February 7, 2007 Justin Chin

The Wayback Machine: Game POV

In what might be a continuing blog theme; I dredge up old stuff from my files and write about them. Embarrassing items are sure to come. Let’s begin with this little ditty.

full_shot_s.jpg(fig 1)

The above image was drawn sometime in 1994 while I was working on Star Wars: Dark Forces. It was 1 of 3 images on a single tabloid sheet of paper (my preferred media at the time). Here are the other two:

2_shot_s.jpg(fig 2)

over_angle_s.jpg(fig 3)

The drawings represent an idea I was cooking up called Chroming the Bones. The Bones concept spanned as early as 1988 and the last I toyed with it in 1995. In short it was a cyberpunk detective story. When I started it I thought it would be a great comic book. As I got deeper into developing video games I began thinking what a great game it would make. But the details of the concept is not why I posted the images.

In the 3 drawings I was working out how I thought different gameplay point of views could be framed. I wanted to see if the world could be more cinematic and present itself in real-time. Working on Dark Forces I remember thinking about looking down, in it’s first person perspective, and seeing the players feet in the world.  My imagination raced on from there.

The first drawing (fig 1) is for navigation. The wide span of the view allows the player to see the playable (and unplayable) landscape ahead of them. The second image (fig 2) represents a conversation between 1 or more characters. In fig 3 I was working out a way to integrate the idea of focusing on items in the world, i.e. interact-able objects and precise aiming, yet keep the player in view.

If you look past the crazy crappy rendition of the human figure (hips? anyone? bueller?) you might find something familiar. Do these look like something we’ve seen in recent game design? Here’s a peek at Resident Evil 4 and Gears of War:

re4_1.jpg re4_2.jpg re4_3.jpg

gow3.jpg gow1.jpg gow2.jpg 

I’m thrilled that this camera point of view has shown up in games. I remember debating this concept of a 3rd person camera angle with several Dark Forces and Jedi Knight team members. I knew it wasn’t going to work with the current game landscape, but I felt it had great potential in the future.

But before this point of view shift could happen I believe the gaming audience needed to warm up to several concepts:

  • Navigating in 3D space
  • Looking around in the 3D space
  • Navigating in 3D space AND looking around in 3D space
  • Paying attention to the reticule, not your character
  • Representing your character on screen, and not seeing your feet

The games that trained a wide audience past the above challenges, in my estimation are these:

  • Wolfenstein
  • Doom
  • Quake

Equally important in the console world:

  • Turok: Dinosaur Hunter
  • Tomb Raider
  • Halo

So now we have Resident Evil 4 and Gears of War. Awesome stuff. Though I liked Resident Evil 4‘s control scheme, I love Gears more because agrees with my first person shooter sensibilities. There are great possibilities for this in the future of games. Will be the defining point of view? Nope, I don’t think so, but it will be a part of a larger toolset used in games.

As for the idea behind Chroming the Bones, I can see some great character in it, but it has its problems. Major retooling would have to be done to make it shine. I’ll include some more images from it in the near future.