Gw Temp


Article - 'A Guide to Cutscenes' by Mateui

An item about Game Design posted on Jan 14, 2004


Learn about the different types of cutscenes in an RPG, as well as their uses, what they achieve, and when you should use them.


A Guide to Cutscenes:
By: Mateui

I wonder what is going to happen next?

Doesn’t everyone just love cutscenes? Yes, they do, to an extent, until they become boring and repetitive, which is something that we will discuss further in this article. But what is a cutscene in the first place? How many different types are there? When should you use them? What’s the point?

As you can see, cutscenes are surrounded with many different questions and remarks. That is why I decided to cover this aspect. So sit back and relax, just ‘watch’ the show. (OMG! What a horrible joke.. >_>...)

What is a Cutscene?

Well, there really isn’t a very precise definition found in a dictionary, so I had to sit down and think about it myself. What really is a cutscene?

It could be a movie type event inside a game.. but that doesn’t cover the whole aspect. Cutscenes are more like non-interactive events in a game – something you watch instead of playing.

Yes, that sums it up well. And now we’re off to look into the diverse types of cutscenes.

The Types and Uses of Cutscenes:

Over the years in the professional game industry many types of cutscenes were used for various means. But what do cutscenes achieve, and when should you use them?

Well, this usually on you, and your target audience. Since a cutscene is non-interactive, the player will be forced to sit and watch, or read through it. If you suspect that your audience would be bored while in a cutscene (particularly if it is long and a lot of reading is involved) then you could consider shortening it, or not making it a cutscene at all.

When possible try to get the player more chances for interaction. This will make him feel like he is in more control of the game and the character’s destiny. Yet, there are cutscenes which include interactivity, and we will discuss them soon.

The Purpose of Cutscenes:
What do cutscenes accomplish in a game? Let us think about it. What did you feel when you arrived at a cutscene in any particular game?

Usually, the cutscene provided you with info, either about the current situation, the lives of a character(s), or about the world in general. To have been successful, it must have immersed you into the game. The cutscene made you felt like you were part of the world and story.. if it didn’t well, then it wasn’t very successful.

Also, cutscenes are generally used in introductions. They usually give you info about the world at the present state, and maybe include some background info about the main character. Then the actual game begins.

Cutscenes can contain foreshadowing. (For an article about the subject of foreshadowing, click here: (A Guide to Foreshadowing) (It pays to advertise… HeeHee.)

Um, as I was saying, foreshadowing can go along greatly with cutscenes. While the player may think that a cutscene is just a really cool movie, or worthless dialogue, later they find out that it isn’t, because it foreshadowed future game events.

Ok. We now know the uses of cutscenes – we can look into the different types next.

The Types of Cutscenes:
There are a few, and we will go over them all separately.

The Conversational Scene:
If you played a “Harvest Moon” game, then you’ve experienced this type of cutscene many times. What this type of cutscene includes is, yup, you’ve guessed it, conversation! Basically, all that happens is the exchange of dialogue between two or more parties, and some subtle actions occur, like making a gesture, or walking around.

Sometimes, in one of these cutscenes, you will be given a conversational choice that will affect the future of the game, or the rest of the scene. For example, notice this choice: (Taken from “Harvest Moon: Back to Nature.” And from my Marriage Guide found on GameFaqs. There seems to be a lot of advertising going on in this article.. strange. >_>...)

You walk to the ranch and find Popuri & Rick arguing. Popuri gets so mad she runs away. You then go talk to Rick. He asks you to get Popuri to come back home, and tells you she went to the hot spring. Go there immediately and talk to Popuri, she'll start crying
again, and you have 2 choices: "Its Over Now" or "My Sympathies." Pick “My Sympathies” and you will spend some time with Popuri. She'll then stop crying and will introduce herself to you. She'll then leave.

See. Through one choice the relationship of an NPC changed for the better or the worst. If many cutscenes like this are placed in the game, the variable outcomes from each will result in the player getting diverse endings at the conclusion of the game, or a different type of gameplay.

The Informational Scene:
Most games use this type of cutscene at the beginning of a game. This type throws a lot of information at the player in a short (But not very short.. I’m talking 3+ minutes) or longer time frame. The information comprises of world info, extensive character info, or something of that nature.

This cutscene is okay to a certain extent, but once it reoccurs more than once, it can get really annoying. Especially if it is all dialogue, doesn’t have enough action, or is made so the player cannot skip through it is they wish. It’s like those annoying loading screens, you can tolerate only so much, and if you have to view them a lot, the game is just slowly killing your patience.)

The Rewarding Scene:
This cutscene gives the player a reward for something they accomplished in the game. This may involve saving someone, acquiring an item, have a strong relationship with a character, completing the game in under X number of hours.

The reward scene can be placed in many different parts of a game. Some may be activated as soon as a player does something, while others may reward the player with a alternate ending. (Think “Star Ocean 2”)

The Active Time Event Scene:
Well, I didn’t really know how to well name this type of cutscene, but an example of it can be found in a well-known game, “Final Fantasy IX.” If you played it, did you remember the “Active Time Events” that occurred, which allowed you to see what other characters or events were happening at the exact same time in the world somewhere?

This was a feature that I greatly enjoyed. It was optional, so you weren’t obliged to see the cutscene. But it generally added to the game, and gave you a greater glimpse of the personality of other characters. If you use this, try to make it optional as well. That way, those enjoying the scenes will watch, while those who are playing solely for gameplay will get to skip them.

The Conclusion:

Remember to use the cutscenes sparingly as some can annoyed by the lack of interactivity. If possible, if you can use an interactive event instead of a cutscene, then by all means, don’t use the cutscene – it’s better to give the player greater control over what happens in the game.

Well, that’s all the info that I can think of and summarize at the moment. Sequel? Who knows? Maybe…

Thank you for reading, it’s been fun writing!

Good Bye!

- Mateui