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Has the chase for the "cinematic" experience taken away from what make games a unique medium?

Another "Elden Ring has me thinking" thread. While playing Elden Ring and similar games (hollow knight, bloodborne, nioh etc) has me wondering if the games industry chase to be more "filmic" distanced it from what makes videos games unique as a medium. Some of my favorite video games, tlou, twd games, mgs snake eater all are praised for how "cinematic" they are which is usually you playing the game, stopping to watch a cut scene then going back to the gameplay elements. Rarely are the gameplay elements used to tell a story but are just used to get you from cutscene to cutscene. While this isn't a bad thing as we got some amazing games from this form of game making do you think that games can utilize aspects of what makes the medium unique more integrated in the story telling process?

I think of games like journey where you form a connection with 0 dialogue all through cooperative elements. How it (if my memory serves me correct) doesn't require cutscenes to push elements that make the story telling unique. Or in the souls borne game how people will complain about story elements being expanded through item descriptions, but in most games alot of the info would be told in a narrative exposition dump via cutscene.

As I said the cinematic experience isnt a bad thing...but its been the main form of story telling the past three generations and now that we enter a new one do you think games should distance itself a bit from that experience, or are you content with how the medium currently is? I'd like to see more games utilize gameplay elements to push the story as opposed for being a buffer between cutscene exposition dumps.
 
Is Elden Ring a cutscene heavy game?

I can't stand when games take control away from you and force you to watch Netflix cutscenes but I haven't seen much of this in terms of Elden Rings marketing.
 

Punished Miku

Gold Member
I like variety.

I actually think most games going for "cinematic" aren't cinematic enough. You don't get the same experience in modern games that you got in REmake for example. You're not really seeing much that's interesting in terms of cinematography. What we do tend to get is a very homogenous type of third person, realistic, dialogue heavy, TPS with light stealth sorta game set in an open world that we've all played many times. Those games can be awesome, but variety is badly needed sometimes.

AAA homogenization is real. AA games have shrunk as a market. Indie games help alleviate the boredom a lot.
 
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The_Mike

Gold Member
You know, there's games that doesn't focus on cinematics.

The problem with popular stuff is many devs are seeing what Sony does, and wants to copy the formular.

It was the same in mmorpgs when wow released. Every one tried to copy it but eventually failed anyway.

The perfect thing with gaming is there's something for everyone. You might just have to look elsewhere instead of the big games in the spotlight.
 

kingpotato

Ask me about my Stream Deck
It sounds like OP is really only considering one facet of gaming, predominately console gaming. Also story should be a second class citizen in gaming. Gameplay is king.

A lot of people think that cinematic gaming is a majority of the gaming landscape and this forum likes to disregard mobile gaming, but the arcade is alive and well on the computer in your pocket. There are many games in the iOS and Android market (and PC indies) that are focused on the core gameplay experience and not cinematic gameplay. I also would like to point out that story driven games have existed since the dawn of gaming with text based adventures and the cinematic element arrived with the original "point and click" (or "guess and type" even earlier) style games. These have been very popular at various times so I don't know that the trend is entirely "new", just the implementation.

Console manufacturers know that entertainment on the living room set also includes stories which is why they offer streaming apps and play movies through their disc drive. It makes sense then that these platform prioritize games that blend the mediums. It also lowers the bar of entry for many people who would otherwise be disinterested or intimidated by modern gaming.

I'm not saying this is the full answer but I think it's a facet that many people disregard.
 

Whitecrow

Gold Member
Its all about emotions. And dopamine is the culprit.

As long as you enjoy more and more things, you gonna want to keep experiencing those things.

Is really hard to stay at something that is only fun, when cinematic games, that offers a lot more are out there.

Personally, i cant enjoy little indie games anymore. I need good stories and deep and cool characters. But maybe thats just me and my adhd playing tricks on me.
 
It's a question of balance, I'd say that the really big games don't offer much in terms of actual story, I mean fortnite, roblox, etc.

In some cases this is great, but in other cases it only distracts from the game and makes developers try to pry in side quests in the context of a world with fake NPCs back story, etc. Then things conflict and the game gets in the way of the story, or the story (the one they want to tell) takes you out of the game.

These games cannot be separated from their stories:
- half-Life 1/2 would not be as good without the story behind them
- Same for a game like The Last of Us

However, a game like Doom 2016, or Uncharted 4 would have been a bit better with even less emphasis on the story, same for most open-world games (Horizon... Both Forza and Dino)... I recall playing Nintendo games that had endless exposition too (Zelda on Wii? etc.) these games were certainly not enriched by their deep stories).

So I'd say that if you can't do it very well you should not try to stray too far away from "the princess was abducted by aliens that want to take over the world. Jump in your space suit and go save her, she is the key to defeating all evil".
 

Nankatsu

Member
No, I wouldn't switch cutscenes to be honest. They are perfect for narrative driven games.

Maybe some games could strive to achieve a better balance between gameplay and cutscenes, but I like my games having that momentary movie feeling and let me breath from gameplay itself.

I hate those games that start throwing narrative elements at you and you are mid gameplay, specially in games I'm playing with japanese audio and I end completely losing track of it.

Also you need to know what to expect from a game: one thing I don't except from Elden Ring is story telling for example.

Bill Murray Christmas Movies GIF by filmeditor
 
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The Cockatrice

Gold Member
Variety is the spice of life. If I get only games with obtuse nonsense shit like Souls games then naturally a cinematic experience will feel superior. In our times when open world games are so bloated with question marks and shit it was fucking common sense that Elden Ring would feel superior but if you turn off your fanboy ass eating brain, you'll slowly realize it's just dark souls levels copy pasted in a big map. Still even this feels more refreshing than the other open worlds. Personally I would've loved if Elden Ring remained a metroidvania. 3D metroidvanias are fucking rare. Now watch how every developer 3-4 years rom now will have these obtuse open world maps where u have to discover yourself. Ubisoft will 100% try to copy this shit in one of their games. What they will fail to realize is that, this shit only worked for souls-like and I doubt it will ever work again on any other company thats not From Software.
 
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Chronicle

Gold Member
Cinematic experiences hold their place and van be fantastic games ie tlou, God of war etc. However, I'm not sure why it's so sought after. As I just wrote in another thread, why can't we have games with great gameplay and a little less story. An example of this is SOCOM and Rainbow Six. I love games like that. Tactical shooters where you clear rooms and move on. You sneak through mud and crawl through bushes to take out bad guys who broke the law. That's it. There's plenty of bad dudes out there to take care of. Look at what they did to Splinter Cell, One of my favs, they brought in this silly story of deception from the top. They brought in his daughter etc. It hot stupid fast. I just want to be Sam Fisher and kick ass. I don't need a revenge story yo motivate me. We don't always need feelings. We don't need the pros to always disobey orders etc. It's a bit tiring and a sign of bad writing. Sometimes I feel the cinematic experience is way too forced and I just don't think ots really needed.
 

Pejo

Member
To me, it all comes down to what they feel (and probably researched) will sell. Cinematic games have a much much lower barrier of entry so that people like casual gamers and games """journalists""" can actually complete a game and not get significantly hung up on a particular gameplay challenge. Elden Ring is certainly an outlier of that general pattern.

It's not that I haven't enjoyed a cinematic game, there are a ton that I thought were great, but usually when they carefully blend the cinematics with actual gameplay. But yea, I definitely always have a spot at my table for games that are unapologetically videogames first instead of interactive (poorly written) movies.
 
Short answer is obviously no. I've loved having story weaving between gameplay elements since at least back in the NES days, particularly with Ninja Gaiden's still cool intro scene. Same goes with a lot of JRPGs I played then extending to now. We now have the biggest variety now in regards to both story telling and content that there's literally something for everyone.

That said, I personally love story telling through cinematics instead of random, sporatic bits of cryptic info on items or enviromental clues ala Souls method.
 

SlimySnake

Member
Another "Elden Ring has me thinking" thread. While playing Elden Ring and similar games (hollow knight, bloodborne, nioh etc) has me wondering if the games industry chase to be more "filmic" distanced it from what makes videos games unique as a medium. Some of my favorite video games, tlou, twd games, mgs snake eater all are praised for how "cinematic" they are which is usually you playing the game, stopping to watch a cut scene then going back to the gameplay elements. Rarely are the gameplay elements used to tell a story but are just used to get you from cutscene to cutscene. While this isn't a bad thing as we got some amazing games from this form of game making do you think that games can utilize aspects of what makes the medium unique more integrated in the story telling process?

I think of games like journey where you form a connection with 0 dialogue all through cooperative elements. How it (if my memory serves me correct) doesn't require cutscenes to push elements that make the story telling unique. Or in the souls borne game how people will complain about story elements being expanded through item descriptions, but in most games alot of the info would be told in a narrative exposition dump via cutscene.

As I said the cinematic experience isnt a bad thing...but its been the main form of story telling the past three generations and now that we enter a new one do you think games should distance itself a bit from that experience, or are you content with how the medium currently is? I'd like to see more games utilize gameplay elements to push the story as opposed for being a buffer between cutscene exposition dumps.
You are selling Naughty Dog games short. A lot of the storytelling is done during gameplay when you are exploring the world via conversations you have with Ellie, Joel, Drake and their side characters. There are plenty of sequences in ND games where you play through the story like when Joel is carrying his daughter through the zombie outbreak, and the final scene when he breaks into the surgery room and breaks her out. None of it is cutscenes. You are an active part of that mission. That's interactive storytelling done right.

First person cutscenes like Half Life 2 with your character jumping around being mute simply dont work. If you have a story to tell, you better tell it in the best way possible and movie style directing and shooting is the best way to do that.

The Last Guardian is another great example of interactive storytelling just like Ico and SOTC before it. There are like 3 cutscenes in the game. The rest is all gameplay with you as an active participant in what would be cutscenes in other games. But just like Souls, Journey and Ico, there is very little dialogue so they can get away with not having many cutscenes.

Dialogues are not inherently bad or exclusive to movies. They are essential in RPGs where by definition you role play. TBH, id rather have my role playing games let me ROLE PLAY my character than guide me through the story with obscure laughing NPCs who drone on and on about bullshit or in Journey's case just walk until you die. Big fucking accomplishment that. Nah, Id rather have Mass Effect where I can make critical choices or have my brash choices blow up in my face. Witcher 3 literally has missions go in 10 different directions because of your choices. thats interactive storytelling and simply what movies cant offer you.

Lastly, you are not getting attached to characters like Ellie or Joel if you just watch 2 hours of cutscenes. You are getting attached because ND writers spend years writing dialogue that pulls you in even during gameplay. Everyone trashes TLOU2 around here, but you were an active participant in the game because Neil forced you to play as Abby after having her do the unthinkable. And then had you fight Ellie. Something NO player wanted to do. No amount of cutscenes couldve captured the lost and helpless feeling of fighting Ellie and then fighting Abby a few hours later when you finally realize enough is enough, but the characters have not reach that realization.
 
FMV games.

We pretty much all agree it was a terrible fad and FMV games are bad video games.... Yet AAA developers still gravitate towards a cinematic presentation. Cut scenes aren't interactive (albeit a QTE, basically FMV gameplay) and exist only to build the lore and story of the game... Which is fine in a lot of circumstances. Sometimes the cut scene is the reward.

It's when the cinematic experience bleeds into the actual gameplay that bothers me. Unnecessary animation at the sacrifice of precise control. Slow, plodding, areas so that an npc can tell me a story. Cumbersome mechanics to convey realism. One-off gameplay devices simply for story. Repetitive gameplay to pad hours into a game so that the cut scenes aren't actually longer than the game itself.

FMV games were criticized for their terrible gameplay and lack of interactivity. Yet, I fondly remember great games with FMV cut scenes. Cinematic presentation should be balanced and the core gameplay should never take a back seat to it.
 

Zeroing

Banned
All can co-exist! New tech means new possibilities.
Gaming is the most complete medium! Music, Motion, Text, player input….

Just because Elden Ring, Mortal shell etc are different doesn’t mean they are better or worse! It just means diversity.

And that’s a good thing because everyone taste’s are different.
 

yurinka

Member
No. There is nothing wrong with great visuals and cutscenes and don't take anything away from what make games a unique medium.

In fact great visuals often help games better and more inmersive. And a cutscene with decent camera work and motion capture is way better than a textbox with some subtitles in front of a NPC performing its single idle animation for when characters speak.
 
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The answer is obviously no -- in fact the opposite is very obviously true, it has enhanced and diversified the way the gaming industry creates interactive experiences and caused gaming as a whole to take a huge leap forward in terms of the kinds of stories it tells.
 
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I agree with all the sentiment that there is more variety in games than ever before and cinematic games can co-exist with Super Meat Boy.

I've always thought games were the culmination of many arts and sciences.... From sound and visuals, to physics and gameplay. And story.

I guess the real thought experiment here is when does a video game transition to an interactive movie?
 

TheInfamousKira

Reseterror Resettler
I don't see how a different type of game takes away from games in general. More options is good. The problem comes from the mainstream saturation that anything that becomes even mildly popular sees.
 

Azelover

Titanic was called the Ship of Dreams, and it was. It really was.
There are many games that have a balance. But the cinematic approach is really not my cup of tea, personally. Thankfully we have choices.
 
I can't exactly remember but I suspect the bulk of the story/dialogue of TLOU2 happens outside cutscenes. The cutscenes are just for major events.
 

Zeroing

Banned
I guess the real thought experiment here is when does a video game transition to an interactive movie?
People think games like Erica or Until Dawn etc are something new but those type of games already existed on the 90s with the introduction of the CD
 
People think games like Erica or Until Dawn etc are something new but those type of games already existed on the 90s with the introduction of the CD
Yes, my previous post kinda addressed that.

FMV games had very simple gameplay like modern QTE gameplay and were generally considered terrible and are looked back as a fad.

Half Life ushered in a new era of game cinematics... Although I'm sure there's other games of the time that were also influential. And to me that type of cinematics in a game is preferable to me as it doesn't really affect the gameplay too much or slow down the pace of the game.

Even though a game like Until Dawn harkens back to those FMV games, I remember it getting a good reception and it's probably a more deeply refined version of those past concepts, but I have to try it myself one day.
 
I agree with all the sentiment that there is more variety in games than ever before and cinematic games can co-exist with Super Meat Boy.

I've always thought games were the culmination of many arts and sciences.... From sound and visuals, to physics and gameplay. And story.

I guess the real thought experiment here is when does a video game transition to an interactive movie?
True, but the "cinematic" experiences get all the money. Experimental games that play on what makes gaming unique are all relegated to indie genre right now. The last AAA game that really attempted to try anything new was death stranding, not from a story telling perspective but gameplay.
 

Zeroing

Banned
Yes, my previous post kinda addressed that.

FMV games had very simple gameplay like modern QTE gameplay and were generally considered terrible and are looked back as a fad.

Half Life ushered in a new era of game cinematics... Although I'm sure there's other games of the time that were also influential. And to me that type of cinematics in a game is preferable to me as it doesn't really affect the gameplay too much or slow down the pace of the game.

Even though a game like Until Dawn harkens back to those FMV games, I remember it getting a good reception and it's probably a more deeply refined version of those past concepts, but I have to try it myself one day.
You really need to try until Dawn! There’s more traditional gaming play than people think!
 

Zeroing

Banned
True, but the "cinematic" experiences get all the money. Experimental games that play on what makes gaming unique are all relegated to indie genre right now. The last AAA game that really attempted to try anything new was death stranding, not from a story telling perspective but gameplay.
That as nothing to do with cinematic games. the gaming industry is adverse to risk and new ideas… that has to do with Xbox 360/PS3 era were online gaming was proclaimed as the future and single player games shout out as being dead.
AA gaming died. Got replaced by indies on the previous generation.
 

Topher

Gold Member
True, but the "cinematic" experiences get all the money. Experimental games that play on what makes gaming unique are all relegated to indie genre right now. The last AAA game that really attempted to try anything new was death stranding, not from a story telling perspective but gameplay.

Cinematic games do not "get all the money". If money distribution is the issue then you should be pointing to the Call of Duty and Fortnites of gaming, not cinematic games. So how are "cinematic games" the culprit here at all?
 
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01011001

Member
easy answer YES
cinematic game design is cancer and should be called out!

And I'm not talking about having cutscenes, but as soon as you do cinematic shit during "gameplay" like slow walking sequences or deliberately make the controls irresponsive due to the need to have every movement look movie-like, then FUCK OFF...
 

samoilaaa

Member
I dont mind cinematics in games as long as they are not too long and often
For example in a game that has a 10 hour campaign i want that game to have as few cutscenes as posible but when im in the mood to play a 50+ hour game like the witcher 3 i dont mind if out of those 50 hours 10 are cutscenes , it all depends on the type of game im playing
 

01011001

Member
You really need to try until Dawn! There’s more traditional gaming play than people think!

what? no it's not. it's literally walking until QTE, repeat... that's all it is... literally.

you have zero other game mechanics whatsoever
 
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Cinematic games do not "get all the money". If money distribution is the issue then you should be pointing to the Call of Duty and Fortnites of gaming, not cinematic games. So how are "cinematic games" the culprit here at all?
You ever played a COD story...also cinematic isn't only about the good ones either. GAAS are a genre of gaming, but the majority of story based AAA games chase after the cinematic experience.
 

Ezquimacore

Banned
No, we have all kinds of games. And Elden Ring didn't do anything for that. Go play Nioh 2 and the hundreds of games doing the gameplay>cinematic thing.
 

Dream-Knife

Member
Japanese cinematic games are really good. I just really dislike western cinematic games, but that's just personal preference. I think the main issue is western AAA, not the style of game.
 

The_hunter

Member
I was thinking the same thing. Elden ring was like playing an rpg from the 90s, with today's graphics. Haven't had this much fun discovering the story since morrowind. I've pieced together the story of Raya Lucaria, the carian family, and had to go to a Latin forum to translate an in game song. Haven't been able to "dive" deep into a world like this since playing morrowind.

I wish more games would take this approach to storytelling. I feel like I'm participating in the story of the lands between, not just watching a movie.
 
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