In terms of cut scenes...I'll paraphrase Luke...
You think making them this way was a bad idea? I'm inclined to agree with ya
Having recently played through RTCW, I have to say that the in-engine cut scenes in that game were better executed, and the in-engine characters better animated - including lip synching. The in-engine cut scenes in Outcast were not very smooth, and the character faces were not as well conceived, IMHO. I also did not like the gritted teeth...or the sharp lip movements...because it did give the characters more of a puppet look.
address some of the issues people had raised in the past about adding more action and dynamism to the cut scenes...but they still could not attain the same level as the original Jedi Knight. Yes, I'm aware of some of the cheesy acting in JK's FMV, and some people hate Jason Court's portrayal of Kyle (I thought it was very well executed, personally), but it gave the characters the much-needed human element.
The reason for no FMV this time around? Well, some people like
in-engine cut scenes because they say it's more immersive. On the other hand, there is the issue of cost. Hiring actors, shooting and compositing footage against CGI backgrounds takes a lot of time, talent and money. JK's cut scenes cost a bomb, apparently...so to have the same in Outcast would have cost a small fortune.
Nevertheless, with an in-engine character, you cannot yet achieve a properly animated face that can realistically portray emotion. UT2 and Unreal 2 do include more advanced facial animation techniques, and I'll be really interested to see how they turned out. Nevertheless, even in RTCW the characters simply speak words (with some smooth mouth movements that include the jawbone) and blink...and that's it in terms of facial animation - though it looks better than Outcast. Body motion does help to convey a certain attitude or feeling as well. I only use RTW as an example, because it was also built on the Q3 engine, so from where I'm standing a higher quality of animation could
have been achieved...especially after seeing some of the facial features on the SOF2 characters, which are capable of diffferent expressions and have moveable eyes. I was expecting at least
that level of animation in Outcast...and it fell far short, to the detriment of the game.
Personally, as it stands, I would have preferred it if they had removed the character cut scenes entirely, and just left you looking out of Kyle's eyes on the scene as it unfolds. Half-Life managed it very well, and led to an even more immersive experience, because you saw everything from your character's viewpoint, including blackouts. Why not just employ these tactics in Outcast, and leave the cut scenes to external shots of ships, and seeing what other characters are up to, like Galak Fyaar? In RTCW too, you only ever see BJ when he's on the plane...
The last thing that annoyed me about the cut scenes was the way it dumped you from the first cut scene to your start point. The opening scene was quite short, and jarred, IMO. I just sat back stunned for a moment when I found myself at the start position, after being aboard the ship a millisecond before. JK smoothly led you into the start of the game (you start at the same point where the cut scene ends), and even MotS, with it’s own in-engine cut scenes, managed to lead you to the start point (mostly because it only shows the same installation where you begin). This might have been alleviated in Outcast by adding perhaps another 30 seconds of footage… (3 seconds showing the ship cutting through the atmosphere of the planet - fade - 5 seconds for a landing - fade - 10 seconds while Kyle and Jan get off the ship, look around and set out - fade - 10 seconds to overlook the installation and exchange worried glances, or trade a few words - and then a second to show Kyle jump down - and fade). I feel it would have made a wealth of difference to the opening of the game.
As for story development and character interaction...yes there are some obvious loopholes, and they seem a bit incomplete.
You forgot the one about Jan being interrogated about the Jedi Academy. Why should she have been, when Desann had already been a student there, and would have known far more about the place than Jan (a non-Jedi) ever could? And why would Luke agree for Kyle to have his lightsaber back, when the guy's angry, and teetering on the Dark side again? It's like..."Hey, I can see you're really angry, and you want to go on a quest for revenge..no problem, here's your lightsaber." I would have thought Luke would have given Kyle a lecture about his aggressive tendencies...
As far as civilian NPCs go...again, I have to agree they would have added a great deal more depth to the game. Even without the 'moral' mode of play that leads to the Dark/Light path, they are still neutral characters to protect. And as for making it a goal
to save them...why? It wasn't necessarily a goal
in JK...it's just that if you shot civilians, it hastened you down the path to the Dark side. In Outcast, they could have simply left that out altogether...and let the player decide if they wanted to rescue, or kill, the civilians. The first time I played JK, some civilians died...the next time I played it, I made it a personal goal to see that they didn't die - which meant putting myself in the line of fire. This was my choice as a player, to protect the innocent and weak. The only points in Outcast where you could really protect NPCs was scripted, so if you didn't
save them, you failed the mission. Personally, I don't think that aspect was really needed. So the NPCs die...but then, you can choose to either care about that or not. If your playing as a Lightsider...then you feel guilty about not saving them, and try harder the next time. If you're a Darksider, you turn your back and walk away. The other problem with it being scripted is that it does
make the game more linear. Like if you let the R5 unit get destroyed...okay, lose a bonus point...but there should have then been another way to reach your objective - rather than the constant reloads until you managed to get the tactics right. That is not the best way to design a game, IMHO...and I found this annoying in RTCW.
You'd hit a certain point, and then unless you were very careful, and used just the right tactics straight away, you died and had to reload. This was true of Jedi Outcast in a few places, including some of the puzzles...like the garbage truck in Nar Shadaa. The first time around, you don't know what to expect or do, and it dumps you on a ledge...from which there is no escape. So you hit the reload button. But why is there no way off that platform? That is a shortcoming of some of the level design. JK and MotS nearly always
provided a way out of a sticky situation, usually in the form of an elevator, and I only ever had to reload when I died, usually through carelessness. How simple a task would it have been to put an elevator behind that door...so that you could go back to another part of the level? But I digress.
The other thing I noticed about level designs is that none of them incorporated habitats or living quarters. The Nar Shadaa and Bespin city levels, even if cleared of pedestrians...should still have shown signs of people having lived there, from posters on the walls to shop fronts, restaurants, cantinas, workshops, etc. Both JK and MotS had city designs that incorporated habitations, and even market places and an open-air theatre (MotS). So yes, I feel the design of those levels could have been better in those terms, and would have allowed a greater sense of immersion in those environments. I also didn't notice any graffiti in Nar Shadaa...whatever happened to the scum of the universe?
So, while Jedi Outcast now remains one of my favourite games, it does have issues...and I do feel many of these issues are a result of the relatively short development period. Where the game really shines brightly in many areas...it's a bit dull and tarnished in others. A bit like the Star Wars universe, actually.
And for those who don't know...Raven were given the green light for development in February of 2001...so the development took about 13 months.