When to introduce a story heavy cutscene

punchybot

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I want to know everyone's opinions about cutscenes.

I'm very against front loading the player with story in the beginning, and I much rather the player find the lore in the world through exploring on their own rather than spoon feeding to them - if the information is relevant than I will make sure the player knows about it.

So... Typically as you reach the climax in your story, your characters are more involved and there is usually a lot of dialog, depending on the dynamic. I feel maybe after the first or second dungeon, introducing the player to a longish cutscene is good, and even one after the next dungeon.

What do you all think? How long is too long for a cutscene?
 

bgillisp

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Depends on the scene and how you do it. I've played some games where I don't mind the long cutscenes even if they are early, and I've played some where I find myself yelling just shut up already at the game even though I'm 20 hours in now.
 

Jules98

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A long, story-heavy cutscene after the first dungeon seems okay to me. So long as it's not at the very beginning, before any gameplay. Boring a player with exposition they can't yet care about before the game has even started proper is a bad idea.
 

Finnuval

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Well as soon as you watch a cut-scene you just made and wonder 'might this be to long?' it usually is.
If the cut-scene is relevant, engaging and interesting then you're probably not going to ask yourself that same question :D
 

Kes

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As with so many things, the only accurate answer is "it depends".
  • If it's just done as exposition i.e. actor A telling actor B about some background stuff, and the sprites are fairly static, just talking to one another, then I'd say one minute max, because that is usually the most boring form that a cut scene can take.
  • A cut scene with sprites moving about (not just randomly wandering, but actually doing something) can be a lot longer - if you have the writing and eventing skills to sustain it.
  • A really dynamic cut scene can kick off the whole game, but unless you do it well, it is often best to wait until you are further in.
    • I hesitate to say that it should be after the first or second dungeon, because first, I don't like too rigid rules in these matters, and second, it depends what the player has been doing during the first 20-30 minutes of the game.
  • Consider breaking your cut scene down into smaller segments that can be distributed more easily.
  • Have you considered other ways of having the actors speak to one another? e.g. remarks made when they open an unmissable chest, with chests that might only be found through exploration containing interesting but not essential nuggets; comments made on turn zero of a battle etc.
 

MushroomCake28

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Here's my take on the form strictly (not taking into account too long, or bad cutscenes, but only when "big" cutscenes usually take place in the story timeline):
1) Start of the game (not too long), like an prologue.
2) Beginning of the game, usually after first tutorial dungeon, like an introduction.
3) Each time a new important character or party member is introduced for the first time.
4) At an important point in the story line, usually plot twist or culmination of many ongoing events.
5) Final battle

Of course these are just general guidelines that past rpgs followed. These are not the only scenarios in which big scenes are present.

As for the content of the scene, more specifically, my only limit would be when the player is starting to lose attention or starts skipping the dialogue.
 

OmnislashXX

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You should insert a cutscene when things make sense. For instance, what is your party doing At the time? I think if you space them out between gameplay then you will have a good balance of both.
 

taaspider

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I personally avoid long cutscenes at all times. On my project, I try to split what must absolutely be told or shown in small bits and try to make them not too frequent (I'm as far as finishing the prologue though, so I'm not sure if I'll be able to keep going like this).

I've never actually finished it, but I remember going to a friend's house many years ago to play Final Fantasy X. We had small windows to play between high school and trying to get into college, and that game has an awful lot of long cutscenes, and they just keep coming one after the other. I can never forget that frustration :blink:

Also, despite the cutscene length, I think a good idea is to always try to keep text to a minimum. For me at least, it doesn't matter if the cutscene have animations and interesting things happening on the screen if there's just too much dialog to read, especially if it is not absolutely necessary. I'm currently playing 'The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC'. I'm really loving the game, but I don't have much time to play and it really bothers me when a cutscene begin to rollout, as there's ALWAYS a lot of chit-chat between the characters. Although it tries to deepen the characters relationship it also adds too much unnecessary 'watching-not-playing' time.

I do like a long and rewarding cutscene as the conclusion to a game though. I feel like it's a good payoff when it is well done, nicely animated and coherent to the game's promises (don't 'Mass Effect 3' me, please, just don't).
 

bgillisp

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@taaspider See you're the opposite of me as I didn't mind any of those scenes you mention. I think though the biggest problem is you cannot save mid scene, which makes it harder when you have limited time. But I try to avoid that by adding an option to save when a cutscene changes locations, so that those who have limited time can just save and resume where they are if they have to leave in a long cutscene.

Though I have to admit Trails in the Sky has other issues, especially 2nd story, as (in spoiler, ignore if you don't want to be slightly spoiled about the story)

Everything you do feels like it is for naught. All of 2nd story I go to point x to investigate/stop someone, and they always get away. I feel like my party is serving no purpose in this game and there is no point to anything they do as in the end, the bad guys always escape and always progress their plans.

I quit in Chapter 7 as I just got sick of it as I just no longer cared to do anything the game wanted me to do, as I saw no point to it. Maybe someday I'll resume where I stopped, maybe.
 

Wavelength

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I think it's safe to introduce a story-heavy cutscene after the first instance of doing something really cool gameplay-wise: completing a mission that you think most players will consider exciting, or taking down a big boss enemy that's not obviously a "training" kind of battle.

How long is too long for a cutscene?

For cutscenes made of purely dialogue, keep it to no longer than 20 text boxes.

For cutscenes that involve some in-engine visual activity, such as switching scenes and characters taking action onscreen, you can get away with longer scenes - up to 5 minutes (for someone who fully reads the dialogue) or so.

For full video cutscenes, especially if they don't require any player interaction to proceed, I think that any length is fine. There are some players that don't like these, or don't like them when they're too long (approaching 10 minutes), but I think that a majority of the audience will probably enjoy them if well-done.
 

taaspider

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@taaspider See you're the opposite of me as I didn't mind any of those scenes you mention. I think though the biggest problem is you cannot save mid scene, which makes it harder when you have limited time. But I try to avoid that by adding an option to save when a cutscene changes locations, so that those who have limited time can just save and resume where they are if they have to leave in a long cutscene.

Though I have to admit Trails in the Sky has other issues, especially 2nd story, as (in spoiler, ignore if you don't want to be slightly spoiled about the story)

Everything you do feels like it is for naught. All of 2nd story I go to point x to investigate/stop someone, and they always get away. I feel like my party is serving no purpose in this game and there is no point to anything they do as in the end, the bad guys always escape and always progress their plans.

I quit in Chapter 7 as I just got sick of it as I just no longer cared to do anything the game wanted me to do, as I saw no point to it. Maybe someday I'll resume where I stopped, maybe.

@bgillisp I agree with you on Trails in the Sky. I'm currently on chapter 9, which I think (and hope) is the last. I like it's gameplay and story, but it should be way shorter. Your comment in the spoiler tag is spot on, but I've got to the point that I just accepted it will stall until the end, and I'm just trying to get to the ending...

There's one thing Trails in the Sky does well about the cutscenes though, and it's exactly what you suggested. Every time you finish a chapter and are about to get what often is a very long cutscene, the game lets you save before going on. That is precious when time is short.
 

woootbm

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It's all about pacing, succinctness, and creating engagement. You have to create a good overall loop. You can't have too long of a cutscene, but you also can't have too much gameplay (this is harder to keep an eye on in an open-world game). You need to have the player feel a rhythm so they get story when they want story, and gameplay when they want gameplay.

Honestly this question is a lot harder than phrased because there is no concrete answer. It's up to the creator to hook the audience and keep them happy. I often think of something like Seven Samurai. It's a 3 and a half hour long movie, but when I watch it I wish it was *longer*.

It just boils down to know-how, taste, creativity, and your audience. I remember when I was a small kid I would skip ALL cutscenes and dialogue, regardless of how well done they might have been :guffaw:
 

empresskiova

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It's all about pacing, succinctness, and creating engagement. You have to create a good overall loop. You can't have too long of a cutscene, but you also can't have too much gameplay (this is harder to keep an eye on in an open-world game). You need to have the player feel a rhythm so they get story when they want story, and gameplay when they want gameplay.

Honestly this question is a lot harder than phrased because there is no concrete answer. It's up to the creator to hook the audience and keep them happy. I often think of something like Seven Samurai. It's a 3 and a half hour long movie, but when I watch it I wish it was *longer*.

It just boils down to know-how, taste, creativity, and your audience. I remember when I was a small kid I would skip ALL cutscenes and dialogue, regardless of how well done they might have been :guffaw:

I feel as though the old pokemon games were great at pacing the game for their core audience (kiddies). As a kid, I just remember wanting to battle (and win). The game threw you a few side parts to the main goal of beating up gym leaders, but kept these parts fairly quick.

Granted, as a kid I didnt have any real strategy. But, I’d rather not embarass myself with admitting that it would take me being much older to realize how to easily beat the Whitney fight. Lol.
 

Canini

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  • A cut scene with sprites moving about (not just randomly wandering, but actually doing something) can be a lot longer - if you have the writing and eventing skills to sustain it.

I think it's safe to introduce a story-heavy cutscene after the first instance of doing something really cool gameplay-wise: completing a mission that you think most players will consider exciting, or taking down a big boss enemy that's not obviously a "training" kind of battle.

For cutscenes made of purely dialogue, keep it to no longer than 20 text boxes.

I feel as though the old pokemon games were great at pacing the game for their core audience (kiddies). As a kid, I just remember wanting to battle (and win). The game threw you a few side parts to the main goal of beating up gym leaders, but kept these parts fairly quick.

The Pokemon-style storytelling is what I personally think works best for games made in the rpgmaker engine, and what I personally strive for. I mainly use cutscenes at the beginning of entering a new area and a more storyline driven one when exiting it as a reward for making it through. I also try to have things happening, people walking around and reacting to things, mishaps and other stuff going on. I try to not have more than one text box from a particular character without someone else speaking or something happening.
 

Aesica

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I agree with mostly everything post here, but wanted to add this bit:

If your cutscene is going to be long and drawn out, let the player interact with it instead of making it one big static start-to-finish info dump. Look at the opening scenes of FF4 vs FF6 as an example of what I mean.

In FF4, you have this nice long info dump opening where the main character leads a raid on a neighboring town to pillage a crystal. Upon his return, he questions the morality of the king's orders, blah blah until finally, the player can move around, but not much else because there's still more cutscene bits to slog through until finally, you manage to get out of the castle and the game truly begins.

In FF6, you're given a bit of story, then are turned loose with the main character + 2 accomplices as you invade a town to steal an esper--so, in a way, quite similar to FF4. The critical difference is that you get to move around and fight stuff along the way, so even though it's still essentially the opening cutscene, the player is engaged in it beyond just, "press X to advance the dialog."

I like to think of cutscenes as being a lot like poop--they're important to do at regular intervals, but if one's too large, you're going to have to use a poop knife to chop it up into smaller chunks before you send it on its way.
 

Marquise*

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I just rad the firsts messages and something popped to my head. Anyone ever started a game not been able to know if finally it was just a visual novel or not even if the hero had to reply? I got a few like that. Some using RPGM as visual novel editor. Also I count interaction where answers does not impact the plot like yes/no/maybe and nest line might acknowledge this but all gets railroaded to the story ahead.

I guess this formula works best for side scrollers thought. Usually less immersive.
 

BreakerZero

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I kind of have my own thoughts on this. Maybe you end up with a situation where even mana skills are not enough to help someone who just went down hard and by pure luck you have someone with you who's a living example of specialized assistance technology. Now let's say you're on a training grounds mission when an associate waiting back at base "goes coronary" and has to be fitted as well, but the catch is that she's literally half-beast and they haven't had to do it to her type before. So the training centre supervisor opens evac to her room after you've secured what you came for and you have to sit and wait to see if she actually transitions into her assisted lifestyle servicing gear.

That's about as heavy as I have my project already, not including a later occurrence that doesn't end anywhere near as well (but which is not yet connected to the rest of the story so that's for another time).
 

M.I.A.

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Never. Break them down into small, bite sized portions. And then spread them around after major battles, after a chapter ends, before a chapter begins, right before a critical new party member joins, etc.

Just my personal opinion. I loathe sitting through long cut scenes. I'd rather have a moderate text scroll, honestly. And even better if it can be sped up or skipped altogether.

;)
-MIA
 

BreakerZero

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Probably should've said that my example comes a sizable distance in time from when she joins - and then her living-proof precursor joins - and then it builds from there such that while you're running the mission I described the former goes coronary and the latter's established example becomes the link that keeps 'em both in step thereafter.
 

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