Peripheral Vision

August 20, 2009

Update 4th October 2009: Just a quick mention that I’ve spotted a small flaw in this since I posted it, I’d overlooked the fact that the first person view does actually tend to have a little bit of curvature around the sides of the viewpoint, none-the-less I still hold to my viewpoint that those curved sides could have their reach extended to create the affect described below…

In  First Person Shooters, the players viewpoint does not take into account the peripheral view range of a typical human, who can normally see left/right across a range of more than 180 degrees.

As such, any game which involves situational awareness but locks itself into the first person viewpoint encounters a limitation that forces the player to consistently look around, when in actuality a normal human should not need to do this to the same extent.

Often, this limitation will be corrected for by including a mini map in the game, which represents some limited information on the environment and the relative positions of the player and any opponents and allies in a location. This is insufficient to account for the limited viewpoint problem because really its more of a solution for a different problem, that of aiding teamwork or assessing the number of enemies on a 2d flat plane instead of a full 3d view of events in the players current location (Alternatively you could use 3rd person view, however this is an aesthetic choice that not all players will be comfortable with).

Additionally, you can often end up with a situation where the player focuses on the minimap more than the actual on screen 3D events or alternatively, in an information overload situation, where the player is having to watch the minimap, the main 3D view, the health information, a toolbar, and so on; all at the same time – The minimap could be the straw that breaks the camels back.

Imagine, instead that the left and right-most 10% of the screen is actually split up into 5 instances of rendered view. At these segments, each segment that is further from straight ahead (0 degrees) is an additional 20 degrees from the forward view. The result would be 11 instances of the rendered view, with the central 80% looking straight ahead whilst the left and right edges of the screen would wrap around to simulate the peripheral vision of the player character.

Usage

A system such as this would be useful in reducing the necessity of a tactical minimap whilst still giving the player a wide view of events happening in game.

Alternatively, this might be particularly effective in a horror game where the monsters have a curious habit of attacking the player from the sides (Even when they run towards the player from behind), giving the player a (Small) chance to go through a sequence of sight, fright & reaction rather than just suddenly getting hit by an attack without even having a chance to respond to it (This may have been why I disliked Doom 3 so much, for example).

Potential Issues

Whilst some games have successfully implemented multiple views on a single screen simultaeneously, its pretty rare, no doubt because of the difficulty of running multiple instances of the 3d renderer together. To the best of my knowledge, it has never been done on the scale of running 11 instances of a 3D renderer at the same time. Indeed, there is some question as to whether a setup like this would run at all without taxing older graphics cards beyond breaking point, some version of the concept may have been prototyped elsewhere and abandoned as unfeaseable (Though it may have been some time ago).

There are potential usage issues, a view setup such as this may be nauseating to some users and testing would be necessary to ensure this is not the case. On the other hand, if the system does create merely a sense of unease then this might make the concept even more well suited to a horror game.

The actual implementation itself could prove to be awkward as each segment of the wrap around effect would need to link to eachother perfectly, though there is the possibility that a single line of grey pixels could fake the interior edges of a helmet with glass/perspex visor to reduce the potential impact of that problem.

Lastly, there is some question as to how well the system would react to different screen resolutions and the interchange thereof.

None-the-less, if this were to be implemented, especially for a horror game, it could set a new benchmark for first person shooting.

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