In preparation for the Lord of the Rings Online expansion, I have been trying to pump through the epic quests. The other night I completed Book 5 with the help of my guild. The last instance of Book 5 is a mission to stop a Gaunt Lord and Nazgul from resurrecting a dead, frozen dragon in the Misty Mountains. Once we got to the actual site of the resurrection the whole party was stunned while the scene played out. It was a really cool scene with the Gaunt Lord sacrificing fell souls and basically trying to zap the dragon back alive. It was not so cool to see 6 people standing there for a minute wobbling like drunks when we should’ve been Nazgul-bashing.
There are three basic cut scene types. The first is the Evil Plan Cut Scene where players can move and use skills as they wish but cannot affect the big bad until it concludes the history of its plan to eliminate said players. The second is the Stunned Stupid Cut Scene where players are unable to move or use skills (although, they are usually equally impervious) but retain complete camera control. And the third is Cinematic Cut Scenes where control of the camera and player character is taken away to give more theatrical shots one would not ordinarily see in normal play.
Turbine has included all three in Lord of the Rings Online. You can hop over Samwell Gamgee’s hobbit head to your heart’s content while Elrond bids the Fellowship farewell. You can get stunned stupid on multiple occasions in order to hear what the thing you will be killing 3 minutes later has to say. Or, you can allow the developers to show you cinematically how it’s really supposed to go (actually if you watch this example, you can see all three cut scene styles including jumping over the impervious big bad’s head… and SPOILER warning).
Bobby Stein, writing team lead for ArenaNet, discussed in a recent Ten Ton Hammer interview the difficulties of implementing cinematic cut scenes in an MMO engine. Guild Wars primarily uses cinematic-style cut scenes mixed with some James Bond-style evil plan cut scenes. In the interview Stein discusses the difficulty of keeping a player’s attention and getting them interested in the lore. He says the challenge is to impart the story in the smallest space possible. Cut scenes, in my opinion, are a lot easier to digest than ye ol’ wall o’ text.
I have to say that my favorite is the cinematic cut scenes, and my least favorite is the stunned stupid cut scenes. Usually the writers and programmers take the time and effort to make a cinematic cut scene a worthwhile break, and if the cut scene is boring I can jump around like a 12-year old needing Ritalin for time-passing amusement in the evil plan cut scenes. However, with the stunned stupid cut scenes I have to sit there watching my hero drool like an idiot while a Gaunt Lord takes 2 minutes to use its fell-powered crash cart on a decaying dead dragon. I should be a hero, not an invalid.
…movies make psychos more creative!