Blizzard has certainly created its fair share of controversy over the past year, with some interesting decision making (like the collectible card game Hearthstone) and that whole Diablo 3 fiasco. But one aspect of the Blizzard skillset that has never been put into question are those beautiful and hyper-detailed cinematics. In short, Blizzard is the best in the business.
During a GDC panel, we were able to gain a little perspective on how the company creates such brilliant CG and why they believe these moments are so important for the overall experience. Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm lead writer Brian Kindregan did most of the talking and emphasized the effect that cinematics can have. He mentioned that cutscenes are integral because they allow players to experience the “maximum amount of impact” of the stories emotion:
“When we put the story in a scripted scene, like a briefing or debrief, we are telling players that this is important, we’re trying to make you look at it. But it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a huge, impactful moment when a story turns. So when we put story in a cinematic, we’re telling players it’s very important. It indicates what kind of story the player is about to get.”
He also made sure to mention that “every cinematic needs to have a central idea, otherwise its inclusion won’t work. Cinematics should answer questions, and not pose new ones without answering them. “You can do anything you want to the cinematic so long as that central idea is there,” he said. “If you add something and it breaks that central idea, it no longer works.”
Kindregan used the HotS intro cinematic as the prime sample of an animation that both drives the narrative forward and “defines what victory looked like in making it a good cinematic.”
Kindregan admits that a cinematic on its own isn’t always a good thing, stating that too many cutscenes, poorly executed ones, or even good cinematics that are out of step with the feeling of the gameplay, can potentially destroy the experience. “The cinematic needs to leave players in a spot that makes them think, ‘Great, I want to go hit play now,'” he said. “But the emotion of the end is wide open: you can have humorous, violence, bittersweet, sad, happy, all of those are on the table.
He continued by warning that “the only thing you can’t modulate or mess with is the tempo. The ending tempo needs to to be perfectly matched to whatever the following gameplay is going to be so the player is in the correct mode when they hit play.”
It is interesting to look at the process in a deeper sense and realize that creating a cinematic requires taking a huge amount of factors into account. On the exterior, these cutscenes are simply a tour-de-force, but just like many other things in life, there is much more than meets the eye. Now all we need is to get Blizzard to put as much thought into their next IP as they do into their outstanding visuals, and they will have likely have an extremely happy fan base.
Do you think Blizzard is the top dog of cutscenes? Or is there another company that can give them a run for their money? Also, what is your favorite cutscene of all time (Blizzard or otherwise)? Let us know!