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The Third Person Dynamic Camera in Dawn

by Alexander Baird on 03/13/17 10:09:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


    My name is Alexander Baird, I am the gameplay programmer that was primarily in charge of Dawn’s camera.  I also hooked all the artists’ animations into Dawn, created a variety of gameplay elements, and worked on both the User Interface and Localization in Dawn.  Primarily though, my baby was the camera.

    The camera for Dawn was created over the whole of its life time and undertook many iterations, especially as the core gameplay changed.  However, there are some parts to the camera that would have been nice to get working or functional from the start.  The goal of Dawn’s camera was to both enable the player to look where they want and to help guide the player as they move around.

    A general word of advice is do not underestimate how much work will need to go into a third person dynamic camera.  To help get it as polished as possible, testing needs to be done early and frequently to try and find the cases that break it.  Due to how much the core gameplay changed from start to finish, there were a fair number of camera cases that disappeared on their own.  It also did not help that we did not know exactly what we wanted from the camera at the start.  One example of this is we originally had a possession mechanic.  The first version of how we wanted the camera to work with this would later be used with the fixed camera mode, as we wanted to have the camera lerp to the new pawn.  The second version though would get cut entirely, as it basically had the camera still follow Ash (our player character), but lock the rotation to looking directly at the newly possessed pawn.  For something that affects the overall player experience so strongly, such as the camera, make sure to have the design meeting for it as early as physically possible.  I want to say the initial design meeting for Dawn’s camera was a fourth of the way through the project, if not half way through the project, which may not have been early enough.   Also, even if you find out that you do not want those experimental aspects of the camera, hang onto the original code somewhere as part of it might be recyclable.  From working on Dawn's camera, we learned a lot, including how it affects the player's overall ability to view and interact with the world, as well as how deeply intertwined with general game mechanics it can be.

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