Seeing through an avatar.

Michaël Samyn, May 5, 2012

In the exterior, single player part of Bientôt l’été, you control the avatar through pretty standard third person navigation. The main activity in this part is collecting items that are washed up on the shore by the waves. Since these items are on the floor and sometimes quite small, they are not so easy to spot. Especially not if the avatar is obstructing your view. They may see the object, but you don’t because they are standing between you and it.

I would find myself always approaching things sort of sideways, rotating the camera around looking for items on the beach. And then it dawned on me: why don’t I just move the avatar to the side, so they’re not in my line of sight?

I had had this idea before, for the new version of 8. But the reason for using it there is to give the player the feeling that they are with the character, as a different person, symbolically holding her hand. That is not what I want in Bientôt l’été. The man or woman need to really be an avatar for the player, to navigate the holodeck through, not another person.

So I made a compromise.

While you’re walking, the camera slowly moves to the side. You hardly notice it, but it does allow a view of what’s ahead. The only tricky part is to snap the camera’s rotation center back to the avatar when turning around it and changing direction. Otherwise the camera makes annoying off center orbits. But it’s working fine. It adds a slightly spinning, sliding feeling that actually goes well with the dizzying effect of staring at the waves float in over the sand.

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