Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Relatively directional

Take a look at the video of Dragon Age on the left. More specifically take a look at the Mini-map in the top right hand corner when the camera pans around a character (this happens most after the 45 second mark).

You'll notice that the highlighted field of view changes to reflect where the camera is pointing, but the map itself stays fixed with up as north.

Now take a look at this video of Grand Theft Auto 4 on the right. You'll notice there is no marker indicating where the camera is currently facing, but instead the map itself rotates so that up is forward.

This difference in UI functionality is probably more down to the fact that Dragon Age was developed primarily as a PC game (as opposed to say, Mass Effect) and as such has quite a few similarities with the real time strategy genre (you'll notice in the video above - if you watch it all the way through - that the player pauses to order his troops around the battlefield).

Usually in an RTS game, the mini-map will display up as north, and overlay a marker with the camera's orientation and position.

In the version of the game for 360, the game has been retrofitted to work on a control pad, and for the most part it works fine, but this change means it's closer again to Mass Effect than your typical RTS, played predominately from the 3rd person perspective of your character.
What this means for the mini-map at least is that you'll look on the map for the exit to the room you're currently occupying, see that it is on your left and then get momentarily stumped by the lack of door in the west wall. You then of course realise that it wasn't left but east.

You'll notice for instance, that any good SatNav will display driving instructions in a manner relative to the driver - before Google Navigation, I was stuck with Google Maps, which is a great program, but as the name would imply it is as useful as giving a driver an A-Z with a route drawn out on it's pages. Driving south for instance means that a turn to the west is actually to the right, which is (generally speaking) the opposite of what you expect, convention placing the west to the left.

So, in summary, relativity is king.

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