3 Reasons for 3rd-Person

The concept phase for a videogame is turning out to be a much larger and interesting adventure than I expected it to be, even while still completely in the pencil notes phase and have done zero digital work on the game yet. Just pondering at work or while lying on the couch what kinds of features I would like to see in an RPG and how I could implement them into specific game mechanics has been quite revealing. Many things that sound great as general statements in a vacuum can look much less appealing when envisioning them in direct interactions with other systems. In the process, I've been cooling significantly on the idea to make the game a first person open world game. All the reasons I had to abandon the earlier plans for an isometric game with either 2D sprites or a 3D engine still remain in place. But switching to a first person perspective and controls is introducing a lot of issues of its own.

So right now, I am pursuing ideas for a third person 3D game with iso-RPG-style controls again. But with a camera that allows for zooming in and out on the character across a considerable range, rotating the camera 360 degrees around the characters, and tilting the view almost parallel to the ground to look out across the landscape and get views that include the sky.

This screenshot of Kenshi demonstrating what I am talking about.

The first reason is that going with a control and perspective scheme that has everyone as a small figure on the screen allows you to go with a much lower level of detail for all models, without going super stylized, compared to a first-person game in which you get all characters and objects right up to your face when you interact with them. If you want to go for a very artsy or deliberately retro-jank visual style, then a low level of detail works just as fine in first person as well, but I don't think that would be right for me. With smaller models seen from further away, you're more able to let the players fill in the finer details with their unconscious imagination. I feel that it also allows you to be more suggestive with your models without getting too gratuitous. I have a great love for 70s Sword & Sorcery aesthetics, but I think both the sauciness and gore would work much better if they are more implied than shown close up in detail.

Which brings me to my second and main reason that an iso-RPG or RTS style control scheme puts the player into a more detached position from the game. First person is an excellent choice when you want to go for a high intensity experience, but I think I am much more interested in something that can be played more laid-back and at a lazy pace. Instead of making the players immersed in the moment, I think I want to focus more on giving them time to think about the events and the world. One way to describe it would be that I want to aim for a play experience that is more similar to reading a book than watching a movie. The detachment that comes with zoomed-out third person feels like a good use towards that goal for me.

The final important reason for setting up the way players control characters like this is that I do have a second idea for a different space-opera game, and that one definitely would have a control scheme like this. I think that applying the same method for this Sword & Sorcery game will result in more skills and more assets that would be reusable if I want to pursue that game idea at a later point or realize that the current game concept is a dead end. I admit this point is not a good reason why I these kinds of controls and perspective are the right option for this game. But it seems like a very strong reason for why this would be a sensible choice for me as a learning and still experimenting designer.