An introduction to gameplay

Camera behavior and control schemes are, of course, a very important factor of any game, and will influence pretty much every aspects of gameplay and general game experience. I thought longly about this, and will present here my thoughts about the subjects.

There are two major control schemes for most kinds of games. Those where you control your character directly through your keyboard, where you have total control of his actions, and where the camera is centered on him, and those where you control your character by giving him orders, with your mouse, where you can usually freely control the camera. A good example for the first kind would be The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and a good example of the second kind would be most real-time strategy games, or even RPGs like Baldur’s Gate.

Ignoring the trends – there’s obviously a tendency of choosing more direct control schemes –, I’ll highlight the most glaring pros and cons of each style in the following list:

Keyboard control scheme
Advantages:

  • the player feels more immersed in game world;
  • allows for more responsive controls on a real time world;
  • is generally better suited for three-dimensional action, such as platform puzzles or vertical exploration;
  • gives priority to player’s skill for many tasks, such as combat and path finding, rewarding him for his dexterity and hand-eye coordination.

Disadvantages:

  • can cause motion sickness in some cases;
  • demands the player’s full attention for every action, either simple or complex;
  • usually limits the awareness the player has of its surroundings, specially in action sequences;
  • is very unfriendly for inexperienced or handicapped players, specially in action sequences;
  • can lead to awkward situations, such as a character running against a wall, or (un)deliberately off a cliff;
  • frequently impairs the relevance of the character’s skills as, depending on the player’s skills, a skillful character can be very clumsy, and an resourceful character can be very effective, usually in action sequences.

Mouse control scheme
Advantages:

  • gives the player more information about his surroundings;
  • prevents awkward situations, such as characters running against a wall, or off a cliff;
  • doesn’t require the player’s full attention to control many simple actions, like walking;
  • gives priority to character’s skill for many tasks, such as fighting and path finding, rewarding the player for his strategy and forethought;
  • is generally better suited for two or three-dimensional strategy, top-down exploration, and point and click mechanics, such as contextual menus;
  • permits the control of more than one character at a time (if the need arises) as well as a more tactical approach on combat situations, with or without the support of active pause.

Disadvantages:

  • doesn’t provide as much atmospheric immersion;
  • hinders the player’s freedom of control over his characters immediate actions;
  • in most situations, greatly obstructs vertical action, such as jumping and climbing.

While I make no point out of the number of points in each field, the scheme I chose for Wendigo, considering these facts, is a mouse controlled one. The reasons for such a choice are the following:

  • I want the player to be able to create a great span of characters, each one with different abilities and weaknesses, so I chose not to let the player’s skill play a role on those aspects, so he can really play the character he created;
  • I want to implement point and click mechanics, namely contextual menus. Even though I’m well aware they can be implemented on more direct control schemes, I feel they play more naturally on a mouse controlled ambient;
  • I want tactics to play a role in combats, so that it’s not only the characters’ or the player’s physical skills that determine the outcome of a confrontation.

However, I want to minimize the disadvantages of such a system as much as possible (where relevant). Since the biggest disadvantage in our case is the immersion factor (since there’s little attention given to vertical action and the combat system is specially designed to give more control to the player), I thought of a dynamic camera behavior, which I will describe.


Taken from Wendigo design document ver. 0.2b, October 16, 2009, chapter 6, point 1.

Disclaimer: the image at the top is from Sacred, not from Wendigo.

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