If you've been playing the Outriders demo, you've likely noticed that there are a lot of little cutscenes that play whenever you transition from one area to another. Opening a door? Cutscene. Climbing up a ledge? Cutscene. Jumping over a chasm? Cutscene. And it's not just a quick flash, either: It's a full process of fading to black, playing a brief video clip, then fading back to the game. The videos don't even preserve the custom headgear you're wearing. It's jarring.
Eurogamer editor Wesley Yin-Poole shared the experience on Twitter:
Not sure I need a cutscene for that jump, Outriders pic.twitter.com/djZ25EyHhOFebruary 28, 2021
Clips like this are often used to camouflage level loading (never forget that Mass Effect elevator), and to an extent that's the case here as well. But creative director Bartek Kmita explained to Eurogamer that the system is also used to bring co-op players together when they're moving from one area to another.
Outriders initially used a simple fade-in, fade-out during area transitions, but People Can Fly made the change after playtesters complained that they weren't aware of what was happening or where they were going when one of their partners triggered a move to a new area. Playing a brief video when moving between areas ensures that everyone is aware of where the team is headed.
"A good example is opening the door," Kmita said. "That was only because people in playtests said, 'Oh, where am I? Why was I teleported?' So we needed to have these cutscenes."
Kmita acknowledged that "it's not the best" solution, but said that letting players move between areas independently wasn't a practical option because the lack of dedicated servers means that doing so would require splitting players into separate games.
"Because everyone needs to compute the AI and everything on their machine, we would have had to split the party," he explained. "I would like to have the door opening animation for two seconds, but still playing together with my friends, than just breaking apart through transmission. So we chose this solution."
As for why it's necessary to sit through all those same cutscenes when playing Outriders solo, Kmita said that the background loading is "really intense," and that the studio "just needed that solution to stream everything, to prepare the next arenas." He also suggested that there's not a whole lot of room to refine the system, saying, "We will try to look at this, but I can't promise a huge improvement can be done."
Outriders is set to launch on April 1, but the demo is available now on Steam. I spent several hours with it over the weekend and enjoyed it more than I expected to: I encountered a fairly common crash error (and the suggested fixes in this Reddit thread unfortunately did not help) but the mix of gunplay and powers (and exploding skulls) made for some very satisfying action, and even though the setup is thoroughly hackneyed, there are elements that have me honestly curious about where the whole thing is headed.
You know those bits in games where you have to slowly squeeze through a tight gap so the next bit of the level can stream in? Those are literally load-bearing walls. pic.twitter.com/oxLU0MQ1NAApril 30, 2019