The Daily Grind: Do you have a hard time connecting with isometric MMOs?

Let’s talk perspective today. No, not your general outlook on life — which I’m sure is cheery and as non-cynical as can be — but the camera vantage point in MMORPGs. By and large, cameras trail our characters either behind them or over the shoulder, with the occasional first-person perspective thrown in to keep us on our toes.

But that wasn’t the default prior to EverQuest. No, graphical MMOs in the 1990s were all about 2-D isometric layouts, from Neverwinter Nights to Ultima Online. While the isometric perspective has been largely shoved aside in modern MMOs, we do see them persist in MMOARPGs like Path of Exile and the recently released Albion Online. Even RuneScape in its older incarnations drew the camera up and back during its gameplay.

So here is my question for you today: Do you have a hard time connecting with the world and your character in MMOs featuring isometric perspectives (or other similar camera setups)? Does the distance keep you from being as invested in what’s going on, or does it lend a unique charm to your gaming experience?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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57 Comments on "The Daily Grind: Do you have a hard time connecting with isometric MMOs?"

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Chris Brown-DeMoreno

Yeah, I don’t like isometric MMOs. I’m not a fan of that perspective in any genre of game, honestly. There are only few exceptions fueled by nostalgia (e.g. Diablo, Gauntlet). When I play a game in 1st or 3rd person, I can relate more because I feel more like I am that guy/girl and experiencing these things myself. When I play something isometric, I feel more like I’m just watching that guy/girl experience these things.

Karma_Mule
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Karma_Mule

I usually do have trouble, but the single/multiplayer Divinity Original Sin games have managed to overcome it. Their features that make that possible:

  • The ability to zoom very close in and have the camera be more horizontal while zoomed in
  • All clothing items have an effect on character appearance that can be seen
  • Options (albeit limited) to customize your characters’s face (not just fixed choices like Diablo 3)
  • The character is fully voiced so even when zoomed out feels like an actual person not a little smear of pixels

The more of these things an isometric MMO does, the happier I’ll be with it. (Side note: I’m loving DOS2)

Mewmew
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Mewmew

Before EverQuest and UO, Meridian 59 was first person right? As far as I can tell 3D tech wasn’t that great yet (just a guess by looking at Meridian 59 images) and that’s a major reason why they were in the sky or 2D views? I guess you’re saying EverQuest because they persisted after then, while Meridian 59 was unique and they still mostly did the high or 2D views after that one?

An early view we don’t see much is The Realm. It has a 2D side view that was and is often used in graphical adventure games. It’s funny we don’t see that almost ever when one of the earliest MMOs used it. As far as I can tell it still exists too here:

http://www.realmserver.com/

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Schmidt.Capela

2D sideview is good for linear levels, but less than ideal for anything where you want the player to choose (or have the illusion of choosing) his own path, so it tends to not be a good match for MMOs unless the desired gameplay is that of a sidescroller.

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Simon Morris

I hate Isometric. Isometric sharted all over my dreams for an Immersive Marvel Universe game. If i wanted Isometric I’d play Marvel Ultimate Alliance.

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Schmidt.Capela

I actually prefer using some kind of from-the-top perspective like isometric, 3/4 view, top-down, etc. What I usually can’t stand is the first person PoV, except in a few genres like racing games; without peripheral vision, the first person point of view feels almost claustrophobic.

Reader

I’ll be honest, I could never really get into Isometric games at all! So no, I can’t really do Isometric MMOs, the perspective just puts me off of a game. I can do overhead, or even 3/4 overhead, but that diagonal Isometric view just… ugh.

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socontrariwise

I find it much more natural to roleplay (vs. play as myself) if the view is isometric.
And it somehow helps suspension of disbelief and immersion because the perspective is so removed from reality that other things not perfectly realistic don’t jump out as they do for me in over-the-shoulder or 1st person.

Cadaver
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Cadaver

I generally have a fondness for outdated and unfashionable perspectives, but I really can’t get on with these fixed camera views. When I play a MMO I want to be able to see the world through my character’s eyes, or else zoom out for better tactical awareness. The limitations imposed by a fixed isometric camera are just too frustrating to bother with.

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traja

Doesn’t bother me at all. Having grown up with isometric and side scrolling games I don’t feel any different about them than 1st and 3rd person 3D games. Unfortunately with MMOs there aren’t many good modern games that are isometric.

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McGuffn

no, isometric is great.

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thirtymil

I can’t even do zoomed-out camera, let alone isometric. I play 99% of my Warcraft time on near-zoom (I only zoom out riding large mounts and for stupidly large bosses), and I did the entire levelling experience in ESO in first-person.

Looking forward to Destiny 2, where I noticed in the beta that if I looked down I could see my feet. That’s a step up from ESO, where if you swim sideways in first person the animation still has you going forwards.

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GanonslayerCP .

nah way, it stinks

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Robert Mann

There are some games that work great in isometric. There are others where I feel too limited in view range, and also like I can see things that I shouldn’t. That balance changes on the style and design of the game, and even the genre. An isometric view works great for strategy and tactical games. It works fine with some RPGs. I don’t, however, like it so much with MMOs.

My big problem with it for MMOs is that you lose the line of sight. When playing a single character, and in games that aren’t just swarms of enemies constantly (which is why I can forgive this with ARPGs in general) the line of sight is a huge deal. At least for me. It ties me to the character, which is a big deal.

Given that the MMO design is all about focusing on the actions of your character, that’s a problem. Even with my low level of emotional investment in the characters I make. Which should be a red flag warning to developers… here’s somebody who is fine with minimal options (although I like more) and lower end animation as long as other things fit, and this is a problem. Nostalgia is nice and all, but is it enough to offset that problem?

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Bannex

Yup. It’s typically because the gameplay generally sucks. DOS2 is about the only isometric I can tolerate atm

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Sunken Visions

VR > 1st Person > 3rd Person > Isometric.

Ordered from most immersive to least immersive. Not that you can’t create an immersive experience with an isometric view. It’s just that the farther away the camera is from the world, the less you see of it. It’s difficult to make someone feel like they’re in a specific place (such as a dungeon cell) when their perspective is from the outside.

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thirtymil

Definitely this. All of this. A hundred times over.

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starbuck1771

You are the Red Valkyrie! Welcome back to the Iron Age of games. Gauntlet misses you at the arcades. :P

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Oleg Chebeneev

I prefer traditional view but Lost Ark looks bloody amazing despite isometric and I cant wait to play it

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A Dad Supreme

I do.

I always feel more like “God” or a Sim City character in those games watching my subjects than the actual hero/villain/person in typical games where you generally have a “normal” expansive view in front of your character (third person view).

The article hit it right on the head; I feel far more aloof and hardly as invested when distance is a factor.

The same is true for me if I play First Person view as well. It’s too close so I feel claustrophobic as if I’m playing with a vision problem, since you can’t see peripherally on the sides like you do in real life.

Both too far away and too close ruin games for me and I usually don’t end up playing them long. The sweet spot for me has always been Third Person as in typical MMOs or RPGs.

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Alex Js.

Yes, absolutely. I can sometimes tolerate RPG games which use that isometric view (like Divinity series) by trying to focus on other gaming aspects (like the character dialogue/story) to keep me going but I really, REALLY prefer a proper third- or first-person, fully “3D” view for a full immersion.

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Robert Mann

Divinity 2 used a 3rd person 3d view, so the series actually even went away from that when it wasn’t ARPG focused.

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Bryan Correll

The big drawback to an isometric view in MMO’s is that the world doesn’t really feel big when you are restricted to seeing such a tiny part of it at a time. Top down works great for ARPG’s (as well as strategy games and others) but (to me) MMORPGs should be immersive to a degree that just isn’t possible with a god’s-eye view.

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starbuck1771

LOL because it reminds me of the 80’s.

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Cadaver
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Cadaver

Lol, I remember two arcades that had Gauntlet cabs. In the first one, your 10p coin would get you 800 health. Across the road, the scummy arcade owner had configured his machine to only award 300 health per coin. He must have been some early progenitor of all the money-grubbing, predatory turds that infest modern gaming. Was that place called Riccitiello’s Fun Palace? I really can’t remember…

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Bryan Correll

Elf shot the food!

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thirtymil

Warrior needs food badly!

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CthulhuDawg

No problem with it, tons of fun actually. I usually play third person MMOs way zoomed out and tilted up then pan my camera from side to side to keep an eye on the area. It’s like playing isometric but with full camera control.

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cista2bpo

It’s 3D forever for me :)

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Tandor

I don’t play any isometric MMOs, and never could get into UO with it’s tiny view of the world, but I am enjoying Divinity: Original Sin 2 as a single-player RPG.

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Gadgets-4G

I prefer it in many game genres as long as the scale is done correctly. When it’s used to cover a lack of detail or to simplify LOD demands is when you start to run into problems. I have often thought some games would do well to launch a top-down client to augment their current play mechanics.

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Melissa McDonald

I insist on the option for 1st person view. Was really pleased with GW2 finally introduced that. Sure, I play in 3rd person some too, especially in areas where I may be ambushed or attract adds, but in general the graphics are at their peak in 1st person.

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Schmidt.Capela

I’m the opposite. If given a choice I will use any PoV except 1st person, and if a game only offers 1st person PoV there’s a good chance I will leave it early due to that. What’s more, I tend to prefer overhead perspectives like isometric, 3/4, or bird’s view instead of the common over-the-shoulder 3rd person PoV.

It’s part of the reason I don’t care about VR. Any VR system where I don’t have full peripheral vision is, for me, automatically worse than using just about any other perspective with conventional monitors, from 3rd person PoV to fully over-the-top.

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Robert Mann

I’d like more 1st person friendly games, but often the animation and design become a problem with it. Once some brilliant developer addresses that and makes it more friendly to gamers, I’ll be very happy.

Sadly, combat advantages to 3rd person mean that if it is an option using 1st person is almost always a negative in combat. So either a game has to avoid the 3rd person option, or restrict the view in it… either of which will see backlash, in order for 1st person combat to be a thing.

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mistressbrazen

I don’t like isometric. I dislike the movement process used in those games and that view point throws off my sensory perceptions completely. The two isometric games I tried were both OK but I just couldn’t connect enough with the game play to be motivated to log in. Now, if I see the game is isometric, I don’t try it.

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starbuck1771

No. However with first person ISOMETRIC games are a thing of the past. The only reason to play them is for nostalgia.

Richard de Leon III
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Richard de Leon III

I’m not fond of isometric rpgs, maybe as a single player rpg like Diablo, but not as an MMO.

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MassivelyMacD

First of all, even isometric projection is 3d. Can you see what is in front and what is behind? Yes, you can. It is one form of projecting 3d information onto 2d, just like perspective projection (in fact, it’s just a different projection matrix).

Secondly, some of the games you have mentioned, are not isometric. For example, NWN and PoE are not isometric. They just have a fixed camera position above and behind the player so that the player character is always centered plus you cannot turn the camera around the player.

Having fixed these technical issues with the question and assuming you mean “do you accept fixed camera perspectives in your MMO in 2017”, my answer is: i do not like it that much, i’d rather have more flexibility in choosing my viewing angle. But there are more pressing issues that will prevent me from playing a game than that.

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thirtymil

To be fair, the article is actually very careful with its use of ‘isometric’ versus ‘isometric perspective’ and it actually caveats the whole thing with ‘or other similar camera setups’. On that basis I’d say calling it a ‘fixed camera perspective’ instead is actually a looser definition.

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Robert Mann

Aye, those are definitely errors they made with naming games that aren’t isometric.

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Utakata

I’ve tried Tree of Savior for a little bit. Not sure it’s my thing.

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rafael12104

I tried it too. It is quirky to say the least.

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CapnLan

I can’t play them at all. I feel like it’s too disconnected from both my character and the world at large. More like I’m just playing a mobile game on my PC. I need to have at minimum a third person view with the camera behind my character. I’ve warmed up to first person views considerably as of late and almost prefer that to third person. I’m not quite there yet, but I feel like that day is coming. Games that let me switch between first and third depending on my mood are the best.

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roo woods

I don’t mind isometric single player games like Baldurs Gate or Pillars of Eternity but in an mmo I prefer a third person viewpoint .

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Tulerezzer

I will not play an MMO with an isometric viewpoint. Period. I can’t stand it.
I am ok with it in an ARPG (dungeon crawler is a better name imo) since those games have pretty much zero RP anyway.

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Hirku

Isometric is fine by me, I like the total awareness of my surroundings. Over the years I’ve grown intolerant of first-person; watching videos of first-person gameplay makes me borderline nauseous. Third-person is the sweet spot. In the end it’s the story and characters that immerse me in a game world, not the lens I view it through.

DNacht
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DNacht

I’ll play isometric in other genres, but one of the things I want most from an MMO is that sense of being in the world, and isometric doesn’t deliver that.

ernost
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ernost

Yes, totally. After playing Third Person/First Person for so long, isometric just feels too primitive.

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Pandalulz

I don’t like the control scheme as much. It’s either click to move like Diablo or has that weird arrow key movement like Tree of Savior. Neither feel especially comfortable for me. I don’t have any real qualms other than that though.

quark1020
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quark1020

I do have some trouble with isometric MMO’s, but its not the perspective that bugs me. Its a combination of having to click to move and a limited view of my surroundings.

The angle of the camera in these games make it so that you have a limited view of whats in “front” of your character and an even more restricted view of “behind” it, and it just bugs me not being able to see enough around me. Luckily, some games allow the option to rotate the view, like Ragnarok online, so at least I can work around it.

As for click to move, I haven’t seen anything that could work well as an alternative. Keyboard movement in isometric MMO’s tend to be awkward and a controller just limits skill keybinds and ground targeting abilities becomes awkward. For what its worth, my dislike is less of a deal breaker and more of a personal preference, so I’ll still give a game a shot if my camera issue is addressed and the rest of the game is good.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

i don’t have a problem with it. the downside for me i guess is less screenshots and less dress up play. but gameplay wise it’s fine as long as the controls and combat feel good.

edit: i generally don’t care for arpg’s mind you, but not for this reason.

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BalsBigBrother

Oh I agree with you on the screenshots for arpgs and that is something I have struggles with in Path of Exile a lot. The most annoying thing is that I know that there is a dev cam mode that allows you to shift the camera perspective that could be utilised for screenshot / dress up purposes but sadly it is locked away from the players.

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MesaSage

I want to like them. I really do.

Then I try to play and I just can’t get into it. I need more connection to the character.

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BalsBigBrother

Not at all I am a long time arpg player I often prefer the perspective the isometric view gives because I find it helps me keep track of what is going on around me.

The traditional mmo follow cam or first person perspective is no doubt a lot more immersive. For me that immersion comes as some cost in terms of spatial awareness at least it does as someone who often has trouble keeping track of things.

In a traditional mmo view point I tend to find I have to play the camera controls like a grand pianist on ten cups of double espresso just to know who is hitting me while at the same time trying to dodge the bad stuff and use my damage skills or whatever. This is not something I have issues with in argps and can just concentrate on the dodging and skills bit for the most part instead of trying to fight the camera controls.

At the end of the day I don’t really have a preference and it all very much depends on how a game is made in terms of mechanics and controls but I certainly don’t instantly dismiss a game just because it has an isometric view.

threeknee
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threeknee

I like to be close in, I have the camera pretty close to my character in most third person games. To me there is no benefit to the isometric perspective. At the turn of the century it allowed for prettier games, but that advantage is long gone.

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rafael12104

So the issue, for me, with isometric is the camera. While it can pivot it doesn’t allow much free form movement, and yeah it can be severely limiting even though you can zoom in and out. It varies slightly from game to game, but being stuck with and angled overhead view makes items hard to see or manipulate sometimes. You have to do that funky square box walk from time to time to get the right spot.

Meh, I can live with it. It’s a bother but it doesn’t take me out of the moment and certainly doesn’t keep me from enjoy games like PoE. Speaking of which, PoE and Diablo II were the best of isometric, and I play those games still. I don’t include Diablo III because, IMO, it has more of a 3d feel, and that doesn’t necessarily make it better. Lol. Of course, it could just be my own personal feelings about Diablo III that are clouding my judgment.

Ah yes, the old Ultima series were great iso games. My favorite of the bunch was probably Serpent Isle.

Siphaed
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Siphaed

They don’t play like RPGs. It’s 2017, for crying out loud. 3D is immersion.

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