Exploring Seamless Cutscenes

Happy Sunday! Feld IV here.

During the development of Shrimp Magicality, one of the concepts our team really wanted to explore was making the experience as visually nimble and interesting as possible; the visual style, presentation, and cinematography carries the story just like the dialogue does. We wanted to do something a little bit more interesting with the cutscenes than always relying on the old ol’ ‘Fade In/Out to Black’, and we looked at games that had seamless cutscenes; as in, a cutscene that ends and returns control to the player, seamlessly.

Now this isn’t a new concept, all a ‘seamless cutscene’ really is, is returning control back to the player when a cutscene ends without a visual prompt to indicate; something that’s been around since the SNES RPG days. But as technology progressed, you started to see the applications of this technique get really cool:

Lost Odyssey’s opening cutscene transitions cleanly into the first battle that the player experiences. 
Red Dead Redemption 2 mastered making the player feel like they were playing a a cinematic experience.

So I wanted to do the same! While there’s a lot of ways to transition back to the player control after a cutscene concludes, making it totally seamless, especially with camera transitioning back to the conventional scene camera the player has to use (and be useful), was a challenge, namely because of three things;

  • The limitations of the framework we are using made it so we couldn’t instantiate the player character to use in our cutscene manager in a way that is useful to us
  • Since we’re sort of using the player’s model to ‘force’ the animations of a cutscene, figuring out a way so that the Professor’s normal ‘idle’ animation doesn’t clash with whatever she’s doing in the cutscene.
  • Aligning the camera from ‘cutscene’ mode to ‘player control’ mode completely seamlessly without any jarring breaks or damping glitches.

The first problem seemed rather insurmountable, until I got some programming help from a pal that I’m super grateful for; we rigged up a tool that allows me to slap on a component when I want a cutscene to be seamless. 

The second problem was a lot easier to solve; a schematic that disabled the Professor’s movement while she was in ‘cutscene mode’ was simple enough to devise.

Inside the Unity environment.

The third problem, making sure the cameras lined up, was actually the most difficult; namely because cameras are one of the more delicate aspects of a scene, and having more than one camera that you cycle between waypoints, rather having one camera we move around the scene is often a practical decision as much as it is a stylistic one (we often opt for the first because it gives flexibility), and in this case, what seemed to do the trick is to have the last cutscene camera align near perfectly where the player camera will be. 

A little damping and clever interpolation and we have something that resembles a success! With a little tweaking, we definitely wanna improve a lot of Shrimp’s visual presentation to be even cooler than what we were showing before, and the best news is that this is all modular to fit our future projects. 

Stay tuned for more!