A cutscene (sometimes in-game cinematic or in-game movie) is a sequence in a video game over which the player has no or only limited control, breaking up the gameplay and used to advance the plot, strengthen the main character's development, introduces enemy characters, and provide background information, atmosphere, dialogue, and clues. Cutscenes often feature on the fly rendering, using the gameplay graphics to create scripted events. Cutscenes can also be animated, live action, or pre-rendered computer graphics streamed from a video file. Pre-made videos used in video games (either during cutscenes or during the gameplay itself) are referred to as full motion videos or FMVs.
The first game to feature an intermission between gameplay was the 1979 shoot 'em up title Space Invaders Part II (also called Space Invaders Deluxe), where at the end of each level, the last invader flies off on a spaceship that broadcasts an SOS message. The first game to feature cut scenes in the form of animated interludes between certain game stages was the 1980 hit Pac-Man, which featured brief comical interludes about Pac-Man and the ghosts chasing each other around during those interludes, resembling simple entertaining silent-film type scenes. The following year, Donkey Kong took it a step further by using simple cut scenes to advance a basic narrative that unfolds during the game. In 1983, the laserdisc video game Bega's Battle introduced the use of animated full-motion video (FMV) cut scenes with voice acting to develop a story between the game's shooting stages, which would become the standard approach to video game storytelling years later.
The 1984 game Karateka helped introduce the use of cut scenes to home computers. Other early video games known to make use of cut scenes as an extensive and integral part of the game include Enix's Portopia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken in 1983, Telenet Japan's Valis in 1986, Lucasfilm Games' Maniac Mansion and Opera Soft's La Abadía del Crimen both released in 1987, and Prince of Persia in 1989. Since then, cutscenes have been part of many video games, especially in role-playing video games. The first role-playing game to feature animated FMV cutscenes with voice acting was Tengai Makyō for the PC Engine CD in 1989. The word "cutscene" itself was possibly first coined by Ron Gilbert while making Maniac Mansion, wherein he defined cutscenes as short "scenes" that "cut" away from the action itself, to show what else was happening in the game world when the player wasn't around.
A recent trend in video games is to avoid cutscenes completely. It was popularized in Valve's 1998 video game, Half-Life, and has since been used by a number of other games. The player retains control of the character at all times, including during non-interactive scripted sequences, and the player character's face is never seen. Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed also allows the player to retain limited control over the character during the "cutscenes", though their movement is severely limited. This is meant to immerse the player more in the game, although it requires more effort on the part of the developer to make sure the player cannot interrupt the scripted actions that occur instead of cutscenes. Scripted sequences can also be used that provide the benefits of cutscenes without taking away the interactivity from the gameplay.
Director Steven Spielberg, an avid video gamer, has criticized the use of cutscenes in games, calling them intrusive, and feels making story flow naturally into the gameplay is a challenge for future game developers.
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