Often, when I ask individuals to think about game development (and which features/mechanics are the trickiest to create or tune), it’s normal for them to respond with those flashy, elaborate, ornate ones that take up the most screen space, or look the raddest.
It’s not daft, though - if you saw a plain Victoria sponge sat beside a seventeen-tier wedding cake, it stands to reason that you’d also think the latter would’ve been harder to make.
But, contrary to this belief, some of the things you’ll try to make in game development which take the most time and effort... are actually the simplest, the most unassuming, the most basic.
Take, for example, a cool-looking super move where the camera pulls away from the player’s control, and you see the protagonist doing a 100-hit turbo-combo. Looks complex, right?
Well, it’s actually simpler than regular combat - it’s a canned animation, it takes place independent of in-game systems/physics, and you don’t need to worry that it looks great from all angles, because the camera’s in the same place each time you pull it off.
Sometimes, the trickiest things to make... are the things that appear the simplest, and vice-versa.
10. A Camera That Follows The Player
Why is the camera trapped in a wall? Why is it lagging behind? How hard can it be to just... make the camera follow me? Lazy devs!
Well, the truth is... it’s one of the hardest things to manage, in a third-person game.
For starters, how far away should the camera follow behind? If it’s far away, then... how far away, and why? If it’s far away, is your game world large enough to allow free camera movement (or will it snag on the extremities of the game world)? If you need to restrict camera movement... how much?
Camera designers know it’s a nightmare when the camera mashes back into a wall when you back up into it, or flies inside the player as it tries to find a spot to sit. But what’s the alternative? Have the camera disable its collision and just... fly through the wall, exposing the ugly backfaces of the world the devs didn’t want you to see? Or create a completely unique asset for that purpose, which might make the whole thing more confusing overall?
It’s not just as simple as “design a consistently-following camera”. It’s gameplay design, it’s level design, it’s... it’s just goddamned everything.