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Dev Discussion #63 - Cutscenes

VaknarVaknar Moderator, Member, Staff

Glorious Ashes community - it's time for another Dev Discussion! Dev Discussion topics are kind of like a "reverse Q&A" - rather than you asking us questions about Ashes of Creation, we want to ask YOU what your thoughts are.

Our design team has compiled a list of burning questions we'd love to get your feedback on regarding gameplay, your past MMO experiences, and more. Join in on the Dev Discussion and share what makes gaming special to you!

Dev Discussion - Cutscenes

When it comes to cutscenes, what entices you to not skip them? Tell us about your favorites, and what makes them unique.


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    NiKrNiKr Member
    edited May 2
    Obviously them being voiced is the biggest one. I do like reading lore/quests, but sometimes it's just too much of a chore.

    Them looking pretty or be animated is definitely a plus, but not required.

    Them showing characters that I know and have talked to before (or that have been referenced in lore) is also big.

    I very rarely skip cutscenes (at least when first time seeing them), but those 3 points would be the biggest reasons for me to DEFINITELY not skip a cutscene.

    As for examples, the latest cutscene in a World Quest from Genshin was incredible. They're unskippable either way, but even if there was a way to skip them - I would never.

    There's more before this clip, but I thought the culmination was a better representation of what I mean.

    Also, yeah, MUSIC. Music sells anything, as long as it's great and appropriate for the scene.

    And a slight point of annoyance in unvoiced dialogue cutscenes - the subtitles moving WAY TOO FAST. I'm a slow reader and I also want to enjoy the cutscene itself, so reading subs that fly by at mach 3 speed is highly detrimental to my enjoyment.
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    JamieKaosJamieKaos Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
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    VirizViriz Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    edited May 2
    I guess it usually depends on the content of the cutscene and the quality. I've played games where they have cutscenes that are just two characters talking and those are the ones that I usually skip as I don't think they provide any value over the usual dialog prompts.

    In my opinion cutscenes should be reserved for dramatic moments and story driven. I think cutscenes also help give some lore and story to players that usually skip through quest text and dialog boxes.
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    SonicXplosionSonicXplosion Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    edited May 2
    When I think of cutscenes, there are 2 types that come to mind:

    1. Story Focused Cutscenes These would be things like cinematics that occur, and are like fully voice acted (AI VA is fine as long as its of equivalent quality), and would only be present in very core moments of the game. These are the type that certain demographics of players are just always going to skip and theres not much you can do about it.

    2. Gameplay Focused Cutscenes These would be things like showing you the "lay of the land" in the dungeon, some key PoI's of a biome, when a node levels up or is destroyed, etc. Its pretty common in Zelda games for example, for you to be shown the key points of the dungeon when you enter it. However I could see it being difficult to implement something like this in an Open World MMO.

    One thing that I'm not really a fan of, is when my player character is a focal point of the cutscene. I think it creates too much of a "main character" feeling. I think the cutscenes should focus on the world, and how its changing.
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    HylmewHylmew Member
    edited May 2
    Not a fan at all in MMOs. It feels like I'm watching something that already happened for someone else and actually breaks immersion, even though they are supposed to do the opposite.

    I think cutscenes are better in singleplayer games, where an event happens a single time. In player-driven sandbox MMOs, that can't happen, so cutscenes don't make sense.
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    ShadowBladeShadowBlade Member, Leader of Men, Kickstarter, Alpha One
    i like cutscenes
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    An engaging story that my character is relevant to and seeing my character in the cutscene.
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    DeimosSsDeimosSs Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    I don't care how good it is, or bad. Only thing that matters, the option to skip and no mandatory viewing. That simple.
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    SonaekoSonaeko Member
    Cutscenes are great for conveying the story and it can show off areas you don't normal get to see outside of the player characters perspective. Bring them all on!
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    VelletyVellety Member, Braver of Worlds, Kickstarter, Alpha One
    edited May 2
    I love cutscenes, best examples are obviously World of Warcraft, Starcraft, Overwatch, League of Legends etc.
    Not that they need to be that quality but if done right damn I love them.
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    Yokai TheaterYokai Theater Member, Phoenix Initiative, Royalty, Kickstarter, Alpha One
    edited May 2
    1: Cutscenes should be forced if you want your player base to experience them, at least for the first time though. If cutscenes are not forced than most people are going to skip your cutscenes and almost all of your story if they can.
    I'm a lore whore but lets be honest reading all the lore and watching all the cutscenes is not competitive, it cuts into your gameplay, and most people don't play an MMO for it's story telling or even really care about MMO story telling which in most MMOS is mid at best.
    Also even if you are someone that is interested in the story and watching all the cutscenes chances are the rest of your party is not, so you are either holding up the rest of your part, getting left behind by the party that has already skipped the cutscene (maybe even getting kicked from the party if the game allows that), or being pressured into skip the cutscene (which can create a toxic gaming environment for some).

    2: Even if they are forced, if you want your players to care about what is going on in the story being told it must have voice acting.

    3: I would also suggest having it so that once cutscenes are experienced that they are stored in a player journal so that players that want to re-experience the cutscenes can do so, or so that your players can experience the cutscenes/story on their own time.

    4: The story and visuals of your cutscenes need to be of a good to preferably high quality and impactful, otherwise people aren't going to care.

    5: Ashes of Creation is an MMO, not a single player game and my character is not / should not be the hero of the story. So when cutscenes are playing it should be telling the story of the world around us, not be focused on our character at all.
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    zedthoughzedthough Member, Braver of Worlds, Kickstarter, Alpha One
    I love cutscenes, I think GW2 and FFXIV did a great way of including the PC in the majority of scenes making us the player feel more part of the story rather than a passenger to a ride.

    It definitely doesn't need to be Baldurs Gate 3 depth, but having our characters be a party to what is happening is the most important thing to me.
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    RegokRegok Member, Founder, Kickstarter
    They are ok in the beginning during the tutorial but after that I don't tend to care for them
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    RellRell Member, Braver of Worlds, Kickstarter, Alpha One
    Depends largely on the context in the game.
    In Final Fantasy, I love the cutscenes and would never skip one the first time through (Though being able to skip for alts is a must). But in that world, your character feels important and a vital part of the story. This is hard to pull off well in an MMO context and is often why FF is referred to as an RPGMMO instead of an MMORPG.

    Something like WoW, your character feels more like set dressing and just random joe #7 that for some reason gets called a hero. In those cases, I care very little about the cutscenes, because they're pretty much always about other folks. They can be cool, but at the end of the day, you're playing your character and want to see them doing the cool stuff.

    At the end of the day, I will pretty much always watch any cutscenes the first time through, but my enjoyment of them does largely depend on how much I care about the story they are telling.
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    Tride0Tride0 Member
    I usually skip them, but if they're well done and interesting I generally don't. I'm not generally interested in the story in games though.
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    ChaosFactorChaosFactor Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    Cutscenes in my opinion are incredibly important to the immersion and story telling of the game. However I think that there is realistically only one place where they are absolutely necessary. You all at intrepid have already made amazing steps towards a correct level immersion, through massive in game displays/events. I will always prefer lore and grand imagery to be placed in the world we already exist.

    HOWEVER, without a shadow of a doubt one of the most satisfying experience an MMO player can be involved in is their character being on display. Placing the player's character in a beautiful scene, showing how important they are in the world, showing off their amazing armor next to the iconic characters and enemies they recognize. There are very few things that can provide that level of satisfaction outside of the gameplay realm.

    Which games can we take examples from to properly apply this truth? Destiny 2. And let me say again Destiny 2. The amount of customization, player agency and personality that is associated with your character in that game is unparalleled thus far. Seeing all of things on display as your Guardian speaks with incredibly lore rich, classic and memorable characters... it's just iconic.

    Please and thank you y'all, and thanks for reading!
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    Definitely love cutscenes, or at least the option to watch them.

    It increases immersion considerably, and helps a person get "in the moment". Whether it is a short animation preview before a boss fight, a commoner explaining the background of the quest you are about to go on, or a full fledged short film narrating progression through the current story arc, these moments REALLY draw a player in.

    With that being said, yes, most players will likely skip cutscenes no matter how much work you put into them if you give them that option (which you should), because time is valuable to the general MMO player. But for those of us who really enjoy visual stimulation and lore, these cutscenes really just add to gravity of the game.

    I would also add that people who skip cutscenes will also sometimes go back and watch them later if they are posted online by other users (like youtube). As an example, the cinematics in WoW are a big hype moment for its player base.
    Heroes Gaming Group
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    RuthLess111RuthLess111 Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    edited May 2
    good question hmmm. well for me how the story is if its that what we hope for then sure I will be stuck to the minitor to watch what will happen in cutscene.
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    MiinstrelMiinstrel Member
    Cutscenes are okay in moderation, but need to be used sparingly. I'm here to play a game not watch a movie. FF14 has waaaaay too many.

    They should be short, generally less than 1 minute.
    They should only be used to setup scenes, show events, and progress stories when that cannot be easily done through gameplay.

    A cinematic after destroying an evil shrine at the end of a quest showing the rapidly altered and rejuvenated surrounding forest with an aerial shot makes sense. You could show that as the player leaves the area with different assets, but the true scale of the effect would be difficult to convey.
    A cinematic showing a prisoner being released from a cell and having a cutscene conversation with a king and the party after evidence confirming their innocence is no good. I can generally read much more quickly than lines of dialogue can be spoken, and time is valuable.

    The best cutscenes come at highly emotional times to tease out and strengthen emotions that have been brewing over the course of recent gameplay.
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    LinikerLiniker Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    edited May 2
    if theres no voice acting I'm likely skipping, even if its AI, as long as it isnt terrible, FF14 in-engine cutscenes with text only are terrible, cant stand it, dont do those,

    If theres no voice acting for individual NPCs (which is fine for an MMORPG, those are expensive) my feedback is stick to a single narrator telling a story voicing over whatever is going on, can be cutscenes or 2d style art, thats much, much better, a narrator shouldnt be too hard/expensive and makes it a Lot better for telling a story,

    GW2 style cutscenes with a 2D background and just the 3D NPCs with voice acting are more than enough to tell a great story, even if its with a narrator, if UE5 makes it easier to put out in engine cutscenes thats even better... as long as you dont do text cutscenes with NPCs and MC just moving their hands with text, we wont skip a good story,

    also, short dungeon/raid introduction cutscenes with music are awesome, and especially Boss intro cutscene with dramatic music I think you did it for lava dragon in A1 thats a must, and those... only those shouldnt be skippable

    you can also have dramatic cutscene intros for Sieges starting, especially castles those could be epic, also for node sieges, and more content,

    these short intro cutscenes I think are great as they dont require voice acting, just cinematic camera and some great music
    Recrutamento aberto - Nosso Site: Clique aqui
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    LaNinjaLaNinja Member
    First, I love me some cutscenes, but they MUST have voice acting!
    Reading though paragraphs of text (FF14) is strenuous for my simple brain at a 9th grade reading level. To read 100s of hours of cutscene dialogue my mind begins to melt and I will forget key moments, skip them or might even exhaust myself from the game. Open world dialogue scenes are a joy also.
    Voice acting is KEY! I hope quests can also have VA, even if through Ai measures, so I can stay fully immersed with my reading rainbow text to speech. Example: The Ai WoW Classic voiced quests addon.
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    AetiusAetius Member
    Without reading other comments, as to avoid bias: What I observe is that if there is a time incentive to skip a cutscene, such as if the party is running ahead to the next boss, they will be skipped. If there is nothing causing the player to want to rush forward, they are much more likely to watch them the first time.

    Cutscenes would ideally use cinematic camera angles, have voice acting, and use interesting animations rather than static NPC idle.

    Cutscenes should be skippable with Esc + confirmation, but not so easily skipped that it can be mistakenly done, such as with a spacebar press.

    To entice a player to watch a cutscene, it should start with some indication that it's interesting or useful, such as an interesting visual followed by a voice or action, when reasonable. Unexpected and appealing music will of course increase interest.

    The key is ensuring the player knows they are safe to stand there and watch the cutscene, and that they're not being attacked or missing opportunities. — that nobody else is getting a leg up by skipping it.
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    simpetarsimpetar Member
    Use cutscenes with caution. They are an appropriate storytelling tool, but there needs to be a compelling story in the first place. Cinematic cutscenes take away player agency and input, the player has no way of influencing them when they are underway. If the player isn't invested enough in the story that's being told, it gets boring and the cutscene will get skipped. IMO: quality over quantity, less can be more.
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    LashingLashing Member
    Short cutscenes have little incentive to skip. A spider boss dropping from the ceiling and charging you leading right into you fighting the spider would be a cool moment you could make unskippable.

    Do a cutscene for node leveling so players see an animation of the node growing while the game does its thing. Just teleporting players out and it popping into existence does not do this justice.

    I am not opposed to longer story based scenes but that type of thing will instantly lose people if you are going for that impossible 100% satisfaction. World building is hugely important and if cut scenes can aid that I am all for it.

    TLDR short and sweet is probably the best bet.
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    mcstackersonmcstackerson Member, Phoenix Initiative, Royalty, Kickstarter, Alpha One
    edited May 2
    I think the frequency/number of cutscenes is a big thing. If there are a lot of them, I'm skipping.

    Outside of that, in MMOs, I don't like cutscenes that involve my character and tend to skip those. When I get done with a cutscene my character was in and load back into the game, it takes me out of the game seeing people standing around watching the same cutscene, knowing in theirs, they are doing the same thing I just did. Maybe I'm weird but it's how I have felt since MMOs started involving our characters in cutscenes.
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    So long as the game isn't a giant series of cutscenes (looking at FFXIV), then we're good. Cutscenes shouldn't involve the player character, but rather demonstrate major changes in the world state/story that affect everyone.
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    StarSquidStarSquid Member
    Cutscenes I never skip have fantastic music, voice acting and really drive the emotions and tension of the story home that makes you as the player feel like you are a part of the plot. I honestly loved most of WoW's cutscenes, I would watch the opening cutscene of Burning Crusade every time I'd open the game to play, the first time I was ever truly struck by what happened in a cutscene was Wrathgate. The feeling of betrayal was so intense it was perfect. I don't think I even skipped a cutscene in wow the first time I saw it, you can tell that a good amount of time went into the shots and vibes. Some games I've played the cutscenes were too long OR felt like every two steps would start ANOTHER cutscene, things like that are more annoying than inspiring. If there is ever a time where a larger part of the plot needs to be animation don't use it in a way that would interrupt gameplay. Nobody likes a cutscene before every boss in a raid, things like that would become tedious every time you run the raid, even if you skip it you end up waiting for everyone else to skip. I don't like reading cutscenes because voice acting for scenes greatly enhaces cutscenes.
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    Gernis_QuestGernis_Quest Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    Cutscenes are important in a morpg. Personally, I would only include them in the main story to pack in some of the lore. Many people skip the texts, but cutscenes have their own charm.
    Cutscenes need tensions and moments that no one expects. A friend dies, a town is destroyed or what was good suddenly turns bad by the corruption.

    Lore and more at my Youtubechannel Gernis Quest. <3
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    DisobedientDisobedient Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    edited May 2
    The voice acting will make or break a cut scene. But also, think about the audience that watch's TikTok videos every day. They are trained to love short, attention grabbing, entertaining snips. The attention span is small, like 10 seconds.

    That was said as brutally honest as possible, sorry for that.

    The solution? I think putting valuable information in the cutscenes that may be vital to completing a quest and allowing the cutscenes to be rewatched. That would do wonders for the engagement of players because they're not only watching it, but they're also completely invested it, trying to find the clue that will help them with the quest. Ngl, in the beginning they might complain, but in the long run they will remember it way more, and it'll be a fond memory if it's done right.

    Kind of like the old RuneScape quests, they were ridiculously hard, they felt so TEDIUS while doing them, but the rewards were just right and despite the difficulty, people later on RAVED about how much they loved them. In part because you were doing randomly unique things all the time. Like Monkey Madness, you had to do this quest if you wanted to wield a Dragon Scimitar, and the quest had you sneaking around a village of gorillas that were way too strong to fight, and you were hiding in bushes, and inside wooden boxes and then eventually you turn yourself INTO a monkey, blending in with them. Then you have to trick a baby monkey into giving you a key item, by giving him something banana related. Finally, you go underground to face a deadly obstacle course to reach the quest objective at the end. And once you put on that Dragon Scimitar, OH did that fruit taste SWEEET! I remember it to this day, and it's been years upon years since I've touched RuneScape.

    My point in the RuneScape story is that people like unique and weird things when questing, it breaks up the monotony of it. So having cinematics that MEAN something, and aren't there for fluff, or just for lore, will do wonders for player engagement. Other than that, voice acting is key. Just like in anime (most people watch subbed not dubbed)
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    RustyQrowRustyQrow Member, Braver of Worlds, Kickstarter, Alpha One
    Seeing as folks are already hitting the major points about Cutscene usage in MMOs, I'll make this suggestion:
    Have a way for players to replay and view Cutscenes of events that have already come and gone. Even if the player was never present for a past event, give them the chance to open a book and see the cutscene that other players witnessed.

    Perhaps a historian NPC or item, like a book or crystal ball, that people can interact with to look into the game's history that lets them see those cutscenes with a summary of the events that lead up to it and after.

    It would be really cool for a new player who joins later on in AoC life to open a book and experience the cutscene of a massive World Boss Dragon bursting out of a Volcano and causing chaos years ago, then able to go to said location of the battlefield and see the outcomes of the victory or defeat that transpired there.
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