Remembering The Cut-Scene Debate
We now exist in a time when the cut-scenes don't look much different than the gameplay (see Uncharted 2: Among Thieves). But oh, there was a time...there was a time...
Old-school role-playing fans are most familiar with this subject. During the first PlayStation era, developers finally had enough power to implement CGI or FMV into video games; initially, they held no voices and were all sorts of fuzzy and grainy but to us, they were mesmerizing. It was just such a tremendous leap from the sprite days, which at the time, were only a few years behind us. However, as amazing as the cut-scene phenomenon was, there was a very vocal contingent that said, quite simply, "the cut-scene represented the end of gaming." I distinctly remember arguing with people about this very thing when working at EB way back when, and I imagine RPG fans about my age recall similar confrontations with friends.
I say "RPG fans" because although the CGI/FMV cut-scene wasn't restricted to role-playing games, the flashy new addition to interactive entertainment was certainly most prevalent in the RPG category. The Final Fantasy franchise led the way, of course. I think we all remember Sephiroth walking through the fire and the opening intro video for FFVIII. I also remember watching that scene when Squall and Rinoa dance and just going, "Oh...my...God." But the people who hated it said it had nothing to do with video games and that in time, designers would give us half-movies, half-games, and charge us more because the technology would get more expensive. We'd also get half as much actual interaction. Well, that was their argument, anyway.
My contention always touched on two points- first, any claims that current games held "more watching than playing" were always too stupid to even consider. RPGs were always 30-50 hours in length and even the most cut-scene-intensive adventures didn't feature more than 90 minutes or so of non-interactive moments. People just thought there were more movies because they actually had to sit still for a while without pressing buttons - an alien occurrence then - and time seemed to slow down. But even MGS, which did feature some long cut-scenes, still consisted of 90% gameplay if you do the math. As for the second point, about how games would just "become movies," I just remember saying, "gamers will always want to play. That won't ever change."
And now, here we sit, and the cut-scene is just an accepted, expected part of the gaming experience. In no way do the cut-scenes exceed the gameplay length; that has never happened and never will happen. And as I said before, it's getting more and more difficult to notice the difference between gameplay and cut-scene. Oh, that was the other thing; people saying- "Yeah, like they'll ever make the gameplay look like the CGI or FMV." Well, only about 14 years later, and the gameplay now puts the CGI then to shame. My, my.
P.S. Cookie to whoever knows the game depicted in the pic. Extra cookie if you can guess my favorite character from said game. Third cookie if you can say why the game is relevant to the article.
11/12/2010 Ben Dutka