is the least understood aspect of a director's know-how. Still,
editing may be the most important ingredient for bringing personality
to a movie.
of editing techniques can be adapted to game creation while preserving
use of cut scenes throughout the game. These brief scenes are inserted
in the fabric of the movie or game; they introduce a character, present
an important object or action, etc. These landmark moments set the pace
as they generate new turns and feed new information to the viewer. A
good editor will insert enough sequences to sustain viewers' attention.
In a game, cut scenes make a perfect addition to a high-paced game level.
The trick is to design the both cut scene sequences and the gameplay
in parallel with the script.
of camera shots essentially allow a visual diversity and thus stimulate
the audience's attention. Framing can also highlight a location, a character,
an object or event. Different shots can help lead to solutions that
reconcile gameplay and the use of movie-like scenes.
- The use
of shortcuts avoids tedious movements that break up the pace and bring
nothing to the gameplay. These shortcuts may be part of the script or
left to the player's discretion. Metal Gear Solid proved the
validity of this approach by allowing characters to jump to a distant
location by sliding into crates.
music themes or special sound effects. Indeed, editing involves not
only the image but the sound dimension too. Never underestimate the
descriptive power of sound. Sound design is one aspect of videogame
design that is likely to undergo the most serious development in the
years to come.
A Credible Universe
It is essential
to build a believable environment. Can you expect the viewer to become
immersed in a story if characters and décor "aren't right"?
There are several key aspects of a videogame that require particular attention
if a designer wants to make the universe credible:
animations must be consistent with the environment. A character that
is directed into a wall shouldn't uselessly stomp on the spot. It would
make much more sense if the character would simply halt. When an obstacle
gets in the way, the character should understand that it needs to jump
over or go around, as characters do in Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
The player controls the character, but the character should have enough
intelligence to adapt its movements to the environment. In Metal
Gear Solid 2, a pursued Snake jumps down flights of stairs in order
to escape more quickly.
must be credible and detailed. In visual terms, credible décor
must include all the little details that make things feel "real."
In Alone In The Dark: The New Nightmare, we stuffed in all the
objects and decorative elements the player expects to see: gardening
tools next to the greenhouse, clothes inside the house, etc. And if
we really need our décors to look real, why not use existing,
hates uniformity. Another way to create a more credible universe is
to avoid repetition and uniformity. Take a look through your window
and you'll notice that buildings come in different styles. That's because
they were not built at the same time. People in the street don't look
the same either. They wear all manner of clothes and come different
sizes and shapes. They don't walk at the same pace, either. This is
"sound" first. Before ever viewing a location, we perceive
it through sound. In a game, the sound is very often mixed in as an
added ingredient, even though it is often what gives the environment
most of its flavor. When the character advances along a road, for example,
the player shouldn't hear the same sound over and over. It is the random
nature of sounds that delivers a lively universe.
peppered with oddities. Nothing gives more personality to a room or
a building then a detail that you have not seen before. It could be
as simple as an ashtray with a smoking cigar butt, a piece of equipment
you expect to find in the type of room you visit, music coming out of
a radio, etc.
- A universe
in movement. Simple things can be animated to give an amazing sense
of life to a background. Think of the powerful effect of the flying
curtains in Clive Barker's Undying or the dead leaves blown away
by the wind in Hexen. In a street, a few cars zooming by, fans slowly
rotating in a wharehouse, a flock of birds flying in the distance, etc.
- The behavior
of villains or computer-controlled characters characters should be as
realistic as possible. Rather than relying on flawless AI, the script
must provide a proper introduction and strong behavior rules for these
characters. Enemies in Soldier of Fortune move around, take shelter
and engage in combat in a life-like fashion. Guards in Metal Gear
Solid are animated in a way that gives them extraordinary presence:
they stretch out, stop to look around, and generally behave in a realistic
fashion. Guards in Thief: The Dark Project talk to each other
and change tones when they spot suspicious activity. All these behavioral
details encourage us to believe in characters encountered during the
game. Features like these can make enemies seem deadlier and allies
view should be avoided as much as possible. Subjective views can damage
a game's cinematic dimension, but such technique can be required at
certain points during the game. A rifle scope or a TV monitor are good
ways to integrate such a point of view in a movie-like video game. In
this regard, controlling the sniper in Hitman is reasonably true
to life: the cross-hairs move in step with the character's breathing
and we can see the impact of bullets as they strike a target.
taken by characters must be credible. It is preferable to make the enemy
very weak rather than enabling our hero to take an absurd number of