Opening Movies/Cutscenes

VitaliaDi

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I'm working on setting up the lore to my game and to do that I'm creating a cutscene that explains the world's history with text and images. It's a bit long however, it lasts for a little over 3 minutes, and I'm unsure if this is bad game design. I'm working in MV so maybe I can make it skippable if I make it a movie instead of scrolling text, and with a movie I can add visuals more easily.

Discussion topic here:
What is the best time length and and placement of a pre-game/history and lore establishing movie? And should movies always be skippable or not?


Thoughts and opinions?
 

ShadowDragon

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metroid and zelda has also text and images on the start, some games cutscenes cant be skipped the 1st time,
if they beat the game, some ppl build the skip in, if its not that important.

personally, a skip cutscene is nice, specially if you watched the cutscene before, you can skip ahead to the game.
but the point is more, do you want them show it fully? some scenes takes 6 min, but 3min is probably the average.

if the story is nice, i dont really mind how long the cutscene is.
 

bgillisp

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From what I've seen in other threads on this, the answer is 0. Most players won't remember a thing you say in the opening lore or even care yet as they haven't started playing. Maybe instead find a way to get them playing some and learn the lore as they go.
 

xoferew

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For me there's a big difference between ancient history with places/people I will never see again, and tantalizing glimpses of characters I will get to meet, places I will get to explore, magic I will get to wield, etc. Then it's about coming attractions as well as background.

It's nice when the opening cutscene has interactive bits with choices, or a battle you have to win to proceed. Even a little bit of interaction makes it feel like I'm playing the game rather than waiting for the game to begin.

I am more likely to care about the world's backstory once I'm invested in the characters and gameplay. Sometimes it's good for a game to start out mysterious. Or make it first thing but skippable, with a way to rewatch it later. Just my random thoughts. ^_^
 

Another Ned

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The absolute maximum length of pre-game lore I can accept are four lines of text, actually. I think that's usually more than enough to set up the story for someone new to the world, without dumping too much information on them. Because, as has been said before, at that time, people usually do not care for the world or its characters.

As a player, I much prefer getting lore fed in bits and pieces. Your world has multiple moons? Just let a character make an off-hand comment on an event having transpired around 'second moon', just as one example. I mean, putting certain clues into the environment, or having distinct character designs, or dialogues already has the potential to give a lot of world building information.

But if it's really necessary to have a longer cutscene with history and lore to set the tone of the game, I would suggest making it skippable, and maybe offer a short summary for those who don't want to watch the cutscene but still know the contents?
 

VitaliaDi

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So far I've decided to make a skippable option at the beginning after presenting the idea that it will be a long story that they get told. Basically do they want to hear the history or not. I'll throw in references and lore building in-game too ofc. But I think just making it skippable at least for my game is the better option.

As a player in general I like when things are skippable too, especially if it's my second playthrough. The infinitely long and boring Skyrim opening scene is such a drag. But I don't mind original lore setup in movie formats. I like discovering the lore too but if there's some history to be known and my playable character knows it I'm good either way finding out as I go or getting a bit at the beginning too in a chunk.
 

xoferew

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It might be interesting if there is a payoff later on for watching on top of getting the background lore. Like, you want to do research in a library but the librarian won't give you access until you prove you're a knowledgeable scholar, or a kid won't give up a key item until you give them the answers to their homework, or you want to build relationship with an intellectual hottie, or there's an undercover mission where you have to pose as professor etc. etc.. Watching the video wouldn't be necessary but would give an advantage in guessing the right multiple choice answer on the first try. ^_^
 

Kes

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@xoferew I think that's a terrible idea! If I don't know that there's going to be a test on this opening section, I am not going to be giving it my full attention. Like most players, I will skim read it at best so that I have an overall 'feel' of what the lore might be, but that's it. To then lose out on something significant or that key item, or that essential bit of research that I now have to do because I wasn't prepared to study this (probably slightly tedious) bit of history and make notes right back at the beginning would be infuriating. And if it's going to be a multiple choice answer where I have more than one go until I get it right anyway, then why bother? I'm going to get the answer in possibly less time than I would have spent watching the blasted thing in the first place.

I will be honest and say that in my opinion I have never seen a lore dump at the beginning that really held my attention, and I've seen them done in lots of ways. I enjoy learning about these things as I go along, and will read the books/scrolls/whatever that will tell me - though I will prefer more imaginative ways of giving me the information.

A 3 minute or so cutscene which sets up the story is a different matter. Maybe it shows me the precipitating event, maybe it establishes a sense of mystery, so that I really don't know what's going on but whatever it is, it looks intriguing. But background lore, by definition, should be background. I don't need it shoved in my face during the first few minutes.

As you can tell from the tone of this post, a lore dump is one of the things I thoroughly dislike in a game.
 

xoferew

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@Kes I don't think it's a terrible idea to make something useful that you're putting in anyway and otherwise would have had no in-game practical use. Maybe the homework kid stole something from you and if you answer the homework question correctly she'll give it back, or else you have to chase her around the block to get it back. It's not a big deal and if you didn't watch the video or don't remember, it doesn't matter, but it makes your life incrementally easier if you remember. I would rather not have a long opening video but if there is one, I might as well be rewarded if I happened to pay attention.
 

Kes

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@xoferew I see your point, but to me to just feels like a way to try and mitigate the bad decision of including a lore dump at the beginning.
 

TheoAllen

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From a personal standpoint, I'm the one who doesn't give a crap about the game intro, whatever the lore/history they tell. So, an option to skip the entire sequence is nice. Give me an action right away or tell what is this game all about. Then, as I play the game and I got curious in the middle of the game because NPC mentioning something I didn't know and it's intriguing, I might start to actually watch the intro in the beginning. I do this not only in games but as well as any serial show.
 

xoferew

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If it's something I just paid $49.99 for then I will sit through the video but if it was a free game that I was curious about, a long intro that's not a battle tutorial or something could easily tip the balance into not trying the game after all. And the $49.99 game probably has a visually gorgeous opening due to having a dozen professionals create it which the average RPG Maker offering does not.

Oh wait! Does your opening feature hot guys in skimpy battle outfits bleeding out in each other's arms? Make it as long as you want. :D
 

PhxFire

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I was actually working on the same thing and the feedback I got was basically don't do it lol... Instead I'm adding the lore into the world so the player finds out more throughout the game, then during the final boss battle he is going to tie everything together through his monologue.
 

astracat111

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Your art seems to be really interesting, so long as you aren't hanging on one image for more than a minute I'd say it works, maybe use Wind Waker as a reference. Also, I'd say that the music has to be very very good, even have more work put into it than other songs, because first impressions are everything. You want a really nice front end.

The vector style is very unique and really could draw people in, though.
 

Kes

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@astracat111 Please remember that although a specific project can be an example which gets the ball rolling (as it did here) General Discussion is not for feedback on individual projects. Please keep the comments wider in scope.

Thanks
 

DJK1NG_Gaming

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I say no more than 10 minutes for an opening cutscene whether it's explaining the world, lore or anything that set the story or cutscene.
You don't want to keep the player waiting to take control for too long otherwise they may lose interest. Players will definitely lose interest if shortly after the Opening Cutscene you throw in a lengthy tutorial in the beginning.

But one last thing you should avoid is explaining, showing and telling too much at the start and leaving nothing for the player to figure out themselves.
 
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Tai_MT

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3 minutes? Wow, you're doing amazing!

:D When you get to the amount of bloat I have... then you can worry.

Yep, read how many scenes are there in my signature line for the opening. Then, realize, that most of them are a minimum of 2-5 minutes of reading.

You're in for a ride. The impatient will not be happy with my game.
 

ave36

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In my opinion, flat lore dumps are boring. I made my opening cutscene a little more interesting. In it, the protagonist's brother - who is this game's Big Bad but so far masquerades as a good guy - speaks to the protagonist, and his lines alternate with short scenes introducing each of the playable characters and opening credits. A small excerpt:

Theme music is playing. It is severe and foreboding.
Screen: Sea at dusk
Reaves: Five years ago we parted, little brother
Credits: Programmers - Victor Sant, Yanfly, etc

Screen changes: a castle-like auditorium filled with students. Oscar and Mira sit in the auditorium, but they are not yet named so they are referred to as Apprentice Black Knight and Apprentice Paladin respectively.

Master Sikorsky: Here you will learn the arts of the Knights of Pentacles. In these troubled times, warriors of our order are needed more than ever... Are you following?
Apprentice Black Knight /Oscar/: Yes, sir.
Apprentice Paladin /Mira/: Wait, wait, please. I am not that fast at writing down.

Credits: Artists - PandaMaru, Bokou etc

Screen is back to the sunset sea

Reaves: My path is drawn by the ancient, cold blade of a Black Knight's sword. But it is your path as well, because aren't you, too, a Black Knight?

What do we learn from this piece? We learn that there is an order called the Knights of Pentacles, and they are sorta magic using warriors. Some of them are paladins, and some of them are black knights. Our main guy is a black knight, and so is his brother who likes to speak in cryptic phrases. Our main guy is disciplined and ordered, while his paladin girlfriend is a bit of a dork and is not well educated because she writes slowly. All this is represented in a cool intro form, not a wall of text, and also all members of the RPG maker community who provided plugins and assets are credited.
 
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Basileus

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I don't really like big lore dumps at the start. I don't need to know the entire history of the big war that started everything to begin the game. Just because something is important does not mean you must reveal it right away.

If the Great MacGuffin War is important to the plot, then have the player learn about the causes of the war and what happened in it over time. Create some suspense. Make me actually care about it, so I actually want to know what happened. Don't be afraid to give me some quick propaganda that ends up being more that it seems, then let me meet more characters with different perspectives that all give me a more nuanced view of the war. One of the party members or a recurring NPC can be a grizzled old vet of the war and getting to know them can fill in the blanks.

A good rule of thumb: If the characters have a reason to want to know what happened (because they need to know to resolve the plot) then it automatically makes me as a player want to find the answers too.

But if you go into tons of detail telling me everything right at the start, then there is no mystery, no intrigue, no real reason to care since it must be common knowledge. A big mistake I see a lot of RPG Maker games make is thinking that the player must know everything the characters do. We don't need to know all the lore at the start even if the characters know it. The fun of fantasy worlds is exploring them. Let the characters talk naturally about things they already know and place the information in the world for the player to find.

Your game's opening should be concerned with making me empathize with your main characters. You need to make the player care in the first 10-20 minutes of the game or many won't play the rest of it. You have dozens of hours to fill the player in on the backstory later. If you begin with a 20 minute history lesson before I even get to see the main character, then you've wasted your first impression.
 

CraneSoft

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Best time length for lore: 0
Movies Always be Skippable? : YES

The length of an opening can vary a ton, but in my opinion the first 15 minutes of the game should be focused on the game's primary selling point that your intended target audience wants to see / experience. Hence why many games that emphasize on gameplay (especially RPGs) start right out into an action-packed prologue, before slowly establishing the world and its' characters, even if you won't actually start exploring or going into a real dungeon until an hour later. There are exceptions, but mostly only for cases where the audience already knows what to expect from your game (including the characters) and it's lore ( ie. sequels under the same setting ) and you have a reputation of being one of the best indie devs out there.

3 minutes to introduce the main characters and explain the immediate situation is fine. Long walls of pure scrolling lore text with flat images? Not so much. Commercial games that have a visible character or a narrator monologuing the setting while being accompanied by beautiful, high-quality illustrations / videos, along with full voice acting are a different story, they are (mostly) entertaining to watch like an actual movie and are almost always skippable even on a 1st playthrough. And even then I skip them sometimes when I'm just trying out a game before deciding I'm going to start playing the whole thing. Personal standpoint aside, chances are not many people are gonna care if a world war breaks out 36 times in the backstory reducing humanity to 1% of its population before they even know who the playable character is and start murmuring "When's the game gonna start? Can I play the damn game already?!".

The rule of thumb is, always put yourself in the player's shoes whenever you start asking yourself "Is it a good idea if I do X?", more often than not you get the answer quickly - do not include it if you wouldn't like that yourself as a player, or at the very least, provide the means to bypass it (Skip option). Not being sure enough? Pick up another similar game that does the same thing. Do a case study on commercial games you didn't care about before and take note of all of the little details on the first hour of the game.

TLDR: If a player doesn't need to know about X to progress the game, don't explain everything about X in explicit detail until it is needed.
 

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