The Quick-Time Event – few things are so polarizing in this industry. Reviewers hate it, players hate it (at least the vocal ones), and studios seem to be…just ok with it.
Why? Why do we use the QTE? Why do we love it so? Why do we use it over and over if feedback appears to be consistently negative? Do we need to kill QTEs, or do we just need to adjust how they are used?
I still remember the first time I encountered the QTE – God of War.
Oh my god was it ever glorious. It was the most amazing and visceral thing I had ever seen, and was almost positive it was the future of gaming – turns out that it’s 2011 now, and QTEs are still here, although they don’t seem to be as welcome. I’m not 100% sure that God of War was the first to incorporate QTEs, so if anyone can cite anything older, I would love to hear about it in the comments, but one thing is for sure – QTEs have never been more fun, or more original, than in the God of War series.
So what went wrong here? Is it just a vocal minority that despises the QTE? Is it oversaturation? After all, people were complaining about photorealistic cover based shooters when Gears of War 3 came out – despite the fact that Gears pretty much invented the photorealistic cover based shooter.
Are gamers really just hipsters that come to despise popular mechanics, or is there something fundamentally wrong with the mechanics themselves? And if there is something fundamentally wrong with the mechanics themselves, then why did they work so well for some games, and not the rest?
A major problem with QTEs is that it’s really a workaround to the controller. Bear in mind the word workaround. Workaround implies that we’re not nullifying the controller and its input, but circumventing the basic ways that we use a controller to force a scripted outcome. It’s pretty arrogant when you stop and think about it. Say I were to say I figured out a way to “get around’ the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, you’d think I was a pretentious ass.
The major problem here is that we’re working around the parameters of the controller to do something that we don’t have the tech (or time/mechanics/etc…) to do. What you do in the QTE takes your hands out of the equation. Just execute a combo press and the game runs the results for you – failure or execution. It’s also frustrating for someone to play a button masher, only to blow past a QTE and fail it because they gave wrong input at the exact moment the QTE triggered. On top of that, most QTE fails result in a loss of health, or an increase in enemy health. Sounds like a punishment due to unintuitive design, doesn’t it?
Let’s take a break from talking in circles for a minute, and look at an example of a good QTE and a bad QTE.
Warhammer 40,000 – Space Marine