On Quick Time Events

As Leon tosses aside the manhole cover, he breathes in the fresh Spanish country air and continues his journey to rescue Ashley.  He's thinking of his recent epic battle with two giant trolls.  The distraction causes him to lose focus, and out of nowhere a truck comes barreling down the road right at him. 

PRESS "R1+L2!"  ........  YOU ARE DEAD!

As Leon tosses aside the manhole cover, he breathes in the fresh Spanish country air and continues his journey to rescue Ashley.  He's thinking of his recent epic battle with two giant trolls.  The distraction causes him to lose focus, and out of nowhere a truck comes barreling down the road right at him. 

PRESS "L2+O!"  ........  YOU ARE DEAD!

As Leon tosses aside the manhole cover...

Does that sound at all familiar?  Quick time events, or as Ben "Yahtzee" Crosshaw more accurately labels them, "God of War-style 'Simon Says' color matching sequences," have become so ubiquitous in gaming over the last three years that they've quickly evolved from an interesting novelty into a tired cliche. 

No, no, no. To kill a griffin you hit X, then Y+X, then R2, THEN L1....DUH!
These annoying reflex-tests have shown up in just about every genre over the last few years.  Action games (Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones), survival horror games (Resident Evil 4), beat 'em ups (Marvel: Ultimate Alliance), first-person shooters (Clive Barker's Jericho), and even fighting games (Soul Calibur III) all thought it'd be fun to add them in.  Quick poll: How many times do you watch the cutscenes in a fighting game before you just skip them?  Because of the quick time events, you cannot not skip the cutscenes in Soul Calibur III's story mode.  You had to watch the entire scene.  Every. Single. Time.

The least understandable aspect of the concept is that, during the normal course of the game, your character will lose a bit of health after being riddled with bullets, gutted by daggers, and flattened by clubs dozens of times.  But God help you if you miss hitting that "X" button by a fraction of a second, it has the magical power to instantly dispatch the protagonist.  Game designers shouldn't pick and choose; when designing a game, they need to decide at the outset if the character is nigh invincible, or an easily killed bullet magnet.  Players should know whether it's better to wade into every situation with their monster smashing boots laced up high, or they should put on the kid gloves and be a little more discretionary about taking on too many foes at once.  This "instant death" scene takes away that continuity.

Simon's penalty for missing a button is much less severe than Resident Evil 4's.
Granted, some uses of quick time events make better sense than others.  God of War popularized them primarily because they were used to good effect in some minor cases.  Pressing "O" repeatedly to pull a struggling minotaur onto his own spear gives the player a certain appreciation of just how strong those ancient Greek monstrosities really were.  But how many times does the player need to mash that "O" button over the course of a 20-hour game just to open up a door before the entire exercise is merely a gimmicky chore, rather than a "deeply immersive feature?"

I can understand where the designers are coming from, in a way.  Too many games use cutscenes as a crutch to spell out the story, and they can be boring to watch.  Introducing some interactivity is a way to keep the player engaged while trying to move the story along.  However, there's a major flaw with that idea.  When quick time events are involved, the player is waiting to see what button is going to pop-up instead of paying attention to the story.  They're not watching the cutscene; at best they're tangentially figuring out what's going on with Spider-Man while putting most of their attention into simultaneously mashing "A" while spinning the right analog stick counter-clockwise.

To all of the game designers out there, knock it off with the ham-handed attempt to keep us engaged in your story by making us look at the screen or die.  Instead, here's a simple alternative: Tell a better story.  Cutscenes are not inherently boring; they're just typically made poorly.  A well-done story, with good dialogue and interesting characters, will keep our attention far better than putting up a big sign that says "PAY ATTENTION OR I WILL KILL YOUR CHARACTER!"

blogger's note: I wrote this awhile ago, but never got around to posting it.  My sentiment itself is getting a bit stale, but QTE's still drive me crazy.  The games listed are a few years old now, but designers still insist on using QTEs.
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2008 Wrap-Up

I'm not feeling especially creative today, but I also have absolutely nothing to do at work, so I'll go ahead and rip-off the GameDaily HUD season finale post that Brad linked to yesterday.

Biggest Surprise:  The most fun I had all year, gaming-wise, was a 4-man drunken session of Mario & Sonic At The Olympics on the Wii.

Biggest Disappointment:  I found GTA IV to be boring and repetitive.  Though I liked (not loved) the story, the new coat of paint and improved game mechanics couldn't hide the fact that I've played the same game three times already.

2008 Game I'll Play in 2009: Rock Band 2.  I've been playing GH-type games near constantly for three years now; I don't see that trend stopping any time soon.

2008 in a Sentence:  Though most titles that I played were well done, most were sequels and felt stale.

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Marcus Fenix: The Manliest Dump Truck Ever

I started playing Gears of War last night.  First impressions:

  1. Next time I play, I'm making sure I have a Bud in one hand, a titty mag in the other, and set the couch on fire before I start playing.  Then I'll feel just like Marcus "Motherfucking Manly" Fenix.
  2. Manly men aren't agile.  They handle like a dump truck filled with wet dirt.
  3. Manly men can't get shot much or they die.
  4. Gears of War kinda sucks so far.
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Site Awards and Metacritic Are Bullshit

Since I don't buy all that many games, I typically stick with the top-tier games, as far as ratings go.  But it dawned on me today that the best time I had this year was with Mario & Sonic at The Olympics.  The Metacritic score is pretty low, and it's generally thought of as a shitty game, but a dozen drunk people that I know and I piled into a Manhattan apartment and played the shit out of that game for hours.

So fuck the awards.  Sometimes "shitty" games ain't so bad.

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What Would You Get With $100?

Most Christmases leave me with around $100 worth of Best Buy credit burning a hole in my pocket.  This year, unlike the past, I actually have something earmarked, the Rock Band 2 Wireless Drum Kit - and a UV filter for my Nikon, but that'll put me over $100 total.

What would you get with $100?

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What Would You Get With $100?

Most Christmases leave me with around $100 worth of Best Buy credit burning a hole in my pocket.  This year, unlike the past, I actually have something earmarked, the Rock Band 2 Wireless Drum Kit - and a UV filter for my Nikon, but that'll put me over $100 total.

What would you get with $100?

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Christmas Is A Time For Gaming

I got a leather jacket, Steelers polo, and a couple of yet-to-open presents.  I also snagged a copy of Gears of War, which I hadn't gotten around to playing yet.  I'm looking forward to chainsawing some monsters in the balls.  Also, Merry Christmas.

I spent most of today playing some Rock Band (what else is new), and went through my XBLA games.  I gave my brother a 360 and an extra controller for Christmas, so I'm looking forward to some 4-player Castle Crashers action tomorrow.

I love games.  Can't wait to play GoW.

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Early Christmas Present: Homebrew Kit

Following up on my awesome birthday presents, including the autograph of NBC 10's Bill Henley, my fiancee got me something I've been wanting for awhile, but haven't gotten around to, a homebrew kit.  My buddies homebrew, and they've made some awesome - and some not-so-awesome - beers over the years.  Let's hope my Choclate Smoked Bacon Porter turns out well ;).

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