This is part of a review I left about Until Dawn on r/untildawn, but since it's a barren wasteland by now, unsurprisingly, I thought I share the gist of it here as well for some more interactions.
A good part of the review is about the genre in general, and not specifically about UD. Furthermore, other than UD, Detroit Became Human had the most impact on me from this genre, so naturally I compared two. So here is my pitch:
Critique related to the whole genre
I think there are some out-dated mechanics prevalent in this game as well, that holds back this whole genre in general. One of which is the obsession with QTE's and mundane, meaningless busywork.
Some of you might say: "What's your problem with QTEs? Those are the most exciting parts of the game!" But what you actually mean by that is, that the action segments are the most exciting parts of the game I bet, not the arbitrary button prompts.
What I'm saying is, that exactly the same action segments could be made much better easily without the arbitrary button prompts. You could make a designated move set, like in any regular game.
triangle – grab
circle – duck
Then you could use subtle hints in the action segments as to what move to use. For example a yellow tint on objects you can grab, red tint when you have to duck, green when you have to jump. This way going through these segments would feel like real choices, not just failing to press an arbitrary button in time. Not only that, but with QTE's you are not focusing on the actual events and game objects, but on the arbitrary symbol which represents a button, no matter what's going on in game, the only thing that matters is the stupid, abstract symbol.
Of course I'm not saying my suggestion is the only way to go, the specifics don't really matter, but I do think that something like this would make a game like Until Dawn way better. Not only that, but ditching the meaningless activities which supposed to gamify the mundane activities, like holding down some arbitrary button again then turning the joystick or swiping on the touchpad to open windows, pull levers etc. They feel like a hassle every time, whatever the developers think, they don't add to the immersion anything at all. There could be one designated button, let's say X, to use these interactive objects and be done with it.
My other gripe with the genre is the unnecessary camera restrictions. Although I get that for the intended cinematic effect the director wants to decide the specific angles, but I think there should be some compromises in this front as well. Especially when you have these long exploration phases, the abruptly changing camera angles are extremely disorienting. It's very hard to perceive properly your position in 3d space after these abrupt changes happen and this made exploration frustrating. You can barely tell which part you have seen already. This can be easily solved in the way God of War (2018) did it, where in most parts you have free control over the camera, while in other parts it's somewhat restricted for the cinematic effect.
The last thing which is essential to this genre is the depth of branching paths. I know that this is an exponential problem and thus when it comes to the cost of production it potentially an exponential increase as well. The number of possible ending can be huge with just one level of depth, and this is I think what we have with Until Dawn. This means that on a second play-through no matter how different choices you make, more than 90% of the content you'l see will be exactly the same. This is why I said that it's a good game for a single play-through. No matter how many endings a game has, if to get there you have to watch basically the same scenes again, and again.
And here is where the exponential problem of branching paths comes into the picture. Detroit Became Human, which is the newest and best of the genre at the moment has way more depth of choices. You not only get different endings, but quite different stories depending on your choices, and still, still approximately 50% of the content you see will be the same on your second play through no matter how differently you play. My solution for this would be to go even deeper even at the cost of the game becoming shorter. If people can see that your experience can diverge drastically on different play-throughs and you can sensitize them to try again, they'll probably spend more time with your game than if it's wide but shallow. The whole point of this genre is the feeling that your choices matter. There is nothing more disappointing than starting again from the beginning and slowly realizing that most of those choices didn't matter after all.
TLDR verison: my suggestions to any developer who creates games in this genre are:
– Use a designated moveset instead of QTEs
– Ditch the mundane busywork (swiping dishes, slowly opening windows etc)
– Let the user control the camera during exploration
– Go deeper in choice-branching trees instead of wider
That's all folks. What do YOU think?
Link to my full review about Until Dawn
- Genres are Weird
- Erica- A self-restrictive game if ever there was one
- Why do I suck so much at God of War (2018)?
More about Detroit Become HumanPost: "Who likes quick time events (QTE) anyways?" specifically for the game Detroit Become Human. Other useful information about this game:
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