Conveying Story to the Player Without Dialogue or Cutscenes, p2

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Part 2 of 2, by Pieter Parker

In Gears of War there are moments where Marcus Phoenix and his crew are communicating with helpers outside of the combat area via a headset. This helps to tie into the overall flow of the story as the player guides Marcus Phoenix towards the next combat area, being warned all the while about the enemies he is about to face. Doing this in such a way helps retain flow and immersion, and does not pull the player out of the game. Another good example of this is in Assassin’s Creed, where in almost every cutscene the player is able to have limited control of Altair as cutscenes are being played. The beginning of Half-Life 2 also does this extremely well, as what could have been conveyed as a cutscene is instead experienced directly by the player. I’m sure we all looked into that open slot in the doorway and saw the prisoner being tortured by the Combine the first time we played the game.

The games industry is in an exciting time where engines are becoming more powerful and are enabling developers to do more with their characters and their story. Cutscenes need to become less crucial to conveying story, and it as such it will ultimately be gameplay that defines those moments. What if in Mass Effect when the player was confronted by Wrex; the player was able to walk around and maybe even take a swing at Wrex and have him react dynamically in the gameplay? What if the player actively pulled his gun on Wrex halfway through Wrex’s rant and Wrex automatically reacted accordingly? What if there was no need for a dialogue wheel, as the player had a palette of reactions available to their character? Ultimately when it comes down to it the things players remember and talk to others about when they play a video game isn’t that cool cutscene they saw, but what cool things they managed to do with the character and the gameplay experience. It is time that the line between cutscenes and gameplay became merged to the point of being indistinguishable. This can be seen in the latest God of War III trailer, which if you haven’t seen do yourself a favor and go see it, as the entire trailer is gameplay (albeit with an altered camera) and paints a broad stroke as to what the future of gameplay could be like.

What do you guys think? Where does the future in video games as a form of storytelling lie?

Header graphic created from work of James Lyall Photography

Pieter Parker has wanted to work in the games industry since he first learned how to hold a controller and after a quick bout of schooling, has since managed to stumble his way into the company he loves, BioWare. In his spare time he can be seen looking up bad YouTube videos with which he can horrify his co-workers; and doing his best to avoid getting shot with nerf guns by his co-workers.

Author: BioWare Community Team

BioWare Community