Alex Phillimore: (alex.phillimore-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2013-06-28 17:49:25
Why Quick Time Events Suck
Why do developers keep putting quick time events into their games? I don't know anyone who likes QTEs. I have to assume it's because they think a player's attention span is so low that they'll get bored during a cutscene, and thus they add 'interactivity' to keep you on your toes. Sadly, I think most gamers would rather just watch the cutscene and enjoy the events transpiring than actively play a role in how they develop - after all, QTEs are rarely there to give the player any choice. Instead, more often than not, the outcome of failing a QTE is instant death.
In games like The Last of Us (PS3) or latter games in the Resident Evil series, QTEs seem to only be there to frustrate. Slamming the 'X' button rapidly to avoid dying doesn't make for enjoyable gameplay; it merely exists to take you by surprise and force your hand into hammering your controller. When the only outcome of failing a QTE is death and being given another go at the exact same QTE, it might as well just be a cutscene; there is nothing satisfying about passing a QTE, and it will inevitably annoy you if you fail it, die, and have to have another go.
QTEs only really work when the outcome of 'failing' isn't simply the 'die and retry' approach. In games where the adventure continues regardless of choices you make (such as The Walking Dead, Heavy Rain and Mass Effect), QTEs are essentially there to offer you a timed chance to make a difficult choice. If you manage it, you see the outcome of your success; if you fail, you don't necessarily die, but the course of events throughout the narrative may be modified to accommodate your failure. In many cases in these games, there is a slightly different outcome depending on how you handle a QTE, and this is definitely the future of the concept and should be built upon.
Giving players a limited time in which to do something is fine - the gamer often appreciates having involvement in the development of a scenario. But when, in a game like Resident Evil 6, a misplaced tap of the triangle button causes the player to instantly die in a scripted event, QTEs become the bane of the experience. It isn't in any way fun to throw a bunch of button clicks at a player, where one incorrect or delayed tap kills the player and requires the QTE to play over again. In QTEs you're often too focused on the button taps to even pay attention to what the character on screen is doing, which detracts from the whole cinematic purpose of the idea.
QTEs exist due to a limitation of the game's engine to dynamically feature the sort of things QTEs make you do. Leaping from a helicopter and grabbing onto a ledge isn't a playable scenario, so the developer turns it into a QTE; having your face pushed against a sharp bit of glass that you must resist isn't part of the core gameplay, so it becomes a QTE. QTEs are ultimately a response to technical inadequacies; they exist with the intention of involving a player in a situation that the actual 'game' cannot accommodate with its mechanics. Alas, unless these QTEs are about making continuous decisions (for example, choosing between who lives and who dies in a heated situation, both of which will still allow for the game to continue) there is simply no purpose to them - gamers would probably rather watch a two minute cutscene without any player involvement than have to re-watch a scene over and over as a result of mistiming a button prompt.