Waypoint Weeklies: Favorite Photo Mode

One of my favorite things about video games is the way that they allow for creativity in the margins. No matter how linear and constrained a game is, interactivity allows for self expression. Screenshots are an excellent example of this. Recently we have seen developers add explicit photo modes to their games, but players have been capturing and sharing screenshots in any way they can for decades.

Welcome back for another Waypoint Weeklies! Inspired by the release of Pokemon Snap, this week we’re talking about our favorite photo modes in games. Do you love the granular detail of the feature a recent AAA title? Have you ever brute forced a photo mode into a game that doesn’t really support it? Let us know!

Feel free to post your favorite screenshot work as well.

I really have to give it up for Insomniac’s various Spider-Man photo modes (and not just because someone on their team sent me the white paper he used to help make it). Comic bubbles! I don’t have an example because I am lazy and my artistic talents are not visual but Insomniac went a few extra miles to make something that does all the things you’d want a Spider-Man simulator to do.

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Mario Odyssey’s is pretty good. The one I’ve spent most time with, weirdly, is the photo mode from Shadow of Mordor. It is fun to try and capture an orc’s head spinning in midair.

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It doesn’t have a photo mode, but I’ve never enjoyed taking screenshots more than in (heavily-modded) Skyrim. It was extremely time-consuming to do, but I loved how deep into it I could get. I’d download shader presets from the Nexus and tweak them to highlight the colours that fit each of my characters’ vibes (green and brown-tinted ones for my Bosmer archer; a super dark and purple over-saturated one for my necromancer, pictured below). And having to use the console to disable the camera to get different angles.

But I liked it, you could zoom way more in/out than most built-in photo modes, and the ability to tweak every aspect of the shaders offers a bit more freedom than the Instagram-filter style. (But it is nice to be able to take a nice screenshot without about two hours of modding beforehand.)

Wind Waker is on the opposite side of the spectrum in that you can’t do much at all, but I love a photo mode where the character is holding the camera - taking a proper selfie, weird angle and all. Link is adorable, and his goofy expressions are made much funnier if you stop to snap a selfie mid-final boss.

Also, like, it goes without saying, but Umurangi Generation. Fuck capitalism, take pictures.

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The “easy” answer for me is obviously the Pokémon Snap games, I’m still pretty early in the second game but it’s so much fun to take photos of Pokémon then go in and clean them up a bit after. The tools are simple but it’s largely enough for what the game is going for and you can get some real nice results.

But I really want to shout out Gravity Rush 2. Its photo mode is restricted to square Polaroid-style photos and it is limited in ways that makes it feel like taking real photos to me. There was also game mechanics built around it, a lot of which no longer exist because the servers were shut off.

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Those are all fantastic shots!

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The only photo mode I’ve really spent time with is Horizon Zero Dawn (imgur album, there’s some late game stuff).

Some highlights:







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While it doesn’t have an actual photo mode the original Guild Wars had a function where, when you hit the Print Screen button, it would raise a bunch of your graphics settings for one frame and then immediately lower them again so that you’d get a screenshot that looked pretty good regardless of what your computer specs were. It’s a nice little feature that I wish more games would implement.

In Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (and I think Origins, and I assume Valhalla as well?) when you take a screenshot it uploads it to a server somewhere and will display it on the world map for you and for other people. So sometimes you can look around an area and see what pictures other people have taken and even click on them to leave a like.

A few of the Yakuza games have photomodes in the form of a camera on the Kiryu’s (or Ichiban’s) phone. It’s pretty barebones but what I do like is that NPCs react to you. So any story characters you have with you will strike a pose if they’re in frame and random civilians will look at you and occasionally photobomb you. It’s cute and helps make the world feel just a little bit more alive!

This is something that I feel like is a bit more adjacent to photomodes but thinking about screenshots reminded me of PS4’s “take a screenshot when you get at trophy” function which is a cool idea that has mostly resulted in pictures of load screens and menus. But I’ve gotten a few good ones including this shot from Yakuza Kiwami 2.

And one other thing that is also photo mode-adjacent is in Watch_Dogs 2 with the Scout X app. It gives you notable locations to go take selfies in front of and mostly rewards you with additional poses to do for selfies but the really clever thing is how it works as a way to get you exploring the world. WD2 doesn’t have towers like other Ubisoft open world games and icons are only revealed when you get near them. So, Scout X gets you travelling all over the place and will (probably) get a bunch of things marked on your map.

(I don’t have a good Watch Dogs 2 screenshot because the graphics options had to be turned all the way down so they look like dirt)

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The photo mode I’ve used to most is definitely RDR2’s.

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i also am really into horizon zero dawn’s photo mode, and i’ve taken well over a thousand pics from my latest playthrough on pc, which of course looks even prettier than the ps4 version (the higher framerate is also good!)

i’ll eventually get around to uploading the decent ones, but here are some of my favorites

also, i’ve already posted a ton of pics over at the screenshot thread but yeah, i had a great time with the last of us part 2’s photo mode. here’s just a handful as i’ve already taken up too much space here lol

also, here’s a creepy psychedelic art-punk album cover

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XCOM 2 Photo booth

Firaxis understood this was the main feature of WotC to such a degree that you can download just the photo booth mode as its own application.

I have the Google photos application installed on my computer simply because I have it pointed directly at the location the photobooth screenshots end up so that they would get auto uploaded. I am probably the reason Google has to change the photo storage policy

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im sure the functionality existed in games before it, but Halo 3 was the first game i played with such a robust replay function – being able to just freely roam around the replays blew my mind at the time

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Wow, these are so good. I had no idea about Gravity Rush 2, now I’m itching to try it out so I can take some sick Polaroids.

On topic, I instantly thought of the phone camera in Yakuza. My favorite implementation so far is in Judgment, because you can take selfies with your girlfriend and there’s also a side story where you have to take selfies at a fastfood place. It does a lot to bring humanity into the space. On hand though, I only have pictures from Kiwami 2.


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I don’t usually mess with too many photo modes…but I really love Nioh 2’s photo mode. Let me take grainy samurai photos, that’s the dream.

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