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I'm a researching a certain game mechanic that seems very commonplace in modern narrative-based games. The mechanic is defined (by me) as a user action that the player can take while in a dialogue or a cutscene, which affects the course of the narrative (and sometimes has a long lasting impact on the game progression in general).

The interaction can be of several types - press a button\click a character\hit a sequence of keys\button mashing.

Here's an example from Game of Thrones

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykq213pPD6Q&feature=youtu.be&t=181

In Mass Effect it is referred to as an interrupt

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9TgTLJXoD_o

Here's one from King's Quest:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KhOkqn6qE2g

I'm looking for more info on this type of mechanic. Specifically -

  1. Is there an accepted name for it?
  2. What other games have this mechanic, and use it in an interesting way? (I would appreciate links to videos demonstrating it)
  3. What types of interactions (such as the ones I've described) have you seen implemented in this mechanic?

Thanks :)

(BTW if you think this game-design related question is more suitable for StackExchange's Arqade do let me know and I'll ask to move it there)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi I've given some examples below but I think this post might get flagged as too open ended due to you also asking for examples of the effect, I'm not 100% sure as I'm pretty new to the forum but might want to edit the question to be more specific about the type of example you would like to see :) \$\endgroup\$ – JackFrost Sep 7 '15 at 9:54
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The game mechanic where the player is prompted to press a certain button during an otherwise non-interactive scene is called a Quick-Time Event or QTE.

From the point of view of a game designer, it is a two-edged sword.

On the one hand, it is an effective and very simple to implement tool to keep the player engaged during cutscenes and give them something to do during an otherwise non-interactive part of the game. But on the other hand they are a quite dull game mechanic which could often be replaced with a much more exciting and interactive one and can distract from the cutscene instead of adding immersion.

Your first example (the Game of Thrones one) is not a bad use of QTEs in my opinion. By prompting the player to trigger the execution of a character action, the player is engaged in a cutscene which would otherwise be completely non-interactive. I haven't played that game and the video doesn't tell me if the player has the option to not make their character hit the NPC, but it would definitely be a better option when they could because it would give agency to the player.

The second example (Mass Effect 2) is a bit controversial. It is often not obvious for the player what their character will do when they follow the instructions presented on the screen and what will happen instead when they don't. So the red icon flashes in the lower-left corner. What happens when I press the left mouse-button? Will my character shout at the other character? Will she punch them? Will she kill them? The player can't know, and just has seconds to decide. And that in a game where each of the players decisions can have far-reaching consequences. The uncertainty about what decision is to be made right now combined with adding time pressure can make the player feel like they are tricked into performing some action they neither intended to do nor had to do to progress.

Finally, the third example (Kings Quest) appears to be a quite bad use of QTEs. Again, I haven't played the game, but the video gives me the impression that the player has to press the keys showed on the GUI within a very short time limit or they lose the game. Such "quickly press X to not die" quick-time events force the player to focus their attention on the GUI icons which appear on their screen instead of the animation of the cutscene. So they are rather a distraction than adding to the immersion.

Game critics often consider QTEs as a cheap cop-out for adding some action to a games narrative which would be far more fun when represented with proper game mechanics. For example, when you want the player to beat the main villain in hand-to-hand combat, you could implement a proper hand-to-hand combat mechanic where the player can perform different actions and an AI which reacts to them appropriately, but that would be quite a lot of work to polish until it is balanced and fun. Just having a fully-scripted cutscene where the player presses buttons at the right time is far easier. It's also far less fun to play, but it looks almost the same in the trailer when you play it without the GUI. And the reviewers will call you out on taking this obvious shortcut too often.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I appreciate the commentary on the pros\cons of such a mechanic, and the issues it brings up with the player's perceived control. Good points to consider! \$\endgroup\$ – OpherV Sep 7 '15 at 14:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ The only time I've seen it implemented decently so far, it's Tomb Raider 2013, where it's used to make the game more cinematic. Basically you play the game normally and it's a real game, then sometimes you have those scenes which are visually impressive, very immersive, and still require you to hit a few buttons sometimes, to remind you it's an action game after all. I was horrified when they described me this, but trying it I was pleasantly surprised. \$\endgroup\$ – o0'. Sep 7 '15 at 14:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Cannot stress the last paragraph enough! Because (bad) QTEs were overused in recent games, critics (and many players) grew strong aversion to QTEs. \$\endgroup\$ – wondra Sep 7 '15 at 16:51
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These type of events fall into two main categories as I see them, the first is simple RPG style dialogue options, some good examples for this would be Skyrim and Fallout, as well as classical games such as Zelda and FF, however I think what you are interested in is known as 'quick time events' (QTE's).

QTE's are commonplace in several games but they basically mean when you have to react to a button prompt in a certain amount of time (either dialogue or an action cut scene) and the perfect example of these is in the TellTale games (like the GoT's one you posted).

Another example of these can be seen in games like Gears of War or Left for Dead where an enemy attaches itself or grabs you and you have to hit certain buttons to get them off but I don't think that 'where have you seen this' is a good fit for this type of Q&A (rest of question is). Searching for QTE's should give you a good spread of examples of other cases though.

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