Writing an RPG: Cutscenes

Cutscenes are the heart of any game. They are ideal to help you establish information or they are just fun to make. However it is also not easy to make a cutscene.
I tend to find it pretty hard and I emply a specific system to make it easier. A few steps to improve a cutsene. I want to share these;

1. Outline.
For every cutscene I prepare an outline.  I discovered this helped me trim unimportant scenes and really get to the point.

Goal of the cutscene.
Generally scenes have 2 big goals: either to increase tension or to provide information. Your cutscenes should strive to do both, you can always increase tension without a cutscene and giving information without tension is boring.

Make sure the information is relevant to the game. A cutscene to provide the information that your main character is 20 years old is not relevant. Sure it is interesting, but it adds very little.
If you cannot establish a proper goal for your cutscene, it’s better not to have the scene at all.

  • Example:
    -Establish Bob is a king and Jack is his servant.

Characters & Motivation.
Here I just put a list of characters and their motivation in the scene. I try to really make clear what their goal is. Every character has a goal in the story; a character without a goal is boring. A goal could be to get dinner before noon or to free the kingdom from a corrupt regime.  When a goal is thwarted by an obstacle we call that conflict. A good storyline has conflict. Conflict does not mean all-out war, it can be as little as someone having to stand in line for a meal while being hungry. It’s not that interesting, but it is conflict.

  • Example:
    Jack, servant of the King. Goal: He wants to be free of the King. Conflict: The King doesn’t want him to.
    Bob, King. Goal: He wants to rule his land properly. Conflict: His servant distracts hm by demanding freedom.

Setting
This is just to keep track of where the story takes place in the world of the game. As well as planning ahead what map you are going to make, use. It also helps establishing where the characters will be on the map.

  • Example:
    The throne room.  Jack is standing in front of the throne where Bob sits upon.

2. The Scene itself
Once I’m done with the outline I try to write down the first lines of dialogue. Here are a few things I try to avoid:

Narration
It is tempting but it goes against the number one writing rule, show don’t tell. Try to avoid a narrator, especially if it does not make sense in the world of the game.

Big words
Chances are if you have to look up a word, so does the player. The second you open a dictionary try and find another word because nothing throws you out of the game as having to google something.

Also, since most of it is dialogue, use words characters tend to use. In some rare cases you can get away with big words: for scientists an scholars. But again, if you can avoid them, please do.

Small talk
Hello.

Hey.

How are you?

I’m well

Yeah, so am I.

So about that giant dragon…

Up until the dragon nothing relevant or interesting is said. Just cut it. I know it is realistic but it is very dull.

L33t, Internettalk, modern talk
Most games have a fantasy sitting. Therefor you have to be quite aware about fitting the dialogue in said world. I would advise to avoid archaic words, even if they might fit in the world. But please no leet or internettalk unless you are doing a comedy.

Modern talk is a bit less obvious. Try and consider if people in that timeframe would really say what you just typed.

Knowing all these things you can start out writing your scene. I tend to start with only dialogue and add actions later. Again that is a personal preference.  While writing keep the goals of yourself and the characters in mind.

King Bob: Jack, you wanted to talk me.

Jack: Yes, sire… I’m sorry, forgive me… But I have a request.

King Bob: My time is precious Jack, please don’t waste it.

Jack: I was wondering if you could free me… I would love to start a shop somewhere. I’m rather done playing servant.

King Bob: Hmm. I’m not sure this is a good idea Jack. I’m running a country and a need people to aid me. You are a good servant, I won’t let you go easily.

Jack: But sire…

King Bob: No buts! Go and make the bed in chamber now.

Jack: O-okay sire.

3. Trimming.
Look back at your scene and the dialogue and check what parts are pointless. A line you can cut is usually an improvement.

Jack: Sire, I know your time is precious but I want to ask you something.

King Bob: Please speak up Jack.

Jack: I was wondering if you could free me… I would love to start a shop somewhere. I’m rather done playing servant.

King Bob: Hmm. I’m not sure this is a good idea Jack. I’m running a country and a need people to aid me. You are a good servant, I won’t let you go easily.
Jack: But sire…

King Bob: No buts! Go and make the bed in chamber now.

Jack: O-okay sire.

4. Action.
Lastly I add action. From movement of the characters to animations, you can add a lot of action in your dialogue. So use it. Break up the dialogue by moving characters around

King Bob is sitting in his throne, when suddenly the door opens and Jack stumbles in. He is surprised. (Balloon: !) Jack stops before the throne and waits.

Jack: Sire I know your time is precious but I want to ask you something.

King Bob: Please speak up Jack.

Jack: I was wondering if you could free me… I would love to start a shop somewhere. I’m rather done playing servant.

Bob doesn’t know what to say. (Balloon icon: …)

King Bob: Hmm. I’m not sure this is a good idea Jack. I’m running a country and a need people to aid me. You are a good servant; I won’t let you go easily.

Jack: But sire…
As Jack protests he moves towards the King. The King himself rushes forward to face Jack.

King Bob: No buts! Go and make the bed in chamber now.

Jack, obviously shocked by the King’s violent reaction, rushes quickly out of the room.

Jack: O-okay sire.

 

 

5. Finishing it up.
Based on the actions you can now start to even the cutscene. You can always add more to the scene through the use of Facesets with emotions or music. Note that the example used in this tutorial is not a really great scene. Try and be creative with the things you have. There are many, MANY more ways to improve a scene. The examples I gave you were just for clarity.

Advertisements

Posted on March 23, 2012, in Sander, Tutorials. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Comment on this post

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: