As part of my Games of 2014, I mentioned Lucky’s Tale. I explained that it was the only Occulus Rift game that I had played, and that it had a third-person camera. The film American Sniper also has a third person camera; most films do you know. One scene in that – a hunting scene right near the beginning – immediately had me thinking of the Occulus. Why? Because my head was bobbing and turning around trying to follow the characters and the camera followed slightly behind.
The brilliantly-made and shot film of hours of terrible things happening to US soldiers in Iraq – which was taken as a clear endorsement of the war by many critics; a fact that disturbs me – soon kept me from thoughts of computer games, but now I sit down to blog and remember it.
The fact that something that I’d celebrate a director for, the camera going where I want it to go and how I want it to move, is accomplished naturally by the Occulus Rift seems to be a good thing. However,there is always the risk that what is commonplace will begin to feel common, but is that how computer games work? After all, we’re still wowwing at incremental graphical improvements or the smoothness of Mario’s control.
It seems to me that the issue for this being a push forward games as feeling like cinematic experiences – with the camera working on spontaneous instinct, rather than calculated and stilted manual control or ignorant automatic changes – is the ability for third person games on the Occulus Rift to work. Lucky’s Tale’s developers said that for third person to work the characters have to very small. That doesn’t work for cinematics. I played it, I never thought Lucky was small, I felt I was huge. If I’m not alone then the Occulus is a big step forward. If most feel like they’re playing with small toy-like creatures then it might not.
However, Pixar faced limitations of what they could do with computer animations – like we have in computer games, non-humans work better – and they managed to make a film beloved by many; not me though. Now, humans play a much bigger role in computer-animated features. Not because humans in a computer-animated film look more like humans – at least it doesn’t look that way to me – but because we’ve gotten used to it. Thus, even if my dreams of cinematic VR experience don’t come at once, I’m sure people will be able to experience it eventually.