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Default The uncertain future of Immersive Sims

October 27th, 2017, 14:39
The same could be said about first person RPGs.
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November 15th, 2017, 14:29
Well, it's one of my favorite genres - so I hope it's here to stay.

Not sure if it's ever going to be mainstream, however. Arguably, Bioshock was as close to a mainstream immersive sim as we're going to get.

Strangely, I don't think we've seen too many first person games that emulate even Bioshock in terms of the added complexity. I mean, Bioshock was a major hit and I would have expected a lot more of the same. Didn't really happen.

Seems to me the modern "shooter" is either a completely linear cinematic experience - or it's a Borderlands/Far Cry clone.

While there are a handful of interesting immersive sims in development - none of them have a large budget behind them. Which is very unfortunate, because I happen to think part of the appeal of the immersive sim is a strong technical foundation - and the production values need to be at a certain level for the purposes of complete immersion.

Prey had a decent budget - and I'm very saddened by its reception. I too consider it one of the best games I've played in years, and while I have my share of issues with it - it's still head and shoulders above the norm.

I'm not really sure if the issue is the game itself, in this case. I think the problems Prey faced were much more about poor marketing and players simply not getting it.

While I can't say I have a particularly high opinion of mainstream preferences - I don't think these immersive sims are necessarily "too complex" for the larger audience.

Again, I think it's more about them being somewhat opaque in terms of their appeal - because they DO come off as straight-up shooters on the surface.

Beyond that, what happened to Prey is very much like what happened with the original System Shock. People preferred Doom back in 1994 - and it seems little has changed in the past 23 years.

To me, it's a complete travesty that the recent Doom got so much praise for being so very unoriginal - while Prey got all the shit for being so god damned good.
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November 15th, 2017, 15:00
As for the genre, it's described here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immersive_sim

Goes back a long time. Though, as with pretty much any genre - there's going to be a lot of debate about what constitutes a "pure" example of the genre.

Also, just because a game is an Immersive Sim - it doesn't mean it also can't be, say, an Action RPG as well.

I think it's key not to fret too much about definitions.

Personally, I first started hearing about the term around Ultima Underworld or System Shock. Can't quite place it - but it was a long time ago.
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November 15th, 2017, 16:28
Dunno when you started hearing the term.
I've never ever heard of it, most probably it's some shortterm memory problems in my head.
But that's not the problem. The problem is I dunno what it even means.

When you say some music score is symphonic rock for example, you pretty much get the idea how it'll sound. When you call a movie tragicomedy, of course you know what to expect.
When you say immersive sim, kill me, but although I have a wild imagination, nothing comes in mind what could that possibly be. And if there is nothing to imagine, well, then to me it means - nothing.
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November 15th, 2017, 16:30
Originally Posted by joxer View Post
Dunno when you started hearing the term.
I've never ever heard of it, most probably it's some shortterm memory problems in my head.
But that's not the problem. The problem is I dunno what it even means.

When you say some music score is symphonic rock for example, you pretty much get the idea what it is.
When you say immersive sim, kill me, but although I have a wild imagination, nothing comes in mind what could that possibly be.
I just posted a link to the Wiki

As for your problem, that's unfortunate - but it doesn't really change anything about what the genre is about.
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November 15th, 2017, 17:05
I've expected a wall of text with screenshots_or_didn't_happen proof or something, not darksoulslike dodging post.
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November 15th, 2017, 19:10
Originally Posted by joxer View Post
I've expected a wall of text with screenshots_or_didn't_happen proof or something, not darksoulslike dodging post.
Sorry to disappoint
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November 15th, 2017, 20:35
TBH you didn't. With the other post of yours I noticed today about Dishonored 2 and some more statements… It's a nice change. I like it.
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November 15th, 2017, 21:46
I read the reviews of Prey now that I finished it a couple weeks ago (Gamespot, PC Gamer, and Polygon). I agree with all of them to some respect and disagree with all of them as well to some extent.

The thing is most reviewers seem to want cinematic storytelling, and streamlined connect the dots gameplay. This is just such a boring viewpoint, that I've stopped reading most reviews because reviewers mostly have the same movie point of view. Really, if I want a movie, I'll watch it. I don't want a game that treats me like a monkey to push all the buttons in the same way to deliver me the next story element. Give me puzzles and room for creativity. Emergent gameplay AND storytelling. And Prey does that.
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November 15th, 2017, 22:49
Originally Posted by Thrasher View Post
The thing is most reviewers seem to want cinematic storytelling, and streamlined connect the dots gameplay.
It's not just reviewers, unfortunately.
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November 15th, 2017, 23:04
Yeah, you're probably right, since it seems to sell best.
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November 16th, 2017, 10:41
I'm not convinced. I really think it's more of a conditioning thing.

Remember, Bioshock was a major hit. No, it wasn't as deep or as complicated as System Shock - but it had plenty of the very same elements to it.

It just did a better job at introducing those things to the mainstream and made them more accessible.

I really do think there's a significant market for immersive sims - like Dishonored and Deux Ex also showed - but you sort of have to manipulate the audience into "getting it".

Well, I think so.

But, no, they will probably never be Bethesda/Rockstar level hits.
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November 16th, 2017, 23:23
Bioshock was VERY linear with very little (or no) backtracking. Each area told a story of that particular group of people, with specific characters, which gave it more general appeal. Inventory management was much simpler with Bioshock. There was no central office or apartment you kept going back to.

Prey is less linear with a lot more backtracking, and Mankind Divided has a lot of non-linear exploration and backtracking, with a more cinematic storytelling technique than Prey. Both have a lot more freedom than Bioshock about how and what to explore and move the story forwards. Some can find that freedom overwhelming (and the backtracking tedious). I'm sure Prey gave walkthrough authors headaches.
Last edited by Thrasher; November 16th, 2017 at 23:38.
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November 17th, 2017, 10:18
Originally Posted by Thrasher View Post
Bioshock was VERY linear with very little (or no) backtracking. Each area told a story of that particular group of people, with specific characters, which gave it more general appeal. Inventory management was much simpler with Bioshock. There was no central office or apartment you kept going back to.

Prey is less linear with a lot more backtracking, and Mankind Divided has a lot of non-linear exploration and backtracking, with a more cinematic storytelling technique than Prey. Both have a lot more freedom than Bioshock about how and what to explore and move the story forwards. Some can find that freedom overwhelming (and the backtracking tedious). I'm sure Prey gave walkthrough authors headaches.
Well, I don't think non-linearity is the biggest factor in pushing people away from it. I mean, Skyrim sold 20 million copies and is arguably among the least linear games of all time

Also, Deus Ex HR sold a couple of million copies - so there's clearly a much bigger market than the one who took to Prey.

Bioshock was a competent shooter - and it didn't confuse players by introducing too many complex alternatives too soon.

Also, it was very pretty and had an extremely compelling premise and setting. That helped too, I'll bet.

Nah, I think it's more that when people are presented with the opportunity to shoot and destroy things - they don't expect to be punished by going that way.

System Shock and Prey aren't really stealth games - and they don't educate the player about how to be smart and avoid going Rambo if you can.

Also, neither game is a particularly good shooter and they don't do particularly well in the action department.

I think things like that add up and turn people away - who're not familiar with the genre, and who really don't know what's supposed to be special about it.

Unfortunately, the modern gamer is not inclined to give obscure games much of a chance - because there are so many other games being released all the time. Likely, most people don't bother to read reviews - and just check out the score and 5 minutes of Youtube. I can imagine something like Prey not being all that appealing if you don't know the genre and you're seeing a few minutes of random videos of shooting in it.
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November 17th, 2017, 10:39
Many of these posts sound like my ideas on ELEX, lol.

"Tricking" people into "getting it" does seem to be the key. Not sure the formula for that, though. Tons of money for an extensive marketing budget, maybe.
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November 17th, 2017, 10:42
A proper educational marketing campaign is definitely one way. Some kind of clever tutorial is another.

The "Blizzard" way of introducing everything in tiny baby steps is sure to be helpful, too.

It's hard to say for me, as I adore complexity (when it's in aid of the game experience) and I especially adore not having to shoot things all the time.

So, I'm the opposite of the average mainstream shooter fan, I guess. I will actively seek out ways of avoiding a fight - and they will most likely kill the first thing that moves
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November 17th, 2017, 10:45
Originally Posted by NewDArt View Post
A proper educational marketing campaign is definitely one way. Some kind of clever tutorial is another.

The "Blizzard" way of introducing everything in tiny baby steps is sure to be helpful, too.
Yeah, those are pretty much my ideas as well. I hope game devs of "hardcore" type games start looking more into these options. I think it's the best way to go without "dumbing down" a game.
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November 17th, 2017, 10:52
Originally Posted by Fluent View Post
Yeah, those are pretty much my ideas as well. I hope game devs of "hardcore" type games start looking more into these options. I think it's the best way to go without "dumbing down" a game.
They should definitely try if they want to expand their playerbase.

That said, such things are expensive - and they're not easy to do. You need to understand the "new player" psychology and how to communicate complex concepts in easily digestible ways.

That's a lot harder than it sounds, I think.

Not surprised it's a challenge - but I do think there are some obvious missed opportunities - ELEX being a good recent example.
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November 18th, 2017, 18:06
Wow, this topic sure got hopping!

System Shock vs. Doom: Doom had incredible graphics for the time and really took off with its shareware system letting you play a BIG chunk of the game for free. I never heard of System Shock 1 until I saw "remember Citadel" scrawled on a wall in System Shock 2.

The thing is most reviewers seem to want cinematic storytelling, and streamlined connect the dots gameplay.
That's something we've been complaining about for a long time - and probably always will. We're enthusiasts. We're happy not just to sink a lot of hours into a game but to sink a lot of consecutive hours in! Imagine trying to play Deus Ex for just a couple of hours every other Saturday. I doubt I could do it. I wouldn't remember who was who, or what skills have been really good for me. Adding complexity makes a game harder to put down and pick up again.

Regarding BioShock - remember that game didn't have a whole lot of complexity in it. There were just a few classes of plasmid and you levelled those up. Also, the real depth of the story was left in recordings (as it was with System Shock) so players that really couldn't care less could easily skip them all. If you want a big hit, you've got to hit the sweet spot where the game isn't so simple as to be boring but not so complex that people get scared of it. (Lucky for us, not everyone is trying to make a big hit.)

Regarding the genre - I didn't hear about it until PC Gamer wrote an article on it a few years ago. It still seems pointless to me. Giving me skills and levelling up doesn't make a shooter any more immersive, IMHO. But then, Thief doesn't even have that and it's counted as an IS. The wiki article points at the freedom to solve problems in multiple ways. But what game doesn't do that? In a shooter you'll probably have multiple guns that require different strategies to use. RPGs will have a variety of skills to let you overcome obsticals in different ways. I can look at a game and decide if it has "RPG elements" for certain and I can argue that it has enough of them to be counted as an RPG but I don't really know how to do that with immersive sims.
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November 18th, 2017, 19:02
Originally Posted by Zloth View Post
Regarding the genre - I didn't hear about it until PC Gamer wrote an article on it a few years ago. It still seems pointless to me. Giving me skills and levelling up doesn't make a shooter any more immersive, IMHO. But then, Thief doesn't even have that and it's counted as an IS. The wiki article points at the freedom to solve problems in multiple ways. But what game doesn't do that? In a shooter you'll probably have multiple guns that require different strategies to use. RPGs will have a variety of skills to let you overcome obsticals in different ways. I can look at a game and decide if it has "RPG elements" for certain and I can argue that it has enough of them to be counted as an RPG but I don't really know how to do that with immersive sims.
Yeah, it's as if someone decided we didn't have enough genres so we needed to name another one. To be honest, I can't remember seeing the term "immersive sim" prior to this year. It's suddenly become a cool buzzword. I've been a fan of these kinds of games for 20 years, and we always referred to them as hybrids.
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