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A Remedy Fan’s Speculation on How Quantum Break’s TV Series Should Be Presented (Part 3: Controls) August 26, 2015

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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Welcome back to our ongoing essay series where we are speculating about the upcoming Xbox One title, Quantum Break.  The game is being developed by Remedy, the developers of Max Payne, Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne and Alan Wake.  You may remember those titles because of their in-depth stories, something that Remedy has routinely delivered for over the past decade.  Now, Quantum Break looks to completely evolve storytelling in a way that games have not dared before, by including a live-action television series which will be fully integrated into the game’s story.

We’ve already discussed the technical issues with creating such a groundbreaking title and shared some of our ideas on how to best present this series to players, but if I may be completely honest there is something that I’ve neglected to bring up until this point and that is control.  How do you best control these sequences?  At this point, there’s so little information available to us and very little precedent I can use for possible examples that control may very well be the hardest thing for me to write about.

Once again I have to remind you all that this article will be written entirely upon my own speculations based on my experiences playing other titles. Under no circumstances do I believe Remedy needs to take any of my recommendations as a mandate, because for all I know, they could come up with different ideas that are better than mine by the time the game is released next year.  This article will strictly focus on what we’ve seen work and not work in other games, and we will name those titles when applicable.

In order for me to tell you my perspective on video game cinematics, I need to tell you this personal story about myself.  In early 2000, I asked my parents for an original PlayStation just so I could play the first Metal Gear Solid on my birthday, and it became one of my favorite games of all time.  A brief time later, Konami announced that they were making a sequel, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty exclusively for the PlayStation 2.  When it came out in November 2001, a brand-new PS2 cost $299 US, something that neither my parents nor myself could afford, so I ended up playing through the game over at my cousin’s house during the times my family visited their house between Christmas and New Year’s.

As I’m sure you know, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty has some of the longest story segments in video game history, and the player’s only option to interact with the game during these sequences is to either watch or skip them.  For someone who was an enormous fan of Metal Gear Solid, skipping the cutscenes on my first play through was not an option.  For a person watching these extremely long cutscenes while his family is constantly trying to get his attention to do other tasks like eat or leave, this was difficult.  Nevertheless, I got through the game and was eventually able to get it myself at a later date.

Why bring up Metal Gear Solid when we are talking about a completely different game from a completely different developer made for a completely different platform?  Well, one might argue that if Remedy intends to integrate episodes from the series directly into the game’s presentation, you could think of Quantum Break’s live-action television episodes as a long cutscene, and because of that we could draw some inspiration from games known for their long cutscenes, like Metal Gear Solid.  While I didn’t think I would need a rewind feature while I was gaming, I can’t say how many times I wished I could pause MGS2‘s cutscenes, so I could eat or use the bathroom without having to wait for the scene to end.  Thankfully, times have changed and newer games with lengthy cutscenes will allow you to pause them, like Final Fantasy XIII.  Heck, Kojima added a pause feature for Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, something I and my brother-in-law greatly appreciated.

We don’t have to limit our inspiration from just video games, We could also draw inspiration from the ways people can interact with their television shows nowadays.  Since the days of DVD, anyone can binge watch a series of their choice, and have the ability to select any episode, pause, rewind, fast-forward, or skip to their heart’s content.  In the past fifteen years, all that’s changed about this ability is the medium the content has been presented to us whether it be through DVD, Blu-Ray Disc (BD), Digital Video Recorder (DVR), Video On-Demand (VOD), or online streaming services like Netflix.  Now in 2015, consumers expect this bare minimum of functionality when watching television, and this could provide a great benefit if it is brought to Quantum Break.  I think that at bare minimum people are going to want to know if the TV series even be skipped or they may end up calling up the guys over at The Escapist, as someone who would love the chance to rewatch these scenes after I’ve unlocked them I would hope for a lot more.

So, let’s say that we get all of the functionality to control these sequences that we could imagine, including the ability to pause, rewind, and fast forward the game’s television episodes after they’ve been unlocked, how do we control them?  Actually, there’s more options than you’d think, and we’re going to talk about each of them.

Let’s start off with the most obvious option players will have right away, and that is the Xbox One controller.  The Xbox One’s controller is the most obvious option because controllers have been tried and tested to work the best when it comes to video games, and the best part is they have the benefit of you being guaranteed to have one.  A typical Xbox One controller has two analog sticks, several interface buttons, two trigger buttons, and two bumpers.  That is more than enough to navigate through any video, but could other options work better?  There’s a big debate about that.  Some studios have tried to replace the controller, or “improve” it through features like motion control, microphones, or touch screens, but many have argued over the years that the controller is perfect the way it is and nothing could ever replace it.  Next, we’ll talk about some things that could replace it.

If you bought the Xbox One within the first year of its release, you found an optional peripheral included with it which was intended to greatly improve your Xbox One gaming experience, the Kinect.  On it’s face, including the Kinect with all Xbox One units sounded like a great idea, because there was a lot that Microsoft and Xbox developers could do with it.  To improve Xbox One navigation, Microsoft implemented Kinect voice and gesture commands so players could easily launch their games, stream their content online, or save video content to the console’s internal DVR.  Why bother searching for a remote when you can simply say, “Xbox, Pause” to your television, or tell it to go to a specific channel?  If you’re like me and were interested in watching an episode of the Quantum Break series with friends, it would be more convenient to implement voice commands, than to constantly have to look for wherever you left the controller.  It’s also pretty useful for quickly navigating menus, doing gesture commands with the controller, and handling the Xbox One’s dashboard.  I don’t think I need to remind you all that Quantum Break was in development during the time that Microsoft was planning to offer a Kinect with every Xbox One system they sold, and Remedy did post job offers for Kinect experienced developers.  It would be likely to assume that Quantum Break could have SOME Kinect functionality in it, but due to the poor reception of the peripheral, I think many developers are going to try and distance themselves from it.

The next option I wanted to talk about is something you may not even consider a controller, your personal digital device.  That’s right, your SmartPhone or Tablet, regardless of who made it, can be used to interface with the Xbox One through the dedicated Xbox One SmartGlass app.  Games like Dead Rising 3 have used SmartGlass to great effect. If used right, it enhances the game experience, and adds another layer of depth to gameplay.  There’s no limit to what you could do in Quantum Break with a SmartGlass component and it would work very well for players who preferred to control the game or watch the series from a touchscreen.

If you don’t want to use SmartGlass, I mentioned in a previous article that Remedy has several mobile programmers on staff, so it isn’t unreasonable to assume Remedy could create a dedicated app for portable devices that could work as a remote.  Other games like Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes are compatible with a dedicated third party mobile app, so we know that Microsoft will allow non Microsoft programmed apps to connect with the console.  Pause, rewind, stop and fast-forward buttons are trivial to design on a touch screen, and for those who prefer tactile feedback, they could always add a vibration or sound effect every time the user inputs a command.  I would love to see this feature in action.

However they choose to present this groundbreaking series, I’m sure the experts at Remedy will do it right. Until then, you can expect plenty more Quantum Break coverage on this site as new information is revealed.  Hope you enjoyed the series and if you had any ideas you’d like to share feel free to post a comment below.

Quantum Break is coming April 2016 exclusively on the Xbox One.