Nitpick: Camera is King
Video games are extremely interesting because we have the ability to have eyes on the back of our head that can rotate - at least most of the time - in 360 degrees. Third-person view isn’t a unique camera setting considering we classify an entire genre as first-person or third-person. Interactivity is something unique to video games and to further enhance, we have the ability to not look through the eyes of the character we’re playing as, but have an omniscient lakitu behind us with a camera hanging from a fishing pole. All jokes aside, despite the awesome ability to see our character 24/7 as well as control what we want to see without being locked to the character’s field of vision, is also a curse.
Before I begin unloading on one poor game in particular, there are three rules I believe every game designer should adhere to when creating a game with a third-person camera. First is that the camera should never have janky controls. I’m not talking about sensitivity or anything like that. The camera should be easy to control and should be immediate in their responsiveness. Second, the camera should not go crazy depending on the environment. I’ve played countless games where the camera works perfectly fine in certain environments but the moment something changes, the camera is frustrating to control and manipulate. Lastly, the camera should always work with the player and not against it.
Unsurprisingly, Resident Evil 6 finds itself in the forefront with its terrible camera often creating numerous frustrating situation. The largest problem the game possesses is that the character you’re controlling takes up half the screen. It’s not a matter of the character being too big but a design decision to have the camera at a certain angle and distance where the character literally takes up half the screen. Might as well wear an eyepatch considering you can’t see anything to the left or right of you, depending on how you position your HUD. When there are enemies on the left side of your screen of course you won’t know it’s coming making you often times feel frustrating. This is one particular instance where the camera just doesn’t work with the player and instead rather against it. It’s limiting your field of vision and feels like there is no real good reason it should be that way.
Resident Evil 6 doesn’t have simply one problem with the camera, it’s much more than that. Often times when exploring the various environments in the game, you’ll encounter some tight quarters. Whether it be small hallways or navigating through a small apartment complex, there are instances where you’ll be inside of a building. Sadly, the camera doesn’t control well at all. Often times you’ll lose track of where your character is and as a result your movements will be hampered. Additionally, the camera will also flip out because the area is so small, it can’t center itself properly. It’s extremely frustrating to know that you’re having more trouble with the camera than you are with the enemy. Part of this can be attributed to perhaps level design but the camera is equally, if not more, the problem.
However, it’s just not close-quarters where the camera remain your enemy. There are certain segments in the game where you lose all freedom of your camera and you have a locked camera angle - a la the first three Resident Evil games. When the camera suddenly shifts and it's out of your hands, the transition is extremely jarring. Suddenly you have to compensate for a fixed angle and the movement of your character is changed. It’s odd and makes you scratch your head why the camera is like that. It’s not cool, it’s not fun, and it doesn’t work to the player’s feather. When designing your game, everything should feel like it works clockwork. Sure there will be times when the camera flips out or changes but when it does more often than not and it occurs in specific environments, those problems should be ironed out.
My final gripe with Resident Evil 6 in regards to the camera is it’s annoying and dynamic directional change. When pulling off melee moves and taking advantage of certain movement mechanics, the camera responds as if it’s having a seizure. Flipping out and changing to various uncomfortable angles at a rapid speed, almost fast enough to cause motion sickness. Of course after pulling these “rad” stunts off you’ll have to orient yourself so you’re looking the right way. Unsurprisingly, this isn’t the case and the camera puts you in a position so you’re blind to an incoming attack leaving you on the floor. Lame, right? This is the epitome of janky controls. It’s unresponsive when you want it to and rips you right from the very idea of the word control, since you have none.
Camera control and vision is pivotal in having a great game. After all, if your vision is impaired, it means you can’t utilize your skills to its finest. Imagine if the camera was absolute garbage in Gears of War. It wouldn’t be fun to have something clunky and something that works against the game’s enjoyment. Resident Evil 6 is a perfect example where camera control works to your enemy’s favor often leaving to cheap deaths or physically sick. It just goes to show how important your camera is. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to throw up from my last session of Resident Evil 6.