Game Development Reference
outsourcing the cutscene work, to get their buy-in on scope, before you waste time
developing a full script that cannot be animated.
Because of its limited nature, placement of handheld FMV is almost as important
to decide as its content. Where are the most important places to put FMV in a
handheld game? Your initial instinct might be to focus on an opening cutscene,
perhaps one or two in the middle parts of the game, and a closing cutscene, to be
seen upon successful game completion.
But what if your FMV budget is so limited that you have to prioritize even among
these choices? Well, think of it this way. 100% of the people who play your game
will experience the first couple of minutes, and then as you move through the game
you will start to see some drop-off—especially as you approach the end of the game.
What percentage of players will take the time to make it all the way through
your game, not get stuck somewhere in progression, and see the ending? It varies
from game to game, of course, but it's always less than 100%, sometimes a lot less.
reviewers, and to ensure that everyone actually sees the video? The beginning.
Working with the Impatient Player
No matter what you do to simplify, streamline, and make attractive your still images
with captions—as stated before, still the mainstay of handheld game cutscenes—
there will nevertheless be a large number of impatient players who have no intention
of sitting through these sequences. These stubborn, “I don't care about the story”
types will do anything they can do to avoid noninteractive content, so they can
return as quickly as possible to gameplay.
You could, of course, throw up your hands in defeat and give up on these players,
but to do so would be a capitulation you should not make lightly. The narrative con-
tent in many games, when properly executed, plays an important role in filling out
the game experience by providing motivation and context, improving the experience
even when players don't realize it's happening. Allowing players to short-circuit this
component of the game design so easily is extremely undesirable. Therefore a base-
line goal of the game writer should be to get some narrative content into the players'
heads even if they're aggressively trying to skip past it.
How do you do this? Well, you could obtain some compromising pictures of
the Producer or Lead Engineer and use them to “negotiate” the removal of the “skip
cutscene” button. However, a less treacherous approach might be to try what I call
the “silent comic book panels” test. Think about a comic book you may have read—
or at least a several-page sequence within a comic—that has no word balloons or
captions whatsoever. It's 100% reliant on the visuals to tell the story. This technique
can be just as powerful a storytelling vehicle as a comic book that does have dialogue
Now imagine a handheld cutscene that consists of six static visuals shown in
sequence, combined with background music and captions. The player is provided a