Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Unintended Effects

Like many, I've been using the holidays to catch up on a backlog of games. This being such a killer year for content, this is a problem, and I haven't even touched a bunch of the "must plays" of the season (CoD4, Assassins Creed, and *bowing head in shame* I haven't picked up Portal yet). Still, I have a year's worth of games with the shrink wrap on them, so I figured I'd get through them before buying more.

One of them is Blue Dragon. I'm not a fan of Japanese turn-based RPG's in general, but I'd heard it was good and I got a free copy, so figured I'd give it a go.

I'm still not a fan of turn based combat in these games, and I have no patience for the character power/attack customization pedantry that Blue Dragon presents me with. Nothing wrong with it, just not my thing.

One thing I did note, though was excessive use of depth-of-field shader effects in both the cutscenes and realtime animation. I think it's a good study in excessive use of a visual effect that is detrimental to the end result.

Depth of field effects can be used for a couple things. It can be used to draw attention to a particular element of a scene (in particular when dynamically drawing the focal point from one distance to another, for example). It can also be used to suggest scale such as in macro photography.

In Blue Dragon, there's a lot of grandiose scenery and scenes in which they are trying to suggest an immense scale. However, in overdoing the depth of field effects, I found it reminisent of tilt-shift miniature faking photos like this:



(from flickr tilt-shift miniature fake pool)

Some examples from Blue Dragon:




I find the bottom shot in particular has a look like an animated scene of plastic toys, not a vast, grandiose world. Perhaps that was the look they were going for, but I don't think so. I think it was just a case of the team getting carried away with the latest shader effects.

There's a lot to be said for using such effects with nuance, but it's difficult to do in an interactive medium where you aren't sure how much it's going to affect the player - esp since some will be playing on different screen sizes/resolutions, etc, and where you are trying to compete for screenshot/trailer drama with a bunch of other titles.

1 comment:

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