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Humble Hobo

Fathoming the Unfathomable

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Humble Hobo    255
I'm trying to get my head around this concept, and I'm drawing a blank.

[b]The Question:[/b] [b]Is it possible to create a game in 2d that is just immersive than its 3d counterparts?[/b]
Obviously, good design is the key, but from my shortsighted perspective, 2d is inherently limited on how immersive you can make a world.
What are the inherent advantages or disadvantages [b]in terms of immersion[/b] for 2d and 3d? [b]In the end does it matter at all?[/b]

The most interesting games I've found in 2d are sort of puzzle sidescrollers like Limbo. Unfortunately, many people take one look at 2d games and instantly relegate them to the realm of "$0.99 app that I might try if it goes free, but otherwise not worth my time."

I bet that could change though. I ask because I'm interested in developing 2d games focused on immersion. I simply don't have the technical skills or billions of hours of free time to learn to create 3d graphics that could be considered 'immersive'. The "bar" by which players judge good quality 3d graphics keeps raising higher and higher.

[b]My thoughts on the matter:[/b]
1. Yes. Immersion should be possible through good design. 3d lends itself well to visual immersion, but emotional and gameplay immersion should be done through design.
2. Really feeling like you are part of a living, breathing world might be impacted by additional visual/audio stimuli, such as foliage rustling as you walk by, ambient sounds, and lots of interactions with the environment. In theory you could make even make a stunning world from a top-down perspective.
3. Good story, and good NPC/world interaction can make you forget that it's 2D. Edited by Humble Hobo

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Acharis    5979
I completely disagree, graphical representation has low effect on immersion. There are lots of text mode games that are considered exteremelly immersive (ADOM, Nethack, Dwarf Fortress, many old IF games, etc). Actually, I would even say the opposite, higher complexity of graphics reduces immersion (but I guess many people would object to this, also there is a sufficient number of "exceptions" where graphics added to immersion, still not as many as to say that graphics on principe increase immersion).

The primary purpose of graphics is to sell the game (marketing), not to provide immersion.

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mekk_pilot    142
I agree with above poster.

There was some robotics theorist who talked about the "unreal valley" (or something) where humans would reject robots as they got more human-like, because we would sense subtle differences between them and ourselves.
This is how I feel about games that try to mimic meatspace. I'm always thinking things like "humans don't move like that" and etc.
Now, I may be old-school, but I find myself much more immersed in 2d games. I've always felt more immersion in games like River City Ransom, Zelda: LTTP, and the abstract combat of games like FFT.
Why? I think it's because while, on some level I realize it's a game, on another level the fictive world is consistent. You get an idea what your actions in-game do, and there is no cognitive dissonance between what you know meatspace to be like and the game.
Maybe immersion needs to be better defined, but if you're talking about being engrossed in a game, being sucked into a world, then I think 2d (or non-realtime 3d) is actually the way to go.
On a side note, when I read, it's very hard for me to get into novels that reference contemporary reality in a matter-of-fact way. I can read Hemmingway, because I never lived in his world and it's totally artificial to me, just a construct I'm creating using his words. When I read a novel that mentions Obama and iphones, I start to tune out.

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sunandshadow    7426
I've played some highly immersive 2D games, just as I've read highly immersive graphic novels and watched highly immersive cartoons. I think the best approach is to work with the nature of cartoons - they can be a powerful way to communicate directly with the mind's pattern recognition, which is tied in to the sense of immersion. Working with your medium is going to be more effective than trying to fake elaborate environmentals like cinematic 3D art is better suited to.

But beyond that, I've played a ton of 2D games - if you name a genre you would like to develop, I will try to give some examples of immersive 2D games of that genre. Specifically I have played great 2D games in the following genres: adventure, rpg, sim, tactical, tower defense, sidescroller/platformer, puzzle, shooter, beat-em-up, an assortment of pet-related games, and some different kinds of mmos and social gaming sites.

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Humble Hobo    255
Perhaps a different approach --

Immersion then is related to our emotional response to the story being told (or participating in). Things like fear, suspense, and excitement are among the easiest ones to toss into a game. But when I think about it, it's more than just emotions. There's something present that makes a digital world [b]feel[/b] like a living, breathing world. Perhaps ambience, perhaps interactivity, perhaps NPCs or the world reacting to your presence and remembering you.

I guess the core problem here (and one I've not thought about enough) is that I'm at a bit of a loss as to describe what immersion really IS, and that [i]my initial stab in the dark was terribly weak[/i]. I know that it's desirable and provides memorable gaming experiences, but I might need some help with that fundamental definition.

The problem then really has nothing to do with 2d or 3d, medium, or format. But first, [b]What is "Immersion" for you?[/b].

[Edit] @Sunandshadow, I'd be interested to hear your take on immersive 2D top-down RPGs. I know that for some they are quite immersive, but I personally have a nightmare of a time 'getting into' older top-down RPGs because (and I know this is shallow), low-quality tile-based graphics to spring to mind. At the time, I was picturing how hard it was for me to be immersed in a world where I could only see 2 isometric sides of buildings, and the top of my head. This is of course, rather narrow-minded so I'd like to hear more from you about it. Edited by Humble Hobo

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mekk_pilot    142
[quote name='Humble Hobo' timestamp='1341708510' post='4956772']

[Edit] @Sunandshadow, I'd be interested to hear your take on immersive 2D top-down RPGs. I know that for some they are quite immersive, but I personally have a nightmare of a time 'getting into' older top-down RPGs because (and I know this is shallow), low-quality tile-based graphics to spring to mind. At the time, I was picturing how hard it was for me to be immersed in a world where I could only see 2 isometric sides of buildings, and the top of my head. This is of course, rather narrow-minded so I'd like to hear more from you about it.
[/quote]

I know this isn't @ me, but it seems you already have your own definition of immersion--you want to be in a meatspace analogue, with what might be called "high resolution." Until the implants are in our heads, we aren't going to get there.

The concept of "suspension of disbelief" is as important in games as it is in fiction; in fiction, on some level you know that you are engaged in the action of reading a book, but you imagine what's going on based solely on the stimuli of some ink scratched into pages. In games, if the world is consistent, and not reminding you constantly through bugs or other stumblings that you are actually playing a game, then you have acheived immersion. So I suppose my definition of immersion would be "Immersion is successfully suspending the disbelief of the player."

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sunandshadow    7426
[quote name='Humble Hobo' timestamp='1341708510' post='4956772']
[Edit] @Sunandshadow, I'd be interested to hear your take on immersive 2D top-down RPGs. I know that for some they are quite immersive, but I personally have a nightmare of a time 'getting into' older top-down RPGs because (and I know this is shallow), low-quality tile-based graphics to spring to mind. At the time, I was picturing how hard it was for me to be immersed in a world where I could only see 2 isometric sides of buildings, and the top of my head. This is of course, rather narrow-minded so I'd like to hear more from you about it.
[/quote]
I'm not personally a big fan of top-down perspective (specifically because you are looking at the top of people's heads, which obscures their facial expressions and body language), but Zelda: A Link To The Past, ChronoTrigger, Secret of Mana/Legend of Mana, the Final Fantasies pre-7, and the Phantasy Stars were some tremendously popular top-down rpg-ish games that many people considered immersive at the time. They are harder to get into now because we're not used to that pixel look, plus the gameplay is often frustratingly primitive. But in terms of making a game, with modern hardware there's no need for graphics to be low res, a modern game can look like any anime series or cartoon the designer desires as long as there's a budget for skilled artists.

These are mostly not top-down, but if you want to see some gorgeous modern 2D games in various art styles, check out Aquaria, Viewtiful Joe, World of Goo, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, Deponia, Bastion... Edited by sunandshadow

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Paul Franzen    334
OP, do you mean 2D games, or ugly games? I think if a game's distractingly unattractive, then it can take me out of the experience (i.e., [i]FFVII [/i]was difficult for me to pick up for the very first time in 2009, because I was so focused on how dumb Cloud's blocky character design looked); but I don't think that a 2D game necessarily has to be unattractive. Games like [i]Bastion[/i], like [i]Limbo[/i], like [i]To the Moon[/i]--even older games like [i]Chrono Trigger [/i]and [i]Curse of Monkey Island--[/i]have already proved that.

That said, if a game has a great story that can suck me in, then whether it's in 2D or 3D is almost irrelevant to me. A game like [i]Phoenix Wright[/i], with well-designed characters that you care about, snappy dialogue, and an overarching plot that plays out over several chapters has a great chance of gaining my buy-in, whereas a gorgeous 3D game with little-to-nothing to hook my creative interest probably won't be staying in my console for long.

If you want to suck people in to a game that doesn't look so great (whether it's 2D or 3D), I'd suggest focusing on story--even to the point of bringing in a talented, experienced writer, if you can. It could make a big difference.

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tim_shea    461
I'm going to focus on Limbo, because you brought it up, and because it's such a fantastic game. I think what the designers really did perfectly was to get out of the way of their game. The intentionally minimal graphics let your imagination run wild (seriously, tell me you didn't get a grossed out chill-down-the-spine the first time the little head worm got you) and your imagination is going to be a better renderer than a computer for the foreseeable future. This is why books have not been supplanted by television, nor comics by cartoons. Now, I'm not suggesting that you do away with all graphics, but I think if you look for places where you know technology won't match your vision (or your player's imagination) then just don't try. Use suggestion of detail, make things indistinct (within reason), rely on fewer, but more significant, colors, etc. Also, you keep referring to ambiance, which is good, but keep in mind that in real life we don't notice every tiny thing (and you wouldn't be able to capture it anyway), really it's about the big, important things being good, and a few key details being right. So, make the grass that perfect, grassy green. Or, instead of a musical score, give me a realistic crunch of gravel. Basically, use the technology to aid the player's imagination rather than trying to override it.
To me, that is really what made Limbo successful. I didn't get immersed in the game because I was emotionally involved, I was able to get emotionally involved because I was immersed.
[quote name='mekk_pilot' timestamp='1341684016' post='4956691']
There was some robotics theorist who talked about the "unreal valley" (or something) where humans would reject robots as they got more human-like, because we would sense subtle differences between them and ourselves.
[/quote]
'Uncanny valley' is actually only a dip in the perceived realism of a construct, as it approaches human-like. Perceived realism decreases, as we notice and magnify tiny imperfections and flaws in the construct, but as modern CG shows, it increases again on the other side. A good artist with modern tools can make it to the other side of the valley. Thus, it wouldn't be impossible to make a realistic and immersive game, just impossible with current technology and less than millions of dollars.

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MatthewMorigeau    1672
Bimmy makes a good point but no matter what details you focus on and leave out, its gotta move right. The one thing our eye doesn't miss, is movement. If a shape (of a character or other dynamic fx) moves in a way that our eye tells us it shouldn't. Then no matter how easily you connect to the choice of art in front of you you will not be able to stay connected or feel connected to the experience. 2D relies even more heavily on great animation because the camera doesn't move. 3D immerses us because our brain is being forced to understand the fake world that is moving in front of us. Being more thoroughly fooled by the experience which is what is required to suspend disbelief. Edited by Mratthew

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Humble Hobo    255
Mratthew, you make a strong point that I don't think about much.

Realistic animation goes much farther for immersion than high polygon count. Journey for the PS3 was in 3D, had minimalistic environments, and stylized graphics. But the animations were spectacular. All cloth moved exactly like cloth in the wind. Wind and sand and snow were animated so fantastically that you could [i]feel[/i]
the texture under your feet rather than see it.

It seems immersion is partly about good design, but also partly about putting your graphic resources into the areas that count -- like animations.

Thanks for the comments, this has been a real eye-opener for me.

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