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Introduction – Who Are We?. Marty Stoltz Studio Cinematic Director, Midway Chicago Mortal Kombat: Deception/Shaolin Monks, Psi-Ops, The Suffering: Ties That Bind, Sanitarium Richard Rouse III Director of Game Design, Midway The Suffering, The Suffering: Ties That Bind,

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introduction who are we
Introduction – Who Are We?

Marty Stoltz

Studio Cinematic Director, Midway Chicago

Mortal Kombat: Deception/Shaolin Monks,

Psi-Ops, The Suffering: Ties That Bind, Sanitarium

Richard Rouse III

Director of Game Design, Midway

The Suffering, The Suffering: Ties That Bind,

Drakan: The Ancients’ Gates, Odyssey,

Game Design: Theory & Practice

introduction cinematic games
Introduction – Cinematic Games
  • What are “Cinematic Games?”
  • Often people mean:
    • Better/more cut-scenes
    • Better story/dialog
    • More custom-scripted
    • Over-the-top Hollywood action
introduction cinematic games4
Introduction – Cinematic Games
  • Heavily loaded term
  • Avoid “Hollywood Envy”
  • Don’t want
    • Interactive movies
    • Uninteractive games
introduction cinematic games5
Introduction – Cinematic Games
  • Our definition of “Cinematic Game Design”
  • Draw from cinema’s 100-year-old library of techniques
  • Integrate these devices into actual gameplay
  • Not just copying, expands our medium
cinematic technique 1 rim lighting
Cinematic Technique #1: Rim Lighting
  • Used to “pop” a character from the background environment
  • Can also be used for specific emotional effect
  • Example from:

Bride of Frankenstein

rim lighting gameplay application
Rim Lighting: Gameplay Application
  • Useful in third-person games where the avatar should not disappear in a dark environment
  • Slightly unrealistic, but that’s OK
  • Sometimes referred to as “Edge Lighting”
  • Example from:

The Suffering

cinematic technique 2 camera following a character
Cinematic Technique #2: Camera Following a Character
  • When tracking a character, principles of photography apply to the cinema
  • Obey the rule of thirds
  • Avoid “computer” camera moves
  • Example from:


camera following gameplay application
Camera Following: Gameplay Application
  • With a third-person game, always keep the character framed appropriately
  • Avoiding fading out/making the avatar disappear
  • Balance player control with good shot composition
  • Example from:

Max Payne 2

cinematic technique 3 slow motion
Cinematic Technique # 3: Slow Motion
  • Many films have used slow motion to emphasize the beauty/brutality of a scene
  • Can also be used to slow/quicken an event where the audience won’t notice
  • Simulates real-life dramatic events seeming slow
  • Example from:


slow motion gameplay application
Slow Motion: Gameplay Application
  • Lots of games have stylishly used slow motion as a game mechanic or an FX component
  • Slow motion can also be a tool for storytelling
  • Could also be used more subtly
  • Example from:


cinematic technique 4 subjective p o v
Cinematic Technique #4: Subjective P.O.V.
  • Often multiple non-realistic effects can be combined to make the audience see a scene from a particular character’s POV
  • Effects include: FOV adjustment, slow motion, exaggerated lighting, screen filters, audio mix
  • Example from:

Raging Bull

subjective p o v gameplay application
Subjective P.O.V.: Gameplay Application
  • Used for literal sensory changes:
    • Drunk (GTA)
    • Drugged/Stoned (Rise of the Triad/Narc)
    • Dream Sequences (Max Payne)
    • Shell Shocked (Call of Duty)
  • Could be used more subtly to indicate emotional state of the main character
cinematic technique 5 parallel editing
Cinematic Technique #5: Parallel Editing
  • Inter-cuts two scenes that are happening at the same time
  • Great way to build suspense
  • Example from:

The Silence of the Lambs

parallel editing gameplay application
Parallel Editing: Gameplay Application
  • Underused technique in games
  • Not the same as plot-driven cut-aways
  • Perfect for breaking up long navigational sections, if kept short & quick
  • Has to be done carefully to not frustrate or confuse the player
  • Example from:


cinematic technique 6 split screen
Cinematic Technique #6: Split Screen
  • Similar to parallel editing, but different pacing
  • Can be used for suspense or emotional juxtaposition
  • Example from:

Kill Bill

split screen gameplay application
Split Screen: Gameplay Application
  • Also underused in games
  • Excellent for in-game storytelling
  • Do not force the player to intently watch multiple views simultaneously
  • Example from:

Indigo Prophecy

cinematic technique 7 building tension
Cinematic Technique #7: Building Tension
  • Keep the pace changing but maintain a general direction
  • Don’t be afraid to slow things down in an action sequence
  • Use audio to keep the audience on edge
  • Example from:


building tension gameplay application
Building Tension: Gameplay Application
  • Design game mechanics in ways that will give the player some information, but not all of it
    • Motion sensor in Marathon and AvP
    • Radio static in Silent Hill 2
    • Audio design in System Shock games
  • Interactive music perfect for building tension in gameplay
cinematic technique 8 emotional setup
Cinematic Technique #8: Emotional Setup
  • This technique breaks down the barrier that protects the audiences’ emotions and catches them off guard
  • Can create a roller coaster ride effect
  • Example from:

28 Days Later

emotional setup gameplay application
Emotional Setup: Gameplay Application
  • Perfect technique for scripted/highly-controlled games
  • Many games do some (but can do more)
  • Tricky to do during gameplay, but more effective than in cut-scenes
  • Important to make the emotional manipulation feel logical, not arbitrary
cinematic technique 9 mis leading the audience
Cinematic Technique #9: (Mis)Leading the Audience
  • If audience figures out the story: bored
  • If audience can’t figure anything out: confused

(Both are bad.)

  • Hitchcock said: audience likes to be one step ahead of the story
  • Mislead audience away from what will actually happen
  • Example from:

A Clockwork Orange

mis leading the audience gameplay application
(Mis)Leading the Audience: Gameplay Application
  • Games have repetitive mechanics
  • Players expect them to work consistently
  • Thus players are susceptible to being misled
  • Be clever/devious in how you mislead, but don’t go for “cheap shots”
  • Example from:

The Suffering

  • Contact:



  • Final slides available at: