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Croal vs. Totilo - The God of War 2 Letters

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the ready?-fight! dept.

The Media 28

I've mentioned previously how much I enjoy the writing of Newsweek's N'Gai Croal and MTV's Stephen Totilo. All this week, then, it's been a pleasure to enjoy their witty exchange on the PS2's most recent blockbuster, God of War 2. The conversation is spread across both Croal's LevelUp column and Totilo's Player Two blog, and features ruminations on the title from a number of viewpoints. If you have some time this afternoon I highly recommend you give their full correspondence a look. More than just a discussion about a single game, they manage to capture some of the greatness of the medium, with their conversation ranging across genre, time, and content to get at some of the most fundamental elements of videogaming. From N'Gai's final post: "I've said before that we 'see' videogames with our hands. Extending that analogy further, the way cutscenes are used today is the film equivalent of title cards during the silent film era: even though the audience came to the movies to watch people move, they had to do a fair bit of reading to get the full measure of the filmmaker's vision. Similarly, cutscenes leave gamers watching when they should be playing. Sure, cutscenes can communicate critical information; they allow for dramatic and spectacular sequences that might be too difficult to pull off interactively; they provide a nice breather or bookend to lengthy gameplay sections. But just as silent film gave way to the talkies, cutscenes need to keep giving way to gameplay so that our eyes--excuse me, our hands--are constantly engaged."

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Whoooooo... (2, Funny)

Stanistani (808333) | more than 7 years ago | (#18549151)

*crickets chirping*

haha (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18549153)

First comment!

I disagree with the paragraph quoted (2, Insightful)

Sciros (986030) | more than 7 years ago | (#18549185)

The paragraph appears to imply that the interactive portions of video games are some sort of objective evolution from non-interactive film. Why would games need to wholly abandon the latter if we still enjoy the occasional trip to the movies or watching a DVD at home? Video games don't need to constantly engage your thumbs to be wholly immersive or compelling, and to abandon cutscenes on the basis of some arbitrary need to always be "in control" ignores the fact that these scenes can serve to communicate something that interactivity will not. A cut to the villain plotting your demise many miles away, a flashback to a prosperous city you now see before you in ruins -- these are scenes that you need to know, but you will lose nothing by not being "in control" of those scenes. Some games don't need cutscenes and do well without them, but others need them badly. Where would FFXII be without its FMVs and plot-progressing cutscenes? Can you really replace that game's opening movie with equally compelling gameplay that tells the same story?

Re:I disagree with the paragraph quoted (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 7 years ago | (#18549369)

Can you really replace that game's opening movie with equally compelling gameplay that tells the same story?

Yes.

Re:I disagree with the paragraph quoted (1)

Sciros (986030) | more than 7 years ago | (#18549509)

You haven't thought about that answer then... there's a wedding, a funeral, some random battle strategy discussion, and a number of other things that you simply don't want to bore a player with having to "play through." Being an attendee at a wedding, or playing the part of the prince in it, or whatever, is at best not worth the time it takes compared to seeing a 15-second clip of its high point. I didn't pick that cinematic randomly... there *are* ones out there you can replace with fun, immersive gameplay. This is definitely not one of them, and I think demonstrates how directing, music, and cinematography can tell a story just as well as an interactive game does (better actually, as I've yet to see a game that is as emotionally involving as some films out there).

Re:I disagree with the paragraph quoted (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 7 years ago | (#18549935)

Actually your right, and in general I don't object in the least to the opening movie at the beginning of games.

Eternal Darkness on the gamecube was a game where you run from cutscene to cutscene and the story is told largely in the cutscenes, but it works, and its a great game because it knows that is what it is. The cutscenes contain crucial information and hints on how to solve the puzzles, etc.

Many other games purport to be FPSes and then keep INTERRUPTING the game play to show you a cutscene that by and large is uninteresting, irrelevant, and furthers a plot most players don't give a crap about.

Still other games are designed such that these disruptive cutscenes are stuck right before boss encounters or other death traps and then force you to watch them repeatedly as demented punishment for not getting through on your first attempt.

Far more games get cutscenes wrong than right.

Re:I disagree with the paragraph quoted (1)

xerxesVII (707232) | more than 7 years ago | (#18551899)

Still other games are designed such that these disruptive cutscenes are stuck right before boss encounters or other death traps and then force you to watch them repeatedly as demented punishment for not getting through on your first attempt.

Eternal Darkness being one of my most hated offenders for that very crime. It's a wonderful game, excellent story-telling, all that. Too bad the FMV before the final boss battle is so very long and so very unskippable.

Yes. (1)

anti-human 1 (911677) | more than 7 years ago | (#18549537)

Yes, you can. [bungie.org] Not necessarily the same story, but it's hard to top Marathon. Some would also mention Half Life. Different approach to storytelling, but still no FMVs to sit through.

Re:I disagree with the paragraph quoted (1)

Achoi77 (669484) | more than 7 years ago | (#18552593)

The whole issue of how to generalize video games down to a common basis is not very fair imo. I haven't RTFA (because I'm a lazy bastard that doesn't want to wait for the page to load, plus I was interested in the dialogue going on in this thread)- but based on what I've read it appears the point of interest lies in the usage of cutscenes and the point of conveying the 'romance' of the content supplied and the apparent drama that is created from the content and the artistic 'direction' of the content rendered, and whether or not the content rendered would be appropriately classified as interactive, or part of the game appropriately.

IMO ultimately all the content in game should be classified as interactive to varying degrees - you had to do 'stuff' to get to the cutscene, and whatever stuff that you've done is wholly dependent on the creater of the game; perhaps it may have been as simple as pushing the 'next cutscene' button, or maybe it requires you to totally grok the gameplay in order to get there(I haven't played GOW, but Ninja Gaiden for the xbox comes to mind)

But interaction is a totally relative term on a case-by-case basis. And so would the artistic content. GOW is a totally different from, Wii tennis, for example. And chess is different from an ADandD session. To try to define a game and what makes a good game and boil it down to the essentials, you're always going to find a different set of core elements that make a great game. This is coupled with the fact that there are a metric ton of terrible games out there, that have sold very well - deeming it in the eyes of the industry as a 'good' game therefore trying to infleuence the consumer as such.

Comparing two different video games is not lie trying to compare two different movies-whether they be from the same era or not. Videogaming cannot be classified as a medium. The video game _itself_ is the medium, and it is entirely up to the creator of that game to determine how to employ it. He/she can make it LIKE a film. Or make it employ intense brain activity. Or make it as mindless as possible. Or make it physically intense. Or require complicated precision and dexterity only obtained from practice practice practice. Or be visually beautiful. Or be based off of interaction of others. Or a combination of different factors.

The best game in the world would be artistically beautiful, easy to pick up, have an engaging story, require amazing gameplay, be incredibly difficult to master, not require dedication, be massively multiplayer, be single player, require a dancepad, microphone, guitar and a controller- all at the same time. And be cheap, and developed with a limited budget. And be fun. And that's impossible, simply because the several factors involved are polar opposites. So what is a developer to do?

Time to get off(was on the blackberry- stuck in a bus)

Re:I disagree with the paragraph quoted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18552879)

"Where would FFXII be without its FMVs and plot-progressing cutscenes? Can you really replace that game's opening movie with equally compelling gameplay that tells the same story?"

It'd actually be a game, instead of a huge movie done in CGI.

Great Game (5, Interesting)

MBCook (132727) | more than 7 years ago | (#18549191)

I've been playing GOW II recently and I have to say it's a FANTSTIC game. It looks great on my TV at widescreen and 480p, and it's a blast to play. Despite the fact that they to handicap Kratos (he was a god at the end of the last game, they had to do SOMETHING) they've done an excelelnt job in the parts I've played so far and handling his abilities, story telling, and keeping me hooked. The camera works great (because it's scripted). Loads are fast. For the most part, it's a textbook case of how to do a great game.

The only complaint I have is the visual tearing which is by no means infrequent. It looks like VSYNC was turned off. It is rather annoying. I'm really sorry that made it through QA (probably done to keep the frame rate up, but in a game like this with so much fast moving stuff it is quite noticeable).

Still, games like this and Shadow of the Colossus have come out of the PS2. I'd be happy with God of War II on a next-gen console if it was just anti-aliased. I can't wait to see what people can pull out of the PS3 and 360 4-5 years from now. Can you imagine what people would have said if you had Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, or God of War (1/2) near the PS2 launch. That would have blown people's minds of what "next-generation" could be at the time.

Re:Great Game (1)

xero314 (722674) | more than 7 years ago | (#18549463)

The camera works great (because it's scripted).
For me the fixed/scripted camera was the only part of the game I have truly disliked so far (at least technically). There are many hide items in the game and not being able to actually look around makes finding some of these things a real bitch. I don't know how many times I've had to just jump off a ledge, to my death usually, just to check and see if there were a hidden ledge below. Now this was not a problem in games like the first two OddWorlds, but since this some times means repeating a 15 minute battle in GOW2 it gets pretty annoying.

Oh and the fact that the titans don't move full body except in the cut scenes, which SoC showed would have been quite possible, even on last gen hardware.

Re:Great Game (1)

MBCook (132727) | more than 7 years ago | (#18549705)

I tend to like fixed cameras. Most of the time I find that having the camera under my control is because they couldn't get the logic half-decent, and had to do it to make the game playable. There have been a few instances where it has annoyed me, but by and large I think they did a very good job with it.

As for Shadow of the Colossus, you have to remember that the scenes were VERY simple, except for the Colossus and the main character. Plus the game had noticeable frame-rate issues. So to combine that with the rest of the stuff in the scenes in GOW II probably would have been a problem.

Still, both games look fantastic and could pass as next-gen if they were just anti-aliased.

Re:Great Game (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18550519)

Dude, fixed cameras suck. They suck.

They SUUU-HUUU-HUUUUU-UUUUUUCK

Fixed cameras suck. Just deal.

Re:Great Game (1)

RQuinn (521500) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554243)

Can you imagine what people would have said if you had Ico (...) near the PS2 launch.
Ico came out in 2001, within the PS2's first year.

Letters? (1)

bluemonq (812827) | more than 7 years ago | (#18549199)

You mean like alpha and omega?

GoW 2 - A Love Letter To The PS2 Hardware (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18549207)

The PS2 hardware was pretty much finalized back in late 1997/early 1998 and hit the shelves in 1999 in Japan. Just think how long ago that is and how far technology has progressed in that decade since.

My god are Sony virtuosoes in designing and manufacturing console hardware. The PS2 will go down in history as the pinnacle of console design and engineering. So much power for so little silicon.

One look at games like Little Big Planet, Ratchet and Clank, Heavenly Sword, Lair,...and try to imagine how utterly insane GoW 3 is going to look on the amazing PS3 hardware.

 

Re:GoW 2 - A Love Letter To The PS2 Hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18550869)

Anonymous Sony Shill - a love letter to a piece of plastic and sand.

You really aren't helping your cause anymore. Please stop.

What? (-1, Troll)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 7 years ago | (#18549239)

That quote is such an enormous piece of crap that I can smell it from here. Hell, I don't even know where to start. We "see" video games with our hands? Well that will teach all those people who make games that you play with your feet, or that you interact with through audio, or video. Get them out of the market! Watching when we should be playing? God forbid! How dare they make us experience something we have no control over. Until video games are a direct projection on the screen of exactly what's going on in our mind, I guess he won't be happy. Of course, once we get to that point, who needs developers... Or artistic direction. We certainly can't let a game convey any static concepts to us though!

Fuck this guys eyes and hands. The point of games are to keep your brain entertained. And if he can't be entertained by a cut-scene, he should play something else, or go back to jerking off.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18549495)

Well that will teach all those people who make games that you play with your feet, or that you interact with through audio, or video. Get them out of the market!

Oh, for heaven's sake... His point is that you experience games through the interface (you "see" DDR through your feet, for example), not that hands are more important than any other appendage.

Re:What? (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 6 years ago | (#18550359)

Thanks for missing the point. It is clear he would have articulated his point as such if he happened to bother thinking the entire thing through. That quote essentialy says "games should either be shooters, racers, platformers, or sports, and nothing else!" except he had to trick you into reading it. If he had come right out and said "You should only like the games I like" in the same way thousands of others have had the argument in the past you wouldn't even have bothered to read it.

Re:What? (1)

austinpoet (789122) | more than 7 years ago | (#18549751)

If you are one of the lucky ones, you can play a game enough to have it's controls be almost subconscious. It's as if you are playing with your hands(feet or whatever interface being used) without having to have your brain turned on.

How many times have you tried to explain a complex gaming moment and failed, but your hands were conditioned enough to be able to pull off the move repeatedly?

Re:What? (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 6 years ago | (#18550311)

That only makes my point even stronger. You don't 'play' a good game so much as 'experience' it. It doesn't matter if you're pushing buttons the whole time?

I think it's absurd that I got moderated 'Troll' for my comment. I don't think I said was any more rediculous than the story itself.

Re:What? (1)

dadioflex (854298) | more than 7 years ago | (#18551407)

Smartest "troll" comment I've seen for a while. I agree pretty much wholeheartedly. Bitching about cut-scenes eating into the gametime is akin to bitching about story-progression eating into an action film. Or, for another take, it reinforces my view that all cut-scenes should be skippable. You want interaction? Hit that space/escape key, bitch...

I think the answer lies somewhere between (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18549813)

Basically, from what I got out of TFA, one guy thinks cutscenes should be interactive always, even if the level of interaction is low. The other guy says there's nothing wrong with non-interactive cutscenes.

As with most things, I think the best result is usually a happy medium. As the guy who is okay with non-interactivity says, sometimes, a scene is more powerful when you can't control it. He uses the big plot reveal from KOTOR as an example. The cut scene makes you wait as the camera pans around to reveal the big twist. You can't hurry it along. Moments like this make much more sense in a non-interactive form, because the director can time all of the various elements to his vision -- the sound goes dramatic, the camera sweeps in, right as the voice actors say their line.

In other situations, keeping the story telling interactive makes more sense. Some games go overboard with cutscenes. Xenosaga is one example of one that went too far, imo. If you've got a lot of meat to the story, tell it during gameplay, not during a 15 minute cutscene. Have party members talk about the issues while I'm navigating a dungeon, or whatever.

I don't think there's a concrete right way to do it. It just depends on the situation, and its up to the designers to find out what works best for what they're trying to do.

Re:I think the answer lies somewhere between (1)

dadioflex (854298) | more than 7 years ago | (#18551465)

Personally I thought reading either sets of comments hurt more than... more than.. more than the cut scenes from Unreal 2. Sorry, I have to take that back, it was unfair...

Sorry it took so long for me to post... (1)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 6 years ago | (#18550383)

But just as silent film gave way to the talkies, cutscenes need to keep giving way to gameplay so that our eyes--excuse me, our hands--are constantly engaged.


Sorry it took so long for me to post...my eyes and my hands were engaged in other activity.

Gears of War has solved this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18552565)

But just as silent film gave way to the talkies, cutscenes need to keep giving way to gameplay so that our eyes--excuse me, our hands--are constantly engaged."


Among its many simplistic strokes of genius (redundant, I acknowlege) Gears of War offers a way around this quandry- the "Y" button during in-engine events. By making them within the scene and completley optional, you *want* to press it to see what happens. It's the videogame equivalent of having a sixth sense. Simple and perfect.
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