I decided to put up a post regarding the subject of 3rd person perspective, what a wild ride this subject has been. The story starts more than 2 years ago when full time development was just about to begin on MWO. Here I was probably the most outspoken 3PV hater in the entire office. I have never enjoyed many 3rd person games and was very passionate about the true MechWarrior experience being one played and viewed from the first person. I very conveniently ignored all the data that pointed to any other “truths” including a visit to our office by Jordan Weisman where he shared with us that with past MW products they found that around 50% of players played from 3rd person. Often people in an office will take on opposite roles for the sake of argument in challenging each other in an effort to find the best design and balance. During this time Bryan Ekman our creative director was taking the role of stating that 3rd person had value and the past MW products had it etc etc. While I continued my bullish approach to try and keep MWO a first person experience only. There was always nonstop communication in the office on how we could help explain the movement mechanics to new users. Small holograms on the HUD of your mech and countless other ideas all meant to show a new player that your mech behaved like a tank with a torso the number one confusion to new players.
Let’s skip ahead to E3 2012 and the first time MWO was playable by the public, I got a real rude awakening. I watched hundreds of players walk up to a computer and immediately become confused as they were unaware that even though the pathway before them looked clear and open they were actually running on the spot because there legs were running into a building while there torso was facing a different direction. It was shocking to me how little time people stayed to try and figure out what was going on, mere seconds and they were walking away. This was the beginning of my personal turn around on the subject but I remained steadfast for several more months and I think it was after GDC online in Austin where at an evening meal with Bryan the subject came up again. I was stubbornly offering all of these great little incremental ideas for what we could add to the HUD or the cockpit to explain to players, but even as I was saying them the passion had left me, I knew in my heart that people did not give you enough time for those to work. I think it was at that time that Bryan just looked at me and said “If you want to fix all of that confusion you just need to do one thing” then he gave the dramatic pause and I might have asked briskly “What!?” his reply of course was “put in a 3rd person camera, they will instantly get it”. I knew immediately he was right.
What’s funny is that at this point is that the biggest 3rd person hater in the office became a crusader for putting a 3rd person camera into the game. This was met with more than a little concern both internally and of course in the community around what this meant for MWO and how it might change it. I was personally concerned about the ability to look around corners and how it might dumb down the experience. Right around this time the designers were tasked with creating a 3rd person perspective that provided no tactical advantage yet allowed new players to be able to see their mech turn and rotate as they provided input to the controls. In essence we wanted to help new players learn how to play MWO but also make it so that the more and more time a person played MWO and the better player they became they more time they would spend in first person and perhaps get to the point where they played entirely in the first person. The first version going live soon might not have hit this 100% perfectly but from what I have seen I think it has come close. All the current players of the game are almost certainly going to stay in first person; the new 3rd person camera will provide no advantage to them other then perhaps the added bonus of being able to look at your own cool paint job. At this point there will be some that will point out to a screen shot here or there where the 3rd person view shows a view of an enemy mech that they would not have been able to see in first person. But remember that you have the drone floating over your head, so they likely know your there too and we will continue to tweak the mode by playing with how long transition between first and person takes among other things.
There is one real world example I have seen very recently with my son who is turning 12 in the fall. Now he has mainly been a Nintendo Wii lego games player so he isn’t that great at PC controls overall. But I sat him down to MWO really for the first time last week and the first thing he said to me was “how do you make it so you can see your mech?” of course I told him that you could not do that yet and got him playing. His struggles to understand his torso etc was quite obvious and he struggled quite a bit and became fairly frustrated at times. Yes he is only 11 and doesn’t have much experience so this was exacerbating the situation however it was telling. The next day the 3rd person perspective was in public test and I set him up to play it. His mech movement was instantly at least 3 or 4 times better as he could actually circle strafe a target and apply a little damage. He was still a noob and by no means started dominating matches but the understanding of how to control his mech and get into the fight was night and day.
So to my fellow 3rd person haters out there, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. Like me you will come to the realization that just adding a 3rd person option is not going to change the fact that MWO is a core MechWarrior experience. Remember that 3rd person is primarily for teaching new players all the unique MechWarrior play mechanics and there are limitations in HUD and otherwise that will slowly migrate players into the cockpit the more experienced they get. Be happy that this will hopefully continue to bring and convert lots more players into the great MechWarrior universe we all love so much. I know many of you will simply take the stance that if these new players are too dumb to jump in and learn the MechWarrior controls as they are in first person then screw them we don’t want them etc. As developers we cannot afford to take this stance, the current MechWarrior community is amazing but if you and I want to be player MWO 2,3,4 even 7+ years from now with a continually growing overarching community warfare ( the kind that would fulfill all of our MechWarrior dreams of years past ) we need to train an entirely new generation of MechWarrior players. Hey it’s an option! J play first person and do what you can help those noobies learn the ropes and eventually join you in playing first person as a great pilot in MWO.
As always it is really hard to predict the future so at some point this post will probably come back to haunt me but it represents our best understanding at this time.
President - Piranha Games Inc.
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