Peripheral Vision, Fields of View, and You

Is there such a thing as too much peripheral vision?

Focus on an object in front of you. Maybe it’s the spacebar on your keyboard or your cell phone lying on the desk. Now, while staring at that object, try to see the other things around you. Notice the blurred, low-resolution quality of these objects. That’s your peripheral vision in action. It’s not very accurate compared to focused vision, but it still allows you (assuming both eyes work fine) to see nearly 180 degrees around you.

Peripheral vision is a necessary survival trait. Although it fails to keep up with other predators like eagles or panthers, human peripheral vision allows us to accurately detect and track motion at the edges of our sight.

As in real life, peripheral vision is a helpful tool in video games. Most shooting games, fighting games, and other games with a first-person perspective now feature customization options for players looking to expand their field of view (FOV) and increase their visual abilities.

Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, as previously reviewed on this blog, demands a much higher FOV than the average shooting game. With an emphasis on close-range combat and in-your-face action, Chivalry’s developers have decided to allow players to tinker with their FOVs as much as they wish. Although the game’s settings allow players to raise the FOV to 120, players can use console commands to blast past this limit and reach FOVs as high as 200 if they so wish.

Nobody is insane enough to play at 200 FOV, but many veterans tread the line between motion sickness and increased visual perception. Take a look at the following image taken at 150 FOV.

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Playing Chivalry: Medieval Warfare with FOV set at 150.

Playing with an absurd FOV brings the player an undeniable advantage that cannot be understated: more information. In a game like Chivalry, where fast reaction times and creative swing manipulation separates the winners from the losers, increased peripheral vision enables players to parry attacks that they would not have seen coming with a lower FOV.

As the meta has developed and players have learned how to circumvent an opponent’s parries by dragging their swings into their foe’s feet and sides, increased peripheral vision has become a downright necessity in order to play at the same level as the veterans.

This leads many new players to feel frustrated and disheartened as they realize that in order to compete with the best, they will have to contort the game’s appearance into a warped husk of its once beautiful and immersive world. Without this bizarre perspective, Chivalry has top-notch graphics (even for a game over four years old) that draw players into the violent yet picturesque landscape of pseudo-medieval Europe. To throw these immersive qualities out the window isn’t acceptable for many and adds to the list of factors that cause players to drop the game entirely.

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The game looks great with FOV set to 100.

Of course, many players make compromises instead. Rather than play at 150 FOV where ranged weapons are hard to use and depth perception takes a nosedive, many players opt for 130 or 140 FOV instead. These options still allow players to enjoy the game’s immersive graphical qualities without having to sacrifice too much peripheral vision.

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I normally play with my FOV at 130. It’s a compromise between the two extremes.

Personally, I use 130 FOV and it works out fine. But, lingering doubts remain.

“Did I just lose that fight because I couldn’t quite see his swing coming?”

“Would I have a higher score or parry more swings if I played at 150 FOV?”

Sometimes, my authoritarian side wonders:

“What if the developers capped the FOV at 120 as the customization settings already allow?”

One might suggest that this would lower the skill ceiling of the game, and they might be right. Although miniscule, this change would affect higher levels of play and forbid players from exploiting fields of vision to gain an advantage.

However, it would also allow players to feel like they are on the same playing field as veterans. It would enable veterans to relax and stop worrying whether or not they are being outclassed because of another player’s insane FOV. Also, let’s not forget that it would make high-level skill montages much easier to digest without having to adjust to the YouTuber’s ridiculous 160 FOV.

Personally, I hope that for their next title, Mirage: Arcane Warfare, the developers allow the FOV slider to reach 130 or 140 while simultaneously removing the console command that allows players to change it. By reaching a compromise and removing some of Chivalry’s exploits from Mirage, hopefully the community will be able to retain more new players and develop a healthy competitive scene.

That said, there is still plenty of room to debate.

Do you think there should be an FOV cap? How high is too high? Let the Mirage developers know your thoughts on their forums.

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