Personal Story: Cutscenes in MMOs
I’ve really been enjoying The Secret World. As you get farther into the game, the story becomes deeper and deeper. The writing and voice acting are some of the best that I have ever seen, although the character animations let it down a bit. If you’re one of those “rush to end game, skip quest text, skip cutscene” type of gamers, you will really be missing a wealth of stunning material.
So far, the early access and launch have been silk-smooth. There were some initial problems with loading screens (one of the usual culprits) and quests, but those bugs seem to have been smoothed out. I would have let Funcom DIAF without bothering to piss on them after the Conan launch, but they have almost entirely redeemed themselves with The Secret World. If you haven’t tried it yet, you should. If you have an interest in writing or story you definitely should.
When you look at three recent MMOs that have featured cutscenes as a method of telling story, you see some interesting differences. (Warning – these videos will contain spoilers if you haven’t played through these bits before.)
Star Wars The Old Republic:
In SWTOR the story was focussed on your character, and I would rate it the highest due to the immersion of watching your character act out their part. Smooth, well-written, and voiced by some of the best voice actors in the business Steve Blum and Xanthe Elbrick are two of my favourites. It was fun seeing the same scenes playing out differently depending on the choices that your group makes. All in all, this is my favourite treatment of cutscene video used in storytelling. Below is an excerpt from the series I did on Andronikos Revel (such a sexy pirate).
Guild Wars 2:
Guild Wars 2, in contrast, feels stiff and artificial to me. I confess that I do skip many of the cutscenes not involved with personal story in GW2, as they aren’t immersive or involving. I know that the art team made some possibly controversial choices in order to keep them in line with the “hand painted” look of the game, but the characters stand stiffly and never look at each other. It’s a shame, as this is an amazing game.
The Secret World:
And now we come to my current love, The Secret World. The scene below shows my character in a conversation with the guy in the junk yard. It’s profane, very funny, and features tons of spitting. He’s one of my favourites, although to be honest it’s quite difficult to choose just one – they’re all well done, smart, occasionally hilarious, and very well acted.
The Secret World (at least at this point, not having seen the entire game) is more about the world story than your personal story. Star Wars was very heavily about your own personal story. Both approaches are done well, and both are enjoyable to play through. Guild Wars 2? Well, unfortunately for one of the games that I am most looking forward to, it doesn’t work well for either. Perhaps that isn’t meant to be a strong point of the game.
“Shut your pie holes, boys!” I’m still laughing over Edgar in the video above. Isn’t that one of the best game characters ever?