Third-Person Views

From gdp3
Jump to: navigation, search

Presentations of game worlds focused upon specific entities in those game worlds and change in relation to the entities' movement and not from the perception of a diegetic agent.

Games that want to visually present game worlds to their players can do this in several ways. Third-Person Views are visual presentations of game worlds which are locked to a specific game entity and in some way or another follows this entity as it moves.


Scrolling games such as 1942, Commando, Paper boy, and Zaxxon all have Third-Person Views in that the background move as players move through the games. They are however weak examples since the game entities under the players' control can move around within the screen space available.

Computer-based Racing Games such as F-Zero, Need for Speed and Wipeout series are often played in either first-person or Third-Person Views. The Grand Theft Auto, Tomb Raider, Super Mario, and Legend of Zelda series are primarily played in Third-Person Views but sometimes introduce first-person views for specific actions.

Games that general allow players to pan over the entire game worlds, like Command and Conquer series, Sims, and Warcraft series typically also allow players' views to follow selected avatars or units. This means that players do not have to consciously move their viewpoints simply to continue to have these in focus as they are moving about in the game environments performing various actions.

Games that usually provide first-person views sometimes change to third-person views to provide killcams. In single-player games like the Fallout series, this is to highlight noteworthy shots while in multiplayer games such as the later installments of the Battlefield series they are a way of pointing out the positions of the killers.

Using the pattern

Third-Person Views consist of views created by a Camera that is locked onto a specific game entity in a Game World. The need for a Game World to be present from a location in game space without any diegetic elements facilitating that view typically requires Mediated Gameplay provided by Dedicated Game Facilitators (and even these cannot provide the necessary functionality in Live Action Roleplaying). Designing Third-Person Views consist primarily of selecting what game entities should be followed and what type of relation between these entities and their Cameras should be maintained; see the Cameras and Killcams patterns for different types of relations or "shots". The following assumes that Third-Person Views are presented during active gameplay, but they can also be used for Cutscenes. While Third-Person Views most often lock on to Avatars or Units, the Killcams pattern shows the bullets can also be used.

Third-Person Views are not directly compatible with God Views and First-Person Views, although Third-Person Views may occur occasionally through reflections and recordings in games with First-Person Views, e.g. through mirror or surveillance devices that provide Picture-in-Picture Views. However, as long as gameplay balance or Surprises are not disrupted, it is quite common for games to allow players to switch between First-Person Views and Third-Person Views; examples of games that allow this include the Need for Speed series and the Elder Scrolls series. Third-Person Views can also be used to help position players by locking onto selected Focus Loci in games; this is done in games with God Views where players have choices exist on which Focus Loci to use. Some games that mainly use Third-Person Views replace this with First-Person Views for certain Aim & Shoot actions. Examples of games that do this include The Legend of Zelda series and the Grand Theft Auto series. In contrast, games with First-Person Views may introduce Third-Person Views when showing Killcams or Cutscenes.

Games with Third-Person Views that require Imperfect Information about parts of Game Worlds not currently under diegetic observation must either use Fog of War or divide gameplay areas into smaller sections. Like other presentation styles, Third-Person Views can make use of Point of Interest Indicators and Vision Modes to provide Diegetically Outstanding Features. This is however used more rarely to create Player/Character Skill Composites or imply Characters than when used with First-Person Views since players are more detached from the entities they are following.

Most of the above is assuming that Third-Person Views are used to present players with views of Game Worlds. When they instead are used to used to create Public Information, e.g. to support Spectators, they allow Spatial Engrossment and Teams or individual players to be followed (even if it is often possible to switch which player is watched). In this use they also offer more of a Game State Overview than First-Person Views but less than God Views.

Diegetic Aspects

Third-Person Views is an Diegetic Pattern.

Interface Aspects

Designing Third-Person Views should be done in relation to the intended Focus Loci of a game since these can dependencies between each other. Especially when players can cycle between different Focus Loci can interface issues become challenging (a simple solution to this can be to have a God View as the basic presentation style and then switch to Third-Person Views when Focus Loci have been selected by a God Finger).

Narrative Aspects

Third-Person Views can have a small effect on Character Defining Actions in that seeing one's own Avatars can remind players that they may have Characters with their own personalities and goals.


Third-Person Views focus the view of Game Worlds around specific Avatars or Units (or possibly small group of Units). This view provides a form of Game State Overviews since the entire surrounding around that game entity is visible to players - and specifically the areas behind the game entity and the game entity itself. Even if this may lead players to have somewhat more information that the Avatars can have, Third-Person Views can support Detective Structures in Game Worlds either by careful positioning of objects or by only showing one limited space at a time (as for example the adventure games in the Police Quest, Leisure Suit Larry, and King's Quest series do).

The visual feedback from performed Movement in Third-Person Views may not be as natural as that in First-Person Views, since turning and rotation is not centered on players' Focus Loci. This may make some types of Dexterity-Based Actions more difficult. Third-Person Views can however still support Spatial Engrossment, especially in "chase-cam" modes or through Killcams, and the better Game State Overviews provided by Third-Person Views (including seeing the relation between Focus Loci and other entities) can make Maneuvering easier than in First-Person Views. This is probably one of the reasons why Racing Games such as the Gran Turismo, Need for Speed, and Sega Rally series allow player to switch between different view modes. However, Aim & Shoot actions do become more difficult since players have to take both the target and shooter positions and movement into account when performing the actions (Auto-Aim can be used to mitigate this effect).

Games that allow players to change from First-Person Views to Third-Person Views and back give players a form of Freedom of Choice.


Can Instantiate

Character Defining Actions, Game State Overviews, Public Information, Spatial Engrossment

with First-Person Views

Freedom of Choice

with Game Worlds

Detective Structures

Can Modulate

Aim & Shoot, Avatars, Dexterity-Based Actions, First-Person Views, Focus Loci, Game Worlds, God Fingers, God Views, Maneuvering, Units

Can Be Instantiated By

Cameras, Cutscenes, Dedicated Game Facilitators, Mediated Gameplay, Killcams, Picture-in-Picture Views

Can Be Modulated By

First-Person Views, Fog of War, Point of Interest Indicators, Vision Modes

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Live Action Roleplaying


An updated version of the pattern Third-Person Views that was part of the original collection in the book Patterns in Game Design[1].


  1. Björk, S. & Holopainen, J. (2004) Patterns in Game Design. Charles River Media. ISBN1-58450-354-8.