Probably one of the most important part of any visual medium is the position of the camera. The movement, control, speed and placement of the camera can make the difference between a good movie and a great movie, and it’s one of the reasons that highly talented directors are always in great demand (and why we tend to associate them with good movies). In most digital games, however, we tend to give control of the camera to the person who is probably least adept at using it: the player. However, this is understandable. Not being able to move the camera in times of high intensity combat is a pain, and many a winning game has been tossed to the scrap heap simply because of bad camera control.
However, when given limited control of the camera in some games, the effect can be quite extraordinary, and if the camera doesn’t get in the way of game play, there should be no reason why a designer controlled camera couldn’t be employed throughout the entire game (Willing Suspension of Freedom strikes again). Today’s first challenge is to think about games where the dramatic camera is key to the game’s look and feel.
There is a second challenge though. In my thesis, I talk about Interactive Discourse, the ability to change a game based off where you are looking. The second challenge is to think of a game where controlling the camera IS the entire game. Assume that the game can detect when you can see various object, you’re angle to them, and relative position. This way, you can use people being able to actually see an item as a conditional.
This is the second weekly challenge I’m offering, even though I really didn’t get to respond to people’s posts from the last one (though I have lots of responses for you, don’t worry). Though this is not the one I originally planned, I decided it might be lots of fun. So here we go!
One of my favorite types of movies is a genre I like to refer to as “heist” films. Heist films involve a character or series of characters working out very complex plans in order to reach a goal (usually this goal involves stealing something very valuable). What makes a really good heist film, though, is a sudden reveal at the end of the film. Heist films build a huge amount of tension by showing you most of the plans for the heist, but keep some of the most important parts hidden. At the end of the movie, these important parts are revealed as the heist occurs, leading to “a-ha” moments and nervous laughter. Examples of really good traditional heist films include Oceans 11, The Thomas Crown Affair, The Usual Suspects, and (to a lesser extent) The Italian Job.
So my question is, how would you make a heist game? Part of the fun of a heist film is seeing all of the planning that goes into the heist, but then seeing the whole reveal right at the end. A player planning the heist wouldn’t have the fun of the “surprise ending”, since he’d already know exactly how the whole heist should go down. So how would you pull it off?
So, I was going to make this a post, but I’ve decided that, instead, I’m going to ask it as a mini design challenge, something like what Eric Zimmerman does at GDC, but for everyone that reads my blog, and more focused on themes or techniques that are common in traditional media, but haven’t found a real home yet in games. I’m hoping to be able to do one of these every Monday, so make sure to check back for new mini design challenges!
This first mini design challenge is about anonymity. In plays and movies, directors can sometimes make a great artistic impact by creating anonymous actors: the “every man” so to speak. Specifically, I’m thinking about the play and movies based on Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, both directed by Julie Taymor (of Lion King on Broadway fame). In the play, there’s a scene where Titus is pleading with a group of town’s people to spare the lives of his sons as they are carted off to be executed. When Taymor directed this, in the stage version she made all of the people stone statues that were rolled across stage, and in the movie version the camera never faces the town’s people’s faces, and ends with Anthony Hopkins on the ground as their feet walk around him. Because of this anonymity, we don’t feel any connection with the town’s people, and in fact see them as cold and uncaring toward the old man’s plight.
Anonymity is also used frequently in the movie Brazil. Director Terry Gilliam directs everyone very similarly and in similar costumes, including the main character, though most of the time the extra’s faces are hidden behind darker lighting. This makes them seam like industrial robots, uncaring and unfeeling toward everyone, much less a crazy main character. In my mind, it is very similar to how a 1984 or Brave New World movie would be directed: everyone the same, going through the motions of daily life, uncaring and unfeeling.
So the question (or challenge) is, how can we use anonymity in games to similar artistic advantage? In what ways are we already using anonymity (either purposefully or not) in ways other than creating cannon fodder? Can we make characters in games that are just anonymous enough in a situation that the player wants their help, but find them uncaring an unmovable? \How would you make a game made up almost completely of anonymous NPCs, and what artistic purpose would you want it to serve?