Experienced Points: Quick Time Redux

By Shamus
on Jul 23, 2010
Filed under:
Column

We just had this conversation this morning about quick time events. So, let’s… have another?

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201838 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.

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  1. Jarenth says:

    Damnit. I got halfway through the article on my first time, but I got blind-sided by that sneaky QTE you put there. “Point mouse cursor at 2 and left click”? I didn’t even have my hand on the mouse at the time.

    Had to read the whole damn page again.

  2. Roll-a-die says:

    I’m actually starting to get used to QTE’s in what rare console games I play. But agree with the NO PC QTE notion, I’ve been playing allot of old school(for noobs) PC games, and in something like Alice, I honestly don’t see the point of a QTE, ANYWHERE. Also imagine Morrowind if you had to flutter a set of keys every time you let a cliff racer get too close ala dead space.

    On that note I shall close with “SCREEEEEEEEE,SC, SC, SCREEEEEEEEEE”

    • Sekundaari says:

      About Morrowind: It would be annoying, but not that big a difference. At the moment you have to press a lot of one key (button) to get rid of that cliff racer in your face. It’s the same one every time, of course.

      Hail Saint Jiub…

    • Axle says:

      And if you do, please show me the real key on the keyboard (even after remapping )and not the consloe button.
      QTEs are bad enough even without trying to remember that “press A and B repeatedly” meane “Press Ahift and Ctrl repeatedly”.

      • X2-Eliah says:

        Also many keyboards and windows installations do funny stuff if you press ctrl+shift together (language/layout swap), or shift 5 times, or other stuff like that.

        Why do game devs insist on using those two keys i can’t understand, it’s like they intentionally know that they will call some other function from windows.

        • Sumanai says:

          I assume that they assume that you would’ve disabled them from the system’s settings. Technically a workaround, which shouldn’t excuse them, but there’s not a whole lot of buttons near the pinky in WASD-setups. Although I’d really like if the Caps Lock wouldn’t be used for anything. And if new keyboards would relocate it somewhere. Like the moon.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Indeed.Is it really that hard to rewrite those prompts?Alpha protocol,while without qtes,still managed to piss me off when it told me to press e,when Ive swapped it.

        • acronix says:

          I guess shinny icons are expensive to make. Unless Alpha Protocol didn´t use shinny icons, in which case they have no excuse…

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Indeed.I can imagine how shiny icons would be over budget after everything else theyve had to change in order for the port to work.

            But in alpha protocol its just a textual hint,so it even worse than not changing shiny icons.

          • Sumanai says:

            You could generate the shiny icon. First make a (shiny) base button picture, then a file with fancy (and shiny) letters. Draw the base button on-screen, pick a letter from the picture file according to the settings file, overlay and done.
            Of course shaped keys like Enter should have a different base, but you can’t really trust that the keyboard in question has the same shaped keys anyway. (I have one keyboard with a Shift-like Enter, and one with a 180 degree rotated L ) I guess you could just have another (shiny) base button picture, wich would be wider so there would be room for text.

  3. Bit says:

    My way of thinking is do it like Mass Effect 2, or don’t do it at all. Big flashy icons that are made obvious by both the cinematic itself and a subtle sound cue, that happen often enough that you’re always ready for them to some extent and, most importantly, that (mass) affect something rather than strictly doing it.

    • Drexer says:

      And that stay on the screen for a while too. Sometimes ME2 failed in that regard, but mainly most Paragon/Renegade choices had some seconds for you to take notice and decide about them.

    • Nyaz says:

      I just thought about mentioning Mass Effects interruptions. But then again, they aren’t really QTE’s either, since they aren’t essential, you can go through the entire game and never press a single one and you will do just fine (albeit with a bit fewer paragon/renegade points)

  4. Timelady says:

    Warning: I’m sick and feeling quite loopy at the moment, so this post may not actually make sense to anyone else. Sorry.

    Those first two suggestions in the article remind me of Dragon’s Lair. Remember that game? Bits of the scenery would flash and you’d have to press a button to attack or go in that direction. IIRC, that was basically the whole game. I have absolutely hopeless reflexes, but for some reason I loved my old PC port of that and Space Ace. Seems to me, if done right, something like what the article suggests could actually immerse players even more in their surroundings since we’d have to pay sharp attention to everything going on, instead of pulling us out of it.

    Think of that Resident Evil You-Tube video. What if instead of focussing on the lower third of the screen waiting for those little creepy eyes to pop up and tell you what to do, you had to keep all of your attention on the knife, waiting for it to telegraph what what’s-his-name (I’ve never played this game, is it too obvious? :P) does next by flashing, or moving a certain way. You could even use the bad dialogue to attempt to distract the player from what he’s doing, sort of like Spiderman’s trash talk except with plot exposition instead of insults. What’s important in that scene is the knife. The main character needs to have all his attention on it to stay alive; so should the player.

    /rambling rehash of the article

    • Nidokoenig says:

      Or you could have an actual knife-fight mechanic that includes parrying, dodging and such and just have in-combat exposition. I do think that having more immersive and sensible QTEs makes them more interesting, though. Hell, rhythm games are fun enough and they’re just QTEs.

      Here’s a thought: You know the new Sherlock Holmes movie? What if a QTE worked liked Holmes’ fight plan vision? You see the PC’s plan play out in their head, and your job is to punch, kick, dodge, block and parry at the right times to fulfil the plan. Maybe it links into a mechanic that rewards following the plan somehow, maybe with a sanity-boost. You’re using actual mechanics, not arbitrary buttons, and it’s imparted in an atmospheric way.

      • Will says:

        Making a knife-fight mechanic would require designing a whole new combat system, good luck pitching that to the publisher.

      • X2-Eliah says:

        fight plan vision would mean either a split screen to show real-life and planned, or a time-lapse that extends the length by repetition. Both of them are bad things, imo.

        • Jep jep says:

          I actually envisioned something like the VATS in FO3 when reading that. You click on a select number of body parts and choose the type of attack or parry (and other actions as needed). Of course then it would need to have a time-limit to qualify as QTE. Either when time is over or you press a button your character will then unleash the fury.

          It doesn’t sound so bad to me, expecting of course you’d have enough time to make those quick tactical decisions. It could work in theory anyway.

          Edit: It wouldn’t of course work with the cutscenes at all if you had to stop every 10 seconds to make new attacks, now that I think about it. But meh.. for that “Sherlock Holmes” type of thing I’d imagine it could work anyway, if you wanted to implement it in a game otherwise.

        • Nidokoenig says:

          Well, the fight plan vision in Sherlock Holmes was him pausing, having an internal run-through of how to wreck the other bloke’s shit with a monolgue about what he’s doing and what the effect will be, then doing it. Sort of like what some comedies do, where someone thinks through a horrible thing to do in response to some arsehole, then they snap back and just smile politely.

          This is the sort of scene I’m talking about:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60Lj-jteoc4

          So that’s (Miscellaneous Action), Block, Punch, Stun, Parry(or Block, Punch), Punch, Punch, Kick. Obviously, real sequences would be shorter, but on the other hand, the other guy’s taking pretty bad knocks right the way through. Perhaps you could change the type of scenes your character thinks up using skill points, alignment checks and maybe a stance modifier(choosing pacifist, for example, would result in non-lethal takedowns, but a hero’s non-lethal takedowns would be different to a total bastards).

    • dman says:

      Agreed, from halfway through the article I was thinking “Well, Dragons Lair got it right then!”
      – and was fun (though I was awful at it
      – and the actions had relevance to what was happening on screen!
      – and had you PAYING ATTENTION to the visuals and story the whole time
      … although it was just one big series of insta-kills :-)

      So how come a game from the beginning of time got it so right, while now QTEs are groan-worthy? They serve to deliberately make me unable to enjoy their grand set-piece cinematics because I’m focussed in the near foreground waiting for the next pavlovian button to come up.

  5. Blanko2 says:

    mercenaries 2 had some not that bad QTEs
    and so did Just Cause 2 (which in many ways copies it)
    Mercs2 still had one part where you have to press the jump button repeatedly (try slamming down your space button quickly. see? you cant) and it ENDS ON A QTE WHICH IS AWFUL
    but mostly it wasnt rage inducing.
    course its been a while, maybe the rage just subsided.

    • Sumanai says:

      Unless I’m thinking about a different game, it’s Merc’s 2. Of course the rage has merely subsided. Time has healed the wounds, and your subconsious is hard at work to make you hurt yourself by enticing you to give the game a new try.

      • Sumanai says:

        Correction:
        I was thinking about the wrong game. My memory had switched places with the words “mercenary” and “commando”. And it doesn’t even make sense that Commandos would have QTEs.

  6. Axle says:

    Looks like you may have a(nother?) psychic link with some developers. God of War 3 accomplishes #1. Once I figured out that the button prompt corresponded with edge of the screen, and broke the habit of focusing on the prompt I thought it was a really “good” implementation.

    Another “good” QTE that at least GoW3 has is a button prompt that doesn’t have a time limit for finisher moves on some of the bosses. You hold the button down for a time and perform the action when you let go. It gave the player the freedom to add some suspense to brutally killing your opponent. Actually Heavy Rain had some QTEs like that, though less brutal. With HR, I would expect a game with such a focus on QTEs to get it “right” though. I think it worked pretty well.

  7. Viktor says:

    One minor nitpick: The differences between the XBox controller and the PS3 controller are not cosmetic. The 360 is somewhat larger and shaped to be comfortable for extended periods. That’s not cosmetic, that’s vital ergonomics if, like me, you have unusually long fingers. The buttons are basically the same, true, but when the original XBox controller felt comfortable to me at age 12, using a PS3 is basically impossible unless I shell out the cash for an adapter so I can use a 360 controller. And I know there are people who have trouble with the 360 controller for the opposite reason.

    And I agree with the Mercs 2 comment. I could hijack some of the vehicles, and just blow up the others. The quick-press was the impossible part, the rest was doable. Decent implementation, just needed a bit of tweeking.

  8. Mass Effect 2 seems to do it just like you prefer it Shamus.

    In fact BioWare calls it the “Interrupt” system, and it’s mostly during dialog (as far as I can remember),

    1. It’s optional. (doing an interrupt either shortens, extends or gives a alternative scene)
    2. It’s color coded (red or blue)
    3. It appears in lower left corner or lower right. (can’t recall if red always is in the same corner and blue in the same corner but I believe so)
    4. You are usually sitting with your hand on the mouse at that point anyway (either due to recently choosing dialog or you just triggered a conversation or cinematic.) So on the PC, pressing either the left or right mouse button isn’t much of a hassle.
    5. There are usually a camera cue that angles or slightly focuses to try and hint to you what the “interrupt” might actually do, unless the scene itself makes it obvious.
    6. Having both interrupts (Paragon vs Renegade) appear at the same time is rare, in fact I can’t remember that happening, but it is possible for both to appear, but they will appear at two different points in the scene with some breathing room in-between.

    If anyone have ever seen a DVD with alternate angles, then you know what Mass Effect 2’s “interrupt” system is inspired by, and why it feels to fit the scene so well.
    The alternate angle feature on DVD’s let you see a alternate shot, sometimes a B roll, other times it’s made especially for the DVD release, usually there are only two, but it could be more angles.
    A icon appears to let you know there are alternate angles available,
    just like ME2 letting you know you can do a non-aggressive thing or an aggressive thing during a scene.

    To me, the ME2 “interrupt” system is ideal, if it gets more complex than that it draws attention away.

    And I agree with you Shamus, the button juggling shouldn’t be there, it’s bad enough on a controller, but on a PC the rapid hitting of left mouse and right mouse or Q and E or whatever is truly painful indeed even for a otherwise experienced PC gamer.

    Which is why this surprised me: http://www.gametrailers.com/video/exclusive-reveal-mass-effect/52551

    Later in that dev clip, you can see the console version’s “interrupt”.
    It’s color coded (like the PC version), it’s got a symbol (PC version is a mouse) and which button (like the PC version), on the console it’s either the Left trigger or right trigger.
    Now a console gamer usually rest the controller in their hands during a scene, and it’s not difficult to press LT or RT as your fingers are probably resting close to those.
    Similar to the PC where your hand is probably resting on the mouse and the fingers near the mouse buttons.

    So BioWare did that very nicely indeed. And the interrupt does not really happen during combat (that I can recall), which is another plus in my book, it’s only during a scene.

    QTE’s need to go away. Replace them with interrupts within scenes like BioWare did, or with extensive context sensitive during action (like Fable 3 will?)

    Oh and I almost forgot, there’s also nothing wrong with autopausing and asking the player if they wish to hug the monster or tear them to pieces. (autopause, show symbols, let player choose one then unpause automatically and continue scene)

  9. SatansBestBuddy says:

    If I remember right, God of War did QTE’s right for three reasons, 1) the prompts appeared alongside the action, usually beside or above Kratos, meaning you had to watch all the cool stuff in the cutscene if you wanted to catch the next QTE, 2), they slowed down everything, giving you not only a clearly visible prompt but a clear indication that you should press it, and 3) they were incredibly lenient with the timing required, I remember one time failing on purpose just to see what would happen, and it took the game a good 3-4 seconds to fail me, which I say is more than enough time to notice you need to press a button, figure out which button to press, and press it – 1, 2, 3 actions that will take less than 1 second to figure out for an experienced gamer, and possibly the full 3 seconds for the newbie, but both of them will be able to pass.

    Oh, and the price of failure wasn’t instant death, so far as I remember; I only ever failed the one time, on purpose, and that was when I was fighting the colossus at the beginning, and losing that QTE simply meant I had to go another round with the fight, which wasn’t very bad at all, since he only took one more hit, and I’d already figured out his pattern, so it took all of a minute to start the QTE all over again.

    Or course, GoW3 took two of those good things (prompts on Kratos and lenient timing) and got rid of them, so those QTE’s were suddenly not as good, but then, that game as a whole wasn’t nearly as good as the first two.

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