Thursday, July 24, 2014

[Wolf Among Us] Quick Time Events

I've been playing through The Wolf Among Us now that the entire thing is out, and it's been a pretty good ride so far. The artwork/rendering is gorgeous, the story is engaging, and the episodes are the right length each for me so I can feel like I can stop and come back at my leisure. I'm about halfway through Chapter 4 so far, out of a total of 5 chapters.

The one thing that I can't say I care for is the Quick Time Events. Every time something action-y happens on screen, if you do or don't press the button that shows up, the sequence plays out a little different. Like in the screenshot below, if you successfully spam the 'Q' key fast enough, you'll win the tug-of-war over the axe with the Woodsman. If you fail, well, then you don't have an axe and now you're dodging it instead.

The idea seems to be to give you a little bit of a pacing break by tossing some interaction at you, as well as let you feel like you have some direction over the story. I haven't tried just ignoring the QTE entirely to see if you can get a game over, but for the most part failures haven't seemed to really prevent me from continuing on, which honestly is probably a good thing. Like in a game of D&D, failure shouldn't necessarily mean the end, but a different branch of the story.

However, the story doesn't seem to altar very significantly with any choices, either the macro choices about where to go next--where your ordering seems to change what clues you get, but in the end you still have the same series of events, just a slightly different order--or the micro-choices you get for failing or succeeding at the QTEs.

The QTEs feel jarring. I'm dug into a good visual novel and suddenly, bam, action game, requiring quick reflexes! Often I miss the first key entirely because I'm taken off guard. While a designer might count that as a win (because Bigby was also off guard, perhaps!), for me it's just annoying. In a game like Halo, a cinematic controlling the action for me is vexing, because the norm is having character agency for action sequences, whereas the visual novel department is closer to a Choose Your Own Adventure, where you make the occasional decision and you're piecing together a story. Your character agency is quite limited in that case, so having less agency in an action sequence feels like it would be fine.

This book is literally older than I am by about 3 years. And it was amazing at the time.
I love Choose Your Own Adventure books, and I really like the visual novel-style game--though one could argue that The Wolf Among Us is closer to a television show with the ability to choose your scene order rather than having any true choices, so it still falls short in terms of agency in comparison. I think there's definitely still an opening here for something a little closer to an actual Choose Your Own Adventure, with a proper branching story in the medium to big budget game area.

One way or another, though, the QTEs felt like they were tacked on because someone thought they didn't have enough gameplay in their game, and I'm not sure that's a good enough reason to do that. I think I'd actually enjoy the game more without them.

#GameDesign, #QuickTimeEvents


  1. I think the QTEs in this and all of the other TellTale games have been pretty spot on. There hasn't been anything difficult about them. Compared to games like the Resident Evil series, there really haven't been many that I failed at. I think it helps with the tension of the moment, making you feel the tension cause you have to pay attention and react accordingly.

    1. True, they aren't particularly difficult, with the exception of some of the button mashing ones. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome incoming with how freaking fast and long I have to mash 'Q' in some scenes.

      I think we'll have to agree to disagree on the usefulness of QTEs in the series, though, because I'm not really feeling the tension, just the irritation. But maybe I'm just weird.

  2. oh those QTE's. For those beginning episodes I think they got the balance right. It was only ever once in a while with story and dialogue in between but by the end it seemed like it was relying on them to continue on the story. It got extremely tiring to me and, weirdly it actually made me feel like I had less control on the direction of the story.