However, many of our games do not have the luxury (though I’m sure this brings with it its own problems) of a developer-stipulated camera throughout. How might we take advantage of the same mechanics without resorting to either a similar camera system or, as usually the case, simply insert a cutscene?

Below is what I consider to be a breakthrough in the philosophy of how we approach delivery of cinematic content within games, and one that is still relatively un-adopted despite prominently featuring in the original Gears of War some years ago. That of a simple shift in methodology where a track of cinematography plays out whether you interact with it or not, and you are merely given an on-screen prompt to push the Y-button during a linear sequence.

This cinematic track plays out much like a cutscene, with only camera rotation (not positioning, with the player still free to move their character) controlled by a track via an invisible moving target that first follows the chopper, then the falling building, then, combined with a zooming change in field-of-view, over to the spawning enemies. Importantly, the interaction with the sequence is entirely up to the player, who can elect to jump in and out, or even to not participate at all.

This option is key to any solution that we may wish to replace cutscenes as a narrative device, instantly eliminating the frustration at unwillingly losing control, while allowing us as developers to direct the players attention when required – overcoming the age-old issue of “what if the player is looking the wrong way” with a clear prompt on screen indicating that story content can be engaged in if desired.

Below is another example of the same mechanic used for a more gameplay-orientated situation – to warn the player of approaching enemies – bringing an element of anticipation building firmly within the game and outside of a cutscene.

The caveat with a system such as this is that it has yet to be proven to be useful in a more intimate setting, dealing with subtler events than falling buildings and exploding doors. We also lessen (angles can still be influenced by level design and subject position relative to the player’s) our ability to select camera angles with a view to providing the additional method of storytelling via camera choice and subtlety in angles, but this is perhaps where the next C can be of some use.

In summary of Camera Angles:

  • Optional target-driven cameras accompanied by field-of-view information give player’s control over angles.
  • Subtlety in camera-angle choice will be lost, but angles can be influenced by manipulating relationship between player and subject.
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