Although I wrote this piece moments after finishing Seeing in the Dark they are not really connected. One of the reason I prefer science fiction or non-reality FPS games is because it gives developers a chance to experiment with the player’s perception. Unlike a World War 2 game, they don’t have to make everything look as realistic as possible. Whilst having the latest engine certainly enhances the appeal there could be so much more than just graphics.
I believe that this particular subject has many interesting areas that could be addressed, but for this post I want to focus on vision. Without getting scientific let’s look at how humans see. We have a broad range of spectrum perception and movement causes little problem. Our main obvious limitation is distance. We marvel at how an eagle can spot a mouse at almost a mile away, whilst we sometimes struggle to see the number of the buses we are just about to miss!
So, with computer games we have an opportunity to have some fun, try something new and wacky, but do we? No, not very often. I love the effect in the Painkiller demo where you vision is suddenly enhanced. I want to see more stuff like this.
As an exercise in creativity let us assume your playing character either loses his sight temporarily (That’s got to be a unique idea in a FPS game: a blind playing character) and we have to replace his vision with something to help him perceive the world around him. Clearly this wouldn’t be done on a level with anything visually spectacular, unless the alternative is even better! Anyway, on with the exercise, I’m going to list a few ideas that could replace normal human vision and will update this post if and when I get any new ideas. Any ideas submitted by PP readers will be added to the main list to make it easier for other readers to view. Credit will of course be given.
Some games use this already, especially the military style ones. It might be nice to see a few variations on this theme.
I think I’m correct in saying that snakes only really see things that move (put aside the tongue for a moment). Maybe this could be combined with sound. A fast moving object emits a roaring noise and a slow moving object has more of a gentle hiss to it.
Imagine being able to perceive energy. I don’t simply mean see electricity like a spark but the energy as it runs through a cable of the way light bounces off walls etc. Somehow being able to see kinetic energy stored in a spring or lose girder that is about to fall. This idea really excites me because it’s almost beyond our imagination. NOTE: It was only after writing this that I realised this may have been done in Matrix Revolutions with Neo being able to see the bright energy. I’m not convinced this is what I have in mind. I’ll ponder on this point a bit more./li>
Yes, boring old radar! The player emits a pulse of some sort and the type of pulse determines the types of things seen. In my mind’s eye I see something like the Matrix of numbers representing solid objects. Some pulses would make his presence known to the enemy (Sound perhaps) and others would be invisible. A balance would need to be used between detection and information gained.
Similar to radar but instead of a visual representation of the surrounds we just have better range and quality of perception. I see one option as working like this. In whatever direction we a facing then every ten seconds our sound perception focuses on ten metres further in front of us. When we move again it starts at our face and moves outward. Remember this is just a quick idea off the top of my head so maybe it’s not so good but that’s what this exercise is for: to try and think outside the box!
We can generally see what a material is made of by looking at it, but what if everything seemed different based entirely on its composition. Steel and Silver would ot be represented by a shiny silver surface but by something else, maybe the way the molecules are tied together or the different amounts of atoms etc.
Clearly we are limited in what we can represent because currently that representation has to be via the screen or the speakers. However perhaps more use could be made of 5.1 sound with different tones and length of notes representing solidity or construction. I suppose there’s also scope for the use of Force Feedback but since most players use a mouse it’s hard to see any real benefit.
I’ve really only touched upon the visual representation of information and the opportunity is probably only limited by our imagination. To give you some idea of what I’m talking about here is another ideas about perception.
Imagine being able to “see” into the future. Not a new idea but now think what that would be like if we had little control over how far into the future we saw and when those visions appeared. You are playing a game and suddenly the screen changes to ten seconds in the future and your character is dead. Do you continue running forwards or stop? Is it the running or stopping that causes you to die? Now imagine that these visions are mixed with the past and the place you are in is very symmetrical and your position doesn’t always give you a clue to the time frame. I think you get the picture, in the correct situation and game this “perception” could make an interesting addition to a game’s feature set.
The ball’s in your court, let’s see what you can come up with.