-dive into the middle of a crowded intersection. All the parts of that control system have been planned out in advance, physics implemented, etc. Nothing is left to chance. Yet if feels open and ‘free’.

That’s the “freedom” gamers want. They want to be entertained, with the illusion of freedom. Real freedom is turning off the console and the TV and leaving the room.

Agree with the first paragraph, but not sure what the point of the second one is, or how it completely ties in with your overall thesis. It seems contradictory to your main thesis since if all gamers wanted was an “illusion” of freedom, then they would want a more linear and cinematic experience where they did not have freedom.

But if you’re just contrasting games with the real world, I would say playing a game is a voluntary action - by playing I voluntarily accept the limits of the game world. That doesn’t mean it’s not “real” freedom. It <em>is</em> real because I chose it - I chose to live within the game world limits in the hopes that playing will let me experience things I otherwise would not and possibly tell me truths about the game world that make me re-evaluate the real world.

Quote:

Originally Posted by RandomRob
So herein is the core of the issue. “Cinematic gameplay” hype isn’t about what gamers want, it‘s about what businesses want. And games certainly can’t deliver choice while they’re kowtowing to film tropes. Film is a passive medium, and game designers pushed to create cinematic games are turning that uninteractive passivity into forgettable videogame slush.

Why not? It’s easy. Cinematic gameplay is a move AWAY from game design. Fewer designers, less choices, less options, more scripting, more spectacle, bigger art departments, bigger budgets, less authorial control, fewer writers, less play testing, ease of compartmentalization of staff. These are all positives from a company position, and an investment position, but certainly not from the point of view of design.

This is an interesting point, but I would be very careful to make sure you include DEVELOPERS in this because they share as much blame as the suits, if not more so. Why? Because it’s EASY to create linear games, which are all about the developer having control and expressing their "creative personality" (as opposed to the player).

Moreover, I don’t think some of your examples support the idea that “business” wants more cinematic games (by business I am assuming you mean the desire for profit). More spectacle and bigger art departments and bigger budgets means higher cost to make a game which means more risk and less profit.

Quote:

Originally Posted by RandomRob
The solution? Video game design needs to be reclaimed by the new generation of programmers and artists, and embraced by people who love games not for the story or the character development, but for the games themselves. Gaming needs to get back to gaming. Film needs to get back to film.[

I agree with the sentiment that games should get back to gaming, and films should get back to film, but I'm not convinced that character development is incompatible with gameplay. I just don't think we've reached a point where we can simulate characters in a way (read: minimal pre-scripting) that allows for interesting player choices that affect characters. I think games (the programmers and artists) should focus on letting the player author the story and film should focus on the developers' authorial control.

RandomRob 11-18-2011 01:38 PM

Re: please rate this op-ed piece: “Cinematic” is not a good thing for games...
 
Thanks for the replies. Cracka, we've established elsewhere that you and I have some radically different views on cinema, and since that's a great deal of the grist of this piece, I think it'd be better to respectfully pass on responding to your points, than to get into a back and forth that won't go anywhere.

Odo, thanks for your response.. you are correct that this reads as a blog post, and I was attempting more of a meandering Andy Rooney commentary than a well backed article. I honestly don't know if I want to edit or expand this, but I would like to try to take on some of your criticisms.

I think that new technology is a tool, yes, but those tools can be critical to telling a story by enabling different ways to communicate. Deep-focus in Citizen Kane (contrasting the symbol of Kane playing with his sled with his life being signed away) or color in The Wizard of Oz (showing that something is different about this place), or bullet-time in The Matrix (conveying to the audience how Neo perceives things). So I cannot agree that “all the stylistic tools film has gained as the result of great technological pushes in the last 20 years, this has had no effect whatsoever on storytelling.” If you have no appropriate or useful way to effectively communicate a particular idea, then you can’t tell the story! And certainly if you can't master your tools, then you are not going to craft a good product, regardless of the story.

Here I meant more core narrative. Bullet-time describes aspects of Neo's actions, but it deosn't flesh out his character, anymore than the inclusion of new effects in the Star Wars films had any impact on the story or characters. It only makes things seem more immediate, or technically modern. Yes, I give- in the strictest sense, characters are defined by their actions. This is paramount in videogames, but I think it's secondary in film. How you feel about characters in a film is the primary, and has the greatest effect on how you interpret the actions they do. James Bond shooting a gun at someone is a different experience than Indiana Jones or Travis Bickle shooting a gun at someone because of how we're introduced to their characters. To get back to the Matrix, we are introduced to Neo and it's quickly obvious he's a lost and passive person.. the bullet time scene doesnt alter that impression, though it does describe the action..

I can name a few counter-examples off of the top of my head of games that offer interesting, meaningful “story and cinematic” choice involving things like character development. Dragon Age: Origins, Heavy Rain, or Façade spring to mind. I would argue that the reason we don’t see more of these types of games is because they are hard to make – it’s far easier to simulate space and physics than it is to simulate a character’s personality. Dragon Age and Heavy Rain essentially use the branching path story line structure, but they are so interwoven that it’s difficult if not impossible for two players to experience the exact same story bits. Façade has a more focused and procedurally generated story that I think is just the tip of the iceberg. The “game” part was simply talking to two people – not the traditional physical space oriented game, but definitely a game nonetheless. When we start to get some more procedurally generated characters processing voice input from the player, then we’ll start to see the medium’s true potential.

I played Heavy Rain and enjoyed it for it's compelling immediacy, yet once I saw past the smoke and mirrors of the gameplay, and how the choices did little to impact the storyline, I had little to no further interest in it. Compare that to watching say, the Godfather, which I have seen countless times and it remains fresh and involving. Is it just because it's from my childhood? Or maybe it's easier to forgive because of the limitations of the medium? Or does knowing the path of the story help me relish each piece of the story more? Maybe you just can't do that when detail is randomized.... like Dragon's Lair, the freedom of choice these games so far remains, to me, a novelty, a gimmick. Something you try once and walk away from.

I don’t disagree, but what kind of proof or support can you offer that gamers do <em>not</em> want “cinematic experiences”? Are there polls taken? Are they buying something else?

This was pure opinion. Though I'll comment I haven't heard anyone raving about a cutscene in a long time. ;) I've heard people say they enjoy the action of Uncharted, but not the actual gameplay. To be fair, I'm talking about games that employ cinematic elements in a crappy way. Like doing the QTE killing blow on the AT-AT in Force Unleashed, or assassination scenes in GTA IV... mechanics that take you OUT of the game, that disconnect you from who you're playing.... I guess for me 'cinematic' refers to suspending disbelief over a state of peril, which I think Chi And Mike argued pretty heavily on in the last podcast. If the stakes don't feel raised by the gameplay, then using film techniques on top of that is just going to be a lampoon of gameplay. I can't see any gamer wanting that. I think they crave involvement.

But if you’re just contrasting games with the real world, I would say playing a game is a voluntary action - by playing I voluntarily accept the limits of the game world. That doesn’t mean it’s not “real” freedom. It <em>is</em> real because I chose it - I chose to live within the game world limits in the hopes that playing will let me experience things I otherwise would not and possibly tell me truths about the game world that make me re-evaluate the real world.

Good point- I got nuthin!

Moreover, I don’t think some of your examples support the idea that “business” wants more cinematic games (by business I am assuming you mean the desire for profit). More spectacle and bigger art departments and bigger budgets means higher cost to make a game which means more risk and less profit.

I disagree with you here because I think you're assuming business models make sense. Look at the Development of LA Noire. 8 years of suffering. Look at films like Terrence Malik's Heavens Gate or Coppola's Rumble Fish. There's no guarantees, except for doing low budget, and videogames dont seem to be coming in on the side of frugality lately. Its A list or it's indie. The developers do what they can, but I think there's an overriding pressure from the top to mimic action films and vice-versa. Probably due to much creative direction these days coming from guys who grew up on videogames and action movies. I dont think that's a conspiratorial assertion.

Anyway, that's all I've got right now. Thanks for your points, Odo :cool:

crackajack 11-21-2011 10:41 AM

Re: please rate this op-ed piece: “Cinematic” is not a good thing for games...
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by RandomRob (Post 199128)
back and forth that won't go anywhere.

back and forth might many times change nothing on the core of a disagreement but i'm really happy when i in the end can follow someones thoughts better.

a favorite cite of mine
"I have never learned anything from any man who agreed with me" Dudley Field Malone

Quote:

If the stakes don't feel raised by the gameplay, then using film techniques on top of that is just going to be a lampoon of gameplay. I can't see any gamer wanting that. I think they crave involvement.
Depends on what the film technique gives me in exchange for having to bear a lampoon of gameplay.
I currently started Heavy Rain, so i have no final opinion so far, but i felt panic when running after Jason, guilty after loosing Shaun although i have no kid and no idea what it really would mean to me to lose a child.
"real" gaming is hardly the core but rather to experience feelings according to the respective roles. It's more of an interactive RPG (or interactive drama as it calls itself) than an adventure or whatever the nearest genre for HR would be gameplay-wise.
At least i would assume that after having played the "intro scenes". It keeps imo much better the interactive drama part active. The stick orgies in Fahrenheit were really moving me out of my role.

No idea anymore how Force Unleashed worked. I sort of button mashed my way through both demos and i have no memory if there were already QTEs included and if they made the boring game in any way better or worse.
Did not like QTEs in Bayonetta and God of War. Found them ok in RE4 (mainly just for the knife fight that had some rhythm)

Quote:

If cinematic games are the future, then game design is over.
I can imagine that cinematic games will merge some day with static films or replace them, since you will then be able to extract one version of the cinematic game for the cineasts, customized for his taste i guess or delivered in a more traditional game directors cut.

No idea why conventional games should go away. Having the illusion of choices is a pretty different experience than watching or playing a story is different to some day playing a randomly generated story, so that won't die anytime soon.

RandomRob 11-21-2011 08:14 PM

Re: please rate this op-ed piece: “Cinematic” is not a good thing for games...
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by crackajack (Post 199177)
back and forth might many times change nothing on the core of a disagreement but i'm really happy when i in the end can follow someones thoughts better.

a favorite cite of mine
"I have never learned anything from any man who agreed with me" Dudley Field Malone

What I was trying to point out is that game design is at a point where it is being crafted by a generation who grew up on expensively made games and expensively made action movies, have short attention spans, crave instant gratification and want to be validated for their choices by the media they buy. All these influences contribute to an OVERALL dumbed down set of aesthetics. In both mediums. That's what I'm thinking about. And these thoughts came out of listening to the podcast members discuss Uncharted 3. I played about half of Uncharted 2 and couldn't stand it, it having so many of these qualities I've come to loathe in videogames. I think cinematic camera angles and cinematic music are fine for games.
I think game levels designed as action sequences where you do the correct moves or die trying should have been left in the laserdisc games of the 80s.

Li-Ion 11-22-2011 09:21 AM

Re: please rate this op-ed piece: “Cinematic” is not a good thing for games...
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by RandomRob (Post 199094)
Im going to be bold and not apologize in advance for my opinion.

Nobody should apologize for an opinion ;)

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But it’s important to note that with all the stylistic tools film has gained as the result of great technological pushes in the last 20 years, this has had no effect whatsoever on storytelling.
I'm not sure if I fully agree with this thesis. But maybe my definition of stylistic tools differs from your's? I think that style is very important for movies. Looking at a still from Blade Runner evokes different emotions than looking at one from Sin City. Despite both being about cities where it tends to rain a lot. Unlike books, movies (and games) can tell a lot without saying anything. Stylistic tools are the language used and as every used language it evolves.

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Film is better at telling stories than other mediums.

No, it’s not. At all.
Well, that's one we agree on :D
For telling a story nothing beats a book ;)
Avatar is only Pocahontas in space. I think becoming such a hit had nothing to do with the story but was the combination of Cameron's fame, curiosity in 3D movies and the resulting hype surrounding the blue-alien-movie.

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Let’s talk about videogames.
[...]They require your input, and create storytelling motifs by cleverly fooling you into thinking you are creating narrative with your actions. [...] Do gamers want “cinematic experiences” in games?
If you'd have asked me some time ago if I want more 'cinematic' games, I would have said "yes, pretty please!". I was a big fan of cinematic gameplay and the idea of games "just like movies". I remember the glee when I played Rebel Assault on my PC after I got my new CD drive (double speed!).

http://www.file-extensions.org/imgs/...el-assault.png

http://gamezone.nodblog.com/files/sc...-assault-1.jpg

I think I was easy to impress back then, and impress it did. I didn't care that much for the lack of choice or being on rails for the most part. Explosions and cutscenes 'just like a movie' were enough for me. Same with the first Call of Duty. Heavily scripted back then already, but the pacing felt just right and I was blown away by the experience. When playing Deus Ex the first time on the other hand, (shortly after it came out) I was turned off by the murky graphics and tedious user interface. I was never a big fan of open world games, since I always felt the world might be open, but it was empty. I remember my bewilderment when playing Daggerfall. Huge area to explore, but I found not much worthwhile there.

It was only after playing Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines, when I started to feel limited by my options when playing various games. I don't know what it was about Bloodlines that made me ignore all the game-breaking bugs and list of issues. Maybe that the hubs in Bloodlines felt more like real places to me than they did in a lot of other games? Maybe the fact that I solved the first quest by talking, instead of gunning everyone down as I would usually do? Suddenly I felt limited by Call of Duty, which I adored still, but just a little bit less.

Zap forward some years and we arrive at Uncharted 2. A game so pretty, so cinematic, it appeared like being part of a movie. But also so limiting and restrictive, always only one possible way to get forward. Only one ledge to hold on. As Simon Parkin points out in his excellent Uncharted 3 review:
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Originally Posted by Simon Parkin @ Eurogamer.net
Uncharted 3 is the most exciting game in the world, but only until you deviate from the script. Even in this chase the conflict between the developer's theatrical choreography and player-controlled interactions is clear. In order to ensure each set-piece is set off correctly, the game commits the cardinal sin of insinuating you have full control of your character, but in fact tugging you towards trigger points - making sure you're in the right spot to tumble over the bonnet of that braking car, for example.

Likewise, mistimed leaps are given a gentle physics-defying boost to reduce the staccato rhythm of having to restart a section. It's entirely understandable given what the developer is attempting to achieve - an unbroken flow of action that leads to climax - but, at the same time, beneath the spectacle there's a nagging feeling that your presence in the scene is an irritation rather than a preference.

Your freedom of choice risks ruining the shot. Indeed, throughout the game, if you jump into an area you are not supposed to visit, Drake will crumple on the floor dead, Naughty Dog switching role from movie director to vindictive god. That is not your predestined path: Game Over.

I am currently absorbed by Dark Souls, a game that is the least cinematic game I played since... Demon's Souls. A game which is purely consisting of gameplay. There is a story, but it sits in the background. Only sometimes pointing in a non-specific direction, and only if you ask for it. I make my own story there, and by that I am more involved in Dark Souls with it's lack of cinematography than I ever was or will be in (any) Uncharted.

crackajack 11-22-2011 11:05 AM

Re: please rate this op-ed piece: “Cinematic” is not a good thing for games...
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by RandomRob (Post 199185)
All these influences contribute to an OVERALL dumbed down set of aesthetics. In both mediums.

The successful mainstream/popcorn area was always "dumb"? It should be dumb, simple, so it can be art for everyone.
Very much like the simple Finnish, the Selkokieli, which is getting popular there, as i read recently. Everyone should understand it. Understanding news, and hence also political knowledge and hence involvement, is and should be important for everyone.

But...

Do Lady Gaga/ Guetta/ whatever prevent Adele/ David Garrett from succeeding? Currently two CDs are in the Austrian charts sung by a monk choir and the other one by a group of three priests. Even catholic church has entered the music industry.

The certainly more successful Immortals or Johnny English didn't prevent Karl Markovics to make his debut movie Atmen (Breathing). Also Melancholia had a short appearance in the top-10, as had Cowboys and Aliens, climbing not much higher. Action filled spectacles are made as are others, more silent, thoughtful movies and they also fail quite often as does good arthouse cinema.

Many things do coexist, so i don't see any case were successful CEO-darlings can prevent any media from delivering anything from high arts to fast food fun.

Call of Duty = war shooters (or GTA = open world, or WoW = MMORPG) might appear dominant at the moment but as with movies there will always be products for gamephils or whatever the equivalent to cinéasts will be called in gaming, as long as there is demand for it- and it can be financed. AAA-experiments like Brutal Legend or Mirrors Edge won't become the rule, especially since they do quite often not very well.
Experimenting with game design is not good for (the success of) games. (...in the short term.) And the only meaningful factual measurement of good is in the end if people, the target audience, enjoyed it.
Austrian cinema currently suffers badly from wanting to be too much arthouse, and no one wants to see it, so especially the "ultra-art" productions have to be funded by the public. They get payed for something no one wants to pay for. Absurd.

I don't see the main problem in the desire for cinematic, but rather in the lack of really really good writers and game directors.
David Cage might not be the best writer ever, and many think he ought to do movies if he aims at making movie like games, but people following his example are imo an very important part of gaming future. Especially the people grown up in a time where gaming is no niche anymore will be the ones leading it in its future- since it's also well payed, you can do a movie in games if that's your wish- and they know both worlds, film and games, and might find new and better ways to intervene both.
We need more cinematic games so we unavoidably come to more great cinematic games.

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I think game levels designed as action sequences where you do the correct moves or die trying should have been left in the laserdisc games of the 80s.
As long as Crysis 3 gets back to were Crysis 1 already was, there is still hope for you. And maybe one day they get a decent story together.

Though i have nothing against super tight linearity.

To clarify some backgrounds.
I believe in determinism.
So some vague idea of choice especially within a per default limited virtual reality is really hardly something i can be impressed with.
If i get a prompt saying press A or an implied prompt by seeing three paths, choose left into a forest or right into a swamp or go straight ahead to a castle, it is really not much of a difference to me since all causes just an reaction according to my "programming".

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Originally Posted by Li-Ion (Post 199189)
For telling a story nothing beats a book ;)

I don't know if it does any media justice when someone tries to compare them to one another.
Books, graphic novels, movies and games let us experience and unfold stories in completely different ways.

RandomRob 11-22-2011 04:02 PM

Re: please rate this op-ed piece: “Cinematic” is not a good thing for games...
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by crackajack (Post 199191)
The successful mainstream/popcorn area was always "dumb"? It should be dumb, simple, so it can be art for everyone

I'm not talking mainstream, Cracka. I'm talking about a movement to bring EVERYTHING down to mainstream.

Look at Hollywood circa 1968... Studios were huge bloated things, putting out big generic mainstream films that cost a lot and profited not so much. Hollywood had flatlined. And the solution was for the older business types who managed the money to gamble on the new young directors.. Spielberg, Lucas, Coppola, Scorsese. They brought Hollywood back from the dead by going back to storytelling basics.

I think gaming needs a similar jolt of energy, before another Call of Duty comes out.

I want the 'New Wave' of game designers.

crackajack 11-23-2011 03:01 AM

Re: please rate this op-ed piece: “Cinematic” is not a good thing for games...
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by RandomRob (Post 199196)
I'm not talking mainstream, Cracka. I'm talking about a movement to bring EVERYTHING down to mainstream.

And i'm arguing that 100% mainstream never was and will be able to exist because there are always people not liking mainstream, or just have seen enough of the same thing, so there is demand for something different. And this was and will always be filled. In any media.

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and profited not so much
If games are getting really too dumb and enough are fed up by that, there will unavoidable be a correction, triggered by our wallets. Sure.

But at the moment there are huge profit suckers and only some gameplay experiments that cost more than their success justifies (some do well of course too sometimes).
Low cost Indie do well and the average hype games do also well.
Were is the flatline?
FPS-shooters are quite equal in their mechanics since their beginning. And after round about 20 years of successfully selling pretty much the same game, it survived an entire generation, you think CoD/CS/Doom/Serious Sam will ever flatline? Just because the bombast seems like to replace/overwhelm the gameplay nowadays, which is still there, imho pretty untouched?

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on the new young directors.. Spielberg, Lucas, Coppola, Scorsese.
in the last decades we got David Fincher, Zack Snyder (at least i like his works), Christopher Nolan, Guillermo del Toro, Tom Tykwer, Darren Aronofsky, Frank Darabont, Fatih Akın, Joe Wright or Ang Lee and definitely some other talented guys.

It's yet not proved if they become Spielbergs (i do not think he is that great) or rather more a Lucas type with decreasing praise (although i like the new trilogy too) but beside Michael Bay, Tony Scott there is a constant refreshment of new blood and risk in investing in their ideas.

In gaming some new people start in the indie scene now and are certainly the new game designers of big games in the future. Maybe Jonathan Blow or whoever might make Uncharted 6 some day. Just an idea.

Li-Ion 11-23-2011 07:15 AM

Re: please rate this op-ed piece: “Cinematic” is not a good thing for games...
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by crackajack (Post 199191)
Call of Duty = war shooters (or GTA = open world, or WoW = MMORPG) might appear dominant at the moment but as with movies there will always be products for gamephils or whatever the equivalent to cinéasts will be called in gaming, as long as there is demand for it- and it can be financed.

CoD & WoW don't appear dominant. They ARE dominant. I know people who don't buy any other game than the yearly iteration of CoD (with an occasional MoH or Battlefield in between because frankly, who can really tell the difference ;)) or don't play anything else than WoW. The equivalent is if the majority of people would only watch one movie a year, and that being the yearly Michael Bay explosionade.

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I don't know if it does any media justice when someone tries to compare them to one another.
Books, graphic novels, movies and games let us experience and unfold stories in completely different ways.
I find it funny that from my lengthy posting you pick out a playful comment, clearly marked with a smiley as not being taken too seriously :p

RandomRob 11-23-2011 02:59 PM

Re: please rate this op-ed piece: “Cinematic” is not a good thing for games...
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by crackajack (Post 199204)
And i'm arguing that 100% mainstream never was and will be able to exist because there are always people not liking mainstream, or just have seen enough of the same thing, so there is demand for something different. And this was and will always be filled. In any media.

Crackajack, this an opinion piece, not a news article. I didn't post this as an open discussion thread in the forums- I posted this in the review and rate section for criticism of the style and form. If you don't agree with the content, then you don't agree with the content. I don't expect you to. That's why it's an opinion piece.

crackajack 11-24-2011 04:52 AM

Re: please rate this op-ed piece: “Cinematic” is not a good thing for games...
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Li-Ion (Post 199210)
I find it funny that from my lengthy posting you pick out a playful comment, clearly marked with a smiley as not being taken too seriously :p

Just wanted to state it, in a context, not out of nowhere.
Doesn't mean i haven't understood it as it was supposed to be understood.

Unfortunately this time there was nothing else i could disagree on.;)

Quote:

Originally Posted by RandomRob (Post 199215)
...for criticism of the style and form. If you don't agree with the content, then you don't agree with the content. I don't expect you to. That's why it's an opinion piece.

Form and style have a very low priority on an opinion piece for me, the opinion should form a comprehensible, cohesive picture, that's what is important to me and were i have trouble seeing it here.
So if you are after form and style, i am certainly off.

Eric Bowman 01-02-2012 09:20 PM

Re: please rate this op-ed piece: “Cinematic” is not a good thing for games...
 
Hey Rob,

I have some thoughts on this article. Your argument against cinematic games feels rather forced. Let me give an example:

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If cinematic games are the future, then game design is over.
Being cinematic is an attribute of gaming's past, present, and certainly its future. Linear storytelling has been around for literally thousands of years. I feel several passionate but overzealous gamers don't want videogames to be tied to these past mediums in any way, but the truth is this is a form of storytelling we've been wired to enjoy for generations. It's the bread and butter of going on an imaginary adventure. How its integration alongside actual gameplay marks the death of game design is something I don't feel you adequately explained.

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A well implemented control scheme makes a player feel ‘free’ within the games environment. Free within limits. Plug in the game ’Prototype’ and run up a building, and then do a crash-dive into the middle of a crowded intersection. All the parts of that control system have been planned out in advance, physics implemented, etc. Nothing is left to chance. Yet if feels open and ‘free’.

That’s the “freedom” gamers want.
Generalizations like this don't do your argument much good, at least from my perspective. Personally, I don't really care if a game allows me for nosedive off a building. Many, many gamers love Call of Duty games and the Uncharted games, despite them being very cinematic and lacking freedom, and I think they're better games for it. I don't want to make moral choice decisions in Uncharted, because then Nathan Drake wouldn't feel like a real person to me anymore. I like that Drake makes his own decisions, and doesn't have to wait for me to decide where the story goes. I love making decisions in games like Mass Effect, but games like this can certainly coexist with cinematic games. Best of both worlds is the gist, here.

Uncharted lets me enjoy a cool story in great settings, but I'm still glad its a game and not a movie because the action is reliant on me to be completed. I think your article is hurt by making generalizations like this without addressing the elephant in the room, the amount of gamers who love games that LACK freedom.

I think my core issue with the article is that it seems to be based around a threat that I'm not even sure exists. I'm just not seeing a shift away from gameplay in games, but more an expansion of what games can actually offer. This is all a matter of perspective, but to me your generalizations about what gamers want and bleak predictions about how game design is doomed are hard to really rally behind. To summarize, I like that you covered a lot of points on the issue, but I feel it doesn't come together coherently.

But of course, this is all my humble opinion. :)


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