vaecrius: A stylized navy blue anarchy sign juxtaposed with a pixellated chaos symbol made to resemble a snowflake. (anarchy and chaos)
[personal profile] vaecrius
[2016-01-06 Before reading this it might be better to read Jack Monahan's "refrigerator box" essay which is much more informative.]

From the sighting and aiming discussion here a few things occur to me:

Iconic representation

Icons and all the talk about making present, etc. never made any sense to me until I saw some comment about someone watching a "cradle" Orthodox believer pray to one, and the whole exchange(!) looked like they were having a conversation with a person standing before them. At once it all clicked: the skewed perspectives of various objects, far from being a matter of failing at mere "representation", were required for the full presentation to the viewer to address specific requirements for interacting with what was portrayed on the 2-dimensional space. Things are deliberately moved aside or extended or not foreshortened, or viewed from a different angle than something right next to it, to reveal that which if you were physically there you'd be able to see with no more than a very simple, unconscious movement - the top of a book being opened, the objects on the surface of a table, the hand of a person holding a heavy object. The entire image - and each portion thereof - is made not to reproduce the mechanical light-impression of the physical presence, but as an interface.

It also explains why I've always preferred Doom and Quake's centered guns over the angled views of later FPSes: while more "realistic" in the sense that the side of the gun would be a closer approximation to what you'd see from either eye while the weapon was pressed to your shoulder but before you started looking down the sights, it permanently blocks your view of whatever is below you to your right - something you would be able to see in meatspace with minimal effort by as little as a slight turn of the head, an action that probably should not deserve its own keybind.

As applied to my so-called "realism" Doom mod, unlike most shooters with such aspirations I keep the crosshair rather than sights - which crosshairs, as crude approximations of sight pictures, only (but always and automatically) appear wherever looking down the sights would be an option in another game. The weapon sprite itself is kept as out of the way as would remain faithful to the original aesthetic. No more than movement of the eyes, or at most a slight turn of your avatar's direction to move either sprite or crosshair out of the way, is required to look around. The ultimate result is a double view of your weapon with a large gap in between that you would never see in real life, but which allows the viewer to extract information with no more effort or artifice than if the object had been physically present in the viewer's own equivalent space.

The "drone effect"

Which takes us to the next great hazard in "realistic" first-person shooting. You have a mouse and keyboard. Imagine having to memorize specific keys for the following:

Move left
Move right
Move forwards
Move backwards
Switch to another weapon
Change movement speed
Interact with the object immediately in front of you that is not your gun

Aim down sights
Aim down other sights
Shoot the other part of the gun
Reload alternate weapon attachment
Brace weapon against something
Momentarily lower weapon to look at something else
Some other thing you might do with your weapon

Lean left
Lean right
Switch to crouch
Switch to prone
Switch to standing
Switch mouse from looking up/down to adjusting your height
Switch mouse from looking left/right to adjusting your lean
Switch mouse from looking around to moving your gun

...and you can get a lot more fine-grained with this. Some of these can be combined (toggle crouch/stand), or made passive (for instance that last one often involves moving your gun first, then switching to looking around if your gun is moved beyond a certain threshold), but the point remains: with a keyboard and mouse, you are trying to use your fingers and them only to choose, deliberately each time, from an ever-increasing array of possible movements a real human body might make with its many, semi-consciously-controlled parts with minimal thought.

Now imagine that, for most of these, once you activated that function you had up to a second's worth of waiting as your avatar performed that function. Your hands remain on the desk as you watch your hands fiddle around with your weaponry. Hit "Prone" and watch as "you" carefully lower yourself into a steady firing position with absolutely no input from you the whole time. Instead of being immersed in the game environment, your experience in every way designed to underscore your lack of proprioception, touch and peripheral vision, you find yourself piloting a clumsy robot from afar. One fears one's own neural homunculus more and more resembling Wells' Martian.

FPS as liturgical narrative

The above strikes me as an obstacle, rather than an aid, to better simulation of personal combat - if our goal were a maximally transparent simulation to train real-time decision-making and situational awareness. The motivations here, however, seem to be:
  1. maximizing the number of specific, clearly defined choices available to create a perception of participant agency; and

  2. participation in performing the rules of the combat art, as received in the authoritative traditions and texts.
If we understand 1 to be a matter of expressing power, the connection between the two motivations becomes more obvious: this is a quasi-liturgical act, to make present the spirit of the combative ritual, that we might partake of it and become more like Men, as we each observe the path revealed to us through our chosen commitment to the ongoing narrative.

Any definition of "game" that excludes the likes of howling dogs, Depression Quest and kill puppies for satan must concede that the vast bulk of what the end user sees of modern mil-sim FPS development has nothing to do with any game proper at all.

Taking us back to HD, I can with relatively little (but non-zero, non-negligible) hesitation say that this is not my goal, though the gameplay may certainly be treated as such and I would not object. What is it, then?

After some thought I might propose the following:
  1. a reasonably (subject predominantly to aesthetic considerations) transparent simulation to train real-time decision-making and situational awareness; and

  2. participation in performing the rules of the combat art, as received in the authoritative traditions and texts, with the aim to reconciling it with the equally received tradition of the existing game.
This is not by any means a systemic policy to explain or guide all my decisions in whether to add a certain gun, feature, player movement quirk, etc., but it should be a reasonably adequate description of the usual starting place.
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if life is illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content.

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