By – TPG Staff

Quick Time Event

Quick Time Events have recently become extremely popular among gaming developers, but have come under fire by critics and players.  We give our thoughts and then ask for yours.  Are you a fan of QTEs?

Thomas Faust – Content Provider

I understand and even appreciate what QTEs are trying to do by adding cinematic elements to a game, especially since the intended effect is to add tension and excitement.  Most of the time this doesn’t work because hammering buttons just feels too technical.  I’ve been thinking about games that managed to successfully pull off good QTEs all week, but all I find are examples where this went horribly wrong.

Tomb Raider comes to mind: press X or die, then try again until you get it right.  Saints Row 4 has more QTEs in its first hour than all of Saints Row 3.  The worst example has to be Warhammer 40.000: Space Marine, where the final boss fight is one big QTE which is not even challenging.  That was not the grand finale a player deserves, it’s a cheap cop-out that might look impressive, but fails to elicit any kind of emotional response.  Quick Time Events… I’m not a fan.

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Steven Smith – Content Provider

My biggest issue with Quick Time Events is they often make very little sense, even within the context of the game.  Special actions, such as lock picking or disarming a bomb, can better maintain the internal logic through use of a mini-game than simply pushing a random sequence of buttons.  There is one notable exception that immediately comes to my mind, and that is GTA: San Andreas.  There are two specific areas where QTEs are used: dancing and in the low rider competitions.  Both of these actions require, in real life, a simple set of otherwise mundane actions to be performed in a specific sequence and with a certain rhythm.  Not only do these events practically beg to be QTEs, they are also mostly optional.  If you really don’t like them, there is no need to do them.

Where QTEs really detract are when they replace a boss battle.  What is the point in learning the combat system, upgrading weapons and armor or unlocking new fighting moves if all you need to do is hit AXABAXY three times in a row?  Here I will give an honorable mention to The Witcher 2.  QTEs are used during a boss fight, but only after a hard fought battle using the normal game mechanics.  This makes it feel less like a QTE and more like an interactive cut scene of Geralt taking advantage of a temporary opening in his foe’s defenses.  Hit the correct button and you are rewarded with a more interesting cut scene than the one you were going to see anyway.  I’d almost say that CD Projekt really “got” what a QTE is and how it should be used, almost.  They really blew it when they turned the underground fighting matches into QTEs. Which again makes no sense within the context of a game that already has a decent fighting system.

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Corey Lenack – TPG Dual Reviews

My opinions on QTEs have been mostly reflected by Steven Smith’s comments.  However, I feel I have an even more negative outlook on them.  I’m glad he mentioned The Witcher 2′s QTEs because it does encompass both major forms of QTE. I completely agree that the fist fighting in the Witcher 2 had no pizzazz due to QTEs and the entire thing felt like an after thought.  However, I would disagree with the way the Witcher used QTEs in the boss battles.  In those situations, I feel that seeing some epic cut scene of Garalt finishing off a monster is my reward for playing out the mechanics correctly.  I don’t like to be distracted by babysitting the bottom of the screen with my eyes to wait for a button to push.  I feel it detracts from the entire sequence.  So to sum up my opinion: At worst they create boring and possibly frustrating game-play and at best they seem like a non sequitur.

Armaan Khan – Senior Writer

There’s nothing wrong, in principle, with quick-time events.  If you think about it, almost every action game out there is QTE-driven: you have to press the right button at the right time to get the desired result. Hit the spacebar to jump over this pit when you’re close enough.  Push Ctrl to punch that enemy when it’s in range.  Hold Alt to block an incoming attack.  Make a mistake and you miss, the bad guy hits you, or you fall into a bottomless pit and die.  The only difference is that a QTE has the decency to tell you what button to press, and when to do so in order to succeed.

QTEs suck because of their implementation.  Every QTE I’ve encountered is presented as a binary win/lose affair.  If you mess up at even one point in the sequence, you have to start all over again, and that kind of repetition is frustrating no matter the circumstance.  This isn’t the fault of the QTE mechanic in itself, though.  It’s the fault of  game designers who are too scared to do anything better.  And, honestly, they have a right to be scared.  The QTE mechanic is almost universally reviled by gamers, who react with anger whenever it is even mentioned.  Take the upcoming Xbox One title Ryse, as an example. Gamers derided it because of what appeared to be a QTE-driven combat system.  In reality, the game simply showed button prompts for executions, but the appearance of a QTE was enough to make gamers explode with rage.

The reaction to Ryse underscores just how much gamers hate QTEs, and I personally think it’s sad.  I believe QTEs have potential to be much more than they currently are, but I doubt any developer will be willing to experiment with them, because the backlash would be intense.  Which means the only place a QTE-driven action-RPG will ever exist is in my dreams.

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Adam Ames – Owner

The vast majority of Quick Time Events are nothing more than button mashing for the sake of button mashing.  The new Tomb Raider is an exercise in frustration for those who want to play the game instead of a multi-million dollar version of Whack-A-Mole.

Perhaps not a QTE in the traditional presentation, but the prompts to repeatedly tap the space bar to open grates and pull down walls in the new Batman series (Rocksteady toned it down quite a bit in Arkham City) marred otherwise fantastic games.  One title which seems to get QTEs correct is Just Cause 2.  When attempting to disarm a bomb or unlock a door, you are presented a series of numbers 1-4.  You must press the correct displayed sequence in order to proceed within a limited amount of time.  Not only does this make sense within the type of game and story, it adds to the gameplay experience without being overly obnoxious.

All in all, QTEs have become a crutch for developers who use them to give the player a cheap sense of accomplishment or an attempt at shallow engrossment.  These actions do not create a sense of immersion, they create a sense of annoyance.

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There you have it from a few staffers here at TPG.  Now it is your turn.  Do you give thumbs up or thumbs down to QTEs?

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  • Skyturnedred

    If QTE is used to finish of a boss, I would like the button prompt to actually do what the button normally does in the game. If X kicks the enemy, it should do that in the QTE too. It’s not much to make the whole mechanic better, but at least it would make some sense.

    • Adam Ames

      Yes, that would be quite annoying. Any particular game you remember doing this?

      • Skyturnedred

        I think Prince of Persia (2008) worked exactly like that, though it’s been a while since I played it. Also, I think Prince of Persia Forgotten Sands’ QTEs worked mostly like that.

        It’s hard to remember which games actually have done it, because QTEs are never the part of the game you fondly remember later. I’m sure there are more examples that I’ve just forgotten about.

        • Adam Ames

          I would be the opposite. I remember the frustrating and irritating parts of games. Not that I forget the good, but the bad certainly sticks with me.

          • Skyturnedred

            That really depends of the game too. With great games that have some flaws (like bad QTE sections) I tend to ignore/forget them when I think about them later on. But some games though… Deus Ex: HR still haunts me with its boss fights.

          • Adam Ames

            Human Revolution was so good until the bosses came into play. For the most part, anyone who talks about HR will say, “Great game, be prepared for stupid boss fights.”

  • fergy82

    QTEs make me stop playing the game. If there was a warning about games having QTEs I would not buy them.

    • Adam Ames

      Warning: Level 3 Quick Time Events ;)

  • GoateeGamer

    I think what ruins the implementation of the QTE is telling you what you need to do. In a usual game sequence, you analyze a situation, and react. A QTE ruins that magic, it’s basically data entry.

    I think a far superior alternative would be the game simply prompting you to do SOMETHING. Theoretically, there would be various levels of success based on your reaction during the stages of the encounter. Helpful commands move the end result in your favor, missing or useless input the opposite.

    Something else usually done wrong is a QTE being a villian’s last health bar. If I’ve been ripping into an enemy like an enraged dickwolf for a solid ten minutes, why is it required I start a grappling sequence to finish him off? What would be interesting is having these available at any time, difficulty based on how the battle has gone.

    • Skyturnedred

      Castlevania Lords of the Shadow has several QTEs where you just need to press something (and time it right, of course). I doubt it makes any difference what you press, but it would be cool if it did affect the outcome.

    • Adam Ames

      I am not sure if your first point would fly in today’s market. Just look at how much hand-holding goes on in gaming these days. You would have too many people complaining about not knowing what to do and the game being unfair.

      • Cybert

        On the topic of hand-holding, I heard(can’t remember where) a good reason for why so much hand-holding happens, it’s because games usually don’t have manuals anymore, meaning that they can’t expect the player to know what to do.

        • fergy82

          So provide a way ingame to learn all the stuff but don’t force it on me. I hate the first hour or sometimes the first hours because it is one big tutorial. Some games even lack a real game and the whole game is a tutorial.
          FarCry3 would be much better without the stupid tutorials that last for hours.

          • Adam Ames

            I have been thinking about great tutorials and one that comes to mind is Escape From Butcher Bay. The first hour or so taught you everything needed to play the game and did it in a way that was extremely entertaining.

          • fergy82

            I remember that game having a dream sequence tutorial where you escape at the start of the game. It lasts about 10 minutes and puts you in the action immediately.
            Offering you a way to learn the game is not the same thing as a tutorial. I also hate tutorials :)

          • Skyturnedred

            Remember when the main menu used to have a different section called “Tutorial”? Good times.

        • Adam Ames

          It is one thing to offer a tutorial for the player, it is a completely different deal when developers make every single interactive area shown on the screen along with quest markers.

          • Cybert

            Yes, and the developers are afraid of having a turorial in the beginning, so they make the whole game a tutorial.

          • Adam Ames

            I think that being afraid is the bigger issue. With the video game industry growing so fast, new players are jumping on the bandwagon. Instead of catering to their fans, developers feel the need to make sure not to alienate beginners and end up going overboard.

    • Mathonwy

      For clarity when I think of QTE’s I have things like the final fight of space marine, or the brawls from witcher 2 in mind, that is to say a cinematicly framed scene with button images pasted over it.

      I absolutely abhor these. I find it stops me paying attention to the scene properly as I’m looking for the button image, not tracking what is happening.

      Also I consider them to be extremely lazy design. Lets take witcher two’s brawling to show how I think it could be improved. Instead of having a button named on screen, have your opponent telegraph their attack and a static response to each style of attack, ie you see a left jab coming you press one button, you see the wind up for a hay-maker you press something else, and so forth. This way the player is looking at what is happening and responding to it, not ignoring the action to wait for instructions.To my mind there’s no excuse except laziness for having the cue be an image of the button (or I suppose still being in a tutorial phase of the game).

  • Norveshki Machak

    I don’t mind QTE that are part of simple interaction with the world. For example, QTE button mashing to force open a door that’s stuck while there are enemies closing in is a good use of QTE. The faster you mash that button the faster you open that door and escape.

    Now, Simon Says type of QTE are a bad and stupid way of interaction. Best example of this is Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy in North America). I miss most of the action that is going on because I have to focus on stupid colors and not the super-awesome action sequence in the background. Now as audience watching someone else play I can see it all and say “awesome” but then it’s a movie.

    Also I agree that QTE should not be displayed on screen. As Corey Lenack wrote: “I don’t like to be distracted by babysitting the bottom of the screen with my eyes to wait for a button to push.” And as Skyturnedred wrote: “If X kicks the enemy, it should do that in the QTE too.”

    • Adam Ames

      The second point is the problem. It seems developers forget they are creating a game and not a movie.

  • BobC

    The reality is, QTE’s are ways for developers to cater people who can’t hack manual input. They’ve been with us a long time. Sine the mid 90′s I think? I know FF8 has QTE boost where guardians do more damage before they show up.

    • Adam Ames

      We did not start to see QTEs on PCs just until multi-platform releases became the rage over the last 8 years or so.

  • calabi

    The problem with QTE’s is they are the point where the developers have stopped making a game and started making a movie.

    They want something to happen a certain way and they want to shovel in player interaction because its a game.

    If they dont care about player interaction then dont bother with the QTE, just make a cutscene. Otherwise just let the player interact the way they are familiar throughout the game. In WH40k just let the player kill the boss the way they want to Bolter, Fist, nuke or not all.

    • Adam Ames

      On the topic of cut scenes, the new Tomb Raider was littered with them. Within the first hour, I felt like it was no longer a game, and as you said, more like a movie. Well, an interactive movie, anyway.