Thoughts on QTEs in RPG Maker

Studio Blue

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OK, let me just dive right in. I have a mixed love affair with Quick Time Events.


On the positive, I've been a gamer since Dragon's Lair came out in the 80's (I know that rather dates me), and I loved games like Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls. There is a certain enjoyment that comes out of getting the timing right for those things--so long as it's not too difficult--and seeing the way the story changes depending on success or failure. (By that, I mean more HR and B:TS than DL).


On the negative, it's a QTE, and that takes away freedom from the player. Some people absolutely hate QTEs, and that sentiment is highly understandable.


So my question is this: Would a Heavy Rain/Two Souls like QTE sequence work in RPG Maker? Like if there is a very special fight where the characters are running and jumping all over the place, so you didn't want to go into the battle engine. If so, how would you implement it?


Conversely, if a QTE is a terrible idea, what would you recommend in its place? A full on real time battle? A special battle within the battle engine? A non-interactive cinema?


Would love to hear people's thoughts on this one!
 

Astfgl66

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There's a time and a place for everything. It all depends on the kind of game, and if it makes sense from a design point of view. Let me first say that I bundle under the term QTE everything that requires sequential input from the player.


Going with dragon's lair example, if you remove the design flaws that can be attributed to the time period it saw the light of day in (not showing what button should be pressed, ridiculously precise input durations,...), it's a game designed around its QTEs and that's fine.


On the other hand, I despise QTE boss fights in games where QTEs aren't the main mechanism (RPGs or Shooters), where you basically watch a cinematic that only progresses if you hit the right buttons at the right time. I feel like it doesn't test my skills at the game at all, and robs me of the sense of accomplishement.


Sometimes it's fine, for example I like tomb raider's QTE when you're attacked by a wolf/dog, where you have to press a button at the right time to throw it off you. The ocarina in LOZ OOT is another great example.


Another thematic integration of QTEs: FF8 Squall's basic attack will always be critical if you press a button when it hits the enemy. It makes sense because he actually wields a weapon that's a gun and a swrod, so critical hits are just him firing a shot at the right time.


Sometimes, like in the mass effect series, simple QTEs are used during cutscenes to change the action and to involve the player a bit more. I really like mass effect interruption system because it's simple and doesn't intrude on the normal gameplay and also because it's fully integrated in the dialogue system. It's not just put there randomly.


You should probably first ask yourself if a classic JRPG is the best medium to include QTEs. When I play a turn based RPG I want to make meaningful decisions during combat, to think about the strategy of me and my opponenent, I'm largely uninterested in the execution. It must make sense as a game mechanic or be a central part of the game/battle system/dialogue system for me to be interested. But then I'd know about it beforehand and I would be able to choose if I want to play that kind of game right now or not.


I have no idea what heavy rain/beyond: two souls are so I can't comment on that part. Maybe you could describe a bit more?


As for how to implement QTEs in RPGMaker: a QTE is rather simple to event. At it's most basic it's just a loop, a wait and a conditionnal.


For more advanced uses, I actually wrote a plugin not too long ago (you can find the link in my signature).


I don't recommend removing every single QTE from games, just first asking yourself: "Does it makes sense to have a QTE right now?" Just like for every game mechanic.
 

Studio Blue

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What you are saying makes complete and total sense.


The QTEs used in LOZ: OOT, Tomb Raider, and FF8 are perfect examples of thematically sound uses. The QTE battle segments in God of War or the QTE battles in Shenmu are much more poorly executed, as they are breaks in the normal flow of action where you're only pressing buttons at the right time.


The QTEs in Heavy Rain/Beyond Two Souls are more difficult to explain. Basically, they are standard QTEs, where you press button or move the thumbpad in a certain direction (as cued by the on screen prompt), but if you fail, the battle branches in a different direction instead of resulting in failure. You can only fail a battle in Heavy Rain if you make continuous errors, and you can't even really lose in Beyond (you can lose fights, but you can't die from losing). But in both of those examples, the QTEs are thematic to the gameplay (you press certain buttons, et all, to move around).


One good example of QTE's in RPG Maker is Moghunter's Chain Commands. A character lands an attack, then a certain button press appears (up, down, z, x, etc). If you press that key within a certain amount of time, you execute a second, stronger attack. If you don't, nothing extra happens. It's thematic to the system because it's a core part of that battle system.


Good feedback. Really good. Helped me clear through some fog. Thanks! :)
 

Eliel Micmás

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A good example of QTEs done right in RPGs is, surprisingly, Mario & Luigi: SuperStar Saga and its sequels. They further developed the QTE mechanics that were already present in Super Mario RPG. Even though the combat system is fully turn-based, all attacks and spells made in battles, along with many non-combat mechanics and gimmicks, require that you press the right buttons at the right time, or else they either do far less damage than the usual, or they even don't work. It really fits the goofy, action-ish feeling of the game, and acts as a way to bring traditional Mario aspects to an otherwise RPG. Sometimes, that's what makes the series' games difficult, specially during boss fights.


If you haven't played it yet, I recommend that you play at least the first one, Superstar Saga, for a few minutes. Mario's RPGs are, gameplay-wise, really well thought.
 

Tai_MT

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I.... don't think I've ever run into a QTE that I liked.  They've always felt to me like the game dev is saying to me, "look, I know my game is boring, but if you stop paying attention.... GAME OVER!".  It only gets more and more frustrating when it's during cutscenes or when it breaks up actual combat and actual gameplay to... make you press some arbitrary buttons in order to win.  As Yahtzee puts it succinctly every time I see it in a game:


"Press X to not die".


Plus, they are usually pretty heavily immersion breaking.  By pressing a few buttons I can make things happen that I couldn't with normal gameplay.  It feels like I'm not even playing the game so much as just checking in with the game to make sure I'm still watching "teh uberz cutseen".  It's a little jarring to me, personally.  Especially when it's for doing something as simple as "swing your knife at the enemy". 


Resident Evil 4 really irritated me with these things... to the point I've hated them ever since (and it was my first game with them).  Knife fight with a guy.  In game, I can hold one of my shoulder buttons and hit the "attack" button or whatever to swing my knife normally.  But, suddenly, magic cutscene, I'm swinging my knife all over the place and one missed button press and back through the 40 second cutscene again before getting another try... where I'm magic knifeman when I wasn't anywhere else in the game.


But, to be quite honest, I don't even like the regular type QTEs that happen during gameplay either where it's "oh, you got grabbed, mash a button a whole bunch of times to get free!".  These kinds of segments become so frustrating because they aren't usually avoidable... or telegraphed... and it doesn't really matter how fast you mash, because you're guaranteed to take a certain amount of damage anyway...  Really bad games let the enemies spam this crap so that you can't really do anything and combat turns into a chore instead of something fun.


Honestly, what I'd prefer is that QTE's simply not exist.  They feel intrusive to me.  I'd rather go back to when we just had regular cutscenes for things, typically at the beginning/end of each level/section.  I'd rather go back to feeling involved in the combat instead of a victim of it (like giving me counters to grabs instead of requiring me to mash a button a whole bunch of times).  Or maybe use already existing game mechanics to accomplish neat things in the game instead of resorting to QTEs to do things you normally couldn't do with your gameplay.  I think some of my favorite moments where they COULD'VE gone with a QTE but didn't were in Dead Space.  A tentacle grabs you to drag you down the hall, you must use your own skill and existing gameplay mechanics to aim your gun under intense time pressure, and shoot the tentacle before you are dragged to your death.  Even more fun was at the end of the game, you then get hung UP-SIDE-DOWN and your controls are reversed!


I think if a "QTE" must exist, then I think it shouldn't be pressing specific buttons or doing junk in cutscenes.  I think it should be more like Dead Space 1 was, where it required you use the existing game mechanics to get you out of the situation.  It required your skill and didn't break the gameplay or the immersion.  That's what I would like in a QTE.  None of that "slow down time so you can carefully aim and shoot whatever it is they want you to shoot in time".  Just, "something crazy is happening, use the controls we gave you to get out of it" or "something crazy is happening, use your controls in a unique way that expands upon your capabilities".


I just like feeling like the game dev trusts me to play the game and doesn't have to remind me to keep my hands on the controls, even during cutscenes.


Plus, you don't break up your combat by inserting QTEs.  You break it up by having varied enemies so you don't run into, "another enemy, another easy win to move on".


Well, that's what I think anyway.
 

Pierman Walter

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I enjoy QTEs as long as the penalty for failing them isn't too severe and they don't come out of nowhere. A good way of doing them is the Paper Mario way, where the entire gameplay is based around jumping to get out of the way of things. A bad way is what the first Bayonetta did, where after you settle down for a long cutscene, suddenly you get eaten by dragons and die.
 

Studio Blue

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I agree that any QTE that disrupts gameplay or the player's experience is a bad thing.  I don't think anyone will disagree with that.


Yeah, the QTEs in Bayonetta were obnoxious and pulled away from an otherwise enjoyable game.


I think that Astfgl66 put it best, if a QTE is part of the game's theme, if it fits, it really works. One of my favorite examples on that was how you blocked in Eternal Sonata. Yes, sometimes it required split-second timing, but if you got it right, you could make any boss's attacks do diddly squat for damage.
 

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