Posted On: 2020-01-20
As mentioned in my previous post I have been working on the scene swaps in my project. Implementing a character changing scenes was not too difficult (a couple days' work), but on top of that I have spent time separating the camera out, so that it can (at the writer/designer's discretion) either follow the character or move to an entirely different scene. Being able to cut away from the player character opens up a number of important storytelling features, so I thought I'd spend today's blog post exploring a few of them.
A simple use for cutting away from the player character is to let the player spectate some event they wouldn't otherwise see. Typically this is a form of dramatic irony (giving the audience information the character doesn't know), but it can also be a tool for improving the player's experience when learning new information. Some events that one might only experience secondhand (such as hearing a story from another character) might be more engaging if the player experiences it firsthand. Being able to cut to a depiction of the event really expands the possibilities for how a player experiences that information.
Another use case for cutting away from the player character is to invite the player into a different character's point of view. Having the flexibility to let players experience the game world from another character's perspective expands the range of stories that are possible to tell. On the flip side, however, changing point of view can be jarring for some players (and doesn't fit all stories) so it's something that should be considered carefully before being used. Finally, it is often the case that a point-of-view change involves some amount of the player controlling this new point-of-view character. As such, I have made accommodations in my approach that makes it possible to change which character responds to player input, so point of view changes can be as complete as necessary.
Sometimes it is useful to have short interlude that separates two different scenes, rather than directly transitioning from one to the other. An interlude between two scenes can depict the passage of time (such as a sun moving across the sky) or a change in location (such as watching a bus move across the screen.) Such interludes are quite common in games - I expect this is due to many scene changes occurring for technical reasons, which may have taught players that any scene changes should be perceived as instantaneous (unless indicated otherwise).
Lastly, the player may be prompted to make a choice between scenes. (A classic example of this is a "Game Over" screen: the player may choose to "Continue" or "Save And Exit".) I am planning quite a few player choices in menus and dialogue, so I expect making choices between scenes will be quite natural-feeling for players. Additionally, there are a number of situations where making choices without the player character on-screen provides technical benefits, so I expect I will find plenty of opportunities to leverage this.
Having spent the time developing the camera cutting separately during scene swaps, I should be able to leverage any of the above-mentioned storytelling features. I am optimistic that this was time well spent, many of these features are commonly used in a variety of media: books, movies, and even other games. While I will continue to try to leverage the strengths of games as a medium, having access to these traditional storytelling tools will likely be a boon all the same.