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How Game Gimmicks Break Immersion 228

The Moving Pixels blog has brief discussion of how gimmicky game mechanics often break a player's sense of immersion, making it painfully obvious that he's simply jumping through carefully planned hoops set up by the developers. The author takes an example from Singularity, which has a weapon that can time-shift objects between a pristine, functional state and a broken, decayed state. Quoting: "The core issue with this time control device is that it's just not grand and sweeping enough. It doesn't feel like it's part of a world gone mad. Instead it's just a gameplay tool. You can only use it on certain things in certain places. You can 'un-decay' this chalkboard but not that desk. You can dissolve that piece of cover but not most of the walls in the game. The ultimate failure of such cheap tricks is that they make the game world less immersive rather than more compelling. The world gets divided into those few things that I can time shift, that different set of things I can levitate, and that majority of things that I can't interact with at all. ... I'm painfully aware that all that I'm really doing is pushing the right button at the right place and time. Sure, that's what many games are when you get down to it, but part of the artistry of game design comes from trying to hide this fact."
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How Game Gimmicks Break Immersion

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  • Minigames (Score:5, Insightful)

    by koreaman (835838) <> on Friday July 02, 2010 @12:16AM (#32769060)

    This is the biggest problem I have with cheesy minigames. Really? I have to "hack a computer" by redirecting pipes so water can flow through them? (Or whatever the hell it is you're doing in Bioshock... this is the best way I can explain it). That shit was fun when it came with my Games for Windows 95 pack, but it's a bit out of place in a modern immersive shooter.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bonch (38532)

      "Modern immersive shooter." Yuck. Immersive doesn't mean realistic or plausible. You can immerse yourself in a marathon session of Pac-Man or chess or be immersed in a stack of paperwork. Immersion just means being deeply involved with something mentally.

      Unfortunately, he meaning of the word has been twisted by gamers. What really goes on when someone complains that their precious "sense of immersion" has been ruined in a modern shooter is that they came across something in the game that reminded them they'

      • Re:Minigames (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Abrisene (1477289) on Friday July 02, 2010 @02:29AM (#32769760)
        I agree with you in the principle of the thing, that people playing games don't usually like being reminded that they're not the avatar (in games that have avatars), and I can see where you're coming from when you say that gamers have twisted the definition of immersion, but I think you're mixing up the cause of loss for the definition. The real issue is one of consistency. It's the same thing as the concept of the fourth wall in theatre and film; games of most genres need to maintain a certain internal consistency or in many cases the enjoyment and level of engagement with the media is reduced. When gamers talk about immersion, they're not talking about how consistent or inconsistent the game world is, they're talking about the feeling that it evokes.
        • Re:Minigames (Score:4, Insightful)

          by apoc.famine (621563) <apoc,famine&gmail,com> on Friday July 02, 2010 @10:09AM (#32773600) Journal
          But I think that the feeling a game evokes is directly tied to the consistency.

          The biggest things for me that break the feeling of games usually are the places where the consistency is artificially broken to drive the game forward. One of the things that infuriates me in games are monsters that are unkillable by the means that you killed EVERY OTHER MONSTER up until that point. (Quake (3 or 4?) and HL are good examples of this.) Instead of emptying your entire arsenal into it, you have to jump, dodge, and sneak around it, push a button, then it dies. Or you have to get around to the back and shoot it in its weak spot. I'm ok if the machine weakens it. I'm ok if the weak spot does more damage. But when something is fucking IMMUNE to damage UNLESS you play by the newly imposed, secret rules, it totally breaks the immersion.

          As a long-time Doom player, I know how to save ammo. I know how to replay a level over and over again to use the absolute minimum ammo. Why? Because I know that there's going to be something badass that will require all the ammo I saved. When I run into that badass, with all the ammo I can possibly carry, and I empty ALL of it into that creature, it should die.

          RPGs are another place where stuff like this breaks the flow of the entire game. I can smash chests, but not doors? I can pick some locks, but not others? I want to go down this road, but I'm not allowed to? This lack of consistency is EXACTLY what breaks the feel of the game.

          The biggest one, that others have mentioned, are selectively destructive items. When a game lets you destroy only some items, that's a gimmick that breaks immersion. If it's wood and I can smash it, then I should be able to smash all wood of similar thickness. If I can break some glass, then I should be able to break ALL glass.

          The issue is that gimmicks are used in place of plot and in place of thought. If you build destructibles into your game, you need to build them throughout the entire game. If the only time you can kick down a door is at one heroic instant, you've written a gimmick instead of a plot.

          The real issue is that plots and stories are consistent. Gimmicks are not. And immersion is all about consistency.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Eternauta3k (680157)

            RPGs are another place where stuff like this breaks the flow of the entire game. I can smash chests, but not doors? I can pick some locks, but not others? I want to go down this road, but I'm not allowed to? This lack of consistency is EXACTLY what breaks the feel of the game

            That's what I loved about Arcanum. You can break, loot, lockpick or kill anything and anyone you want. However, it's (usually) not gonna make your quest any easier...

      • Re:Minigames (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Ephemeriis (315124) on Friday July 02, 2010 @06:57AM (#32771274)

        You can immerse yourself in a marathon session of Pac-Man or chess or be immersed in a stack of paperwork. Immersion just means being deeply involved with something mentally.

        Yep. And if you're deeply involved in a stack of paperwork, and every few minutes somebody runs by screaming at the top of their lungs, you're likely to become distracted enough that you're no longer immersed in that paperwork.

        This is the argument that's being made, and I think it is a valid one.

        Good games have a certain flow to them. You can settle in and just kind of ride the thing out. You get your mind into the right state and you almost forget the world around you. You are, in short, immersed.

        This can be true of Pac Man, or Peggle, or a shooter, or whatever. They suck you in, monopolize your attention, and you become immersed in them.

        And then some games, for whatever reason, break up that steady flow of gameplay with something jarring and different. Suddenly there's a button-mashing rhythm game in the middle of your shooter... Or some kind of half-assed racing game in the middle of your RPG... Or some kind of memory test in the middle of Pac Man... Or whatever. And it's a different enough though process that it jars you out of your immersion.

        And, speaking for myself - I hate that.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by mjwx (966435)

      This is the biggest problem I have with cheesy minigames. Really? I have to "hack a computer" by redirecting pipes so water can flow through them? (Or whatever the hell it is you're doing in Bioshock... this is the best way I can explain it). That shit was fun when it came with my Games for Windows 95 pack, but it's a bit out of place in a modern immersive shooter.

      You see, having a game based around a minigame is OK, having a game that using minigames are an extension (most often optional) to the gameplay

      • Re:Minigames (Score:5, Interesting)

        by GrumblyStuff (870046) on Friday July 02, 2010 @03:41AM (#32770114)

        You left out the best part of SS2!

        The hacking 'minigame' wasn't much of anything. The first System Shock did hacking sooo much better but I'll come back to that.

        In SS2, you can pick up a portable gaming system that is a parody of Gameboys. It was called Gamepig and most of the games were simple ones you've all played before but had pig related names and artwork. However... there was one game called Overworld Zero. It played like an old school action RPG, running around a randomly-generated looping area, killing monsters and leveling up.

        As stupid as it sounds, it's the best game-within-a-game I've ever played.

        And as for hacking in the first System Shock, it was soooo much better. You broke open panels and fiddled with wiring until you found the right combo or messed with... I don't even know how to describe it. You had connected nodes (similar to SS2 hacking) but the changes weren't permanent. You clicked one to allow power through but that could change connecting nodes to the opposite setting. Depending on the puzzle difficulty (the game had customizable settings for combat, mission, puzzle, and cyberspace difficulties), they could be really frustrating.

        • by mjwx (966435)

          You left out the best part of SS2!

          This is the great thing about SS2, I personally didn't like the gamepig and thought it was a waste of inventory (but carried it anyway like the pack rat I am). The game is so varied that almost everyone has their own best part about it.

          • Isn't that immersion? Here's an item you don't want and doesn't have much use (maybe a few nanites if you recycle it) but you're compelled to carry it around while I hunker down in a chemical storeroom, waiting for my research to complete and then continuing to play Overworld Zero for 20 minutes longer....

            Just one more game and I'll get back to gaining control of this FTL spaceship that is currently infested with some sort of parasitic alien lifeform. Ok, mulligans on that last one. That was a bad start

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Rogerborg (306625)

        Grrraaaa! Raaaargh! "serious shooter"! Gaaaarraar!

        I'm pretty sure that a self aware adult would acknowledge that games are essentially frivolous. There's no "WIN IN THE REAL WORLD" achievement.

      • Re:Minigames (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Ephemeriis (315124) on Friday July 02, 2010 @07:12AM (#32771434)

        I think the problem is less with executing the mini-game well, than it is with the mini-game making sense.

        Yeah, BioShock was a disappointment. No, it was not a worthy successor to System Shock 2. Yes, it failed on many levels. But I think the core problem with the hacking mini-game was not of a mechanical nature... The problem wasn't that the water was flowing and you had a time limit or it took you away from the gameplay or anything like that... The problem was that it just didn't make much sense.

        In SS2 you were in space aboard a ship that was either malfunctioning or at the mercy of a crazed AI. There were automated defenses, and locked doors, and vending machines, and whatever else. In that context, it makes sense to have a hacking mini-game. How else are you going to make all these computerized, electronic gadgets do things they were never intended to do?

        In BioShock you're in some kind of retro aquatic dystopia. The turrets and drones don't make any sense to start with... It looks like they're built out of an office chair with a weapon strapped on top - how do they even function? But if you were to twist them to your needs, it should be by altering the wiring or mechanical linkages - not by pushing some kind of liquid through some pipes. It just does not make sense.

        Incorporating a mini-game that makes sense will not jar the player out of whatever immersion they have. It will expand upon the game-world. It will actually make the game more immersive.

        But throwing something completely random that makes no sense at all will jar them out of the game. Effectively breaking the fourth wall.

    • Re:Minigames (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968&gmail,com> on Friday July 02, 2010 @04:21AM (#32770298) Journal

      I guess it shows you can't please everybody, because I enjoyed the hacking game in Bioshock, in Bioshock 2? not so much. But in Bioshock 1 I liked hacking all the devices in a level and then setting cyclone traps to turn the place into a giant trap. But it wasn't like you couldn't simply skip it, either by using one of the plentiful hacking tools or simply buying off the machine.

      What kills the immersion for me is when the laws of reality are horribly broken with no real explanation. For example if I have a fricking rocket launcher I shouldn't need to find a key or way around a stupid wooden door! Or if I shoot a guy dead in the face (I'm looking at YOU, EA and MoH series) then they should fricking die or at least be horribly wounded! You would think with all the talk about physics in games they could fix these problems, but all I've seen is ever increasing eye candy and bling at the expense of a world that at least follows its own logic.

      So I would say while the minigames in Bioshock could break your groove if you came across one at the wrong moment sans hack tools, at least they fit within the game. Even Ryan complains about hackers being parasites and robbing his machines. But when you base weapons or real world items like RPGs, and give them huge areas of effect and destructive power, at least make the rest of the world consistent. Nothing blows the realism quicker for me than "magic doors" or guys that supposedly can take more rounds than the Terminator without even a limp.

      • by JosKarith (757063)
        Invisible walls suck ass. Even the "Indestructible, unclimable chain-link fence" mecanism works better and i hate that. For me that's the #1 immersion breaker.
  • The worst offender of all time was a game I had very high hopes for. Constantly jotting down locker codes was bad enough, but having to leave the game to grab a code from that Martian Buddy nonsense website made me stop playing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I liked how there was a sizeable number of PDAs strewn around that you just happened to find in an order that progressively revealed a story. What are the odds of that?! Oh the fun I had reading all those PDAs!

      That truly was the worst mechanism for revealing a story I've ever seen. The only thing worse was the actual Doom 3 gameplay. How that game got such good reviews I don't know but I'm making sure not to pay any attention to the Rage hype.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by NoPantsJim (1149003)

        The only thing worse was the actual Doom 3 gameplay

        I actually really enjoyed the gameplay. The moment I discovered the idiotic system of codes for the weapons lockers, I went online and printed out a list so I could ignore the various PDAs and audio messages.

        The biggest disappointment of all? I got my hands on that leaked E3 Alpha, which was about 10x more interesting and scary than the actual retail game.

        • Being in an alpha phase, not to mention leaked, adds greatly to the enjoyment. The Quake 3 logo was a well designed update, since it was a new engine and all.. But back when the leak showed up, players learned to plasma jump.

  • Scribblenauts! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Cylix (55374) * on Friday July 02, 2010 @12:27AM (#32769128) Homepage Journal

    Scribblenauts actually did fairly well with a free form diverse tool of summon anything.

    In fact, it was just too much fun to randomly see what I could do. ie, summon a vampire, a priest and a vampire hunter to watch them duke it out. (Seriously, you can do that!)

    The down side is there really isn't much more to do then solve their word puzzles. I'm sure in a more complex game the free form behavior of the ability would break any attempt at constructed story telling.

    If you can solve the problem of allowing god like powers and keeping semi-structured storyline in place you probably should start working on a product now.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Cylix (55374) *

      Replying to myself here.

      The problem TFA describes and with similar discussions herein is not limited to just video games. A long time ago some friends would gather around to play table top rpgs. We tried various systems and nearly all of them have the same issue.

      At a certain level (or points) the game just goes to stupid. It was very easy to break GURPS in a supers campaign. Generally, the only way to control a rampant and degradation of the game was to play it fairly mildly.

      Now, sometimes it is just fun to

      • Re:Scribblenauts! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ushering05401 (1086795) on Friday July 02, 2010 @01:33AM (#32769488) Journal

        You can largely solve that problem by implementing realistic time-scales and offering players benefit to out of play aging.

        It doesn't work in MMORPGs, but a DM can easily have you travel uneventfully for weeks or months between realms and have you return to the gaming table after a layoff to a character that has been gaining languages or other useful skills at the expense of an aging hit.

        The out of play aging is great because a good DM can allow players to create their own interim story and choose from a palette of minor but useful skills that will help during the new campaign. A good group can spend a couple evenings 'back rolling' their stories with each other; and when the actual gaming begins everyone is already in the right headstate.

        Anyhow, the cumulative effect of travel time and out of game aging is a character that needs to begin looking at replacing valuable eq slots with anti-age eq around the same time that the game starts to break... If the eq is balanced of course.

  • so true (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mogness (1697042) on Friday July 02, 2010 @12:28AM (#32769138) Homepage
    Ya, the article is kind of bickering, but how many games have you played that offered so-called "fully interactive environments" that just aren't fully interactive? It's always a let-down.
    Also, gotta love the "cheap shots." I mean, I just killed about a hundred soldiers and got shot a thousand times, but one guy walks up behind me and cracks me on the head to knock me out so next I have to start in a jail cell with no weapons. And these "guards" that are holding me? Bitch please, I could melee all of them in about 30 seconds and not feel a thing. But instead you have to play along and "steal" the key because otherwise... GAME OVER!
    • by Weedhopper (168515) on Friday July 02, 2010 @12:50AM (#32769264)

      I always hated this part of RPGs.

      The messenger/last survivor of the massacre with his last gasp, says a bunch of nonsensical stuff, right before he dies. WTF? There's two fucking clerics in the party that can cast Heal in the middle of a battle. And now that the dude's dead, why can't my guys cast Raise Dead on him? Total crap.

      Planescape Torment is one of the few that get this mechanic even close to right.

      • by ultranova (717540)

        The messenger/last survivor of the massacre with his last gasp, says a bunch of nonsensical stuff, right before he dies. WTF? There's two fucking clerics in the party that can cast Heal in the middle of a battle. And now that the dude's dead, why can't my guys cast Raise Dead on him? Total crap.

        You can't heal or revive him for the same reason you can't simply use Phoenix Down on Aeris, or why using nuke-level summoning magic in the middle of a city doesn't leave it a smoking ruin: you are acting out a pre-

        • The problem with this situation, though, is that all of a sudden something that you usually can do is not allowed.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Pentium100 (1240090)

          However, the game could have consistent rules. For example, raising-from-the-dead magic can fail to work if the dead guy was blown up (you could revive him, but not put him back together) or killed with a magic spell that prevents revival and then have the plot important death happen this way.

          The nuke level magic spell could, for example, be limited to living things and/or just your enemies. But if you say that the spell works just like a nuke, then I expect to be able to level a city with it.

          But if I have

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by apoc.famine (621563)
            Thank you. I've been saying the same for a decade or two now.

            All you need is to START your game with sensible rules. Then build the game around those rules. Get some good, power-gamer playtesters, and turn them loose in a room together with a prize for the most badass stunts. Make sure they don't totally break the game, and you're golden. If they do, examine how you implemented the rules.

            There's no good reason to selectively enforce rules in a game. If you can't be bothered to make a consistent game, yo
        • While I can understand or at least guess the rationale behind it, it does break immersion every time it happens. Suddenly the game rules have temporarily changed to something completely different. It's like suddenly entering a room where you walk on the ceiling, or clicking on a link and on that site alone you have the toolbar browser on the bottom and the URL field disabled.

          It's stuff you notice because it's different from what you've been conditioned to do without even thinking any more. The whole game I'

        • by grumbel (592662)

          You can't heal or revive him for the same reason you can't simply use Phoenix Down on Aeris, or why using nuke-level summoning magic in the middle of a city doesn't leave it a smoking ruin: you are acting out a pre-scripted story.

          The problem isn't the scripting itself, Another World for example is completly scripted from start to finish, yet it never runs into those issues. The reason is simply: Another World doesn't have nukes or phoenix down. If you have items that by definition are so powerful that it becomes impossible to integrate them properly, they will end up feeling fake. In Another World on the other side you never encounter those. Your only weapon is a gun that you steal from a guard and it is the same gun that everybody

        • The messenger/last survivor of the massacre with his last gasp, says a bunch of nonsensical stuff, right before he dies. WTF? There's two fucking clerics in the party that can cast Heal in the middle of a battle. And now that the dude's dead, why can't my guys cast Raise Dead on him? Total crap.

          You can't heal or revive him for the same reason you can't simply use Phoenix Down on Aeris, or why using nuke-level summoning magic in the middle of a city doesn't leave it a smoking ruin: you are acting out a pre-scripted story. The more degrees of freedom you have, the harder it becomes to keep the story from breaking; and judging by the "how to make the players do what you want" -sections in some tabletop DM guides I've read, it seems that this phenomenom is not limited to the realm of computer RPGs.

          No. The real problem is that game rules and scripts live in different worlds, use different rules. Basically the plot and the actual games have different assumptions about what player characters can and can not do. That is definitely inconsistent. I don't think reconciling plot and gameplay is that hard. There's absolutely no need to make one of characters to die to make a compelling story, especially if it takes place in the world where you resurrect people all the time. Just make up plots that make sense

      • by JosKarith (757063) on Friday July 02, 2010 @06:21AM (#32770976)
        I especially love Cutscene Queens - where an NPC is awesome in a cutscene, then joins your party and proves to be lame. Or the time honoured "Boss X is an extremely hard fight. After the fight Boss X joins your party and somehow turns out to be mediocre at best"
    • Re:so true (Score:4, Insightful)

      by T Murphy (1054674) on Friday July 02, 2010 @01:13AM (#32769374) Journal
      The difference between immersive use of the environment and gimmicky is if you can think of a way to solve a problem, you should be able to do it, as opposed to having your hammer and looking for all the nails.

      One example I can remember was with Portal (this isn't a great example, but you get the point): there is a point where you are supposed to use portals to guide missles from a turret to break this cube transport tube so you can use a cube to climb a ledge. I was an idiot, didn't notice the transport thing, and walked back a ways to hunt for chairs, stacking them at the ledge, and went on my way oblivious to how hard I made it for myself. I never had to mentally step back and figure out how the programmer wants the problem solved, and therefore kept the immersion of the game.

      Overall, Portal does a great job of immersion- your bad attempts fail because they physically don't work, not because of some arbitrary roadblock. Many levels have "cheat" methods to skip some or all of the intended obstacles, rewarding clever solutions rather than using arbitrary limitations to remove them. Also, the story of the game (that you are a test subject) helps sell any obvious forced steps as a natural part of the world- you could call it a cheap cop-out, but it works perfectly so I won't complain.
      • by brainboyz (114458)

        The air-tube/missile problem is a perfect example. Most of the game was perfect. I understood I needed to break the tube, but I put the portal behind the tube instead of directly under it. The tube didn't break so I went online and found out I had it right, just not "programmer right."

      • Ditto here, I must have played through Portal ten times before I realized what I was actually expected to do at that point! However, I think they should NOT have allowed me to use the office furniture to get through, since it only made me feel the physics was broken (as it's hard to climb a chair). Had I been stuck there, I'd have searched harder for the proper solution.

        From HL2Ep1's commentary track, Valve knows well this: players will always look around, but hardly ever up or down.

      • Re:so true (Score:4, Insightful)

        by delinear (991444) on Friday July 02, 2010 @04:32AM (#32770356)

        My biggest bug bear is when you figure something out in a game but then you're not rewarded for your insight, instead you're punished by being forced to play out a scenarior when you know it will go badly for your character. Like, you've pieced together the clues to realise that the guy who is helping you is really the killer, but you can't just shoot him in the back, you have to play along with his weak subterfuge while he leads you into a trap, or you're playing some survival horror game and you just know a zombie is going to leap out of that closet when you walk past it, but you can't riddle it with bullets before you get to it.

        Actually, anything with zombies almost always does this badly - you'll always have scenes where you know the dead bodies on the ground will spring to life (or unlife, or whatever) at some point, but you can't hack them to pieces until the story has played out, similarly with deactivated robots (I'm looking at you ME:2) that you can't just smash to pieces while they're offline, even though you've already seen them suddenly spring to life a dozen times before, your character is happy to leave them intact but deactivated and just take his chances. Not rewarding me for anticipating a trap is massively jarring to the immersion, especially when I then have to sit there and watch my dumb character realise that it's a trap and try and fight his way out of it - I just end up thinking, you expect me to empathise with this god damn clown?

    • Re:so true (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Radish03 (248960) on Friday July 02, 2010 @01:36AM (#32769502)

      I was just thinking about this earlier tonight while playing Left 4 Dead. Tanks (big muscular zombies which are aptly described by their name) can punch really hard. They can send cars and dumpsters flying and crush people with them. But not all cars, only the ones it outlines in red for you. If you're going to introduce a mechanic like that, and teach players to use it, you've got to stick with it. Don't design a level set in a junk yard, filled with magically immobile cars.

      Make the rules of your game consistent. Remembering a long list of exceptions just adds a layer of metagaming that I'm not interested in. The game world should be layer of abstraction atop a rule set, and the rules should flow naturally from the game world. This is a very delicate balance that I know is hard to come by, and I fully accept games that can just approximate this balance by never putting players into situations where the exceptions manifest themselves.

      • by Intrinsic (74189)

        Yeah I agree, its really about following your own rule set. When you cut corners it just pisses people off and breaks people out of the fun of the game.

    • WoW has two instances of this sort of thing I can think of. The first is that as a rogue, I can pick almost any lock in the game... but certain locks I have to get the right key to open. It would have been simple just to raise the lockpicking skill required for that lock high enough that no one can attain it, but they didn't. They just said "No. You need the right key."

      The other one is cold weather flying. One of the four continents requires a new skill to be learned before you can fly there, even if y

  • Portal (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Weedhopper (168515) on Friday July 02, 2010 @12:42AM (#32769218)

    Did it right.

    Almost every other game with a gimmick = does it wrong.

    • Alas, even portal had a suspicious number of 'unportalable' walls.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Miseph (979059)

        Yes, but it was consistent, predictable, and given the context there was an internally plausible explanation: however the gun works, it doesn't work right on certain surfaces. I agree that it might have been nice if they found some other way of limiting the portal spawner's power, but all things considered it was pretty well done.

        Better the gravity gun from HL2, which was really just an example of what happens when only 1/4 of the objects in your environment are actually objects. WAY better than Red Faction

        • I thought the gravity gun worked quite well. Most of the things it didn't work on were either nailed down or too heavy to pick up/move. If you use a console command to increase the max power of the gravity gun you can even pick up cars and throw them.

      • Re:Portal (Score:4, Interesting)

        by OnePumpChump (1560417) on Friday July 02, 2010 @02:13AM (#32769678)
        Play it again with commentary on. Valve are really seriously thinking about this stuff.
        • Re:Portal (Score:5, Interesting)

          by grumbel (592662) <> on Friday July 02, 2010 @04:15AM (#32770256) Homepage

          Valve is really serious about play testing their games to death, which sadly however also removes what makes games interesting, as instead of giving you something interesting to discover, the games are so smooth and through fully tested that you have close to zero chance to discover anything the developer didn't intend.

          Valve games for me are like amusement park rides, sure they are fun and all, but at the end of the day you are riding on rails, seeing a well crafted show, not an actual interactive world.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by thegarbz (1787294)
            I don't get this? You prefer to find bugs or areas of the game you can get into but not get out of? The point of the game is for a developer to tell a story. You shouldn't be able to discover anything the developer didn't want you to. Otherwise it becomes what essentially amounts to a bug.

            Now if this makes the game boring then that fault lies squarely on the developer.
  • Portal (spoiler) (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 02, 2010 @12:43AM (#32769226)

    This is exactly why Portal was so awesome. Although it was a FPS, it behaved like any old 2D puzzler. It started out the same way for 15 levels: Light walls you put a portal on, dark walls you don't put a portal on. I began to see the game abstractly, like looking at a Minesweeper board. Then you go behind the wall and find the surprise. "The cake is a lie" was a funny internet meme for a year, but before that it was kind of disturbing to see for the first time. More games should challenge your expections, I hope the sequel lives up to it.

    • by Anpheus (908711) on Friday July 02, 2010 @01:12AM (#32769366)

      I felt like I better knew the character of GLaDOS from four or five hours of gameplay with Portal and sparse dialog than I know the characters of most movies.

      The gameplay mechanic being insidiously clever and fun helped too.

      • by delinear (991444) on Friday July 02, 2010 @05:16AM (#32770572)
        The fire part was one of the best scenes I've ever encountered in a game - you always knew it (or something like it) was coming, but when it happened you really felt like the rules of the game had completely changed, suddenly you're not being hand held through a simple puzzle, you're dropped into a situation where you have to use what you've learned and instantly react or die, and the character of GLaDOS played such a massive part in building the atmosphere leading up to that.
  • Oblig: Red Faction (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GF678 (1453005) on Friday July 02, 2010 @01:21AM (#32769424)

    Yes, Red Faction. A game which touted the ability to use a rocket launcher to blow the shit out of rocky caverns and construct new tunnels to traverse through... and yet when fired at the partitions in office cubicles would do absolutely nothing.

    Still, apparently it worked much better in multiplayer. Probably because the need to artificially limit the player was less of a requirement in MP than it was in SP.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Red Faction, the first one, was actually really good with its Geo-Mod tech. Your point is valid, there were some times when you had indestructible object (often things which in real life would be a lot weaker than a solid wall of rock) but all in all I think they did a great job on it. The first Red Faction game was, coincidentally, the first PC game I pirated, played through the campaign, then went to the store and bought, for the multiplayer (which was fantastic, except for the odd dick who would just cam
  • Quick Time Events (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cOldhandle (1555485) on Friday July 02, 2010 @01:48AM (#32769550)
    For me, quick time events [] are the worst offenders of all that have ruined many modern games for me (Resident Evil 4/5, God of War series, Uncharted, etc.) . Interrupt the game, destroy the atmosphere by displaying console-specific button prompts, and then force the player to play some lame simon-says game resurrected from the dark era of "interactive movie" games on the mega-cd. Yeah, that's a great idea...
    • by SheeEttin (899897)
      Oh god don't remind me.
      I'm working my way through RE4 on the Gamecube (my first Resident Evil game, which I still haven't completed), just creepin' along a passageway, when OSHIT A BOULDER FUCKING RUN PUSH BUTTONS WHAT BUTTON A PUSH A PUSH OTHER BUTTONS WHAT WHICH BUTT--dead.
      I got up to about the third button combination before I gave up. Either that's where I stopped or someone did it for me; I don't remember.
    • by Zironic (1112127)

      They serve a point though, the idea is that they want the hero to do cool moves that are outside the normal combat set, so they have to show a cinematic. However people dislike cinematics because they can't do anything, so they attempt to make the cinematic interactive through quick time.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by delinear (991444)
        Just make them skippable - the people who want to see the cool move get to, the people who don't want to be annoyed by having to randomly mash some button are happy, I know they probably spent a lot of money on that cut-scene but if I don't want to watch it there's little advantage in forcing me to, I won't thank the developers for it.
    • Yep. It was interesting when GoW did it. Now it's just lazy.

      I get the first QTE in any game demo and that's it for the game. I started Star Wars: Force Unleashed. Got the first QTE, quit the game. Fuck that noise.

      • by delinear (991444)
        ME:2 at least tries to give them some purpose, such as being able to target a gas pipe to kill a bunch of guys to make the next fight slightly easier, but it's still frustrating, especially having already played through the game once, to be forced to watch a scene you already know (you can actually skip most scenes in ME:2 except the ones where you can interact) when you're just eager to get into the action.
  • HUD (Score:3, Insightful)

    by grimdawg (954902) on Friday July 02, 2010 @01:56AM (#32769594)

    This is the problem with a HUD. Health bars look dumb, and remind you that you're not playing a person but some abstraction of a person. Magic bars, too. It's unfortunate that the real-world mechanics of death are no fun to play, and so we have to create an unreal world, but hiding this is an important aspect of design in *SOME* games.

    On the other hand, the current crop of games trying to 'go no HUD' are often worse. Putting the health bar on the player's back doesn't make it less of a health bar, and serves only to remind me that they're trying to fool me. HUD is at worst a necessary evil, and at best a useful tool.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Many shooters these days (Bad Company 2, even MW2) offer so-called "Hardcore Mode" which, in addition to being closer to realism (bullets actually kill quite quickly, in small amounts) they remove most if not all aspects of the HUD; no crosshair (so firing from the hip is fairly blind-fire), no healthbar (you are either dead or not), no ammo display (you keep track of how much ammo you burn. when it's empty it's empty), no map (unless you have a UAV in the air, in the case of MW2). The score/time left is al
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by grumbel (592662)

      It's unfortunate that the real-world mechanics of death are no fun to play,

      And yet I had the most memorable experiences ever with games like Another World or Operation Flashpoint where you die rather realistically (AW: one shot kills, touching anything dangerous kills also instantly, OF: one shoot may kill you, two almost certainly do and if you have bad luck you survive and can only crawl).

      The problem with health isn't health itself, but really the enemies you are fighting. With most games you are a sole hero fighting whole armies of enemies and while both of you are "human" you

      • by grimdawg (954902)

        I'm not trying to say there aren't times when realistic health works great; only that in plenty of cases (I'd argue in the overwhelming majority) it isn't ideal.

    • by Eudial (590661)

      Mass Effect 2 did it quite nicely though, with the whole blood-shot screen thing when you got hurt. It also had a health bar, but still, you didn't really need to pay as much attention to that.

    • by delinear (991444)
      But then games that do away with the health bar but still have the concept of health risk annoying the player, too. One of my only gripes with Red Dead Redemption is that I'd quite like to know how much health I have when I'm in a gunfight, can I risk sticking my head out of cover for one more shot before wasting a health pack, or will that throw me back to the start of the encounter, I shouldn't have to judge that by how red the screen's turned (hmm, is that crimson or ruby, I can't tell!).
  • I could have a rocket launcher capable of seriously hurting the biggest monsters but I couldn't so much as crease the pages of a book on the bookshelves. Damn it!
  • I have learned the hard way, that not everyone want full inmersion in his games. There are people just now, playing the "achievement metagame" and using Red Dead Redemtion for that.
    Or there are people just now, playing and chatting in Borderlands, playing the metagame of searching a shotgun with acid rockets.
    So, we all search different things in games, and only a subset of the gamers group want full inmersion.

    All the console games have visible buttons that suposedly helps the player remenber that X reload t

  • Not just games (Score:3, Insightful)

    by coppro (1143801) on Friday July 02, 2010 @02:32AM (#32769770)
    This is like a modern cartoon. American children's cartoons tend to be the worst offenders. Backgrounds are usually static while only the foreground is animated. The background might even be drawn with different penmanship or a different style altogether (e.g. a watercolor background). Sometimes the effect works, as it does in some video games, but in particular if a character has to interact with an element of the background, then things start to look very out of place.

    My personal favorite example was from a cartoon showing a series of fences. They were mostly soft, pretty detailed. Except every fence had a few panels in a line that were drawn with heavier lines and flatter colors. It was easy to predict that the scene included a character breaking through those panels.
    • My personal favorite example was from a cartoon showing a series of fences. They were mostly soft, pretty detailed. Except every fence had a few panels in a line that were drawn with heavier lines and flatter colors. It was easy to predict that the scene included a character breaking through those panels.

      I also noticed this kind of thing in a scene with a series of closet doors, one of them looking clearly different.

  • This one was bad.. you'd walk along until you were stuck. As soon as you were stuck you knew you had to flip the view to continue on.... it might as well just auto-flipped.

  • Wrong word used here (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Ssherby (1429933)
    Immersion is the wrong word to use to define the concept described in TFA.

    What is described in TFA is much closer to what is called "The Suspension of Disbelief"

    In any game that is telling some sort of story, the objective is to design the game in a way that tells a story. And every good story should draw the "reader" into the imaginative world of the story (Suspension of Disbelief) so that the "reader's" imagination can assist in filling the gaps. Whenever a story includes or excludes certain details (
  • Half Life 2 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CODiNE (27417) on Friday July 02, 2010 @06:14AM (#32770906) Homepage

    I'm just playing it now for the first time. It's pretty neat I felt tense and rushed as I was being chased through the city. Then about an hour into it I find this room with a ladder where you have to turn around and jump onto a pipe then walk on it to get to the next room. Dang I did it once then fell back down... after 10 tries I decided to go to bed.

    Or when I'm stuck in a little room full of water with 2 pipes connecting to it, one I can get out by the other is just out of my reach. Oh wait, I have a crowbar. Nope, can't use it that way.

    Oh well, just save it and come back later when I'm bored. If I come back later that is.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Spatial (1235392)

      Then about an hour into it I find this room with a ladder where you have to turn around and jump onto a pipe then walk on it to get to the next room. Dang I did it once then fell back down... after 10 tries I decided to go to bed.

      Press E. It automatically moves you onto the pipe.

      I got stuck there for a while myself. One of the few failings of the game is how it never makes the mechanics of ladders particularly clear.

  • by IronChef (164482) on Friday July 02, 2010 @01:14PM (#32777014)

    If you are upset that your rocket launcher can't blow open an inconvenient door, be glad that you have a rocket launcher at all... because you know what's easier than making a sophisticated sandbox game that respects all the laws of physics and allows you to anything you think of with the tools at hand? Taking away your rocket launcher entirely.

    And in a multiplayer game like an MMO, respecting "reality" means you can get ganked by more powerful players. Some players like that. Most don't.

    Making games is hard. I sympathize with all y'all that want things to work better, but making that kind of game is difficult and expensive. And at the end of the day, are you sure it would be more fun?

    Like politics, making games is the art of the possible.

  • by misfit815 (875442) on Friday July 02, 2010 @02:15PM (#32778150)

    What breaks immersion for me is rubber-band AI. It typically shows itself in racing games. Usually, this means it's extremely easy to catch the pack, kind of easy to work your way through the pack, and next to impossible to check out. That certainly detracts from my enjoyment of the game, possibly more than any other design aspect. Simply having an option to shut that off would be enough, though.

  • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Friday July 02, 2010 @03:05PM (#32778754) Homepage

    The key word here is "consistency". The 'frills' don't matter; what matters is that what is implemented is implemented well.

    Two good examples of this are Duke Nukem 3D and Deus Ex. In DN3D, the gameplay world interaction was fairly minimal: there were trash cans, toilets, windows, mirrors, and hookers/strippers which you could destroy and/or alter. There were also the occasional wall you could blow up (often the rough equiv of a keycard door), as well as some mini-games (which were extra fun, and not part of the game's "goal". There wasn't much, but it was consistent.

    Deus Ex is a classic example for a game implementing an internal "mini-game" and doing it right. You didn't have to play them, as there were multiple ways to accomplish a goal: you just chose to, and it was often a fun alternative way to reach the end game. Importantly, they were part of the game's plot and development.

    Really, when it comes down to it, I think a large part of this immersion failure is due to rushing the games out the door. The newer games feel incomplete and very "demo" like compared to games from 10+ years ago, with significant components which don't seem all that well thought out. Sometimes they manifest as a bug, but most of the time they're something like a map which cuts off where it feels like it should continue or stuff as outlined in the topic.

The University of California Statistics Department; where mean is normal, and deviation standard.