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The staff of MMORPG.com gets together to bring you some behind the scenes insights on stories, the industry and the site itself.

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Contributors: BillMurphy,MikeB,garrett,SBFord,Grakulen,

Community Spotlight: MMO Camera Angles

Posted by MikeB Sunday August 12 2012 at 6:09PM
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In this week's Community Spotlight we focus on the thread, "Isometric vs. First Person?" by grimal. In the thread, grimal contends the isometric view of MMOs like Ultima Online were better suited to the MMO genre and opens this up for discussion:

Most of my experiences with Computer RPGs are from the overhead isometric perspective.  My first MMO had this as well.

The next MMO I played was EQ.  I felt something was lost in the transition.  Sure, the game looked good, it was first/third person, but the RPG element was lost on me.  At the time, I attributed as being that the isometric view lends itself better to the RPG setting.

Part of me still believes this as I have not been able to find an MMO matched in immersion as UO.

Does anyone else feel this?   Was moving the camera enough to break the immersion?  Should we go back?  Has the genre become too close to the FPS one?

Axehilt is a fan of the first person perspective:

First-person view is what most of us experience in real life. As I'm part of that group, I find first-person view to be much more immersive.  As soon as you take the step back to third-person, you break that and there's really not much difference between that any any other non-FP view (although the more you pull away, the less immersive it tends to be.)

While I criticize a lot of their gameplay elements for being really shallow, the Elder Scrolls games have been the most immersive RPGs I've experienced.

AlBQuirky is third person view guy:

Isometric view always bugged me in games. I felt so restricted. I also dislike, immensely, driving behind trucks because they obscure my view :) I don't like the fact that walls and other obstacles block my view.

When playing games, I prefer 3rd person. I spent time creating my character so I want to see him :) I also get a better field of view in 3rd person. It may not be realistic, but neither is 1st person. Looking at my screen right now, there is 1/3 of my view covered by the screen. 2/3 is peripheral vision and not covered by what I see on screen. I dislike running from place to place constantly holding down my right mouse button and swinging from left to right to see what I normally see with my "real" face straight forward. I do envy those gamers with the 3 screen set-up :)

The bad thing about 3rd person is I have a tendency to "cheat" every so often :) I'll get next to a doorway and swing the view around so I can "peek" into the next room without actually showing myself :) I do use 1st person view when I am shooting at something. Looking down the barrel or bow is the only way I can feel accurate.

Isometric just doesn't "feel right" to me.

Axxar, like grimal, is a huge fan of the isometric view:

I much prefer isometric view for RPGs. I'm not really that big on first persion view, but I can live with it provided the game is good enough. 3rd person is pretty good, but an "isometric" view a la Diablo 3 is my main preference. Could be because most of the greatest RPGs of all time (Ultima 7, Baldur's Gate 2, Fallout 2) had isometric view, and it more closely resembles tabletop games where you have your miniatures on the table. People also tend to associate first person views with FPS games, and it's a challenge to make tactical, RPG die roll combat with a 1st person view.

An "isometric" view is also really good when you control a party since you have a much better tactical overview.

Also I believe a 3d rendered game isn't "true" isometric, but it's good enough for me. IIRC in a "true" isometric view things in the distance are actually the same size as things in the foreground, but due to the way the image is drawn it still looks further away, something only really possible in 2d render.

Another great advantage of the isometric view is that while you lose the "big vistas," the limited view distance makes the world seem much bigger than it really is. Take the Ultima 7 games. Their worlds seemed absolutely huge, but while they were a good sized bunch, they actually weren't super big.

I'm honestly more of a fan of the now-standard third-person view, myself. I simply feel more connected to my character this way, though I can see how a first person perspective would also enhance this experience. Why not have both if the game mechanics make sense? I'd love to be able to switch between them as I feel appropriate.

I don't mind isometric view, in general. I just don't feel like I'd want to deal with it in an MMO. I've played tons of SRPGs from the isometric perspective and that's fine. As Axxar noted, it's particularly beneficial when controlling a group of characters. But MMOs? Meh.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

MaxJac writes:

I enjoy first person view a lot in MMO's, but most games don't put a lot into it. Usually the camera is placed in the general area of your characters face and you see from there. I don't think it can be more useful than third-person when both are offered, but that just makes improving it so much easier. Go for fluff instead. Things like head bobbing, quick turning (L4D), and being able to look down and see your feet.

Mon Aug 13 2012 1:28AM Report
Caldenfor writes:

I almost thought one of my posts was going to be nabbed from some where when I saw this topic mentioned, egotistical it sure was.

The camera angle issue something that I have been saying a lot about lately as something developers should look into. I honestly believe 95% of developers/designers don't even consider a fixed camera third person view a la Isometric view, using full 3d of course. It seems as though it is relegated to the F2P/dungeon crawling crowd even though it has immense benefits for a dominate MMORPG to try and leverage.

First and foremost it focuses attention, not only of the player, but of the developers/designers as well. Rather than spending time worrying about scenic views and cramming each and every nook and cranny with something that is supposed to be interesting, developers/designers can focus on gameplay and providing a deeper game for the players. Adding puzzles/other small things of interest are much easier to design when you don't have to worry about which direction the player is facing. I feel this will allow developers to put out a more complete RPG experience in the current market environment.

Secondly I believe it would enhance the technical performance for players of various hardware levels and even potentially open up the genre to crossplatform, pads/other handheld devices, even if just to a more casual extent to do non-combat activities such as stocking vendors, decorating a home, crafting goods, or a number of other activities. Heck, maybe these "less powerful platforms" could be able to handle the game in full and all you would miss out on was screen resolution, I am not a technical savant by any means. It should be less of a burden on all aspects of computer performance allowing developers to provide more game for the players.

 

I do understand the negatives; the lack of freedom and the restricted view players will experience. There are pros and cons to everything, but I feel in order to provide the most thorough experience for the players it should be seriously considered for future projects.

 

P.S. I picked up HeroEngine and I will be casually working on Reclamation, a 3d evolution from Ultima Online, starting from the basics and moving on from there. The demo being created will be based on one of several Refuge Islands where players would enter the world before moving on to reclaim the world that was once theirs. The gameworld will evolve, but not drastically change in geography, through player action/inaction. It will be using a fixed third person camera and will not have FFA PvP, full loot is still being considered as it could be beneficial, but it is not currently seen as necessary. Pre-built housing options to start like original UO, custom housing a possibility down the line.

Mon Aug 13 2012 2:39AM Report
dreamscaper writes:

First person is my favorite view, though only with the caveat  that it needs to be with body awareness. IE, if I look down I can see my hands and legs/feet - Thief: Deadly Shadows did a fantastic job of this, if you've ever played the game. I don't really like the feeling that some games have of being a floating head in space, something that's rather easily fixed.

Mon Aug 20 2012 4:51AM Report

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