Camera Obscura: Finding the “Zero Point”

One of the ongoing debates on our team is finding the most effective camera for our game. What we have debated for months is the appropriate camera angle in order for the player to best see the playing field and the opposing player. The difficulties with a camera lies in how to translate it technically to achieve the feel we desire for the game. The two traditional cameras in a shooter genre entail a camera that is locked to where the player’s aiming point and a free camera that locks onto the opponent when aimed at the nearest enemy. Since our game is competitive multiplayer shooter, we decided to go with a locked camera perspective as used in many games in the genre. This wasn’t just based on a whim. We studied many third-person shooters such as Gears of War, Minimum, and Sunset Overdrive to understand how they implemented their camera as well as how it felt overall. They all use a camera that is locked to the weapon used so that aiming is emphasized rather than necessarily viewing the environment.

Aiming shoots towards roof rather than being centered

However, what this caused is a difficulty for seeing the opposing player. Since the player’s camera is locked onto their weapon’s perspective, at times the player will lose track of the opposing player. A person on our team felt that an independent camera would help alleviate this issue. I, on the other hand, felt that the issue lied more in aiming. Aiming at the time wasn’t connected to what I called the zero point. The zero point pertains to centering the aiming so that the player can see an ideal perspective of the playing field while maximizing shooting projectiles towards the opposing player. The problem with our game is that when the player is dropped into the level, the camera suggests the ideal camera. However, this ideal perspective depicts aiming that shoots up at the relative top of the cylinder (see the above image). After playtesting the game ad nauseam, I noticed that it took a large degree to move the camera up and down since the player is aiming high. This also caused the camera to see less of the playing field when attempting to capture tiles closer to the player since it was pulled in to see tiles closer and the opposing player.

As a result, I proposed to first zero the aiming to the center using the noted image. This was meant with some resistance as it wasn’t seen as a large enough change to overcome the issues with the camera. But like I noted in a previous post, it appears when there is an issue, there is a tendancy to focus on the technical aspects rather than first understanding what the ideal user experience is, in this case specifically how aiming should feel. Using this idea once again, as Lead Designer I wanted to first capture the feel we wanted for the player. Afterwards, I worked with Skip our engineer to create this ideal user experience. As a result, we centered the zero point at a point that both gavethe player a perspective of the playing field while lessening camera movement. In other words, the aiming was moved to the center rather than to the relative top of the cylinder.

This change ended up providing the player with more perspective of the playing field and at the same time reducing the degree of moving the camera up or down. It made the camera movements therefore less jarring and helped better track the opposing player. To make it even better for the user, we moved in the camera in so as to connect better with the player’s avatar. For us, it finally made the experience more beneficial and enjoyable for the player. What we’ve been trying to accomplish with the camera seems to finally be upon us.

Moving forward with the final weeks with our game, we have a few surprises that will make the experience feel more complete. So as usual, stay tuned.

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