In a recent video compilation from YouTuber KIWI TALKZ, a group of ex-Retro Studios developers spoke about the late Mark Haigh-Hutchinson, a LucasArts alumni who was in charge of the camera system for the Metroid Prime games. Mark sadly passed away in 2008 from pancreatic cancer and his former co-workers had a lot to say about his remarkable contributions to the franchise.
Mike Wikan, who served as Senior Game Designer at Retro Studios, describes Mark as a "legendary programmer" and "easily the most capable programmer" he's ever worked with. In the interview, Mike goes on to laud Mark's work on Metroid Prime's camera system - specifically during Morph Ball sequences - stating that "you never lose sight of Samus":
"If you notice in all the Metroid [Prime] games, you never lose sight of Samus no matter what crazy, stupid thing you're doing, ever. There's never a point in the game where you ever lose sight of your character - ever. And you're boosting, you're going behind walls, you're going in little tunnels, you're doing all sorts of crazy little things. And with Quadraxis [boss fight], you're doing all sorts of crazy jump-off things, and this thing's moving around and it's the size of a skyscraper. And the reason that it works is because the camera system can handle literally anything."
David Kirsch - nicknamed Zoid - served as Senior Engineer for Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2 and describes how Mark came up with the camera system for the games' iconic Morph Ball "maze" puzzles:
"One of my favourite things we did with [Mark], we came up with the 2D view for the Morph Ball puzzles; you morph and you roll in and then the camera switches to the 2D side view. And we were trying to figure out "how do we get the camera to follow the ball" and he came up with what he called 'Surface Camera', so we have a surface outside there and the camera slides along the surface and has a set of springs that follows the ball so it does it smoothly. And so you can define the surface area of the camera so you can control the view."
He also explains the tech behind how the camera is able to follow Samus so accurately whenever she turns into the Morph Ball:
"So when you turn into the Morph Ball, the camera comes out of Samus and you turn into the ball. What the camera's on is a "parachute", so the ball's here and the camera's there, and the ball aligns with the parachute with strings. So if the Morph Ball goes behind something, some of the strings of the parachute will pull so the camera will turn to follow the ball. But the strings take time, so if the Morph Ball goes quickly there, the camera will move a little bit and then follow the ball. So if you go behind a post, the camera won't snap, it'll take time, but if you get past the post, it'll catch up with the ball on the way out."
It's a fascinating insight and we'd definitely recommend you check out the full video below for some further insights from the developers. Whilst you're at it, be sure to check out graphic designer Jim Wornell's story of how the Metroid Prime logo went through 53 different iterations before landing on the right one.
What do you make of this insight behind Metroid Prime's camera system? Do you think the tech is being implemented in the upcoming Metroid Prime 4? Let us know with a comment!
[source youtube.com, via gonintendo.com]
I had never noticed but the camera is really good, indeed
If you aren't noticing the camera then the programmer is clearly doing his/her job right. Unless of course the scenario requires you to be aware of the camera. Context really.
I often lost sight of Samus because it is a first person game; she's usually invisible. Not in morph ball mode though, which is what I think the quote means. The camera was very good for that.
@Moistnado nah, you see her blaster or her hand, so she’s not invisible and you technically still see her even in first person mode.
@Bobb I thought the same and because it's that good is why I probably never noticed it.
As prime 4 is 2 generations from the last one on Wii. I really hope it is an evolution for the series.
@Friendly but her hand is covered in a glove, or cannon. So technically, she's not visible 🔍
If you're never bothered by camera issues, the devs did an excellent job. The problem is that our monkey brain usually only remembers the bad times we experienced with wonky cameras in a lot of bad or subpar games. Now I'm trying to recall if Breath of the Wild had any issues, but I can't recall
Best game I ever did play on the Gamecube. The music, the atmosphere, just everything about Metroid Prime was just fantastic. I still go back to it very often even yet.
Resident evil 6 camera. shudder xxx
@Pillowpants I don't recall having any issues in Breath of the Wild, but the world is very different from Metroid Prime. Cameras work generally well in open environments, but tight mazes and closed areas are challenging. And that's exactly what makes Metroid Prime so impressive in terms of its camera.
@Olliemar28 Typo with "recently" in first sentence<3
@Pillowpants I liked how much freedom BotW gave us with the camera. I frequently move it while talking to NPCs to get a clear view. To this day, any Switch game that locks camera out during conversation annoys me deeply. I'm pleased to say that a lot of games allow this freedom, though
Well, when you play as a character that's, mostly, exclusively using a first person perspective, it's kinda tough to ever lose sight of them when you're basically seeing the game as them.
Yeah, the camera work following the morph ball was (and is) impressive but the first person perspective is essential cheating the camera
@Turbo857 They are talking about morph mode gameplay.
Removed - unconstructive feedback
@Moistnado consider the excerpts in the article, & make observations accordingly.
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