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Analysis: FPS Cutscenes Should 'Engage And Connect,' Not Deliver Info

In successful action games, cutscenes are used for engaging action, not for information delivery, according to a new Gamasutra-exclusive analysis of engagement in top
In successful action games, cutscenes are used to deliver information, not to entertain, according to a new Gamasutra-exclusive analysis of engagement in top action games. The analysis, which was originally conducted by San Francisco-based technology company Emsense and published in Gamasutra sister publication Game Developer magazine, used biometric feedback to measure player responses to the first 90 minutes of major FPS and action titles. According to the results, Call of Duty 3, F.E.A.R., and Gears of War use cutscenes successfully to "stimulate emotion in players." "However, other titles in this study struggled with maintaining engagement during cutscenes more than any other element," say the survey's creators. "Players say they want them, but cutscenes in general are not as engaging as combat or other interactive gameplay. All too often, cutscenes simply served as the cursory bridge between two levels." Moreover, the study found a distinct pattern to ineffectual cutscenes; they were "highly informational" and narration heavy, like when a player receives a briefing from a "talking head" character. "For instance, Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 evoked an incoherent response during cutscenes across players," the study says. "Its scripted briefings did not consistently engage players. Players did not even strongly think about the information in the briefings, a clear sign that these cutscenes were not grabbing players' attentions." Cutscenes in Resistance recount the attack of the Chimeras and Nathan Hale's journey -- which the study says leads to "long sections of emotional disengagement." In fact, the results say Resistance's cutscenes caused player engagement to drop "significantly" in 57 percent of cases. "Dynamic scenes of action and conversation between characters, on the other hand, demonstrated a stronger ability to engage and influence emotions," the study authors say. But even some high-performing games have trouble maintaining player engagement in cutscenes -- Halo 2's disengaged players 64 percent of the time, creating a "stark contrast" with the gameplay. "Results like this confirm that Halo 2 single player is fun more for the joy of combat than any cut scene or storyline element," says the study. "It also suggests that, given the tight timeframes inherent in every production schedule, knowing how to allocate production efforts is as important as game design itself." The issue of how to use cutscenes properly has applications across a variety of genres, especially, as the study says, as games are expected to deliver "big cinematic experiences." "Indeed, it raises questions about the role of cutscenes: to inform or entertain," says the study. "Predictably, Gears of War seems to get it right," it continues. "Its cutscenes are filled with action, while information is largely communicated via radio and conversations during lulls in gameplay, in between firefights. Our data demonstrates that entertaining cutscenes engage and connect with players at the emotional level.

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