December 27, 2014

Quicktime events from a dev perspective

If there's one thing I unanimously hate more than anything in games these days it's quicktime events. This is both as a player and dev but my views as to why are different on each. So just a quick recap in case you missed any of the dozens of rants from zero punctuation, totalbiscuit, or omegaalphasins basically quicktime events *qte from here on out* are those annoying little popups asking you to press a button or you fail whatever you're doing. If it's god of war its whenever you kill something, if you're in mass effect its during a cutscene when you're picking a renegade or paragon option, in CoD it's that button you push to avoid getting your throat ripped out by a dog, and if you're in heavy rain well.... you're not playing a game you're participating in an interactive movie comprised almost entirely from quicktime events.

I would clarify that button mashing is different from qte simply because it's not a sequence of buttons or some carefully timed don't die button, instead in button mashing you pick one button or any button and you stick with it often the amount of times pressed doesn't even matter. While sometimes a qte can be a press any button situation it's usually a live or die scenario.

Qte just don't belong in most games even though almost all games these days have them to some degree. In some places they just feel really out of place and can often come without warning usually in a cutscene where you figure "oh it's mgs4 so I've got time to go and watch a movie, get dinner, and come back before this scene is done" when out of nowhere there's a random "press X to not die" probably just as a way to make sure you're not taking a piss break or getting a sandwich. Then you're stuck watching it all over again for another chance to fail. In an action game its so horribly out of place it takes you straight out of the game especially when it's something heavily skill based where you're making something as important as not dying as stupid as a qte.

Simply put qte is not gaming, its an approximated facsimile of interactivity to a scripted sequence of events that can rapidly and repeatedly end in a failure state. From a dev standpoint this is just lazy programming where you don't want to be bothered with figuring out how to design the game to make something happen you'd rather just have it happen in a cutscene that nobody can ever watch because they're too busy looking for buttons to press. I'll admit that it does take a lot of effort to make that happen and that qte is a shortcut but that doesn't make it an excuse. When I handled this problem I found a way to make the native controls function so that a player with skill could accomplish the given task. I know that the qte is meant as a handicap for the players without skill to still progress but damn it that's part of the point of gaming is that if you can't do it then get better and try again it's about self improvement. A qte doesn't require skill it just takes practice after you've failed a couple times then it's just simon says after you've memorized what to press. This is the cheapest in both literal and metaphorical ways to go about developing and dare I say a dishonorable shame on the company.

Qte shouldn't be used where they don't belong and my fellow devs need to get this message, if you can't afford to make it happen then don't substitute effort for a qte instead just make it a cutscne and call it good because that'll piss off the consumer base a lot less.

On a final side note, if I had no choice I'd implement qte as a press any button non specific and maybe have a free form combo system without prompting in which the player feels they're solving their own way through rather than having their hands held throughout.