This semester, I am taking a Systems and Experience Design class all about making game systems revolving around different ideas. For the first project, we were tasked with making a prototype revolving around physicality. As a fan of shooter games, I wanted to create something in that vein but with a unique spin. Playing around with the idea of visibility and spatial awareness, I developed "Self Reflection", a reverse third person shooter!
If you want to check out the full documentation I did on this project, check it out here!
Using a camera position in front of the playable character and a floating mirror that stays at a constant point behind the playable character, I intend to make a third person shooter that creates a separation between what the player can see and what the player is shooting in order to create a fun, fast, and unique experience with a high level of mastery players can achieve.
To learn about limited visibility in games, I looked into how horror games affect the feelings of a player when changing what they can and can not see. While I have no intention of turning the "Self Reflection" system into a horror game, this is the genre above all others that I feel has the most interesting and most impactful examples of limited vision. It makes players feel less comfortable, which is why the prototype is difficult to pick up at first. But unlike in horror games, this discomfort is not an emotional one and is entirely physical. the mirror blocks what they are able to see, but the mirror is showing where they are shooting, therefore giving the player a larger range of vision and removes any sense of unknowing while keeping the immediate area of action limited.
As I did more and more research, I realized that this system is more akin to toying with the player's sense of spatial recognition than it is toying with their visibility. In a 3D environment, players need to have an understanding of the demonstration and the functionality of the game systems. Even if one of those two things is implemented amazingly, without the other, the player will falter and the game will end up feeling frustrating or confusing. Knowing this, I realized that I need to make sure the system makes sense in terms of its functionality and also how it is demonstrated. In other words, I needed to put just as much thought into the feel of the system as I did the technical aspects. I implemented micro-systems to give feedback when the player does something correctly, such as particle effects and sounds when breaking targets, to ensure the player knows what is happening.
All things considered, this system can really be evaluated as a camera system. And if a player is fighting against the camera at all during play, then the system is a failure. Because of the reflection of the world-space in the mirror and how the camera rotation in the mirror is seemingly inverted, I needed to make sure that the camera makes sense to the player and that anything barring the player from being able to interact with the world through the camera must be fixed or eliminated. My best way to do so was by giving the player the option to invert the camera controls. This way, the player is able to move around normally when they choose, and when they focus on aiming through the mirror, they can invert the camera to aim like normal. This does affect the movement, but the intention of the prototype was to make a system that creates a separation between movement and aiming through the unique camera system that still felt good to the player.
When I presented this game to my class, it became one of the central parts of the class period! People kept on wanting to replay the game in order to get the best time possible. The camera was not an impediment outside of being something to get used to, and the players noted that it was something that they got better at over time.
The prototype was so much of a success that people started competing against one another to get the best scores possible! By the end, some classmates were reaching scores of above 13 seconds remaining, meaning that they managed to destroy all 5 targets in under 7 seconds. And while it was happening, there was a crowd of my peers waiting to see if anyone could beat the top score!
The prototype was a success! There was one thing I wish I had done, that being I wish I could have implemented moving targets; many players did not use the inversion mechanic, which I believe is because all of the targets were stationary, and aiming against those was simple enough without using the inversion. But everything else was incredibly enjoyable, and many people want to see how the prototype continues if I choose to develop it further (which I think I am going to!).