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How to design a “Cinematic Game”… a brief story for idea…


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Cinematic Games
What do people mean by “Cinematic Games”? It varies widely:
• Better/more cut-scenes
• Better story/dialog
• High-drama moments
• More custom-scripted
• High production values
• A highly immersive experience
• Fewer “Gamey” elements
• Heavily loaded term
• Avoid “Hollywood Envy”
Cinematic Technique #1
Rim Lighting
• Used to “pop” a character from the background environment
• Can also be used for specific emotional effect
• Example from: Bride of Frankenstein
Gameplay Application:
• Useful in third-person games where the avatar should not disappear in a dark environment
• Slightly unrealistic, but that’s OK
• Sometimes referred to as “Edge Lighting”
• Example from: The Suffering
Cinematic Technique #2
Camera Following a Character
• When tracking a character, principles of photography apply to the cinema
• Obey the rule of thirds
• Avoid “computer” camera moves
• Example from: Goodfellas
Gameplay Application
• With a third-person game, always keep the character framed appropriately
• Avoiding fading out/making the avatar disappear
• Balance player control with good shot composition
• Example from: Max Payne 2
Cinematic Technique #3
Slow Motion
• Many films have used slow motion to emphasize the beauty/brutality of a scene
• Can also be used to slow/quicken an event where the audience won’t notice
• Simulates real-life dramatic events seeming slow
• Example from: Aliens
Gameplay Application
• Lots of games have stylishly used slow motion as a game mechanic or an FX component
• Slow motion can also be a tool for storytelling
• Could also be used more subtly
• Example from: FEAR
Cinematic Technique #4
Subjective P.O.V.
• Often multiple non-realistic effects can be combined to make the audience see a scene from a particular character’s POV
• Effects include:  FOV adjustment, slow motion, exaggerated lighting, screen filters, audio mix
• Example from: Raging Bull
Gameplay Application
• Used for literal sensory changes:
• Drunk (GTA)
• Drugged/Stoned (Rise of the Triad/Narc)
• Dream Sequences (Max Payne)
• Shell Shocked (Call of Duty)
• Could be used more subtly to indicate emotional state of the main character
Cinematic Technique #5
Parallel Editing
• Inter-cuts two scenes that are happening at the same time
• Great way to build suspense
• Example from: The Silence of the Lambs
Gameplay Application
• Underused technique in games
• Not the same as plot-driven cut-aways
• Perfect for breaking up long navigational sections, if kept short & quick
• Has to be done carefully to not frustrate or confuse the player
• Example from: Karateka
Cinematic Technique #6
Split Screen
• Similar to parallel editing, but different pacing
• Can be used for suspense or emotional juxtaposition
• Example from: Kill Bill
Gameplay Application
• Also underused in games
• Excellent for in-game storytelling
• Do not force the player to intently watch multiple views simultaneously
• Example from: Indigo Prophecy
Cinematic Technique #7
Building Tension
• Keep the pace changing but maintain a general direction
• Don’t be afraid to slow things down in an action sequence
• Use audio to keep the audience on edge
• Example from: Alien
Gameplay Application
• Design game mechanics in ways that will give the player some information, but not all of it
• Motion sensor in Marathon and AvP
• Radio static in Silent Hill 2
• Audio design in System Shock games
• Interactive music perfect for building tension in gameplay
The 7 Techniques of Cinematic game design :
1. Rim Lighting
2. Camera Following Character
3. Slow Motion
4. Subjective P.O.V.
5. Parallel Editing
6. Split Screen

7. Building Tension

Source: Richard Rouse from FAAP, iNOVA, 2006.

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