Roundtable - October 22, 2003 - Part 1

Googleshng: Hello everyone, and welcome to another Roundtable here at RPGamer. Tonight's topics center around the main differences between today's RPGs, and those of ten years ago. Before we dive in though, why don't our panelists introduce themselves?

Alex: I'm Alex Gjata, and am somewhat of a regular on #rpgamer. Glad to be here.

Chris: Hello hello Chris Privitere here, I'm in media and put up pretty pictures and stuff.

Jeff: I'm Jeff Walker, otherwise known as that guy in Fan Art for the past 8 months or so.

Heath: Hi. I'm Heath Hindman. RPGamer News Writer and all-around nice guy. My recent sinus congestion has caused me to acquire an affinity for hot sauce.......just straight out of the bottle.

Googleshng: Our first topic of the night is our lovely old friend FMV. What does everyone think when RPGs constantly pause the action to play a big nice looking movie?

Chris: Well personally, I think "Oh, a big nice looking movie with plot!"

Jeff: Well, when you think about it, FMVs aren't that bad. Like in the case of some games, like Final Fantasy X, it really shows a part of the game that couldn't be shown normally. It would simply lose an artistic value. Then there are those movies just showing what you're pulling up to, can you say 'useless'?

Googleshng: Getting any actual plot during an FMV is honestly fairly rare. Most developers only seem to break out the CGI when they want to throw random eye candy in, or when introducing a new character.

Alex: I'm generally for them, but sometimes they can be an annoyance when they're up to 5 minutes long, like was the case with Xenosaga.

Googleshng: Quite frankly, if you didn't want 20 minute long movies, you shouldn't have even looked at Xenosaga.

Heath: I liked them in Xenosaga, mostly because there are so few games with FMV's that long; I enjoyed the change of pace, even if it was occasionally for the worse.

Chris: I have yet to go through the RPG/Anime Xenosaga but quite frankly, I'm looking forward to it. I like watching anime, even if it's via my PS2.

Jeff: Then there's the stuff, like Xenogears opening. The whole thing was just showing the fact blood can be spilled. If I wanted that, I would turn on the TV and watch the news. Not play a game.

Heath: As I said in an editorial I once wrote, I liked being able to finish my lunch AND be getting my gaming done at the same time.

Googleshng: Personally, I think that FMV should be used sparingly, and in as non-jarring a fashion as possible. A game like, say, FF7, that throws a new FMV up every few minutes gets downright irritating. I'd rather have an FMV scene at the beginning, the end, and during any really major event, on the order of the world being destroyed halfway through FF6. At that, I want the higher quality character models to still look like the in-game characters. FF10 was particularly bad in this regard, changing the facial structure of every character when switching between high and low detail models.

Alex: that's true. I've heard of the long FMVs, but I guess it got a little tiring after seeing so many of them.

Heath: What I don't like is jerky transitions into in Xenosaga. That's what bothered me most about the FMV in that game, rather than the length. If the switch from gameplay leaves you with a blank/still screen, then constant switching to them get quite annoying, and takes away the very feeling it's trying to create.

Jeff: Well, I'm not sure about sparingly as much as only when they convey a point or have something that can't be shown normally.

Chris: Yes changing looks is bad. But really I enjoyed the eye candy of FF7, but then I guess it was all novel for console RPGs at the time.

Googleshng: True, with FF7 it was something of a totally new concept to be shown off. It's still going on with some games though, and usually they don't have Square's skill with the craft.

Alex: I could vouch for that. lately, FMVs have been used frequently throughout a game, when they weren't necessary to be shown.

Jeff: Then there are FMVs that are anime, or drawn. Suikoden 2 comes to mind, as it's "FMVs" were actually drawn art, which really gave a new dimension to the idea of an FMV, in my mind.

Googleshng: Yes, and lately most "movie" scenes are handled completely in-engine.

Chris: I guess I don't see the distinction between an anime styled FMV and a drawn art styled FMV.

Jeff: Though, I will always love the idea of a sprite or a character you normally cannot see full-detailed, then seeing their face and features entirely on screen. It really gives the characters new dimensions of FMVs are done right.

Alex: yeah, true. I liked that as well.

Googleshng: That can be true, but these days there's no excuse to have low-detail characters really.

Jeff: Final Fantasy Anthology will always blow my socks off, because you actually get to see Terra. You never saw anything but her eyes for years, then they have her in full motion video.

Chris: Indeed, if only she didn't dye her hair for the shoot.

Jeff: Low-detail FMVs, after Final Fantasy X, are inexcusable.

Heath: Yes, that was something I absolutely loved.

Googleshng: That however would be an example of what I meant by jarring.

Jeff: Glaring details that were overlooked?

Googleshng: There's nothing more annoying than having rendered characters that look nothing like their sprite based incarnations.

Chris: Especially seeing that she was apparently anorexic.

Googleshng: The fact that Amano paintings don't translate well into 3D models is a separate issue really.

Alex: Yep. I've noticed, also, in the booklet of FF Anthology, the characters aren't laid out as the booklet for the original SNES game.

Chris: I suppose, but they could have translated from the 2D model instead of the Amano art.

Jeff: I think, overall, Square has made FMVs what they are today. Without Square, we would probably have Beyond the Beyond 5. I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

Googleshng: In terms of what Jeff? Their frequency, or their artistic skill? Because good looking graphics are really an inevitability.

Jeff: Artistic skill. Square isn't exactly the best for consistency in their art. Amano draws one representation, then a new model is seen in-game, then a third idea is seen in an FMV.

Alex: That's true.

Googleshng: Aside from Amano not touching an FF game since they were on carts at any rate, yes.

Jeff: I am a heavy believer that after Final Fantasy 8 and 10, FMVs were less about showing a pretty video and more about showing a scene in ways you wouldn't be able to normally.

Googleshng: Jeff: Case in point? You really seem to be underestimating what can be done in-engine.

Jeff: Absolutely not, in-game can be just as compelling, look at Final Fantasy X's farplane set and the motions they did. However, can you really say the dance scene would have been the same without it being in FMV?

Googleshng: From FF8? No, I can't, but I can claim it as eye-candy pretty safely.

Chris: Yes, the sending scene was striking to me. And it indeed wouldn't have worked without FMV.

Alex: Both the dance scene from FF8 and the Besaid sending in FF10 were beautifully done. It would have seemed stale if they were simply in-game scenes.

Chris: It's that whole motion = lively = more realistic = more affecting to you thing.

Googleshng: I don't think anyone's arguing that they looked nice, but the latter at least could have been done in-engine easily enough.

Alex: Yeah, exactly.

Jeff: I believe when they can be done, in-engine/in-game should be the one to use. However, when you have a story t tell that wouldn't be the same as an in-game "FMV" then you are justified in using an FMV sequence.

Chris: The sending would have been rather stiff in engine.

Heath: Of course, someone who has never played FF's V or VI seeing the CG scenes depicted in FF Anthology might say the same about them, and then be somewhat disappointed in what they see in the game.

Chris: Not really, since they only occur at the beginning. And the end I suppose.

Googleshng: I don't remember FF8's dance scene nearly as well as FF6's Opera scene, although we really seem to be getting off the subject of whether games should periodically stop the action to play a movie. Whether said movie is pre-rendered or not is becoming increasingly academic by the day.

Jeff: Not really off-topic, as I'm saying that they should if it has value to the scene that normally would not be as artistic or have the same "meaning".

Alex: I agree.

Jeff: Basically, if it has a feasible, lending reason to be should be there.

Alex: It all depends on how much of an emotional or meaningful scene it is.

Googleshng: Exactly.

Googleshng: As we seem to be looping back in a circle, does anyone have any parting thoughts on this topic?

Alex: Yeah, there are scenes that can only be shown in a movie-related graphic, that will depict the emotion much more realistically.

Jeff: Parting words on the topic...In-game, In-engine, or FMV...if it fits, use it. If it's just pretty and has no use, forget about it.

Chris: FMVs are pretty and potentially full of impact. Bring them on!

Heath: Indeed, especially if fast action is necessary to the scene. However, I think the ultimate example of how good a game can be without any FMV at all is Skies of Arcadia.

Alex: I agree with Heath, Skies of Arcadia didn't need FMVs to show off a meaningful scene. The creators should think about when to add an FMV, and think about the meaning first.

Googleshng: And I say that while the occasional nice pretty movie used for emotional effect is nice, there aren't nearly so many gripping moments in the average RPG that you should worry about not having the space on a DVD.

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