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QTEs Need to GTFO

Published on April 3, 2013 by in editorial

qte_1We’ve come a long way with game design this generation.  If you think about it the list is impressive: HUDs are disappearing, online gameplay is consistent, digital has its own economy, designers are doing a decent job of making games suitable for the platforms they appear on, and we’re even playing worthwhile games on our phones.  I find it odd that one of the least popular mechanics of game design, the quick time event (or QTE for short), remains as strong as ever.  When it was introduced in God of War it was new, novel, and used to make Kratos do incredible things at the push of a button.  As time went on the QTE evolved into an annoying and consistent play mechanic to replace the cutscene as a form of exposition, resulting in titles like Heavy Rain and the ridiculous Asura’s Wrath.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed both of those games, but wouldn’t they be better suited as a movie and anime series respectively?  I enjoyed watching people play these games much more than playing them myself, which suggests the QTE benefits as a passive experience, and ultimately suggests it’s wrong for the interactive nature of the video game medium.  I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know or that several other gaming outlets haven’t already posted articles about, but given that fact why the hell do good modern developers continue to use the QTE to tarnish experiences?

Anyone who has listened to the podcast knows that I adore the new Tomb Raider.  I played it as a video game, nothing more and nothing less.  As I played I traversed wide areas, survived countless attacks, became a strong independent warrior, all while not bothering to worry about the validity of my character arc or if a women’s lib class would find my journey believable.  I can find nearly nothing to complain about this game – mind you I’m not a critic and thus items like the aforementioned topics have their place, just not in my living room when I’m trying to unwind – save for the QTE.  I can’t even fathom why they are in there.  Your first encounter is a controversial scene with a goon that, whether you succeed or fail, adds nothing to the story.  From what I can tell the QTEs in Tomb Raider are trick devices to ruin my perfect run in the middle of an action sequence.  Also I’m given no time to see the prompt, process what they want me to do (hold, tap, rotate, etc.), and get it done before a failure state.  In the end every QTE I encountered just meant that I would lose immersion for a couple of minutes while I wait for the game to fail me, reload, and hope I did the right thing in the half of a second I’m allotted.  My cynical thought was that focus group attendees used to split-second twitch gameplay in games like Call of Duty told Crystal Dynamics that QTEs are fine as long as they force you to react quickly.  As it stands you get to these sequences throughout the game and they are so disjarring to the pace you wonder how this got through QA and testing without someone saying something. 


Even God of War Ascension, the sixth title in the series, suffers from QTE fatigue.  With each new game the sequences get longer, more common, and require quicker responses.  We’re no longer pressing a single triangle, we are rotating the left stick, tapping one of the two triggers repeatedly until we’re exhausted, pressing up on the d-pad, and then having to slam down on two face buttons at once to complete it.  If we screw up, we die.  When we respawn the sequence is replayed with a new randomization to the off-the-wall tasks that are being asked of us.  It’s not game design, it’s not adding to the experience, and worst of all it’s not fun. 

Oddly enough when I think back on other titles, it has never been fun.  Do you guys remember Quantic Dreams’s first game Indigo Prophecy/Fahrenheit (depending on region)?  There’s a sequence in the middle of that game that is literally a 90-part QTE that will fail you if you get more than two presses wrong.  What about Resident Evil 4?  Fortunately failing at them didn’t usually result in your death, save for one boss, but it still makes you ask why it’s even there at all.  Oh and while we’re talking Call of Duty, why don’t you ask Call of Duty 3 developer Treyarch how putting a QTE into a fast-growing major FPS franchise worked out.  They’ve never added to a game and they don’t need to be around. 

qte_3Since the original Dragon’s Lair the QTE has been the bane of my existence when it comes to gaming, and I am actually good at them.  After almost a decade of ruining some of my favorite experiences in some of the most popular games of this generation, I am officially telling the QTE to go.  Leave.  Never come back.  Like the escort mission before it, which was thankfully much less popular among developers, it was an okay idea that should have been an isolated design decision.  Am I right?  Wouldn’t the world be a better place without them?

The views and opinons expressed here are solely that of the author, Fred Rojas, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the B-Team Podcast or the other hosts.  In fact, most of the time the other guys think I’m bat shit insane.

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