Halo’s big boss (or Master Chief if you will) Frank O’Connor spent some time explaining Halo 4’s quick-time event system at the Eurogamer Expo in London this week.
Footage released by 343 Industries has included segments in which players enter first-person quick-time events during gameplay. We’ve seen some in which players are tasked with opening a door by hitting X. There’s also a section in which the Master Chief (the real one, not Frank O’Connor) is climbing an elevator shaft and the player is required to direct the character left or right out of the way of stuff that might hit him in the face. Once atop the shaft a mash of a certain key will grip and pull of a Covenant Elite, sending him to his doom.
According to O’Connor, these sections are from the beginnings of the game, and are meant to be a neat way for the player to be introduced to the kind of moves you’ll be able to pull off all by yourself later in the game.
"You're only doing things you can actually do in the game," he explained. "The first level is particularly dense with those things because it's teaching you about this world. So what you're doing in an elevator shaft is you're just climbing a ladder. You're doing things the Chief can do. It's not taking you out and forcing an animation. That was part of that philosophy.
"And some of it is just there for storytelling and drama. But it's also teaching you how to move through the world."
Speaking to an audience eager to learn more on what will undoubtedly be a whole new Halo experience, O’Connor divulged a little more on the elevator sequence on the first level, Forward unto Dawn.
"The whole purpose of that sequence isn't actually a ladder part," he said. "It's the melee combat that happens at the top where you kill the Elite. We're teaching you that you can physically defeat an opponent without a weapon and here's how you do it. We're just doing it in an especially dramatic fashion. It's luring you into the story as it teaches you these very basic principles.
"So for a player who knows how to play Halo, they're going to feel more like vignettes than gameplay because they're not used to seeing things from that perspective necessarily."
"The early stuff is dense because it's expositing a lot of information," O'Connor continued. "We know there will be a lot of players who are new to the Halo universe this time around, so we're just trying to teach those new players things in a way that isn't insulting or distracting to people who are perfectly capable of doing everything."
There’s another example of Halo 4 teaching via QTE in the very beginning of the title, when Cortana approaches the Master Chief and asks him to look up when he awakes from a big long nap (4 freakin’ years). Of course Cortana’s not directing the Chief to work out if something’s a bird, plane or superman, and is in fact cleverly asking the player whether they want inverted controls or not.
"We're trying to make it subtle. It's still important to teach people how to play the game. But we're trying to do it in a way that doesn't slow down the experience for people who are expert."
Apparently it’s mainly towards the start of the title that we’ll be entering these sequences, so don’t worry if QTEs aren’t your thing.
"Most of those are in the beginning of the game where it's teaching you how to navigate and shoot and reload. There will be a few more that happen throughout the game but they tend to be for dramatic effect to focus on an action or a scenario but without switching to a cinematic," O'Connor replied. "So it's just letting you to continue to have some agency, because there's no real reason to switch to a cinematic, but we want to draw attention to a big idea. It's really just a narrative device."
Apparently on a different note, there’ll be “Conventional cinematic techniques” too. These include a section in the third level where the Chief pulls a lever in order to disable a pylon. It’s basically a cutscene.
Check the video underneath for the full talk, which includes some great gameplay footage (starts just after 12 minutes).