Cinematic Video Games Degrading Gameplay

Discussion in 'General Gaming Discussion' started by Ryukouki, Mar 8, 2015.

  1. Ryukouki

    Ryukouki See you later, guys.

    Jan 31, 2008
    United States

    Video games are interesting. They're moving into the territory of cinema lately - with hyper-realistic graphics and longer winded cutscenes that tell their story. These types of games started taking off during the days of the XBOX 360 and the Playstation 3, and seem to be increasingly common in games lately. Lately though, games seem to have stopped focusing on the gameplay element, relying on their same tried and true formulas, staying safe, in order to create this cinematic experience. Games like Ninja Gaiden III were plagued by this, featuring cutscenes that required minimal input in order to encapsulate the experience as a series of events. Final Fantasy XIII was plagued by these cutscenes, and it got chided as being excessively linear for the sake of experiencing the story. Heck, when games ask you to select a difficulty, sometimes they do not even hide the fact that the easy difficulty is for those who "want to experience the story." And then the game becomes mind-numbingly easy with extremely simplistic AI that don't quite seem to know what they are doing. So why is the video gaming industry moving towards this cinematic model, and what exactly are some of the hypothetical factors that are causing this?

    Does this come down to an innovation issue? Could gaming immersion be going too far to get the player hooked with eye candy graphics? Does gaming in general seem to be going simpler, following their tried formula to make their money based on their fanbase, or is this the new direction that gaming seems to be going in? Gaming in general has seen huge advances, such as virtual reality technology, that creates a more immersive experience. Does virtual reality have a chance to bring another paradigm shift back to focusing on gameplay rather than these visually pleasing cinematic sequences? On top of that, these cinematic sequences take up absurd amounts of space that could have been spent on gameplay elements. And with game updates, patches, or full-blown downloads reaching the dozens of gigabytes lately, it's raising a high bar standard for my expectations as to what I want to see in the game, but instead it's too cinematic focused and doesn't do anything to distinguish itself from the crowds with innovative gameplay elements, instead dumbing their level of complexity down quite a bit. As such, it was generally observed that games like The Order: 1866 got derided by the gaming community for sacrificing their gameplay and opting for the cinematic experience. They've opted to make a game fancy and try and sell using famous people in order to show that the visuals and cinematics are more important - for instance, look at Kevin Spacey's role in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.

    Video games have lost a lot of complexity lately with these cinema sequences, so it's definitely a nice refresher when something like Dark Souls comes out that puts the mind to work, invoking many feelings of frustration. A lot of our Nintendo related reviews have criticized the games for being too simple, and having a bit too much in the eye candy department, favoring colorful visuals. Games lately also seem to have a get out of jail free card for when the situation gets tough, to help the player further experience the story. Ninja Gaiden III did away with exciting gameplay elements and instead opted for "quick time sequences," cutscenes that the player was forced to interact with, to continue the gameplay. I still miss the days when Ninja Gaiden was an insanely hard play through back on the days of the NES.

    But then, are there other factors at work here? Are these cinematic experiences designed to open up the game to a more accepting audience? Are gamers nowadays too impatient and spoiled by instant gratification to want to sit down and have an engaging play through? Game play times have been incredibly low nowadays - a game like Captain Toad Treasure Tracker only took about eight hours to complete 100%, when compared to the old days where an average game took dozens of hours to complete. Games back then, like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time took up to fifty hours, often more. Are games trying to compete and get an edge over the mobile gaming industry?

    Mobile games are also something that need to be kept in mind. With many people moving to the more advanced smart phone, games can be downloaded and played instantly. Games played mobile are often played in quick spurts and then lock the player to a pay wall that prevents proceeding. A lot of these games are addicting, and are easy enough for anyone to pick up most of the time. Is it safe to say that mobile gaming has had an impact on the quality of the console front video games?

    Now, a lot of this stuff is just theory that I was thinking about, and I would love to find some correlations that tie the cinematic experience to some of the factors I noted above. What are your thoughts on this? Do you see cinematic gaming as the new shift in video gaming? Where is the cutoff for a game that has just the right amount of cinema and good gameplay? Does mobile have enough of a fingerprint as to why the games industry is moving in such a direction? (If you find any kind of concrete proof, do tell me!) Have at it in the comments.
    suctions, Nym5, matpower and 8 others like this.
  2. VinsCool

    VinsCool Absconditus

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    Jan 7, 2014
    Another World
    Completely agreeing with you.
    Cinematic videogames sucks. I'm more into older/retro games than next-gen.
    Why? Because most are better at their time.
  3. Wellington2k

    Wellington2k DO YOU HAS?

    Nov 1, 2010
    United States
    Somewhere in this world of ours
    Totally agree. This is why I've turned to independent games and classic retro games. And while some newer games do have fun gameplay, there's nothing like pulling out The Curse of Monkey Island and Battletoads.
    KingBlank likes this.
  4. avran89

    avran89 ALWB 4 LIFE!!! MOOSE!!!

    May 10, 2011
    United States
    Pokemon League
    Some games like Last of Us or Uncharted is cinematic like a movie and it gotten great reviews by the consensus in the gaming media perhaps it's a different taste for some gamers
    chavosaur and Chary like this.
  5. jonthedit

    jonthedit GBAtemp Advanced Maniac

    May 30, 2011
    Metal Gear Solid : Movie was a great game...
    or was it?
  6. stanleyopar2000

    stanleyopar2000 Dirty Weeb ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

    Jun 22, 2007
    United States
    Heavy Rain was a great game....was it most like a movie??? yes, but the story was so good we almost didn't care..
  7. Walker D

    Walker D I have a hat

    Nov 15, 2009
    My home
    Some games nowadays are more like "press A to continue the movie" ....pfff I prefer to actually play a game
  8. endoverend

    endoverend AKA zooksman

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    Jun 6, 2013
    United States
  9. KSP

    KSP GBAtemp Fan

    Jan 7, 2015
    United States
    Video Gaming as an entertainment medium is changing and growing to become something more. The idea of gameplay and what is gameplay is also changing.
    The notion of difficulty, and remembering button combinations and combos, and learning boss flowcharts, and doing speed runs and etc. are things of the past. They will always be there in some form, but as gaming evolves, so will the idea of gameplay.

    "Beyond Two Souls", "Heavy Rain" have tackled traditional notions of gameplay and as the future progresses more cinematic games will tackle even more conventional ideas of what we perceive to be "gameplay". Does a game need a boss? Do you need to fight something? Do you need to have a stage? Do you need to have challenging motives defined by repetitive memory reflexes with repeated trial and error? Do games have to fall into a subset genre with standardized control methods and objectives. i.e fighters, rpgs, fps, rts, etc, etc?

    The very notion of what is a video game and what determines whether a game is challenging and fun is changing as the medium grows from what once was a kids toy to something more.

    Only the future can answer all these questions, but its safe to say that the era of gameplay being defined by traditional systems are going away. Maybe one day all games will have no defined motives, no bosses, no stages, no challenges other than a world where a player makes choices and experiences the results of such choices in a narrative thread not to dissimilar from cinema, but fully within your control. Who knows.

    But one thing is certain is that gaming is changing as we are changing with it. I recently found myself playing a game called "Remember Me" by Capcom and found the idea and world behind the game to be so fascinating that I almost felt ripped off by the fact that the game had to fit within a childish genre of a brawler. It was the first time where I felt that the game could have discarded all of its gameplay elements and have been better for it. I would have been content with simply walking around talking to people and manipulating memories and seeing the story unfold through a more adult manner, the combat and other traditional gameplay elements felt pointless, and juvenile. This was the first time I ever felt this way about any game. So, have I changed, or has my expectation of gaming changed?
    Ryukouki likes this.
  10. kenenthk

    kenenthk Custom Title

    May 26, 2013
    Burkina Faso
    Why don't they just call them Movie games?
    Margen67 likes this.
  11. Pedeadstrian

    Pedeadstrian GBAtemp's Official frill-necked lizard.

    Oct 12, 2012
    United States
    Sandy Eggo
    Ryu, I know this wasn't your intention, but don't compare play times of games like Captain Toad, a puzzle game, to LoZ, an adventure (rpg?) game. Back in the "good, ol' days" there were plenty of games that could be completed in less than 8 hours. What you need to do is compare games, within the same genre, and preferably in the same series. Final Fantasy 7 vs. 13, for example.

    Yes, some games developers/series are leaning towards shorter, more cinematic games, and the gameplay often suffers for it. The problem is, this is occurring in the most popular series. Final Fantasy, CoD, MGS, and other AAA (I'm not sure if MGS is, but I'd imagine it is) series are more cinematic and QTE-filled nowadays. It's easy for some people (developers) to see that and go "Oh hey, look at how popular QTE are! LET'S GIVE THEM MOAR!" when in actuality players don't want QTE, they just want the games that happen to contain them. Some games pull them off, like Telltale Games' (although some series are hit and miss), while others, like FFXIII-2, make you wonder why you have to stop paying attention to the cutscene so you can avoid a giant golem hitting you in the face.

    I doubt mobile games are to blame. Mobile games are mostly about the ability to pick it up whenever you want, letting you not worry about whether or not you'll be able to save before you get off the plane/bus/toilet. Cutscenes, especially QTE ones, go in the opposite direction, forcing you to pay extra attention and delay the ability for you to get to a safe/save zone.

    Honestly, I love cutscenes. One of my favorite games of all time, Xenosaga III, is chock full of them. There are many instances where you could just sit, without any controller input (except for maybe hitting x to advance text, although I think it had auto-play) for dozens of minutes at a time. Those are the kinds of cutscenes I enjoy. I can't tell you how many times I've been playing a game like The Wolf Among Us, where I was laid back, focused on the story, and all of a sudden a QTE pops up and I'm like "Oh right, this is a video game, I need to keep my hands on the keyboard." Unfortunately, it looks like QTE are here to stay, at least for a while. There's a good amount of big-name RPGs coming out this year and next (FFXV, Persona 5, KH3) and I'm hoping they restore my faith in the QTE-less video game.
  12. Ryukouki

    Ryukouki See you later, guys.

    Jan 31, 2008
    United States

    Oh, god damn it. Heh, first off, yeah I realize what you're saying about the comparisons in the first part of your post. It's been a long day at work and I needed to unwind... And I had Telltale games in my notes but forgot to include them. :sad:

    I personally love cutscenes too, but sometimes it's a bit excessive for me and if the majority of the game is in cutscenes that doesn't really add to the gameplay overall, then it just kinda... sours the experience for me. One of the titles that I felt did cutscenes right was the Onimusha franchise. I fucking LOVED that franchise, and I'm legitimately pissed that the series has been snubbed on since like 2005 or 2006. Whenever the heck Dawn of Dreams came out. :mellow: Holy crap I feel old. I feel like cutscenes need to be done just right with advancement of the plot (but this is completely subjective) otherwise people just kinda gloss over it, like they do the credit sequences.
  13. TemplarGR

    TemplarGR Gaming expert

    Sep 2, 2011
    I will just a copy a recent comment i made somewhere else about cinematic games. I don't want to write it again...

    “Cinematic” games are just better for their profits. The true reason AAA developers prefer “cinematic” games, is because they are more suitable to sequels and anual/frequent releases.

    Imagine for a moment a game that has good gameplay and it can be played for a long time. The gamer would then be less inclined to buy another version of the same game next year. What for? He could enjoy the game he has now… Any newer additions could just be lower priced expansions.

    But big publishers want moar. How could they convince their customers to ditch their games and buy the new releases? Well, make the games more “cinematic” AKA more story driven, and make the games shorter and with less good/replayable gameplay. That way, no one is really satisfied with PLAYING games anymore, they just play for the story, and as soon as a new game comes out, they have to get it ASAP in order to continue this story.

    The investment needed is less as well. With “cinematic” games, you don’t need to really invest heavily for each sequel. You use the very same game engine, you reuse most art assets, and voila, another 60+plus cut cont… ahem DLC each year! Think Mass effect trilogy. Objectivily mediocre Gear of Wars clones with a dialogue wheel, and lots of dialogues and cutscenes… Same game engine for each game, reused assets in the extreme, tons of dlc. Imagine how much profit EA made from this one…

    The problem with this approach, is that even those stories are not that good most of the time. We just tend to overrate them because of the interactivity. When you are watching a boring movie, you can accurately tell it is a boring movie, because you are not invested in it personally. But with a game, you are the protagonist, so no matter how bad the story is, you are concentrated on it for many hours and so get to give it much more significance than it really has.

    There is a problem when it is much more preferable to watch a movie version of a “cinematic” game on Youtube, instead of actually playing. You get to spend no money, spend much much less time (which is far more valuable than money in this life), and you get the same actual content, minus the boring experience of the gameplay segments which only cut from the immersion of the story anyway… That way, you can also more accurately judge if a story is actually good, and you can even quit in the middle if it seems it is not worth it.

    For example, there is a movie version of “The last of us” with a 6 hour length. Much less than the actual game, which is boring to play anyway. 10 hour movie versions exist of FFXII and each of the FXIIIs… Much less than the actual BORING games. And the list goes on…

    If this trend continues, we will have a repeat of the 80s: Western part of the industry will crash, and Nintendo will save the day. *again*…
  14. Qtis

    Qtis Grey Knight Inquisitor

    Feb 28, 2010
    The Forge
    Much depends on what you're actually asking of the game. Heavy Rain has been one of the rare cases where I've been standing instead of sitting while playing. Then we have games with unskippable cut scenes after which you get boss fights.. In my opinion, there has to be a reason for gameplay and cinematics. If the game is short but had a good story, I'd rate it high. If it was on the contrary, it would depend quite a bit.
    Tom Bombadildo likes this.
  15. Trevor Belmont

    Trevor Belmont GBAtemp Regular

    Mar 30, 2013
    United States
    timbuk2, kamtucky
    Cinematics in videogames goes back wayyyy before the current or last gen.
    Ever played games like the original Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid or Final Fantasy VII on the original Playstation...?
    Kippykip likes this.
  16. Disco

    Disco GBAtemp Fan

    Nov 10, 2006
    Well, I love cinematic games, and I also love ''real games'' ....aaaand I also love visual novel games which in essence are ''chose your adventure'' interactive books ;)
    As you can see I just love gaming. Having completed COD:AW Sp on my PC, and also platinumed aforementioned Order 1886 in just 9hrs (it took me 8:30h to complete the game and 30 more mins to find two collectibles for platinum trophey), I can say that I still love COD's cinematic SP campaigns but Order has a dull and extremely limiting gameplay. The graphics are some of the best I have ever seen, sound, and voice acting also, but gameplay is so dull that it brings down the ''game''.
    I borrowed Order from my friend so I didn't have to pay for it, so that's a vig plus for me :D
    And also the game lenght isn't everything, for me it's in the gameplay! Also graphics and sound take a big part in the games overall appeal, but gameplay gameplay, gameplay...that's why the medium is called videogames!

    Example of short but awesome game is Another World, I completed that game like 50+ times, I love it! Example of good lenghty game is Diablo 3.
    Example of lenghty and IMHO dull and boring game is Destiny, I'm calling it Diablo in first person, but boy that game can't compare to the awesomness of Diablo!
    Also I prefer shorter games, because I am an older gamer, and I have to work, work around the house etc, so I don't have much time as I had as teenager ;)

    Oh and just to mention, MGS is one of my favourite series of all time!!
  17. NicEXE

    NicEXE GBAtemp Fan

    Dec 6, 2009
    I'm just going to leave this here:
    Kippykip and Locke644 like this.
  18. Steena

    Steena GBAtemp Advanced Fan

    Sep 13, 2009
    ( ! disclaimer: opinion ! )

    When something gradually loses its uniqueness, and instead opts to become another medium's bastard child for the sake of better marketing and recognition, you can argue it's becoming something less, not something more.

    This industry is filled with developers who publicly hate videogames for not being movies. When you see them in a preview claiming: "We made the game better, now it feels more like a hollywood movie!". Any "evolution" this is gonna take us, no matter which, is going to be for the worse.

    As for "cinematic games", this term is often being used to excuse poor gameplay rather than defining a unique type of game. Why come up with good gameplay, balancing and designing, when you can just pour raw money on production with mocap/QTE/cutscenes/dialogue/voice acting? One relies on quality mechanics and design efficiency, the other is almost entirely reliant on throwing piles of funds to a number of different established professions. I wonder what path will a big AAA studio take!

    Yeah, that's because its gameplay was poorly designed. It's not much a matter of a game being better without combat, as it is having coherent gameplay that properly fits your game.

    A game like shadow of the colossus, is an example of a great cinematic game. And that game has fantastic gameplay; you're spending the entirety of your game time exploring and fighting. Gameplay and interactivity have nothing to do with being cinematic or not. Cinematic is the way you present your tools, not removing some of the tools. That would make for a half assed movie that would have been better/more complete as an actual movie. Like Heavy Rain.

    Games like heavy rain, they have absolutely no purpose of being a videogame. You don't feel the panic of a father looking for his son by spamming X, you don't feel a character's struggle by alternating L1/R1. That game could have been a movie with multiple versions and absolutely nothing would have changed in the player experience. It does a horrible job at communicating with the player.

    I will give you two examples of games that do a much better job at connecting the player with their characters, that perhaps may surprise you:

    Souls games are great games because they present their story/world/lore through player interaction (exploration, risk/reward situations), coupled with the design choice of an aggressive environment: you WANT to look for help, perhaps finding a piece of information, a consumable, or a piece of gear. Different players have very diverse first playthroughs of the souls games, because standard items are locked behind secrets that you may or may not find. Souls is not good because it's difficult for the sake of difficulty; Souls is good because difficulty is a core design choice that ties in with its universe/setting.

    Dwarf Fortress is an even better example at this. In this game, the "game over" state is not just a binary state, it's a butterfly effect with massive build-up (sometimes hours long), and as a result happens very differently every single time. "game over" in dwarf fortress is not one, but several gameplay mechanics in itself. You could say that every time you restart it's a different story. I've witnessed more engaging stories in DF than any david cage game, supposedly "deeply emotional and cinematic games". And DF is a game made in ASCII.

    In my 3 examples, there are plenty of epic moments, stories and storytelling, but they deliver them 100% through interactivity in one way or another, infact they are very much known for not focusing on cinematics/cutscenes/spoonfeeding a story, in traditional terms. This is something only videogames can ever achieve, therefore developers should be focusing on this. A movie will always be better at being a movie than a videogame.
  19. Reploid

    Reploid GBAtemp Advanced Fan

    Jan 20, 2010
    Serbia, Republic of
    And even games that branded as interactive movies, like Heavy Rain, have better story and gameplay, than lame-ass Call of dooty or FF13. So the shitty games from shitty developers are to blame, not the craze itself.
  20. TemplarGR

    TemplarGR Gaming expert

    Sep 2, 2011
    Tell me this isn't true... I haven't touched this franchise since the first MW, but WTF?

    You get a fscking achievement/promotion for simply pressing X to continue a cutscene?

    And since when cutscenes need user input?
    Kippykip likes this.