Cinematography in Games
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
Hey guys, this week’s blog is about cameras and how we should take advantage of them. Recently I have gotten into cinematography and photography. It's become such a fascination, learning how we can provoke emotion with different angles and shots.
There is a whole language to be learnt for both cinematography and photography. Yet in games we are still just sticking to genres to guide our cameras rather than emotion.
Obviously there is much more to consider such as, giving control the player, movement of the camera, collision with environments, etc. Considering these things creates it own challenges and limitations. Yet there is still so much to learn.
Most games just follow the standard cameras such as first person will just show the gun. Third will just be behind the characters. Platformers will mostly have the camera scrolling along the side.
Not all games are doing this though, some are pushing the boundaries and are thinking how the cameras can influence the gameplay and enhance the mood of the character and environment.
The Batman series is a great example of how to use a camera in games. When the player is just walking the camera is placed perfectly on Batman's shoulder. Yet once he starts running the camera zooms out and puts him in the centre of the screen. It's something simple yet it just takes it to another level.
Another game which played with cameras very well was the recent Tomb Raider. I do recommend this game as it is great fun and worth a try.
What I really liked about Tomb Raider was how it changed the camera angle during challenges. So players could see how the big the challenges really were.
Example: Lara is climbing up this radio mast it starts to break underneath her. The camera changes or swings round each time this happens. Giving a feeling of change. Again simple yet effective.
This is one of my favourite examples. The camera in Luftrausers, feels like it is on a chain following the avatar instead of fixed on the plane. When you twist and turn it takes a couple of seconds later for the camera to follow. It manages to frame the action rather than just the player.
Think about what your game is about and how the camera can help you achieve this feeling. Whether it be the action framing like Luftrausers, or tension and horror. Look at examples like old school Resident Evil and Until Dawn.
They put the camera in the corner of room. It limits the players view so players really don't know what is coming around the next corner. It always makes players feel uneasy as if they are being watched.
After gaining a better understand of cinematography I decided to try them out in my game Chest Quest.
Chest Quest is a side scrolling platformer. Like others platformers I have the camera scrolling across the screen after the player. However I tweaked the camera to improve a few things:
1) The Knight is placed further to the left so players know that he will be moving to the right. This also gives players a bigger view of what is coming towards them and a longer time to react. If the Knight was in the centre of the screen then anything behind the character would be dead space as nothing comes from behind the character.
2) The camera is quite close to the Knight as I am trying to create a feel of intimacy. Bringing the connection of the player to the character. Creating a bond.
3) Notice how the camera is angled slightly looking down on the knight. This is because I want players to feel small. Make them realise that they are not the strongest element within the world.
Now when the player encounters the Dragon the camera slightly changes.
I pull the camera further back so the player is not as connected. They now feel distant. The intimacy is broken. It's angled to look up to show that the dragon is in a more powerful position, as well as being central in the shot showing that he is always there taking more the camera. Making the player feel even weaker than before.
I also made the dragon more central as he is going to shoot fire balls at the player. Making him the centre of action.
There is still adjustments to be made but, I hope you like seeing what I have tried to do and seen how others take full advantage of the camera.
The other main inspiration for why I wanted to discuss this topic was because of a conversation I had with the amazing Garry Napper @Xopsx. He was the lead designer on Alien Isolation.
We spoke about the Save Mechanic and how it is used as gameplay to build tension. Instead of just a static save point. He said he got this idea from Cliffy B when they discussed the reload mechanic in Gears Of War.
It was great to hear how these guys decided to go back to basics and really think about how we can improve on every element.
We don't have to follow the trend we are in the game industry with some amazing minds. So why not look at anything ?
Thanks guys really can't wait to see what people do, and hear your thoughts.