In LexyMUD, I use a fairly simple (read: lazy) technique to indicate what direction a character is facing: I rotate their icon in intervals of 45 degrees. Okay, so it's kind of obvious. The twist, for those of you who haven't seen LexyMUD, is that most of the icons are drawn from the front... what you see if a character is facing south in one of the Final Fantasy-style games. This results in a perspective that at first strikes many gamers' eyes as being skewed. One tester even went so far as to say, "Oh, I guess your icons aren't finished yet." Others, though, seemed to like it... one noted that it was a very intuitive way of figuring out where you're facing, and that if a bunch of characters got together in a huddle, anyone looking at the screen would immediately know what was going on. Although the rotation scheme was born of frustration and laziness, I tend to agree. It is simple, but its very simplicity is beautiful. I'd like to know what others think, though.
Before anyone jumps in and says, "No way, I need realism and detail," I'd like to point out a few things. For one, ANY time you can see a character's face in an overhead or bird's eye view, something is wrong. For the FF four-direction icon perspectives to hold true, you would have to be standing to the south of the hero, but you're viewing the map around the hero as if from above. In Zelda, you again view Link as if you're standing to his south, but you see the map and some (but not all) of the monsters as if looking down from above. Your mind is able to sort through these contradictory images (it is, after all, actually looking at a 2D screen... any perspective you see is only there because you're forcing it to be there), and you are able to enjoy the game.
There will always be people, I know, that will say, "Give me realism. Give me detail. If you don't have 87 frames of animation and 360 individually rendered degrees of rotation, you shouldn't even bother making a game because I won't be able to accept it as real." These people, in my mind, shouldn't be playing RPGs, where the biggest prerequisite is -imagination-. On the other extreme, it's been noted elsewhere on this forum that having any graphics at all limits the imagination. I don't think that's true... I think graphics allow us to limit our imagination ourselves, and we, being basically lazy creatures (laziness started this thread, after all), take advantage of that. On some levels, I think simple, iconic graphics give players more opportunity to jump into the game and imagine themselves there, because they, not me the designer, are the ones painting the textures on the walls.
What does everyone else think, re: perspectives, graphics, and/or imagination?
May 26 2001, 9:05 am