Photo Mode

It’s being more than 3 years that I’m purposely taking pictures out of every game I play, this new hobby of mine went hand to hand with the rise of Photo modes in videogames, especially AAA ones. The idea was to create an album that I can browse to remember about all the games I played. Sometimes is hard to remember to take pictures, with short games in particular, but the result is very rewarding, full of nostalgia and a good way to analyze my personal gaming habits. There are some point about this experience I want analyze and share in this blog.

The first big problem is the lack of a photo mode in many game, I didn’t find any consistency in the support from AAA games to indies, it just depends from the willingness of the developer, game that are "proud" to show their graphical achievement never miss the opportunity. I found 2 different way to include photo mode in a game, the first simple version is just the ability to deactivate the interface, often through the option menu, is very laborious and some games even miss this simple feature, secondly with the full "Photo Mode" many games include. The ability to take proper screenshots of a game may not only help with the marketing of the game, but also with it’s shareability. Even major games develop the feature as a marketing tool and that revisit it to allow the user to use it, this lead to a huge inconsistency on how photo modes works in all the industry.

Some of the past pictures, up to you to guess the games!

Some games stand out to me, for good or bad reasons, so, let’s go through them, starting from the bad examples:
Star Wars the force unleashed lack a photo mode, even the "deactivate interface" ones, if you are a developer of a millions worth game, just take a day to implement such features.
Super Mario Odyssey, there is a photo mode but it designed too much like a toy, the filters are all designed to have fun not to take photos and it feels very junky to use. If you want to add "fun" features to a photo mode, do so after the basic features are laid down.
Uncharted 4, with all it’s graphic prowess, have a poorly designed Photo Mode, for a silly reason: the interface is simply bad, with multiple sub-menus to set everything, a photo can take minutes rather than seconds, this is a obvious results of transforming the developer tool into a game feature without taking care of the interface.
It’s worth mentioning that a bad photo mode will result in bad photos, photos that are then shared on social networks, so a bad photo mode will diminish the look of your game. A good photo mode instead will make a game look even more beautiful, here are some examples:
God Of War / Horizon: Zero Dawn : both games have a simple and clear interface, many way to customize the photo, and over that they some unique features, like removing character, autofocus on character, and face expressions.
Gone Home / The Stanley Parable / Clustertruck: the lack of an invasive default interface and the first person perspective works as a good default photo mode too.

The best pictures I took from Uncharted 4 and God Of War

As my focus is on game design, I admit that I see a lot of wasted potential for the Photo Mode. Designer should start thinking of ways to implement gameplay features associated to the Photo Mode, this may have already being done and I simply missed it, I’m not talking of games that allow players to take photos as a gameplay feature, as an objective the player have to accomplish. What I hope to see are games that find a design explanation, that will not break the suspension of disbelief, to implement a photo mode in the game. To make an example, in God Of War, the character "Mimir" is in possess of a magic eye, maybe this magic eye should be able to lock time and allow to look as a "free camera" the space around creating basically the Photo Mode of the game, this is important as I personally used Photo Mode to navigate freely around the environment in God Of War to solve some puzzles, and as a person susceptible to motion sickness it was even more comfortable for me to look around in this way rather that the third person camera of the game. Maybe in Spiderman you are asked to do photos of the "bad guys" to sell to the newspapers as Peter Parker!

There are many possibility yet to be explored for photo mode, if you are a developer consider implementing it with game, but mostly, I invite the player that may be reading this to take advantage of the photo mode, and as I do, take just one picture in every game.