Sunday, July 1

Lair: Camera Tracking and Control

I took this night's oppurtunity to look more closely into upcoming PS3 game Lair. Lair is being developed by Factor 5 and is set for an August release. Factor 5 is best known for the Turrican series, and more recently, the Star Wars: Rogue Squadron series. Considering they're flight pedigree, Lair has recieved much hype from both the media and Factor 5 fans. But while Lair may be a flight game, it would be inaccurate to call it just another Rogue Squadron. Even while wrestling an unfamiliar, more powerful console, Factor 5 is infusing Lair with plenty of new concepts and techniques.

One aspect of particular importance is the game's camera. Lair is one of the first PS3 games to make use of the console's sixaxis motion sensing functionality. All flight control is handled via tilting the sixaxis. Save ground control, the analog sticks have been put on the backburner for "minor camera control," which means camera rotation. Really though, the camera system is automated. Before I say exactly how flying in Lair is controlled, think yourself about how it would control most intuitively, using the sixaxis motion of course. Finished? Lair's flight control is actually a 1:1 motion system. The angle at which players tilt the controller is the exact angle at which the dragon tilts in game, in real time. The dragon is tied precisely to the player's tilting, so as players tilt the controller, so does the dragon. However, the tilt control is limited to a certain extent, as players will not automatically perform 180's or loops. These are handles with motion inputs. For example, lift the sixaxis quickly to perform a 180 turn.
This form of control is more like holding the dragon in your hand, as opposed to a less responsive handling system where the dragon's tilting speed would vary based upon how far players tilt the controller.Factor 5 has created a very interesting camera system for Lair. Hypothetically, this is how it works. Players fly around while fighting and shooting off fire balls and battling dragons. When players see a dragon in the distance they want to negotiate, the camera will recognize which target the player is flying towards and lock the camera to said dragon. Then, players may close distance by dashing towards their target with a downward motion of the sixaxis. The camera will track and follow the dragon, leading players right to the desired enemy. I really like this concept. However, those of who have actually played the game have some seemingly sound criticizm of the design. In his Gamespy preview, Patrick Joynt has this to say of Lair's camera system:
Most importantly, there are some camera issues that need to be addressed. When you're in the air, soaring across the massive battlefields, and spot a flight of enemy dragons, the design goal is that through careful flying you can simply put yourself behind them, swoop in, and leap from dragon to dragon, tearing apart the entire flight in seconds. The problem is that even versus the easiest enemies, a crazy camera makes this incredibly difficult. Since you have to keep your camera on a foe in order to quickly leap to them, the camera going to random, unpredictable angles when you complete one of these swooping attacks means that you can't follow up on the next flight member. In fact, it's tough to do anything, because your camera is likely to be pointing in a random direction. Attempting to swoop down and grab Tauros (or horses) met with similar results, except that my camera was often then locked about an inch from a wall.
Similar statements come from a preview at IGN by Chris Roper:
All of this works fine in theory, though there are still a couple of kinks that need to be worked out, namely the fact that when a locked-on dragon passes by you the camera will follow it in an awkward manner and you'll have no idea where your own dragon is heading anymore. Once you flip back, you could very well be face-to-face with the side of a mountain.
Sometimes, ideas in concept fail in practicality. If you read game reviews frequently you see this phrase all the time. I haven't played Lair, I cannot comment to the camera system's feasibility. Regardless, I still really like the idea. The game knows where the player wants to go and makes it easier for the player to do so. With dragons flying every which way, it would certainly be difficult to keep a target in sights and track it down, especially with limited camera control. But I guess in the end, the gameplay is priority. And if the camera fails to function the way it was intended, then the line between concept and reality needs to be drawn. We'll have to wait until release to find out.

Lair still looks awesome, though. There are a few development diary videos over at the official site. I highly recommend them.

What are your thoughts on Lair? Do you like the control or camera system? Why or why not? Which do you value more highly: concept or reality?

No comments:

Post a Comment