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JustinHeatherBarrios

Immersion

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Everyone,

The idea of game immersion has been on my mind a lot lately, I wanted to pick your brain about the concept. A rough definition of immersion: when you feel immersed in a game it puts to sleep the little part of your brain that says "This is just a game. You're not really an adventurer, space marine, wizard, etc..." Breaking immersion: when something happens in game that snaps your brain awake and reminds you that you are just playing a game.

In my opinion the opposite of immersion is cinematic. A cinematic game frequently takes control away from the players to show a cut scene or some other sequence the player has little control over. I really dislike games that focus on cinematics over immersion.

Some games where I felt very immersed:
- Half Life series
- Bethesda games: Elder scrolls and Fallout
- Mass Effect series (for the most part)
- Deus Ex
- The STALKER series

High Cinematic games:
- Devil May Cry and Bayonetta
- Most JRPGS (except the ones where you interact in conversations like Persona)
- Most shooter games (cut scenes inbetween each level and "support" characters that order you around)

As a developer I feel my style leans more towards the Immersion style. What sorts of things in game make you feel immersed?
- Must the game be in First Person perspective?
- Can you feel immersed during cutscenes?
- What if you are playing First Person and you see your character in a mirror?
- Loading screens?
- Do you prefer health bars or the instant regeneration seen in most shooter games now adays?
- Should the character you are controlling in First Person be silent or talkative?

What are some things to avoid when trying to create an immersive game? Things that snap me out of it:
- invisible walls or walls that can be easily jumped over the player can't pass through
- Some compromising options being left out of a dialog tree
- The game doesn't let you fall off a cliff
- Conversations I have no control over

Do you prefer immersive games or cinematic games? Or do they both have their place? Can you name a point where immersion was broken in a game? Thanks for the input.

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About immersion, it really depends. In MMOs I prefer third person, because I feel better bond with my character and I feel more immersed in him, due to me being able to actually see all the cool moves he executes and the armor I am wearing. However when in single player, I would prefer first person view for reasons I can't quite explain. I guess for the sake of immersion, again.. quite contradictory, eh?

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I think immersion is not about "forgetting you are playing a game" but more like "feeling you are in a consistent realistic world". For example if you are playing a medieval game, you are a knight and suddenly a fantasy goblin pops up, it breaks the immersion (note that if this was a fantasy RPG it would not break the immersion at all, it would add to it). It can be even an abstract game. When you are playing Tetris you are in a world of boxes. Everything in that world is square and falls from the top, if you suddenly encounter an alien shooting at you the immersion breaks and you realize you are playing a game.

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I love cutscenes and reading, so that never breaks the immersion for me. I don't really care about being in control of the story, I just like reading lots of it, so that is what immerses me, really. Shooters don't immerse me because I don't like the concept of shooting things, so I'm always aware that this it's a game, and one I don't really like.


So yeah, it varies with players, I guess, but you're probably spot on about most players when you talk about yourself.

Like Acharis said, immersion breaks when something goes against what was previously established. In Dragon Ball Z, for example, immersion broke when powers levels started to grow but could never feel consistent(lame example, I know). I can't really think of any examples with video games...

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A cinematic game and an immersion game are not poler opposite. It just so happens that including cinematic in a game can break how immersed a player feels. I also fall slightly more towards Acharis's take on immersion, the goal is to trigger a willing suspension of disbelief. Its not that the player forgets they are in a game (that is close to impossible to do as far as I know) but about getting them deeply engrossed in the game.

Anyway back to your questions:

[list][*]Must the game be in First Person perspective?[list][*]No it entirely depends on the genre. Some (like RPGs) i prefer being the character while in others (shooters) i prefer begin in first person.[/list][*]Can you feel immersed during cutscenes?[list][*]Yes. The famous Aerith cutscene in FF7 is a good example.[/list][*]What if you are playing First Person and you see your character in a mirror?[list][*]The character is almost always meant to be someone else, my avatar in the game. So no, that doesn't affect my immersion in a game.[/list][*]Loading screens?[list][*]I don't like them but not because of immersion. No matter how engrossed in a game I get I still know it is a game.[/list][*]Do you prefer health bars or the instant regeneration seen in most shooter games now adays?[list][*]Not to sure what this has to do with immersion. Do you mean which to me is the most realistic? A mixture of both or the absence of both. But my preference in general is for the medipack system.[/list][*]Should the character you are controlling in First Person be silent or talkative?[list][*]Entirely up to how well written the script is and how effective the design is. Along with the voice actor if it is indeed voice acted. If you can do it well then do it, if you can't then don't bother.[/list][*]Do you prefer immersive games or cinematic games? Or do they both have their place?[list][*]I explained my problem with this terminology previously. But do "immersive games" have a place? Yes. Do cinematic games have a place? Yes.[/list][*]Can you name a point where immersion was broken in a game?[list][*]Generally if a game starts to feel like a chore. I can't think of any specific examples off the top of my head though.[/list][/list]



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In rpg's, I feel that the typical movement controls like seen in the witcher 2 is very non-immersing.
I like 3rd person, but the camera should be locked behind character (like seen in Oblivion), where movement is similar to a shooter game.
With the witcher 2 kinda controls, you're not in direct control of the character's movement. the character turns according to what direction you move in.
In a shooter you can move forward/backward/sideways/diagonally, based on what direction you look in. You change direction with the mouse.
You have pinpoint accuary. In the witcher 2 game it can be very tricky to get your character to stand in a specific place, pointing in a specific direction, and the stop "slide"
does not make that easier. [b]It doesn't feel like you're in direct control of your character, and that's a huge immersion breaker for me.[/b]

Risen has (in my opiniion), a very immersing game world. You have the "direct" movement controls I was speaking of. The world is open, with no loading zones or
invisible walls, and it's handmade (not generated, which is easily seen in Oblivion). This video is a good demonstration of how the game world looks like:
[url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prKw5RymHTY"]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prKw5RymHTY[/url]

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[b]Must the game be in First Person perspective?

[/b]No, not really. Even a god-overhead-view game can be immersive. Perspective has little to do with immersion.

[b]Can you feel immersed during cutscenes?

[/b]Yes, but only if they stay in tune with the world/characters. In one instance of the game The Last Remnant (by Square Enix), in the very beginning, the game struck a false note with me that sticks even now. For some reason, the main character started using a power and just.... fainted. I understand that there are all sorts of super powers, but fainting in the face of danger just knocked me out.
A good cut-scene will keep you immersed as long as it does things you might expect, or can tolerate within the setting. A rainbow unicorn descent from the heavens in Gears of War is a good example of immersion breaking.


[b]What if you are playing First Person and you see your character in a mirror?

[/b]I expect my character not to move and behave like an ape, unless he/she is an ape. F.e. don't give me a mirror in Duke Nukem Forever. The character's jump animation is so lazy and disgusting that... Ugh. Same goes for shadows btw. Dead Island is a great example of how hilarious that can be -- when you look at your shadow while running, the character's arms fold up like scorpion stingers, it just looks retarded.

[b]Loading screens?

[/b]Too frequent == bored and irritated. Think Deus Ex Machina. I was afraid to die, change the zone or load the game simply due to the loading times driving me insane. Then again, if the loading screen is interactive and rewarding (Okami had that, you could gain a rare item for button mashing in the loading screen), I sometimes wish for it to linger around a bit longer.

[b]Do you prefer health bars or the instant regeneration seen in most shooter games now adays?

[/b]Depends on the setting. I can see what Duke Nukem Forever did there, and I can accept that. Gears of War diverts my attention well enough for me not to notice the regen feature. I know a lot of fluff in WH40k to justify replenishing health in Space Marine (although why in campaign mode it worked differently is beyond me). On the other hand, Bulletstorm had no justification of regenerating health, so it didn't feel right.
I guess that as long as the game can make good (and ballanced) use of the system it implements, I'm okay with it.

[b]Should the character you are controlling in First Person be silent or talkative?

[/b]It really depends. If the character is a moron and I disagree with his way of thinking, I'd rather have him shut up. And why only first person?
In Dead Space 2, the voice of the protagonist felt so unnatural that I kept looking around for the person talking. I realised it was Isaac around half the game. In Half-Life (which is what I think you are referring to) the silent protagonist worked as the NPCs did all the dialog and heavy lifting. Gordon wasn't expected to talk.
In most other games, such as Wolfenstein or Doom, the protagonist has barelly anyone to talk to, so it's okay to stay silent.


To sum up, as long as the game world, characters and events is coherent, you will gain immersion.

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Well, books are [i]immersive. [/i]Think about that.
[i]
[/i]
[i][color=#1C2837][size=2]- Must the game be in First Person perspective?[/size][/color][/i]
[i][color=#1C2837][size=2]
[/size][/color][/i]
[i][color=#1C2837][size=2]I don't see why they must. [/size][/color][/i]
[i][color=#1C2837][size=2]
- Can you feel immersed during cutscenes?[/size][/color][/i]
[i][color=#1C2837][size=2]
[/size][/color][/i]
[size="2"][color="#1c2837"]-Absolutely. Especially if the Agency I expect is still there. Call of Duty's beginning chapter where you can look around while they drive you to get shot in the head is not at all not-immersive.[/color][/size]
[i][color=#1C2837][size=2]
- What if you are playing First Person and you see your character in a mirror?[/size][/color][/i]
[i][color=#1C2837][size=2]
[/size][/color][/i]
[size="2"][color="#1c2837"]I expect to see my character to behave like he/she is looking at a mirror.[/color][/size]
[i][color=#1C2837][size=2]
- Loading screens?[/size][/color][/i]
[i][color=#1C2837][size=2]
[/size][/color][/i]
[i][color=#1C2837][size=2]If they are frequent and long they get really annoying quite fast.[/size][/color][/i]
[i][color=#1C2837][size=2]
- Do you prefer health bars or the instant regeneration seen in most shooter games now adays?[/size][/color][/i]
[i][color=#1C2837][size=2]
[/size][/color][/i]
[i][color=#1C2837][size=2]I like regeneration.[/size][/color][/i]
[i][color=#1C2837][size=2]
- Should the character you are controlling in First Person be silent or talkative?[/size][/color][/i]
[i][color=#1C2837][size=2]
[/size][/color][/i]
[size="2"][color="#1c2837"]Depends on context.[/color][/size]
[size="2"][color="#1c2837"]
[/color][/size]
[size="2"][color="#1c2837"]
[/color][/size]
[color=#1C2837][size=2]What are some things to avoid when trying to create an immersive game? Things that snap me out of it:[/size][/color]
[color=#1C2837][size=2]
[/size][/color]
[size="2"][color="#1c2837"]Painting the fourth wall and reminding the player that they are in a game world by referencing other games or real wolrd stuff that should not be there. Fallout 2 does that often.[/color][/size]
[size="2"][color="#1c2837"]No agency. If I do something, I expect results, otherwise do not let me do it.[/color][/size]
[size="2"][color="#1c2837"]Bad voice-acting.[/color][/size]
[size="2"][color="#1c2837"]
[/color][/size]
[size="2"][color="#1c2837"]
[/color][/size]
[size="2"][color="#1c2837"]I suggest you read Janet H. Murray's Hamlet on the Holodeck, she has a whole chapter on immersion. [/color][/size]
[size="2"][color="#1c2837"]
[/color][/size]

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[quote]Well, books are [i]immersive. [/i]Think about that. [/quote]I concur and would add Audio-books to that statement. In fact, some of the most immersive games I've played were text-based games like the ones found at [url="http://www.ironrealms.com/"]IronRealms.com[/url]. You read the text, and your mind's-eye constructs a world of wonder incorporating previous experience from your [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sense"]senses[/url]. I suspect that why most game developers start with a Story. The challenge is translating that story into an interactive environment and stimulating the senses with synthesized narration of visuals, audio, force-feedback and input, that is usually all performed within your mind's eye.

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I think its worth distinguishing between immersion, which as you said is the sense of suspension of disbelief, identification with the characters and goals etc. and absorption which I would describe as the state where your mind is totally taken up with the logical form of the game. I know I am often absorbed completely in some puzzle games. It would be worth investigating these two related states.

I also think that the player brings a lot to the table. When I was a kid I would often make up stories around games that had none. I even acted out continuations of the game with toys. I'm sure a lot of people did the same thing, if you could ever get them to admit it:)
Is immersion something that depends on the desire of the player to be immersed?

I found Mass Effect 2 extremely immersive, even though when you break it down it is just a series of sub games taking place in quite restrictive environments. I think the main thing was that the characters were so attractive and well realized that the whole point of the game became to get to know them. The shooting and stuff faded into the background, but I *needed* to know more about Samara!

Depth is immersive; the feeling that the world you are in is not just a series of blank surfaces and useless props, but something you can interact with. Imagine walking through the streets in LA Noire. Now pretend that all the people you see have their own stories, that the buildings all have something real going on in them. This "background potential", this sense of unrealised possibility is what gives things their depth and mystery. It is a space where players can project their imagination.

It doesn't just exist in environments; characters have immense "background potential" thanks to the complexity of language and what they can express about themselves, what they allude to as you get to know them (Mass Effect again..).

Of course, this is difficult to do, but even little things help; The ability to hunt in Red Dead Redemption went a long way in making the landscape feel like a living place worth exploring, a place with "immersive presence" if you get my meaning.
I think weaving little interrelated networks of minor game mechanics into the fabric of the game world is something more developers should look into.

Sound is often overlooked. Good tunes and sound effects always draw me into a game.

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