Composition

Last, and perhaps most important of all, we must take all the elements of our cutscene alternative and combine them in a manner that makes sense with the purpose of such a solution, to direct the player towards our chosen narrative in an aesthetically cinematic manner. So for that we must also support the established rules in photography of balanced composition.

Again with the developer-authored approach, below we see God of War doing an excellent job of dynamically adjusting the camera to always offer a balanced composition between Kratos and the Kraken. With the wooden post as a good visual indicator of the line-of-action, the Santa Monica team rely on camera “zones” – when the player crosses the line of action, he enters a new zone that causes the camera to shift between its two pre-defined positions, maintaining the composition.

So how might we use this methodology for a more free-form type of game where subject positions are more dynamic and can change relative to one another throughout via player movement? For that solution, we must go back over a decade to the seminal title Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time.

On the game’s release, much was made of the heralded Z-Targetting feature. Below is a video breaking down the various elements that combined to give us our first stab at a holistic cinematic mode during gameplay. Without a target, on holding (or toggling) the easily reached Z-button on the underside of the controller, the aspect ratio narrows from television’s 4:3 to the now standard 16:9 and the field of view narrows to something more akin to that of film, better framing protagonist Link against the background.

With a target, however, is where this system comes into its own. In the tutorial below, the camera draws a dynamic composition between Link and the target, the slightly lagging camera loosely framing the two subjects while still affording total control over the player movement. The player is even able to cross the aforementioned line-of-action without disorientation due once again to the absence of cuts, and like any good design the system has multiple uses, being employed in a consistent manner for both conversations and combat.

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