Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Nature of Cool

This has no spoilers.

So, like most of you, I've been watching Dr. Horrible. One thing I'm curious about is the last five minutes (from 12 minutes) in episode three. By now, it's probably off-line, but it's the part where he starts to sing his long final song, the one that mutates several times. Specifically, the high point at 12:53 (walking into the board room) makes me curious.

That scene was really cool.

I've written a few essays in this space, but I keep deleting them. It's very hard to talk about "cool", especially since most people think of kung-fu fights, explosions, and giant robots. The kind of quiet, cold, long-term cool you get from the last scene of Dr. Horrible is unusual.

There are only a few things I can work out for sure. One is music: without the music, the scene is much weaker. Actually, the music is most of the cool. The images punch it up and focus it.

But I was thinking: imagine a Dr. Horrible Puzzle Game. Pretty stereotypical third-person action-puzzle game starring Dr. Horrible, except that the cut-scenes are all at that level of cool. Doesn't have to be coherent: just kind of a "rock opera" interspersed with levels of puzzles. A bit like Portal, perhaps.

Don't you think that would be fun?


Mory said...

No. It sounds like you haven't put your finger on what makes it cool and therefore are looking for a very vaguely defined thing which would not, in all likelihood, be fun.

Craig Perko said...

What an odd comment.

Would you prefer to hear my intellectual thrashing, insultingly primitive and completely in the dark about what it's like to direct a film? I didn't put my finger on it because it's an advanced application in a field in which I am not an expert.

What I am saying is that someone obviously is an expert in that field, and I would enjoy seeing how it survives being in a game...

How should I be more precise? All I can do is give examples of the puzzle parts. "Dr. Horrible can use his freeze-ray on falling objects", "Dr. Horrible has no meaningful combat ability, and any hero is an imminent danger..."

I can't give examples of the cool part: I'm clueless about it. But I know it's possible, because THERE IT IS.

Mory said...

I apologize if I offended you; I thought I was just answering the question. I can't think it would be fun, without being told what that means in practice.

Craig Perko said...

I really don't understand what you're saying. It's a puzzle game with a rock opera backbone.

Mory said...

You can't just mash two forms of entertainment together and expect something not-broken to result. I don't know how musical cut-scenes and a puzzle game could possibly fit together. Apparently you do, so maybe it's just me.

Mory said...

It seems like my lack of understanding is frustrating you, and I don't think I'm going to understand you, so with your permission I'd like to stop this discussion.

Craig Perko said...

You don't need my permission, but I still don't see what you aren't seeing. Puzzle/action games with cut-scenes are pretty standard fare. I'm suggesting that instead of boring cut-scenes, we use musical numbers.

Anyway, it was just a thought.

Olick said...

So, I was not exposed to this Dr. Horrible until now. I am glad I was before the 20th.

Cool is a very good word to describe it, but I think the single scene on its own is not just the cool thing. The story itself compels me, and the fusion of the music and storyline and image is what does the trick. I mean the tension and.. coolness(?) of each act increases as time goes by, the music becomes more passionate and elaborate, the scenes become more outlandish and climactic, and all of this really adds to the ending scene, because the three ACTS also follow this pattern.

Games based in other media face additional challenges to ordinary games, simply that I think the game mechanics and content must match the theme and mood of the source material.

If there were a Dr. Horrible game, and it were a generic puzzle game, it would be difficult to match this to the pacing of the media, which is a very important thing. For example if you were in a low-tension part of the game, that was between two very high-tension parts of the movie, it would ruin that cutscene. Not to mention the themes themselves in the game must match the themes of the movies, and I ploughed through the movie too fast (and want to also commit to no spoilers) to give a good assessment of the important themes that a game would have to also contain.

I would love to have a game with the sensibilities of a rock opera, or Dr. Horrible. But a lot more has to go into it than just putting a game with great cut scenes for it to truly work out right.

To touch on Portal, this higher level of synergy is part the success of Portal. The mood and story, idiosyncratic and darkly humorous, fits the game, which requires odd logic and naturally creates tons of opportunities to fail and destroy yourself.

So sort of in conclusion, its a great idea, but I think it needs to be expanded upon and tweaked to succeed on the same level that Dr. Horrible does.

Craig Perko said...

Yeah, it would take experts... but it wouldn't take anything magic or new. It's just a lot of polish on an old idea... and there's nothing wrong with that.

Of course, Dr. Horrible just lends itself to an action-puzzle game, anyway. It's an IP that would easily make the transition to game, unlike many movies.

Craig Perko said...

Oh, and your comments on progression are some of the things I thought about... but it's hard to nail these things down. It's so far outside my field.

DmL said...

I agree that the game pacing would have to closely match and not inhibit the emotion of the cutscenes if you're hoping for them to carry the burden of the "coolness" I almost imagine the puzzles somehow playing out alongside or underneath the actual cutscene or something.

I agree that Dr. Horrible is a ripe IP, but I almost think what you're asking for is for Joss Whedon to make a musical action RPG. : ) There really isn't anybody else in the industries with this sort of outlook and style, and I think it would work really well in a media with some agency.

Craig Perko said...

Well, I don't think an RPG would be a good idea, but essentially, yeah. I'd buy it!

DmL said...

Sorry yah, not RPG, puzzler... : )