Created By: Folamh3 on January 25, 2013 Last Edited By: Folamh3 on January 22, 2014
Troped

Expository Gameplay Limitation

Temporarily limiting the actions the player character can make in a game to allow for exposition

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The problem of how to provide exposition to players in Video Games is a difficult one. At one extreme, some studios cut straight to non-interactive cutscenes (possibly tempered by Quick Time Events) or text screens to convey all the relevant plot information needed. This generally ensures that players will get all the information required, but can significantly disrupt the pacing of the game, and many players dislike having control wrested away from them altogether. Other studios take the Half-Life approach of never taking control away from the player and providing exposition within the game's engine. This generally avoids disrupting the pace too much, but can result in players accidentally missing key information if their attention was focussed on something else.

This trope takes a middle course: not taking control away from the player, but temporarily limiting the actions the player character is able to carry out so as to better focus the player's attention on the exposition. For example, supposing that in normal gameplay the Player Character can run, fire his or her weapon, jump, toss grenades and crouch. In this trope, the player remains in control of the player character, but during story scenes can do little more than walk around or crouch, such that the player will ideally be concentrating on the plot and characters rather than gameplay. (Forcing the player character to walk slowly can also double as Dynamic Loading.)

Note that using this trope does not preclude using the two aforementioned alternatives: it's not uncommon to use two or even all of them.

Compare Controllable Helplessness, Exposition Break and Scenic Tour Level for other ways of providing exposition in video games. See also Unexpected Gameplay Change, Gameplay and Story Segregation and Sliding Scale of Gameplay and Story Integration.


Examples:

Action

  • God of War: Ghost of Sparta, when in Sparta or in his flashback sequence, Kratos is unable to run or even use his weapon.
  • No More Heroes restricts Travis's moves to walking whenever Sylvia calls him on the phone.
  • In Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, whenever Raiden is making an in-gameplay Codec call, he can walk around, but can't run or attack.
  • In Tomb Raider (2013), there are sections where Lara has to make a call with other characters, in which she can only walk, and is unable to do anything else. Additionally, during the ending, the player's normal shoot buttons will get changed to the lower shoulder buttons as opposed to both right shoulder buttonsnote  after you get a second pistol from Mathaias.

First-Person Shooter

  • Despite popularizing the trend for never breaking gameplay in the original instalment (as per the trope description), Half-Life 2 and its expansions feature a subtle example of this: whenever Freeman is facing a friendly NPC, often while the NPC in question provides exposition, he will automatically lower his weapon, preventing the player from firing.

Puzzle

  • At the end of Portal 2, after you fall for Wheatley's trap, you end up immobilized while Wheatley takes the opportunity to monologue. You can still aim and fire the Portal Gun, however, and if you shoot the moon, Wheatley will end up sucked into the vacuum of space.

RPG

  • The Mass Effect 3 endgame is a longer version of this than most. Shepard's movements are reduced to a slow stagger and all abilities are disabled, courtesy of a near miss from Harbinger's main gun. His/her armor is burned to a crisp and s/he is severely injured.

Simulation Game

  • In the first mission of Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, Blaze's lock-on function is disabled so he cannot fire on the enemy planes while his CO tries to hail them on the radio. The reason for this is that Blaze's superiors explicitly forbade him from opening fire, and his CO overrides that order only after the hailing attempts fail.

Stealth-Based Game

  • Batman: Arkham Asylum forces Batman to walk slowly when communicating with Oracle via his earpiece. This doubles as Dynamic Loading, as noted above. Additionally, whenever Batman enters the Visitors' Centre, in which a Joker mannequin sits loudly mocking him, the game cuts to first person and Batman can do nothing other than walk. The game's intro sequence combines this with Scenic Tour Level, as Batman can only walk forwards while following the Joker through the asylum.
  • In Assassin's Creed I, there are several occasions in which Altair is having a scripted conversation with another character and the sequences are functionally cutscenes, but the player is still free to walk around the room in question.

Survival Horror

  • In the original Condemned, whenever Ethan receives a call on his cellphone the player is slowed down to a walk, cannot attack (as he is holding his phone in his hand) and Invisible Walls appear around Ethan, significantly limiting the player's progress. Normal gameplay resumes once the call is over.

Third-Person Shooter

  • Spec Ops: The Line slows Walker and his team down to a walk in several instances, generally when they are surveying scenes of carnage and destruction. At other points Walker gets severely injured and is reduced to a shambling, exhausted gait.
  • Gears of War limits the player's movement to a slow walk in places to allow dialogue to play out.
Community Feedback Replies: 22
  • January 25, 2013
    Koveras
    So basically this is about integrating cutscenes into video games without taking all control from the player, just some of it?
  • January 25, 2013
    Folamh3
    Essentially. But it's not something like Controllable Helplessness, where the player character can do little more than move their head from side to side. In this trope, the player character is generally able to move, but the range of actions they are able to carry out is drastically limited compared to normal gameplay.
  • January 25, 2013
    Bisected8
    • Half Life and its sequals used this style instead of cutscenes (although it mostly made use of scripted events that the player could just walk past). The first game only locked you in a room with an expositing character, but the sequal (and it's expansions) had moments of Controllable Helplessness where the player was trapped or restrained.
  • January 25, 2013
    Folamh3
    ^^ I wouldn't consider that an example. This is about limiting a character's range of moment, not rendering them completely immobile except for moving their head.
  • January 28, 2013
    StarSword
    RPG:
    • The Mass Effect 3 endgame is a longer version of this than most. Shepard's movements are reduced to a slow stagger and all abilities are disabled, courtesy of a near miss from Harbinger's main gun. His/her armor is burned to a crisp and s/he is severely injured.
  • January 29, 2013
    Connorses
    Does the ending of Portal 2 count, since you're bound in place, but you can carry out the action that results in the end of the game? But that wasn't as "expository" as some of these examples.
  • January 29, 2013
    Koveras
    Scenic Tour Level would be a subtrope, no?
  • January 29, 2013
    Folamh3
    I haven't played Video Game/Portal2 but I'll take your word for it. Could you write up a full description?

    I'm not sure Scenic Tour Level would necessarily be a subtrope, but it's definitely closely related.
  • January 30, 2013
    Ryusui
    At the end of Portal 2, after you fall for Wheatley's trap, you end up immobilized while Wheatley takes the opportunity to monologue. You can still aim and fire the Portal Gun, however, and if you shoot the moon, Wheatley will end up sucked into the vacuum of space.
  • November 30, 2013
    DAN004
  • December 1, 2013
    ShanghaiSlave
  • December 2, 2013
    abateman
    I may be misunderstanding the description, but here are a few examples that come to mind:

    The first chunk of Final Fantasy X. Very linear, few choices, and almost impossible to fail. Same thing for the first bit of Fallout 3, although you have a bit more freedom in Fallout 3.

    But in both cases, you have significantly less freedom in the first half hour of gameplay than you do for the whole rest of the game.

    Alternatively, Metroid Prime actually gives you a little more ability during the intro period of the game (though restricting you to a single small map) and then takes away all of your abilities once the primary part of the game begins. Like the other two examples, though, your freedom of movement and exploration is increased dramatically after the introduction.
  • December 2, 2013
    Folamh3
    No, those wouldn't really constitute examples of this trope. I've just rewritten the description a bit in hopes of making it clearer.
  • December 3, 2013
    abateman
    Ok, that makes more sense. Thank you.
  • December 3, 2013
    Folamh3
  • December 7, 2013
    pinkdalek
    In Metal Gear Rising Revengeance, when Raiden is making an in-story Codec call, he can walk around, but can't run or attack.
  • December 7, 2013
    OmarKarindu
    Removed example that no longer fits the description

    • Like the Arkham Asylum games, No More Heroes restricts Travis's moves to walking whenever Sylvia calls him on the phone.

  • January 15, 2014
    Folamh3
    • In the first mission of Ace Combat 5 The Unsung War, your lock-on function is disabled so you cannot fire on the enemy planes while your CO tries to hail them on the radio. Justified in that your superiors explicitly forbade you to open fire, and your CO overrides that order only after the hailing attempts fail.
  • January 15, 2014
    UltramarineAlizarin
    Gears Of War limits the player's movement to a slow walk in places to allow dialogue to play out. (I would guess the whole series does this, but I only know for sure that the first game does it.)
  • January 15, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    • In Tomb Raider 2013, There are sections where lara has to make a call with other characters. she can only walk and is unable to do anything else during this time. Also at the ending, your normal shoot buttons will get changed to the lower shoulder buttons(the norm is both right shoulder buttons, since the left is aim and on top of it is Instinct, which invokes Notice This on enemies and items. the upper right is your weapons' alternate firing mode) after you get a second pistol from Mathaias, which gives us an Ultimate Universe origin to Lara's signature Guns Akimbo.
  • January 16, 2014
    Prfnoff
    Removed the "when done well/when done poorly" paragraph. Tropes Are Tools, and that kind of analysis just doesn't belong in trope descriptions.
  • January 19, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    fixed an example.
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