Developers' Diary

Quiet

My roommate Anny commented on the unbelievably uneventful opening scene of Dousoukai 2. The screen sits at a stylized image of six photographs, each of a different character, and sets up the premise of the game through memory and internal dialogue. The image doesn’t change for at least fifteen minutes, and even once it does, the scene doesn’t change again for about another ten.

It’s unthinkable to the Western gamer that you might have to read text for fifteen minutes anywhere, let alone right at the beginning of the game. If nothing blows up within five minutes I think many players would toss the controller in disgust.

But it’s just that peaceful, deliberate kind of experience that appeals to visual-novel fans. The game engages you just enough to keep you awake, in a near-trance of press A to continue.

2 responses to 'Quiet'.

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  1. 1 Lawrence
    Posted on September 30th, 2005 at 1:31. About 'Quiet'.

    Unfortunately industry trends show that the majority of North American gamers are the ‘stuff-blow-up-every-five-minute’ type. :p

    I have a friend who just hates reading story/dialogue scenes, and hates the fact that you can’t skip those in Japanese games even more.

  2. 2 Pete
    Posted on October 2nd, 2005 at 15:12. About 'Quiet'.

    Ironically, the one game where I’ve been the most annoyed at not being able to skip cutscenes (or in this case, Stryker the supremely daft radio DJ explaining how to best crash into stuff) is a western game, namely Burnout 3. And the one where I’ve been the most annoyed at accidentally skipping a cutscene is a Japanese one — Metal Gear Solid.

    Ideally, you shouldn’t HAVE to sit through any cutscene, especially not the same one more than once. But at the same time, you shouldn’t run the risk of accidentally skipping one. The solution is as simple as it is elegant: one button press to pause and bring up a choice of either [SKIP] or [CONTINUE].

    In any case, if the game actually amounts to more than just pressing A to continue I’d be wary of starting off with a lot of text, in all honesty. This doesn’t (necessarily) have anything to do with pandering to the lowest common blow-shit-up denominator or the short attention spans of westerners, but a great deal to do with good storytelling and how to best pace a story.
    Final Fantasy VII (/Final Fantasy IX/Chrono Cross/any Indiana Jones movie/any James Bond movie) is still in my mind the perfect example of how to open up anything plot-heavy (…or not, in the case of Indy or Bond). Start off with a little random action (doesn’t even have to be related to anything, really) and by the time you get to the tutorials and text-heavy bits your attention is already held in a sufficiently firm grip for you not to lose attention just because of a little text. In fact, by that time you’re likely to care much more about the plot than you were at the beginning. I’ve given up on more (mostly 16-bit) RPGs than I care to try to remember because it involves a massive amount of tedious running around your hometown talking to everyone before anything actually _happens_. Of course, it obviously helps if you have a good story to begin with…

    Granted, this is all seen from a western perspective. I’ve heard somewhere that Japanese storytelling traditionally places a greater emphasis on the opening, but beyond that I know nothing about the subject really. I do know which one works for me though.