BB30: EVE Online Director Mode

EVE is beautiful and with Crucible's additional art, it is only going to get more so. We are about to be plunged into a universe of stunning nebulae, pulsating warp tunnels and criss-crossing inaccurate weapons fire.

Even now, prior to the incoming visual improvements, I often find myself attempting to find the perfect camera angle to admire a new ship or to orchestrate that perfect flyby shot. During combat I try to find the ideal camera perch from which to enjoy the action.

But alas, even with to so-called 'advanced camera options'* the viewing controls are limited. With some effort, it is possible to engineer some vaguely cinematic angles using the 'set as parent/interest' options. Also, use of the right mouse button does allow some additional rotational control, but this rubber-bands on release of the button and is essentially only a 'quick glance' function. [On a related note: Exploding ships, please let the camera linger on them rather than home back immediately.]

The existing camera interface could be vastly improved with only some minor control tweaks. The simple functionality of being able to anchor the camera to a specific point and direction would allow a multitude of functions. These could be provided as defaults or the player could simply be given the toolset to make custom camera anchors if this would reduce development demands.

The following are examples of what could be possible.

Static Ship Viewpoints
[eg. CNC Deck, Observation Towers, Views: fore/aft/left/right/up/down.]

Naga: port-side forward view.
A simple forward facing view from wherever the ship's bridge/command capsule is positioned would provide a static ships-eye view. This would ensure that casual travellers could always see what is ahead and get a better sense of movement and scale rather than the camera defaulting to a random view of the ship hull after each jump. It would also provide some hilarious motion sickness during tight-orbit frigate fights.

Naga: port-side aft view.
Alternative fixed camera angles, although not especially functional, would provide a degree of immersion and a sense of scale as you look out of your battlecruiser observation deck, along the hull and at the station from which you've just undocked. Aside from camera drones, there must surely the odd basic security camera attached to the hull. Failing that, just have a camera pointing out of one of those many twinkling portholes.

Fixed Tailplane View

Rifter: fixed tailplane view of incoming fire.
The majority of combats play out without pilots really enjoying the visual effects, as there are too many factors demanding the pilot's attention during a firefight to be concerned with finding an engaging camera angle. Being able to secure the camera to a viewpoint behind and above your ship would allow the pilot to see what he is heading into (and how quickly) and would provide another tool to judge approach vectors. Plus, it would look cool.

Weapons Tracking View (Turret & Missile)

Naga: Turret view to target.
Having a camera view of a specific weapon turret as it tracks the target could be achieved if a camera anchor point could be fixed to and aligned with the barrel of the weapon. Previously, with adequate ninja mouse skills it used to be possible to 'look at' missiles as they travelled to their target, however having tried during the research for this article it is either no longer possible or my reactions are no longer good enough. My point is tailor-made missile cameras would be much easier anyway.

Picture-in-Picture/Zoomed Target Window

Drake: Visual target tracking.
Although much of these proposed camera functions are purely cosmetic, there are some aspects that could be useful tools for pilots. During combat, having the camera anchored on your own ship whilst being focused and zoomed on the target would give the pilot a visual aid to maintaining or reducing transversal velocities, assessing target behaviour and weapon loadouts. This view could be displayed in a window to aid the combat pilot, or even used as a replacement for the existing static target icons.

Multiple Actor Tracking 

Try maintaining this shot manually.
Rather than having a single ship designated as the focus of the camera, this function would force the camera to zoom and rotate automatically to keep two or more ships in view. This would enable the viewing of spectacular 1v1 combats and provide a visual aid to squad, wing and fleet management. By optimising the use screen real-estate in this way, it would allow small- and large-scale combats to be enjoyed for the magnificent spectacle that they are whilst providing a visual tool for Fleet Commanders to monitor grouping and ranges.

The selection could be managed via a checkbox interface as follows:

Select camera focus:
[I note a similar function is already present in the Carbon Character Creation, wherein both eyes are tracked and the camera is restricted from allowing either eye to disappear from view. Could this code be adapted to function in space?]

Implementation and Summary

In conclusion, this feature would comprise three elements.

1. Custom camera toolset (anchor and point)
This would perhaps be the easiest to implement as it requires modification of existing functionality rather than the introduction of entirely new elements.

2. Multiple Actor Tracking
There is evidence to suggest that this functionality is entirely plausible with the Carbon engine and it could be a useful client-side tool.

3. Picture-in-Picture Functionality
Presumably a fairly non-trivial endeavour, this would require the most significant adaption of the existing user interface. However, it could perhaps be considered as part of a general UI overhaul.

A versatile and truly advanced camera suite would be a fantastic and useful toolset to further increase immersion and appreciation of EVE's arresting visuals. There's little point in CCP's artists spending so much effort making EVE look so good if no-one is really looking. Keeping the viewing tools as they currently are is like being at an art gallery but being forced to view everything through binoculars whilst spinning around.

Community spectacles like the Alliance Tournament would benefit greatly from these tools, making the experience far more engaging for the casual spectator. I have covered this in greater depth in Fanfest Flashback: The Spectacle of Combat, and the argument is as strong as ever.

Most players spend a lot of time traveling through the stunning New Eden environments, why not give them the tools to better enjoy the journey.

EVE is definitely ready for its close-up now Mr DeMille.

*Select the tickbox under miscellaneous in 'Display & Graphics' Escape menu to activate.

[This post was an entry in the EVE Blog Banter community discussion.]

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