Game Development Reference
5.4 Writing Techniques and Technology: Countering the
Challenges in Platform Games
The problems of broken ground can be solved by telling the story in cutscenes on
safe ground. Non-interactive sections allow the writer to control what happens, guar-
anteeing that the scene can't be broken and so avoiding the need for repetition. The
decision to use cutscenes can also help counter any problems of resources the writer
is facing as cutscenes do not require huge arrays of scripting tools or AI support.
Planning a set number and length of cutscenes also means it is easier to calculate and
manage the amount of investment needed to make the game's story work. This is
thereasonthatevengamessuchasthe Oddworld series or Uncharted , which con-
tain a wide range of storytelling techniques, also rely on beautifully crafted cinematic
cutscenes to tell the most complex parts of the story.
Where a writer is tackling new games on less sophisticated platforms (such as
handheld devices), or where budget is a big factor (such as in low-budget, down-
loadable projects), cutscenes are often the only storytelling tool available. This does
not have to be a curse. SolaRola is a physics-based platformer for mobile phones.
It tells its cartoon story—two blobs trying to survive in a universe threatened by
Ping the Unmerciless—through cutscenes and very small amounts of in-game text.
These comic inserts serve to frame the gameplay and provide level objectives (from
refueling the blobs' spaceship to releasing imprisoned characters) and an extra ingre-
dient: entertainment. The use of cutscenes here is not a backward movement but
simply a reflection of the storytelling technology made available by handheld device
technology developed on a handheld device budget.
The use of cutscenes does not absolve the writer from thinking about level design.
Cutscenes are, by their very nature, non-interactive. This means that they live most
happily at the start and end of levels or gameplay sequences. Placing static cinematics
in the middle of an acrobatic sequence can break the gameplay flow. Careful thought
Figure 5.2. SolaRola . c
2007 Eidos Interactive Ltd.