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General: Hiding the Game - Immersion

SBFordSBFord Associate Editor - News ManagerThe Land of AZPosts: 16,572MMORPG.COM Staff Uncommon

One thing that many MMO players clamor for in ever-increasingly loud voice is IMMERSION. They want to feel a part of the game. In today's latest editorial, we take a look at ways we feel that our games could be made more immersive. Read on and see what you think. Share your thoughts in the comments!

I know we need the paper dolls, the grids, the maps, the quest trackers… it’s a double-edged sword. But do we really need them always present? Do we need them right there at all times, or can we safely put them just a keystroke away and make sure users know how to access them when needed? Can we get rid of quest trackers and use a compass mechanic like Skyrim (and make even that optional for the hardcore)? Most importantly, for me, can we stop the endless reminders of “achievement” on my screen in general and just let me enjoy the scenery?

Read more of Bill Murphy's Hiding the Game - Immersion.

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Associate Editor: MMORPG.com
Follow me on Twitter: @MMORPGMom

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Comments

  • elockeelocke Manassas, VAPosts: 4,205Member Uncommon

    I kind of like the flashy stuff and info coming at me on the screen.  What ruins immersion for me is horrible sound effects, lack of music or good music, and load screens.  

    image
  • MardukkMardukk Posts: 1,556Member Uncommon
    UI's don't ruin immersion for me. World design, instant travel everywhere and static dead worlds ruin immersion in my eyes.
  • SheepduckSheepduck Hicksville, NYPosts: 32Member
    When I first started playing Warcraft, maybe a year after the initial launch, I was masmerized. The game really had a way with pulling you into the lore, the world bosses, the world was large but not too big that'd you lose contact with other players. The problem with MMOs today is that they're too simplified. There's no immersion because they make it so you have to do as little as possible to progress. It's hard to feel immersed when I can press a button and automatically get a group formed for me and teleported to the dungeon of choice. Developers make these beautiful worlds and then continue to make sure you see as little of it as possible.
  • BattlerockBattlerock Youngstown, OHPosts: 1,393Member
    Nice bars lol, oh and how about just make it all optional
  • s1fu71s1fu71 fair oaks, CAPosts: 220Member

    One of the primary factors for immersion for me is the community.

    When I first started MMO's it was the people around me that made the game immersive.

    I actually enjoy light role play.

    Running around in EQ was great when people were playing "in character."

    If people were standing around and chatting about real life, that broke the immersion for me.

    It's not about fighting, it's about balance. It's not about enlightenment, it's about balance. It's not about balance.

  • IkedaIkeda Largo, FLPosts: 2,203Member Uncommon

    A couple of things:

     

    Storyline:

    If you ask me, I can list a pretty decent rundown of Azeroth's history (alliance side only).  That game caught me with it's story.

    Heck, I still remember the storyline from EQ1 for the most part (it's starting to get hazy).

    I'm playing Rift now, and I'm kinda following the story but more often than not I click accept or complete without reading.  It's not that I don't intend to read, I just don't think about it.

    ToR forced me into the story.  I remember a good chunk of the main story arcs but could care less for remembering the mind-numbing side quests.

     

    UI:

    At the end of the day, you ARE playing a game.  Immersion, IMO, is the point at which you CARE about the game/characters.  You're invested in them.  A good UI makes this easier but it's certainly not a breaking point.  Now, if I have a hard time playing or have to keep looking at my buttons to figure out what I'm trying to do, yea... immersion broken momentarily.  Very rarely in 3rd person POV do I feel like I'm actually in the world.  I like that about Skyrim.  But I don't ever forget that it's just a game.  Does that mean I'm not immersed?

    Chat:

    This breaks my immersion.  Having a stupid troll or some jerk on there just blows my mind.  It's happening more and more often.  1 kid being an asshat.  My ignore lists on these games are HUGE because of them.  Conversely, they ruin it for others who have legitimate questions.  If I ask a question in Rift, most often someone answers.  It may take a "Bueller?" or two but I get answers.  I think if the trolls weren't on there, the question would be answered quickly and we'd all move on in the world.

     

    SWTOR: F2P or Premium? Want Galactic Strongholds early? http://www.swtor.com/r/LbMdN7 Use the referral for 7 days of subscriber access. Unlock your GS today!

  • FrostWyrmFrostWyrm Tempe, AZPosts: 1,036Member

    Originally posted by elocke

    I kind of like the flashy stuff and info coming at me on the screen.  What ruins immersion for me is horrible sound effects, lack of music or good music, and load screens.  

    I personally think background music ruins immersion. Good use of ambient sound is, in my opinion, what helps me feel like a part of the world rather than a player in a game. There arent many games in which you can hear the wind blowing, the birds chirping around you, torches crackling, etc etc. Instead you hear random manufactured background music constantly reminding you that you're only playing a game.

  • aSynchroaSynchro azeaze, AKPosts: 176Member Uncommon

    I want a mmorpg without numbers.

    Nothing breaks the immersion more for me than having to choose between a sword with +150 stam/+37 strenght/+17 dodge and an axe with +140 stam/+45 strenght/+15 parry because you need 102.4 % of block stuff for tonight raid. I'm a fiercy warrior damnit, not an economist from Harvard !

    "Rusty sword", "Sword that feel heavy but powerfull in your hand", "Shiny axe that glow yellow when undeads are near", "shield that according to the vendor is excellent against dragon" etc. is all i should know and need.

  • Loke666Loke666 MalmöPosts: 17,937Member Uncommon

    Originally posted by aSynchro

    I want a mmorpg without numbers.

    Nothing breaks the immersion more for me than having to choose between a sword with +150 stam/+37 strenght/+17 dodge and an axe with +140 stam/+45 strenght/+15 parry because you need 102.4 % of block stuff for tonight raid. I'm a fiercy warrior damnit, not an economist from Harvard !

    "Rusty sword", "Sword that feel heavy but powerfull in your hand", "Shiny axe that glow yellow when undeads are near", "shield that according to the vendor is excellent against dragon" etc. is all i should know and need.

    Well, it is very well possible but you more or less either need a game without levels or to have weapons that scale as you level up.

    You also need a lot less focus on items that the average MMO, 15 tiers of raid gear kinda make the whole idea useless.

    If you on the other hand bases the game mechanics on Runequest, Palladium or Warhammer FRPG it works, but the game needs to focus more on charavter evolvment and less on gear.

    I personally never got why you have like 15 000 hitpoints in most MMOs, 150 works just as fine as long as you adjust damage for it.

  • RohnRohn Saint Peters, MOPosts: 3,740Member Uncommon

    Generally, I agree with the article, in that "too much" on screen can ruin the immersion.

    To me, the genre of the game makes a difference, though.  It doesn't bother me at all in EvE or STO to have that kind of instant information all over the screen, given the high-tech sci-fi settings.  In most fantasy games, however, I'd prefer something a lot more subdued.

    Hell hath no fury like an MMORPG player scorned.

  • MeltdownMeltdown Home, NHPosts: 1,184Member Uncommon

    Our senses have a lot to do with immersion. What can you see and hear at any given moment while playing a game. Of course our other senses are cut off from the game world (touch, smell, taste... and hopefully it remains that way lol) so it's down to two. Then a lot of gamers like to listen to their own music while playing a game so spending tons of time and money making a game with an amazing score which might just get turned off the second a player logs in.

    So we are down to sight... what can you see? But also very important, what can you NOT see? I think a lot of the immersion breaking stuff relies of being able to see TOO MUCH. Either as someone mentioned all the stats to every sword +5str, able to see behind your character without turning around, able to see the majority of a map just by stepping one foot in an area... I think the more is more crowd is killing immersion. 

     

    Some of the more immersive games of late: Skyrim, Minecraft, Amnesia Dark Descent. While the last two are first-person perspective (which I think adds immersion) these games also have quite a bit of unknowns, very simplifed UI (or no UI at all), and hardly a tutorial to speak of.... even the games with some sort of tutorial (Skyrim) the tutorial section was in my mind arguably the worst and least immersive part of the game, which is strange seeing as its probably where they spent the majority of their time developing... 




    **edit** 






    I know skyrim is default first person too, however it can be played 3rd person as well.


     

    "They essentially want to say 'Correlation proves Causation' when it's just not true." - Sovrath

  • theniffrigtheniffrig DublinPosts: 351Member

    When it comes to u.i, less is more.

  • elockeelocke Manassas, VAPosts: 4,205Member Uncommon

    Originally posted by Meltdown

    Our senses have a lot to do with immersion. What can you see and hear at any given moment while playing a game. Of course our other senses are cut off from the game world (touch, smell, taste... and hopefully it remains that way lol) so it's down to two. Then a lot of gamers like to listen to their own music while playing a game so spending tons of time and money making a game with an amazing score which might just get turned off the second a player logs in.

    So we are down to sight... what can you see? But also very important, what can you NOT see? I think a lot of the immersion breaking stuff relies of being able to see TOO MUCH. Either as someone mentioned all the stats to every sword +5str, able to see behind your character without turning around, able to see the majority of a map just by stepping one foot in an area... I think the more is more crowd is killing immersion. 

     

    Some of the more immersive games of late: Skyrim, Minecraft, Amnesia Dark Descent. While the last two are first-person perspective (which I think adds immersion) these games also have quite a bit of unknowns, very simplifed UI (or no UI at all), and hardly a tutorial to speak of.... even the games with some sort of tutorial (Skyrim) the tutorial section was in my mind arguably the worst and least immersive part of the game, which is strange seeing as its probably where they spent the majority of their time developing... 




    **edit** 






    I know skyrim is default first person too, however it can be played 3rd person as well.


     

    You can't discount the music/sound side of the games just because you happen to turn of the music and play your own.  But, that's why there is usually a slider for game music. 

    That being said, if Skyrim didn't have the soundtrack it does, I never would have enjoyed it.  It's just how I'm wired.  I need that epic orchestral music in my games otherwise it ends up leaving my memory after a bit(the game) and I won't ever go back to it.  Games that blew me away with music have literally called me back with their music alone.  EQ2, WoW, Lotro, etc. all when they pop into my mind are done so via their music.

    image
  • alkarionlogalkarionlog SPosts: 1,124Member Uncommon



    Originally posted by Loke666




    Originally posted by aSynchro



    I want a mmorpg without numbers.

    Nothing breaks the immersion more for me than having to choose between a sword with +150 stam/+37 strenght/+17 dodge and an axe with +140 stam/+45 strenght/+15 parry because you need 102.4 % of block stuff for tonight raid. I'm a fiercy warrior damnit, not an economist from Harvard !

    "Rusty sword", "Sword that feel heavy but powerfull in your hand", "Shiny axe that glow yellow when undeads are near", "shield that according to the vendor is excellent against dragon" etc. is all i should know and need.

    Well, it is very well possible but you more or less either need a game without levels or to have weapons that scale as you level up.

    You also need a lot less focus on items that the average MMO, 15 tiers of raid gear kinda make the whole idea useless.

    If you on the other hand bases the game mechanics on Runequest, Palladium or Warhammer FRPG it works, but the game needs to focus more on charavter evolvment and less on gear.

    I personally never got why you have like 15 000 hitpoints in most MMOs, 150 works just as fine as long as you adjust damage for it.






     

    bigger numbers, the bigger the ego  people will have, and come on nothing nice like hitting the dude with over 9k damage :p



     

    descriptions only works but also is lacking, a true warrior would know just by looking at with weapon would work better, it also would break the gear grind, imagine you just have to search for weapon skin to use the power raiders would stop playing.... you know what do it :) remove all numbers :)



     

    FOR HONOR, FOR FREEDOM.... and for some money.
    image

  • maplestonemaplestone Ottawa, ONPosts: 3,099Member

    An interesting argument, but I'm not convinced.  Thinking back to my most immersed days of UO, I loved the little scroll of +0.1 skill gain notifications.  So I think that I can take in the data, flash or numbers and make it part of the immersion.

  • MacroHardMacroHard Fairfax, VAPosts: 104Member

    Originally posted by theniffrig

    When it comes to u.i, less is more.




     

    well said and agree with Bill.  Too much on the screen is a negative as well as how achievements and loots are displayed.  I don't want to think I'm suddenly driving down the strip  in Las Vegas every time a magical piece of equipment drops.

  • RabiatorRabiator GrobizellPosts: 358Member

    Originally posted by Loke666

    Originally posted by aSynchro

    I want a mmorpg without numbers.

    Nothing breaks the immersion more for me than having to choose between a sword with +150 stam/+37 strenght/+17 dodge and an axe with +140 stam/+45 strenght/+15 parry because you need 102.4 % of block stuff for tonight raid. I'm a fiercy warrior damnit, not an economist from Harvard !

    "Rusty sword", "Sword that feel heavy but powerfull in your hand", "Shiny axe that glow yellow when undeads are near", "shield that according to the vendor is excellent against dragon" etc. is all i should know and need.

    Well, it is very well possible but you more or less either need a game without levels or to have weapons that scale as you level up.

    I guess the descriptions could change as your character gains more experience and knowledge. "Shiny axe that glow yellow when undeads are near" could eventually turn into "Magical axe that works well against the undead - but you have seen better in your travels".


    Another (related) anti-immersion factor is the minmaxing that comes with a level system and a limited number of skillpoints. Better get rid of that and let characters learn whatever they want, like in EVE Online. This does not completely prevent you from having specialised roles, you can still have


    • Character classes that are inherently better than others at certain tasks


    • Roles defined by equipment, of which your character can only use one at a time. An example would be the upcoming Firefall MMO, where your class is defined by the battleframe you wear ath the moment. Or EVE again, the ship you are flying determines what you can do well.


    Of course, each of the above ideas requires more thought than just cloning WOW, so I don't expect too many new games to go with it image

     

  • HomituHomitu Hometown, HIPosts: 2,030Member

    Defining immersion as the point at which you forget you are person sitting in front of a monitor, mouse and keyboard in hand, playing a game, I agree that UI elements can place a cap on maximum potential immersiveness.  The more "stuff" that covers your character and the world around him, the more likely I am to notice that stuff in the foreground and suddenly be brought back to my computer desk reality.  When I'm really in explorer mode, I frequently use the "hide UI" keybind.  (I did this most recently when I logged into a WoW unlimited trial account last october just to stroll through the haunting environs of Duskwood to bask in virtual halloween nostalgia.)

    I too liked Skyrim's minimalist look.  However, as soon as you try to execute commands or swap to a spell or weapon you don't frequently use, the ensuing maze of menus and item scrolling has the same immersion-breaking effect.  I haven't played Skyrim since many major UI mods have been released though.

    Which brings me to the one point I would like to make: any game that has any sort of modding community associated with it will tend to have some very attractive, simple UI mods that can vastly reduce UI-centered immersion breaking.  Even WoW, which can have an extremely cluttered UI depending mods used, had some very nice minimalist UI packages. 

  • mudd4evermudd4ever Boston, MAPosts: 158Member

    Originally posted by FrostWyrm

    Originally posted by elocke

    I kind of like the flashy stuff and info coming at me on the screen.  What ruins immersion for me is horrible sound effects, lack of music or good music, and load screens.  

    I personally think background music ruins immersion. Good use of ambient sound is, in my opinion, what helps me feel like a part of the world rather than a player in a game. There arent many games in which you can hear the wind blowing, the birds chirping around you, torches crackling, etc etc. Instead you hear random manufactured background music constantly reminding you that you're only playing a game.


     

    ^I like.  Background music doesn't ruin my sense of immersion unless it's just awful or doesn't go with the setting.  BUT...I'm a really big fan of good ambient sounds bringing the game world to life and pulling me in.  I'm thinking about FFXIV now.  Yeah, I know *gasp*.  This was one of the things FFXIV got right, imo.  While I thought FFXIV had some really good music, it makes good use of ambient sounds as well, when you step out of the cities.  One of my favorite things was just to walk/run through the Twelveswood (Gridania area) with the music soft or off but the ambient sounds maxed.  Plus, the ambient sounds change as you might expect going from day to night and back to day.

    pie.

  • FrostWyrmFrostWyrm Tempe, AZPosts: 1,036Member

    Originally posted by mudd4ever



    Originally posted by FrostWyrm






    Originally posted by elocke





    I kind of like the flashy stuff and info coming at me on the screen.  What ruins immersion for me is horrible sound effects, lack of music or good music, and load screens.  

    I personally think background music ruins immersion. Good use of ambient sound is, in my opinion, what helps me feel like a part of the world rather than a player in a game. There arent many games in which you can hear the wind blowing, the birds chirping around you, torches crackling, etc etc. Instead you hear random manufactured background music constantly reminding you that you're only playing a game.






     

    ^I like.  Background music doesn't ruin my sense of immersion unless it's just awful or doesn't go with the setting.  BUT...I'm a really big fan of good ambient sounds bringing the game world to life and pulling me in.  I'm thinking about FFXIV now.  Yeah, I know *gasp*.  This was one of the things FFXIV got right, imo.  While I thought FFXIV had some really good music, it makes good use of ambient sounds as well, when you step out of the cities.  One of my favorite things was just to walk/run through the Twelveswood (Gridania area) with the music soft or off but the ambient sounds maxed.  Plus, the ambient sounds change as you might expect going from day to night and back to day.

    Well sure, I'm not saying I dislike backgroung music (at least not good music). Final Fantasy XI had hands down the BEST background music of any MMO I've ever played. One of the best parts about farming clot plasma (used to make food...gross, I know) was getting to hear the music on the Manaclipper. Very calming. Still, its not immersive...at least not to me.

  • kjempffkjempff AarhusPosts: 882Member Uncommon

    Dear Bill, you only just noticed this now? Anyway welcome to the club, better late than never.

  • ThaneUlfgarThaneUlfgar Akron, OHPosts: 283Member

    To be honest, I think at least part of it should be attributed to how long one has been playing mmos. I think after a while, the initial awe wears off to the point where it becomes a case of been there, done that, regardless of what game you play. I'm not saying this is entirely the case, nor am I commenting on whether old games are more immersive than new ones or visa versa.

  • badgererbadgerer ChchPosts: 90Member

    Can anyone remember the word I'm looking for? Paul Barnett said something along the lines of "Immersion is having the wife and kids leave you while your house is burning down. No, what we want to give you is -"   And no it wasn't "joy" which is a word he used a lot.

    and if you reply to this, please spare thread derailments about the failure of delivery on his various promises in WO.

  • MorcotulconMorcotulcon LisbonPosts: 262Member Common

    Isn't Guild Wars 2 following a phylosophy that clearly makes everything you wish for in this article possible? A Lot of people didn't believed them at first but every time they showed their demos the only claims we heard were from MMORPG players about "too few UI", "No Holy Trinity? No Healer? No Tank? FAIL" and, of course, graphics.

     

    So, when you say "I don’t think there’s going to be a game in the near future that gets away from this trend of UI saturation either.", are you considering GW2? Are you just beeing cautious? Or did you forgot about it?

  • MoiraeMoirae New Orleans, LAPosts: 2,743Member Uncommon

    Excellent article. 

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