A LITTLE ABOUT THE CREDITS SCREEN

Cover photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

One component that is thought to be simple and therefore underestimated is the credits. However, the truth is that credits are necessary not only in video games, but also in almost all manifestations of art. This is because in addition to acknowledging the hard work of all the team members who cooperated in creating something by mentioning them along with the role they played, they also function as a resume that helps these people to advance in their careers. Similarly, in cases such sponsors, they are a way to make them gain reliability in the eyes of potential customers. So, this confirms the importance of credits and how, in works like video games, it is essential to invest time, imagination (and probably money) in the screen that presents them.

This type of screen may seem easy at first as it can be seen as a simple list of names, but one thing to remember is that its goal is to give each person working on a project the importance they deserve. Therefore, many variables must be considered for its design. First, the number of names to write, which increases over time for large companies such as Square Enix or Bandai, to mention just a few. As well, each person belongs to an area and has a particular role that should be added. All this makes the designer need to think about the right typography, color, and composition to achieve legibility and readability.

Although there is another essential detail that should not be forgotten and that is that what is sought is that the credits are read. To achieve this, it must be thought a way to arouse the interest of the players to do it, since it is a large list of textual elements. A well-known way to do this is to include post-credits scenes, but there are many others and this is why this post was created. So, let’s dig deeper into this topic by analyzing the credits screen of some games to discover the great designs that have been devised over the time. Let’s begin!

A COMPLICATED START

Perhaps one of the earliest and most original credits screen is the one used in the 1978 Atari VCS game “Adventure” where the name of its software designer, Warren Robinett, appeared in a secret room. In fact, this is also known as the first Easter Egg in video games. 

Warren Robinett’s name in a secret room.
Image from Mentes Visuales

However, this curious credits screen has a dark story behind it, as Robinett resorted to this technique to hide his name and thus prevent Atari from discovering that he had put it in the game.

The reason for his actions was that Atari had the policy of not including designers’ names on their games as an attempt to disempower them by removing the bargaining power associated with explicit authorship. Robinett wanted to fight against this injustice in his own particular way, achieving not only that his name is now remembered, but also that other five programmers soon left in protest of this policy to start Activision and thus took power away from Atari.

Fortunately, this was a first motivation to improve the credits’ system in video games, which was bad at first, as one can see from the story told above. In this way, the creation of standards has been sought in the accreditation process and an association in charge of this is the IGDA, of which one can learn more by visiting its website.

As well, to learn a little more about the bad crediting, the article “How bad crediting hurts the game industry and muddles history” on the Game Developer site offers interesting stories like Robinett’s.

Anyway, going back to the main topic which is the design of the credit screens and taking into account the aforementioned, it can be said that the first ones were… well… non-existent until 1984, when “King’s Quest” presented rolling credits in a fixed background.

“King’s Quest” Credits

This method was used in games like “Metroid” from Famicon or “Zelda: The Legend of Zelda” too.

“Metroid” End Credits

However, over the time, the list had more and more names, causing the player to either let it roll without reading or simply turn off the console. Observing this, the designers set about thinking of new ways to present the credits screen.

PLEASE READ ME!

Since the idea was to make players interested in reading the names of the credits or at least some of them intentionally or accidentally, the animations that accompanied them became common in video games. An example of this is the first “Mega Man”, where the closing credits appeared on a black background located under a field, in which Mega Man was running to reach the laboratory where Roll and Dr. Light were waiting for him. A similar thing was applied in the intro of “Final Fantasy V”, where when waiting a few minutes after the title was displayed, a running Chocobo with a character on top of it appeared within the name of the game. Both continued this activity at the same time as the credits were shown below.

“Mega Man” Closing Credits
“Final Fantasy V” Opening Credits

With the games that followed, the animations became more sophisticated by presenting special intros like the one for “Thousand Arms” or trailers like “Chrono Trigger” did.

“Thousand Arms” Opening Theme
“Chrono Trigger” Intro

Nonetheless, these openings and endings could be skipped at the press of a button, and since they did not present anything “momentous” to the player, the letter chose to skip them. Therefore, two solutions to this problem arise. The first, very common in movies in recent years (and more so in superhero movies) is to include post-credit scenes. This is intended to keep players seated or take a look from time to time, so they don’t miss these scenes and thus “accidentally” read some names. This is seen, for example, in “Final Fantasy X”, “Tales of the Abyss” or in “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild”.

“Tales of the Abyss” Credits and Post-Credits scene

The second technique is to insert story scenes into the credits part, like at the beginning of “Final Fantasy IX” or at the end of “Tales of Arise”.

“Tales of Arise” Credits

It is important to mention that in some cases it is possible to see these two methods together.

MORE EXPERIMENTATION

Although most games use credit scenes similar to the examples presented so far, the designers continue to work on different ways to present the credits. A very curious one is that of “Chrono Trigger” and its successor “Chrono Cross”, which use a way of accrediting their creators very similar to that of Robinett. In both games, there is a “secret” segment where the player is able to hang out with NPCs representing the developers, who share anecdotes about the game development.

“Chrono Trigger” Programmer’s Ending

Other games draw inspiration from other forms of art such as movies, achieving dynamic sequences like the intro of “Devil May Cry 5”, where the names are displayed in a very interesting way.

“Devil May Cry 5” Intro

Finally, the techniques of indie games can also be mentioned. For example, “Hollow Knight” includes names at the beginning, showing them while one is playing. It also has an option in the main menu to read the credits. In fact, this is a standard recommended by the IGDA.

Starting to play “Hollow Knight”
Main Menu of “Hollow Knight” with the “Credits” option.

This evolution has gradually made people aware of the importance of attributing to the people who work hard to bring us great games, since they really deserve it. But what do you think about it? What do you think of the credit screens? What is your favorite? Please write your answers in the comments section. But until then, I hope you liked this post and see you in the next one!

BIBLIOGRAPHY

I'm a Graphic Designer in love with Otomes and JRPG. I like the interface design area and that's why I really like to talk about this theme. You can win me over with a good videogame Illustration book and a good capuccino.

2 thoughts on “A LITTLE ABOUT THE CREDITS SCREEN

  1. You bring us a subject that at first glance seems so banal, and then turns the tables just to show details as curious as well historically important, I’m fascinated!
    I think the credits screen that could be my favorite would be of the Portal franchise, even in a minimalist way, it is highly contextualized with the game’s theme and provide a little more of experience with the player even the gameplay has finished.
    Nilda-chan, what about you? What is your favorite gaming credits screen?

    Like

    • Hello! I am happy that you liked this post! When I started reading about this topic, I found it to be very interesting and there is a lot to say about it. I hope to expand on this topic in future posts. I hadn’t seen the credits screen for the Portal franchise until I read your comment, so I was curious and looked up some videos. You’re right, they are minimalist but I really liked the way this video game shows the end credits, so I have to thank you because thanks to you I had the opportunity to see this gem.

      I really like the end credits of the series “Tales of” because I love the art of the images that are shown on this screen. Thank you very much for your comment!

      Like

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