Since the 2000s, quick-time events have created some of the most unforgivable game design trends in gaming history. A poor reputation is that well-earned! From “Press X to JASON” to all those mindlessly-animated “Top 10 Bad QTE” videos you found on Kotaku and YouTube. Quick-time events frequently miss the mark when held up against other gameplay styles. As a result, they’ve understandably left a bad taste in the mouths of countless gamers… but why is that? Today I ask a simple question.
Why makes Quick-Time Events suck?
I ask this question to dig to the bottom of the issue and present my case. For starters, fundamental game design. It’s intuitive and time-tested, not rocket science. You game should feel good to play at all times. There’s a reason all the best-selling games have play-testers. It’s because play-testing ensures the most glaring issues in your game can be solved before it gets released to the public and hurts your reputation. There really shouldn’t be parts of your game that everyone universally hates or feels like they have to tolerate just because it wasn’t thought-out or tested for issues. Generally speaking, simple choices outside of the players control (like button layouts or forced camera angles) should never hinder gameplay, and neither should silly-looking “interactive cutscenes”.
Treat QTEs like Visual Novel branching story-lines… with a countdown timer!
There are literally hundreds of thousands of games that have already done it right, and there is no excuse to be making horrible mistakes like this in 2020. Want to make awesome games? Play some good ones. Want to write an amazing story? Start reading good books. Want to create an impressive art style? Start studying anatomy. By having a solid foundation on what you want to create, you lessen the chance you’ll make grave errors. Game design should never feel overly-clunky, badly-designed or uninteresting. Nothing in your game should ever feel thoughtlessly bad— and that includes the all fundamental principles and designs that fuel great QTEs.
It’s simple. Bad ideas ruin franchises. Great ideas make new ones.
Detroit Become Human… Osu… Shenmue II. Why do these games stand out? Their QTEs add genuine excitement to the experience, rather than being tacked on in a game or forced onto an audience that openly hate them. Instead of being forced into development just to copy trends, these games made sense of QTEs without compromising the players experience.
QTEs can enhance other gameplay elements and when they’re handled well– and sometimes can replace it altogether. Lackluster QTEs are reduced to unbearable, outrageous moments and millions of furious gamer when handled poorly, and can irreversibly destroy what fun a game WOULD HAVE been. In a future blog post, I will consider this simple question:
What makes Quick-Time Events not suck? See you next blog post.