In comparison to most of the stuff I read about improving story telling in games, which includes lots of literary theory, some pie-in-the-sky "Wouldn't that be nice?" ideas, and formulas more complicated than many chemistry formulas, this week's HDR Knowledge over at GameSetWatch is practical and unpretentious. I especially liked the points about the perils of cut scenes - a number of games I've played in the past year or so have suffered seriously from an overload of cut scenes (nothing encourages me more about the potential of game than wanting to sleep through the first ten hours). Probably the most egregious violator of the cut scene issue that I'm really familiar with was the Xenosaga series - in the first instalment, I dreaded the prospect of yet another cut scene that would take up half an hour of my life.
Especially in particularly harrowing or high tension situations, I actually quite like the idea of a cutscene. I see them as a reward for defeating a difficult boss or completing a specific task, and if spaced well enough, they give me a much needed chance to sit back, set the controller down, and let out a sigh of relief. The problem that lies in the use of cutscenes is that frequency. Recent Final Fantasy games are specifically at fault, especially in the early hours of the game. While later parts of the game are usually full of side quests, battles and exploration, the first ten or so hours are chockful of cutscenes, sometimes only giving 20-30 minutes of gameplay in between. This has forced many to dislike the use of cutscenes, even in games where their use is required.
There are some good points made and it's well worth a read through, especially if you're allergic to more 'academic' discussions of the subject.
HDR Knowledge - Telling Stories and Realizing Worlds [GameSetWatch]