• 14 September 2012 11:50:47

    First person combat in Skyrim deconstructed

    posted by Lingwei Game News
    The California Literary Review has an analysis on the use of camera angles in video games and how they affect how you play. It examines the differences in first person and third person camera angles in Skyrim and Dark Souls respectively. It assesses how the camera angle affects how you play, with a particular emphasis on combat between the two games.

    The interesting thing about the first person perspective though, is that as it was used over and over (again primarily by Western developers in the FPS) is that it developed a . . . shorthand of sorts. Certain things that might be a concern when viewed from a 3rd Person perspective are left out of a game.

    Mostly, these are little things. For instance in most FPSs when your character interacts with an object on a wall, say a light switch, you won’t see the character’s hand pop into view to physically touch the switch. The switch will just flip from one state to another as if you HAD done such a thing, even though the game never showed such an action occurring.


    Bethesda, the folks who made Skyrim followed in the traditions of the previous entries in the Elder Scrolls franchise: they designed the entire game with the 1st Person Perspective as the primary view of the player, even though the game can be freely switched to a 3rd Person view at any time. This means that ranged combat, most likely found when playing as a wizard, works pretty darn well.

    However, Skyrim is a game that relies on FPS Shorthand heavily. When you open doors or pick up a book these actions work as if you were using invisible magic, well before you learn the telekinesis spell that is the actual equivalent of it in game. It also means that when you swing your sword, it acts less like an actual blade, and more like a gun in any other FPS: you are shooting an invisible damage line at the spot you’re swinging at, and the animation of the swing is an illusion to sell the effect. The sword itself does not take up real space (unless you drop it).

    This is very easily seen if you fight multiple enemies who group close together and swing a blade. You can actually see it go through both of them at times, yet it will only do damage to one of them; the one you’re aiming at. You can also see it when you’re next to a wall: the sword will slice through the wall during the swing to hit the enemy regardless of the fact that it just passed through brick and mortar like Kitty Pryde desperately in need of a bathroom break. Heck, unless you aim directly at a wall, your weapon won’t even produce a little hit “spark” or produce a reaction of any kind! Even when you do this, the reaction is simply graphical, and has no effect on the combat flow, like a bouncing back that causes your character to attempt to regain their footing.

    When you look at Dark Souls however, you can notice the EXACT OPPOSITE REACTION. Differing weapons in Dark Souls have different types of strikes, and if you try fighting an enemy in a narrow corridor with a weapon that uses a lot of horizontal swings (say a scimitar), you’ll quickly find that your blade will bounce off the walls and leave you open to counterattacks by enemies, because when you swing your sword in this game it actually, you know, takes up real space. When you miss a strike your character takes a moment to get their balance back, and this sells the idea that your weapons have some weight to them.

    Read the entire article at the California Literature Review. It's a detailed article that makes some good points.

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