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In video games, first person refers to a graphical perspective rendered from the viewpoint of the player character. In many cases, this may be the viewpoint from the cockpit of a vehicle. Many different genres have made use of first-person perspectives, ranging from adventure games to flight simulators. Perhaps the most notable genre to make use of this device is the first-person shooter, where the graphical perspective has an immense impact on game play.


Game mechanics

Games with a first-person perspective are usually avatar-based, where the screen displays what the player's avatar would see with their own eyes. Thus, players don't typically see the avatar's body, although they may see their weapons or hands. This viewpoint is often used to display the perspective of a driver in a vehicle. Games with a first-person perspective do not require sophisticated animations for the player's avatar, and do not need to implement a manual or automated camera-control scheme.[1]

A first person perspective allows for easier aiming, since there is no representation of the avatar in the way. However, this lack of avatar can make it difficult to master the timing and distances required to jump between platforms. Some players also experience motion sickness from this perspective.[1]

Games with this perspective often make use of positional audio, where the volume of ambient sounds varies depending on the position of the avatar.[1] Players have come to expect first-person games to accurately scale objects to appropriate sizes. However, key objects such as weapons or keys may be exaggerated in order to improve visibility.[1]



Early examples

While many games featured a side scrolling or top down perspective, several early games attempted to render the game world from the perspective of the player.

It is not clear exactly when the first shooting game to use the first-person perspective was created. There are two claimants, Spasim and Maze War. The uncertainty about which was first stems from the lack of any accurate dates for the development of Maze War — even its developer cannot remember exactly. In contrast, the development of Spasim is much better documented and the dates more certain.

The initial development of Maze War probably occurred in the summer of 1973. A single player made their way through a simple maze of corridors rendered using fixed perspective. Multiplayer capabilities, with players attempting to shoot each other, were probably added later in 1973 (two machines linked via a serial connection) and in the summer of 1974 (fully networked).

Spasim was originally developed in the spring of 1974. Players moved through a wire-frame 3D universe, with gameplay resembling the 2D game Empire. Graphically, Spasim lacked even hidden line removal, but did feature online multiplayer over the worldwide university-based PLATO network. Another notable PLATO FPS was the tank game Panther, introduced in 1975, generally acknowledged as a precursor to Battlezone. Spasim had a documented debut at the University of Illinois in 1974. The game was a rudimentary space flight simulator, which featured a first-person perspective.[2]

Later in the decade, the arrival of a new generation of home computers such as the Atari ST and the Amiga increased the computing power and graphical capabilities available, leading to a new wave of innovation. 1987 saw the release of MIDI Maze (aka Faceball), an important transitional game for the genre. Unlike its polygonal contemporaries, MIDI Maze used a raycasting engine to speedily draw square corridors. It also offered a networked multiplayer deathmatch (communicating via the computer's MIDI interface).

In early 1991, Data East released Silent Debuggers for the TurboGrafx-16. This game featured a minimum ability to look up and down. In late 1991, the fledgling id Software released Catacomb 3D, which introduced the concept of showing the player's hand on-screen, strengthening the illusion that the player is viewing the world through the character's eyes. In 1992, Ultima Underworld was one of the first to feature texture mapped environments, polygonal objects, and basic lighting. The engine was later enhanced for usage in the game System Shock. Later in 1992, id improved the technology used in Catacomb 3D by adding support for VGA graphics in Wolfenstein 3D. With these improvements over its predecessors, Wolfenstein 3D was a hit. It would be widely imitated in the years to follow, and thus marked the beginning of many conventions in the genre, including collecting different weapons that can be switched between using the keyboard's number keys, and ammo conservation.

3D gaming

The 1995 game Descent used a fully 3D polygonal graphics engine to render opponents (previous games had used sprites). It also escaped the "pure vertical walls" graphical restrictions of earlier games in the genre, and allowed the player six degrees of freedom of movement (up/down, left/right, forward/backward, pitch, roll, and yaw). Thus, Descent was the first first-person game in the modern era to use a fully 3D engine.


  1. ^ a b c d Rollings, Andrew; Ernest Adams (2006). Fundamentals of Game Design. Prentice Hall. 
  2. ^ Garmon, Jay, Geek Trivia: First shots fired, TechRepublic, May 24, 2005, Accessed Feb 16, 2009

See also

Simple English

In video games, first person means the player sees the game from the eyes of the character he or she is playing as. This is different than third person where the player watches what the character does from a virtual camera. The player is supposed to feel like he or she is inside the character.

A common type of first person game is first-person shooter. In a first-person shooter the player can usually see his or her arms holding a gun or other weapon. Some games such as Call of Duty let the player look right down the sights of the gun to aim.

Many simulation games (or "sims") where the player controls a vehicle are first person. This includes most flight simulators and many racing video games. The player can often see the controls and instruments of the vehicle, such as the steering wheel and speedometer in a car or the joystick and altimeter in an airplane.


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