Behind the Black

… or, “UI vs. Player” (not a FFXIV review).

You get used to playing with games that have first-person view or an adjustable camera. Playing some old school (-style) games, I am reminded of how the third-person camera and the interface was used against the player. It is like my earlier post about how the game abstracts, you suspend disbelief, then you are expected to forget that abstraction at some point.

The particular example I am thinking of is having things visible to the character but not the player. We all take advantage of this in third-person view games, looking around corners, above the ceiling, etc. You can see the entire screen, even if your character has a blocked view. But there can be a six-story boss just off-screen, with only a flat plain between you and it, and you will never see it coming. Many game reveled in having power-ups hidden just a bit to the left and right of the screen.

The game of the weekend at Kongregate is Epic Battle Fantasy 3, a Final Fantasy-esque game. There are chests and secret passages hidden behind foreground objects on almost every screen. Some of them are partly visible or have a hint that there must be a secret passage, but others are just invisible. Some of those chests hold equipment you cannot get elsewhere, and there are in-game medals for finding them all (and you need x medals per zone to get to a room with more chests with more exclusive equipment…), so the game encourages a mini-game of pushing up against everything and trying to open invisible chests. Your characters can see the chests and secret passages open in front of them, but they are powerless to tell you. They cannot even cry as they pass by the loot they so desire.

It had not struck me at the time that this is a related issue in Desktop Dungeons. Exploration is very important, but your character can only see next to itself, not down a hallway. Maybe you carry a very weak torch. I proclaimed a fondness for seeing the whole level so you would know if it was worth playing, but of course that is the other side of the absurdity: you can see the entire level, even though there is no way your character could.

Either approach works, first- or third-person view (or third with flexible camera), but it is annoying to have it used against the player. And it feels harder to use first-person view against the player.

: Zubon

3 thoughts on “Behind the Black”

  1. It’s interesting how (not personally experienced, so correct if wrong) EQ1 was played first-person by default. I wonder if that’s one of the subtle things that makes people look back at in with rose-tinted glasses.

    There’s also the technical aspect; Field of View makes a big difference to some people – most console-based games have a FOV of 75 degrees, whereas a large number of PC players prefer 90 or more. humanity can see over 180, but that’d look terrible on a monitor. I remember LoTRO increases the visible FOV when you zoom into first person – you can see a little more at the edges.

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