I was reading an article on Gamasutra called A Rational Approach to Racing Game Track Design, and I found the following:

A commonly acknowledged rule for third person games is that the environment should be scaled up by a factor of around 33 percent (on page 2)

I am just curious: has anyone else heard of such a rule, and if so, where else could I find references to it?

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    \$\begingroup\$ What do you mean by "actually a rule of thumb"? If that's what this guy does, then it's his rule of thumb. If it sounds reasonable to you, and you integrate it into your workflow, then it's now your rule of thumb. Personally I've never heard the phrase before, but when I've worked on levels in the past it was for first-person titles, not 3rd person. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetrad
    Sep 6, 2011 at 21:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've seen plenty of third person games where they clearly make the rooms much taller than is realistic to reduce problems with the camera bumping in to them. Making a global change like that for a car racing game seems strange to me though, except for tunnels and other obstacles above the track. \$\endgroup\$
    – Adam
    Sep 6, 2011 at 23:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ There's also the matter of eye height; since third-person cameras are above the player character, the player might feel too tall if the world was at normal scale. Still, it seems like a difference of 33% would make a noticeable mismatch between character size and prop sizes. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 6, 2011 at 23:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ There's another "rule of thumb" for geography: If you scale it down significantly, you should exaggerate the height of natural features (heightmap) by up to a scale factor of x2.0, else it looks too flat. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 7, 2011 at 5:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Tetrad I was just wondering if thing kind of thing was commonly held to be true, and from the answers it looks like environment scaling gets much more thought put into it than I had expected! \$\endgroup\$
    – fyhuang
    Sep 8, 2011 at 6:06

3 Answers 3


In cinema, photography and game design, it's fairly common-held knowledge that certain type of perspective and movement can cause objects to seem out of scale with each other, or simply to receive less attention from the viewer.

The solution to such a problem is to play with scale empirically until things "look right". I've not heard of an exact formula or precise set of numbers for it.

So to answer your questions, playing with scale to make set compositions look better or to alter the audience's visual attention is a well known trick. The 33% stipulation is just something this guy picked up which works for a particular scenario.

I agree with Patrick Hughes though, if you're not sure if it will work with you, try it yourself. Just don't be afraid to try values other than 33%

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for experimenting, obviously =) As a side note for fyhuang, you should see how twisted the 3D models are for guns that you see on First Person Shooters, they are heavily distorted to look "right" in your window. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 7, 2011 at 23:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the answers! I never knew that this was actually a consideration in level design. @Patrick I did recently see a third-person view of the character from Mirror's Edge running; you're right, it's super bizarre... but it looks normal in-game. \$\endgroup\$
    – fyhuang
    Sep 8, 2011 at 6:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Patrick Hughes: Actually, and if I remember correctly, the OFP/ArmA/ArmA2 series from Bohemia Interactive uses the same weapon model for third- and first-person-view. They do have special "optics" model for it though, but that's used for vehicle-mounted weapons. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 8, 2011 at 8:53

Build a mock up and run through your environment just to see what it feels like. Build several tests, try them all. You can't blindly use rules from someone else when it comes to making YOUR game feel good, there is only testing with players and iteration. You could use someone else's rule of thumb to build one of your tests, of course.

Maybe later, based on tests for your game, this percentage will become one of your ruies.

Don't jump the gun with rules of thumb! (and don't mix metaphors, ahem)



I remerber hearing about this before. Check minute 1:50 (Things next to you need to be 1:1 scale and as things become further away the need to be scaled up).The guy also mentions that the developers of max payne also talked about this issue maybe you could look that up. Of course they are talking about third person shooters I don't know if this correspond your issue.


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