Storytelling is a important part of Single Player gaming, how else would have the Half-Life series or Quake drawn us into there worlds?
What many mods and games miss is how to correctly balance cut scenes and game play because lets be honest, even the most beautiful cut scenes can be a pain if they interfere with the gameplay. There are two common storytelling techniques modders can make use of, cut scenes and scripted sequences. Today I want to look at the positives and negatives of using these techniques.
The question for most developers is how much is too much story? In the modern day it is more than possible to make close to film quality cut scenes. Many players prefer to play the game, not to watch it. So it is important to know how and when you are going to implement any means of story telling.
One problem with cut scenes and scripted sequences is finding the correct placement to initiate the story telling, I find the best place is either at the beginning or end of the level, or at a convenient break in gameplay and action but must not ruin player immersion, cutting up gameplay and slowing the pace.
A good example of this is the Half-Life series, not once are you taken out of Gordon Freeman's head, or hear his voice, making the player really feel as if they are Gordon. Also in this series all the story unveils in front of the player, not around him.
Half-Life Series made fantastic use of scripted sequences to tell the story.
Scripted sequences can be very immersive, but the largest problem with this technique is that it
takes much more work to tell a character driven story because it is difficult to explain the players emotions, likes and dislikes. Also it is only by chance, or very good level design that you have the players attention during the sequence, It is far to easy for the player to be spending time at the other side of the room trying to jump on a NPC's head instead of listening to the NPC that is telling you what to do next.
While cut scenes can take away from immersion they also can tell a story much easier than scripted sequences and also be of a very high quality even if the actual game is shockingly bad.
Halo Wars (XBOX 360) made good use of cut scenes, shame gameplay sucked.
On a last note, the most important things for developers to remember is that the gameplay is secure and solid, and then move onto giving your game/mod narrative to add to the players experience, and making sure it doesn't detract from the experience.