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

Ron Gabbard rgabbard at swbell.net
Sun Feb 16 08:33:04 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003


From: "Damion Schubert" <damion at zenofdesign.com>
> 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.

Personally, I would take the definition of 'immersion' a step deeper
-- where the player forgets s/he is playing a game and is in the
WORLD in the case of RPGs.  I agree with you that realism !=
immersion as constraining the in-game fictional laws of physics,
nature, etc. to RL laws puts some serious handcuffs on the designer
with regards to making the game playable and/or enjoyable.  The game
designer creates their own fictional reality for that world.
However, once implemented, that chosen reality needs to have the
same influence in that virtual world that the laws of
physics/nature/etc. have in the RW (unless there are some serious
issues that are extremely detrimental to game play... then the
designer screwed up in originally creating their reality).
Consistency is the key.

> 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.

Agreed.  And, again, I would argue that the inventory system has to
fit the reality that has been created by the designer.  If the game
is built around the players doing personal/group dungeons (e.g.,
AO), it makes no sense to have an inventory system that requires
them to leave that dungeon 5 or 6 times just in order to
convert/store 50% of the loot that drops.  Alternatively, if the
game is built around killing and farming static content in an open,
inflationary economy (e.g., EQ), it makes a lot more sense to put
constraints on inventory to promote content turnover and put some
kind of restraint on the amount of cash introduced into the economy
per hour.  There is no 'right' answer with regards to inventory
systems without considering the supporting systems and overall game
play.

<snip>

> 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.

This is probably the crux of a lot of the issues discussed on this
list.  As you pointed out, the key is knowing YOUR player and
developing the game systems to best entertain them within their
specific SoD tolerances.  People who own Porsches, Volvos, and
Saturns are all car buyers.  However, they each have different
expectations of their vehicle.  The same is becoming true of players
of AC, EQ, UO, AO, etc. as the genre broadens and each player
develops a personal preference for a particular style of game play.
The goal is to design a game such that the various systems reinforce
the expectations of *your* customer... just as Porsche isn't going
to come out with a US$9,995 model that gets 45 mpg and Saturn isn't
going to release a model that can reach speeds of 140 mph and go 0
to 60 in 5.8 seconds.

Cheers,

Ron


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