The Complete Guide to Cutscenes
By tdog of http://www.rpgrevolution.com/
Do not copy or use without permission.
- Understanding the Basics
- Lights, Camera, Action
- Advanced Techniques
Cutscenes (sometimes called "cinematics", "intros", etc.) have been a very important part in video games for many years. They are often used to show or detail events that are otherwise significant or unsuitable for normal gameplay. They can be as simple as in-game stories, or as complex as full CGI movies. Regardless of how they are presented, the use of cutscenes is a very effective way to advance the plot and to develop characters in way which would otherwise be difficult during gameplay.
While cutscenes of some sort have been around for quite some time, very few older games used them as an integral part of the game. The first game to utilize cutscenes extensively was Portpia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken
, a game developed by Enix in 1985. While the game itself wasn't wildly popular, the practice of using cutscenes boomed. One of the most remembered usage of cutscenes was executed by Westwood Studios in their popular RTS series, Command & Conquer
. The cutscenes used in the games were unique as they were all entirely live action, done on real sets by paid actors.
Since 1985, cut scenes are an integral part of video gaming; a part which is often taken for granted.Understanding the Basics
Cutscenes are now almost standard when it comes to RPG games, but unfortunately the quality of these cutscenes is far from being standard. Thankfully, RPG Maker VX comes with many tools that allow us to create cutscenes with relative ease.
Before moving onto the technical part of making cutscenes, you should really consider when using one is appropriate. There's no real "Golden Rule" when it comes to this, but IN GENERAL you should use cutscenes for:
- The start of the game - A very simple mistake many people do when making their RPG is to not actually have an introduction. Doing this can really ruin the whole gaming experience for the player, as he/she has no idea who he/she is, where he/she is or what is going on in the world. On the entire opposite side of the spectrum, some people make their introductions far too lengthy. Making the player read through a massive wall of text just to get an understanding of the game's plot and setting is NOT the way to go about things. It's boring, uninteresting and chances are people will forgot 50% of what they read. The old saying "show, not tell" really comes into player here: you should show people the setting, not tell them about it. Onlly when recalling past events should you really have an excuse to make the players read, but if you feel this is ever necessary then be sure to keep the amount of text to a minimum. People downloaded your game to play it & see it, not to read about it.
- The player comes to a very important plot point - When the player stumbles upon something important, or causes some major event to occur, then it is imperative that you notify the player that something significant is going on. You need to give important events some room to be recognized, otherwise the player could get very confused with the plot and may have no idea where to go or how to go about it. Going on and on about insignificant things in terms of story (like the player obtaining his first sword) but then barely mentioning the opening of the Gates of Hell is very bad form indeed. This one's really a no-brainer.
- Introducing main characters - Again, this is something many people tend to skip. If you've ever read a book, you'd notice that most authors give quite a good description when the reader first encounters a new character important to the plot. While you should do something similar, actually giving players a long description isn't a good idea. If you went about the whole game, introducing characters and villains through the normal course of gameplay, then chances are your characters won't be nearly fleshed out or interesting enough by the end.
- The ending/conclusion of a game - A conclusion is quite important as it is needed to tie up all those loose ends in your story, as well as provide the player with a sense of completion and satisfaction. Try to stay away from being cheesy; "They all lived happily ever after" is hardly a decent conclusion.
Now that the theory is out of way, it's time for some practical work. This section is going to explain how to make a simple cutscene using RMVX:
Lights, Camera, Action
- First, boot up RPG Maker VX and start a new project. Call it anything you like (in this case, "Cutscene Demo" would work just fine). Once you've created the new project, create a new map (17x23 is fine) and fill it with grass.
- Now, place your Player Starting location (Event Mode > Right Click on map > Set as Starting Position > Player) at the very top of the screen. Next, place an event near the middle of the map. Give it a monster graphic, and make sure it's facing upwards. Here's my map so far:
- Next, create a new event (with no graphic). Name it "Controller" and set the Trigger to "Parallel Process". This means that the event will run automatically again and again until stopped. Double click in the Event Commands pane and go to "Set Move Route" (found in the second tab). In the Move Route window, make sure that "Player" is selected. Once it is, click "Move Down" a couple of times. This will force the player to walk towards the monster. Click OK once you're done (make sure "Wait for Completion" is selected.
Ticking "Wait for Completion" ensures that the rest of the commands in that event will only occur after the move route has been completed. Unticking it will mean that the commands will continue to be executed during the move route.
- Now we're going to bring a little more animation into our cutscene. Create a Show Balloon Icon command after the move. In the character box select "Player" and in the Balloon Icon box select "Exclamation". To make sure the player cannot move around, put a blank Move Route command targeting the player and set it to "Repeat". This neat trick prevents the player from doing any actions. You could also disable menu access using the "Change Menu Access" command, but it's not really needed.
- Create some dialog between the player and the monster. For the sake of this tutorial, just make it quick and simple.
Although it doesn't really matter now, it is always good to remember that dialog should be concise, yet descriptive. Grammar is also very important; having a distinct lag of grammatical skills will definately show in your project and will make it look unprofessional.
- Instead of just initiating a battle, we're going to show an "on-field" battle of sorts. This can easily be done by using the "Show Animation" command. This one command can be used in a variety of scenarios to display a vast array of special effects. For now, we're just going to use some of the more basic battle animations. Using the "Show Animation" command, create a small battle between the player and the monster. Here's my event so far:
You've probably noticed that I've used the "Wait" command numerous times. This is important, as otherwise you're cutscenes can go way to quickly. Particularly in these "mock battles", pacing is very important. I've also used made the player jump; this can be achieved in the Move Route window. "Wait" functions can be added to the Move Routes as well. Additionally, I've added an extra empty, repeating Move Route command for the player, so that he can't move around and screw up the cutscene.
- After you're battle, you should make the monster disappear. You can do this in any number of ways. I gave mine a defeat speech, and made him disappear in a puff of smoke (literally, I played a darkness animation over him and then removed him). You're probably wondering how to actually remove the monster? The only really easy way is to use switches.
- Open up the monster event and click "New Event Page". Once you've done that, go near where it says "Conditions" (making sure you're still on page 2), tick a box next to "Switch" and rename the first one to "Monster Dead". It's very important to name your switches, otherwise it's easy to get mixed up.
- To stop the cutscene from replaying over and over again, we need to add a few commands to the Controller event. At the very end of the event, create a "Control Switches" command and set "Monster Dead" to ON. After that, add an "Erase Event" command. Erasing the event only works once; if you walk back into that same map then the event will still be there. To stop this from occurring, create a new, blank event page on the Controller event and set the conditions so that that event page only runs when "Monster Dead" is ON. Do the very same for the Monster event, as well. This basically means that if Monster Dead is switched on, then the cutscene won't run a second time (even if you re-enter the room) and the monster will disappear permanently.
- On the line before "Erase Event", add a blank Move Route for the player (making sure all the checkboxes in the Move Route window are unticked). This restores movement to the player and allows him to walk around again.
- If you want, add some detail to your map and make it look decent. You can see my final product below (although do keep in mind it is a very rough mapping job).
Now that you understand the very basics on making a suitable cutscene, it's time to learn how to add "polish" to your scenes and movies. These tips aren't just helpful in cutscenes, however: they can be used in almost any scenario.
Adding atmosphere to a cutscene is very important. In the standard RMVX RTP, most of the resources are very colorful and vibrant; this doesn't really do much good for much more somber games. Instead of creating brand new resources, there are a few minor tweaks you can perform to make the environment match the mood. A very simple technique is using the "Tint Screen" command. You can use this to make the screen darker, brighter or to even reduce the color (great for flashback scenes). Here's a simple example:
The Tint Screen can also be used along with many other commands to make more complex effects. For example, take a look at this event:
Set an event to have those commands and on "Parallel Process", and you've got yourself a storm complete with thunder and lightning!
In some scenarios, it may be necessary to have the player character not actually be visible during a cutscene, and to have the camera move by itself rather then merely follow the character. Thankfully, doing this is relatively simple and can be done with very little effort. In the Move Route window, there is an option to "Set Opacity". Setting this to 0 makes any event completely invisible. If you want the camera to move by it's own accord, then the "Scroll Map" command can be very handy. If you want the camera to follow another character, then simply change the graphic of the player (in the Move Route window) to the appropriate character.
And what about lighting? Perhaps you have a dark, spooky cavern, and want to have a few torches so the player can see better? Well, unfortunately, there's no perfect solution to this; there are a few ways to achieve similar effects, but there's no sure fire way to do it. Using "Show Picture" to show a light source image above a torch is still a fairly good way to do it. If the player is walking around, then Show Picture doesn't really work, and you will have to create a charset for your light source image instead and use it as an event. Although it's not perfect, it's a good way to add more light and atmosphere to your dark dungeons.
Adding fogs was an excellent feature that was in RMXP yet for some reason, removed for the release of RMVX. Thankfully, there are a few RGSS2 scripts that re implement this sorely missed feature (one of them can be found on this site
). Something as simpling as moving clouds across wide, open plains or thick smog in dark, insect-infested swamps can really help build a strong atmosphere within your game.Advanced Techniques
Once you have the basics down pat, then it's fairly easy to create more complex and engaging movies and cutscenes. By playing around with Show Picture and Move Picture, you can create very high quality introductions and credits. By using Move Routes, and Show Animation, you can create a massive battlefield with large numbers of enemies fighting to the death. By using airships with stepping animation and a scrolling parallax, you can make a fleet of airships whip through a sunset-touched sky. Your imagination is literally the limit here.Conclusion
Thank you for reading this tutorial. I hope I have helped someone learn the basics of event and cutscene creation, and if you have any questions, please ask and I'll try to answer them.
You'll find the complete demo of the basic cutscene created in section two attached. Feel free to edit and learn from it as you wish.
This post has been edited by tdog: Apr 13 2008, 03:17 PM