Abstract game entities that provide view points of game worlds.
Games with game worlds need to present them in some fashion. Unless given from the perspective of a diegetic character, these views are from specific points in space of the game worlds. Cameras are used to describe the abstract entities that can be said to be located in these points, and the functionality of these can allow the points to move according to game events or player actions.
Strategy Games such as the Civilization series and the Starcraft series allow the players to move cameras across entire game worlds but the position of the game elements, and in many cases not even the terrain, is typically not revealed. God Games, in contrast, allow players to have a complete view of the area that is being viewed. In real-time games, players may however set the Cameras to follow avatars or units as they move.
The Mario Kart, Super Mario, Tomb Raider, and Uncharted series games all make use of Cameras to provide third-person views during gameplay. Super Mario 64 provides an exception to the rule that Cameras are abstract objects that are not explained within the game world: although not affected by events in the game world, the Camera, and the Lakitu character carrying it, can be seen in mirrors. Another minor exception is the Camera in the party game Monkey Boxing in Super Monkey Ball 2. This Camera can be hit during the celebration scene when one of the monkeys has won the game.
First-Person Shooters do not use Cameras as the main way of presenting gameplay to players, but can do so for spectators; and the Battlefield series and later installments of the Fallout series use Killcams to present third-person views of noteworthy kills.
Using the pattern
Cameras are used in games to create both Third-Person Views and God Views, and which of this should be supported is a fundamental choice for using the pattern. They can also be used in the Third-Person Views possible in First-Person Views through Picture-in-Picture Views. Depending on which is supported, Cameras can be differently good at providing Surprises, Tension, and Detective Structures. Dedicated Game Facilitators are needed in both cases to generate the presentation from positions containing no game entities (although players of Board Games or Miniature Games can partly get the same results simply by positioning themselves). In the following, the pattern assumes that visual presentations will be created but Game Masters can provide Camera functionality through oral descriptions and text-based Adventure Games through textual descriptions.
There are a number of different types of views Cameras can support. Two generic examples are over the shoulder views, which show game entities from above slightly to the side, and overhead views, which provide excellent relations to the surroundings but which offers little information about focused game entities since they look direct down on them. Both these can be modified by either linking the movement of the Camera to the movement of game entities or locking the Camera to a position relative to the environment (in effect choosing between a Third Person View and a God View). Some Camera views are specific to Third-Person Views. Chase-cams follows behind game entities as they move to convey the sense of movement while fly-by views lock Camera positions while tracing the movement of a moving game entity (this view can also be provided by First-Person Views). Killcams, which shows Replays of deaths in games, can make use of either of these two options. Point of Interest Indicators are ways for games to take control of where Cameras are pointed to show players locations in Game Worlds that are important-
Cameras is an Diegetic Pattern.
Cameras is an Interface Pattern. The choices related to Cameras are usually linked to the choice of Focus Loci in a games; those with Avatars mainly use Third-Person Views, while games with God Fingers or Units mainly use God Views. Exceptions are however quite common, especially to temporarily provide a different view to highlight events or make certain activities easier. While designing Cameras, it may be feasible to consider if Vision Modes are to be used in a game or not.
Players can also be given a Freedom of Choice to manipulate Camera in several ways: by modify them the positioning slightly, by being able to switch between different Camera modes, or being able to move the Camera freely with certain distances from the entities followed. Making the decision to allow players to control Cameras require additional decisions to be made concerning what Extra-Game Actions related to Cameras should be provided: commonly panning, rotating, and zooming for God Views and rotating and zooming for Third-Person Views.
Cameras provide players with views of Game Worlds, and ones that can be manipulated by players to allow them a Freedom of Choice in what parts of the Game Worlds they want to focus their attention on at the cost of having to perform Extra-Game Actions. By doing so, Cameras offers a way of controlling how Mediated Gameplay occurs in a game.
Game State Overviews are supported by Cameras both when they are used for God Views and Third-Person Views since in both cases players can observe Game Worlds with better views than any specific game element (for Third-Person Views a large part of this can be simply to see the entity tracked). The ease of using Cameras, decides in a great extent how much games help players perform Attention Swapping - if controlling Cameras is non-trivial during gameplay this adds requirements to perform Dexterity-Based Actions during gameplay.
In games with Avatars, Cameras are typically limited in such a way that they are always in the center of players' views (but see the Sims series for an exception). This maintains the symmetry between what Avatars and players sees so that Tension and Surprises can be achieved and also to strengthen Spatial Engrossment. In games with Units, Camera movement is often completely free to allow the players to move between different game elements and to force them to make Trade-Offs between which parts of Game Worlds to focus their attention on.
Cameras have a fundamental conflict with Diegetic Consistency since they are incorporeal entities and present players with views that no diegetic entity currently has and possibly never could have.
Can Be Instantiated By
Can Be Modulated By
Possible Closure Effects
Potentially Conflicting With
An updated version of the pattern Cameras that was part of the original collection in the book Patterns in Game Design.
- Björk, S. & Holopainen, J. (2004) Patterns in Game Design. Charles River Media. ISBN1-58450-354-8.