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Turn-based games and immersion?

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It seems to me that, while it is quite easy to create immersion in a RTS game, it is considerably harder to draw the player into the (non-)action of turn-based games like Battle Isle or Master Of Orion. Games like StarCraft or C&C always keep you busy, so you are forced more to concentrate on the game rather on what actually happens around you. With your orders carried out in realtime, you get a (mostly) instant result and your enemy's reactions who therefore appears to be more "real" than a turn-based AI which patiently waits for you to finish your turn. With massive amounts of troops or ships you also lose the possibility to identify with a single character like you could in, say, an RPG or the mentioned RTS games. Limiting the player to a small group of units (like a platoon of marines in Incubation) can bring back some of that, since you are usually busy developing those characters and push them farther, but then again this is an approach you could hardly implement in a Master Of Orion-style game. So, what do you think are good ways to create immersion in a turn-based game?

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I think it partially depends on the personality of the player. I personally get quite immersed in turn-based strategy games. I don't tend to feel the need of relating to individual units as much. I "relate" to the entire empire all at once; to the military fronts, to the diplomatic relations, to the tech progression, to the balance of cities/planets/whatever that produce different things (money, units, buildings, etcetera).

And during the AI's turn, I don't usually find myself distracted by other thoughts or anything. I'm thinking about my upcoming turns and little else. So I personally have no problem being immersed in a TBS.

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I agree with Agony. Civilization III being turn based never stopped me from cursing at the AI from the edge of my seat. These games are a greater challenge to your strategy and war-planning intelligence. If anything, it seems to me that character units in real time strategy are more dispensable than turn based. It also makes you personally feel more responsible for their deaths when you directly issue the specific orders.

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I actually got quite attached to my leaders in MOO. I never sent one into battle without good backup.

I do think having dialogue with individual specialist units would help immerse the player. For example a planet leader would start a dialogue with the player if they thought their tech was too low or had insufficent defenses.

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It's possible to create immersion even when managing larger amounts of units, so long as they retain some sort of individuality. Naming definitely helps (even automatically named units, because the whole point is to have the player see them as more than Tank1, Tank2, etc.), so do varied stats among units of a same type, especially if it's a result of player action.

Dawn of war had a neat system, and even though it's a RTS, it could be brought to TBS effectively. If you haven't played it, you create units in squads, and then can upgrade those squads as you wish. So even though two squads might be the same unit type, they might have vastly different capabilities (one might be a rocket squad for use against vehicles, while the other might have bolters for use against infantry).

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I think it's a matter of scale, rather than pace. If you don't know about The MonkeySphere, now's a good time to read the layman's introduction.

Essentially, I can think of my five guys in Final Fantasy Tactics as people. They have back-stories and personalities. In StarCraft, the units each have a personality, and even though I have twenty Marines out there, they all have that "You want a piece of me, boy?" attitude that I find so endearing. I can think of them collectively as a single character (thanks to Pierre "Frenchy" LaFrench's great invention), and so they have some depth as well.

If I'm looking at fourteen identical 16x16 sprites with no funny lines, no history and nothing to make them more than icons or chess pieces, then my relationship is with my opponent, not to my units. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's just that I won't be dealing with the game on the same level.

I don't know what it is about Pikmin that makes me care so much about hundreds of identical eight-hour-old vegetable people. I think it's the cuteness.

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I really dont like RTS games, One reason being there is no time to be immeresed.

Im one man... i spend my day managing to be one person in one place at any given time and thinking for me and me alone.

While playing an RTS game I all of a sudden have to gain omniprecence and be mentaly one side of the map while being phisicaly(whats on my monitor) in another part of the map.
And whats worse unlike a real war/conflict/etc I cant depend on a groups leaders or commanders to do the smart thing if left alone and lead thier group/platoon/regiment... im the only thinking being out of my entire army. and I have to be every man and think for every man at every moment in the game.

I can multask but being THAT occupied kind of stifles clever and meticlous tactics as well as immersion.

I've been playin X-Com: Enemy unknown and UFO: Aftershock(psudo-turnbased) the past few weeks and turn based has a lot of immersion for me even more so when its small squad based rather than army based.

If my guy is stuck reloading in the middle of cross fire and has no more timeu units left or laying in wait with a sniper rifle, i get tense and excited waiting for my enemy to take his turn. If my highly trained Gunman/Ranger/Commando is fleeing for his life towards the groups medic with 5 raging wargots snapping at his heals with missile launchers im on the edge of my seat... becuase i have the time to be and not only that i have the time to think and set up an heroic rescue and turn the tables is a dramatic style that will stick in my mind... if that was an RTS it would be a crazed zerg of death that would fade form my memmory as fast as my rage after i reached for the bottle of Jack Daniels next to my PC.

I gain quite a bit of immersion from turn based games if they are about smaller numbers of units or troops... large numbers and it just gets a bit to detached.

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Quote:
Original post by JDUK


While playing an RTS game I all of a sudden have to gain omniprecence and be mentaly one side of the map while being phisicaly(whats on my monitor) in another part of the map.
And whats worse unlike a real war/conflict/etc I cant depend on a groups leaders or commanders to do the smart thing if left alone and lead thier group/platoon/regiment... im the only thinking being out of my entire army. and I have to be every man and think for every man at every moment in the game.



Heir heir . That is EXACTLY the reason why I don't like rts's. If you commanded a real army, you'd be able to give your commanders a directive and can assume that they execute properly , and if they couldn't they'd contact you AND take proper action. I think commanding an army would be like playing a chess-game, while the pieces are capable of making certain important decisions on their own... In current rts's this is simply not possible. The units are simply too stupid, and so are (if there are any) the commanders.

Although turn-base games do not allow the nice action an rts offers, it IS more fun to play.

if you want action, play an fps.

If you could make a certain semi-turn based rts, where there are ranks, and each rank is capable of making more abstract decisions than the one below it ... now THAT would be interesting . i.e. A soldier is only capable of making decisions for himself, guard, fire, walk etc ; a platoon commander is capable of making decisions for the whole platoon, where is the platoon going to go ,.. ) ; field officer determines where several platoons should go ,..... etc etc ...
in the highest rank there will be you ... commanding the game like a chess-game, however you can also zoom in to see the complexity of things...

Great question ! Sorry about my ramble...

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TBS games are known for their imerssion they are after all where the "just one more turn" phrase came form.


Anyway I think one other thing thats important is a good story and a reason for fighting. Take for example a somewhat old game Spellcross. The basic story was that the Earth was being invaded and you started as commander of a few troops that had gotten stuck behind enemy lines. The first few missions were you trying to get some troops together and get out from behind enemies lines. At this point however you were actually one of the units on the battlefield. This of course has the effect that you attach to this unit and feel tense as it could get killed and you start getting attached to the units that you join up with as they are your way out.

After these first few missions you get out and are in control still but you no longer take part in the battles yourself, but you are already immersed as it is YOUR army, YOUR troops that are fighting and you feel happy as they win, sad as they get killed and enjoy it when powerfully enemy units come charging fruitlessly at your entrenched units.

This won't have worked as an rts as you would always be trying to do something else at the same time.

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Some of my most immersive gaming moments were in Turn-Based games.

What's important to me is:
- the ability to freely zoom and turn the battlefield
- a high level of detail, maybe with idle/background animations
- a coherent game world

If I have all three, I usually get immersed pretty well! (like I had in UFO Aftermath, which is turn based in my eyes, because playing realtime is suicide)

HistoryLine 1914-18 was immersive, and, in a way, so was Empire: Wargame of the Century.

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It is more a matter of scale, as Iron Chef Carnage said. But time counts too.

A player cares more to the unit if he follow the units in his little quest. A TBS give you time to follow each single unit. But RTS dont, unless you have few units. Of course if a unit isnt unique (and you have a bunch of soldiers) the player wont give a damn about them.

Here is some elements (i can think of) to create immersion in TBS (and all other genres):

- realism: basing game units in real ones (paratrooper, hoplites, samurais, etc...) and making physics real (like the curvature of a arrow, real combat tatics, etc...) make the player identify themselves more with the game.

- individuality of the unit: The ability for the player change the unit weapons, itens, abilities etc... and make them grow.

- custom unit's name: You should give the player the ability to name each unit (im not saying UNIT TYPE) with a name. A named unit its easier to care, especially when it is the player who gave the name. X-Com agents, Civilization's 3 elite/leader units, and the Warcraft 3 heroes were good examples.

- 1st person point of view: See for example Dungeon Keeper. You could fight 3rd person or 1st person. 1st person is obviously much more imersive. So you could put the ability for the player to control the unit as 1st person (is it impossible to TBS??? Why?)

- Real Time: Real Time IS more immersive than turn based. BUT you can put some real time elements in a turn based game. Same-time turns (like Age of Wonders) are an example. Time-limited turns are another. Of course: the more real-time elements you have, less strategy time the player have, and more arcade you game become. Just know how to ballance it. NWN and KOTOR are the nirvana in real-time-turn-based game. Their mechanics are 100% turn based (AD&D variation), but are presented real time to the player. Bioware acomplished it making each turn timed, units moving at the same turn, and the game showing each action with its real time (proportional to the quantity it spent in the turn cycles)

Even if the game is massive scalled, the player could become attached to some few units, or even a entire squadron. That will depend of the customization of the unit and the squadron.

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The key observation, from my point of view: consistency and balance are the most important aspects, but other than that it depends on the game and the kind of immersion you want.

The problem is that immersion can mean a whole lot of things for different people, and to each his own. Unfortunately the GameDev Dictionary does not define immersion, so we can't use that as a frame of reference. Online dictionaries with their vague explanations for the word aren't of much use either, as the word immersion does indeed represent a vague, general concept. Because of this, it will be practically impossible to give The One Correct Answer to the question.

In addition, there can be many kinds of immersion. In a story-based RPG the immersion can come from the story or possibly from the character development. In a TBS the immersion comes from, say, the gameplay and strategies. It's a rather different experience.

While it is true that a blatant failure to adhere to the realism of a single aspect in a game that is realistic in other ways can kill the feel of immersion (depending on what ever semantics you impose on the word), realism per se does not necessarily imply immersion, nor vice versa. After all, more often than not the real world is quite a lot more boring than a surreal fictional world portrayed in an interactive way. While the real world is "immersive" in a sense (again, the vagueness of the concept is problematic here), it's probably not the kind of immersion you want; adding a myriad myriads of details in the game will make it more "immersive", but in the similar way Excel is immersive. And Excel is boring (at least, I believe this is the general consensus, but YMMV). This is not to say that less details is better — what you need is balance.

Anyway, realism is not always necessary. What is necessary (at least, what I consider necessary) is a sense of consistency. If you want realism, don't suddendly make the world surreal in the middle of the game (at least without a plausible explanation). Basically, in most RTS games the concepts and gameplay are fundamentally abstract and/or symbolical, yet represented in a "realistic" manner. This, in a sense, is inconsistent, and as such is a major reason why I personally might lose the sense of immersion in the middle of the game in RTSs (maybe RTSs aren't so easy to make immersive after all?). Personally I find the utterly abstractly represented TBSs (the original Civilization with its non-animated blocky graphics, for instance) quite immersive, but obviously not in the same sense I would find, say, a story-based RPG immersive.

Do note that having a consistent sense of abstraction in the game doesn't mean that you couldn't focus on some single aspects. You could still simplify some parts, but the overall consistency and balance should be considered.

On a side note, a high level of abstraction does not necessarily imply a lack of realism and vice versa. There is no reason why the use of a generic "unit" is less realistic than modeling individual units. That said, any given level of abstraction is not inherently more immersive than another one.

In addition, in an attempt to contrast John Kowawsky's post that makes some very shudderingly strict statements, I'd say that real-time gameplay is not inherently more immersive than turn based, and neither is 1st person as opposed to any other point of view (let alone "obviously much more immersive", I see nothing obvious about that). Of course there are instances where they can be, but the sense of finality in John Kowawsky's post is indeed fearsome.

I'd even say that all other aspects equal, for the "god's point of view" (I mean the point of view used in RTSs and many RPGs, it's not strictly 3rd person, as the latter can mean other points of view as well), the true isometric projection (or some other parallel projection; not the fake isometric projection they use nowadays) is overwhelmingly superior for the purposes of immersion than any perspective projection. I find it more immersive becuse firstly, it's traditional in a sense, and secondly, I find the perspective projection simply distracting in the point of view in question). But that's just probably me.

Summa summarum: as always, the experience of immersion depends on the player and will not be achieved unless the player is willing to be immersed.

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