Sunday, April 1

Camera: Dyack and Kojima Speak

"It's Metal Gear Surveyor! Uh-oh! No Place to Hide!"

Camera is one of the most important elements in video game design. Camera is a huge factor of both gameplay and narrative. Camera is a big issue for 3D games, and unfortunately, oftentimes hinders gameplay rather than helps. Even 2D games come with a camera in regards to distance and scrolling. What makes for a good camera and good control to complement it? Two game designers have recently touched on the camera in game design: Dennis Dyack and Hideo Kojima. Dyack you'll recognize from Silicon Knights. He designed Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes (ironically enough, considering Kojima is the other featured designer of this post), and Eternal Darkness, and is currently working on Too Human for the 360. Game Informer interviewed Dyack back in their January issue. Here is an one answer from the interview:
I think that when we transitioned from 2D games to 3D, we introduced camera control to the player and added a layer of complexity. I think we lost a lot of casual gamers. When you play Splinter Cell, you get really frustrated because you can't control the camera while you are trying to kill someone. We found that, if we control the camera for the player, it actually makes the game more accessible [referring to all Silicon Knights games, and inparticular Too Human]. If you look at Hollywood, there is a language of film; so we combined that language with good cinematography so you feel like you should not have to control the camera. We want to take it to the next step and we are going to keep working on it. Our philosophy is one of accessibility. We are creating interactive entertainment and it's got to be fliud and dynamic. But at the same time, I've often though that playing a video game like the old Tomb Raiders, where you are looking over the character's shoulder for 14 hours, can be incredibly boring.
Essentially, Dyack feels that camera control has never been precise enough, and is too frustrating to be implemented into any game well. This explains Silicon Knights's use of automated cameras. I must say I disagree with him in regards to Splinter Cell, in which I found the camera control simple and effective. However, I love what he says of fluidity. If the camera is cumbersome or in any way interferes with gameplay, then all flow and comfort is lost. But, the same can be said for automatic cameras too, which are often unrealiable. Too Human itself features a completely automatic camera that is also dynamic. Too Human is an action-heavy game, the player moves quickly and jumps to extrodinary heights. The camera is designed to follow players dynamically-matching their movements. At the same time it will give cinematic shots of the environment and action. Im betting the camera will work very well, it is apparently very important to Mr. Dyack.

Check out the particle effects, the final game is bound to look even better

Hideo Kojima spoke today at the G03 conference in Australia. His presentation was on the creation of Metal Gear and how the series has come to thrive since. Gamasutra has covered the presentation and wrote the following on a portion of Kojima's presentation.
Metal Gear Solid [for the originial Playstation] was named for its star, but also because for the first time the environment was 3D - it had volume, and was 'solid'. To create the feeling of being in this 3D world, a three-camera system was developed. First was the traditional overhead camera, same as the 2D games, and it was complemented by the first person view, where "the player shares Snake's view". The third camera, which Kojima considers "very innovative" was the "cinematic view", where the camera pulls down when you push against a wall, and allowed for some very dramatic gameplay set pieces.
The Metal Gear Solid series is sometimes criticized for its preset camera, and other times lauded. Preference depends on the individual player. Regardless of what people think, Kojima has an awesome concept for camera design, shared in this quote. Cameras do not have to be static or only shoot from one perspective. MGS's camera features varying shots, switching depending on the situation.

Which camera do you like better, automated or player controlled?
Think of games you've played in which you are particullarly fond of the camera. Why is it you -like this camera design? How is the camera controlled?

1 comment:

  1. I can think of two instances where camera manipulation was important for me. Being able to rotate the viewpoint in Railroad Tycoon was a big help in laying track in most scenarios and saved reloading saved games in crirical situations.

    The other example is from Neverwinter Nights. I didn't like the chase (?) mode so I never used it. There was a bug that messed up camera views for a while and of course it hit me during a melee. By the time I figured out what was happening I was dead. I learned quite fast that that camera view wasn't right for me especially in combat.