There has been plenty written about why one should make a game in third-person or first-person: Convention and what your target audience will already be familiar with. How much you want the player to be immersed as the character in your game. And so on. Today, I would like to discuss my biggest consideration: information – as a gamer who likes when UX/UI emphasizes information and clarity, third-person camera appeals to me more.
While first-person camera appears immersive immediately, there is quite a bit of information that it will not be able to capture until VR tech gets further along. Forefront is touch/proprioception. In addition to the first-person view I have out of my own head, I can feel where the ground is below me and where a wall is behind or beside me without having to look at it. Touch/proprioception allows me move comfortably around my environments in spite of my own limited field of view. With first-person camera however, you can’t tell that you’ve landed on a surface or if you’ve bumped up against a wall unless the camera stops moving or if one your directional movements starts pushing you along something. It’s not ideal and, at least for me, requires an additional moment of mental processing to figure out what is going on.
Now enters third-person camera. It does not give us completely natural proprioception of the environment; however, it does allow me to see the floor and the walls in lieu of feeling them. I can more closely see where my character is in space just as I would feel where they are in space if it were ideal first-person. In lieu of physically being able to brush up against things, at least I can see where the 3D models touch. This restores more of my sense of space and allows me to move in the game more reflexively.
I can’t just outright recommend third-person camera. Of course, when poorly implemented, it can cause just as much frustration. What I do want to say is that in most cases, when given a choice by a game, I would choose the third-person camera over the first-person camera because it feels more natural to me. More natural because, though it sacrifices the sense of immediacy and of seeing “through the character’s eyes”, it offers information normally provided by touch/proprioception.