I’ve been obsessing over this topic since I picked up BATTLETECH so it’s pretty funny to see this thread now.
One of the (many) reasons I picked up the game was when Austin and Rob would mention how you really get a feel for the scale of the mechs (sorry, 'Mechs) especially when a heavy punches a light. But I think the cinematic camera actually ruins that feeling of scale a lot of the time, and not only because it gets confused or stuck. When it spins around wildly, there’s no weight to it or feeling of realism, which just helps you notice all the other places the game falls short in creating that illusion.
People were discussing the “analogy” of cameras, but game cameras in 3D worlds function in basically the same way as normal cameras, they just aren’t limited by the physics of optics. Which is to say, the most important things about them are where they are and what they’re seeing (e.g. FOV). The fact that they have unlimited depth of field or dynamic range doesn’t really matter - there are plenty of ways to get those effects with real cameras if you want to for some reason, and sometimes you’ll use those effects to create a certain feeling in a photo. Likewise, you emulate real camera limitations in games because they mirror things we’re familiar with whicih lets you create a certain feeling, like an illusion of scale. Like @just_benj said about Skate:
One of the things that drew me into Skate was, interestingly enough, the camera perspective. The game is in 3rd person, but positioned lower toward the player’s feet, offset to the side, and just a little closer to the player than one would usually find. I don’t know exactly what it is, but just that little shift in perspective compared to the centered, behind-player, slightly raised cameras of other skateboarding games like the Tony Hawk series, I found very visually appealing. I can’t quite remember, but I believe this perspective is actually explained by the game as your friend following you around filming you while you skate.
The perspective is explained that way because that’s what every 90s skate video looked like. Now that you’re emulating a realistic filming style, you just need to up the contrast and suddenly, BOOM: gritty realism.
In a game like Battletech, you have no skate videos to reference. There aren’t a ton of videos of giant mechs fighting in mainstream culture. So there is a feeling of scale when an Atlas stomps a Locust, but it can look like a big toy hitting a small toy. For example:
What are those big rocks? They’re supposed to be minerals, but are there just boulder-sized mineral deposits on the surface of these planets? They’re the only point of reference we have here for scale, but they’re really only there so you can see what type of position you’re moving to from the top-down camera. The world wasn’t really built for the cinematic camera, so it can’t make things look “cinematic” no matter how hard it tries.
But don’t get me wrong, this game can be absolutely beautiful too (give all games photo mode):
In conclusion: Cameras. They’re great.