Being the most over-sensitive beings of the universe, humans are very volatile creatures. Small things like certain camera perspectives in games cause us to lose our minds and hopes for a game while causing enough backlash to force the developers into damage control mode (often for no reason). Such has been the case with Cyberpunk 2077, the details of which were recently revealed. The bomb dropped when a developer announced that the game will be in a first-person perspective and made the internet in my immediate vincinity blow up with people saying: “This is going to be a *Cyberflop*”, “Ew…. I don’t like FPS‘”, as evident from the screenshot below (from a community of the Witcher franchise)
The backlash against the first person perspective really blew my mind (I.e. the amount of people against this decision), considering that sales wise, it is one of the most popular genres on the market. Maybe it’s just the Witcher community reacting like this because they were expecting a third person game, which I feel is unwarranted given how people always keep talking about how “Developers should be given freedom over what they want to create.”
It almost felt like most people have these pre-conceived notions against the First Person Perspective consisting of thoughts like “OK, so it’s a FPS. Basically like Call of Duty” (Yep people have actually said this). When CDPR was questioned by the media- “Why FPS (RPG)?”, they replied that they wanted the game to be more immersive and a first person perspective would help them achieve that. This added more fuel to the the fire with people saying that “Third person is more immersive because the character has peripheral vision while in FPS there is a lack of it” and what not…. You get the gist of it.
You see that’s funny, because the whole immersive sim genre basically resides in the first person sphere of things. Be it renowned titles like- Deus Ex, Dishonored, Prey (2017), Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines; or smaller/cult games like- Neon Struct, Consortium, E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy; all are games with a first person view. Even games that are not strictly immersive sims like- Metroid Prime, Portal, SOMA etc are complemented by the first person format in creating an immersive and atmospheric experience.
Considering that CB2077 is a ‘cyberpunk’ game with lots of explorable buildings (according to an interview with the developers), a first person camera will facilitate the exploration in all kinds of environments since it’ll help the player interact with even the smallest of objects by bringing them in their immediate view. It should come as no surprise that a third person camera is going to hinder the player in such a case.
Anyone who has played Witcher 3 will know the heart wrenching moments of trying to open chests with candles on top of them. In recent times, both Deus Ex games (also cyberpunk-themed, open world FPRPGs) – Human Revolution and Mankind Divided completely support this by having a similar design approach where objects can be moved around to discover paths or items and computers/radios/TVs/smaller objects can often be interacted with.
Let’s not forget that the visual significance of any event in the game is enhanced by a first person perspective. Not implying that a third person camera won’t have a similar level of detail, but the distance between the player and the character due to the camera, creates a divide due to the larger field of view. Let me rephrase that- in a third person camera, the player can see a lot more of the environment surrounding the character while in a first person mode, the player can see only a limited amount of the environment (not going into the whole peripheral vision). By simple logic, a player will be able to focus on smaller details in a first person perspective simply because there is less area to focus on. The same amount of focus gets distributed over a larger area in a third person camera. (or it could be just me)
The first person perspective also feels more ‘up close and personal’ due to everything being in the player’s face- be it shooting, interacting with the environment or looking at NPCs going about their programmed paths. It all feels kind of surrealistic when you are running at top speed and are stopped by an NPC only to have a peek at the entirety of it’s eyeballs.
Talking about eyes, HUD is definitely an integral part of such games. For me personally, the HUD plays a huge role when it comes to immersion, especially in a cyberpunk setting. Looking through the eyes of an augmented person feels right at home when the UI is designed well, again Deus Ex being a good example of how to implement it (I personally prefer the older Deus Ex even if it might feel a bit cluttered). In a first person perspective, it feels (and should feel) like I am viewing the world from the character’s perspective or rather I am the character myself.
Also, we see the real world, and our lives through the prism of the ‘first person’. So there’s that. The immersion level truly feels complete. So, why complain about our games?