Latest Steam Update
If you haven't played Road Redemption recently, we've made a lot of improvements to the current Steam version. The game's better in a lot of ways, and I encourage you to check it out.
Road Redemption's Story
The majority of scripted story sequences in videogames suck. I don't think that's a controversial statement.
It's always strange to me to see gamers turn up their noses at lowest-common denominator sitcoms like Two and a Half Men when the majority of humor found in videogames doesn't come close to that low bar.
Similarly, plenty of gamers wouldn't be caught dead watching a CW drama like Beastly, even though the writing, acting, directing, cinematography, and scene composition are far better in those shows than what you typically see in videogames, even those that are story-focused like The Witcher 3 (a game I really enjoyed when it wasn't being dragged down by its boring cutscenes).
Basic filmmaking guides will tell a director to "show, not tell" because movies are a visual medium. At a very basic level, this means you should be very judicious with the amount of information you convey through dialogue, and instead try to convey as much information through body language, facial expressions, lighting and shot composition itself. For an example of this last point, directors will often use an extreme long shot, where your protagonist is barely more than a speck on the screen, to convey the idea that he's insignificant and powerless compared to much larger forces at work. You see a lot of this in There Will Be Blood, specifically in the beginning. Another example is conveying the idea that a character is hiding something by lighting him so that his face is obscured in shadow. Basic stuff.
Further, screen writers attempt to keep the viewer engaged by utilizing conflict between characters to create drama. This is especially important for otherwise-boring exposition scenes that are necessary to tell the viewer basic information about the world. For instance, in Mad Max: Fury Road, when the main antagonist discovers that his concubines have escaped their prison, he doesn't simply receive this information in a report from one of his lackeys. Rather he enters the concubine's prison himself, where he has a dramatic confrontation with their caretaker, who opposes their enslavement. The information that the concubines escaped is conveyed via this dramatic and interesting scene.
Another technique film-makers will use to make these information dump scenes more interesting is to present the viewer with compelling visuals and action. There will often be multiple things happening in the image simultaneously (foreground, midground, and background). Actors will be moving around, interacting with objects as they talk, rather than just standing still. You can see this in the scene in Back To The Future where Doc explains the basics of time travel to the audience, and sets up the 88mph requirement that the viewer needs to know for the movie's climax.
Doc could have simply told these rules to Marty over coffee, but instead, we get a dramatic scene with Doc's dog in the time machine, and both characters almost getting run over.
So how does this compare to videogames?
The vast majority of videogame cutscenes get all of this stuff wrong.
Your average videogame cutscene involves two actors standing completely still. The camera frames them in the most efficient manner possible, and goes back and forth between characters in a standard shot, reverse shot sequence. The player is given nothing interesting to look at. The dialogue generally involves the non-player character conveying information to the player. There's virtually no conflict or drama in the scene. There is often very little information conveyed compared to the number of words used (I'm looking at you Metal Gear Solid series).
The best thing that people can say about these types of cutscenes is that they aren't laughably bad or that the acting was competent. In other words, the cutscenes helped reinforce the idea that the player was in a real place, rather than take him out of the world, as really bad acting or writing will do (I'm looking at you, Resident Evil).
But if that's all these cutscenes are accomplishing, creating a better sense of place, then they're truly a waste of the player's time. You don't need long-winded, boring, drama-free cutscenes to make a world feel real. Going back to Mad Max: Fury Road, the movie itself has very little dialogue, but the world feels like a real place. Same with our introduction to the Hobbit's shire in The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of The Rings. Same with the Mos Eisley Cantina in Star Wars.
It's up to us as gamers to hold these videogame cutscenes to the same standard we hold our movies and TV shows. We can't let game creators hide great gameplay under mountains of tedious and boring story telling.
Thankfully, to a large extent, I think we're doing just that with our purchasing habits. If you look at the big successful hits in the last 5 years of gaming, you see games that eschew these scripted story segments entirely. Games like Minecraft, Rust, Ark, WarZ, The Forest, and Space Engineers let the players construct their own stories rather than simply follow along someone else's poorly-written script. More than any other genre, games like this seem to represent the future of gaming. Instead of trying to mimic movies, they're trying to simulate experiences (struggling to survive on a deserted island, creating a space station, etc).
So where does this leave Road Redemption?
Well, we're not trying to do something like Minecraft, but we aren't planning to bog you down in cutscenes either.
Road Redemption's story will provide the player with a larger context as to why he's moving from one section of the map to another, who he's fighting, and how the game's various biker gangs relate to one another. There will be strong, well-defined characters, and interpersonal relationships between them.
We're taking our story presentation very seriously, and we plan to do it in a way that's always compelling to the player. Since we don't think it's wise to spend development funds on cutscenes that would rival Spielberg or Abrams, or Zemeckis, we're going to present most of the story to the player during gameplay. We think that's what most Road Redemption players would want anyway.
We think doing it this way is how you guys would prefer to spend your time. We know that you have a lot of entertainment options. We don't want to present you with a 5 minute cutscene with the quality of a high school-play, when you could be spending that 5 minutes watching Nightcrawler on Netflix, or ideally spending that 5 minutes enjoying intense balls-to-the-wall action combat motorcycle racing gameplay that you can't get anywhere else.
So in conclusion, Road Redemption will have a strong story with interesting characters. It will motivate you to want to finish the game's campaign. But we plan to deliver it in a minimalist style with a focus on sharp conscise writing that elevates the experience rather than dragging it down.