Cutscenes. Why they may look wrong.

Here I want to discuss (not complain nor rant) about one key reason why cutscenes in story mode look awkward in my opinion. I do not want to touch the censoring issues here as they are not the actual topic. And I also don't want to see the usual "conversations" related to that topic which have caused the closing and deletion of other threads alongside many frowns. I also don't expect this thread to be too long but still wanted to leave something about it documented in these forums. So for now, if possible and I can ask this of the would be posters, I'd like this discussion to be limited to the production quality of cutscenes in general. Other than that, I welcome each and everyone to read and/or contribute.

As anecdote content, I have seen many cutscenes in many games, all with different levels of success. From setting, place, sounds and ambience, dialogue and expressions, every bit of a cutscene plays a role in the final product and how the viewer sees it. PSO2 contains many scenes, most of them scoring good grades in most of these items. But the one it drops the ball heavily in my opinion, is on character expressions.

Now, yes, it's an old game and NG will apparently fix a bunch of things (like actually moving hands), so I'll be talking here about past things that have no reason to be fixed anymore, but are still good learning material for future things (or if any of you are secretly making a game with a story and want to see what others see in those). Anyway, due to the current 3D model limitations, the characters are hardly expressive. Even the faintest smile on those faces look unsettling. Frowns may be the best emotion they seem to pull. Add an anime setting with anime voicing and dialogue lines, and you get the problem multiplied by a large amount. Why anime does this? Look at most anime. One very central key to making anime skits appeal to more emotions is how the characters express themselves through usually exaggerated facial states and loud voices. The face of a character, when they are speaking, is usually the point where the human eye will center their attention unless there's something else on screen to move the attention somewhere else. The voice of the character then sets the tempo of the emotion and it's the other part of what creates the different emotions on the viewer.

People who view anime are used to instant and extreme changes in facial expressions. And so having a mostly expressionless face coupled with the usual anime expressive voices (mostly if using actual Japanese voices), coupled sometimes with the not so well hidden lack of hand movement, we get this awkward feeling of something amiss, where we are seeing something but listening to something else almost disconnected from each other. So I feel that to get back some of that feeling, the game devs making NG should maybe put more effort on facial expressions, or if we are going full anime, use the face swap trick. You can see such face swapping in this game with the nyau character. When he's defeated or his weapon is broken, his whole face gets swapped into his surprise face, then angry face and lastly sad face. The swap is instant and gives a better anime feel than trying an actual expression through his regular face.

This wouldn't look too bad if properly made on the regular characters. For example, how much more would I have enjoyed the few comical skits within the episodes. Pati and Tia having changing faces as they do their ramble. Pietro as he goes through his comical suffering, and others. You could even go as far as adding expression symbols like the legendary sweat drop or the angry symbol. Good facial expressions immerse viewers into a story, and they may even forgive other aspects of the whole build if they enjoy at least what they see on screen.

Anyway, this one feels almost like a rant, but I'd still want to see other opinions. Maybe I'm just crazy here and I'm seeing things I don't need to see. But whatever.

Lastly remember to be respectful to each other as this shouldn't be a source of controversy.

Graphic system is also very outdated. Can't do proper movements to save itself from annilatilion.

@GamerKillance said in Cutscenes. Why they may look wrong.:

Graphic system is also very outdated. Can't do proper movements to save itself from annilatilion.

Likely one of the main reasons for New Genesis being done. It's apparently going to overhaul the engine to allow more customization and better animation.

Perhaps the old team didn't think adding more weight paint points to faces, or making the whole aesthetic of the game more anime looking was a good thing. I mean, back in 2010-2012, only few companies could make good looking anime/cartoon cel shading that also looked more next gen than the usual stuff thrown into a PS3 game a few years before that. So perhaps in avoiding a game that would have looked too simple and cartoonish, they went for the slightly more realistic look. And in my opinion that was a fair decision, mostly looking at what the Korean MMO scene was cooking at the moment..

The one part I don't understand is hand movement, though. By 2010, several games had good hand movement and even individual finger movement. One good example, Tera, which released at a time not too far from this game, had perfected animations and body weight painting down to the finger detail (Elin Priest hand and finger movements on her combat idle pose were very detailed). Faces, on the other hand, it's pretty hard to make convincing faces without going for super detailed and poly heavy 3D models even now. So as long as devs keep using the aptly called "low poly" models due to performance needs, we will still see slow progress on how faces work, which is why for some cases, face swapping has been a workaround, but not the ultimate solution.

i noticed hair and clothes seem less... flowy like the dont move right and seem way more stiff compared to when out of a cutscene.

I'm not really sure a wall of text was needed for a question like this but...

The simple answer is that the game is old, and the character models in cutscenes run off the same character models that the players have access too, which means they come with all the restrictions therein.

The reason the cutscenes look jank at times is because unlike other games, such as a number of single player RPGs, they never swap over to higher fidelity models. A recent example of this would be Xenoblade Chronicles Remastered. The remastered edition makes it extremely clear when the game is using the ingame models that you see running around the field when you're simply playing the game, and when they're using higher fidelity models for major cutscenes. FFXIV is also guitly of this as well - the majority of their "Talking head" cutscenes involve using extremely stiff, static models that are incappable of showing any more expression or movement than the player's character is. It's only for the major story scenes (generally ones that require the models to actually do things besides stand around and talk) that they use specialized models with their own unique rigging.

As I said before - PSO2 doesn't do this. Every cutscene uses the same model and rigging that our characters do, which means that the character models aren't capable of expressing any more emotions or movement than what our characters are able to do in game, thus why sometimes cutscenes can look extremely jank.

Why do they add cutscenes to UQ's. If you stop to watch any you will miss the whole thing.

on the jp version they have a cutscene viewer in the room for that but for some reason wasnt added to na. it could also be used to watch the promo vids of each ep.

@Blade-Syphon Knowing that fully rendered cutscenes take more resources to make, I can understand why they did the in game stuff to accelerate the release process and cut on costs. Many games do this. And depending on how much time they actually had to make all of it, and the expertise and tools the team had available, I can also understand why we get the current result.

Making a game is extremely difficult even for the most talented creators. And if we add corporate pressure to release at a specific time, we can even fall into what's known now as "crunch". And Sega is no stranger to such crunch. But only those in that studio know what happened and what led to the result of these cut scenes, which as I said before, have good quality on all other points. Only facial expressions and the odd thing about not adding hand/finger movement left something to be desired.

@Ki-Rin This isn't the only game that does this, and I've always found it odd for game devs to add a skippable cutscene in a multiplayer environment where not everyone wants to sit to watch them. I'd leave those for the solo parts of the game. And you can even present multiplayer dungeon bosses through a solo cutscene before even queuing for such a dungeon.

@dragonelete Hopefully we will get that in a future update.

@ZorokiHanuke said in Cutscenes. Why they may look wrong.:

  @Blade-Syphon Knowing that fully rendered cutscenes take more resources to make, I can understand why they did the in game stuff to accelerate the release process and cut on costs. Many games do this. And depending on how much time they actually had to make all of it, and the expertise and tools the team had available, I can also understand why we get the current result.

Making a game is extremely difficult even for the most talented creators. And if we add corporate pressure to release at a specific time, we can even fall into what's known now as "crunch". And Sega is no stranger to such crunch. But only those in that studio know what happened and what led to the result of these cut scenes, which as I said before, have good quality on all other points. Only facial expressions and the odd thing about not adding hand/finger movement left something to be desired.

More often than not, it's not about resources, or even time constraints, but about overall game size and performance. People often grossly under estimate how much storage space, as well as processing load, a highly detailed model can take, and the strain it can put on a system.

While time and resources are a factor, given that the original Japanese version was under no such requirement to get the episodes out at a quickened pace (Episode 4 took over a year to release fully, if I'm not mistaken), it really just boils down to what the game engine it's self was capable of, and what kind of strain making higher quality models would have had on it.

As I said before - this is common practice in a lot of games, and it's almost entirely based on engine limitations, and performance / storage.

@Blade-Syphon And a friend PMed me to add another point. The target systems the game would be intended to run. Being so close to the end of service of the older games (they lasted more in Japan than in the West) the devs may have wanted to get a game that could run on the same computers.

I also heard awhile ago and even in recent times that PC gaming in Japan wasn't so popular, perhaps because people mainly played on consoles and mobile. Meaning, there wouldn't have been too many higher tier gamer PCs out there anyway. That's what I've heard so correction may be needed if false. But if that's true, I suppose that devs making sense of it, a game targeted at lower spec PCs would be the more astute choice to get as many players as possible.

So PSO2 should run on a potato of the time, but still kept enough beauty to look good on better computers.

@ZorokiHanuke said in Cutscenes. Why they may look wrong.:

@Blade-Syphon And a friend PMed me to add another point. The target systems the game would be intended to run. Being so close to the end of service of the older games (they lasted more in Japan than in the West) the devs may have wanted to get a game that could run on the same computers.

I also heard awhile ago and even in recent times that PC gaming in Japan wasn't so popular, perhaps because people mainly played on consoles and mobile. Meaning, there wouldn't have been too many higher tier gamer PCs out there anyway. That's what I've heard so correction may be needed if false. But if that's true, I suppose that devs making sense of it, a game targeted at lower spec PCs would be the more astute choice to get as many players as possible.

So PSO2 should run on a potato of the time, but still kept enough beauty to look good on better computers.

To put things into perspective... PSO2 was in development since 2008; a year after Phantasy Star Universe: Ambitions of the Illuminus released, planned to release in Japan in 2011 originally; a year after Phantasy Star Online Blue Burst had shut down in Japan and Phantasy Star Universe was still active. The PC gaming market wasn't as developed at the time in Japan, high end PCs were expensive with many Japanese players preferring playing on consoles.

PSO2 was designed to run on the same kind of computers that could previously run PSOBB and PSU, ensuring a smooth transition for the existing playerbase and as a result, compromises were made on the graphical end.

@Leonkh99 This could also explain not only the lower ended models without moving fingers, but this release so close to the previous one may also be an explanation to the large amount of assets pulled from the older games, many of them sounds. Then again, if you have a sound that works and opens up some nostalgia nodes on older players, there's no real need to make something else if you are on a budget and under the clock. And in the end this gave me the feeling that PSO2 had DNA from both PSO1 and the Universe series. It could be a totally diffrent reason, but it still hit in a good note.

Anyway, I'm liking the explanations given here. But I also want to let whoever from the dev side who may read this know, that there are players out there who are attentive to details. So if the dev team and the corporate heads above need to push back a release just to make something better, we understand and vouch for such fixes as well. In the end, we all want a better product.

@ZorokiHanuke said in Cutscenes. Why they may look wrong.:

Anyway, I'm liking the explanations given here. But I also want to let whoever from the dev side who may read this know, that there are players out there who are attentive to details. So if the dev team and the corporate heads above need to push back a release just to make something better, we understand and vouch for such fixes as well. In the end, we all want a better product.

This was actually what happened with PSO2 and why it missed its 2011 release date as there was a lot of feedback and suggestions which the dev team wanted to address. These was the reason PSO2 had two alphas.

@Ki-Rin said in Cutscenes. Why they may look wrong.:

Why do they add cutscenes to UQ's. If you stop to watch any you will miss the whole thing.

That is a good point. If anything you might not go through the teleporter or be reported for inactivity. Also kind of spoils things if you haven't beaten the story.