[MUD-Dev] Protecting the Player's Suspension of Disbelief

Damion Schubert damion at zenofdesign.com
Fri Feb 14 20:13:00 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

From: Ron Gabbard

> "Inventory systems with no encumbrance penalty" are extremely
> convenient for players in that they reduce the amount of downtime
> resulting from having to manage their inventory.  However, this
> stresses the player's SoD in that they have to assume that they
> are infinitely strong (regardless of what their character sheet
> says) or that the carried items have absolutely no weight.

I chose to quote this example because it best leads into my point,
which is that immersion != realism.  (And as a persnickety side
comment, I think that 'immersion' is the new word for 'realism'
largely due to the fact that the 'realism' faction got their heads
beat in in the "Realism Isn't Fun" wars of 1999. =)

I define 'immersion' as 'the player forgets that he is sitting
behind a keyboard - he is IN the game'.  Some realism is certainly
good for immersion, but most of this is more cosmetic than anything
else.  The sound in Diablo makes the game incredibly immersive.
Call it ambience or atmosphere.

Using 'realism' to create game design mechanisms, though, usually
does not have immersive results.  If I spend more time getting my
adrenaline worked up because I'm not running back to town every
three minutes, I'd argue that's MORE immersive, because I'm not
reading a book in real life while I have a book on my forward arrow
as I run back to town.

If my party is in a well- crafted 'personal' dungeon and doesn't
have to be worry about being ganked or having their kills or loots
stolen, that party will likely have a more immersive experience.
They are INTO the fiction, which can now be tightly woven, and the
quest, which can now have any number of traps and puzzles, as
opposed to an EQ-style dungeon where the nature of 'anyone comes,
anyone goes' forces much simpler dungeon designs.  Better time.
More immersive.

A great example is "Trespasser".  They felt it would be more
immersive if you had to manipulate your hand via your mouse in order
to shoot things and pick things up.  The outcome was awkward and
clumsy, and the net lesson for many was that Quake- style 'run over
and pick things up' is more immersive for FPSes as it allows players
to focus on the parts of the game that really capture them

Put shorter, NOTHING breaks immersion more than getting your player
royally pissed off at the game.  Pissed off at an NPC, a player, or
in-game system is one thing, but when a player sits back and wonders
why he's playing, you've lost him.


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