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A quick-time event (QTE) is a method of context-sensitive gameplay in which the player performs actions on the control device shortly after the appearance of an on-screen instruction/prompt. It allows for limited control of the game character during cut scenes or cinematic sequences in the game. Performing the prompted action improperly or not at all results in the character's failure at their task and often in an immediate game over.
The term "quick-time event" is attributed to Yu Suzuki, director of the game Shenmue which used the QTE feature (then called "quick timer events") to a great degree. They allow for the game designer to create sequences of actions that cannot be expressed through the game's standard control scheme, or to constrain the player into taking only one specific action at a critical moment.
Gameplay sequences with minimal actual gameplay are not a recent invention. The quick-time event mechanic has origins in Nintendo's 1974 arcade game Wild Gunman. It was a full motion video electro-mechanical game that used film projection to display live-action footage of cowboys. Alternate film footage was played depending on the player's quick-draw reaction. It paved the way for later QTE laserdisc video games.
In the 1970s, The Driver, an action-racing arcade game released by Kasco (Kansai Seiki Seisakusho Co.), consisted of pre-filmed situations (recorded on 16 mm film) that required the player to match their steering wheel, gas pedal and brakes with the movements shown on screen, much like those seen in laserdisc video games that appeared the following decade.
In the 1980s, Dragon's Lair (Cinematronics, 1983), Cliff Hanger (Stern, 1983) and Road Blaster (Data East, 1985) were interactive movie laserdisc video games that showed video clips stored on a laserdisc. This gave them graphics on par with an animated cartoon at a time when video games were composed of simple, pixelated characters, but left little room for more advanced gameplay elements. Gameplay consisted of watching an animated video and pressing the correct button every few seconds to avoid seeing a (circumstance-specific) loss scene and losing a life. Compared to modern titles, games like Dragon's Lair would require the player to memorize the proper sequence and timing of their input, effectively making the entire game one continuous QTE. Such uses were also seen as giving the player only the illusion of control, as outside of responding to QTE, there were no other commands the player could enter; effectively, these games were considered the equivalent of watching a movie and responding every few minutes to allow it to continue. An improvement to the QTE mechanic was flashing the buttons that need to be pressed on the screen, which appeared in the laserdisc games Super Don Quix-ote (Universal, 1984), Ninja Hayate (Taito, 1984), Time Gal (Taito, 1985) and Road Blaster.
Die Hard Arcade (SEGA, 1996), Sword of the Berserk: Guts' Rage and most notably Shenmue (SEGA, 1999) for the Dreamcast introduced QTEs in the modern form of cut scene interludes in an otherwise more interactive game. Shenmue's director Yu Suzuki is credited with coining the phrase "Quick-Time Event", which were included in the game as to provide "a fusion of gameplay and movie" and create cinematic experience to the player. The game's manual called them "quick timer events", but the phrase became popularized as "quick-time events" since its release. Since this period, several other games on modern console and game systems have included QTEs or similar mechanics.
Other early uses of QTEs include the role-playing video game Final Fantasy VII (Squaresoft, 1997), where, during Tifa Lockheart's Limit Break, she can do extra damage if the player presses the circle button at the right time; and the action game Sword of the Berserk: Guts' Rage (Yuke's, 1999), where different non-linear paths were revealed depending on whether the player succeeds or fails in pressing the displayed button quickly enough during a QTE, allowing different ways to complete the game.
- Rodgers, Scott (2010). Level Up!: The Guide to Great Video Game Design. John Wiley and Sons. pp. 183–184. ISBN 978-0-470-68867-0.
- Once Upon a Time on the Screen: Wild West in Computer and Video Games, Academia.edu
- The Driver at Museum of the Game
- Mielke, James (2006-05-09). Previews: Heavenly Sword. 1UP.com. Retrieved on 2007-12-19 “Some points in key battles (usually with bosses) integrate QTE (quick-time events), which fans of Shenmue and Indigo Prophecy might like, but which we've been doing since Dragon's Lair and Space Ace. Time to move on, gents.”
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- Super Don Quix-ote at Museum of the Game
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- Hamilton, Kirk (2012-11-07). What Do You Know, All This Time And We've Got 'QTE' Wrong. Kotaku. Retrieved on 2014-12-05
- Spencer (July 18, 2012). Time And Eternity’s Battle System Has Quick-Time Event Finishing Moves. Siliconera. Retrieved on 31 July 2012
- Patrick Klepek (4/10/2000). Sword of the Berserk: Guts' Rage. Gaming Age. Retrieved on 2011-03-27