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Default BioWare - Blogging on Immersion

November 19th, 2008, 17:23
Gamebanshee posts some links to the Bioware blogs where in a 3 part series, writer Brian Kindregan discusses immersion versus stats in RPG's and how it affects gameplay. A sample from part 1:
So I’m leading a troop of Grim-mages across the wastes of D’rann when we get dive bombed by the Nalmerre aliens in their swooping zagoid ships. They’re raining chain bombs down on us and my Grim-mages quickly begin an ancient and dread chant…
Or maybe I’m actually staring at an array of tiny lights that are either red, green or blue. And maybe those lights are controlled by a much vaster array of numbers that are either one, zero or in the process of changing from one to the other.
Which version of reality do you prefer?
I think most people would prefer the version with the Grim-mages and the chain bombs. (Not everyone though!) So that’s an easy one, but let’s make it a bit harder.
Would you rather know that the ancient and dread chant summons a massive lava spew from the ground that will hurt many of the zagoid ships, or that the spell in question will do 100 to 300 damage to all enemy units in its area of effect? Would you rather know that Grim-mages are very crafty when dealing with flying opponents, or that the Grim-mage unit gets +6 to defense when fighting airborne units? Now we’re forming up on opposite sides of a line in the sand. (Let’s fight! Just kidding – the numbers guys would put a +4 beat down on my team.)
I want to be immersed, I want to feel that this is real. And real life does sometimes have numbers to help you. Often times it does not. This car may get better mileage than that one, but which one will make you feel safer/faster/sexier? This piece of fruit may have a longer shelf life than that one, but which one will taste better later this afternoon? There’s lots of guessing, intuition and dumb mistakes.
There's more on the subject in parts 2 and 3, here and here.
More information.

Where there's smoke, there's mirrors.
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November 19th, 2008, 17:23
Perhaps Brian would also like to say his fellow party members have all been hit with a very contagious form of mutating narcolepsy. This occurs when there are sudden firestorms, rains of metal or crippling poison gas that would kill an average man, but one of the new diseases side effects are shortened bursts of paralysis which put them into a safe hibernation until the lone survivor can revive them by saying "the battle is over".

Or you could be a numbers guy and say you've taken 1500% damage of your maximum hit points. That could be a pretty stupid thing to do sending your team mates to test the new 3d model you've seen before that's registers as impossible being 10+ levels higher than you are, but since you never lose them permanently, why not.

Its all about immersion after all.

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November 19th, 2008, 17:28
I like the word "Grim-Mages". Reminds me of the Brothers Grim(m).

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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November 19th, 2008, 19:19
Or you could be a numbers guy and say you've taken 1500% damage of your maximum hit points. That could be a pretty stupid thing to do sending your team mates to test the new 3d model you've seen before that's registers as impossible being 10+ levels higher than you are, but since you never lose them permanently, why not.
Hey, you know what breaks immersion? Reloading. It seems to me that the logical endpoint for your vision of CONSEQUENCES-based gaming is: start over with a new party after a bad combat where everyone dies. Even 30 or 60 hours into the game. But no one wants to do that. Is that really what you want? I don't get it.

Do we want games that are so easy that you're not going to occasionally full-out lose a combat? No, we don't. But do we want those losses to be permanent, i.e. time to restart the game? No, we don't. If that makes sense on the whole-party scale, are you really so upset that it's translated down to the scale of each character?

Game developers have three choices:
1) No save/load mechanism. That one's realistic and immersive. Yet for some reason developers haven't embraced it…
2) Permanent or severe death penalties, with the option to reload. Which means, no permanent death because people will reload. Realistic, but breaks immersion.
3) Penalties that are mild enough that people will play through. Less realistic, but more immersion. Because you don't have to cheat your way past death.
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November 19th, 2008, 19:23
Death penalties aside, I really don't like where this article is going. I like my numbers. We're playing a frigging game, not watching a movie. Which means THE NUMBERS ARE THERE. So don't hide them from me, I want to see them. Go ahead and have an option to disable numbers display and feedback, but for god's sake don't assume we don't want to know what's going on during combat. What kind of challenge could a game pose if you can beat it without even seeing what you're doing?
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November 19th, 2008, 19:48
Originally Posted by Yeesh View Post
Hey, you know what breaks immersion? Reloading. It seems to me that the logical endpoint for your vision of CONSEQUENCES-based gaming is: start over with a new party after a bad combat where everyone dies. Even 30 or 60 hours into the game. But no one wants to do that. Is that really what you want? I don't get it.
Meaning no disrespect, I think I do, and Lucky Day is right. Games are no fun if they aren't challenging, and the fundamental challenge in these games is trying to keep your characters alive. If their death is a nonstarter, then the game's poorly designed. Removing death from the equation just makes that more paletable, IMO.

But you have to make due with what you've got, I suppose. Until you're ready to really fix it, just put some lipstick on it!

Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on. But it don't snow here. It stays pretty green. I'm going to make a lot of money, then I'm going to quit this crazy scene. — [Joni Mitchell]
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November 19th, 2008, 21:24
Originally Posted by Yeesh View Post
Death penalties aside, I really don't like where this article is going. I like my numbers. We're playing a frigging game, not watching a movie. Which means THE NUMBERS ARE THERE. So don't hide them from me, I want to see them. Go ahead and have an option to disable numbers display and feedback, but for god's sake don't assume we don't want to know what's going on during combat. What kind of challenge could a game pose if you can beat it without even seeing what you're doing?
I agree, specially if there are tactical decisions to be made. For example, I hate it when a game has spells/skills with descriptions like 'Vicious hacking slice attack ' and another one says like 'Gigantic smash attack'… just give me the freaking numbers so I know which one I want to use! It doesn't have to do with immersion, if I was in the game's world, there would be lots of real feedback that would give me that information.
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November 19th, 2008, 22:00
Games should be challenging, yes, but there comes the fundamental problem :

How to balance it.

A game might be too easy for any veteran who knows how to fight, how to use spells etc. … And too difficult for any newbie …

… Which could lead the game being only for veterans …

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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November 20th, 2008, 00:13
Which is a bad thing?

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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November 20th, 2008, 11:01
More to the point, there's such a thing as difficulty sliders. King's Bounty does it sort of all right, actually (although not being able to change difficulty after having started a game strikes me as such a terribly dated, ancient mechanism); casual players or people who've never played this type of game before will find it challenging, but after a while you will probably wish you had started off in impossible.
Last edited by Essaliad; November 20th, 2008 at 11:11.
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November 20th, 2008, 14:50
Originally Posted by Essaliad View Post
More to the point, there's such a thing as difficulty sliders. King's Bounty does it sort of all right, actually (although not being able to change difficulty after having started a game strikes me as such a terribly dated, ancient mechanism); casual players or people who've never played this type of game before will find it challenging, but after a while you will probably wish you had started off in impossible.
Well in all fairness, King's Bounty's design can't allow on-the-fly changing of difficulty. The world is generated depending on the difficulty (stacks are probably bigger, etc). Also, the final score is affected by the difficulty you chose, so you could play all the game as easy and change before the last fight to Impossible, then your score would be much higher (unless the game does some per fight formula or something, still who knows what else goes 'under the hood').
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November 20th, 2008, 15:18
Oh yeah, the score. It didn't occur to me to take that into account, considering that I don't see how your finishing score could possibly matter—the game's not multiplayer, you can't even show that silly score to anybody, what's the point?

What I really would like to see, though, is a difficulty slider that scales enemy AI and/or puzzle difficulty (the latter is already present in some adventure games and survival horror): if you want to play on easy, enemies will act like blithering retards. As it is, difficulty sliders simply affect numbers—enemies with more HP, more damage, more everything, but no better intelligence than before.
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November 20th, 2008, 15:56
Originally Posted by Corwin View Post
Which is a bad thing?
Depends, imho. It has partly something to do with the estimated group of buyers/customers.

And how you define "fun", of course.

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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