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Re-thinking the 'Quick-Time Event'


Over the last few years, quick time events (QTE's) have become one of the most prolific tropes in modern gameplay. Allowing developers to show off their cinematic flair without having to implement ordinary gameplay to account for the awesomesauce on-screen action, QTE's as a whole have been something of a polarising element among gamers. For the uninformed, a QTE is basically a (often visually impressive) cutscene with very limited interactivity - essentially prompting the player to press a certain button or buttons within a short time frame to avoid an in-game fail state. Given how ubiquitous the QTE has become in modern game development, i feel that rather than throwing the concept out the window entirely (as many gamers would suggest), perhaps we should simply re-think it's form and implementation.

In considering the viewpoint of QTE haters, it isn't all that hard to understand their aversion to such a gameplay mechanic. Like them or not, i think that its a fair comparison to draw in saying that getting through a QTE is akin to simply pressing the "next chapter" button on a DVD remote. Either the player succeeds and continues with the game, or the player fails and ends up having to re-do various lengths of gameplay to get back to the same point they started the QTE from. Furthermore, QTE's often assign seemingly arbitrary controller inputs to succeed - for example, if the onscreen character dodges to the right (if inputted correctly), the onscreen prompt will frequently be asking the player to press a button which is not associated with that action in regular gameplay. On top of this, QTE's have a recurring habit of showing the player either a center screen button prompt or even a picture of a controller pop up at the relevant time - whilst this serves to illustrate to the player what is required to pass the little 'reflex test', it often tends to put a metaphorical bullet in the face of the player's immersion at that point in time. To take Uncharted 1 as an example, shaking the controller to get an enemy of Nathan Drake's back may be very well and good, but when the developer combines that with a big onscreen PS3 controller the player is suddenly actively reminded that they are playing a videogame - completely ripping the player out of the game experience.

Whilst i may be speaking the obvious here, (even though i am yet to see this idea implemented, or even discussed) i believe i have a solution which at least goes part of the way to solving many of the inherent QTE problems. Firstly, the game needs to communicate to the player from the outset when a QTE is active without an onscreen button/controller prompt. Whether this be an audio or visual cue, a shift into slow motion during a scene or any combination thereof, a game could establish this and communicate it to the player in the tutorial stages. From this point, all that would be required is to inform the player of some limited options within such a situation - say, you can either move the control stick to attempt a dodge maneuver, hit the jump button to leap away/towards, hit attack to attempt a mega head whack or perhaps hold block to attempt to deflect a potential incoming attack. With this in mind, developers could do away with the onscreen prompts and the arbitrary button presses while still keeping the player directly engaged throughout a QTE without actively ripping them outside of the 'normal' gameplay commands. Developers could then take into account all of the potential inputs allowed for such a situation, and craft something that resembles the standard gameplay scenario far more than that to which we have become accustomed to.

A slight alteration to the formula, i know - but i feel that if QTE's could be implemented in a method such as this, then perhaps it would go some way to bridging the gap between the often mega disconnected segments of gameplay we currently accept as standard. It may not please everyone, but i assume most gamers would be in favour of gameplay systems which are a little more consistent with respect to the QTE - if developers wish to show something mindblowing, i think it would be wise to move in a direction that is congruent with the player feeling as though they are controlling the action as opposed to simply inputting a glorified code to witness the remainder of the scene.

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About S Pasticone of us since 4:16 AM on 05.19.2009


Son of a travelling ice cream salesman
Black belt in origami
Ph.D in convoluted backstories