So, I woke up this morning and had one of those, ‘Aha’ moments. You know, when you’re sure you’ve solved cancer and hunger and the meaning of life, all at the same time? Of course, I’m a guy, so my thoughts are simple. Instead of solving peace, I realized that men are ‘First Person Cameras’ and women are ‘Orbit Motion Models’. Yes, I know – it’s not nearly as catchy as that whole Mars and Venus thing. But, what did you expect? It is a game blog after all.
So, hopefully, you all know what I mean already, and you’ve realized that what I’ve just shared is deeply profound. You see the timeless wisdom derived from years of study and ties to the spirits of my ancestors. But, in case it’s not crystal clear, allow me a moment to explain. So, a First Person Camera usually means that the camera is attached to the player’s eyepoint. You know, it looks straight out in the world and sees things from the player’s perspective. When the player changes position, the camera moves right along. And, when the player rotates, so does the camera. Not only is it really clear where a First Person Camera is now, but it’s really easy to see where they are headed and predict where they will be in the future (see my article in Game Engine Gems 2 on believable dead reckoning).
But, an Orbit Motion Model is much more complex. With it, the camera is sort of attached to the player, at a distance, and looks inward, keeping an eye on the player most of the time. As the player moves around, so does the camera, but in a sort of orbital pattern – hence the name.
Although both cameras look around the world, they are fundamentally different ways of looking at the world. For the first person camera, everything is seen from the player’s point of view. Whereas, the orbital camera sees the world in relationship to the player. Consider the orbital camera for a moment. Sometimes, it moves with the player, sometimes not. When the player turns sharply around a corner, sometimes an Orbit camera will move quickly to catch up, but sometimes it won’t. It just depends on the implementation, the fine game settings, and of course, the implementation anomalies, which we sometimes refer to as ‘bugs’.
You see, an orbital camera has much more subtlety than it’s simplistic partner. With an orbital camera, you need to account for follow-distance, view direction, and soft-attachment. Heck, sometimes, an orbital camera won’t be facing the player at all. It might move ahead and look back at the player, and sometimes, it might move somewhere else all together. And, games with orbital cameras have to think about all sorts of things, like when the player turns quickly down a corridor – does the camera swing sharply to keep them in view? Or maybe you’ve got a soft tether going on, and it glides smoothly over and around. Does your camera pull back in big rooms and zoom close in corridors? And let’s not forget those tricky spots – like when the orbital camera gets shoved up against a wall or even pushed all the way through. For the First Person Camera, smashing into walls is no problem, you’re inside the player, so you see what he sees – a blank wall. Of course, being the orbital model allows the advantage of perspective. There’s nothing quite like that rare moment playing a game when the camera penetrates through the walls. The walls drop away and you get get an awesome view of the whole world, as the designer sees it.
Yes, the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that it’s the perfect geeky-guy, game-developer analogy for relationships. So, the next time you’re in one of those deep, meaningful, challenging discussions with your partner and you’re sure you come from different planets, try to see things with another camera. It’s not that she’s from another planet. It’s that you view the world from completely different perspectives.
After almost 20 years of marriage, I think I just leveled up.