StarCraft 2 Writer: Cinematics Tell "Very Important" Stories

| 1 Apr 2013 21:10
image

Brian Kindregan claims that cutscenes can be used to tell stories in ways gameplay can't.

Back in the day, being cinematic in a videogame was simple. The original Ninja Gaiden impressed many players with its cutscenes, many of which were little more than slideshows. Since those early days however, the prominence of in-game cutscenes would grow. Some of the most memorable moments of many titles would be ones that gamers were restricted to watching.

That hasn't been the case as much in recent years. As videogames have evolved, so too has the ability of gameplay to match, in terms of storytelling, traditional cutscenes and cinematics. In turn, many developers have moved away from cutscenes and more into integrating story moments into gameplay itself. Some in the gaming industry have gone so far as to label the mere inclusion of a cinematic as being a failure on the part of the developer. Contrary to this belief, Brian Kindregan, lead writer for StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm, recently defended cinematic sequences, citing their ability to give life to simple sprites and focus to a game's story.

"When we put the story in a scripted scene, like a briefing or debrief, we are telling players that this is important, we're trying to make you look at it," said Kindregan, speaking at a GDC panel. "But it doesn't necessarily mean it's a huge, impactful moment when a story turns. So when we put story in a cinematic, we're telling players it's very important. It indicates what kind of story the player is about to get."

Kindregan admits that a cinematic on its own isn't always a good thing, stating that too many cutscenes, poorly executed ones, or even good cinematics that are out of step with the feeling of the gameplay, can be potential detractors from an experience. "The cinematic needs to leave players in a spot that makes them think, 'Great, I want to go hit play now,'" he said. "But the emotion of the end is wide open: you can have humorous, violence, bittersweet, sad, happy, all of those are on the table. The only thing you can't modulate or mess with is the tempo."

While the examples that Kindregan cites come largely from his experience with StarCraft 2, they are lessons that could easily be applied across the spectrum of gaming genres. Storytelling is one of the challenges that many developers continue to struggle with, and while better writing would certainly be a help to many studios, knowledge on how to better present stories to gamers could perhaps go even further.

Source: Polygon

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Too bad the story StarCraft 2 has to tell is largely garbage...

I wouldn't go so low as to call it fanfic, but it is good old fashioned camp. And I love me some camp.

Rblade:

The Crotch:
Unfortunately, Blizzard's cinematics tell really, really dumb stories. But so does the gameplay, I guess, so I can't really blame the tools.

I mean, they look really cool, but I wish they'd stop pretending that they're saying anything remotely worth paying attention to.

I think the SC2 story gets more hate then it deserves. At least compared to lots of other games. Depending on how legacy of the void ties everything together I think it is at least a fun if a little overacted tale. I like how HotS explained some things like the tal darim and all that. It's no masterpiece of storytelling by any stretch of the imagination but I'm getting the feeling it's being branded as this horrible excuse of a story that only serves to tie the missions together and I think it's nowhere near the bottom of the "horrible story" spectrum

OT: I've always loved cinematics,and blizzard is a master of cinematics. I don't think I have any better explination then Brian Kindregan already provided.

One thing I can say about Blizzard stories is that even though they are melodramatic and cliche they never seem cynical or slapdashed. It actually looks and feels like they have genuine enthusiasm for what they're doing, and enthusiasm, even if it ends up being stupid, is something I admire. The people behind the stories seem like your average Dungeonmaster or fellow nerd in terms of storytelling, no formal training but definitely earnest.

BanicRhys:

SupahGamuh:
*sigh*... I wouldn't call SC2 as an example of storytelling. At best, it's a mess.

freakonaleash:
For me it is not getting enough hate.

freakonaleash:
SC2 writers huh? Blizzards current writers need to re-think the way they are writing stories ATM.

I keep seeing these vague statements about how the writing of Starcraft 2 was "cliched", "sloppy" and/or "incoherent" but I've yet to see anyone actually elaborate these statements into anything that could be considered an argument.

Yeah, I was about to ask about the same thing. I mean, sure, HotS wasn't exactly a masterpiece of storytelling but this is the first time I'm noticing people complaining about it sucking so bad. Pretty harsh to compare it with Ultima 9 as well.

Rblade:

The Crotch:
Unfortunately, Blizzard's cinematics tell really, really dumb stories. But so does the gameplay, I guess, so I can't really blame the tools.

I mean, they look really cool, but I wish they'd stop pretending that they're saying anything remotely worth paying attention to.

I think the SC2 story gets more hate then it deserves. At least compared to lots of other games. Depending on how legacy of the void ties everything together I think it is at least a fun if a little overacted tale. I like how HotS explained some things like the tal darim and all that. It's no masterpiece of storytelling by any stretch of the imagination but I'm getting the feeling it's being branded as this horrible excuse of a story that only serves to tie the missions together and I think it's nowhere near the bottom of the "horrible story" spectrum

OT: I've always loved cinematics,and blizzard is a master of cinematics. I don't think I have any better explination then Brian Kindregan already provided.

It's more like it throws both Wings of Liberty and the first game and Brood War right out the window for retcons that are really really really really shitty. It deserves all the hate it gets.

SupahGamuh:
*sigh*... I wouldn't call SC2 as an example of storytelling. At best, it's a mess.

freakonaleash:
For me it is not getting enough hate.

freakonaleash:
SC2 writers huh? Blizzards current writers need to re-think the way they are writing stories ATM.

I keep seeing these vague statements about how the writing of Starcraft 2 was "cliched", "sloppy" and/or "incoherent" but I've yet to see anyone actually elaborate these statements into anything that could be considered an argument.

I've always enjoyed Starcraft as the "popcorny" space western (featuring morally ambiguous Tyranids and blue space Jedi) that it is.

I actually enjoy the StarCraft story... It's campy and fun.

I think cutscenes can be very cool, if they are being used to show you some other aspect of the story, introduce a new character, or show something from an angle the normal gameplay doesn't allow, but would look cool and clue you in to look out for something in the future without using QTEs. Like, maybe the character walks over sand and is almost attacked by something more subtle, but rolls/doves/whatevers out of the way. So now you know to be careful on sand in this area.

Of course they "can be used to tell stories in ways gameplay can't", they're a completely different artform!

Cutscenes are essentially movies, which provides all the pros and cons that a movie has. Gameplay is gameplay, providing all the pros and cons of interactivity, choice, and personal input.

There are pros and cons to using either cutscenes or gameplay to portray information in a game. You just have to weigh up what would be best for whatever it is you are trying to get across.

Rblade:
I think the SC2 story gets more hate then it deserves.

For me it is not getting enough hate. It's basically Ultima 9 all over again:

Anyway cut scenes are okay if used right and in moderation.
Basically if you are not Kojima then chances are high your doing it right.... most of the times.

SC2 writers huh? Blizzards current writers need to re-think the way they are writing stories ATM.

Considering that my personal opinion of the Starcraft series is: Story and gameplay second, esports first, I think that he is being a little lax here.

Games as a format can, will and should transcend the traditioanl forms of filmic structure that they so desperately cling to like some sort of life raft.

Whilst the cinematic is, at present, an important aspect of the game itself, I do not believe that it should be an active method in conveying narrative to the player. Wassisface here claims its to imply importance, but to me it implies that "this bit here is too important for you, the player, to be responsible with. So instead of participating, you will have to watch as you are told exactly ow important it is you do this, that and the other." And that is very alienating as the player.

In short: It begins to feel like a colouring book: We dont have to think, we just have to avoid going over the lines.

Ah well.

Well, I remember the cutscenes from Wings of Liberty, except that I can't remember a single one other than several of them were set in a mopey bar. Nope, the story must not have been that important. So, is this guy saying that Wings of Liberty had an important story or that Heart of the Swarm has a better story? If it's the first, then I'm not bothering with Heart of the Swarm. If it's the latter, then at least he's admitting the story on the first was a complete waste of time (not to mention wasting my time on a third of a game that was sold to me in completion twelve years earlier). What's gotten all these Blizzard people talking anyways?

Wait, is this an April Fools joke?

I suppose it's hard to tell a story in an RTS with gameplay so his view sounds a little biased.

But yeah, sometimes they help, sometimes they ruin it. They can be great for characterisation for example. Then again sometimes they're basically there just to turn the players head in the direction of what cost the devs the most money.

The Crotch:
Unfortunately, Blizzard's cinematics tell really, really dumb stories. But so does the gameplay, I guess, so I can't really blame the tools.

I mean, they look really cool, but I wish they'd stop pretending that they're saying anything remotely worth paying attention to.

I think the SC2 story gets more hate then it deserves. At least compared to lots of other games. Depending on how legacy of the void ties everything together I think it is at least a fun if a little overacted tale. I like how HotS explained some things like the tal darim and all that. It's no masterpiece of storytelling by any stretch of the imagination but I'm getting the feeling it's being branded as this horrible excuse of a story that only serves to tie the missions together and I think it's nowhere near the bottom of the "horrible story" spectrum

OT: I've always loved cinematics,and blizzard is a master of cinematics. I don't think I have any better explination then Brian Kindregan already provided.

As long as they're not just well disguised QTEs, I don't have a problem with them. And even then I liked the action prompts in ME2.

Unfortunately, Blizzard's cinematics tell really, really dumb stories. But so does the gameplay, I guess, so I can't really blame the tools.

I mean, they look really cool, but I wish they'd stop pretending that they're saying anything remotely worth paying attention to.

... he says, without a hint of irony or self-reflection.

*sigh*... I wouldn't call SC2 as an example of storytelling. At best, it's a mess.

But yeah, beyond that, I definitely still enjoy cutscenes to this day and age.

I agree. I enjoy cinematics - you know, assuming they're well done. A game isn't better for not having them - it's not necessarily worse, but it isn't better. No cinematics works for some games, like Half-Life, but some extremely memorable moments in gaming are from cinematics - the original StarCraft, for example, had some great cinematics, particularly Kerrigan's monologue and DuGalle's final moments at the end of Brood War.

The scenes in that cinematic range from the completely impossible to show ingame to being possible, but lacking a lot of their dramatic weight.

Depends on the genre, I suppose - there were certainly scenes in "Starcraft II" that wouldn't have worked if you'd had to watch them while managing your base/obliterating your enemies...

StarCraft 2 Writer: Cinematics Tell "Very Important" Stories

image

Brian Kindregan claims that cutscenes can be used to tell stories in ways gameplay can't.

Back in the day, being cinematic in a videogame was simple. The original Ninja Gaiden impressed many players with its cutscenes, many of which were little more than slideshows. Since those early days however, the prominence of in-game cutscenes would grow. Some of the most memorable moments of many titles would be ones that gamers were restricted to watching.

That hasn't been the case as much in recent years. As videogames have evolved, so too has the ability of gameplay to match, in terms of storytelling, traditional cutscenes and cinematics. In turn, many developers have moved away from cutscenes and more into integrating story moments into gameplay itself. Some in the gaming industry have gone so far as to label the mere inclusion of a cinematic as being a failure on the part of the developer. Contrary to this belief, Brian Kindregan, lead writer for StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm, recently defended cinematic sequences, citing their ability to give life to simple sprites and focus to a game's story.

"When we put the story in a scripted scene, like a briefing or debrief, we are telling players that this is important, we're trying to make you look at it," said Kindregan, speaking at a GDC panel. "But it doesn't necessarily mean it's a huge, impactful moment when a story turns. So when we put story in a cinematic, we're telling players it's very important. It indicates what kind of story the player is about to get."

Kindregan admits that a cinematic on its own isn't always a good thing, stating that too many cutscenes, poorly executed ones, or even good cinematics that are out of step with the feeling of the gameplay, can be potential detractors from an experience. "The cinematic needs to leave players in a spot that makes them think, 'Great, I want to go hit play now,'" he said. "But the emotion of the end is wide open: you can have humorous, violence, bittersweet, sad, happy, all of those are on the table. The only thing you can't modulate or mess with is the tempo."

While the examples that Kindregan cites come largely from his experience with StarCraft 2, they are lessons that could easily be applied across the spectrum of gaming genres. Storytelling is one of the challenges that many developers continue to struggle with, and while better writing would certainly be a help to many studios, knowledge on how to better present stories to gamers could perhaps go even further.

Source: Polygon

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