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Gaining Perspective

First Person Vs. Third Person. Which is more immersive? The first part in the two-part debate on Pixelosophy.

[Written By Alex Leach.]

One of the most important design choices a team must make in the early stages of designing a game is what perspective to use. As we all know, games have two standard perspectives, first and third, each one offering their own pros and cons. As gamers demand more immersion in their games, each perspective needs to be examined and a determination needs to be made on which, if either, is the more immersive perspective.

To cut to the chase, I’ll go ahead and say for the record that I believe the third person perspective is the definitive choice for a camera view in a game. I enjoy first person games, and my mind could eventually be changed as to which is better, but let me lay out for you the reasons I see third person as a better view.

Before I get into specific games for the argument, I’d like to give a general reason for my belief. We go through life in “first person.” That is we see through our own eyes. This is exactly what ruins first person games for me. Our field of vision is huge compared to a screen. There is limited movement involved when somebody scans a room. However, in a game, when you enter into a new space you’re flying around with the right analog stick to take in everything as quickly as possible. This is the first obtrusive aspect of the first person view for me. Camera movement is not as smooth as natural eye and head movement. Third person camera eliminates this problem by pulling out the view and allowing the player to scan a room much like in real life. Camera movement is smoother because it’s a wider shot. It really lets the player examine the environment in the most natural way possible. In first person, when somebody is attacking you from behind, it almost becomes a chore to turn around quickly and locate the person. I see this as cheap and frustrating more than immersive. In real life I’d be able to quickly turn, not become disoriented, and begin to attack the enemy smoothly, which is what third person lets you do.

Moving past technical advantages of the third person view, it clearly is the perspective that offers the most artistic camera, or can at least. In the first person perspective the player is limited to that one view. The camera doesn’t shift, doesn’t cut, it just stays in the character’s eyes. With the third person perspective, the camera is allowed to roam and take different angles. The best example of this in a game is God of War. There is a scene in which Kratos runs down a spiral staircase and the camera pulls out to a wide shot and reveals the beautiful design of staircase. The game has other examples of this camera work throughout and really shows off how beautiful a camera can be in a game. Allowing the camera to move and cut creates a real sense of a work of art, much like a film.

I will admit that there are several games that can make a case for first person games being just as immersive, such as Bioshock, Call of Duty 4, and Half Life. And don’t get me wrong, these are great games with amazing story-telling devices and richly designed environments. There are also a lot of third person games with awful and uninspired cameras. Immersion can really be created through either camera by putting an emphasis on environment, story, solid gameplay, and character development. But in the end, I believe that a third person camera will give developers more room to be artists and create more interesting visuals for the player.

[Reprinted from www.fourplayercoop.com/pixelosophy.]

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