About My Last Post (Cameras and Games)

by Darius Kazemi on January 24, 2008

in design,games

So I posted a game idea yesterday. I’m flattered that so many people took the time to analyze it bit by bit. But I was mostly being lazy when I posted the entry. Obviously it wouldn’t have to be Mario you’re following around. I just used that as a stand-in for “generic platformer hero.” And some of you got the fact that it’s mostly meant to play satirically. Not for the “fun gameplay” element, but more, “oh wow being a camerman for the hero really sucks” kind of amusement.

It would definitely be a short, stupid game along the lines of what Daniel commented, although I would be interested to prototype it in both 2D and 3D. Mostly because 3D is where camera placement becomes an interesting problem space. But it may be too complicated, and there might be a better way to simulate it in 2D.

One thing I didn’t realize until recently was that in the original Super Mario 64, there was an actual character (I believe it was a Lakitu) cameraman. Cameras in 3D games were so new that Nintendo felt they had to contextualize the camera by giving it a personality. A more recent example of camera-with-personality is Skate, where the camera is controlled by your best friend who occasionally makes comments about your epic bails and whatnot. Except you’re controlling the camera and your avatar being filmed. Which means you’re playing the protagonist and the protagonist’s best friend / documentarian. Also notable was Robot Alchemic Drive, a 2002 game from Enix where you played a small boy remotely controlling a giant robot. The thing is, the camera was always framed first-person from where you were standing as the boy, staring at the giant robot a few blocks away. So you had to position yourself strategically so you could see the action and not be obscured by buildings.

Anyway, I don’t see this as a AAA that could sell on store shelves or anything. I’m thinking more along the lines of a quirky free download that plays with our established notions of the disembodied camera and asks, “What of the hard-working folks who make all that running and jumping possible?”


Bradley Momberger January 24, 2008 at 10:49 pm

Heck, if you’re going to do *that*, you might want to start with a game that’s simpler to prototype. Namely, make a rhythm game where the player has to Bemani up the BGM for the level while the avatar is automatically controlled, but where the player is simultaneously responsible for firing the sound effects. Mario jumps, you have to cue the “boing” or else the jump fails and Mario suffers.

It would be kind of cool to have the classic Bemani controls for this and Sonic as the character, since the scratchpad would cue the spin dash charge, and the faster you could scratch in the free zone, the more effective the dash would be.

Andy January 24, 2008 at 10:57 pm

Bah, I’d enjoy being a cameraman in certain instances! Trust me, reading about the game I mentioned but couldn’t remember was interesting at least, if not for it’s content then its concept.

I still like my mockumentary angle :) perhaps it is more machinima-like, but it’d be better if you could do it yourself in context.

Anyway, I’m more serious about it because I do camerawork – I’d not mind running around filming interesting things going on (or influencing them so there was something to film) and if the game allowed freeroam play, or provided a good story, there’s no reason why the PC couldn’t have a camera instead of a gun.

Hell, at least add it in as a “sidequest” perhaps :)

And I did say filming actual characters would be boring or flawed (in design) but there we go, some people *would* want to simply because it was a famous character.

Brian Shurtleff January 25, 2008 at 6:31 pm

See, I’ve always been interested in what I call “the reverse escort mission” where the player is the escortee rather than the escort.
This has to do with the fact that I just find committing violence in games is kinda cliche, boring, or otherwise generally unappealing, and think fear and protection are more innately human experiences.

While watching the new film Cloverfield, I realized that being a cameraman is an interesting choice for a game like that because it properly explains why the player character is helpless enough to need to be escorted (Holding a camera the whole time mean you can’t be holding a gun) and has the bonus of giving the player an extra goal outside of just ‘survive’ – which is extra important if they don’t get to, say, blow stuff up.
Especially interesting, if you really play up the mechanics of the “survival” element too – like your character is constantly under fire along with the ‘hero’ of the story you’re filming – only you don’t get the luxury of a gun.

Of course, again, this game probably wouldn’t fly for a mass audience, AAA title.
But for a small indie/art game – I’d love it. But I’m also the weird gamer who DOESN’T want to shoot anything in a game. =)

jules January 25, 2008 at 8:07 pm

It would be interesting if you could use the camera to affect the events on the game. For example, filming a bad guy lurking in shadows would make the hero realize it was there. Though, it would probably be complicated to script…

Still, it’s a very different idea and could be allot of fun.

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