Developer’s Block: Quick Time Events

By Carlin Au

This is where it ends. No more orks to slice, no more daemons to burn. Just me and the Chaos Lord, no one left to interfere. Hundreds of Imperial Guardsmen and my fellow battle brothers have fallen at the hands of this monster. Chainsword in one hand and bolt pistol in the other; these are the tools of his destruction.  I run towards him, chain sword raised and bolt pistol firing, and… ARGH! A quick time event in Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine crushes all hopes to have that nail-biting, teeth-clenching fight against my biggest foe.

Where Challenge Comes to Die

It was heartbreaking to see a showdown against the mastermind behind my problems turn into a quick time event sequence. The would-be memories of dying to a boss are shattered by a few effortless button patterns. This has become the situation for many games; replacing boss fights for quick time events. Game developers fail to deliver good memories to gamers because they don’t allow the player to fight them. Instead, they make users hit a few buttons to watch bosses disappear. But that’s not what most gamers want. I know that people are looking for a game that challenges them to take someone down with everything they’ve got.

A Lack of Creativity

Quick time events have the same effect as an overused joke or internet meme. It’s great at first, until everyone uses it. Then the joke becomes old and stale to be brought up again later for nostalgia purposes.

Like an old joke, quick time events were once popular in the late 1990s because of a game called Shenmue. Since then, their popularity with gamers has declined as a result of developers misusing them. In some cases, it works well like in Darksiders. As you scramble to press a combination of keys, there may be a quick time event to help you finish off enemy. That’s how it should be done. In other games, it doesn’t help the gameplay and ends up working against the player. Think of this: you are assaulting a building full of enemy soldiers. You get into a firefight, and in the middle of it, an enemy tries to melee you, putting you in a quick time event. Breaks in combat messes with the fluidity of the gameplay and does not work. There are many more games that abuse quick time events like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, and the list goes on, but I think the message is clear. Quick time events have gotten stale over time.

Who Got It Right?

Among the collection of disorganized games in my library, I can only think of a couple that have successfully implemented quick time events. Metro 2033 had its good moments mainly because the game kept me on the edge. I could never anticipate what was going to happen next, and quick time events would catch me off guard. This is how they can be effective. When an immersive, dark atmosphere is combined with quick time events, it can genuinely instill fear in the player.

Another game, Mass Effect 2, was able to make quick time events work. Rather than scripting missions with quick time events, they were made to occur during chats with other characters of the game of which could have consequences later. They worked because they were optional and the player had a couple of seconds to think about the repercussions of doing the quick time event. The decision to do it could affect the other character’s perception of you and his willingness to help you on your quest to save the universe.

Why Can’t We Be Friends?

While many criticize quick time events, some don’t give an optimal solution to make them better. Most want to get rid of the feature as a whole. Sure, quick time events can be stupid like the one in Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, but I do think we can find a way for them to work.

Rather than making them a separate scene, it should go hand in hand with the gameplay. Quick time events should be a part of the action instead of becoming an interactive cutscene, even if it means that the developer should create a whole new set of controls for it to be possible. For example, take Kingdom Hearts’ reaction command system, also known as quick time events. They work well because they’re, for the most part, optional and you won’t lose because you missed the opportunity. In Kingdom Hearts, quick time events can only help which is how it should be done.

Quick time events should be an add-on to the gameplay, rather than being a hindrance to the player in games such as Battlefield 3. It should not interrupt the flow of the game, but would make the job easier if executed. Quick time events wouldn’t be so bad if they could meet those conditions. It’s a feature that, if used properly, can be quite effective. -End

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