Denis Dyack Writes for Edge

There are some people out there that have a complete and utter disdain for the cut scene. Many developers knock the cut scene because it takes away interactivity, the key component of interactive entertainment.

We’ve seen games like Half-Life never enter a cut scene. Meanwhile we have Metal Gear Solid, which uses lengthy cut scenes to convey a story.

So who’s right and who’s wrong? First of all I think any extreme is generally flawed. When people say they want to banish all cut scenes, they don’t seem to understand that such a move does make it more difficult to tell your story. Story is very important for videogames, and as graphics become a commodity, storytelling becomes evermore important.

Before you accuse me of saying that you can’t tell a good story without cut scenes, hear me out. If you’re trying to put interactivity into the content, into the storytelling, then I’m all for it. That’s the power of the medium and something we should explore. Same goes for non-interactive parts of the game. Metal Gear Solid 4 is a highly-polished example of a game with lots of cut scenes, but meaningful cut scenes.

Although there are some parties that are strictly anti-cut scene, and others that are pro cut-scene, when you think about it, it’s not a matter of whether there should be cut scenes or not. Really it comes down to the basics of content and Aristotle’s Poetics. In movies or any kind of literature, the basic rule is, if something doesn’t mean anything, don’t put it in. Adding content for no good reason is only going to hurt what you’re trying to do.

Really, it’s not the cut scenes that have been the problem, but the manner in which many developers have been implementing them. Over the last five to ten years, so many games have been released where cut scenes are absolutely meaningless. They don’t contribute to the content and don’t contribute to the characters. They’re almost like some kind of reward for completing the level, and that makes absolutely no sense.

As game designers we have to go beyond that. Cut scenes have to contribute to the game. That’s a really good rule for people to follow. And it shows you that the classics, well, we still have a lot to learn from the classics.

Too Human will have cut scenes, but I think that we’ve managed to blur the line between what people would consider a cut scene and what people consider in-game. See, part of the reason we as designers want to use cut scenes is because it allows us to be cinematographers, and that’s fine. But in-game, Too Human will use a dynamic, intelligent camera system that presents the in-game in a more cinematic light, at the same time being conducive to good gameplay.

I’d still say that we’re taking baby steps in the area of bringing cinematics in games, but we’re moving in the right direction. The industry is pushing the medium, elevating it so people really get more unique experiences out of videogames than they would from any other entertainment medium
Edge’s Keynotes section is an open forum for game industry professionals to express opinions. To have your say, create an Edge blog, or contact the editor.