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Field of View - what it is, why it matters, and how consoles differ from PCs

dLMN8R

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Dec 14, 2007
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First of all, what is "field of view"?

In short, the field of view (or FOV) is the angle measured in degrees in which you can see in front of you. In most games, it's measured horizontally, but sometimes it's measured vertically (Bad Company 2, Bioshock 2).

A standard horizontal FOV for a PC game is around 90 degrees on a widescreen monitor.

For games like Bad Company 2, which use a vertical FOV, 75 is roughly the sweet spot.

Here's a GIF of Bad Company 2:



Notice how above 75-ish, things start to look like a fish-eye lens. 75-ish vertical is around 90-100 horizontal.

Here's a handy utility to convert: http://www.rjdown.co.uk/projects/bfbc2/fovcalculator.php


I'm honestly curious about how FOV is envisioned from a developer's perspective. Is it difficulty in programming? Something that developers simply don't think about? A deliberate decision to make someone feel a particular way?

I know that Irrational said that the low FOV in Bioshock was deliberate, because it gave off a sense of claustrophobia which they though added to the game. However, I think that idea was somewhat misguided.


On a console game, I perfectly understand why a low FOV would make sense. It decreases the rendering area, which can improve performance, and it also makes things more fair because everyone sees the same thing. But more importantly is the natural way that most people sit.

Imagine you're looking out of a window of your home. If you're 6-7 feet away from the window, you can see less side to side out of that window. If you're 2-3 feet away from the window, you can see a lot more side-to-side.

This is comparable to how sitting in front of a TV is different from sitting in front of a PC monitor. I drew up an incredibly shitty drawing using my horrible artistic skills to try to demonstrate:




Developers - this is why field of view is something you can never "un-see" once you recognize it. It's simply unnatural to have a low FOV when you're sitting just a couple of feet away from your monitor. The opposite of looking like a fish-eye lens, it instead looks like you have tunnel vision.

You don't need to go to the extreme of everything seeming like it's through a fish-eye lens either! A 90-100 degree horizontal FOV looks perfectly natural on a widescreen monitor, without fish-eye effects.



Gearbox and Irrational, please take this into consideration for Borderlands 2 and Bioshock Infinite. It really does make a difference, and isn't a meaningless or trivial complaint. I get that consoles are usually the focus for development, since that's where most sales are at, but it's little details like this that go a long way in making a huge difference in a PC version of your game.
 

Sinatar

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Jun 7, 2004
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It's such an easy thing to implement in most games, it's crazy it isn't in an option in more of them.
 

Dylan

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Jul 20, 2011
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I always crank it to the max for multiplayer shooters. I want to see as much of the map as possible.
 

Xyber

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Aug 24, 2011
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I'm getting so frustrated that so many games still locks the FoV to 65 or even lower sometimes in so many PC games. I got motion sickness if I'm playing a game with that low FoV for too long. I should not have to go and edit a .ini file just to make the game playable.
 

1-D_FTW

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Jun 14, 2006
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The cynic is me believes low FOVs are done to have less geometry on screen.

As for why they're retained for PC ports? Because most are dirty ports with nothing changed.
 

BrikHog

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Jun 11, 2011
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Its picky but I also wish more devs would implement force models If your MP game does not have classes. A game like Gears 3 would really benefit from it and I can bet most players would use it.
 

Corky

Nine out of ten orphans can't tell the difference.
Jul 1, 2009
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As for why they're retained for PC ports? Because most are dirty ports with nothing changed.
This is the part I don't understand, in certain ( most? ) multiplatform games on pc where you'd want to increase the fov to something other than 45 all you gotta do is an .ini adjustment - so why not make that adjustment to begin with instead of releasing the game with console fov. It takes literally a couple of seconds.
 

Liseda

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Oct 5, 2011
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I got motion sickness if I'm playing a game with that low FoV for too long.
This is basically the reason why I wasn't able to play MW3 for more than 30 minutes because of the incredible low FoV.
I don't really get why they couldn't add the option to change fov, you could change the fov in cod4 and black ops (treyarch though) but mw2 and mw3? nope.

Getting vac banned because modifying your .exe is the only way to change your fov so you don't get motion sick is a great deal.
 

hym

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Aug 10, 2011
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I suspect games with a multiplayer component often have their FOV locked because adjusting it would give a strategical advantage. But that's only part of the issue, releasing a PC game with an FOV that's suitable for play on a couch 3 meters away from your screen is simply wrong, my guess is that developers are perfectly aware of it but they use the low FOV anyway for the same reason as on consoles, to ensure it still runs decently on old systems without labor intensive optimization.
 

ChoklitReign

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Aug 15, 2008
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My general rule for preference for widescreen monitors is 10 degrees more than the console version. I don't like the bubble effect and FOVs work differently in different games and engines, and now I know why.
 

Zzoram

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Apr 17, 2007
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This is the part I don't understand, in certain ( most? ) multiplatform games on pc where you'd want to increase the fix to something other than 45 all you gotta do is an .ini adjustment - so why not make that adjustment to begin with instead of releasing the game with console fov. It takes literally a couple of seconds.
A couple of seconds is still more effort than developers care to put into console ports.
 
Jun 9, 2004
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I can't play medal of honor, Mafia 2 for some reason makes me a bit dizzy, Crysis however I have no problem although paert 2 gave me a teensy bit of dizziness. there are others but the list is long.
 

zlatko

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Dec 17, 2009
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Low FoV makes me sick to my stomach and I get giant migranes. It forces me to stop playing for hours at a time. I really can't enjoy Half Life 2 for this sole reason even though I changed the FoV it still makes me feel queesy.
 

Amneisac

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Mar 14, 2008
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Singularity on PC is one of the worst offenders. There is an external application you can run to change the FOV, but the models are totally fucked when you do that. I absolutely hate low FOV on PC games. It's far worse since I went to a 16:9 monitor instead of my old 16:10. Funny how much just a few rows of pixels can help.
 

polyh3dron

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Jan 14, 2007
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The TV excuse is such bullshit. Low FOVs look fucking atrocious no matter where you sit. And it effects the play in a game too. Resistance 3 drove me up the wall with that shit. MW2/3 as well.
Yeah all the Resistance games are probably the worst culprit I can think of in terms of a bad FOV. For the longest time I couldn't put my finger on why those games felt so shitty when I played them and this is why.
 

TheExodu5

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Nov 27, 2007
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I think low FOV is used for console games to give increased visibility, which helps offset the low resolution. With a higher FOV, everything seems smaller. Could be for performance reasons as well, though.
 

Wthermans

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Dec 23, 2009
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I don't get this at all, that gif just looks like you're backing up.
Perception is worthless unless you have position to show the relativity of said perception. All those shots were taken in the exact same position.

I think low FOV is used for console games to give increased visibility, which helps offset the low resolution. With a higher FOV, everything seems smaller. Could be for performance reasons as well, though.
But it doesn't increase visibility. The visibility is the same. The difference lies in the detail of what is visible.
 

A.R.K

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Dec 5, 2008
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KZ2 and KZ3 have low FOV and I just hate it. I really hope they widen the FOV for KZ4 on PS4. I like the FOV in BF3 on PS3. Does not have that claustrophobic feeling and everything feels open.
 

linko9

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Apr 28, 2011
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Yeah, I can't stand when games do this fish eye thing. Very common in HD re-releases, where going from 4:3 to 16:9 causes the edges of the screen to look ridiculous. You've got to change the FOV "virtual lens" in these cases.
 

Stallion Free

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Jan 21, 2009
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Singularity on PC is one of the worst offenders. There is an external application you can run to change the FOV, but the models are totally fucked when you do that. I absolutely hate low FOV on PC games. It's far worse since I went to a 16:9 monitor instead of my old 16:10. Funny how much just a few rows of pixels can help.
If the models are fucked up, then you pushed it too high I think. IIRC there was a bit of a sweet spot that probably came out to roughly an 85 hFOV.

Here is a better comparison, done on the Source engine:

h(orizontal)FOV of ~65:


hFOV of 90:


Sitting back from a TV doesn't suddenly make that acceptable. I mean look at how much visual information is lost, it's ridiculous
 

dLMN8R

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Dec 14, 2007
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To be fair, translating an ini setting into UI isn't exactly a few minutes work. Even menu UI can take some time to develop. Design, layout, and then consistency across multiple resolutions and screen sizes can make things not completely trivial.
 

TheExodu5

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Nov 27, 2007
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To be fair, translating an ini setting into UI isn't exactly a few minutes work. Even menu UI can take some time to develop. Design, layout, and then consistency across multiple resolutions and screen sizes can make things not completely trivial.
The UI shouldn't have anything to do with FOV, and everything to do with aspect ration and resolution.
 

AndyD

aka andydumi
Jan 24, 2007
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But it doesn't increase visibility. The visibility is the same. The difference lies in the detail of what is visible.
Not true. You see a ton more on the sides and/or top. Look to the cliff on the left of the tree in the OP.

So lower FOV means less displayed on screen, means less to process on the GPU.
 

BlueTsunami

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Oct 10, 2005
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To those thinking it looks as if you're backing up, have you ever zoomed in and out with a camera without moving your body? Its the same effect. Your increasing the area that is seen by the camera (or in this case, the gamer). Its much more pronounced in game when you're actually looking around and exploring. With low FoV it constantly feels like things are just outside your vision and you need to move your in game viewpoint just to look at things.
 

HoosTrax

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Nov 15, 2011
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The FOV issue was very noticeable for me at first in both Borderlands and ME1/2 on PC. In my case, it took several days of mental adjustments before I was able to play them with feeling nauseous.

I'm not 100% certain of this, but I think excessively dark environments also exacerbate the nausea due to loss of spatial awareness, and with a game, you don't have the additional sensory feedback from your inner ear to orient yourself like you would in real life -- you can only rely on what your eyes see or don't see. Narrow FOV combined with dark environments is a recipe for nausea in my case.
 

Sho_Nuff82

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Jan 2, 2007
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Syndicate for 360 is the worst I've seen yet. It usually doesn't bother me in console games, but when your gun takes up literally 40% of the screen, you start feeling claustrophobic.



Awful.