Slow Cutscenes

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by AtlasAtrium, Dec 24, 2017.

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Do slow/static cutscenes have a place in RPGs?

  1. No: Cut them or make them entertaining

    1 vote(s)
    4.8%
  2. No: But if they're infrequent, it's okay

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  3. Yes: Slow pacing is a valid way of storytelling

    5 vote(s)
    23.8%
  4. Yes: They're acceptable IF the writing is good

    15 vote(s)
    71.4%
  1. AtlasAtrium

    AtlasAtrium I don't know anything ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Veteran

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    After a bit of poking around, there at least seems to be some kind of vocal consensus that cutscenes with a lot of talking are mostly palatable only if there is something else to hold it up, like motion on the screen, having something funny or interesting happen, or major story relevance. However, not everyone wants to push push push the story forward, and forcing every scene to be entertaining takes away from stories that perhaps are better told more naturally. Personally, I can easily enjoy content that is slow paced so long as I like the characters, though I know many people aren't quite as patient.

    And I know some people like to say things like 'you might as well just watch a movie,' though the beautiful thing about games is that you have justification to tell a story much grander in scope than a movie could accomplish in their 1-2 hour run times, and of course, there's always the aspect of gameplay to consider!

    So I have to wonder, is a slow-burn RPG that is dialogue heavy simply unrealistic in your opinion? I'm sure this manner of execution has its own niche audience, but it comes into question where or how exactly you can draw that line between 'niche' and 'presentable to an average gamer'.
     
    #1
  2. Kyuukon

    Kyuukon 主人公 Veteran

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    I voted "Yes: Slow pacing is a valid way of storytelling" because visual novels and books exist. However, it's worth noting that not many people tolerate this kind of narrative (even less in actual games) so...

    I have tested this in first hand experience. My recent game Room 42 is not too long but it's very slow paced and heavy in term of dialog only cutscenes. Some people liked it, some others hated it. I personally thought this kind of flow would work best with that game in particular. But I can see how it might turn some people away :(

    Meeeh. In the end: it depends on what kind of game you want to make. Sometimes you gotta jump right into the action and leave the "blah, blah, blah..." for later.
     
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  3. gstv87

    gstv87 Veteran Veteran

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    anyone who has an ounce of genre recognition knows that RPGs are narrative by definition.
    if you go into a game that is branded as RPG, and expect it to be an arcade with straight action and rewards, you clearly didn't understand the branding.
     
    #3
  4. Kes

    Kes Global Moderators Global Mod

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    There are lots of considerations that can affect this.

    For example, when in the story does it happen? I think it is probably not a good idea to have a slow cutscene as your opener. You need, imo, something with a reasonable pace to grab the player. They are not yet invested in your game and its story.

    How many of them are there? Some variety in pacing can make a big difference.

    Is it purely story (as in plot) content, or is there some character development in there as well? For example, story elements can be included in the middle of an argument. For example
    "It's all very well for you to stand there all complacent. You didn't have to go through X"
    "If you had done Y instead of acting like a big baby and running away, then maybe we wouldn't be in this mess."
    That inherently has more internal dynamism than straight exposition, and so doesn't feel as slow paced.

    Drip-feeding story elements instead of longer blocs can be helpful. For example, using the "thoughts" of a character at different moments instead of speech to give tiny bits of info can save a lot of straight dialogue, as well as helping to chracter build. Or consider doing 2 or 3 shorter cutscenes instead of a single long one.

    Consider 'map switching'. I use 'Meanwhile...' or 'Elsewhere...' cutscenes to build up parts of the story which can give the player intriguing hints of things that the actors perhaps don't know anything about, or can be more straightforward plot revealing. Just by going to a different map with totally different characters again adds variety and dynamism. I usually keep these quite short, rarely over 1:30, more often less.

    Camera movement can be used. For example, the party sees something which causes a dialogue about it. Try and arrange your map so that after the "Oh look, what's that?" type comment, the camera moves to focus on the "that" for at least part of the discussion and then moves back to the party.

    Approaches like these which vary how the story is revealed can make a big difference and allow you to have a more heavily story-driven game without making it feel like a slow crawl through, and without needing your sprites to be leaping and dancing to give a bit of visual interest
     
    #4
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  5. SinのAria

    SinのAria The Chaotic One Veteran

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    I feel like slow cutscenes have their place, but many people use them when they should not.
     
    #5
  6. Talonos

    Talonos Veteran Veteran

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    I did an interesting experiment once.

    I was told the narrative at the start of my RPG was slow, and it took to long to "get to the action". I didn't believe it, so I compared the number of words in my RPG's opening to the number of words in the opening of Disgaea and Tales of Symphonia.

    Turns out my RPG had a comparable number of words. My critics were wrong, I was taking as long to "get to the action" as anybody else.

    But then I counted to see how many words until "Stuff started blowing up." Disgaea took the cake, having less than a hundred words before Etna is seen trying to murder you, then informs you your father is dead and people are fighting over your throne. Tales of Symphonia took longer; it took a few hundred more words before a dying priest came into your classroom to warn you that fiends were attacking the sanctuary. And my game...

    ...well, my game, things didn't start "blowing up" until 500-600 words in, about when the first battle started. Turns out it wasn't the length of the opening that was the problem, it was the pacing. People got bored because nothing was happening really. I found an "interim" problem that propelled the story forward a few hundred words earlier and provided interest and excitement until the "real" problem arose, and immediately my playtest feedback improved.

    My best word of advice: When people say they are bored by cutscenes or that you have "too much text", do not assume they are "unfamiliar with the genre" or "don't 'get' RPGs." Instead, assume they are subconsciously reacting to bad writing, and see what you can do to make it better. Training in long-form narrative in other media (like novel writing or screenwriting) can help in this regard. And avoid info-dumps like the plague. :(
     
    #6
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  7. SinのAria

    SinのAria The Chaotic One Veteran

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    Yes, it is really about the pacing, not the word count itself. People want to see that something is happening, but they also want the story (why slice of life, romance, and mysteries tend to be a bit harder to deal with).
     
    #7
  8. AtlasAtrium

    AtlasAtrium I don't know anything ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Veteran

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    @Kes
    Ideally I'd like to not open slowly (though I can never figure out for the life of me how to pull it off to my own satisfaction)! While the opening hook is a definitely important, the overarching dilemma was more about having that slower pacing be something more persistent throughout the narrative. And squeezing in story when possible is prevalent advice, and with good reason, but a lot of the times I can't organically fit them into conversation without scrapping it and having them talk about something else first to reasonably make that segue - either that, or it has to cut a long ways in before it actually reaches that point. You mention switching between character scenes and I honestly think it's something I don't make use of enough! I always forget that's a thing that you can do so it's something I'll have to keep in mind.

    @Talonos
    That's an interesting experiment! I'm glad that was a learning experience for you - I take it that the distinction between getting to the action and stuff blowing up is gameplay for the former and plot developments for the latter? And ironically, my problems are parallel but not quite identical to info dumps :kaophew: Rather than having the heavy text be delegated to explaining lore or exposition or whatever, a lot of it comes from basically small-talk or slice-of-life interactions because that's how I like to build and write my characters. It's a case of 'what I think the characters would say' and building off those conversations naturally and having it take precedence over the actual storytelling. Not because I'm deliberately shaping it to, but because this is always what follows most logically in my head (and I have found that this style has become inescapable to me, no matter the genre).
     
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  9. Kes

    Kes Global Moderators Global Mod

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    Have you considered using Troop events for adding small bits? Assuming, of course, that you have battles.

    Turn zero of a troop that you know they are going to face, have a fast interchange between 2 characters. Or have a character 'think' something relevant e.g. "I'm not going to run away this time. I'm not!" This is one way to get small elements in without it feeling unnatural. It can also make the battles a bit more interesting as well.
     
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  10. AtlasAtrium

    AtlasAtrium I don't know anything ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Veteran

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    This wouldn't be as much of a concern if I didn't have battles! Interactive movies, visual novels, and walking simulators all have their own categories (though I suppose there's also puzzle games but slowness is usually par for the course in those). The troop event thing is a nice idea though! Perhaps with some intervals in-between or by having them appear after certain (repeatable) conditions are fulfilled to make sure they don't end up becoming distracting instead.
     
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  11. TheoAllen

    TheoAllen Self-proclaimed jack of all trades Veteran

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    I'm both in Yes as long as the writing is good, and No, but it's ok if they are infrequent.

    However, when I play a game, I want to get action as soon as possible. So I won't expect a long story intro. Also a story heavy like VN was never been my interest to play. I might enjoy a well written long intro, however there is a reason why I want to get action as soon as possible
    So I can have access to save menu / save point, so I won't repeat a long intro once again if it crashed halfway. Unless you have an option to skip the long scene

    But if it's mid game scene, I'd probably okay with it. Just don't put a long wall of text that explains a history. A well made cutscene for me is when you see interactions between those characters. Not sit down in a discussion table and basically all static while talk about something. A long discussion cutscene might bore me. But if it's action cutscene, I can always watch em
     
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  12. Requiem

    Requiem Veteran Veteran

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    Bad writing is never acceptable.

    If the writing is really bad, I just don't play/read it.
    If it's boring just cut it.

    Kill your darlings!


    Kill your darlings!



    Kill your darlings!
     
    #12
  13. HumanNinjaToo

    HumanNinjaToo The Cheerful Pessimist Veteran

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    I think you have to look at dialogue between characters the same as a real-life confrontation. When characters are speaking, determine their motivation. What is driving them to speak? What is the intention or action behind the conversation? All of this should flow out of the characters confrontation of some kind of obstacle. You must show who your character is not only by what they say, but also how they say it. Consider speech patterns, pauses, etc. Then consider what may be going on in the scene. When I have a conversation with someone, we rarely just stand across from each other motionless.

    Also, I get that it's hard in rpgm to show all the subtleties of non-verbal communication that take place between people during a conversation. This is where imagination and problem solving come into play. Maybe you can't show that one character is getting angry during a conversation by having their face contort, or by wringing their hands, or tapping their leg, or sweating, etc. So how do you show this rising anger? The sprites face turning red, emoji bubbles, slight change in speech pattern, etc.

    I really don't think there ever has to be a boring cut-scene or dialogue scene.
     
    #13
  14. 10kk

    10kk Parallel Process irl Veteran

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    It really depends how captivating the content is. If you build up a big moment you can draw out very compelling dialogue or events in a 'slow' cutscene.
    If the subject matter of the cutscene is not interesting or provocative enough to the player, it usually won't be satisfying and hence perceived as 'slow'.
     
    #14

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