Point of View

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My adventures in Elite: Dangerous and Eve Online ((Not shown.)) have highlighted some things that have come out, albeit peripherally, in  research.  Namely, that third person perspective and first person perspective have profound effects on the immersion that one experiences when playing a game – and how one approaches playing that game.

A while back a guy did an experiment with a VR harness coupled with a camera and a shoulder-mounted scaffold that gave people the viewpoint they would have in an MMO in third-party – say, for example, WoW ((Alas, I’m missing the link to the actual research video – it was before the Oculus, I can say that for sure.)).

You may be familiar with this in WoW.  You’re sitting at the mailbox, going through the daily hate mail from Arthas and Deathwing, when some tool runs up to you, plants his pixlelly ass in between you and the mailbox, and proceeds to jump up and down.

And jump up and down.

And jump up and down.

And jump up and down.

And jump up and down.

And … well, you get the idea.

Turns out, a VR+Camera rig that gives you the same viewpoint on real life … makes you act exactly the same way you would in an MMO in which you play from the third party viewpoint. 

Now, I hasten to emphasize that the experimenter did not indicate whether hir test subjects were frequent gamers, which would tend to skew the behavior a bit ((After all, a familiar environment makes you act in familiar ways.)), but I have to say this: even if the only place you do that sort of thing is in an MMO, you’re still … kind of an asshole. Sorry.

Now, getting in someone’s face and jumping up and down is small potatoes compared to other things that people playing in 3PP ((Third Party Perspective – my keyboard is old.)) frequently do.  They tend to – apparently – not believe that the people they are interacting with are real, and thus they treat those people as if they are not people.  Now, personally, I tend to not treat non-people like shit just because I can because I’m not an asshole ((At least, not that kind of asshole.)) but there seems to be a lot of people that treat abstract entities online badly if they can, because they can.

And here, at last, I get to the point of contrast between Eve Online and Elite: Dangerous.

Eve plays constantly in a third party mode, even when docked. You’re actually viewing your SHIP in 3PP, not even yourself, in that game.

Elite, on the other hand, sticks you in the cockpit and leaves you there.  To view your ship in 3PP, in fact, is a DEBUG control. And you can’t do much of anything in debug mode.

If you follow Eve’s politics and drama even peripherally, you’ll know that in 0sec space, no one’s safe unless you have some sort of protection from the “corps” ((“Corporations”, or, to place it in familiar terms, the Eve analog to WoW guilds.)), you’ll probably end up podded ((Doing the monochrome marathon, in WoW parlance.)).  At the upper levels, there is constant backstabbing and outright crimes against fellow corp-mates, sometimes taking down entire corps.  Basically, everything goes, and while the game’s creators may not encourage this sort of behavior, they don’t discourage it, either.  Honestly, they don’t really appear to care.

In Elite, the same lack of constraints on one’s behavior exist, but running into this sort of situation is extremely rare.  I’ve been attacked by other players for no real reason from time to time, but it’s rarely malevolent in nature – i.e., just a pirate, doing his job. They’ve even offered to help me out before shooting me up for non-response.

The best example of this is the Goonswarm.  In Eve, the Goonswarm is a force to be reckoned with. They have taken over entire corps, terrorize 0sec space, and generally specialize in griefing.

Goonswarm exists in Elite, as well, but they are oddly ineffective.  They have all the tools they need to effect a system-wide shutdown – which they attempted – except, of course, the whole ‘corp’ framework, which can be replaced by an external framework like Mumble – but as it turns out, lowly CMDRs like me just skooched along and took care of business.  Eventually, the lack of dread and loathing from the general population caused the Goonies to lose interest.  When nobody reacts to trolls, they go elsewhere looking for attention.

The entire Elite community has, at least in-game, been extremely polite and helpful.  The worst behavior I’ve seen has been in system-wide chat, which is a newly implemented feature, and the behavior is consistent with the 3PP theory – people in a chat window aren’t people, so you can treat them like shit without repercussions.  ((Frontier hasn’t really addressed anything about chat channel terrorism at this point, and, given their track record, they likely never will.  Not on the roadmap.)).

There are dozens of potential causes for this disparity between the two games that are otherwise very similar, so I won’t draw a conclusion as to cause. All I want to do here is point out that research that I’ve mentioned before, and note that what we see in the skew between Eve and Elite tracks very well with those conclusions.

The message you get in Elite is that piloting a starship is a very personal thing. It isn’t an abstract thing involving armadas and ‘swarms’. It’s just you, your starship, and the Big Black.

Does this mean I would switch to FPP in WoW to try to replicate this experience?  Not likely. WoW is designed around a different paradigm than Elite is, and doesn’t enforce the other players playing the same way, so I don’t see any point to it.  Though, I will note, that it does suggest an interesting thing.

To wit: What if everyone in WoW was forced to first person perspective? Would the social dynamics of the game shift significantly?

Talk amongst yourselves.

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Posted on April 22, 2015, in Game mechanics, We're not in Azeroth anymore and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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