Posts Tagged ‘sketch’

Lights on the ‘Camera Action’ :D

Friday, June 4th, 2010

So I asked on twitter if there was anything folks wanted covered on the devblog and @tyronehenrie mentioned the camera. Seeing as it’s an interesting topic (I think anyway ^_^) and it’s the thing I’ve spent the most time on, here’s the post 😀

The main design issue with the camera, is that it is actually two cameras, one for mouse users, and one for gamepad users, and it has to be able to tell which is being used at any time and behave accordingly.

A little ranting first…

I’ll take this oppertunity to justify why Sarah’s Run supports a gamepad even though it’s only going to be released on Windows and OS X (for the forseeable future anyway).  The reason is for most games, gamepads are simply better. look at your keyboard, thats for writing. Now look at a gamepad, that’s for playing games. Now look back at me, I was inspired during the games early development by console platformers that never really worked on PC very, gamepads worked well for them.

So I know going in that this type of game traditionally suits gamepad best, the buttons are all within reach, analog control is wonderful etc, its all good. But I also know no matter how much a beg, no more than 25% of PC gamers will have gamepads and even then plenty of those will be at the bottom of some box tangled up with other random things and wont get used anyway. I have to make the game feel good on PC, and this isn’t just some port of a console game to squeeze a few extra bucks, this is a PC game; the controls have to feel good on PC, and the camera is a very (if not the most) important part of that in a game like this. The camera is the player’s eyes into the world after all, few people want to be without their eyes.

The quest for a good camera!

The first thing I did was to look around for platformers with good camera control on PC; I gave up pretty fast, 3D platformers on PC for the most part suck pretty damn hard. So plan B then, what really works on PCs? the mouse is a super good input device after all.

The answer is obvious really, first person shooters have a pretty standard control set and behaviour, plus it drops onto Sarah’s abilities pretty cleanly. (it’s mostly running and jumping after all)

So what’s the difference between the camera’s mouse control and gamepad control, and how did I get them to work? I’ll start off with:

1. Gamepad Camera

The code that drives the camera can pretty much be described in two steps:

  1. Position the camera at the center of its orbit (where it’s looking at, AKA Sarah)
  2. Translate the camera backwards

This keeps Sarah in the center of the camera’s view and a constant distance from the camera, and we can get different behaviour by doing extra stuff around these steps.

For the gamepad behaviour, we want the camera to ‘follow’ Sarah, so if she moves left relative to the camera, the camera turns left to see where Sarah is going.  much like in this diagram:

This behaviour is pretty standard for most all platforming games (even on PC, which I think is why most 3D platforming sucks… more on that further down). here’s how I go about doing it;

First of all, before positioning the camera at it’s target (Sarah), we make the camera look at it’s target.

This way, when we translate the camera back, the angle it’s looking at is different (if the player has moved) and it wil be looking more in the direction the player is moving. This process will be repeated each timestep and gradually the camera will pull behind the player.

I think this is the ideal behaviour for the camera, as it is showing where Sarah is going, she is always on the screen, and I even have the camera favour looking down a little, all so you can see where she is standing and you will almost always see what is relevant to the immediate platforming around Sarah. If there is a pit you likely wont miss it, if there is a gap you can best judge how wide it is.

But the player can control the camera too of course, that step comes after positioning the camera at it’s target and before translating it backwards, we just rotate the camera by however much the right stick is tilting. This way the camera orbits Sarah however the player likes. Plus we stop doing things like the camera favouring looking down when the player is directly controlling the camera; it’s not just that they might be wanting to look up, but if the player is changing the camera odds are it means they aren’t happy with where it is at the moment. So it’s not wise to impair the players control.

and that brings us to…

2. Mouse Camera

As I mentioned before, even on PC most platforming games have a camera that tries to follow the player character and look in the direction they are moving, this is frankly an asshat’s move and here’s why:

On a gamepad, if the camera turns a little and you want to keep moving in the same direction you just alter your input on the analog stick a little, it’s smooth, it feels natural.

On PC, if the camera turns a little, you have no analog input, you have four buttons, thats Eight directions total. When movement it relative to the camera, when the camera changes, all your buttons change. You can’t ease from one to the other really and you either end up running in a squiggly line or falling off the edge you were trying to avoid, or both. All because the camera changed.

We can keep our analog control by giving the player complete control of the camera with the mouse (the analog input on a PC), and because movement is relative to the camera, we can still weave in nice curves by running and steering with the mouse, just like in an FPS.

In practice, making the camera work this way is really just a case of taking the gamepad behaviour (look at target, position at target, rotate, translate back) and removing the first bit (look at target).

Like this, when you are pressing left, so long as the player doesn’t change the camera, left will always go left. And if the camera is changed, it’s because the player wants left to be some other direction within the game world.

Seeing as I’ve gone on long enough…

That’s pretty much it, we have both ways the camera can behave, and if the game detects no mouse movement for a while, it eases into gamepad camera behaviour. Overall I’d say it feels pretty good, and it certainly took a while to get it to the point where people didn’t complain about it when playing. Which is understandable, when the player’s control over something in a game feels bad, the game feels bad. And in this game, the camera is as important to control as the player character; the look is as needed as the leap so to speak 🙂

That’s not all there is to the camera though, for example the way sarah can run up walls gave me endless headaches for getting camera behaviour right (it still presents issues from time to time, but the number is always going down!) I think thats enough for today though. I probably went into way more detail than anyone wanted anyway. ^_^

Development Log catchup

Friday, May 7th, 2010

I thought seeing as this development blog is starting after already a lot of development I’d play catchup and go over the story of Sarah’s Run development so far:

ok then, where to start… how about the BEGINNING!? 😀

its February 28th 2010, and I’m working on my game Phantasmal, things are going pretty well, but I like to take breaks every now and then to keep my work feeling fresh, so I do a doodle with the thought: “what if Mario and Peaches actually had sex”

Super Maria, in all her potentially copyright infringing glory was how I met Sarah

Ok, so its a pretty cool doodle, time to get back to my main project… but wouldnt it be cool if I made a 3D model of this character, I do need practice making models from my concepts after all, thats some skills that will help me make phantasmal too!

I made a model, unwrapped her, might as well paint her next...

pretty good, one of my better models and textures I think...

Pretty good, one of my better models and textures I think...

ok, not bad for a days work, tommorow surely I’ll be all fired up to work on Phantasmal some more!

but tommorow came, and I found myself thinking… well what good is the model if it isn’t rigged and animated, and maybe if I do that, I can drop it into the phantasmal engine and maybe tweak it a little to play like super mario, just for fun. but these ideas were just passing thoughts, surely…

oops... she's animated...

...well I guess I made a super maria version of phantasmal after all >__>

So it turns out I kind of had already taken 2 days off phantasmal and  I already had the begginings of what felt like a pretty solid platformer and a cool looking character. (this version is playable here by the way)

the next day I just feel its probably best to work on this game some more, it shouldnt take me too long to finish after all… but by the end of the day (after adding moving platforms and conveyor belts) I make the following tweet:

“things that are good but actually make me want to kill myself #1:
something I’ve spent 3 days on is way more fun than my main project”

and thats the point where phantasmal takes a backseat, at heart I want to make the best games I can, and besides, the last time I stopped working on on Phantasmal to do another project, it went down pretty well.

so with my resolve to take on super maria, and the desire to make a new Mario/Sonic/Crash/Spyro type game that doesen’t suck.

First off I spend some time playing around with effects I could use for a power up/invincible mode.

doesn't have a purpose yet, but an effect this cool? I'll find a place for it!

next thing I do is see if I cant get ‘Maria’ to stand at an angle on slopes like mario and sonic do, I always wanted to see if I could pull that off, and it turns out I can, but ‘standing’ on slopes is no fun on its own, you gotta be able to run along them too. though I hadn’t quite thought “check that the slope isnt too steep to stand on”. I had a build where I could run up near vertical surfaces, and that got me thinking, and then tinkering:

Con: Quitting work on phantasmal to make a game about fucking with gravity is somewhere I've been before


Here’s a game design tip for you; if any of your pro list items contain ‘holyfuckawesome’ your con list doesent matter.

so that was it, running up walls is cool, and it turns out if you limit the ability some it can make for a pretty interesting navigational and puzzle mechanic. I spent the rest of march pretty much planning how levels in the game could work and how I could put them together quickly. I even put together a test preview with five levels which was pretty well recieved by my friends and internet lovers, and worked with my e-brother Logan on an original story, title and name for the character so I wouldnt get hit in a drive by from a Nintendo van.

"Green Hill Zone called, they want their textures back" - I find checker textures are perfect during prototyping/early dev

I think that’s us more or less caught up, I’ll make a ‘what is sarah’s run’ post soon and I’ll go into much more exciting detail about design deciscions, coding approaches and stuff in the next few posts. 😀