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The Designer's Notebook: Bad Game Designer, No Twinkie! VIII
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The Designer's Notebook: Bad Game Designer, No Twinkie! VIII


September 4, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4
 

Seizing Control of the Camera at Bad Times

Ever since 3D came along, we've had to work a whole lot harder to depict our worlds, especially in action games. With side-scrollers, top-scrollers, and isometric views, life was pretty simple. The 3D fixed third- or first-person perspectives aren't too hard either, but both have their limitations (what happens in third person when the avatar has his back to a wall?). Nowadays we put a lot of work into creating intelligent cameras, a la Ico, and we don't always get it right. Loren Schmidt writes,

You're playing a third person platformer. You're running down a hallway towards a huge, spike-filled pit you can barely clear in a single jump... and then the camera flips around 180 degrees, messing up your timing and causing your helpless character to plunge to its virtual death.

This is even worse when combined with a transition from controllable to fixed camera modes, as seen in the last two Prince of Persia games. Most of the game is played with a player-controlled camera, but occasionally your point of view suddenly leaps to a (sometimes poorly placed) stationary camera. This can be particularly lethal during combat sequences and potentially deadly jumps.

I understand the goal here -- right before an action sequence we often need to lock down the camera so as to guarantee the player a clear view of what's going on, and to fix the relationship between joystick and screen. But suddenly changing the point of view while the player is jumping, or fighting for his life, guarantees him trouble. Don't do it. It's better to leave the camera under the player's control, even if that's not ideal, than it is to disorient the player by changing his perspective without warning.

Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones

That's it for this year. Amazingly enough, I didn't get any big complaints about configuration menus (a constant source of irritation). One person did write to object about lists of saved games that were un-sorted, or sorted inconveniently so you had to hunt for your most recent save, and while I agree that's a nuisance I figure it's not bad enough to warrant denial of Twinkies.

As always, I want to hear your gripes! Stop by the No Twinkie Database to see if I've already covered it, and if I haven't, send me mail at [email protected] and let me know about it!


Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

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