“By the way, If anyone here is a Superfluous, One Tap Quick Time Event, kill yourself.” – Bill Hicks.
I don’t mind most Quick Time Events. I’ve even completed a God Of War game. In fact, one of my most memorable moments in gaming came towards the end of Metal Gear Solid 4: The sequence required you to hammer the X button in order to propel Old Snake through a tunnel of microwave radiation. It went on for what felt like ages, When he emerged out the other end, he collapsed in a heap; victorious, but notably exhausted. Obviously, I could sympathize; my finger was killing me…
Responding to prompts on a screen is what videogames are fundamentally all about, a chain of causality that reinforces our connection to them. But as far as computer graphics have come in terms of fabricating worlds and replicating reality, input methods have hardly changed at all (with Wiimotes and Kinect sensors being in the grand scheme of things, the exception rather than the rule). So in the interim between dual analogue sticks and the inevitable emergence of the domestic holodeck, using Quick Time Events as a shorthand for actions too foreign or complex for a game’s typical rule set of double taps and quarter circles to encompass often makes sense…
…Apart from when it doesn’t.
Say what you will about its supposed brevity, but The Order 1886 looks like its going to be a landmark release in terms of graphical fidelity, with solid albeit un-revolutionary gun play, bolstered by an interesting narrative, set in a well considered universe. What’s going to ruin that game for me is the absolute zeal with which it appears to lean upon the Superfluous One Tap Quick Time Event. Lets look at a few examples:
The first clip in the footage opens with our protagonist, Sir Galahad, attached to the side of a Zeppelin, preparing a strategy for infiltration. A prompt appears, instructing the player to push the left stick to descend. Which started to make me wonder about a couple of things:
- Roughly how engaging do you think that action is going to be?
- How much of a challenge do you think that moment will present to anyone with ever a semblance of motion function?
- How much closer will it bring me to the feeling that I actually am the game’s moustachioed protagonist, rappelling down the side of giant flying machine over the streets of Victorian era London?
I the answers I resigned myself to were:
- Not very;
- Not even remotely…
Why are we constantly made to perform such mundane tasks that could have just as easily taken place automatically, or as a cut scene? The optimist in me wants to believe that this interaction is the setup for a infinitely more rewarding pay off later on down the line, but from what follows in the video, I doubt what will be the case, either on a mechanical or narrative level.
The only real explanation/excuse I can think of for its implementation is in some misguided preoccupation with the term “Interactive Entertainment”. As if there were some direct correlation between the number of interactions had and the amount of entertainment garnered. Another striking example of this reasoning unfolds around the four minute mark, just before we are introduced to concept of Turning Points:
Tap Triangle to whisper “Three… ” Tap Triangle again to whisper “Two”… And when you think you’re getting wise to the developers way of thinking; Tap R2 to shout “NOW”!
Wow, Ready At Dawn! You really pulled the carpet out from under us with that one…
Not only does this not look like any fun, but in its implementation, it also robs the game of an important tool in the quest for compelling storytelling: well measured pacing. What could have been an moment of raised tension before the player leaps into a daring assault in a confined space, ends up being compromised by tedium. All in the name of being more interactive...
Fortunately, this leads into one of the aforementioned Turning Points; an interesting expansion on the traditional QTE that shows promising signs of the game’s more redemptive qualities. Its an idea that was clearly inspired by Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain, arguably the most QTE heavy game in the history of the medium, which in this case happens to be a good thing. These sections allow for some level of increased player agency, beyond the typical binary options of failure to cooperate and success.
Games are meant to be interactive experiences, and I commend (almost) any game that attempts to blur the line between gameplay and storytelling. But SOTQTEs are not the way to do accomplish that. They all they do is a disrupt the flow of a scene that would have been better served without it. Putting the player in charge of every single, ultimately inconsequential detail ends up no more entertaining than it would be watching James Bond nipping out to get more bin bags.