A mysterious confluence of events has two Gamasutra features dwelling on the subject of action games, one from Silicon Knights’ Denis Dyack and the other from Ernest Adams. Both point to the fact that action games are descendants of arcade games, and much like any evolution, some features that ensured the survival of the ancestors are a waste of the genetic code for their descendants.
One of the survivals of the arcade game we still see involves the cut scene or cinematic at the end of the level. The scene supposedly furthers the story, but was designed in part to reward the player with a much-needed break. I must admit, even today, I rejoice in being able to relax my death grip on the controller for a bit. However, in old school arcade form, it has drawbacks for both player and writer: this cut scene was the only place the story existed. Today, the story must be intertwined throughout.
Do we think cut scenes should go the way of the dodo? No, they play their part and probably will for some time to come. However, there are other ways to reward the player with story that are specific to your game. Silicon Knights, for its part, puts technology, sound, story/content, game design, and art on equal footing, allowing them to avoid the arcade game trap. If you think this is where we sing the old “bring in writers early” refrain, you’re right. When they get it, you’ll have quite an action game on your hands.