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Reader Comments (14)

Posted: Oct 12th 2009 1:39PM Jhaer said

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Immersion is absolutely subjective. At this point, there are so many MMOs on the market and coming to market, we can only hope they aren't all clones of each other and offer different gaming experiences so everyone can find something they like.

Personally, I loved the original EQ, and if EQ today were still like EQ circa Planes of Power (with maybe Ykesha and LDON thrown in) but with more content I'd still be playing it. But slowly over the years they've altered the game, probably telling themselves they are just evolving or learning from their successors, to the point where EQ now isn't much like EQ then, and no one currently makes a game like EQ then (except for EQ on the Mac server, but that's a whole other issue), so my niche, my immersion is no longer being serviced.

Posted: Oct 12th 2009 1:42PM wjowski said

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'Immersion' is to MMOs what 'Blast Processing' was to the Sega Genesis.

Posted: Oct 12th 2009 1:46PM Darkdust said

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Like faith and reason, immersion and mechanics don't actually have to oppose each other. In fact, one strengthens the other.

Well-designed mechanics increase immersion, and properly handled immersion makes mechanics feel useful and natural. In some genres (think sci-fi), the numbers really contribute to the in-universe feeling, I think.

Posted: Oct 12th 2009 1:48PM (Unverified) said

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I am all about Immersion. Even some F2P games use this creatively, such as having your avatar appearing in in-game cutscenes (DOMO, and SMT:Imagine for example) and some cutscenes actually being interactive via a menu of choices. Sometimes, my character even has dialog! I am 50/50 on silent protagonists in video games, especially if my character has some drastic reaction without some direct involvement of my own. FFXI was a little notorious for this, because my character would act shocked, embarrassed, or otherwise surprised when I think she wouldn't be. If I had a choice to be mad or sad at something, it would be one thing, but to take it out of my hands? Ick.

The lack of cutscenes in WoW has always made it seem like everything is so much more rushed, and requires a lot more reading. Sure, I don't want to go through a 10 minute long speech every time I fail a quest or encounter *cough Kael'Thas cough* but every time I get taunted with a little voice clip or see some NPCs acting a scene out, I feel just a little more drawn into the world.

"Fear is for the enemy! Fear and DEATH!" That encounter will always give me chills.

Posted: Oct 12th 2009 2:10PM Sean D said

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I think you're going to extremes here. Although there may be people out there on both ends of the spectrum - those who want to see the numbers behind everything as a means to crunching them and finding the best solutions, and those who would rather see none of them as a means to losing themselves temporarily in the image and lore of a fictional world - I believe the majority of people lie somewhere near the middle of the line.

I don't understand why these two concepts must be pitted against one another. Why does the presence of one equal the absence of the other? After all, every game will have math behind it. I tend to believe that the best games have the most math as they allow for the most variations - the most choices.

In my mind, both so-called types of players are ultimately doing the same thing. They are exploring the game via different methods. You might say they are exploring the minds of the creators of the game via different methods. It seems like a right brain/left brain thing. Some dismantle the systems. Others dismantle the image - the picture - the imagination. Why not make a button click option for both? Why not let me click on an icon to have the numerical stats revealed for a particular item? Those who don't want to see them can simply not click the button.

Both ideas exist in our universe. Why should they be at odds in a game, which is a, albeit altered, representation of the universe we exist in? Give me that picture you just painted and I'll dismantle it mathematically and show you how it's like many others. Just because I can or would do that doesn't mean that I don't appreciate the unique aspects of the painting or the creativity of the artist or his or her perspective as it existed during the moments when he or she was creating the work. It also doesn't mean that I won't or don't appreciate those people who would rather not see the numbers behind the art.

The danger here is in separating these perspectives. They may not be the same, but that doesn't mean they are opposed. This may be an aggressive comparison, but it's like comparing science and faith. They aren't necessarily opposed, but for whatever reason we've decided they should be and people spend more time arguing who's perspective is right when not a single one of us can say with absolute certainty what is true.

My point - don't present these ideas as right or wrong as it will lead to arguing about the matter, which is ultimately based on perspective. Develop games in a manner that allows everyone to enjoy it in the manner they choose. Don't force your perspective on others.

Posted: Oct 12th 2009 2:48PM (Unverified) said

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Immersion is broken when the game requires certain statistics to proceed or excel through content and now that numbers are introduced as gauge of performance people begin to optimize them to hell and back. Once that optimization begins many people fall by the wayside waiting to be told what to choose as the number-crunchers do their work (think EJ).

Conversely there is the situation where a games introduces stats, but really doesn't tell you what they mean or how they help you. Aion is bad about this. There is not thing in game that tells you what stats to stack, but you are bombarded with all these items to enhance various stats right from the get go.

What's the point in having stats if they have no clear meaning to the player? Mechanics are the rules of a game and, since all games must have rules, you must have some mechanics.

D&D, that old hold out (or sell out, you pick), is based upon this. Some people play with few rules and lots of acting (immersion) and others play like war-time generals (mechanics). Most probably play somewhere in the middle with enough immersion to enjoy the game and mechanics to have some semblance of fairness or randomness.

Too many and you end up with a spreadsheet masquerading as a game. Too few and you end up with everyone playing god and no real challenge.
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Posted: Oct 12th 2009 2:48PM Aganazer said

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After spending the last week playing Risen, all I can say is... YES! Bring on a good immersive MMORPG.

I haven't played many MMOG's that feel immersive. The gamey-ness of the combat, the brain dead AI, the lack of speech and conversation, the focus on level progression and how it gates the content, the constant player OOC chatter. All those contribute to NOT feeling immersed.

The most immersive MMOG I have found is probably Fallen Earth. The world is big enough to be believed, the persistent mounts, the lack of zoning and load screens, all of these help. Yet still, compared to a game like Risen its not even close.

Another game that gets close is The Chronicles of Spellborn. The enemy AI will hunt prey, react at realistic distances, and have a sense of self preservation. The zone layout felt somewhat natural. Even the quests seemed to fit with the game world pretty good.

I would include DDO as well since it has extremely immersive dungeons that go way beyond anything else on the market, but the dungeons play more like a coop NWN game rather than a shared world MMOG.

I keep wishing they would make a game like Darkfall with a more PvE focus that wasn't designed to be griefer's wet dream.

Posted: Oct 12th 2009 3:27PM (Unverified) said

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only way you will get total immersion in that it doesnt feel like a game anymore, is technology such as the holodeck on star trek. for me at least, theres immersion levels that will never exist because i have the barriers such as 2d monitor and keyboard/mouse, im never really IN the game. im playing the game from an obsever point of view basically.

until you can truly be part of the game in every sense that makes going outside or going into the next room real to you, immersion will only ever be extremely limited at best. for the current technology in gaming immersion is definitely subjective. but i think most ppl would agree they only feel like they are playing the game and not ever really PART of the game. even in single player games, where your actions affect outcomes more, you still are staring at a screen and controlling an avatar nothing like you in a world that you can only experience visually.

Posted: Oct 12th 2009 3:29PM Pingles said

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I am a casual RPer (very casual--never been in an RP guild or such) so immersion is important to me but I still prioritize fun over either immersion or mechanics.

I don't think I've ever run across a game written so well that I'd work to the next step in a quest if it wasn't FUN to do so.

Posted: Oct 12th 2009 4:49PM (Unverified) said

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All I want is a sandbox game. Like EVE, but with more limited PvP (more my preferences). But not in space, because we already have EVE.

To be totally honest, something like Runescape before they got rid of PvP. Have a whole crafting system, market, and PvP zones that have the best materials. I can be a miner who is entirely safe and do what I want, or I can go into a more dangerous area (from players, maybe NPCs as well) and get more lucrative stuff.

So basically, I want fantasy EVE. Or just not space-ship EVE. I like having an avatar, be it a sci-fi person or a fantasy one.

Mortal Online looks like it might be this.

Posted: Oct 12th 2009 6:18PM (Unverified) said

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The only way to achieve immersion is to somehow connect directly to the brain, and not deal with monitor's a keyboards and mice, mouses, meese...

anyways.
That aside, since we're dealing with monitors and keyboards and mice, It personally helps my immersion if a game is not too serious about itself. It can pretend it isn't on a monitor, with me pressing the keys, because if it does, I NOTICE that I'm sitting at a monitor, pressing keys. Immersion, to me at least, is less being absorbed into the other world, than preventing me from THINKING about the separation between the two. In a sense, immersion is more like distraction, or misdirection.

In my eyes: EVE, on the one hand, was too obviously a game. Darkfall, on the other, was trying to be too real. Champions, in my opinion, failed to maintain the misdirection at key junctures. Etc.

Posted: Oct 12th 2009 7:09PM cray said

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As much as I love the idea of a game that stresses immersion, I know that certain game mechanics need to be blatantly obvious for other players to comprehend things. Too many players get lost in what to do if it's not made easily identifiable.

I think the secret of having successful immersion is when the game takes the time to show new players how to play the game without using cue cards (stats, and hovering icons). Sometimes the statistical information and be a lot more subtle. So instead of having access to a certain area at level 50, a more immersible mechanic would be to describe level 50 as a rank of Champion. These kind of subtle changes would go a long way towards total immersion.

Posted: Oct 12th 2009 7:13PM cray said

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Correction:

Sometimes the statistical information can* be a lot more subtle.
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Posted: Oct 12th 2009 8:32PM Dblade said

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I think the problem is that the mechanics aren't designed to be organic with the game lore or back story, and that kills immersion. A lot of classes are just there, and there is no real explanation or event for how you become stronger. You level up, and magically gain abilities that are never really explained in terms of why. Your monk never sees the inside of a monastery once, and has no teacher. Your wizard never attends school, or steps inside a magic library to do some research. Heck, spells don't even use components.

Tesh did a good blog entry about this at http://tishtoshtesh.wordpress.com/2009/09/25/merely-magical/ about the world needing to make sense to bolster immersion.

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