First Person Point of View – An Essay

Jun
21

First Person Point of View – An Essay

Let me start off by prefacing the following blog post with the simple fact that I am typically *not* a first person gamer. Traditionally, since EverQuest graduated into allowing for third person mode, I’ve always preferred that method. And for all of the reasons that we are going to talk about through this blog post: third person is “easy mode”.

But there’s more to it than just wanting to make our game more challenging. There’s a certain aspect of immersion that comes from playing a game in first-person mode. Anyone who has ever played FPS games can attest to the level of adrenaline and thrill that comes from having 360 degree sound effects that are relayed in real-time; something scurring off around the corner, something that you can’t see because you can’t pan the camera out and around to discover.

Instead, you’ve gotta peek your head out and actually look. And occassionally pucker up when something is leering right back at you and ready to suck the soul from your jellified corpse.

When the team first came to me with their ideas, my knee-jerk reaction was to say “no”. Since day one, we’ve always planned on having BOTH third person and first person views supported in the game. But at no point had we ever actually said “we’re a third person or first person game”, or which was going to be the primary form of gameplay.

I can now officially say that we are making a primarily first person MMORPG, but with a twist: while third person mode is supported, it’s going to be a skill-based ability that you’ll have to level up in order to use, and will be akin to Astral Projection.

Before we dig into that, I want to give you a little bit of a back story on why we’ve decided to make the game primarily first person point of view. It really comes down to two things: immersion and challenge.

The first is something that is the core of what we are creating with our game. We want to create a virtual world where players exist as the characters themselves in as many ways as they can. While we can do that through story, graphics, music, and mechanics, there’s another factor that is often used to great effect in shooter games, but is so often ignored in fantasy-based games, and that is sound effects.

This is something that came up during one of our dungeon conversations months ago when we were talking about the little things we wanted to add to dungeons to enhance the immersion of the player. Dust falling off of doors that haven’t been opened in awhile, rust flaking off of hinges which haven’t been turned in decades or centuries, and while music can be used to help add and enhance the overall mood, sound effects are one area where most MMORPGs are, quite frankly, lacking.

We started talking about the little things that we could do with sound effects that other first person games have done so well: Dead Space, Doom, Halo, Call of Duty, Destiny, and beyond. Things like hearing skittery-skattery crawling sounds from up head and to the right…or a dull clanking coming from behind after you step over a door threshold…or a shriek from down below a stairway after you open a door.

Little things that add to the flavor of the atmosphere, and immerse you even further.

But you don’t have that if you aren’t in first person mode. You need to be there, looking through the eyes of the character, with your headphones on or your surround sound cranked up, totally immersed in the environment to get that impact.

And while we aren’t going to confirm it just yet, choosing to go first person primary puts Oculus Rift support on the table, because we want to make this game as immersive as possible. Adding that extra level of virtual reality is something we feel enhances the game in every way, shape, and form.

Now let’s talk about challenge a little bit.

I’m currently playing a ranger on the Ragefire progression server for EverQuest in my spare time. When I need to kite, I simply snare the mob, pan the camera around so I can see what’s behind my character, and I start running backwards…while making sure I’m not running into any mobs.

Cheating, in other words. If I was really a ranger and I wanted to bow-kite a mob, I’d have to keep my eyes trained on my target, and running backwards would be a near impossible feat. Sure, I could peer over my shoulder to avoid trees and large boulders, but I’ve also got to focus on the mob I’m hunting. It’s just not realistic.

Another trick employed when I’ve played tanks and pullers or chanters/crowd control classes, is turning the third person camera around so that I can see around corners to know whether or not there are mobs. In the old days of EverQuest, and in Dungeons and Dragons, the only way to do something like that would be to send your rogue ahead, or use an eyeball spell from a wizard or caster and have them “scout out” ahead.

Again, something that takes away from challenge and makes things “easy mode”.

We don’t want easy mode. We want hard mode. All the time. Every time. You can’t extend your sight beyond your own two eyes in reality, and we don’t want you doing that in our world, either. We want you to experience it, to live it, to BE a part of Lucimia, not just playing a video game.

However, we still want to have third person in the game, but as a skill-based ability, one that can be leveled up by those players who choose to pursue it, similar to how it is described above: as an astral-projection/enhanced perception ability.

We’re going to have third person camera views in the game as a Perception-based and Intelligence-based series of abilities that players will need to choose, skill up, and Master if they want to have full use of the third person point of view.

When you first start out, you’ll only have a very limited version of it, as a projection-based ability based on either of the two above stats, and in the beginning you’ll have a limited window of time for your abilities.

You’ll be able to use the third person point of view for things like viewing around a corner…but only with concentration and effort…and there will be timers and restrictions on it, such as mobs beating on you while you are in the middle of a fight; unless you are a Master in your Projection line of abilities, you’re unlikely to be able to maintain the concentration needed to project your consciousness beyond yourself AND still maintain your spell casting ability, much less MOVE AROUND on top of that, while being beaten into a bloody pulp.

As you level up those abilities, you’ll gain the skill necessary to maintain that out-of-body point of view for longer periods of time, and under more strenuous conditions, such as casting under duress, and casting while moving. But only players who have chosen to take Intelligence or Perception as their primary stat AND also chosen Mastery lines related to the third person perspective will ever be able to have a third person point of view available at will.

We also feel that this is going to add another dimensional level to gameplay in the sense that it will allow for even more diverse builds of Archetypes, with players further customizing above and beyond the typical “trinity” builds.

Something we are really looking forward to is creating these epic zones and dungeons that take players months to explore in full. Being able to create dungeons with sound effects and and other immersion factors that will play into the first person mode in a virtual world is something we fully support, and the more we have dug into it, the more we have found that it just makes sense for the type of experience we want players to have in our world.

That’s it for this update! If you’re signed up to the newsletter, you saw me mention the patch notes a couple of weeks back from one of Tim Schoonover’s latest builds, and it was all camera-based patching.  Stay tuned, as we’ve got a lot more coming down the pipeline, and as always, if you’ve got any questions, we’re more than happy to answer them.

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