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Should our game engines go to film school?

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Very, very early in the history of motion pictures, movies generally just looked like stage plays. The camera was a fixed, unparticipatory entity set up front and center. No cuts except between scenes, no camera moves. Later the "no cuts" thing was relaxed when it turned out that, for bizarre reasons that we still don't entirely understand, the brain is totally okay with it when your viewpoint suddenly and drastically changes. But still, for a time, cuts were a purely utilitarian thing. When your main character moved off the frame, you cut to a different viewpoint so you could see him again. It's unsurprising that this was the case, because the guy behind the camera was not an artist--why hire an artist to run a machine?--but a technician. The technician's job was to make everything work efficiently and well, and that included putting the camera in as "useful" a place as possible. We have Edwin Porter, an early and hugely influential director, to thank for bringing this ugly situation to an end. It was Porter who realized that in the new medium of film, the natural way to delineate a film was by shot rather than by scene. Porter paved the way for later directors, such as Orson Welles, to control shot composition and continuity in a way which heightened emotion and artistic effect rather than just faithfully recording them. In Porter's hands, the camera was not just an observer--even an active one--but a performer, perhaps the most important performer at certain points. Fast forward a bunch of decades. Are we game developers the unartistic technicians behind the camera? Obviously in first-person games, the decision of shot composition is more or less forced upon us, but what of everything else (games which I will refer to as Third Person Camera, or TPCs)? Our RTSes give us a maximally utilitarian view which we control via scrolling, and our third person platformer cameras orbit frenetically around our characters, ducking stalactites and reluctantly swinging to a head-on view when we back Ms. Croft into a corner. We have excuses. First of all, as anyone who played an early TPC (and even some recent ones) can attest, getting a camera to act even in a purely utilitarian manner is no mean feat. It's surprisingly difficult to keep an unoccluded and undisorienting view of the character without frantically weaving and zooming. Recent tools like GPU occlusion tests have made things a little easier on us, as have the experiences of games gone by. Also, of course, a game camera has more duties than a film camera. Players are expected to not only watch the game, but to control a character as well... and to do that, they need a fair amount of usable information regarding the area around the character. This need is reflected in most TPCs' "mouselook" mode... but who the hell wants to be ducking into mouselook mode every five seconds? Grim Fandango taught us that dramatically placed cameras could be rather disorienting, as the angle of view became disassociated from both the character's angle of view and the global reference frame. And Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time showed us that view-relative control could be just as disorienting, as the prince ran into a new shot and suddenly turned on his heel and ran back due to an opposing new view direction. Clearly, then, we cannot improve on the camera without simultaneously improving, or at least modifying, our control schemes. Lucasarts and Sierra point-and-click adventure games such as Full Throttle worked fine with cinematic camera angles, since control was both view-relative and position-exact. It's unclear whether this would work in an action game. But if we can surmount this difficulty, we have decades of knowledge about cinematography to draw on. Things like the line of action and the 30-degree rule were designed precisely to keep things from getting too disorienting, and many of them can work without modification in computer games. Best of all, most such rules really are expressed as rules rather than wishy-washy "things to keep in mind", meaning that we can code our game to do most of the cinematography for us just as it does most of the camera control for us right now. What do we gain? Well, dramatic effect, of course. But that's not all. While replaying Sands of Time the other day, I noticed I could classify every single disorienting camera move and cut by the well-known rule of cinematography it was breaking. Left suddenly becoming right? Breaks the line of action. A few bewildered milliseconds figuring out where the heck the Prince was after a cut within an unfamiliar setting? Rule of thirds. Wishing I could see if the Prince had anywhere to jump to, or was about to leap to a temporary but annoying death? Balancing the shot while accounting for the weight of the gaze. Film directors have been all over this stuff, for a long time now. They've gotten really good at it. It's not going to translate to the video game camera without a bit of work, but isn't it time we started listening to them?

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Aw, don't be like that. Disagree with me, or we won't have anything to talk about. [grin]

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Original post by Sneftel
Aw, don't be like that. Disagree with me, or we won't have anything to talk about. [grin]


Start saying stupid things then. [grin]

Really, i think you really got something there. You could do an article/paper about it. I'd be more than happy not only to read it but to implement that on an engine.

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Well said mate. However, it is not so simple as you make it sound. "Hey, let's just emulate movie cameras!"

You wan't to know how movie cameras get those epic shots? I will let you in on a little secret. Something that has been kept from the general public for far too long.

Those beautiful shots...those moments of epic triumph and absolute despair...those shots that capture your emotion...are...SET UP! *Shock* *Gasp* The horror! I know!

Now, I will cut the crap and actually throw some meat out there. You are absolutely right to say that epic view can not take place without an absolute change in control schemes. Think of action movies you have seen. What common scenes are there? Looking down the barrel into the eye of the sniper...the camera moving with the legs of soldiers as they run, dodging bullets. How the hell can I control what I want to do in these views? Yes, they give me perspective into the man at the end of the barrel, but how the hell can I aim my rifle when I am looking at myself.


It is obvious that cutscenes have tried to fill this role, but they can only do so much.

You said that first person shooters don't have much of a choice, and I agree. At the same time, I don't feel there is much choice in other games without both sacrificing control and user interactivity.

So, I propose a broader question: should movies and games serve the same purpose? In my opinion, no. In the grand scheme of things, they both aim to entertain: there is no doubt in that. But a movie's goal is to make you forget where you are and tell you a story. I would argue a game's goal is to make you forget where you are, and have you forge a story.

Games are supposed to be interactive. Imagine this. You are the dark prince. You stalk in the shadows, throw your whip over a ledge, swing, grab a banister, jump to another banister, slide down, and half way off, jump, whip out your blades, and land on the head of an enemy, decapitating him. Sweet. Now, how would a movie set up the camera? I bet in the shadows, they would focus on the face of the prince, then have him run at the camera, to a sudden switch where he jumps over the ledge. Next, you see a shot straight up, looking at his giant leap onto the banister. Perhaps then a brief glimpse of his face. Another leap, but this time over his shoulder, and you slide down the banister with him. As he jumps, you switch to a shot under the enemy, looking up at the prince as he comes down upon his prey.

Sweet.

But how does that translate into a game? Quite simply, it doesn't. You could never "play" a movie. Something epic is always lost in translation from movie to game. You don't quite get the same "woah" feeling without cut scenes and loss of playability. A change of controls seems to also mean a loss of play. Even if the entire scene was like Prince of Persia until the last strike, I might still be slightly disoriented and disatisfied. How long does the camera change last? What happens to the guard that I didn't take out while I can barely control the prince because of this funky camera angle. Does time freeze and...shock...I watch a "set up" movie? Yes, that seems to be what happened. The game "recognized" what was going on and made it into a movie. And at what cost? Well, maybe none. Maybe this would be a cool feature. I can't tell, but perhaps it would just be disorienting and frustrating after the 10th time.

So while yes, I agree, cameras need to take a thing or two from cinematography principles, I don't believe that everything can be applied.

Quite simply, games and movies were never meant to be the same, and thus, not all principles apply.

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Don't have too much to add, but I wanted to point out that if you're going to attempt a cinematic camera for a 3rd person game, you really owe it to yourself to play/study Ico and God of War. Usually I don't even notice the camera - but those two games stood out to me as the correct way to do it.

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Games are supposed to be interactive. Imagine this. You are the dark prince. You stalk in the shadows, throw your whip over a ledge, swing, grab a banister, jump to another banister, slide down, and half way off, jump, whip out your blades, and land on the head of an enemy, decapitating him. Sweet. Now, how would a movie set up the camera? I bet in the shadows, they would focus on the face of the prince, then have him run at the camera, to a sudden switch where he jumps over the ledge. Next, you see a shot straight up, looking at his giant leap onto the banister. Perhaps then a brief glimpse of his face. Another leap, but this time over his shoulder, and you slide down the banister with him. As he jumps, you switch to a shot under the enemy, looking up at the prince as he comes down upon his prey.

Sure. If I may presume to reinterpret you, in the movie the viewer is basking in the badassness of the dark prince as an "other". They're thinking, what is he going to do? He looks angry... WHOA, he's jumping off the--oh no! he's--DUDE! He totally kicked that guy's ass! In the case of the video game, the player knows what the dark prince is going to do because they are the dark prince. And so a shot sequence designed to illustrate the dark prince's personality and current state of mind would be redundant at best, and annoying at worst (if the player's actual state of mind were different).

But that's only one use of cinematography. Continuing with PoP as an example: Occasionally when vaulting over the head of an enemy, the game would switch to a top-down view and give you a slow-motion shot of the action. This served two purposes: making the Prince seem more more badass, and (sometimes) decreasing the disorientation of an axis switch. After the tenth time it did get less effecive at the badass reinforcement thing, but I wouldn't say I ever got sick of it. After all, since I am the prince, I certainly don't mind the game patting me on the back for being so badass.

Also, keep in mind that not all TPC games are PoP. What about games like Resident Evil, which are combat heavy but still manage to use clever camera angles to heighten tension? It got in the way of combat occasionally, but probably much less than Alone in the Dark's decidedly un-cinematic TPC. Your point that it's not a smooth transition is well-taken, but I really don't think we're doing enough right now.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
game != movies
movies != games

This works both ways. Im sure you have all seen video game converted to movies titles. The movies are horrible. As you have heard, interaction is what makes a good game. This is why rail shooters died out so fast and were just a phase. Sure it was fun the first couple of times, because of the graphics and cool movie shots, but they lacked interaction, which is what a video game is about.

Now take a movie that has been converted to a video game. The same is usually true, a very linear story with some degree of freedom added to make it a game. But most times it come up short, since the selling points are the characters and the past movie experience. Most would conclude that the movie was way better in the end.

Video game wise, camera shots can be incorperated into cutscenes. Putting these into a game (too much) makes the game unplayable and ruins the illusion of control. However I think what you speak of is important to note, because they have given us things like slow-motion and instant replays, which I have enjoyed in games. Im sure there are a few other just waiting to make it into our virtual worlds that would enhance our experiences.

Movies are missing the vital element of control and interaction. Due to this simpler model, it has been easier to master the elements of film. Most things are static which as many probably know, is what makes game-making a hard medium to develop for.


/*
element: Movies Game
----------------------------

visual * * (planned out vs free roaming)

audio * * (equal sound, but music score is dynamic for games)

input - * (none existant in movies, but vital to games)

interaction * * (make comments to friends vs online gameplay)
w/ others

Story * * (static for movies but want dynamic for games = hard!)

length 1.5 hr 10 hr plus (depth of above content spread thinner for games)
*/




So yes it would seem that there is a lot to learn from movies (I agree). The problem arises mainly when you introduce input. And since this input is the main motivating factor of a game, it should be at the root of the element tree. All other factors are supporting elements to the input. For movies I would argue that story is at the root of the development tree, and that is why you find supporting epic camera shots. I think the main question is how to incorperate strong/popular movie elements combined with input, essentially making them dynamic? It is easy to make a cool cutscene, but to what extent can you make that same cutscene interactive enough to be entertaining? I think the rail shooter phase was the closest to "movie magic" cameras as you can get and in hindsight, they were not that much fun. So develop for what makes games fun (interaction), and *support* it with film elements. So far slow-motion and replays have been adapted to games. But I think the next big step will be in interactive stories, where you actually affect your surroundings in a very dynamic way (not just mutiple paths).

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Interesting topic, heres some thinking out loud: The basic problem with camera cuts in a game is, as mentioned, control and the moment of disorientation.

Disorientation isn't too hard to combat, providing you don't move the camera too much or you give the player a second or two with no action so they have time to adjust. Not knowing most of the camara techniques mentioned I can't comment on them but it sounds like they fall into the first method. Regardless of game you should always be able to add in a breif moment of non-action if you really do need some kind of strange viewpoint shift. It doesn't even have to interupt the flow, eg. you could force all enemies to miss for the next two seconds after a camera cut or similar.

Control is the real kicker. Most games (particularly third person) are with screen-relative controls. This is nice because it's more intuitive to play with, but obviously makes a cut even more dangerous - that moment of confusion can send you over a cliff edge. Character relative controls would reduce a lot of that (as with the first tomb raider, where left/right changed your characters orientation). Unfortunately this is somewhat less responsive and tends to result in characters which have a turning radius (ick!). The interesting thing is that with this control method what the player tends to do on a harsh cut is to 'freeze' (or at least an experienced player will). They'll just keep the controls in whatever state they were before and hold them like that until they've got a grip on the new surroundings again.

You could easily take this over to screen-relative controls, and many games like Eternal Darkness already do - you'll walk out one door/exit and automatically walk into the next room for a few paces which gives the player enough time to adjust. Resident Evil 4 is another nice example as it has lots of dramatic camera work, but generally it only comes into play when you've already completed the action and it's giving you a nice dramatic view of the (already decided) outcome.

I guess what I'm implying is that if you're going to mess with the camera other than a nice smooth pan/track/etc. then you'd better only do it at a point where the player isn't actually in direct control (even if only for a second).

OT.

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Ahh, a topic close to my heart. Please forgive the jumble that is this reply, I'm supposed to be writing my thesis :).

I would agree that control mechanics is one of the main issues before cinematic camera systems become usable. Pascal Luban has an article on gamasutra that covers some alternative control styles, however they don't really resolve the problem (not to my satisfaction anyway).

The primary issue with incompetence in a camera system in a game is due to the methods used to derive the camera position. They're computationally efficient, but ghastly at providing good control. In order to rectify current camera systems, I personally believe that you need to look beyond the polar/spherical coordinate methods with damping, quaternion interpolation, steering, and proportional controller methods, and look at something with better expressive power. Of course, with expressive power comes computational cost :(. Applying cinematography rules (they're more guidelines than rules) will not resolve (m)any of the issues that currently plague games.

There is a lot of buzz about cinematic camera shots for games, but I personally can't understand why you would want to. For games like 'interactive stories' I can see a point, however for almost every other genre, there is no benefit. In many cases, doing so makes the game almost unplayable.

As the anonymous poster said: games != movies. I think the similarities between theatre and movies is a lot closer than games and movies/theatre. Applying these rules is not really the appropriate option, deriving game-specific rules is.

Having a camera that can do cinematics in real-time and interactively is a nightmare (although possible). Limiting its use to cut-scenes completely negates the purpose of it existing. If you have to encode what is happening in the scene (from an action/emotion standpoint) to tell the camera how it should shoot the scene, why not just manually animate the camera? It's a lot easier.

I don't really have a "this is how you should resolve the issue", but I would really like for game developers to REALLY ask themselves why they want such a system. The last thing we need is for cinematic camera systems to become the new lens flare: used for the sake of it.

EDIT: In summary, designing new control schemes to rectify a problem introduced by adding cinematic cameras seems like an incredibly stupid thing to do. Designing new guidelines that take into account in nuances of games would be a damn sight easier and more practical in the long term.

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Film directors have been all over this stuff, for a long time now. They've gotten really good at it. It's not going to translate to the video game camera without a bit of work, but isn't it time we started listening to them?

no as someone pointed out games!=movies, whilst both are entertainment, the main thing in a game is for it to be fun/easy to play, doing arty farty camera shots whilst may look good are gonna piss off a huge segment of the population.

its sort of like deciding what fluffy dice u want in your car whilst having no wheels
take this screenshot (choosen cause ive seen heaps of ppl say oh wow etc)
http://screenshots.teamxbox.com/screen-hires/44719/Unreal-Tournament-2007/
whilst the individual parts look good the overall picture looks crap, it looks completely 2d, ie the cars + person look like theyve been glued over the background picture.
gotta get wheels on the car afore u worry about the dice

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Original post by zedzeek
no as someone pointed out games!=movies, whilst both are entertainment, the main thing in a game is for it to be fun/easy to play, doing arty farty camera shots whilst may look good are gonna piss off a huge segment of the population.

Not all games are Tetris. Would Resident Evil have been Resident Evil without its distracting-at-times camera angles? Would System Shock 2 have been as affecting if they hadn't made it dark and difficult to see? Would Anachronox's bizarre geometry have been as interesting without the swaying, serpentine camera motions introducing new areas? If nothing else, the proliferation of cinematics shows that people DO want "arty farty" stuff.

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Perhaps the problem is not the limitations of an in-game camera, but the limitations of gaming genres which are all about literal and literalized action. The majority of games devolve into simple navigations of spatial relationships between objects, raised in difficulty by increasing the number of targets or shrinking the response time window and so forth.

For a video game cinematography to be practical and profitable, the objective and very mechanism of the game must become the manipulation of abstract quantities, such that the specifics of space become secondary at best. The obvious interpretation is an advocacy of "dramatic games" in which the player navigates social relationships, seeks and peddles influence and so on, with the camera being programmed to display or reveal portions of the scene (or overall narrative) in response to variations in the quantities being manipulated - show the face of a soldier who lowers his gun in response to reason, the eyes of a scorned lover, etc.

While the evolution of dramatic games is both necessary and inevitable, there are genres that are available to us today which can be divorced from the strictly spatially literal, if we are so bold as to tamper with convention. The majority of the resources employed in an RTS or TBS can be or are inherently abstracted: troop movements and activities can be reduced to orders issued, and represented in aggregate as the Chain of Command; munitions, provisions and reinforcements can be viewed as the Supply Lines; enemy positions, strengths, research operations and so forth constitute Intelligence; and the relationships between the various entities that run a war - the War Machine - are inherently abstract. The generals who run the military, the politicians who use the war to achieve their own goals, the intrigues within and between both groups as individuals strive for power and influence, the economic ramifications for military and civilian alike, the internal political consequences of war, and specifically of casualties...


For game genres that rely on strict spatial reasoning, cinematography is useful only as an after-effect (replay) or in limited doses. For games that are based on the manipulation of abstract quantities, though, preferrably minimally represented as "influence bars" or "poll percentages," and particularly for games that are built on the interaction between the gamer and NPCs, cinematography represents a significant design opportunity.

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Oluseyi: You make some really interesting points. I guess it ties into what I was saying about needing to refine the control scheme, but you've taken it much further. Your proposal for RTSes, in particular, strikes me as very promising. I can imagine a nineteenth century warfare game where instead of somehow having a godlike top-down view of everything happening everywhere you've explored, you receive information from reports and personal observation. The camera would then become a subtle indicator of troop morale, the level of action, relative military strengths, etc.

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Original post by takingsometime
The primary issue with incompetence in a camera system in a game is due to the methods used to derive the camera position. They're computationally efficient, but ghastly at providing good control. In order to rectify current camera systems, I personally believe that you need to look beyond the polar/spherical coordinate methods with damping, quaternion interpolation, steering, and proportional controller methods, and look at something with better expressive power. Of course, with expressive power comes computational cost :(. Applying cinematography rules (they're more guidelines than rules) will not resolve (m)any of the issues that currently plague games.

Ah, but that's exactly why they could resolve many of those issues. You said it yourself: we're talking about cameras in the wrong language, using terms like "quaternions" and "splines". We need another layer of abstraction, so that we can use these guidelines directly, instead of just keeping them in mind while coding up our PD controllers. For instance, most chase-style TPCs are afraid of cuts. They'll only do them when absolutely necessary, or not at all. But cuts, we remember from a century ago, are not inherently disorienting. They're only disorienting in the hands of a purely utilitarian camera which cuts to get itself out of a bad situation--and thus doesn't have many options open--rather than a cinematographic one which cuts as a matter of course.

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Not all games are Tetris. Would Resident Evil have been Resident Evil without its distracting-at-times camera angles? Would System Shock 2 have been as affecting if they hadn't made it dark and difficult to see? Would Anachronox's bizarre geometry have been as interesting without the swaying, serpentine camera motions introducing new areas? If nothing else, the proliferation of cinematics shows that people DO want "arty farty" stuff.
of those games i only know re (never seen it in the flesh though), but i was under the impression that the camera was pretty static ( i heard u didnt have much control over anything much, a bit like dragons lair ) i dont know System Shock 2 although mentioning lighting (which i agree is very important), its a totally differ mother to camera movement which is what your post was about. on the subject of lighting though, alpthough i dont know ss2 but i do know doom3 which is also "dark and difficult to see" and im sure youre aware the majoritiy of comments about that game are ppl moaning about the darkness :)

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As the anonymous poster said: games != movies

great minds think alike, oh wait gold coast, hmm scratch that ;)

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I don't think we'd have to go that far to effectively use camera's the right way to enhance that game eperience. When you look at the Homeworld series for example, there the 'cutscenes' where done pretty well. When mysterious ancient enemies or allies emerge, there's always a nice shot of this event, with a special sound track. The same is done for crucial ingame story events. The 'breaking dam scene' in C&C:Generals on the other hand is an example where the camera work is lacking. If you have a tidal wave rushing towards a village, show it rushing towards a camera that's positioned in the village, not in a default RTS overview shot!

Now, is it hard to do? Technically it shouldn't be, since most camera systems are capable of shooting at just about all angles that would be impossible for a real-world camera. As the OP pointed out, it's much more an issue of how to use the technology the right way so that it actually adds something to the game. And that's the main challenge for any game. So I think the camera issue isn't exactly a new issue, but rather an extra thing on the list 'to do right'.

There may be some merit in using movie techniques to get that dramatic feel in video games, but as pointed out in a gamer's manifesto, cinematic angles take away from the immersion in a game. For RTS's and the like, this might not really matter that much, but for FPS's and most certainly RPG's, I agree with the manifesto... Come to think of it, it's a must-read for anyone interested in games, really. To quote the stuff about camera's though:

Quote:
Original text from A Gamer's Manifesto

Let's ban all IAC's (Immersion-annihilating contrivances). These include:

(...)

"Cinematic" camera angles. No, thank you. Understand that we need to see what our character sees. As soon as you start panning the camera around Mario for no better reason than to see the pretty sunset on the distance, we lose control. And here's another tip: If you have a single level where the player's character is required to run toward the camera, send the fucker back for more programming because you're not done yet.

(...)

Chances of that happening...

The cameras in 3D games have actually gotten worse (Mario Sunshine's camera system wasn't half as smooth as Mario 64's) because in the game-making world camera and player controls are decided-on after the game's pretty artwork. When 3D games were new the only question was, "how can we make the controls as responsive and fluid as 2D?" Now it's, "how can we show off these really cool-looking trees? That's what the little sons of bitches care about!"

In short, the first 3D games were designed around their cameras, now they're designed around their graphics.


Food for thought :)

Edited: added the last line of the quote because it's so true

[Edited by - remigius on December 30, 2005 3:13:22 AM]

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Original post by zedzeek
of those games i only know re (never seen it in the flesh though), but i was under the impression that the camera was pretty static ( i heard u didnt have much control over anything much, a bit like dragons lair )

A static camera doesn't preclude cinematography.
Quote:
i dont know System Shock 2 although mentioning lighting (which i agree is very important), its a totally differ mother to camera movement which is what your post was about.

Not different at all. It's another situation in which visual decisions are made which make the view more dramatic, at the expense of making it less "useful".

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You should have been reading my journal a little while ago. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time prompted a whole slew of posts from me on this topic. If you've got time you may want to try and dig them up.

The camera is all about presenting a slice of information about the game world to the player. This information is presented visually and consumed visually, and consists mainly of information about object state and about the spatial relationships between objects. The player will use this information to make gameplay decisions.

So, problem number one: Frequently the information communicated by the camera is not communicated via any other means. In Prince of Persia, I can hardly tell anything about my current status without looking at the screen - the music might tell me whether I'm in a fight or in a platforming section, and the sound of enemies shouting might tell me whether I've been spotted or whether I can still go for that stealth kill, but beyond that everything else is conveyed visually. If I do look at the screen, as I'm willing to accept that we are a primarily visual medium after all, then the only things I get regardless of the camera are my health and the number of sand tanks I've got left. For everything else - what I'm currently doing, where I'm currently going, etc - I rely on the camera.

If we want to free up the camera for more artistic purposes, we need to begin by offloading the information that the player is relying on it to present to other means. Currently the only open avenues seem to be sound (which is underused anyway), force feedback (which isn't really a PC thing), and fixed screen elements like HUD. Step one is more innovative use of these.

Take the Dahaka chase sections in Prince of Persia: Warrior Within. One of the pieces of information given to the player - not that they really use it directly, but it adds to the tension - is how close they are to being caught by the Dahaka. If this were to be conveyed using the camera, it would have to show both the Dahaka and the Prince in the same shot - and given that the player also needs to see things that are in front of the Prince in order to negotiate them, the only viable shot would be something like a bird's-eye view (and given the wall-running nature of the game, even that would not be very good). Instead, what the developers have done is to use a camera invariant concept - as the Dahaka gets closer, the screen begins to grey out. You get the information about how close the Dahaka is (and as an added bonus, the information is less precise, adding to the tension) without the camera showing you it.

If the information load on the camera is reduced, then we can start looking to present the information we are conveying in more artistic ways. Concepts like the rule of thirds, the idea of 'good framing,' these can all begin to be applied once we're sure that doing so won't be cutting out things the player needs to know.

Another thing that can help is use of multiple camera. Fahrenheit (ok, ok, Indigo Prophecy) has good examples of this. Pick up the demo, and watch the sequence where Lucas is trying to get away while the cop walking down to the bathroom; at the beginning of the sequence, Lucas is in the bathroom and the cop is outside, but you have a camera in each location. The information about how close the cop is getting is presented by the second camera, and the first camera tells you enough to let you get out successfully. If you've not checked it out, you should do.

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As my favorite games are console-style RPGs, where I play to experience the story in a film-like manner and don't really care if a cutscene is 10+ minutes long (or 30+, as in Xenogears... -_____-), I love the cinematic feeling you can get with great camera angles. However, as I struggle my way through Shadow of the Colossus, I've seen just how terrible camera work can get. With that game, they not only have a complete analog stick devoted to camera movement, they also have two buttons. And as cinematic as it can sometimes look, it is a CONSTANT struggle to get my character to actually move where he needs to (though the control scheme might cause at least some of this).

I have to a gree with a couple of the above posters that in any game where the focus is on movement and reaction experiencing the world is best done through a camera designed to facilitate such movement. If you want to see neat effects in such games, position those effects in front of the camera, don't position the camera to see those effects.

However in RPGs, adventure games, and other types of games where timing button presses and jumping across platforms isn't as important as experiencing the game world, by all means, go wild with the camera. Prince of Persia's camera COULD be cinematic without getting (too much) in the way of the game because the controls were responsive enough NOT to require precise movement or jumping (the combat got a bit annoying, but the camera mightn't have been the cause of this). The difficulty in the game came from figuring out what you needed to do in a room, not from actually doing it. If you were facing in the general direction of a pillar and pressed the jump button, you'd go there.

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Nice discussion!
I would really like to get to know more of these rules used for cinematic camera work. Could be interesting. So anyone giving some topics to google, sites to visit and so on would be appreciated, at least from my side ;)

Back to topic:
Though I don´t know any of those rules (yet) I agree that all third person games I played have some disorienting cuts / perspective changes. PoP is one of the games which confused me the most: While many perspective changes worked great (at least for me), there were also many that just totally busted me. For example most "shots" of the Dahaka chases combined with the "grey out" feature superpig mentioned totally got me and managed to give me a strong feeling of tension. Just the next second I had to witness how I looked at the prince running straight at the camera leaving me with no info about where he/I was running to. Whilst this might have worked fantastically in a cutscene, here, in an in-game situation it just pissed me off as I was falling down into some spike pit or similar just for the sake of a cinematic shot of the hero running.
What I am trying to express with this example is the following, which has been said in a similar fashion by other posters, I presume:
Cinematic camera angles and action-heavy gameplay don´t fit together too well, at least not without a good amount of work. The cinematic angles and (I guess equally important) the cuts between them have to be chosen really carefully. I disagree that cinematic angles automatically destroy or decrease immersion, but one occasion where the player dies just because of a 'stupid' angle or cut and all immersion built up before is gone with the wind. I guess, everyone who has played one of these third person games will agree that these things can really screw the experience of a game.
Am I wrong in the assumption that most changes between cinematic angles in games are based on some kind of "zones" (e.g. player character is in zone A, use camera for zone A, moves into zone B, change camera to camera for zone B with some kind of or no transition and so on)? So there wouldn´t be a need to have some kind of dynamically "creating" dramatic viewing angles that maintain a good overview of the surroundings for the player, since the level designer would put the camera into place anyway and he should take care that the angle he chooses and the cuts he sets up by putting the zones into place fulfill the needs of the game / the current sequence of the game.
I imagine writing an algorithm that does actually create the cinematic angles and cuts fulfilling these needs would be quite a daunting task. Furthermore I don´t think it is possible to build such an algorithm that also does 'miraculously' fulfill the artistic vision a game designer might have for a portion of the game or an action sequence.

After all I can´t imagine anything like a FPS, RTS or RPG to use something like cinematic angles during gameplay, but perhaps my imagination might be quite limited in that direction. Still, most third person action titles already use cinematic angles to some extent while they use the 'standard' chase camera most of the time, but I think those sequences where other cameras are used work quite well most of the time and surely they add dramatic effect to the game.
Still, the "control confusion" sometimes kills that dramatic effect, but IIRC PoP "adresses" this by keeping the running direction of the hero after a cut until the player actually gives another input direction. This works pretty good in most of the cases, I think it works good in the cases where the player is given enough time to acommodate to the new angle.

Perhaps I brought nothing new to the discussion, I don´t know, I´m feeling confused.... ;)

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Interesting read [smile]

As an idea - multiple camera views on screen.

Keep the main "interface" there (I like controlling my RTS' from a top-down view, I dislike the "freeform" 3D cameras) but make use of multiple views and try and composite some sort of final image that doesn't get in the way but does make for a better use of camerawork.

I've seen it a couple of times over the years, but never extensively nor in a way that matches the things discussed in this thread.

One example is XIII where with particular events in-game you get the comic-book cells appearing on the screen showing that particular event in more detail.

How about your first person shooter where you had an overlayed video with more cinematic content? Maybe a view from the outside the room showing the security guards talking to each other and your character hiding in the shadows in the background.

A RTS where that same overlayed camera depicts a cinematic view from the troop's perspective (or that cinematic view from the village as the tidal wave approaches).

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The Battle for Middle-Earth features some video clips from the 3 LOTR movies in the lower-left corner of the interface. They are shown when some events are triggered.

I suppose one could have, instead of movie clips, a cinematic perspective of the scene with one or multiple cameras, just like the above AP sugested.

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Quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster
As an idea - multiple camera views on screen.
OK, you really need to play the Fahrenheit (a.k.a. Indigo Prophecy demo) [grin]

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Quote:
Original post by Will F
Don't have too much to add, but I wanted to point out that if you're going to attempt a cinematic camera for a 3rd person game, you really owe it to yourself to play/study Ico and God of War. Usually I don't even notice the camera - but those two games stood out to me as the correct way to do it.


I was thinking about God of War too. They managed to design parts of that game in ways that made it seem like cinema - and I'm not talking about the cut scenes.

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