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The difficulty with designing video game cameras

"To get rid of any element that might have caused difficulty in exploration and battles, we adjusted background modeling and camera collision countless times while staff worked on the environment."

Video game cameras. When they're done right, players will rarely pay them a second though. But when they're done wrong they can become the bane of their very existence, with the ability to sour even the sweetest moments. 

That's because cameras are players' sole gateway into the digital worlds they cherish so very much. And unfortunately, designing them to suit their every need, and work around every conceivable in-game scenario is a gargantuan task. 

In a recent roundtable feature, Mashable explores what goes into making video game cameras work -- and oftentimes why they don't -- with the help of some of talented developers. 

Final Fantasy XV camera engineer Hidemi Mizoguchi was one of those invited to weigh in, and referring to his own system's tendency to frustrate players, he explained part of the problem is that it was designed with flexibility in mind. 

The camera wasn't built for one specific game scenario. It has to accommodate gigantic enemies, sweeping vistas, confined spaces, and frenetic battles with multiple allies and enemies. Creating a one-size-fits all solution was easier said than done, and it's not like the team didn't try.

"To get rid of any element that might have caused difficulty in exploration and battles, we adjusted background modeling and camera collision countless times while staff worked on the environment," said Mizoguchi, explaining how the team would move objects and props around to stop the camera being obscured during skirmishes.

Even so, there were so many factors to consider, especially when you add another layer of unpredictability by handing camera controls over to players. It's practically impossible to account for all of those variables, but Mizoguchi gave it a shot. 

"Getting the battle system in FFXV into its current shape required a long process of trial and error," he continues. "Even after we established a stylish battle in which the player can freely move around in the air, it still took time to adjust the camera so that it would not hinder the action as the places and situations changed. We continued to adjust right up to the time we submitted the master build."

"With a well-adjusted camera, players are able to comfortably play a game without noticing that a camera exists." And yet, despite Mizoguchi's best efforts, Final Fantasy XV players did clock the game's marauding camera. It's a fact that proves just how difficult it is to carve out a camera system that feels just right, and goes so way to explaining why devs are still having difficult after all these years.

For more development lessons from those behind the in-game lens, check out the full interview over on Mashable.

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