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September 10, 2008

Week Seven Discussion: Storyboarding & Cut-scenes

Filed under: ECU MInT,GDT3102 Writing for Games — steve @ 3:46 pm

Week 7 Discussion:

a. If storyboarding each part of a game takes work, how does it save the development company money?

The storyboard saves development time, and therefore money, as it provides a visually clearer identification of the development objective than text. It can serve as a style-guide of sorts in that it can indicate composition, movement and follow-through action that would be far more difficult to describe in text. In a development team of many animators (and in-betweeners) the lack of a storyboard would be the same as not having a script to work on in a film. Though both are important (the script and the storyboard) from an animation perspective the world has to be created by “hand’ rather than through a camera lens, so it is critical  that there is some sense of what the animation director is intending for the animators to do via the use of the storyboard.

b. Why is a storyboard for animation more important than one for live action?

In animation the storyboard also serves as the basis for the animatic; i.e. the storyboard frames are placed in timed ordered position in the linear sequence and resulting frame roughs and audio/voice-overs are then placed in the animatic to build up the completed animation sequence. Live action may also use an animatic to develop and clarify the concept however the film’s director, depending on his vision and license to use that vision as the auteur may very well use a storyboard or just the script as the guide to determine shot sequences and locations etc and make his final decisions based upon what is happening at the time of the filming.

c. How might storyboards help simplify the development of complex sequences and solve problems in game design?

In the development of complex sequences, the storyboard might be useful in identifying what is necessary and what is not necessary in the telling of the narrative sequence. It should indicate what will be in “camera view” to a certain extent (depending on the interactivity of the particular scene and the player’s over control of what s/he sees). It should also help identify issue in the complex sequence that need to be addressed before the scene is modelled/animated so ideally those issues would be resolved prior to development rather than trying to be fixed after the fact.

As for solving other issues/problems, the storyboard also provides the artist with information as to what the player should see more of in a sequence: if we mainly see the back of the player’s avatar the artist/modeller would better serve the visual outcomes by concentrating on the back detail of the avatar rather than the front. The same applies for NPC, props and other game world artwork. If the lead artist knows what is important visually in the game world/scene then those issues can be concentrated on rather than wasting development time on elements that are never seen by the player in the world.

d. What are some functions of cut-scenes in computer games? Consider examples from your own experience.

Cut scenes might be employed to indicate the back-story of the narrative; to explain what the player needs to do to further explore the narrative; to link scenes/levels together to extend the narrative; to make the player experience an event critical in the story spine that the player may not be necessarily be relied upon in achieving in the game spine, and, as a reward for the player’s achievements/progress through the game.

The beginning of F.E.A.R. had a rather detailed cut-scene to start the game that gave the player an understanding of what their role was and why they were in this game world. However, despite the narrative approach to the front end of the game once the player was dumped into the ally way there was no turning back and it was really just another FPS.

In BioShock the player is forced into watching a cut-scene (with an explanation by the “guide”) of the young girl and her robotic guardian – this helped explain the narrative and some back ground into the mission.

In Tomb Raider Anniversary cut scenes are used to describe and force the player to view dramatic events linking the outcomes of completed sequences with the next phase or challenge. They are also used to join the successive levels together and further the narrative. F.E.A.R. also used cut scenes to introduce specific NPCs to the game world in a way that forced the player to be aware of them.

Games like Tekken used cut scenes as a reward for the player’s progress in the game. In Max Payne the final reward for completing/solving the puzzle was a cut scene which described the results of the player’s actions. In this case the cut scene was used as a conclusion to the game in many repects.

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