From A Distance

If you've taken a closer look at some of the screenshots and videos that I've posted here over time, you may have noticed that they are always pretty closely zoomed in on my character. Or maybe you didn't notice because that just struck you as normal. However, I've certainly noticed while watching other people's boss kill videos and the like that my perspective was unusually close in comparison to theirs, with others frequently being zoomed out to the point where their character becomes little more than a tiny speck on the screen.

This wasn't really a conscious decision on my part; it's just that I've never felt the urge to fiddle with the default UI too much, so I had never felt the need to change the camera's maximum zoom distance either. Until recently that is.

Reporting on my guild's ops "progression" lately is kind of awkward, because we haven't killed anything new in quite a while (not counting story mode of the new Gods from the Machine encounters); we just rotate between wiping on different bosses depending on people's frustration levels with any particular boss.

Most recently this brought us back to Revan in hardmode Temple of Sacrifice, where we are now up to the point where we can pretty consistently reach the third floor of the encounter, at which point we usually die. The thing with this part of the fight is that it features a mechanic that isn't seen anywhere else in the game: Your character has to "look at" (in the sense of turning to face) a number of purple circles called aberrations in a certain order and at a certain time, else you get affected by a powerful knockback that throws you to your death.

The thing that struck me after a few failed attempts at this was that my limited field of view made it literally impossible to deal with this mechanic, because I couldn't actually see all the aberrations (which is required to know which one to turn towards). So it was time to change my settings.

Turns out that by default, the maximum camera distance is only 19% (of what, I'm not sure). Cranking that up into the eighties changed my view of the world... quite literally. At first I actually found it somewhat disorientating when it came to judging distances, because everything seemed to be much further away than it usually was, but I got used to that relatively quickly.

Since then I've done different content with this expanded field of view too, and it's definitely made me thoughtful. For example the sisters fight in Gods from the Machine feels that much more manageable! This one was certainly not impossible to do with a more limited field of view, but keeping track of the coloured beams is certainly much easier when you can see them coming from much further away.

PvP was another area where the change was very noticeable, especially when it comes to things like enemies sneaking up on a node from the side. It's made me wonder whether I previously must have seemed quite daft to some opponents for missing something "obvious" that was going on outside of my much more limited field of view.

Yet at the same time, there's a part of me that remains somewhat uncomfortable with the change. I like seeing my characters properly, damn it, not just during cut scenes, and being zoomed out to the point where you barely feel connected to them anymore certainly doesn't help with that. Are being a raider/PvPer who wants to see as much as possible to strategically optimise their movement and being someone who wants to feel immersed in the world and connected to their character just naturally at odds with each other? Discuss.


  1. I also really like the closer perspective and use it in the vast majority of situations, although in my case this is also partially because I have an unfortunate tendency to misjudge distances from a further-away perspective, particularly if it's in a new or unfamiliar environment.

    Notable cases in point: Literally walking off the edge of the TYTH platform and that one misjudge of a jump in Temple.

    Strategically advantageous the zoomed-out view may be, from a positional awareness perspective it's more of a hazard as far as I'm concerned. :P

  2. Hmm. I don't know how it works in SW:tOR but in most 3d MMOs I play I can and do change the view distance at will, on the fly.

    When I start playing a new MMO, one of the early changes I always make is to set the viewing distance in options to both the maximum and minimum allowed. The default is almost always too limited. With luck that gives me a potential range that extends from first person to bird's eye view.

    In most MMOs it's then possible to zoom in and out using the mouse wheel or some combination of key presses. I always use the mouse wheel if I can. In normal play I zoom in and out all the time - I do it as naturally as I turn right or left. It's just part of the language of playing an MMO to me.

    In a combat situation I'll generally pull back to the middle distance, where I can see my character and everything around but still close enough to see detail. I'd generally only pull right back into the sky and spin the mouse if I needed to make some kind of decision or assess the situation - or, as in your case, to deal with a specific mechanic.

    I do all this so automatically that I don't really think about it but it wasn't always that way. For years, when I played EverQuest from 1999 to around 2004, I only ever used first person. My field of view was extremely limited, especially playing a gnome! I can't remember when I switched to 3rd person - possibly for EQ2 but that's a guess. When I came back to EQ though I played in 3rd and I've played that way ever since in every MMO that allows it - which is pretty much all of them.

    1. Yes, SWTOR works the same way in terms of letting you change the view distance with the mouse wheel. What I'm referring to in the post is the maximum view distance setting, which I had never had reason to change before and which is actually still quite close in SWTOR by default.

  3. When I was tanking I got used to having my camera zoomed all the way out. It really helped with situational awareness (now where is that add?). It also makes the role more enjoyable when you can see more than boss crotch in a fight. ^_^

    As a healer in PvP it is nice to be zoomed out to be able to see just where that silly out-of-range dps is at.

    That said, I've started pulling in my camera (I typically have the zoom bound to the mouse wheel) while I quest and level. With the big MMO having added a class and a race which have tattoos, I really wanted to see those on my characters! I've started rediscovering how good certain armor and looks are now that I'm close enough to see the details.

    I do find it funny that in first person view I have no problem with a static camera distance, but in third person games I like to adjust it situationally.

  4. As Pallais, I'll generally change it according to setting. When I'm playing by myself, though, it is generally closer, in any form of group play it's zoomed all the way out so I'll know where everything is - it IS helpful and I already have to deal with 2-second lag which is enough of an issue by itself that I'll need all help I can get! hahaaha

  5. I had long since set the max zoom out to max, but I will constantly roll the wheel to adjust my camera distance, and will often adjust angle as well (though I have the Smart Camera set so that it will reset the camera angle whenever I move. This can be disorienting sometimes, but it's usually a life saver.

  6. Thank you so much for this post! It wasn't until reading it that I even realized there was a way to adjust how far in and out one could zoom. I knew that sometimes the game felt just a bit too close to me, and that there was no possible way I could play using the top-down view I preferred in other games like DragonAge, but I hadn't realized that one could just go into preferences and tell the game to let me zoom out further. I don't usually go that far out - as you say, it starts looking kind of impersonal if you can't really see your character - but it's so nice to finally have the option!


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