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

Serafina Pechan daralassa at yahoo.com
Wed Feb 19 19:36:04 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003


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

> I chose to quote this example because it best leads into my point,
> which is that immersion != realism.

I think some realism is an absolute prerequisite for immersion.  If
there isn't at last a smidgen of realism, then the game world would
be so alien to everyone that it wouldn't... couldn't be played.

I think it also depends on your definition of realism.  If realism
is defined in terms of "Earth 2003 realism" then yes, definitely,
immersion ! = realism in game worlds.  If realism is defined in
terms of requiring every possible micro detail and process, then I
agree again with that statement.

However, if "realism" is defined uniquely according to each game
world, then maintaining realism can very much promote immersion.
Realism is easily defined as what a player perceives to be real.
What a player is willing to accept or perceive as real will vary in
each game world.

For example, if you've defined a game world where the avatars have
wings, then realism dictates that characters can fly or at least
glide.  To fly in this example game world would be a basic
requirement on the road to achieving immersion.  To me, staying true
to the world that we as designers define is what realism is all
about.

Further, I would argue that consistency is key to maintaining
realism in a game world.  Every time we make an "exception" that
breaks with the rules and/or physics of the game world, we provide
another opportunity for a player to notice that something is
different than is expected.  It increases the player's potential
break from the game's reality, and hence, decreases immersion.

> 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
> emotionally.

I've heard this same Trespasser example repeated many times as a
reason why not to have realism in games.  After hearing this example
so many times and still years later, it now hits a nerve with me.  I
think this is a flawed example.  In fact, I think Trespasser is a
great example to disprove your point that realism ! = immersion.

Why was Trespasser not immersive?  The number one reason was because
interaction with the world was so far from real that it took us out
of the game.  The interface and controls were frustrating... not
because of realism, but because of the opposite!  That made it both
unimmersive and unfun.

Trespasser was an attempt to simulate realism, but it did not.
There was no realism in the way that hand and arm moved unless you
were a Cirque du Soleil performer.  There is no realism in dropping
your gun every few seconds by accident.  Trespasser had a lot of
other realistic qualities to it, like the environment.  I loved the
environment.  Unfortunately, a very important part, the player
character's movement, was so unrealistic that it prohibited
immersion.

Trespasser could have been implemented differently and achieved
realism and immersion and yes, been fun too.  Of course, that's just
my speculative opinion because none of us actually got to play
*that* version of Trespasser.  That's why I think this example is
flawed.  To use something that is very unreal as an example to prove
realism in games is bad ... well, that just doesn't make sense.

> 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.

100% agreed.

In summary, I do not believe that realism always equals immersion,
nor does it necessarily equal fun.  However, I do believe that
realism to a point is a minimum prerequisite for immersion.

--Serafina
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