The Sunday Papers

By Jim Rossignol on January 15th, 2012 at 10:52 am.


Sundays! Sundays are for grand victory on the field of battle! The smell of smoke and blood in your nostrils, the knowledge of having trampled the bones of your nemesis. Yes, Sundays are for the champions who write their own history. But are these some of those? Let’s find out…

  • This piece by MMO designer Raph Koster fascinated me. It asks “Is immersion a core game virtue?” and then decides that “Immersion is not a core game virtue.” Regardless of how nebulous a concept “immersion” actually is, I find it totally unconvincing, as it seems to be a piece of writing about Raph’s perception of where games are as a medium, and I am not sure that I agree. “Immersion does not make a lot of sense in a mobile, interruptible world. It comes from spending hours at something. An the fact is that as games go mainstream, they are played in small bites far more often than they are played in long solo sessions. The market adapts — this reaches more people, so the budgets divert, the publishers’ attention diverts, the developers’ creative attention diverts.” But personally I only see what Raph is talking about here as diversification, not an overall change. The kind of games (and resulting imaginative engagements) Raph is talking about are not gone, there’s just a lot of other noise, too. I think he’s making a mistake of following trends in the market and seeing that as the whole picture.
  • John Bedford talks “building better worlds” over at Eurogamer: “I can’t shake the conviction that it’s impossible to maintain the illusion so essential to a great MMO experience via a series of convenient loading screens – a constant reminder that we are participating in a fragmented world that neither exists, nor persists. To put it simply, the design of MMOs post-WOW feels archaic. If the world defines your game, it seems logical to build a tangible and persistent world first, before filling it with story and characters. Build technology to suit your world, not the other way around.”
  • Where are all the RPGs in the IGF? EXCELLENT POINT. I was going to raise a similar point myself. “Realistically, I’m not sure that there’s really any one party we can blame for all of this. The IGF could certainly do more to accommodate long-form games like RPGs in terms of the judge/jury process. It might be smart for them to have entrants submit an “approximate time to complete the game” so judges can budget their time better; giving the judges and juries more time with the games could be helpful as well. Also, it would probably be a good idea to make sure that the judge pool adequately represents the RPG developer community, as a precautionary measure if nothing else.”
  • Jonny Cullen is a PC gamer now: “It cost £830. I picked up copies of Skyrim, Battlefield 3 and Star Wars: The Old Republic before I bought it. While I’ve yet to try Battlefield 3 as of writing this piece – thanks, Origin! – I can run Skyrim at the highest setting with no problems or glitches. It looks stunning.” Welcome, Mr Cullen. Welcome to the one true format.
  • Paul Hyman asks: Why Are Racing Developers Heading to the PC? “The console track has narrowed to just a few high-profile vehicles, like Sony’s Gran Turismo, Microsoft’s Forza Motorsport, Electronic Arts’ Need For Speed and Codemasters’ Dirt. Indeed, many studios with racing experience have shuttered as demand for other titles has disappeared. Meanwhile, independent racing specialists — mostly European, like Eutechnyx, Slightly Mad Studios, Nadeo, and ShortRound Games — say the PC track is wide open and they can only speculate why the confusing traffic pattern exists.”
  • On Beefjack a teacher talks about Kids and Call Of Duty: ““Who are you to tell me how to raise my kid?” says the father of one of my fourth grade students, scoffing at me from across the table. Let’s call him Mr Scott. “You’re just a kid,” he adds. Mr Scott is replying to my suggestion that mature-rated videogames perhaps wouldn’t be the most appropriate entertainment for his nine-year-old child. But he’s right, of course. Relatively speaking, I’m just a kid too.” I think one of the great things about the current generation of parents being gamers is that they are going to be wise to this stuff and be able to get their kids playing the appropriate games. The current situation is like having a generation of parents who had never watched movies or something. “No problem, little Mikey, if all the kids at your kindergarten are watching Tenebrae, then you should too.”
  • This PDF document from offbeat game-inventors Hide & Seek is interesting. It is entitled “10 games from 2011 that tell you all about 2012.”
  • Why do we tolerate bugs in games? (Do we?) “Are fault tolerances desirable? Do they help us to enjoy what would be otherwise frustrating games, or are they holding back the progression of the medium by supporting ‘goodenough’ games that frustrate players who should be enjoying them?”
  • The best boardgames coming up in 2012.
  • A look back at Consolevania.
  • The issue of gender in Dance Central: “In the early days of prototyping Dance Central, Boch noticed some players hesitating on dance moves that felt “sexy” or “hip-focused”, or traditionally feminine — not only male players, but female participants who seemed to feel uncomfortable expressing themselves in that particular way. The design challenge was to find a way to allow players to perform the dance moves without requiring them to undertake certain subtleties that might be at odds with a person’s sense of self.”
  • My image of the week.
  • This week’s music is the emo-ambient of Bvdub.

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100 Comments »

  1. LuNatic says:

    If you are looking for something to do, might I recommend Tombs. It’s a flash based roguelike that I happened upon today.

  2. aircool says:

    I’m not sure about either side of the immersion argument. After all, you can be sitting on a bus or a train and be totally immersed in a book after only a few pages.

    • gekitsu says:

      absolutely! thats what i thought as well. also, there are portable games that zoom you right into their world even if it is just a tiny bite youre playing further while on the bus.

      my instinctive response is that immersion IS a core value for everything that has a narrative. naturally, not all games have narratives, such as chess, football or the riddle game between bilbo and gollum in the hobbit, but that doesnt mean immersion is somehow dead because its out of fashion & “gaming is overrun by normal people, now”.

    • running fungus says:

      Not a mobile, but I’m fully immersed 30 seconds after I fire up Minecraft.

    • Pointless Puppies says:

      Any piece of work can be immersive within a few seconds, really. One of the best things I can say about Elder Scrolls games is that they absolutely nail immersion down in their games. All I have to do while playing Skyrim is stop what I’m doing at any point in my game (other than during combat, of course), sit back and take in the atmosphere delivered by the music, sound effects, and graphics. I can spend entire gaming sessions just walking around and taking in the atmosphere.

      Sadly, I can’t expect an MMO designer of all people to understand that. I have very few nice things to say about the MMO genre in general, one of them precisely being the developers’ complete inability (or outright refusal) to make a game that is even in the least bit immersive. Subtle things that contribute a great deal to the immersion factor are completely lost in an MMO developer’s mind, where all they’re worried about is making more mindless Skinner boxes and making the world larger and more barren designed to waste as much time as possible from you, lest you “rush through” all the game content in less than a month.

    • DocSeuss says:

      aircool, there are two definitions of immersion/immersed. You’re thinking about the one that is synonymous with “engrossed.”

      When people talk about immersion in games, they’re talking about games that simulate reality. They’re talking about games that try not to be so obvious they’re games (Remember The Rules? Games shouldn’t tell you they’re games? That’s a part of this idea of immersion). STALKER is an example of an immersive game.

      Yes, I was engrossed in Clash of Heroes (lol) last night, but I sure wasn’t STALKER-immersed in it.

    • Raph Koster says:

      PointlessPuppies, that is sort of what I was complaning about in the first place. :)

    • JackShandy says:

      DocSuess, I believe that you’re immersed when nothing exists for you but the game.

      Obviously the game doesn’t need to even pretend it’s real to do that.

    • rayne117 says:

      If it doesn’t have a million polygons per square inch immersion is impossible.

  3. Tei says:

    Random from the internets:
    image

  4. Raiyan 1.0 says:

    Thanks for the mention of the revival of PC racing, gotta keep an eye on Flare Path.

  5. mrwout says:

    First time I read the Sunday Papers, I used to think it wasn’t interesting and just some random bits. But boy was I wrong.

    And I totally agree with your point on the Immersion thing Jim. And dare I even say more, who is to say that these newfangled “small format” short burst games can’t create immersion ? Seems like he has been playing the wrong games. I’ve been playing lots of games that create immersion even for short play periods on my Nintendo DS (yeah yeah, a console in my RPS, blasphemy !). Professor Layton is a great example of this kind of game. It has a great overarching storyline, but the puzzles are playable one at the time for only a few minutes each and the utterly fantastic art direction this game has blends perfectly from “macro-game” to the “micro-game”. That’s why for even short sessions these games are really immersive. Immersion is a game quality, and thus mostly found in quality games…

  6. frenz0rz says:

    Consolevania’s Pimp my Console presented by Hitler is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

  7. Yosharian says:

    An MMO designer thinks immersion isn’t a core game concept? HOW SURPRISING

    • BrokenSymmetry says:

      The two MMO games that Raph Koster is most known for, Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies, were actually designed to be highly immersive (much more so than current MMO’s).
      Here’s Raph Koster’s own follow up to his original article: http://www.raphkoster.com/2012/01/14/faq-on-the-immersion-post/

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      I rather think MMO designers of the moment need to worry more about the immersion smashing element of ‘preorder something else / pay £5 for a magical rideable panda from another game universe we made that is completely alien to this environment’ before they start to worry about the loading screens.

    • Terragot says:

      I reference to Broken symmetry’s link.

      “Why have books not stopped being immersive?
      Lots of books are not immersive, as was pointed out in the comments.
      But just as a comparison, books went to blogs, and blogs went to tweets. Long form everything is suffering and/or evolving in this new technological world.”

      I’ve not read the original article, because I just can’t seem myself believing in such a ridiculous comment on the state of gaming, but am I understanding that he’s saying immersion is useless/non existent? Is he saying books no longer exist or that people prefer reading twitter over a story?

      Does he mean EVERYONE IN THE WORLD HAS STOPPED READING BOOKS.

      Holy mother of Rah, why did no one tell me, I’ve looked a blasted Neanderthal on the train reading a book. I must have seemed down right alien.

      So where do I find the tweet edition of the Count of Monte Cristo?

      “@EdmundDantes ‘Wait and Hope’ RT – L’Abbe Faria”

      Or maybe this extract from the book:

      “‘Because I have insinuated a feeling into your heart that was not previously there: the desire for revenge.’

      Dantes smiled and said ‘Let us change the subject’”

      now appears as:
      @EdmundDantes – UMAD BRO!

      @L’Abbe – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GRSbr0EYYU I LOL’D

      What is Raph, the Pol Pot of games design? Why can’t we enjoy books and tweets?

    • Justin Keverne says:

      Raph has a long history of making a provocative post about something based on his own specific view of what games are, or should be, and then following them up with several clarification posts which dilute and modify his original point until whatever he was trying to say is lost. Go back and look at his posts on “the death of the singleplayer game”, by the end of that series he’s created a definition of multiplayer that is broad enough to include reading a book in a book club. <_<

      Some of his insights and ideas can be fascinating, but too often he goes out of his way to defend his own chosen area of expertise, in what can come across as a curiously insecure attempt to at self validation. Raph has a very specific idea of what games are, were and will be, sadly it's one that overlooks a large portion of the games that are played and enjoyed by millions on a daily basis.

    • Yosharian says:

      @BrokenSymmetry Honestly, I couldn’t care less. MMOs have always been about keeping players on an endless treadmill. Talking about immersion in the context of these types of games is utterly pointless.

      The recent surge of the MMO model is just a result of the industry realising it can make shitloads of cash by forcing players into skinner boxes dressed up as multiplayer ‘games’.

    • Chris D says:

      @Yosharian

      Such cynicism is very unbecoming. The abuse of a thing is no argument against the use of it. MMOs included.

    • John P says:

      Raph has a very specific idea of what games are, were and will be, sadly it’s one that overlooks a large portion of the games that are played and enjoyed by millions on a daily basis.

      How dare Koster try to defend the medium from the onslaught of narrative-driven asset tours and adolescent emotion simulators. How dare he suggest that players are actually more important than the inept Joss Whedon imitators sitting at the writer’s desk.

    • Yosharian says:

      @Chris Oh don’t get me wrong, I’ve got no problem with the concept of an MMO as such. I’m hoping Guild Wars 2 will be a step in the right direction. I have my doubts, though.

    • Justin Keverne says:

      @John P: There’s a difference between such justified criticism, and his brand of “gaming nationalism” where the only areas worth of study or discussion are the ones he has a vested interest in. Too much of his writing is focused on validating his own position rather that actually making a point; if it was otherwise he wouldn’t tie himself in knots trying to defend his positions with qualifications and generalisations.

    • Chandos says:

      @Yosharian: “MMOs have always been about keeping players on an endless treadmill. Talking about immersion in the context of these types of games is utterly pointless.”

      To be more exact: modern commercial MMOs have always been about that. The predecessors of those MMOs (MUD/MUX) continue to exist with immersion and player generated content providing the impetus to play. Or one could think of Minecraft as an example (of a MO if not MMO) where players provide their own entertainment.

      Also from the Hide and Seek article: “Freemium might not be a success strategy forever… Players will pay if it makes the game more fun.”
      That’s the problem with MMOs, particularly the microtransactional F2P kind: paying often makes the game less fun. I think the genre will eventually realize, once the market becomes truly over-saturated, that it is not a sustainable model in the long run, and will turn back to immersion for differentiation.

    • Urthman says:

      To me, nothing exemplifies the ugly way MMO’s shatter immersion than using ‘DPS’ as a noun to refer to a type of character.

    • Raph Koster says:

      Terragot, last I heard book reading had declined quite a lot. You probabl ARE unusual reading on the train, just like I am unusal reading pretty much everywhere I go.

      But no, I was not saying that immersion is useless, nor was I saying it was nonexistent. I was saying that it is on the decline as a major segment of the games industry, and that even most of the games that we consider to be “immersive” today do so by primarily denying the player agency. And that I was sad about that.

  8. Unaco says:

    The White House has voiced opposition to SOPA and PIPA. Also seems a lot of the proponents of the Bill(s) are retreating across the board.

    • InternetBatman says:

      Thank god. I think that’s a sign that the bill will die. They tried to fast-track it through because it couldn’t stand up to the light of day, and now that it’s been exposed people are retreating at a record pace.

    • The Colonel says:

      The bill was never going to survive once Google (‘s lobbying money) was against it.

    • Arathain says:

      As much as I’d like to believe that’s the end for the bills, the language the White House used does allow for the bills or something similar with substantially altered language to be passed. Also keep in mind that the White House has caved before and signed things it has opposed. Threat somewhat diminished, but not alleviated,

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      This from the same guy who was pressured into signed a law allowing unrestricted executive power to imprison someone without legal representation saying “I object to this and will never use it.” but had to in order to pass a military spending bill.

      As much as SOPA sucks, he’s already been forced to sign far worse legislation.

    • Shuck says:

      It seems like the worst elements of the bills are being removed, which actually makes me more fearful. Fearful that we’ll end up with bills that are horrible and repressive, with global implications, but not actually completely internet-breaking, and as a result they’ll pass largely unchallenged.

    • Dave L. says:

      @DigitalSignalX: Actually, the NDAA requires that anyone who is subject to detainment be given a military attorney and a hearing before a military judge to challenge the factual basis for their detainment.

  9. Diziet Sma says:

    As someone who has played Dance Central a fair bit, and it is excellent, I totally know where that article is coming from. The kind of err…. no… I don’t want to ‘shake my booty’ quite like that feeling; oh I can’t progress until I do…. well at least the curtains are drawn.

  10. Jimbo says:

    Speaking of bugs in games, apparently that temporary TOR ban for ‘exploiting’ is (or can be) 52 weeks. EA crack me up.

  11. FranzBorges says:

    This book really clears up the vagueness surrounding immersion – well worth reading:
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/-Game-Immersion-Incorporation-Gordon-Calleja/dp/0262015463/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1326627701&sr=8-1

  12. Thirith says:

    Bug-free games are an illusion, IMO, and more than that striving for them (too much) would rid us of some of the most ambitious, less mainstreamy games.

    For one thing, there’s the sheer number of different hardware setups, driver combinations, operating systems etc., and QA cannot account for all of them. More importantly, though, games that are ambitious in scope and especially those that also move away from the mainstream in certain ways (e.g. Arma, Stalker) would require months of additional QA – which, if the game is not financed by one of the big publishers who stand behind the creative vision of the developers 100%, is not particularly feasible financially. If those games were to be brought as close as possible to bug-free, they might not be worth making because the developer is pretty much bleeding funds until the game comes out. As a result, it’s likely there’d be fewer such diamonds in the rough – and personally, I’d rather live with the bugs *and* the games.

    Doesn’t mean the developers shouldn’t do what they can to reduce bugs, or to fight them (with or without the help of the community) after a game is released. Arma 2 is very playable at this stage, as are the Stalker games. Yes, they were all bug-riddled messes when they came out, but from a business point of view they might simply not have been developed if we were considerably less tolerant towards bugs, and the gaming world would be poorer for this.

    Edit: Please do understand, I would agree that most games could benefit from better (i.e. not overly idealistic perfect) QA, and it’s embarrassing and disrespectful to customers if completely obvious, simple to fix bugs are left in the game. To my mind, there’s a difference between being pragmatic about bugs and just accepting all the crap that’s slung at us out of some misplaced ‘bug fatalism’.

    • The Colonel says:

      Totally agree with this. Bug elimination is often a luxury for the games with $100m budgets. Would rather have a shonkily coded Armed and Dangerous than COD any day. Notch is hardly renowned as world’s slickest coder but his success can in part be put down to the forgiving nature of gamers for games they love and can see the potential of. This is something that mustn’t be lost.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I completely agree with this post. It’s one reason I wish reviews weren’t made using prerelease code or day one games. I get why it’s an absolute necessity for most site owners, but when I play a game like Fallout New Vegas a year after release it’s like playing an entirely different game.

    • AGBear says:

      The majority of the Fault Tolerance post is about flaws in game logic and the difference in how gamers and non-gamers approach them- the discussion about bugs is practically a footnote by comparison! So that’s my fault for firing off a hasty email to Jim this morning and leaving the description ambiguous, but please do read the whole thing.

      Regarding bugs, as I said in my Skyrim review that’s linked to within the post: “it is better to be brilliant and flawed than dull and perfect.” Of course going on a bug hunt shouldn’t be the sole focus of a game developer’s time.

  13. westyfield says:

    One thing I love about the Sunday Papers is that it isn’t just “here’s a list of things that reaffirm what I already said”, or “here’s a list of good ideas”. There are things that Jim disagrees with as well, as with the first link. Not simply “it’s Sunday and I’m right”, but “it’s Sunday, let’s debate”.
    Also my music for today is the Trine OST, and this is my image of the day, via Richard Cobbett.

    • Jamesworkshop says:

      I think that is intentional, since it creates more of a forum rather than a list of comments, like what you get from most RPS pieces.
      TSP is in my mind the ony one where reading every comment is worth doing.

  14. Lacero says:

    On the immersion debate, I’m reminded of the difference between long rituals and short rituals in religion. Some rituals are very short, certain types of washing or quick prayers before bed. Some are extremely long, there are aboriginal ones that take days and even weeks.

    The literature I’ve read describes the difference as short ones bringing the divine into the world, and long ones as taking the participant into the divine world to be changed. The long rituals set a mental state in place and the small ones work as upkeep to prevent the world corrupting it.

    Perhaps some people just don’t want to change so much they’ll involve themselves in a long ritual or game? There’s no reason we can’t have both.

    (The analogy came to mind partly because of the existence of cloistered orders who live ritual almost all the time, and their counterpart in permanent gamers who live with others or on benefits.)

  15. Dizzard says:

    I would say immersion in games is a pretty big deal for me.

    It’s the reason I find puzzle games like tetris or angry birds hopelessly boring.

  16. Cinnamon says:

    RPG, Strategy games and other types of games need to be evaluated in different ways to action games and are generally enjoyed by a different set of people some of who have no interest in action games or “gamer culture.” This is one of the reasons why I think that ideas like saying that gameplay genre should not be considered as important when evaluating a game is just a way of silently burying minority game genres while using the language of inclusiveness.

  17. rustybroomhandle says:

    I are confoos.

    One thing WoW does not have, is a persistent world. You can raid Stormwind and kill the king 100 times, yet officially he’s still alive. Everything respawns, and you as a player have no ability to change or affect anything, except maybe the prices in the auction house.

    On top of that WoW takes a piss over its own lore so regularly that I fear it’s impossible to take any of it seriously.

    In its defense, doing a proper persistent world occupied by real people is a tricky endeavour. If something can be broken, it will be broken in no time at all. Try running an unprotected Minecraft server for a bit and that’s all the proof you need. ;)

    Anyhoo, perhaps I misunderstood his article, but how is WoW persistent at all? He seems to think that being able to walk between two areas without a loading screen equals persistence.

    • Arathain says:

      “If the world defines your game, it seems logical to build a tangible and persistent world first, before filling it with story and characters. Build technology to suit your world, not the other way around.”

      Jim had the important quote. You’re quite right that one of the primary failings of MMO is character permanency. You can’t really have any effect whatsoever on the characters that need to be there for eveyone else (although WoWs phasing and GW2′s dynamic quests are efforts to try). But the landscape itself is one seamless whole, and is possessed of a peerless sense of place and character. It’s critical for the illusion that you can walk from one end of the world to the other, entering almost any of the buildings you find.

      WoW’s landscape has always been one of its great triumphs, and a technical achievement that has been clearly very hard indeed to match.

    • Paul B says:

      Agree with Arathain. It’s notable that a portion of WoW’s achievements relate to exploration. Minus the combat and leveling, it’s nice sometimes just to soak in the scenery, or go and find one of the many easter eggs left for us explorers in WoW. It gets even better once you get your flying mount – it really feels like you’re living in a persistent world as you fly seamlessly from one area to another.

      Regarding the unchangeable nature of WoW, and how everything respawns, I’ve heard that’s slightly addressed in the later expansions (WoTLK, Cataclysm) with some quests having a permanent effect (although only visible to you). I’ve only just got into the level 60s but hope I’ll be able to experience these quests for myself when I get to explore Northrend.

    • Shuck says:

      @Paul B: Yeah, WoW added per-player instancing to the world, which actually can be quite disconcerting and unsatisfying, as you quickly realize you don’t share the same reality with all the other players around you. You aren’t so much changing the world as splitting off your own little single-player private reality with your actions. It smacked me in the face when I was doing quests with a guild-mate, and he flew right into an enemy stronghold to do some trading – he had done a quest line that cleared out the stronghold and turned it into an allied base, a quest-line I didn’t even know existed.
      The problem is that WoW’s appeal is all about a consistent user experience, which being able to change the world would obviously damage, even if it doesn’t outright break the game.

  18. woodsey says:

    “I think he’s making a mistake of following trends in the market and seeing that as the whole picture.”

    Something which lots of other developers and publishers are having a hard time getting their heads around too.

    • MattM says:

      I remember the rise of online multiplayer was treated similarly by some. The line of reasoning went as follows. “There are more online games this year than last year.” “Thus in the future all games will be online multiplayer”. Instead the increase tapered off after awhile and single players games are still popular even with gamers who have 24/7 internet access.

  19. rustybroomhandle says:

    On immersion: There can exist no immersion in an MMO. As soon as you introduce other humans into the mix, any chance of being immersed in a world vanishes.

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      This ^ ^

      No matter how well or poorly crafted the world and the characters, it has to be “mine” – not “ours” to be immersive. Not to say my character needs to be the center of events, merely the primary perspective from which the game world can be interpreted.

      In a game like Battlefield, the immersion isn’t war, strategy and consequence in a detailed setting. It’s you and your mates completing objectives in a facsimile of the middle east or some island atoll that would be identical game play if it was geometric cubes forming a landscape. The immersion is the teamwork and the objectives, not the setting or the game itself.

    • mickygor says:

      I disagree, to a point. I see where you’re coming from, but if you were to make the players the world, a la EVE, then I’d say immersion in an MMO is possible.

    • YourMessageHere says:

      That’s why I look at WoW and want to play it for exactly as long as it takes for the player whose shoulder I’m looking over to encounter another player pogoing about or standing somewhere stupid or pointlessly dancing in a pond or something, or simply with a name like Legolazzz123, and/or a torrent of acronyms/abuse to sweep across general chat. Once you get that, there’s no hope for immersion and it becomes purely about the system and mechanics of the game. It’s a hell of a world, but…

      It’s not that it can’t be “our” world for immersion – look for example at really good co-op games like Splinter Cell Chaos Theory, which is really immersive despite the thing requiring you to share it. The immersion breaker is the arsehole factor, and the things put in place to control it, i.e. you can’t change an MMO gameworld because if you could, then some arsehole would come and kill all the questgivers, loot all the monsters, gank all the noobs…because MMO worlds can’t be changed, they resist engagement and so are immersion-resistant.

      I disagree about the Battlefield thing, though. The immersion in that is only teamwork and objectives if you prioritise them. I don’t play FPS with friends very much nowadays, only on public servers with random strangers by and large, so for me, the setting and look/feel of the game make or break the immersion. I’d like to get hold of BF3 (but can’t, unless I also buy Win 7, and I’m not paying that) because of how it looks, sounds and plays, the levels and animations and weapons and gadgets, not because of the promise of playing it alongside someone else.

  20. Radiant says:

    The thing with not going full Flash Dance in Dance central. Once everyone in the room does?
    It’s brilliant.

    Not doing so is like karaoke but mumbling Sex on Fire.

  21. Dominic White says:

    “Immersion does not make a lot of sense in a mobile, interruptible world.” – Two words in rebuttal: Dark Souls.

    That game is intensely immersive. They even work the whole idea that you can be interrupted at any time by a friendly or hostile player into the story, and it works really damn well. Clever design trumps lazy thinking any day.

    • Phantoon says:

      Yes. It’s also why we all want the game, because it is clearly Good.

      Praise the Sun!

  22. InternetBatman says:

    I thought the Bedford article about persistent MMO worlds was both right and wrong. I think he is right that loading screens break the immersion of a persistent world, but I believe it’s more important in a fantasy MMO than a sci-fi one. Loading screens can be used to convey that you’ve traveled a great distance, and the galaxies of space MMOs are thematically bigger than the worlds of fantasy ones. Even then I think it’s acceptable in WoW for the zeppelin to have a loading screen around it, because you’re traveling across the world. Also, it’s worth noting that Capcom (I think, it might be Namco) is just sitting on a patent that could make it more believable, minigames on loading screens.

    The Indie RPG article was interesting, I have noticed that platformers especially seem to clean up. Maybe they should start doing genre awards. Also, I still feel that Bastion shouldn’t have been listed. Indie should mean independent of publisher.

    Since immersion is such an ill-defined term, it’s hard to argue whether it’s an attribute or a style. Personally I take it to mean being so focused on a game that you forget it’s a game or ignore outside stimuli. I don’t think ignoring outside stimuli is going anywhere, because it’s an attribute that all types of media share. If it’s a game that gets you to roleplay or explore a huge world, I don’t think that’s going anywhere either. There’s been such a massive balloon of sandbox games and MMOs, the genres that favors immersion the most by my still to vague definition, that I can’t even keep track of them let alone explore them all. The point he really ignores is that gaming has reached a critical mass where multiple genres can be supported by fans of that genre. It’s almost as impossible to finish every new game made now as it is to read every new book. Fads may come and go, but a solid core will maintain the genre while the eyes of the public are elsewhere.

    Also, isn’t 830 pounds a lot to pay for a computer? My five year old $800 one is strutting along just fine, with only a video card and HD replacement. In general, I think the author of the piece misses many of the finer points of PC gaming. One is his cavalier attitude towards price. Another is his idea that game development is shifting over towards PC because of increases in hardware, which I think is totally off-base. I think freedom from the ever increasing mandates of graphical fidelity is one of the major causes of the PC resurgence. It’s important to remember that indies to a large extent drove the resurgence with lo-fi games. Obviously the main cause is digital distribution and more attractive pricing models, but it was games like VVVVV and World of Goo that made headlines with untold success, not Crysis 2.

    The Call of Duty article pretty much hits the nail on the head. I’m going to be going into the same issues.

    The bugs article didn’t examine the issue at the depth it should have. It told a story and then asked questions without reaching a satisfying conclusion of its own.

    • Hematite says:

      Re: £830 for a computer

      I recently spent that much on a new home theatre / gaming pc and it’s stupendous. My other computer is a 2004 Dell I bought second hand for £40*, and I’ve been using it successfully for years. It even plays Skyrim at about 10 FPS.

      If you’re the kind of person to spend £1000 on a TV you could also spend £1000 on a computer, and revel in fast load times and better shadows. If you would spend £200 on a TV, you’d probably prefer to spend £200 on a computer and only run new releases with ‘high’ graphics settings instead of ‘ultra’.

      It’s not particularly useful for the author to mention how much he paid – presumably he’s an employed professional indulging a hobby, and ‘good enough’ is much cheaper than that.

      * Admittedly that was a bargain, and I added more RAM and a new graphics card

    • westyfield says:

      £830′s not a lot if you’re buying a complete computer (i.e. prebuilt, including a monitor, keyboard, mouse, speakers etc.) I haven’t read the article (should be revising) so apologies if that’s something he addresses within.

    • nrvsNRG says:

      £800 for the pc that he bought is a complete rip off like most of these pre built pc’s.
      mid/low end gpu(gtx550) and a poor psu(450w) that means he is stuck with that card unless he also upgrades the power supply.£800?! This is probably the main reason ppl should never buy these pc’s in the first place.

    • MattM says:

      As hobbies for adults go, PC gaming isn’t even that expensive. If you spend as much as an American adult spends on a smart phone contract per year (~$1000), you could have all the latest components every year. The cost of a used fishing boat is 10x that of high end gaming computer. If you bargain hunt and sell your old components, you can keep a very high end rig up-to-date for <$400 a year.

    • mickygor says:

      Also worth noting that components are more expensive in the UK. You can’t simply convert the currency and judge its worth from that.

  23. AJLange says:

    “Why do we tolerate bugs in games? (Do we?) ”

    Oh, I know this one. We (by we here I mean reviewers, but also myself) tolerate bugs if we otherwise like the game. If we don’t otherwise care for it (and here I mean strictly, reviewers), we give it a bad review score then scapegoat the bugs as the rationale.

  24. Hematite says:

    Mongol General: Conan! What is best on Sunday?
    Conan: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to read the Sunday Papers.

  25. dofferos says:

    I wonder why they simple didnt put the loading screen in the warp to a planet. making the warps take slightly longer. I guess their engine cant handle loading assets when the game is running(outside loadingscreen). I would much rather watch a hole through space then a bar slowly filling up.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I like that idea a lot. Hard Reset, for all its many flaws, uses loading screens to show cutscenes. Bulletstorm did slomo. Both of those are single-player games though.

  26. Lemming says:

    I gotta say I find Raph Koster to be a bit stuck in his ways. I have done since SWG. Everyone complained about how when they changed SWG it was away from Raph’s ‘glorious vision’, but that’s only half true. YES they made the game worse, and YES SWG was a fun game with Raph’s values to begin with. BUT was it a good Star Wars game? No, no it wasn’t.

    The slow-burning living world nature of the game would have far better fit the Star Trek license than Star Wars. And if that was the case, I’d still bet there would have been people playing it today and the CU/NGE wouldn’t have even been considered.

    I was there on the forums when the whole debacle was taking place and many were hailing Raph as the guy that could fix it all and took everything he said on his blog as gospel and using it as ‘proof’ that SWG would have been a success without the tampering.

    I have great affection for the Star Wars universe, I love games and I would hope there is room for a Koster-style MMO in this world, but I never felt that combining that with Star Wars was the way to go.

    To be fair, it was the only way MMOs were done at the time, so Raph can’t be blamed for its inception, but those that hated the changes SWG went through liked a game that was nothing like being in Star Wars…unless you wanted to be Uncle Owen.

  27. Muzman says:

    Bugs are a product of a complex piece of software trying to run a complex and variable environment. They are, in some limited ways, a good sign. It’s very hard to say too strongly because obviously developers should be trying to eliminate them as much as possible and provide the desired experience. But the obverse consumerist insistence on error free things that “just work” with no more than an intuitive understanding of the system, can only be gotten close to via one way. That’s the locking down of every system and platform until it is tightly controlled and regulated by a particular company (sometimes one company over several platforms). Everything that goes into or out of these systems happens only with their say so and via their methods and means.
    And the tech giants of the world would just love to give users this perfectly satisfying experience. So, so badly they want to see you get it.

  28. Drinking with Skeletons says:

    One of the problems with racing games is that there’s a somewhat finite amount of things you can do with them. You can try to incorporate different campaign mechanics–such as GRID’s sponsor system–or try to outdo other franchises with visual fidelity–like Gran Turismo–or focus on incredibly detailed, realistic performance tweaking and/or damage modeling–Gran Turismo offers the first at the expense of the second–but at the end of the day you are going to be driving cars around tracks for the entirety of the game.

    Unless you are doing some kind of fantasy racing–such as F-Zero–or racing in something other than cars–such as Wave Race–it’s extremely difficult to offer something that is meaningfully different from other titles. But since many, if not most, racing fans are going to be interested in titles that offer at least semi-realistic experiences, the challenge is made even greater.

    In my opinion, the PC hasn’t yet reached that point of deadlock simply because the idea of PCs embracing multiple control options–because, really, who wants to drive a car using a mouse and keyboard–didn’t begin to gain a lot of traction until the 360 began its reign of dominance. Just as there are genres that don’t feel right on consoles, there are titles that don’t feel right on PC-specific controls; as PC gamers have become more accepting–or have sullenly surrendered–to gamepads, the perceived value of the format for racing (and other traditionally console genres) has increased.

    • YourMessageHere says:

      Enter the procedurally-generated road racing game, where you can be sure the track will be new to you and every other driver.

      I hope.

      Edit: also, I want to drive with the keyboard. What, you want me to use a pad? I think not. I have no room or budget for a wheel, and I’m only really into arcadey racers anyway, I have no interest in super-fine precision or sims. I wouldn’t mind using the mouse, in fact; Operation Flashpoint made mouselook driving quite fun. Nothing nowadays supports that style of steering, though.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I don’t think you’re right about the pad. I can’t really see the pad being inherently better than the mouse for steering. The mouse has better fine adjustments, the pad can make hard turns better. Either one can and probably is adjusted by software. I assume that the difference between the two doesn’t matter to hardcore racing fans when you can just use a wheel. Also, don’t forget that the most popular racing game right now doesn’t use a pad or a mouse, it uses a wheel.

    • Chris D says:

      The major advantage of a pad over a mouse for racing games is that you never crash on a long bend because you ran out of mouse mat.

  29. Skabooga says:

    From the Jonny Cullen article:

    I for one welcome our new PC overlords

    Straight out of the RPS comments. This man will go far.

  30. Wulf says:

    Immersion is a tricky beast, and it is important. Get it right and you’ve got yourself an incredible experience.

    One of the most memorable online gaming experiences for me, since time immemorial, has been Uru: Ages Beyond Myst. Nothing before or since has actually managed to create a sense of believable world, through not only lore and books, but also through how each area is believably constructed. I’ve never, ever been so convinced that I was walking through areas or ruins of alien worlds as much as I had in Uru.

    It was pretty great putting on my Maintainer suit and linking into a ‘new world’ for the first time, to explore it and poke things. In that respect, Uru even one-upped Star Trek. …well, truth be told, probably because of the flexibility of the medium, but Uru one-upped Star Trek in a lot of ways, Star Trek didn’t ever really feel that alien, barring a few exceptional episodes. That I can speak of Uru like this though speaks volumes of how important immersion is.

    A developer may not feel that it is necessary, but what is necessary within the scope of a game and entertainment? I think it’s a more cogent question to, instead of asking what is necessary, to ask what is important for a game to be entertaining. Is immersion important for a game to be entertaining? Depends! You don’t need to be immersed in Tetris to have fun with Tetris. That’s as obvious a statement as any person could make.

    However, if you’re going to build a world, then the most important thing is for the world (or worlds) you’re building to be internally consistent. If your worlds are internally consistent, they’ll be believable, if they’re believable, then immersion will come as an after-effect of that. It’ll be because people will believe in the stories they’re being told, that it will be fun for the imagination of the mind of the viewer to believe that this is a story that happened sometime, in some place.

    To say that immersion is unnecessary in those sorts of games just says to me that the developer in question is too lazy to bother with an internally consistent game. If you have constantly contradictory elements then you’re going to have a world that isn’t very immersive, because it isn’t very believable. It’s kind of funny that WoW is a golden standard for immersion, because these days it’s a chain of neverending retcons and flummoxed lore, most of which contradicts the rest of it. And they just keep retconning it in order to deal with those contradictions.

    That’s a shame, because there could have been a worthwhile story to tell out of that world, I suppose, but the writers just weren’t up to the challenge.

    Another example of poor immersion is Skyrim. YES I WENT THERE. Shush and hear me out. The game allows you to choose a role for yourself. It’s not like Saints Row where you’re cast as an arsehole, or Dead Space where you’re clearly an insane person. No, it allows you to build your own character, and when you do a few good things, you feel good about them, but then the game gets into full swing, and you get the whole genocide thing going on. And you notice just how much the game wants to have sex with the very notion of genocide.

    So you’re killing thousands of people, from bandits, to Imperials/Stormcloaks, to dragons (and yes, any being with a sapient mind that’s able to express will and use and understand language is a person), to the many orders that just want to ‘kill shit that is different from them.’ (Hooray for xenophobic genocidal maniacs.) And the game treats you like a hero for getting in bed with these maniacs. That would be kind of like setting Hitler up as the greatest hero of modern history. And … no. No. Just no. No on every level. No.

    It all reached a point where I could no longer stand it when they asked me to kill Paarthurnax. And that’s when my sense of immersion just went out of the window. A good guy can’t say “Screw you!” to someone who’s just asked them to kill an outright pacifist, who wants to teach other dragons to be pacifistic? That says that I’m supposed to support the Blades, and my only option is to ignore the quest in your journal and continue on. You can’t choose to be a real decent guy and disband the Blades. All you get to do is kill.

    Providing a good degree of choice is also an element of internal consistency, if you’re going to allow the player to be something, then you need to let them follow through on that, otherwise you’re going to try and hold them up as a hero, but the illusion will shatter quickly. And you’ll quickly realise that you’re just another bastard in the land of the deluded. And then the game becomes far less appealing.

    So internal consistency matters. And really, something like Saints Row: The Third has more internal consistency than Skyrim, because it doesn’t mince about with any concepts of nobility. And Dead Space is about an insane guy trying to survive. But if you’re going to tell me that my character can be noble, then follow through.

    So that’s one of the important things.

    Another is to, despite having a huge body of works, written and in-game story, never have one piece of information contradict another. Ever. That’ll shatter the illusion as well. If a player is trying to piece together a mystery, make sure you’ve collaborated with your other writers, and that the story itself makes sense from beginning to end. If, once the player has all the pieces, they find that parts A and F are mutually exclusive and cannot be used to understand the world they’re in, then that’ll shatter the illusion.

    So really, immersion isn’t necessary, but if you’re going to build a world then it’s lazy not to try for it. Because not trying for immersion means, by proxy, that you’re not bothering with internal consistency. That you don’t give a damn. And that you won’t care if your game contradicts itself (even frequently), and that’s just lazy/sloppy design. At least, I think so.

    I feel the need to write more.

    See, you can break internal consistency by trying to paint the player as one thing, but actually having them do another. And that’s when a certain wrongness arises that can break the illusion, and speaks of poor writing.

    If I clear out a fort of Imperials, I’ll never see an Imperial run up to a body, weep over a friend, and call me a bastard. I’ll never have any of them ask why, there will be no civilians who’ll get caught in the crossfire. It’s an artificial world specifically tailored to continued genocide, and it feels like that.

    Then, when you return home. The responses you get are more along the lines of “Good job, sport! 8D” rather than “We do what we must…” and I find that disturbing.

    See, for killing thousands of people, I’m portrayed as a hero. It’s like, okay, I have this guy and I want him to be noble, honest, ethical, and so on, and the game realises that. But instead of allowing me to take my own actions and follow through, it just changes the responses to fit.

    And if it never treats you like a bastard, then that must be very annoying to the people who want to play as bastards. And it just results in a very inconsistent feel, because you expect reasonable, believable results and responses, but they never happen. It’s all very… robotic and artificial, like a themepark.

    And this comes back to my United Federation Themepark Starship Skyrim meme. Which exists because of things like this.

    If you’re going to make a warzone, make it ugly, make it terrible, and let the players know that they are monsters (and let them decide whether it’s necessary). And provide other things to do regarding the war that don’t involve genocide. Provide other paths for the players who choose to be ethical.

    Essentially – you have to follow through. If you want to be internally consistent, then you need to follow through. If you setup a warzone, then MAKE IT A WARZONE.

    • Kleppy says:

      So in short, you’re asking for every filmmaker to be Leone, and for every author to be Tolstoy. I think a reality check is in order.

    • DocSeuss says:

      Kleppy, I’m not sure that’s what Wulf’s asking for. I’ve started blogging on a similar topic recently–a game, particularly one striving to be immersive, should present a coherent experience for the player. You’ll notice that people, even ones who don’t think they want immersion, will bitch and moan if a game starts to be incoherent.

      For example, look at Far Cry. Everyone hates the Trigens, right? They’re incoherent with everything that was presented up until their release.

      Contrast this with Halo. The Flood fit in the story perfectly, and as such, they’re highly praised. They don’t pull you out of the experience.

    • Kleppy says:

      “If you’re going to make a warzone, make it ugly, make it terrible, and let the players know that they are monsters (and let them decide whether it’s necessary). And provide other things to do regarding the war that don’t involve genocide. Provide other paths for the players who choose to be ethical.”

      This kind of stuff would be nice, but Wulf never seems to realize the games he would like to exist are at this point in time absolutely impossible. It’s fun to speculate, but I’d find it pretty amusing to see Wulf attend a boardroom meeting discussing development of a game and coming up with his crazy “everything must be reactive to my wills and tailor suited to my individual wants and desires, get to it guys!” This isn’t just regarding what he said in this thread, I’m talking about other discussions as well when he demands often ridiculous things from his video games.

      We’re sadly at a point in time when games are hugely expensive to make, prohibitively so, and obviously some aspect suffer for it. To say things like “So really, immersion isn’t necessary, but if you’re going to build a world then it’s lazy not to try for it.” is almost offensive, especially when he’s talking about Skyrim, a game which has scientifically speaking a whole fuck-ton of lore, characters and in general quality world crafting. I’m sure given an extra 6 years of development Bethesda would’ve been able to make the game Wulf wants, but realistically speaking, he’d probably have to fund it out of his own pocket.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      “I feel the need to write more”. In future, Wulf, please, for our sakes, ignore that feeling. Your post was over 1,400 words long. Get a blog.

  31. Cunzy1 1 says:

    I miss Consolevania.

  32. NathanH says:

    I’m always suspicious of when “immersion” rears its ugly head. Obviously everyone will agree that being immersed is a good thing, and therefore something that breaks immersion is a bad thing, and so it’s easy to say that something is good because it is immersive and bad because it isn’t. But often when you look deeper people are all using the word differently, and it’s sort of dishonest to use it in a way.

    For instance, you often hear criticism on game forums that “this breaks immersion because it reminds me that I’m playing a game”. This is obviously demanding a really strong form of immersion that seems something close to a delusion. Now you may like to reach that state, but I doubt it’s an obvious necessary condition for a good game to be one that gets you into this state, so “it breaks immersion” is a bit of a dishonest things to say. It’s a bit like saying that a rules question in a D&D game breaks immersion, or noticing a witty turn of phrase in a compelling book breaks immersion, or talking to your friend while watching an exciting foot-to-ball game breaks immersion.

    I think it would be much better if nobody used this buzzword and instead people wrote down more precisely what quality they were meaning. I think if I were a games designer and I read criticism like “it helps immersion” or “it breaks immersion” I would probably be forced to just ignore it.

    • DocSeuss says:

      The main issue comes from people being either disingenous or not thinking very hard. The dictionary has three main definitions for “immersed.” One is synonymous with “submerged.” Another is synonymous with “engrossed,” and is the one that gives people so much trouble. Then you’ve got the one that isn’t really synonymous with any other words (which is why I feel like people shouldn’t use “immersed” when they mean “submerged” or “engrossed”), and that’s the one that people mean when talking about immersive games.

      STALKER’s pretty much the best example of a game that’s super immersive and doesn’t do much too remind you that you’re in a game. It doesn’t have to be a strong delusion or anything. It’s about a game trying to simulate reality rather than using things like simplistic AI, points appearing above enemy’s heads, or invisible walls. The Witcher 2 is a game that tries to be immersive. World of Warcraft is not.

      It uses its AI and world design to simulate a world that feels like a real place. You see this kind of praise being given for other games as well, like Bethesda’s games (though their desire to hang on to useless RPG mechanics keeps them in game territory). In fact, “immersive sim” genre is a genre that exists with the goal of creating these real-feeling worlds.

    • NathanH says:

      Well, Witcher is a series that sort of shows what I mean. It puts effort into being real and plausible and immersive or whatever you want to call it, but there are still plenty of times when you play it that you engage “game brain”. Usually when choosing skills, drinking potions and so on, but also sometimes when paused in combat. And I think that this is a good thing. I like playing games, so if my compelling world I’m in is also a game, i think that’s positive rather than negative.

      Probably there needs to be the distinction between “this event in the world happened because this is a game and that#s how games work” and “I am doing or thinking or seeing something because this is a game and that’s how games work”. The former might make the world less immersive, but the latter shouldn’t really, unless you’re deliberately letting it.

      Even the former isn’t so bad. Things like quests waiting until you want to start them and until you want to complete them is obviously “guilty”, but can and should just be shrugged off.

  33. Baines says:

    It is interesting that the Fault Tolerance article brushes against and then somewhat ignores a major issue with growing gaming, that non-gamers aren’t willing to accept design issues that gamers are willing to accept. (The end question about supporting good enough games does tie back a bit, but is as much about frustrating gamers as it is keeping others from joining.)

    It also doesn’t really touch on the issue of the distinction between accidental bugs and things that could have been avoided with better design.

    He cites the 1.3 Skyrim patch as the one that stopped the game from crashing. I don’t remember, but was the 1.3 patch the one that enabled additional memory support? Which happened to be the “fix” that people were doing on their own after release to reduce crashing? Which Bethesda could easily have enabled in the initial release of the game, particularly as it was eventually done for previous games using the same engine? (Mind, if claims of a memory leak in the engine itself causing crashes are true, then enabling additional memory isn’t an actual fix, but rather just painting over a bug. However, if it extends the period of time before an “inevitable” crash to well enough beyond normal play times, then players won’t care about the difference.)

    Or take Modern Warfare 3. The game has some bugs that I’m willing to consider unforeseen. I can guess why the invincible predator missile glitch happens, but I’ll accept it as something that would have been unexpected. On the other hand, some of the gun balance issues should have been avoided if they had a halfway decent design kit for weapons and a halfway decent way to view in-game weapon stats. I don’t mean issues like akimbo machine pistols being horribly overpowered, or the apparent belief that shotguns should be worthless. I mean unintended issues like attachments changing weapon firing rates because someone didn’t put the right ROF value in, or even the extended mags glitch on shotguns. Or how mapmakers having basic knowledge of how the game worked might have avoided the abundance of headglitching spots on maps.

    • YourMessageHere says:

      Regarding MW3, I’m increasingly of the opinion that there’s some sort of meta-game going on with at least the IW half of CoD.

      Take, for example, reload cancelling. For most weapons, if you interrupt the reload animation at a particular point by pressing fire or swapping weapons, you will find your gun is magically loaded again, and you’ve saved a second or two, sometimes more. This has been in the game since MW2, or maybe even earlier. There’s no way they don’t know about it, and it would be a few minutes work to fix, and so I’m forced to conclude that it’s still in the game because it’s intended to be. It doesn’t belong in the game on face value, but on a certain level, knowing about it and doing it could appeal to a certain kind of min/max-type player, so it must persist because the devs want it to. By the same logic, I think stuff like specific attachments affecting fire rates, or a certain shotgun doubling your sprint duration, may be done deliberately, as gameplay easter eggs or secret bonuses designed for the sort of people who describe themselves as ‘hardcore gamers’ without being ironic.

      Or of course it may be one of the consequences of CoD becoming as monolithic as it has. I suspect that the development must be extremely rigidly controlled and any tiny change must be subject to approval from Higher Powers, meaning that things like this may simply get left out because the hassle of actually making a change or correcting a cockup is too great and/or Higher Powers deem another thing more important.

    • Baines says:

      Some of those are deliberate. Others aren’t. Infinity Ward (and probably Treyarch) put unlisted “features” on some attachments to either encourage or discourage their use beyond the normal listed changes. Unfortunately, this also increases the chances for careless mistakes.

      For example, one of the MW3 shotguns gives you a similar effect as the Extreme Conditioning perk. That was apparently intentional, though no where listed in the weapon’s description. In a previous game, putting attachments on an AK-47 increased weapon sway. The argument was apparently that the AK-47 would be “too good” if you could put certain attachments on it without a penalty. Apparently another gun was given 1-shot kill ability if you put an ACOG scope on it, simply because some developers wanted more people to use that scope.

      On the other hand, in MW3, Extended Mags on a shotgun gives that shotgun extra pellets per shot. That was not intentional, and Infinity Ward said they would patch it out even though shotguns are underpowered in the game. Putting an underbelly attachment on the CM raised its rate of fire, which was patched out even though it didn’t make the gun overpowered.

      I don’t know whether it was intentional that the FMG-9 in MW3 received a Rate of Fire boost when you made it akimbo. One would think it was a mistake, as akimbo machine pistols were already overpowered, and wouldn’t need another boost. On the other hand, akimbo machine pistols were already arguably so overpowered that “balance” apparently had little to do with their design in the first place.

      From the start, akimbo weapons could have different reload speeds than their solo counterparts. While this makes sense from a graphical standpoint, it didn’t always make sense from a gameplay standpoint, as some akimbo weapons reload faster than their solo counterparts. (It also didn’t make much logical sense. If a MW2 soldier can reload two Model 1887s in one second, why would he do a reload action that takes four seconds for a lone Model 1887?)

      Which is the real problem with Infinity Ward, I think. It can be hard to tell what is a mistake and what is an intended consequence, because their intended behaviors can seem logic-defying themselves.

  34. Kleppy says:

    I find as I grow older that “Immersion”, which was so important to me when I was a teenager, has a much lesser effect on the perceieved quality of my games. Mostly because I totally see Koster’s point – I’m not going to get immersed in something when I only have 30 minutes to play. I find I get more satisfaction of a solid gameplay experience. E.g fun, satisfying mechanics, fun shooting, whatever.

  35. DocSeuss says:

    And here I was blogging about how great immersion was. Now I just feel silly. Dammit, MMO-man, why’d you go and ruin it for me?

    …right, so, anyways, I think people, due to the English language being dumb, don’t understand what immersion is. They tend to confuse being immersed with being engrossed (which is actually one acceptable definition) and get confused when people talk about immersive games. When people talk about immersive games, they are referring to Holodecks, STALKERs, and Matrices, not “people are so interested in this!”

    MMO-man is basically saying that games need to be gamey (which, admittedly, if you’re an MMO-person, that’s what you WOULD think, because you have to make it gamey, because those gamey features are what make MMOs addictive, and the primary way to be profitable in MMOspace is to be addictive). He’s also falling prey to the idea that mobile gaming is the future of gaming.

    I don’t really understand it. People are obsessed with the idea that games will become mobile and are failing to realize that mobile gaming is a NEW, RELATED market.

    They’re going “well, this is an entertainment medium that’s tangentially similar to that one, so clearly one’s going to die in favor of the other.” It’s like they’re seeing phonograms and saying that live concerts will die.

    Anyways, on that immersive topic: I really like immersive games, like STALKER and Skyrim. Their attempts at simulating a living, breathing world have rewarded them with MILLIONS of sales (almost no marketing for STALKER and it’s sold over 4 million copies; advertising for Skyrim’s got it shipping like 10 million units). I’m fairly sure that they will continue to be an important element of gaming.

    It’s also interesting to note that unimmersive games, like turn-based titles, have basically diminished in popularity. People just don’t like them as much as games where you can lose yourself in the world.

    • Gira says:

      Wow. Christ. This post.

      First, Koster is not an “MMO man”. His absolutely revolutionary work on Ultima Online – a game that should have set the template for all MMOs to come, but each subsequent one became less of a simulated world and more of a static PvE grindwank – demonstrates his absolute dedication to creating proper simulated environments with myriad different fields of player intervention/interaction. He’s one of the smartest people in the business.

      Second, STALKER and Skyrim do not belong in the same sentence. STALKER is a genuine simulation – agents interact systemically and emergently, and play experience differs greatly depending on these systemic interactions. Skyrim, on the other hand, is more like a modern (post-Koster) MMO – static, lifeless, devoid of any actual recognition of player agency beyond binary script triggers. Skyrim is empty. STALKER’s “immersion”, if that’s what you want to call it, arises from the fact that the game is actually volatile. You are an actual player agent in an actual simulation. Your actions have (or can have) genuine consequences.

      Finally, saying turn-based games are somehow “unimmersive” is fundamentally missing the point of the original article. In reality, turn-based systems are no less or more “immersive” than their real-time counterparts; both are fundamentally abstracted from real-world interaction, and the former just allows a greater level of moment-to-moment depth than the latter. “Immersion” as it pertains to the immersive sim – rather than, you know, Oh God I’m In A Real Emotional Cinematic World!!! – arises from mechanical consistency, systemic complexity, and broad ranges of player and non-player agent interaction.

      Not from being able to click a mouse and swing a sword and BLOODY SCREEN SO REAL

      True player immersion arises from the player actually being a player agent in the simulation. Everything else is window dressing.

  36. alundra says:

    Well, I hope really good racing developers are really coming to the PC platform. Just a couple of days ago I was missing the good old days of GRID online, which has been killed by Codemasters and only available thru third party means.

    I tried my second favorite online racer, Flatout UC, not only I had to endure GFWL throwing a fit for a whatever the reason, sure that reminded me why I stopped playing, but now online play seems to be pretty much dead for this one.

    In the steam holiday sales I got Blur, not sure what went wrong with this one, I read something about hackers/cheaters killing it too early, at any rate, all matches seem private now and virtually no one plays it anymore.

    Does anyone out there knows a good non NFS racing game, a little arcadeish and that has an alive online mode??

  37. jimjam says:

    Wow, A lot has been said about immersion in this thread!
    My simplistic view is that IF the game subject matter is of personal interest it does not need to ‘try’ so hard to get me engrossed in it.

    Stalker is engrossing as is Skyrim. Your gamer avatar can have an effect in both of these games ( You kill other stalkers or you kill a dragon).

    The big deal of a volatile world is not necessary, but it’s nice if it’s present.

    Emergent game play is imho more important and can even be seen in non volatile game worlds (thief 1).

  38. wodin says:

    The MMO piece is what I fear the most. The Console was never going to finish off th PC but tabletsPhones gamesapps are the biggest threat as we will end up inundated with Angry birds and throw away browser based games none of which have held my attention longer than a few minutes, which seems to btithe point of them by all accounts.

    Everything is based on an ADHD mentality unfortunately. We no longer have any patience nor can we concentrate on anything longer than five minutes. Which I’m sure as PC gamers is not the case at all. But sadly with the advent of phonestablets games are going the same way as films an TV.

    This mainstream gaming market is a huge threat to PC games and one not to be underestimated.

    I shiver at the thought of it.