Tacticular Cancer: We'll have your balls

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Challenge vs Immersion in video games

Discussion in 'General Gaming' started by Cowboy Moment, Jan 14, 2012.

  1. Trash Simply fabulous

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    Depends on the game and what you want to achieve with your game. I always find it hard to attribute set rules for any medium as broad as this.
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  2. DraQ Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    Correction: There is no immersion in Tetris whatsoever. It can be engaging, but it doesn't immerse you in the virtual world or story it portrays because it's completely abstract and portrays nothing except of itself.

    Same with more monocled examples of Go or Chess.
    Possibly very engaging, but not in the least bit immersive.
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  3. Damned Registrations Prestigious Gentleman Furry Weeaboo Nazi Nihilist

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    So what, immersion is engagement in a story in the game, as opposed to the game? Why would you even want that?
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  4. DraQ Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    Immersion is immersion in the "other side" - something game or another medium tries to convey. If you play a nonabstract game you see what is represented by game's means be they pixelized sprites, blocky models or words.
    An abstract game has no "other side", it consists only of the surface because it portrays/conveys only itself. There is no depth to be immersed in.

    It's like the difference between being immersed in a novel and trying to be immersed in the act of reading itself, without actually bothering with the meaning conveyed by the text.

    Immersion doesn't preclude other forms of engagement, but other forms of engagement don't imply immersion.
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  5. Damned Registrations Prestigious Gentleman Furry Weeaboo Nazi Nihilist

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    I just don't get the point of trying to attain immersion instead of engagement in general. To use the book analogy, it'd be like making a great story you want to read more of but not worrying about how well it is written. I'd rather read a bad story written by a good author than a good story written by a bad author. LotR as written by an 8 year old who watched the movies is going to be a less interesting read than an actual author just being pedantic about some trivial subject he felt like blogging about. At best, being immersed in the non game aspects of the game is an enjoyable distraction. At worst, it makes the gameplay itself an annoying distraction from the story you want more of. People don't bitch about the story or immersion in Doom. Plenty of people bitch about the combat in Arcanum or PST or Fallout.

    That isn't to say immersion is bad in and of itself, but I see it as a means to an end- the whole point of making the player hang on every word doled out in a game is to make him want to play more and fulfill hsi part in the game. Sacrificing other things that also make the player want to keep playing to achieve immersion is bad design, like poking holes in your fuel tank to increase aerodynamics so you can save fuel (which is now leaking.)

    I think the bulk of the benefit challenge brings is making the player want revenge after being defeated or set back, spurring him to continue playing. I'd classify that as engagement rather than immersion by your definitions. People don't play games, even ones where being murdered is thematic (survival horror for example) hoping to get their ass handed to them around the next corner because it is immersive.
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  6. DraQ Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    But would you rather have more Dooms or more PSTs, Fallouts (in before obvious joke) and Arcanums?

    SR-71 "Blackbird".
    :salute:

    Immersion is a form of engagement, but not every form of engagement is immersion.

    No but you need to care about what happens in game to play it, and in games like survival horrors this care hinges entirely on immersion.
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  7. Cowboy Moment Arcane

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    Getting your ass handed to you is not immersive in a horror game, I spent like half of my opening post explaining this. The feeling of wanting revenge after getting set back works for some games, but for others it doesn't work at all, and horror games fall into this cathegory. That's why Silent Hill is a better horror game than Dead Space, even though the latter would obviously be the better game if you cut out the narrative somehow.

    Let me use a different example. Say you're playing a "realistic" FPS, you're in the middle of a firefight. You lean around the corner, and receive an unlucky headshot, killing you instantly. Now, say the game is Modern Warfare. This event does not make you more engaged in the game. It's just an annoyance, a bump in the rails the game pulls you along. Modern Warfare is a B-grade action movie in game form, dying makes no sense there. Heroes don't die to stray bullets in action movies. Dying takes you out of the experience, and breaks whatever immersion the game managed to achieve.

    Now, say the game is Stalker. Dying in Stalker doesn't break your immersion, because it makes sense, it's a natural and frequently referenced part of the gameworld. Everything about Stalker, the narrative, map and level design, and gameplay mechanics, reinforce the fact that the Zone is a dangerous and frequently lethal place. Dying easily feels natural. Even the game over text is "Lost to the Zone", a completely impersonal message, with an implication that you're neither the first nor the last person this has happened to. The general difficulty in Stalker doesn't break immersion for a similar reason. In fact, modding it to be more difficult often makes it more immersive too.
    Marsal Brofists this.
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  8. Damned Registrations Prestigious Gentleman Furry Weeaboo Nazi Nihilist

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    Well, considering I don't even like FPS, the later. But a better question would be, would I rather have more games like Dark Souls or Skyrim? And Dark Souls is far far better, despite having a barely sketched out plot that is essentially "You're the chosen one, so go murder all the bosses to save the world."

    Or to use older examples, I enjoy games like Nethack or Might and Magic 3-5 a lot more than Fallout/PST, because the former are a lot of fun to play, not just to think about their setting/plot.

    :roll: Pretty sure they didn't design the Blackbird as a fuel efficient cargo plane. Sacrificing engaging aspects of the game for the sake of say, replayability might be a good idea. Sacrificing engaging gameplay for engaging immersion would be retarded, as we can see from the daggerfall>morrowind>oblivion progression.
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  9. Norfleet Magister

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    "Immersion" is a meaningless, unquantifiable term. You don't set out to make a game "immersive" and if you put that as one of your actual objectives, you will inevitably fail. Just make a good game. The rest follows on its own.

    "Challenge", on the other hand, can be directly quantified by the ratio of attempts that succeed vs. the attempts that fail, ranging from "piss easy" (Everyone succeeds) to "impossible" (nobody ever beats it). The desired level of challenge varies widely from individual to individual, but the medium tends to result in a game that no one likes, because those who like things Bitch Hard will find it too easy and those who couldn't fight their way out of a wet paper sack will still complain it's too hard.
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  10. Damned Registrations Prestigious Gentleman Furry Weeaboo Nazi Nihilist

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    I'd define challenge as a ratio of time spent playing vs time spent progressing. If you fail 1 out of 3 attempts at a combat but are only set back a minute or two each time, it's not nearly as challenging as a game where failing one combat out of 30 sets you back an hour.
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  11. ~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸-AIN'T Arcane Patron

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    Baldercrap. A huge part of early Looking Glass games was the desire to make the games more immersive. System Shock introduced the audio logs after they had worked on Ultima Underworld and were frustrated by the fact that dialogue minigames break immersion by providing a completely unrealistic abstraction of real-life dialogues. In the same way, all of Thief's conversations are overheard by the player, but the only way he can actually contribute to them is to break them. These games actually in very in-depth stories, but the developers wanted to make sure that the stories would not in any way take the player out of the game (ie break immersion).

    In fact, the "emergent gameplay" (another buzzword that has been misappropriated by idiots in the industry) of the Thief series is as much based on maintaining player immersion as it is on making the gameplay great. To LG, immersion and great gameplay went hand-in-hand, and quite frankly their approach worked wonders. The fact that other people who have tried and failed to achieve good immersion and good gameplay at the same time doesn't mean that immersion is something that should never be a goal.
    TalesfromtheCrypt, Marsal, DraQ and 2 others Brofist this.
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  12. Jasede Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    That's correct. You are just misled because of how much immersion is used as a buzzword these days and seems to carry no more meaning anymore. If you dig up some old posts from 2005 or so you will find we often used to talk about how good of a quality immersion in a game can be and how to achieve it.
    TalesfromtheCrypt Brofists this.
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  13. Cowboy Moment Arcane

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    I remember it being used as a buzzword (and consequently as an expletive on the Codex) around the time Oblivion was released. A ton of dumbing-down was justified with enhancing immersion (even the infamous quest compass, which is hilarious, because Oblivion's implementation breaks immersion all the fucking time). Nowadays, you don't seem to hear it that often.
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  14. DraQ Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    Except Oblivious was easily the least immersive TES so far, while change between Daggerfall and Morrowind was degradation of immersion on some fronts (seasons, scale, mechanics like holidays or banking), and improvement on others (detail, background lore, exploration).
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  15. Damned Registrations Prestigious Gentleman Furry Weeaboo Nazi Nihilist

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    That simply means they fucked up more. It's still obvious that that the design behind oblivion was far more focused on the attempt to make it immersive, sacrificing many gameplay elements like levitation and weapon types for the sake of better graphics, and changing things like lockpicking into annoying minigame crap for teh immershuns. These changes were horrible, and considerably more detrimental to the game as a whole than screwing with the lore. Not to mention the voice acting's toll on the writing.

    A game should focus primarily on the player and his character before the NPCs and the world they inhabit. Those details are nice perks (especially for an exploration based game), but if you're not thinking about your character, you've little investment in your actions, and therefore actually playing the game.

    I can remember hardly any of the morrowind lore, mostly just a few details of the main plot. I remember tons of cool shit I did though. In oblivion, it's the opposite. I remember a bunch of details of the derpy lore and quests, but hardly anything I did.
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  16. Random Arcane Patron

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    So MMORPGS and iPhone games like FarmVille are the best games ever then?

    I don't mean to rag on you, I know you don't actually mean that, but if we're going to argue semantics...
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  17. Cowboy Moment Arcane

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    I honestly have no clue where you're getting these ideas from. What in the world does removing levitation or spears have to do with immersion? Todd said so in an interview for kotaku, so it must be that way? They removed levitation because they couldn't make it work on a technical level, what with cities having to be separate from the rest of the world, and probably a bunch of other Gamebryo related reasons. A grand majority of the changes they justified with "immersion" were for the sake of streamlining, pure and simple. Now, it's difficult to speculate whether Todd really believes streamlining improves immersion, but I don't see why we should even entertain that notion here.

    Your second point is kind of weird to me. It's impossible to make the player care about their character without making them care about the world, because the character is completely meaningless on his own. The fact that you mostly remember yourself doing cool shit in Morrowind means that you found Morrowind's world, and the interactions it enabled, compelling and memorable. That is one of the better ways to produce immersion, and is not a function of world-building in the traditional sense (which is why you don't remember any lore).

    Notice how similar this is to something like System Shock 2. System Shock 2 has a backstory, which helps build the game's world, but the actual story consists entirely of the player's actions. There are barely any cutscenes (I only remember the Shodan reveal and the Many mindfucking you), and we only leave first person at the very end. Beginning to end, it's all gameplay; a compelling world, and a variety of ways of interacting with it. SS2 is one of the most immersive games ever made.
    DraQ and Marsal Brofist this.
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  18. Damned Registrations Prestigious Gentleman Furry Weeaboo Nazi Nihilist

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    Not that hard to get me to stop playing farmville though. Or so I would imagine.

    But yeah, games that incorporate social connections tend to be the ones people get the most value out of, assuming they have those connections. Murdering dragons together with your friends is a lot of fun. More fun than murdering a dragon by yourself generally.

    Remember that the value of a game is totally subjective- best game evar for a fantasy nerd is going to be different than for a scifi nerd, and likewise for misanthropes and social butterflies. My description works on an individual basis. For an objective ranking between all games for all people... who cares? Best coffee in the world is still going to taste like shit to someone who hats coffee.
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  19. Damned Registrations Prestigious Gentleman Furry Weeaboo Nazi Nihilist

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    Wow, so, exactly the reason I stated huh?

    Your other arguments are about just as blatantly flawed. I'm not going to wasting a TLDR post on why my memories of screwing with game mechanics had nothing to do with immersion on you.
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  20. Cowboy Moment Arcane

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    And none of the things you mentioned have anything to do with immersion, aside from Todd and Pete saying they do. I mean, if that's the extent of your insight, then I'm not gonna bother either.
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  21. Weierstraß Learned

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    I think challenge indeed can ruin immersion but not due to any inherent property in challenge itself but rather because modern games have a tendency to make the distinction between success and failure extremely binary. The most obvious example would be the shooter with regenerating health; either you die or you survive and return to full health.
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  22. Burning Bridges Tacticular Staff

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    Better define it as the amount of (useful) skill required to progress, not "time".

    Your definition is not bad, but in this form it only defines "grind". Of course all challenging games require time and skill, but there are also "grindy" games in which progress is unrelated to skill, because the game is just damn stupid.

    I think human intuiton has always been that games should determine the "best" people in certain activities, and this makes challenge a statistical problem, i.e how well the player success falls into a random distribution related to their skill.

    This is important because games are not only for entertainment. In general, humans seem to have a tendency to favor games that allow to precisely determine the skill of the player (not his commitment to the game).
    Therefore challenge means that the game can not be progressed by random input, only by skill (this will mostly be motor or intellectual), and no one can "cheat" by compensating skill through repetition.

    So, a game is worthless if everyone can beat it without skill, and so is one in which no one can make progress except by endless repetition. For example bowling is quite a challenging game, but not if the pins were 1m from the player, and also not if they were so far away that no one can hit them. In this line of thought, some games require superhuman skill like QWOP, and are therefore quite pointless. Other games require no skill at all, like Dear Esther, and it's not surprising that most people don't even consider that a game.

    The conclusion is, challenge based on skill is the only relevant metric to define a game, and "immersion" is completely irrelevant. (Immersion is only relevant for the entertainment value).

    Immersion is also highly subjective (regular gamers lose the ability to immerse themselves anyway), but skill can be developed, and this why only challenging games are always rewarding. And only if a game is challenging and the challenge is also rewarding (because success in the game is fun and the player can improve his skills and thereby learn something), it is also a good game.
    Good games are for example Pool, Bowling, Chess, Poker ... Most computer games grossly favor short term entertainment value (graphix) over challenge and are therefore not good games.
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  23. Stakhanov Educated

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    I think the OP is correct. It depends on what the game is prioritising: if it is narrative and atmosphere then the game will require flow that necessitates a reduced difficulty, unless the game can somehow incorporate failure states into that progression. If repetition and loss of momentum sap the game's impact, then it's hard to see how it can be otherwise. Though if this is done with the aim of simply trying to tell a B-grade cinematic story that doesn't utilise the strengths of the medium well, then I think the player has the right to feel cheated.

    However, if the narrative is derived to an extent or entirely from what the player is already doing (exploration, building up a character/party, discovering bits of lore for ex.) because of engagement with the setting and mechanics, such as STALKER, then nothing needs to be sacrificed.
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  24. Clockwork Knight Arcane

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    Maybe not "best" regarding quality, but they sure as fuck are among the best considering the objective of a game - to make the player keep playing.

    To me it's clear he does, and he's not entirely wrong. Streamlining = easier to get into the game = you get immersed faster.

    "You" in this case means people in general. There are players who want feel it's unnaceptable that scimitars use the same skill as axes, and there are players who feel immersed if a NPC comments in passing about their shiny armor.
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  25. Damned Registrations Prestigious Gentleman Furry Weeaboo Nazi Nihilist

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    Challenge isn't just based on skill however. Aside from there being different types of challenge (execution vs intellectually, i.e. QWOP vs chess) challenge isn't so neatly divided into skill and not skill based. Take something like a roguelike for example: Without skill, you get nowhere. But even with exceptional skill, you'll still likely fail a lot (hello wand of death wielding gnomes). Without that random element, the game would be formulaic and boring though. High level algebra may be challenging and require a considerable deal of skill, but it doesn't make for a very good game, but chess does, even though both are purely intellectual challenges. But chess has the element of chance- your opponent.

    To further confound things, 'progress' can be pretty flakey and arbitrary in and of itself. Which is more progress in a SHMUP; a higher score or getting further? Or maybe how far you got without getting hit? Which of those require the most skill, which are the most challenging?

    Finally, to bring things back to the real world, 'skill' isn't really something you can easily define. Sure, we can agree that it takes skill to say, juggle. But how about weight lifting? Or running a marathon? Or a staring contest? Being tall? You can't define challenge as the amount of skill required if you can't define what constitutes skill. I'd also balk at a definition that labels something as not being challenging because it requires skill, but has very very few people willing to do it. So I think skilltesting != challenge. Though that by no means implies the challenge is a good thing in and of itself.

    TL;DR on the subject by someone else:

    http://www.insanedifficulty.com/board/index.php?/topic/10-fake-difficulty-is-real/
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