A few weeks before release, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is still being revealed. Although we learned yesterday that the title was gold and would entitle you to two DLC and a season pass, the game has also been talked about on a different topic lately. This is the fact that it is essentially playable in first person, a choice that many players are questioning and which the studio has recently spoken out about.
“Pandora is the star of the game”
In a recent interview published by IGN, Massive Entertainment defended this choice, explaining that it wanted the player to feel immersed and “get the impression that they were really on Pandora.”
According to Magnus Jansen, creative director of the game, Massive and Lightstorm (James Cameron’s studio involved in the development) did not ask themselves the question and it is Pandora who is the star of the game, and not the Na’vi :
To be as close as possible to Pandora, to be so immersed in it, which is possible thanks to the first-person perspective, it was a no-brainer for us to choose this option
For Ditte Deenfeldt, Game Director of the project, nature is in a sense the main character of the game and the studio’s wish is for the player to get closer to it. The first person view is the best way to do this:
We want you to get closer to nature, which is kind of the main character of the game, and the best way to do that is in the first person
A 3rd person view of the frames
This is not the first time that the immersion argument has been put forward to defend the choice for the first-person perspective. When Cyberpunk 2077 was announced, many players were disappointed that the game was an FPS, and CD Projekt RED defended its choice with similar arguments.
Future proved the studio right, as the Night City immersion was greatly aided by this perspective.
It is also possible to play in 3rd person, especially when the player is aboard vehicles, and Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora also offers this solution when moving on the back of an Ikran or a Direhorse:
We decided to use the third person camera for Ikran and Direhorse because of the framing it provides of the world.
We really liked this change in field of view. In third person you can see tree branches and leaves and all those things from the wings that you couldn’t really see if you were in first person. In the same way, if you cross the falls with your wings, you will see that part of Ikran getting wet and you will see the water flowing. I think these kinds of details are very difficult to see in the first person.
Offering both perspectives means ‘double work’
Massive then explains that it’s not easy to offer players the choice to switch between the two perspectives, as is especially the case in Starfield.
Creating first- and third-person perspectives are “very different disciplines” and offering both in the same game represents “duplication”:
If we want both [ndlr : perspectives] are of high quality, a decision must be made very early
When you’re harvesting, hunting, or moving around, in third person it becomes little pixels hitting each other and you don’t get that special sense of place and immersion that we really wanted this game to have.
The issue of scale is also raised, and Massive specifies that the first-person camera helps emphasize how large the Na’vi are, especially compared to humans:
You walk up to an infantryman and he’s small, then you kick or punch him and he flies away. It’s a lot of fun and a great show of power, but we’re trying to show scale in many other ways. Because almost all human environments are built on a human scale. So if you have to enter a control room, you have to crouch down and go through a small door, which really makes you feel your size
With these different explanations we more easily understand the studio’s choice to favor the first-person perspective for their game. Now let’s hope this translates into more fun with controller in hand, and that players will enjoy the experience of Massive.
Please note that Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora will be available on December 7 on Xbox Series X|S, PS5 and PC with several editions available for pre-order.