'Playable' interactive Cutscenes?

This question pertains to the upcoming Timeline editor and Cinemachine. I would like my whole game to be a series of cutscenes that are ‘playable’. Is it possible to let the player play the game (real-time user interaction with keyboard/mouse or controller pad) while the Timeline cutscene does its thing at the same time? To clarify, here are 2 different scenarios which I would like to explore:

1 - Player plays as character (like normal) but Timeline is the authoritative camera director. In other words, I would like the player to be able to walk around, jump, drive a car, whatever, but I the developer want full control of the camera angles and when the camera cuts and what effects (like DoF) are applied to the player’s view. I want artistic director-style action camera manipulations (rule of 3rds, line of action, etc.), but still letting the player play the game instead of just sitting there watching a pre-scripted cutscene.

2 - Timeline is moving the characters/animations in a pre-scripted traditional cutscene format, but this time the Player is the camera operator/‘director’. This would be a new take on the traditional cutscene. I the developer script all the actions and dialogue as is normally done, but instead of having the player sit through my cutscene, let them move the cinematic camera around the room in real time. They are the ‘director’ - choice of framing, angles, zooming, dollying in and out, orbiting the scene like a camera on a flying drone, etc.

This might be already possible in Unity, but it seems that the new tools that are coming in future versions of Unity (2017) will make the workflow much faster.

Thanks in advance for any answers/advice!


Great questions. Yes this is all possible with Timeline and Cinemachine. There’s a number of different ways to approach this and I’ll do my best to explain some options.

1- Timeline as the authoritative camera director. Based on your description there I’m not sure if the camera control is best done through Timeline due to the variability in the play performance. There’s another way to do this.

Cinemachine lets you prioritize cameras and set custom blends between any two shots. You might want to look into a state-machine setup for the cameras where the cameras are driven more by the player’s action.

Here’s an example. You could have cameraA at the start which would blend to cameraB once the character hits a trigger volume. cameraB could have any number of adjustments - a shfit in composition, different body position - anything. By calling cameras based on where the player is you can seamlessly craft a very sophisticated camera behaviour where the camera is doing exactly what you want no matter where the player is. With this state-machine setup, it works even if the player goes backwards !

2 - User controlled cameras during cutscenes. Call of Duty 3 has some great examples of this. Cinemachine has a module called Game Rig which allows for some sophisticated user controlled cameras which you can tune to suit any given scenario. The Free-Look module specifically. It’s coming in the next release of Unity and should give you everything you need. Let me know if you’d like to beta test it.

Please feel free to reach out with any further questions. The combination of Timeline and Cinemachine is super powerful and incredibly configurable - so many different approaches ! - so let us know how you make out and let us know if you have any issues.