The Quicktime Hurdle

By Shamus Posted Sunday Jul 18, 2010

Filed under: Game Design 113 comments

Let’s talk about quicktime events some more. Here is a reference video, which shows someone completing the first encounter with Krauser in Resident Evil 4.

Link (YouTube)

While this is perhaps not the most gripping cinema ever penned, I have this sneaking suspicion that these games sound a lot less idiotic in the original Japanese. I’ve been told that Japanese is a very poetic language. English can be poetic, but it’s not used that way regularly and it takes a good writer to pull off. So the translation from Japanese to English is a bit like translating Gandalf’s dialog from “You shall not pass!” to “You won’t get by me!”. It’s not wrong, but the words lose their potency and come out sounding childish. I think the occasional odd phrasing shows that the translator is a native Japanese speaker. I wonder if a good native English translator couldn’t help a scene like this by smartening up the dialog and improving the flow. (Of course, this does nothing for the plot, which is drivel. But Quentin Tarantino has proved that you can go a long, long way with a drivel plot and brilliant dialog. Kill Bill was both cliche and preposterous. And if you showed it in chronological order, it would be incredibly predictable. But the movie came off as fun, witty, and surprising through the magic of clever dialog.)

But whatever. The point is, this is a scene about pushing buttons. The scene is broken into eight sections, with seven quicktime cues between them:

Scene 1 » Quicktime » Scene 2 » Quicktime » Scene 3 » Quicktime » Scene 4 » Quicktime » Scene 5 » Quicktime » Scene 7 » Quicktime » Scene 8

If you miss a cue, it replays the entire scene again from the beginning. This is a horrible idea, because this scene is barely tolerable once.

Now, let’s assume the player has a 95% chance of success. They will pass 19 out of 20 cues. In tabletop terms, they can only miss by rolling a critical failure, which is pretty good in a gameplay sense. I wrote a program to simulate 1,000 players doing this scene with 95% accuracy, and on average, here is how many times players had to watch each scene:

95% Accuracy:
Scene #1: 1.5 times.
Scene #2: 1.4 times.
Scene #3: 1.3 times.
Scene #4: 1.2 times.
Scene #5: 1.2 times.
Scene #6: 1.1 times.
Scene #7: 1.1 times.

(Of course you’ll never see scene 8 more than once, so I didn’t include it.)

This is not intolerable, although I can think of better ways for a player to spend their time. Now let’s assume the player has just 80% accuracy:

80% Accuracy:
Scene #1: 4.8 times.
Scene #2: 3.8 times.
Scene #3: 3.1 times.
Scene #4: 2.4 times.
Scene #5: 2 times.
Scene #6: 1.6 times.
Scene #7: 1.2 times.

That’s a really drastic increase in how many times the player is going to end up watching this thing. On average, the player will watch that first section nearly five times. Now just a slight reduction in performance:

75% Accuracy:
Scene #1: 7.7 times.
Scene #2: 5.8 times.
Scene #3: 4.4 times.
Scene #4: 3.3 times.
Scene #5: 2.4 times.
Scene #6: 1.8 times.
Scene #7: 1.3 times.


Been a long time… “comrade”.


KRAUSER walks into frame, spinning his knife.

I died in a crash two years ago. Is that what they told you?

You’re the one who kidnapped Ashley!

As they talk, JUSTIN BIEBER continues to make scowly faces and forgets that he has TEN GUNS on his person.

You catch on quick. As expected.

KRAUSER faces away from JUSTIN BIEBER, exposing his neck while he examines the TOTALLY UNINTERESTING PIPES in the background. JUSTIN BIEBER makes scowly faces.

After all, you and I both know where we come from.

I’m glad they abandoned this idea of mixing quicktime cues with dialog in Resident Evil 5. Even good dialog can be wearisome after just a couple of back-to-back viewings, and terrible dialog is excruciating under these circumstances. RE5 cuts way back on quicktime events, and uses them only for action sequences. Imagine watching the above scene six times in a row. Then imagine how fast you would betray the Alliance and give Vader the plans for the Death Star if he threatened you with a seventh viewing. Man, I’d be ready to punch Bikini Leia in the face after seeing it that many times.


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113 thoughts on “The Quicktime Hurdle

  1. acronix says:

    I haven´t player many games with quicktime events as I try to avoid them like the plague. However, a friend convinced me to get Ninja Blade (another japanese game whose plot still doesn´t make sense and it´s dialogue in english is so absurd you´d be so happy when the game glitches forgetting to play the voice files), which handled the Quicktime events by dividing the cinematics into “sections”, if you will. If you failed one of the events, then instead of having to watch all over again from the beginning, the game rewinded a few seconds and let you try again. For a plus, it had a difficulty slider for the QTE, but you couldn´t change it midgame (which is when you notice that NORMAL may be a bit too much).

  2. Lambach says:

    My god why does Capcom hate us so much that they make us watch that over and over again.

    1. eri says:

      Dude, they’ve got knives! Did you see how grey the pipes were?!

  3. Sheer_Falacy says:

    There’s a lot of variation in quick time events. The ones in that video are pretty ludicrous. I actually think the worst part of them is the particular button combinations – L + R? Really?

    In, for example, The Force Unleashed, the combinations pretty much always reflect a part of what you do, though admittedly part of the reason that works out is you can’t do that much (push, shock, stab, jump).

    Another major inconvenience is their unpredictability. The guy hits you three times in a row but you only get a QTE for the second. Stuff like that.

    And then there’s Bayonetta, where the QTEs kill you instantly if you fail them. In general, this isn’t actually a big deal – the game puts you right back at the QTE at full health, and the only effect is a worse grade at the end of the level. But there’s one boss where if you fall, you either pass the QTE and take no damage or fail it and die instantly. So yeah.

    1. Alan De Smet says:

      Funny you should mention The Force Unleashed. I finished it recently. (Review: Worth $15 in the bargain bin.) By and large the game was fun, but defeated bosses required succeeding at a QTE. The penalty for failure was the loss of some health, then you got to try again. Usually I’m okay at QTE events, but for some reason they never clicked for me here. So as a result I kept my eyes glued to the QTE alert area (bottom center). My wife tells me that all sorts of cool stuff happened during those QTEs, but I have no idea what they were, as I was busy playing (and replaying) the worst implementation of Simon Says ever.


      Quick time events can blow me. (I grant an exception for finishing moves, especially if well done and option. God of War really rocked those.)

      1. Taellosse says:

        Interestingly enough, I minded the QTEs in Force Unleashed a good deal less than usual. I had relatively little trouble with them. Though I admit that I can only partially pay attention to what’s happening behind the button prompts.

        Now, the Prince of Persia (2008) QTEs–THOSE I suck at. For some reason I’m always pressing the wrong damn button.

      2. Valaqil says:

        I thought TFU was great. The scenes were cool and the QTEs were intuitive (as the OP states). That’s _really_ helpful. Most importantly is that at least _some_ of the QTEs are “optional”. For instance: You see an AT-ST. You can attack it and then do a QTE to cut it in half OR you can just beat it into submission with your light-bat. The only QTE in the game that I even had slight trouble with was the one vs your droid. But I only messed up once and didn’t mind, since that sequence was awesome to watch.

      3. I didn’t mind the QTEs in The Force Unleashed because the finishing QTE for each type of enemy was always the same. They were a skill that could be learned.

      4. Naif says:

        I stopped playing playing Force Unleashed after that first “boss”, if you can even call it that. I don’t play modern games unless I can get them on my computer through Steam. I don’t own any consoles with numbers in the name… or a Wii. I’m not some elitist either, I just think games are WAY too much about trend these days. That, and, I can’t afford food, let alone, a $200 console. ANYWAY! My point to this, is, that this was a strange, new experience for me but it had familiar elements. I struggled really hard to get to this point and I thought I’d finally killed this AT thingie when, suddenly, here’s these buttons filling my whole screen? What is this? Then I fail, whatever it is that I failed and I’m back fighting it again… AAAH! Needless to say, I died. How do you people play these games? I suppose some of this is from me not playing a console game since FF7 but I’m also a life long practitioner of the martial arts. I’m no Bruce Lee, but I’m certainly not uncoordinated either. *sigh*
        Yet another, stupid trend ruining my favorite medium to ever grace human eyes, ears or fingers :-/

  4. Someone says:

    Wasnt Justin Bieber some sort of a rock musician in real life?

    Come to think of it, all dialogue sequences in Alpha Protocol were just quick time events, and I thought AP dialogue system was the best thing since sliced bread. I suppose it just feels more natural in discussion. Its also not linear like most QTE’s.

    1. Audacity says:

      Justin Bieber is NOT a musician. He is a perverse demonic hellspawn summoned from the Ninth Circle, the very throne room of Evil itself, to destroy ALL that is good and decent in this world by a Satan worshiping sect of the Canadian Parliament!

      Do a Google image search if want to know what how he plans on doing this, but prepare to lose your sanity faster than any H. P. Lovecraft character ever did.

      On the topic at hand: C’mon, Shamus, that’s not even a fair comparison. Bieber makes Leon look positively raw meat eating butch.

      1. Blackbird71 says:

        Ah, yes. I’ve observed lately that there is no faster way to pick out the young teenage boys in an internet conversation than by mentioning Justin Bieber. Generally speaking, the young girls like him, anyone over the age of 16ish just doesn’t care that he exists, but the teenage guys always seem to fly into a rage. So far as I can tell, it’s jealousy over all the attention he gets from the girls.

        Whatever, I fall into the group that couldn’t care less, but it’s always amusing to see these reactions.

    2. WysiWyg says:

      The thing about AP’s dialog system was that there was no “instant death”-penalty to it. You just made your choice, and unless you actively reloaded an earlier save, you never had to live through the same dialog again.

      That’s the reason why AP’s dialogs didn’t seem so bad; they weren’t.

      1. eri says:

        It works 98% of the time, but there’s about 2% where they don’t give you enough time to decide, either, because the character’s line doesn’t telegraph enough of the meaning of the sentence (“Shopping was fun today” vs. “I really, truly enjoyed shopping”), or they just don’t give you enough time to really think about important decisions (choosing what to do with the weapons shipment in Moscow, for example). A system usually isn’t perfect if it works “almost always, except in the really crucial parts”.

        1. Someone says:

          Yeah, I occasionally misinterpreted my answers in dialogue and ended up embarrassed. Sometimes having time limit is unreasonable, weapon shipments in Moscow and Rome come to mind.

          Though its still a great system in my opinion, I used to wonder if there was a developer out there with balls to try something like that. Its certainly the best implementation of QTE mechanic that ive ever seen, and it makes AP the first spy game where quick thinking is as important for a superagent as good aim.

    3. Matthew says:

      I actually think the dialog system in Alpha Protocol is pretty boring. They only give you one word, and most of the time they are the same (“professional”, “joking” and I forget what else). I much prefer it like in Mass Effect (or better yet, Dragon Age).

  5. bbot says:

    Excellent hypothesis, Shamus. Except that the English voice acting is the original version. The Japanese version just subtitles it.

    1. Tobias says:

      Still, the script was written by Japanese people in Japanese (and translated by a Japanese, which is credited).

      Still, even translations done by natives in the target languages tend to be weird. For instance, German translators of American movies tend to adopt the simple past used in spoken English most of the time. While it’s not incorrect, this still isn’t the way anybody talks – as a rule of thumb, in German, Imperfect is used wherever English natives use the simple past and vice versa. In effect, the spoken German in dubbed American movies sounds very stiff.

      It’s a common pitfall for any translation, really: It’s really difficult not to stick closely to the tone and words of the source material. And while that’s kind of O.K. (though careless) if you’re a native of the language you’re translating to AND the two languages aren’t terribly far apart (like English and German), it really comes round to kick you in the ass in those cases.

  6. wildweasel says:

    While this is perhaps not the most gripping cinema ever penned, I have this sneaking suspicion that these games sound a lot less idiotic in the original Japanese.

    Interestingly, the Resident Evil (Biohazard) series always has English voice acting, even in the Japanese versions. All dialogue is in English with Japanese subtitles. (Hence why the earlier games in the series had such cheesy acting.)

    [[edit]] Damn it, bbot. =P

    1. Avatar says:

      Heh, this is another problem – the Japanese are usually pretty terrible at writing English dialogue. (I’m not any good at Japanese dialogue, either… but at least I know that and don’t try!)

    2. Shamus says:

      But the point is: This is English dialog translated by a Japanese person.

      1. Kell says:

        We understand the allowance you’re suggesting we make, but I think you’re being unneccessarily charitable. The point is: This is unutterably awful storytelling, in any language. I’ve never watched a whole scene from the RE series before, but it lives down to my lowest expectations. I cannot accept that anyone even considers this a worthwhile computer game, let alone a popular title. And yes, I know it’s meant to be all about shooting zombies, but the truth is it’s not all about that is it?

        I’m in the middle of re-reading Macbeth right now, and contemplating who I’d cast in the movie and how cool they’d look with lightsabers. Pausing to watch this video, the difference in quality is so collosal as to induce vertigo. Is it unfair to compare a mere zombie-shooter against The Bard himself? No, because the same thing doesn’t happen when I stop to play Left 4 Dead.

        1. Shamus says:

          “This is unutterably awful storytelling, in any language. ”

          Oh, you’re absolutely right there. This would be a shameful scene even if it was delivered in rhyming iambic pentameter by Sir Ian McKellen.

          Although, it would be better. I think.

          I’d pay to see it, anyway.

          1. Syal says:

            K: It’s been a while, hasn’t it, Leon?
            Let me guess, you thought me dead and gone.
            L: You kidnapped Ashley!
            K(mocking): Don’t you catch on quick.
            But we both know the workings of that trick.

            [Press L and R to counter his attack.
            And if you miss, your ass is going back.]

            1. Will says:

              That would be a marked improvement. Not in story quality, but it would be much more entertaining, although repeating the same scene over and over is always going to get very boring very quickly.

              1. Syal says:

                I have to disagree with you on that. I could watch that “hamster on a piano” commercial a hundred times (and might have, back when they were playing it).

                I would argue how well something holds up is inversely related to how much dialogue it has.

                1. Will says:

                  I will admit, comedy tends to be far more rewatchable than drama, although even comedy begins to grow old after enough time.

                  Sure you can watch the hamster on a piano commercial hundreds of times, but can you watch it a hundred times in a row?

                2. krellen says:

                  I’ve watched the new Old Spice commercials several times in a row. Perhaps not a hundred, but maybe a dozen.

                  Of course, I’m trying to get the cadence of the delivery down because I want to parody the character successfully, so that might be part of why I enjoy doing so.

          2. ehlijen says:

            I don’t know much about the game, but in this scene I find too much of the idiocy to be inherent in what the characters do, rather than what they say.

            Picking a knife when a gun is available. Can be excused with specific circumstances, but there’s more.
            Not taking a stab at a known enemy when he presents his back.
            Presenting your back to a known enemy in the first place.
            Not following up with a second shot.
            Turning around for a last quip when faced with a gun armed enemy, after making it clear that you don’t like those odds by attempting to flee.
            Doing acrobtics in a combat zone wearing a long dress and a scarf for maximum chances of getting caught on something…ok, this one is a gaming trope, but still.

            The language is the least problem in this scene, and I say that as a translator. Even the contents of the dialog are not the worst thing.

            1. Syal says:

              I’d mention the 21 foot rule, but I don’t think it applies when you already have a knife out. And the back-turning thing could be (weakly) justified by assuming it was a trap and both of them knew it.

              But of course, it doesn’t matter what they’re saying because they don’t have a good reason to say anything. Especially Krauser, who doesn’t even start talking until after the first kill attempt.

              1. ehlijen says:

                A trap that relies on your reflexes being superior simply to achieve survival isn’t a good trap :p

                1. Syal says:

                  I was thinking of the old “metal plate down the back of the shirt” ploy, or something similar. Or maybe he just expects Leon to trip and fall.

                  Like I said, it’s weak no matter what.

            2. Avilan says:

              All I am saying is that Shepard would have killed the villain 0,03 seconds after he turned his back. Just sayin’, that’s all.

              1. Yar Kramer says:

                Would he get Paragon or Renegade points for that?

                1. eri says:

                  He’d get “not stupid” points. Which, knowing BioWare, would be called “Renegade”.

                2. Someone says:

                  The Renegade option would probably be shooting the villain in the back, while the Paragon option would be charging the villain and tackling him.

              2. 8th_Pacifist says:

                No, Shepard would have said: “I’m going to shoot you in the back”. Then the villain would have said something admiring like: “I didn’t know you had the guts to shoot someone in the back.” And then Shepard would have drawn his gun and we’d get a fight scene.

                Mass Effect 2 was a bit better in that regard, at least.

        2. Eric T says:

          Did I read that right? compairing Macbeth to resident evil 4, and then complaining that re4’s writing isn’t as good as one of mankind’s greatest writer’s?

          1. Kell says:

            Did I read that right? Complaining about the second last observation I made in my post, but then not reading the last observation I made?

            I merely mentioned Macbeth because I was reading it moments before checking Twenty Sided and watching this vid. Since the issue is one of writing/storytelling the contrast was stark, and relevant.

            Of course comparing any writing to Shakespeare can be tough, but it’s not as though no other writer has ever achieved things Shakespeare didn’t. Better endings for one :P

            So then I mentioned L4D. The point being that both RE and L4D are basically ‘zombie shooters’ which, by some dumb standards, should mean it is unfair to expect them to have decent writing. The thing is, the characterization in L4D does stand up well compared to Macbeth. No, the dialogue is not as rich and poetic, we wouldn’t expect that. L4D does have something that compares favourably to Macbeth in what it has to say about character though: the difference between youth and age, naivety and experience; pragmatism and stoicism; and the mixture of the fearful and cheerful in facing the inevitable. It’s also a lot funnier than Shakespeare.
            L4D isn’t great literature, but it is great writing, proving it is entirely possible for a zombie shooter to have great writing.

            The comparison I was actually making wasn’t between RE and Macbeth, it was between RE and L4D.
            Any intelligent person reading my post could discern that. You didn’t, and we must interpret accordingly.

            1. Otters34 says:

              I fail to see how Shakespeare/ The Man Who Knew Too Much From Startford/ Lord Byron/Animal/ Queen Elizabeth I’s plays aren’t comedic works of genius.

              Speaking of which, how is Valve funny? I’ve played Portal, which is supposed to be one of their finest works, and I just felt stiiffed about the ‘killer A.I.’ cliche.

              Not saying they aren’t, just that if they are I’m not getting it.

            2. Eric T says:

              oooooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhh, you burned me.

              1. Otters34 says:

                What’s that about? I wasn’t trying to one-up on you or anything, just asking a simple question. What did I say that provoked that? I apologize and am sorry for whatever it was, but it’s a little hard to make amends if I don’t know what I did wrong.

  7. Avatar says:

    There are plenty of stock Japanese phrases which come out awkward in English with a literal translation, but sound natural in Japanese.

    Didn’t see any of them in there, though…

    The real trick is pacing and emphasis. There are a lot of spots where the dialogue translates across just fine, but the length of the expression is totally different (for example, “Traitor!” versus “Kono uragirimono!”) In anime dubbing, this means that sometimes you need to rewrite the line just because the character’s only moving his mouth for so long (or, on the contrary, keeps moving his mouth for that long), and having the dialogue and video totally mismatches breaks disbelief (as if RE needed help there).

    Video games have the potential to get around this problem, simply because it’s POSSIBLE to change the mouth movements to conform to the new dialogue… so you can have your English voice actors do their lines in a natural pace, and then change the character’s mouth flaps to match or at least approximate that. But it’s unusual that anyone actually goes to that much trouble. Hopefully this sort of thing will become more common as mouth movements are generated dynamically by the game software as opposed to being in pre-rendered cinema sequences…

    1. Moridin says:

      Literal translations are ALWAYS awkward sounding, no matter what the languages are

      1. Blackbird71 says:

        Speaking from experience, this is a matter which depends greatly on the translator’s skill in both languages. The problem is that with the exception of some closely related languages, there is no such thing as a “literal” translation, because languages generally don’t express ideas in the same way as other languages.

        Truly knowing a language is not a matter of being able to make word for word substitutions, because you will rarely find a word in one language that is an exact match for a word in another. It’s a difficult concept to explain, but understanding the idea behind the words is the key to understanding a language.

        Someone who really understands two languages (which can often require an understanding of the culture behind the language) will understand the idea being expressed by words in one language, and will know what combination of words can properly express the same idea in the other. It’s a difficult skill to master, and takes a lot of experience in speaking with natives of both languages (book study alone won’t grant this level of understanding), but soemone who has that level of skill will make translations that sound “right” in both languages.

        So no, translations don’t always have to be awkward, but due to the difficulty of perfecting the skill and the scarcity of people who have developed it (and most likely, the cost of hiring them), most translations for trivial things like games and movies will be poorly done, and come out at least a bit on the awkward side.

  8. Preston says:

    Maybe this is an age thing, or more experience with console games, but in any game with QTEs that I’ve played, I’ve never had a problem with them. Perhaps they weren’t as ludicrous as some of the RE4 ones, but still.

    Snark: Don’t complain about bad dialog in an RE game, you knew what you were buying. Shamus maybe didn’t. Most people did.
    Snark snark: With so many people complaining about overly long cutscenes, we’re complaining about developers trying to insert more game into their games?

    1. Danath says:

      More cutscenes = less game generally because more time was spent making a piece of movie we have to watch. I hated Metal Gear Solid 4 because I spent at least 75% of my time with that game watching CUT SCENE AFTER CUT SCENE.

      1. Coffee says:

        Cut scenes: all the fun of playing a game, but without actually having any control over what’s happening.

        Also, all the fun of watching a movie, with horrible graphics and incredibly bad dialogue, several times.

        1. Avilan says:

          The cutscenes in DA:O and ME2 are pretty damn good.

    2. Veloxyll says:

      You’re used to the controller, thus making QTEs a million times easier. I’ve only recently gotten a PS2, and by the end of God of War I still was glancing at the controller to try to remember which button was X. During this time I’d take too long and fail the QTE

      re snark: Does it mention the terrible dialogue on the box or something? Otherwise, how do people know that the game has terrible dialogue? I’ve made plenty of buying decisions based upon the instore box without any knowledge of the actual game, and I’m sure there are a lot of people who do exactly the same and internet a heck of a lot less to boot. Also, it’s full retail price from launch – that implies that the writing should be decent, as should the rest of the game, since we’re being asked to pay top dollar.

      re snark snark: Cutscenes are story, only (sometimes) a small step up from exposition and journal entries; they’re not game, they’re support. They’re there to give extra meaning to what’s happening in the game. Pass-fail QTEs make them far less effective, since it’s the developer offering the illusion of interactivity while saying “no, it happens this way”; which gets even WORSE when the buttons you have to press are randomised each time, since then there’s no relation between the buttons you press and the events on screen. Cutscene QTEs don’t have to be that way either.

      Mass Effect 2 had good QTEs since they were just “press x to make something cool happen”. Heck even the story line QTEs in Soul Calibur 3 were passable in their “press x to not take damage” since failing them didn’t force you to redo them from start – you’d just have lower HP. No-one LIKES being forced to re-watch the same thing over and over and over till they get a sequence right, it’s not in any way satisfying when you finally win, it’s the release of some discomfort.

  9. A Different Dan says:

    I wonder if a good native English translator couldn't help a scene like this by making smartening up the dialog and improving the flow.

    I wonder if a native English translator might have helped with this here post, too… :)

    But seriously, dialogue that doesn’t sound cheesy when it is going to be replayed umpteen times is *hard*. I’m tempted to say “impossible,” but that really depends on how many times the players will hear it and their individual tolerance level for The Big Reveal happening seven times in as many minutes.

    But let’s talk about this particular scene. Why is there dialogue at all? What we’re here for are three things:
    1) To win a fight
    2) To progress the storyline
    3) To spend time.

    The first two are pretty much self-explanatory. As for the last one, games seem to be measured in terms of playthrough length, and people get mightily upset when they finish a $59.95 game in ten hours. Of course, dramatic tension must be maintained, and you’re sure as hell going to be paying attention to the goings-on when you expect Krauser to attack you at any moment. Of course, you might not be *listening* very well, since your focus is on the visual cues telling you to press a button, but that’s a different story.

    But what happens after you fail the sequence for the first time? You’re sent to the beginning, and must listen to the exchange from the beginning. Except now the whole experience is a mix of the old and the new; the part you’ve heard at least once before you flubbed the quicktime event, and the part that happened after the event, which you’re now seeing for the first time. Dramatic tension suffers, storyline progression suffers because you’re either skipping the dialogue (if the developers were nice enough to give you the option) or tuning it out, having just heard it moments ago. What suffers most is the natural flow of the conversation you’re having with Krauser.

    The approach of resetting the entire sequence to square one, with no alterations, is laziness and stupidity on the part of the developers. Why replay the dialogue time and time again? Why not simply cut out most of the conversation time after the player has seen it once? Focus on the fight, introduce some slight delay where Leon Justin Bieber and Krauser are making scary badass fighter faces at each other, and move on. Then, once the player moves into new territory, acknowledge that by focusing on the conversation that’s actually *new* to the player.

    It’s not even all that expensive a notion; you wouldn’t need to re-render the animation sequence, since what you’re doing is removing chunks. Maybe some small portions would need to be reworked to make the flow properly seamless, but compared to the complexity of the original scene, the investment is well worth it.

    It’s not like the time spent repeating the same damned challenge five times counts toward total playthrough length, anyway.

    1. Lambach says:

      I think we must concede that dialog should stand up to at least a single viewing.

  10. Factoid says:

    You make an excellent point about language barriers in writing. People consider an easy language to learn, but it’s also one of the more difficult languages to write in.

    Japanese is a fantastic language for writing. The syllables are always the same regardless of usage. There’s no such thing as a hard vowel and a soft vowel, or a C that sounds like S in some words. There’s also very little rhyming so it’s just completely ignored. They tend to use a lot more sophisticated alliteration, though.

    Italian is similar, but rhyming is actually super easy in italian because so many words end in vowel sounds and similar suffixes.

    English suffers from being a mutt of a language. Rhyming is difficult because all of the easy rhymes are completely obvious and weak because they’re so overused. Creating rhythmic word flow is also complex because our words come from half a dozen root sources.

    the end result is that crafting in the english language is difficult enough on its own, let alone translating something well. It really takes a very specific skillset. you either need a dynamite linguist who is also a good writer or you need to translate it and then pass it off again to a writer to pretty it up.

    1. Syal says:

      “People consider an easy language to learn”

      Is this referring to English, or some other language entirely?

      1. Moridin says:

        Well, English basics are pretty easy to learn. Compare it to Swedish: English has one class of verbs and one class of nouns. Swedish has 5 classes of verbs and 4 classes of nouns.

        The problem with English is that even after you’ve learned the basics, you don’t really know the language, since there’s thousands of exceptions.

        1. Syal says:

          I was just trying to interpret the sentence correctly; there’s no mention of any particular language in Factoid’s first paragraph.

    2. Rilias says:

      But we are talking about high quality here.
      Not to brag, but I think I could improve that particular scenes dialog quality from it’s uncanny valley like feel by turning the ‘almost’ human sentences into something mediocre and tolerable.
      And I’m no native English speaker.

      Maybe I’m indulging in my delusions here, but even if good English is hard, tolerable English is quite attainable.

      1. Will says:

        Even tolerable English is harder than you’d think, and pretty much impossible if you expect the viewer to listen to it multiple times.

        1. ehlijen says:

          It’d be a lot easier though if you don’t cast the speakers as idiots through their actions while they’re talking, though…

          I didn’t actually mind that english. Sure it wasn’t great, outright forgettable even, but at least they were better at basic communication than at fighting.

          1. Will says:

            In order to do that though you’d need to rewrite the entire Resident Evil story.

            Face it; the only reason the RE story is possible is because everyone in the RE universe is a blind idiot.

    3. krellen says:

      I’ve never met a non-native speaker who ever told me English was easy to learn. Most of them have expressed how difficult it is to learn, probably due to how much of a mutt it is.

      The closest thing I’ve ever heard to “English is easy to learn” was a Finn who told me “It’s hard, but at least it’s not Finnish.”

  11. Bobknight says:


    You’d never punch bikini Leia in the face.

    1. Jarenth says:

      Even a blind man with no arms would be tempted to punch Bikini Leia in the face after enough alone time with this schlock.

  12. Gndwyn says:

    I’ve read hundreds of rants about unskippable cutscenes on the internet, but I’ve never once read an interview with a developer asking them WTF are they thinking when they do this crap that seems to be so universally hated.

    When are games journalists going to man up and hold some developers’ feet to the fire about this?

    1. Johan says:

      I think it may be that on the whole they are usually a mild discomfort for the player. I noticed this when Shamus did his twitter review of Dragon Age: Origins. There are a lot of things that will make you go “ARRRRRRRRRRRGH” at the screen in frustration, but once you’ve finished the game hindsight glosses over the most glaring problems. Most journalists are veteran gamers and so belong in the 95% crowd. Having to watch the cutscene 1.5 times is annoying, but there are things far more annoying that stay with you longer.

      So when a journalist sits down with a developer, they’re more likely to ask about the things that annoyed them throughout the game (the plot was insipid, why did you write it?) than the minor annoyances that are like so many insects, you cannot swat them all.

      Also, if Yatzee (spelling?) counts as a big name journalist, he’s ranted about the,

  13. Grag says:

    Disturbingly, the Dora the Explorer game for the v-smile has quick-time-events.

  14. Blake says:

    My recent QTE experience, Lost Planet 2.
    The vast majority of the cutscenes are beautiful cinematic non interactive scenes, then 3 or 4 times in the game a button will appear in the middle of the screen during them.
    Not a single time was I expecting the cutscene to turn into a QTE (every time I’d already put the controller down) and I’m pretty sure each of those movies only had one button press (I died after one of them and had to repeat it, turns out the button presses are random too).

    When QTEs feel like an extension of the game (God Of War) they can come off alright, when they’re just a surprise in the middle of a movie they’re an awkward mix of pointless and tacked on.

  15. Mumbles says:

    You don’t know shit about quick time events until you play Heavy Rain. It’s described as an ‘interactive movie’ on wiki.

    1. Tizzy says:

      I have not played it. I got the impression though that there were no “right” or “wrong” choices necessarily, just that you had to make a decision without the luxury of thinking it through.

      That’s the feeling I had from watching the videos they put out on release. So: is that an accurate description, or hype?

      1. Mumbles says:

        It depended on the situation. In some parts of the game it gave you enough time to decide if you wanted to do something or not. In other parts you were forced to discover what the game wanted you to. But, if you wanted a character to fail the actiony parts you could always just put the controller down and go make a sandvich.

        Which is what I did with the main character. Unfortunately, the other characters bailed him out at the end.

        1. 8th_Pacifist says:

          I think the difference here is that in Heavy Rain, the QTEs aren’t binary Pass/Fail gateways, as they are in… oh, most every other game ever made. The individual reactions in a sequence mean very little; the cumulative effect of all of them is what’s important, so if you’re eighty percent accurate, rather than failing three times and having to watch the same scene twice, you fail three times and end the scene with a few more bruises, or with the story going in a different direction.

          That may still be annoying (Disclaimer: I haven’t actually played the game), but I can see how it would be less annoying.

          1. Mumbles says:

            The annoying part is that if you fail, you don’t get to restart a level. The game just says, “Oh, now you fucked up” and then proceeds to the next part of the story. There was this one part of the game where a character had to crawl through a dark tunnel and the camera angles were so confusing that I couldn’t get through it in time. The game just threw me out of the scene and moved the game along whether I liked it or not. I can’t imagine failing the last parts of the game because it would have just killed off a character I liked instead of letting me try again.

  16. Lambach says:

    I’m reminded of Dragon’s Lair, in 1983 I thought it was incredibly awesome. Maybe for a QTE to be awesome it just needs to hop in the way back machine and visit 30 years ago.

  17. Tizzy says:

    Now I understand better the hatred sane gamers can have for quicktime events. I’ve never seen the idea so poorly implemented! When I had to suffer through QTE, it was never more than 2 or 3 in a row, with maybe one button to press each time.

    More importantly, the scenes were short and pure action. Here, it’s like the game designer want to punish you for getting interested in the exposition (just *watching* already had that effect on me): “Oh, you want to follow our crappy dialogue, do you?… THERE, take a knife in the gut!”


  18. Klay F. says:

    The only QTEs I’ve EVER come across that I thought were good ideas was in Prince of Persia The Two Thrones with their quick kill system. There are a ton of situations in that game that give you a quick time event to quickly kill a regular enemy. I found it was a joy to pull them off because you could get them out of the way in just a few button presses, and the only penalty for failure is fighting them regularly. These quick kills had a pretty good difficulty curve also, by giving you just one button press and a ton of time to press it in the beginning, they would gradually give you tougher enemies with two or three button presses. It was great, especially given the mobs you had to fight normally anyway in that game.

    1. Nonesuch says:

      Second this. Most of these were optional, except for those that showed up in boss fights. And frankly, those archers got on my nerves, so seeing them have their throats cut *never* got old.

    2. I wouldn’t really count that sort of thing as even being a QTE, since the button presses are occurring within gameplay rather than an otherwise non-interactive cutscene. When you get right down to it, gaming is pretty much all about pressing a specific controller input to do the thing you want to do.

      1. Tizzy says:

        You can still make a case for the QTE appellation, since you have to press a *specific* sequence of commands rather than come up with any sequence of commands that will achieve your goal.

        But whether you want to call them QTE or not, there is no doubt that they are a good gameplay element, rather than the exercise in frustration that Shamus’s video illustrates.

  19. ehlijen says:

    This fight should not have been a QTE!

    Look at KOTOR, they managed to have fights interrupted by dialog and still let the payer actually play the game.

    It’s like the developers thought: “This cutscene calls for a fight, but we don’t want to railroad the player’s fights for him…let’s give him the option to die instead!”

  20. Legal Tender says:

    Am I the only one that thinks the QTEs in Prince of Persia (the cell-shade one) were actually pretty well done?

    They made sense and IIRC none of them were fatal if you missed. Although that goes hand in hand with the whole Elika-will-save-your-dumb-arse mechanics. Which, incidently, provided me with the best gaming experience I’ve had in a long, long time :)

    I swear that game is the perfect counter to what you coined as the doitagainstupid school of game design, Shamus

    /can’t remember but I think you actually wrote about that game here, didnt you?

    1. Shamus says:

      I think you and I are the only two people who liked that game. It tanked, and Ubi abandoned it to return to the Sands of Time prince.

      Sand of Time is good too, but I lament this game didn’t fare better.

      1. PurePareidolia says:

        Personally I was OK with it for the most part, until the ending which goes down as the worst I’ve ever seen in a game. For that reason alone I’m glad it tanked.

        1. FacelessJ says:

          Yeah, I enjoyed it, but hated that ending too. Especially as I played it on pc, which doesn’t have the extra DLC chapter to finish the story. ~_~

          1. Rilias says:

            I found the general flow of the story and progression in the game to be pretty drawn out and bumpy. The banter between the prince and whatsherface was OK but nothing compared to Sands o’ Time.

            But the ending was great!

            Finally I as protagonist was given the opportunity to be utterly selfish and destroy that entire “The only person you like had to sacrifice herself for the greater good.” schtick so many stories seem to end with.
            Screw the greater good!

            Also on QTE’s. I seem to remember that Cel Shaded PoP had these strange Shadow Guards or something where the QTE’s required to kill it did that thing where you have to press a random button that had nothing to do with the situation. Which was the exact opposite of how the bossfigts worked and was extra aggravating because of the contrast.

      2. Taellosse says:

        Hey! I loved that game! Even if I hated the QTEs in it. And I know of at least one other person that also loves it. So that’s 4!

        Did the game really sell that badly? I thought it did okay. Maybe not blockbuster success, but profitable, at least. the Wikipedia page says it sold 2.2 million copies worldwide as of January 2009. I don’t know what that means, though, when compared to other big titles. None of the Sands of Time games have comparable sales figures on their pages.

        1. Klay F. says:

          Sadly I was well into my Ubisoft boycott when that game came out. I am a saaaad panda.

      3. Legal Tender says:

        *chants* ONE OF US! ONE OF US!

        Incidentally, I really liked the looks of it. I’m a bit miffed that more people are not satisfied with them, though. I’m not certain but it seemed to me a very neat way to lower graphics processing requirements which in turn would allow for more resources to be put into story, mechanics, etc.

        It’s similar to what I’m going through with Borderlands (yeah, late to the partay, I know :/ ) at the mo. Brilliant atmosphere, visuals, audio, etc but none of my friends are willing to give it a chance on account of it being too ‘cartooney’. Blaargh. I’m trying to give it a go solo but it’s not really working that well.

        /can’t stand having to team up with random people online so it seems I will have to bin it >(

      4. asterismW says:

        I loved the game too. I thought the graphics were excellent, I didn’t mind the QTEs, I thought the banter was funny (unlike Warrior Within and Forgotten Sands for the Wii, in which the banter was grating), and I really liked not dying. But my favorite part was the combat. Once I figured out it wasn’t a button-mashing melee, it was a joy to string together attacks, and it was beautiful to watch.

        I did hate the ending though, especially since we PC gamers got shafted with the DLC.

        1. Otters34 says:

          Don’t feel bad, the DLC makes a mockery out of any attempt to have a sensible ending, with a special side-dish of humaner-than-thou posturing from our adorable and so wonderful and skeptical protagonist towards Ahura Mazada. If I were a Zorastrian I’d ha’ smacked him for ignoring the basic reality of the universe and thinking that Elka sacrificing herself was somehow the end for her, when nothing save eternal bliss awaited her death.

          But as I’m not a Zorastrian I can kind of understand the hero’s logic. Maybe.

  21. Taellosse says:

    Scene 1 » Quicktime » Scene 2 » Quicktime » Scene 3 » Quicktime » Scene 4 » Quicktime » Scene 5 » Quicktime » Scene 7 » Quicktime » Scene 8

    Perhaps I missed something, but shouldn’t there be another sequence in there? I thought 6 usually came between 5 and 7.

    1. Shamus says:

      Sorry. I’ve always had a bit of a blind spot for 6’s.

      1. Kell says:

        It’s just a box with STOP and START on it!

        1. Shamus says:

          The start button starts it. You can work out the rest of the controls for yourself.

    2. Sekundaari says:

      Rule six – there is no scene six!

  22. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I thought of bandit keith saying in america during this cutscene,and it immediately became awesome.

    1. Klay F. says:

      …in America…

      “Stop saying that!”

  23. Scourge says:

    Cheesy and Bad translation? And no one recalls Zero Wing?

    I mean really, All your Base are belong to us! You are on the way to destruction. Take of every ZIG.

    *shakes head*

    1. FacelessJ says:

      What you say! Zero Wing translation was the best ever. :P

  24. Manny says:

    Was I the only one here who JUST HAD to find the corresponding formula? It turned out to be quite elegant:

    x=1/(p^n), where

    x: times the players had to watch the scene
    p: chance of success per QTE
    n: number of upcoming QTEs

    Phew, glad I got that out of my system. Now, back to work…

  25. Tony says:

    Fun fact: The scenes between each quicktime presses are entirely skippable, just like all the other scenes in the game. Simply push that start button to be taken to next prompt.

    It’s a lot less annoying like that, but just as pointless.

  26. SatansBestBuddy says:

    To be completely fair, the rest of the game had QTE’s happen only once or twice during cutscenes.

    In fact, almost every other element of RE4 (pacing, level design, boss battles, variety, game length, friendly AI, exploration, actual, honest to god horror) is of such high quality that I’m more willing to forgive one badly QTE’d cinematic than I would be for most other games.

  27. ClearWater says:

    Do you mean to say that having to pay attention to something other than the dialogue doesn’t improve this cut-scene? ;-p

  28. DaveMc says:

    While you’re simulating things 1000 times, maybe you can work out who is … The Deadliest Warrior!

  29. BeamSplashX says:

    The funny thing about this scene is that lots of guides recommend failing at every command to see the unique death they made for each scene. And I totally did it.

    Granted, I actually don’t mind RE’s silliness. While some might attribute it to numbness after so much exposure, I’d attribute it to games with more ridiculous cutscene logic like Kingdom Hearts. Goodness gracious.

  30. Kdansky says:

    Even though the original RE supposedly has english cutscenes, if I try to think of what the Japanese would be for that dialog, it does sound quite a bit better. Many sentences are literal translations of what would actually sound okay in Japanese. Since the Japanese do not speak enough english to feel our pain, that works well for them.
    I absolutely cannot stand to watch Anime in dubbed form, because every single sentence feels wrong to me. Either it is translated literally and hurts the part of my brain that reads Pratchett or Shakespeare, or it is translated freely and seems totally disconnected from the Japanese thing I am watching right then.

    FFX-1 had German subtitles directly translated off the Japanese script, but English voice-over. The contrast was remarkable, and made the game quite painful to listen to, as the English dub was not only just bad (how I hate Tidus whine), but also had completely messed up nuances all the time.

  31. BFG9000 says:

    “Like you, I’m American.”

    I didn’t even know what this was supposed to mean for the longest time. Eventually I decided it was “Sadler doesn’t trust Americans, thus I had to gain his trust with Ashley.” But man, when there were six of us in our college house watching our one roommate play this scene the laughter that erupted over “like you, I’m American” blocked out the rest of the dialogue.

  32. What everyone’s forgetting is:

    You’re not just rewatching it, several times, in a row.

    You’re watching it, with random segments cut in and out, in a row.

    It’s like when an audio player crashes and keeps playing the same three seconds of the song. It could be the best song in the world and you would still want to end it quickly. Here, you’ve heard the first few parts of the dialogue so many times that the later parts may stop making sense since you’ve FORGOTTEN the first part is actually sequential with the rest.

  33. mero says:

    God I loved that game, worked great on the WII, quicktime events never bothered me, although I always died the first time.
    I really enjoyed the preposterous plot, I just love the way Japanese titles never aimed for realism if it got in the way of interesting game play, same with the metal gear games, they didn’t make an iota of sense, but at the sametime we’re so serious about themselves.
    Just played Modern Warfare 2, if thats the future video gaming is dying.

  34. Liz says:

    RE4 QTEs totally had their way with me. For some reason, I never expected them, and they’re SO FAST. By the time I realized that there was a button prompt and I was supposed to be doing something, the prompt was gone and I was dead. Again.

    Other than that, though, the game was awesome. I love the Resident Evil franchise, but that might just be my love of zombies and scaring myself witless. Heaven knows it’s not a love of Capcom.

  35. Nerd Faced Gurl says:

    I have never had to deal with a QTE in my life, being a PC gamer. They sound annoying and pointless. Are there any of these in any PC games? There were none in Dragon Age: Origins or Mass Effect.

  36. “Imagine watching the above scene six times in a row.

    Well, after you said that I had to go do it, just to see. I actually didn’t want to claw my brains out, although by the fifth time around I was ignoring the characters and watching the way the pipes moved under the floor grating. And I had “Do You Wanna Date My Avatar” stuck in my head at the time, which might have helped.

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