In-game footage as cinematics: nerd rage

by Speedo | 03/08/2010 21:34:48


I've been a blizzard fan since warcraft 2, and I think that this (game engine footage as cinematics) is a sign of the beginning of the end. I originally posted these ideas to a discussion on this topic on the Starcraft 2 forums, but I wondered what WoW fans think.

In SC2, Kerrigan vs Zeratul was the only jaw dropping cinematic in the game, and I'm willing to bet that was made years ago. Previous Blizzard games had jaw dropping cinematics throughout--that's part of what made the games.

In WoW, when I saw the the wrathgate cinematic, and it was just plain poor quality, it was clear something had changed. I really felt betrayed, like a piece of my adolescence was dragged out and stomped on. I believe this is the first time that Blizzard has ever passed off in-game footage as a cinematic fill-in.

It should have been awesome, the idea was awesome, but they settled for using the in-game engine to show this epic event. Is this ground breaking? Is this the blizzard I grew up in awe of? I assure you it is not, and it is a sign that things have changed--a sign that Blizzard is now willing to make compromises in quality for quantity, at least in this area.

For example, I remember showing people the cinematics from warcraft 3 and diablo 2 to people with really no interest in PC games or those games in particular, and every time they would sit in amazement from beginning to end. Compare the death of Arthas's father (epic by all standards), with the death of Arthas himself (a turd in a bucket, just outright offensively bad in my opinion).

Sure, Blizzard is still ground breaking in other ways, like the SC2 editor. Sure, it is "impractical" to have everything pre-rendered, but impractical never stopped them from having plenty of bleeding edge best-in-the-world CGI before, and since they've grown in size by an amount we probably can't even understand, it's disappointing to see a regression in such a key area of their gaming legacy.

The CGI cut scenes this time around (in SC2) were good for a modern video game. Good. And it's obvious they are now settling for good. This is complete paradigm shift for Blizzard entertainment, their past publicly stated company philosophy, and a bit of an insult to what the past Blizzard titles were in their time.

I'm scared this is now a company that would release a "good" starcraft: ghost video game, not trash it because it isn't ground breaking.

To be clear, I'm sure the artists themselves have poured their heart and soul into creating what they have, and that's wonderful. It's the access to resources Blizzard now has (billion dollar company vs only thing keeping their parent company from going bankrupt) and where those resources are being funneled: ways to pump out "good enough" quickly, not creating infrequent pillars of excellence.

In my opinion, settling for in-game nonsense as cutscenes means they're already making the sacrifices that every other mediocre game-mill does. Oh well, hopefully gameplay doesn't start suffering the same fate until after Diablo III hits.

[ Post edited by Speedo ]

by Nethaera | 30/07/2010 20:39:53


Every expansion, we get people asking, "what's next"? While we're always asking ourselves that, it's not something we're ready to answer right now. We're very focused to making Cataclysm another great addition to the game and once we feel we're at a good point with that, we'll begin looking more toward what would need to come after it.

Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. :)

by Bashiok | 03/08/2010 22:31:38


Sort of taking it off subject to to start with, but it's inevitable that eventually computer graphics will reach the point where there's no such thing as pre-rendered cinematics. But we've all been hearing that for a while, and while we are getting closer, we're definitely not there yet.

We don't think we are. We don't pretend we are, and our in-house cinematics department is bigger than ever working on cinematics that are better than ever.

Regarding World of Warcraft - Each World of Warcraft release, including the initial and subsequent expansions, has had a single cinematic. It's what plays when you first launch the game. This intro-cinematic approach has been done primarily because, as an MMO, pulling players out of a multiplayer environment where anything could be going on at the time they hit the point where the cinematic could play is risky. Say you're PvP flagged and a cinematic starts to play. Or you happen to be having a very heated discussion in guild chat, etc. etc. It's not an ideal play space to be popping up full screen videos. The story was intended to play out within the game world itself through text, voice, and effects.

With Wrathgrate we tried something new. Using our in-house video team which had been making many of the machinima trailers for us (most of which can be found here for promotional use, as well as commercials, the South Park episode, on and on, instead used it as a way to show events to the player in a more cinematic approach. We had come a long way and with new technology a lot of the previous concerns were either completely squashed or had working solutions to remove a lot of the potential aggravation caused by interrupting the game.

The response was extremely positive. People really enjoyed it, and so it was used again as a way to give Arthas a more epic and cinematic end. Certainly befitting of a King. (Kael and Illy should have been so lucky...)

So, those are not pre-rendered cinematics, they're clearly using in-game assets, we don't claim otherwise. However, we do claim that they are completely kick ass and know that most people enjoy what they add to the game. Key word 'add', because they are truly additions which took nothing away from the intro cinematic each release has had.

The Wrathgate and Fall of the Lich King allowed us to really take it up a notch and deliver something spactacular.

Now, on to the subject of StarCraft II - In our opinion it also has amazing cinematics. The in-engine story telling in StarCraft II, which you say has detracted from the cinematics, is comparative to this - from the original StarCraft.

We think we've come a long way.

Bottom line, we still have an incredibly talented cinematics team and we'll continue to produce the amazing pre-rendered cinematics you've come to know and love.

[ Post edited by Bashiok ]

by Bashiok | 04/08/2010 04:41:25


Q u o t e:
I've got a question, does anyone know how long it takes blizzard to make one of these cgi cinematics? I'm curious about the time and resources it takes to make like a 2 minute one of these.

Well over a hundred people. Years.

That's not all one big team all working on one cinematic and then moving on to the next, of course. There are many projects going on at the same time.

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