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Walking with Blinders On

Author: 
Rutaq of the Broken Skull

Rutaq's Verdict: "Me wants ta luuk dem in de eye befor me kills em!"

We've all played a ton of games over the years, with each year bringing considerable advances in the quality and immersive nature of computer games. One of the coolest feelings I can recall involved logging in to Everquest for the first time and being able to run amongst the trees and come face to face with my first orc. Granted, the orc dispatched me quicker than a dog on a dreamsicle, but the fact that I could look the orc in the eye as he pounded me into the dirt immediately took away the sting of defeat.

There are about as many opinions on first versus third person views in computer games as there are opinions about which is a better - less filling or great tasing beer. As much as I love what I have seen from Neverwinter, and as much as I dug the Diablo games, I have to profess my love for the first person point of view. Now, I will be quick to point out that first person does have its drawbacks - you get about one-fifth of the world you are walking in with no peripheral vision. But what is peripheral vision, anyway? It's a visual flash to the brain, generally unrecognizable, that signals to you something is coming from just out of your cone of view. It's not a full-down or three-quarter-down view of you and the world around you, easily enabling you to see combatants and friends alike regardless of the barriers between you and the other parties.

Where is the competition for rogues? Certainly you can't sneak up on someone who can see you, and trying visual tricks to offset this has to result in completely chintzy special effects. Further, a great deal of detail in a world that has been so meticulously designed is lost when you can only view it at a distance. When I encounter a mage or a bard or knight in platemail, I want to be able to run up and enjoy the work the artists have put into the characters and objects in the game, and if I play a rogue, I want him to be able to tip-toe up behind the silly mage and drive my shortsword into his ribs before he has the chance to utter the "glurk" that will burst forth from his little animated mouth.

I know there are dozens of you who will want to see the entire adventuring party and be able to manage the situation a la Baldur's Gate. I, however, am not one of those as I don't plan to want to shout directions to all of my teammates - I want to roleplay the character I have created to the fullest extent. I think many of you are with me on this, and we all know why Star Trek was truly finally able to eliminate disease, poverty and civil war - it was the game developers that created the holodeck, the greatest example of immersive gaming. I think hanging on to the dated technology of the top-down or partially top-down views are simply holding us back from reaching the proverbial holodeck and I hope we can hound programmers from their all-night coffee klatches and all-night filking sessions until we advance immersive gaming to the point where we can all sit back, tap a few times on our touch-sensitive keypads and have a romantic liaison with our orientation-respective simulated Claudia Schiffers and Fabios.

So what's the panacea for the meantime? Well, I think the use of visual cues in the form of right and left flashers just might do the trick. You will still have the minute visual clue that something is coming in time to be able to spin and face your opponent, and with flashers, you can ditch the odd special effects for sneaky classes. If a rogue approaches under those circumstances, you won't get a flash until he lops off your purse and has hotfooted-it several servers away.

Let's get as realistic as we can. We know without a doubt that DnD has given us one of the best - arguable THE best - roleplaying system in history. Let's take the immersion one step deeper and not just put things in first person, but really adopt first person views that utilize special goggles to give you full 180-degree vision. At that point, we won't need flashers and we'll be one step closer to Claudia's apartment.

Thanks to the great guys over at Black Orc for Rutaq's orc logo. Visit them at www.blackorc.com

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