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Thread: Immersion Players Unite (long)

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    Default Immersion Players Unite (long)

    This is a rough draft of something I've been working on for days. Please comment on it, particularly if you're an immersion player and you disagree with something, or see something I've missed. Thanks...

    Ever since pen and paper role playing began, there's been a schism between two types of players. Dramatic or immersion players, and simulation or hack and slash players.

    Immersion players need to be immersed in a world. As a general rule, immersion players are more vested in their characters as individuals and more interested in lore, background and history than simulation players are. As a rule immersion players are more interested in mystery and puzzles and politics. As a rule immersion players are more interested in character motivation and plot. While simulation players love the numbers, immersion players acknowledge their existence, without making the game about them. Immersion players draw a sharp line between what they know and what their character's know, meaning that playing with the weapon and skills you like, to an immersion player, is more important than playing the single most efficient build. Simulation players see this as not wanting to be a good player. They don't understand that the only way for an immersion player to be a good player is to be true to their vision for their character.

    No MMO will be 100% immersion friendly. Some games will make it easy to immerse yourself in your character and the world and some games will make it harder. But because immersion play is harder to define, it's often overlooked by game developers, even though ignoring this group might well limit game sales. In fact, it is my opinion that immersion affects a great number of players, even though they aren't consciously aware of it.

    For once someone gets vested in their characters, it's much harder to delete those characters or walk away from them. Thus a game that's immersive will keep people playing longer, because it's not specifically content that keeps an immersion player playing, but the internal work they've done on their character and how attached they are to it, as well as how well the world is structured for immersion players to play in.

    This document is not meant to be complete or finished. It's meant as a signpost to give directions to devs on how to make a game more immersive for those who crave it. And it all begins with character creation.

    The very first thing you do when you get a new MMO is create a character. For an immersion player, one who wants their character to be theirs, there must be enough options to differentiate your character from other characters. If everyone looks the same, it's much harder to become vested in yourself. There are a lot of ways this can be accomplished.

    Naturally a choice of race, facial features, and hair styles, but every game has these. Body styling is something, however that many games miss. Most games give you height but little actual control over your body. This is something that needs to change if the genre is going to move forward for immersion players.

    Race is another matter that is often misunderstood. It's not enough for an immersion player to call himself an elf or a dwarf. Immersion players want to feel that their race makes a difference to how the game plays for them. Toward this end, games with different starting areas go a long way towards making the world more immersive. Games that have a single starting area need to work harder to differentiate one race from another. Whether they do this visually, or through quests, or racial skills doesn't matter. What does matter is that if I'm going to play a dwarf as an immersion character, I'm going to want to feel like a dwarf. Same with elf. And while we're on the subject, other races, ones that are neither dwarf, elf or human are most certainly welcome by immersion players. Variety is often the key for immersion players, because it allows them to build a character that calls to them and makes them want to play the game. Without being able to identify with your race, it is very hard to immerse yourself in a character.

    Then we move on to character class. This again is something that can be problematic, because different games handle character class differently. A lot of immersion players play themed characters. They have an image of how a character is going to play. This character needs to have an ax or a hammer. This character needs to have a bow, or a gun. They're not interchangeable to immersion players. So if a company creates a game that eventually pigeonholes you into having to get certain specific gear, that game is going to be less than it could be for immersion players. Similarly, if a game offers classes that are not viable, then anyone who sees their character playing that style is going to be very disenchanted with the game. Dying repeatedly is not a great way to immerse yourself in your character unless, of course, your character is named Kenny.

    Even something as simple as having more than one word for a name can be important to an immersion player. One word names eventually run out, and you have to go further and further afield to find a name that fits your character. But naming your character Tor the Unspoken, or Gerard Oxheart can give a flavor to your character, even before you start playing the game.

    Once the game begins, starting areas play an important role in helping develop your character. If this area is obviously a tutorial, it takes you right out of character. You need to be able to play through the opening parts of a game, and learn the system while remaining immersed in the world. This is best done by providing in game information as you need it and not before. Some games do this very well. Some games are terrible at it. Some games have found that they've had to go back and redo their entire starting areas simply because many people weren't getting through them to get to the meat of the game. Immersion in the opening area, immediate immersion is important. In games where you can skip the tutorial, the emphasis here is on the the first area of the game where you begin to interact with the world. This is going to set the tone for the entire rest of the game. The atmosphere of these areas and the information provided are very important to establishing a baseline for character development.

    As MMOs progress, there are a number of things that help immersion players. They are listed below in no specific order.

    The world itself should be large enough to support the player base and allow them to explore. The world needs to have some sense of scale. It needs to feel large. It needs to have areas off the beaten track that aren't necessary to the game, but still provide some kind of reward for exploring them. Rewards don't have to be loot however. They can be achievements, titles, collectibles, or just interesting things you'd never know about if you didn't explore. In general, seamless worlds are better for immersion than worlds filled with portals, unless the portals are explained in game somehow. Load screens, likewise, though often a necessary evil, are bad for immersion, so a company would be wise to try to keep them to a minimum. Worlds that have visual impact are often more immersive than worlds that don't, but then there is the danger of developing painted backdrop syndrome (PBS). Immersion players want to be able to interact with the world, not just stand back and admire it. We want to move through a world, not just across the face of it.

    To this end, world travel is important. Map travel is not immersive. Mounts tend to be more immersive, and yet another way to differentiate yourself from others in the game, particularly if there is a decent selection of mounts. In fact, anything that differentiates your character from others (clothing, minipets, combat pets, weapon style) is something that will help a player become vested in their characters.

    Furthermore, the world needs to have strong lore, preferably something you can learn about as a player by playing. If you have to read about the lore, you're not immersed in it. You're simply hearing it. It's the difference between showing and telling that writers often go on about. It's always better to show than tell.

    Atmosphere is important too. Areas of the world should feel different. Music and sound effects, as well as lighting will help this to happen. Very often there is a difference between the quality of graphics of a game, and the aesthetics of a game. The quality of graphics is very nice, but aesthetics are vital to the immersion player. Anything that shouldn't be in a scene will naturally break immersion. Think of a fantasy game with an epic battle, played to music from a Charlie Chaplain movie. It doesn't fit and it will break immersion.

    Often small details ignored by others will thrill immersion players. Such details don't even have to be part of the game or lore. That they're there is enough.

    Quests for immersion players need to make sense. If you're a great hero, and someone asks you to go find them flowers, or ham steaks, or go kill ten rats, these things are going to break immersion. However if you're a guy who just needs the work, being asked to do these things does not break immersion. This means, generally, it's more acceptable for earlier quests to be mundane than later ones, because, in theory, as your character gets more powerful, he/she should be doing more important things than gathering flowers or planting seeds. Quests, in recent games, have been terrible for immersion.

    Predictability and linearity are also terrible for immersion players. Funneling everyone through a single path of progression doesn't make anyone feel like an individual. The more choices you give a character the more they can distinguish themselves from others around them. Furthermore, the more they can distinguish one of their characters from another, since immersion players often have alts. It's very important to give immersion players different paths to level, or you'll eventually lose them. It's entirely likely that altoholics are, for the most part, immersion players, and often have the same needs.

    The two items that are most often overlooked by developers (and even immersion players aren't always consciously aware of them), are consistency and character motivation.

    Consistency means that if you start a game in one direction and you drastically change that direction, you're going to jerk the rug right out from under the feet of immersion players. For example, if your entire game up to the end game is one thing, and at the end game you switch to a completely different form of advancement, immersion players will feel cheated. Likewise, if there is a story to the game, immersion players need a way to see that story through. Leaving a person hanging in the middle of a story, because you require that person to raid to get to the end of the story, is the death knell of many a fine game for immersion players. Most immersion players don't raid (and a good portion of them either don't PVP, or don't see PVP as a vital part of a game. We don't mind PVP, as long as we're not forced to do it. PVP should always be a choice for immersion players.)

    Character motivation is another aspect that is often overlooked. Because immersion players have characters with different bases of knowledge than they themselves have, it is important for developers to motivate characters rather than players. It's all very nice that a certain dungeon has gear that I want, but if my character doesn't know about that gear, and doesn't have reason to go after it, he has no reason to go into that dungeon. If you're going to require a character to go into a dungeon multiple times, you'd better give him/her a reason to do so. This is important because though immersion players are completely aware of stats, characters aren't. My character doesn't go to a weapon seller, pick up a sword and see plus 21. My character sees a weapon that feels right. One that fits my character's image. You don't hit a creature in world and see the number 611 pop out of its head. This is a number for the player. The character isn't aware of that number at all. In fact, the more the game is about numbers, generally speaking, the worse it is for immersion players, yet another reason immersion players shun raiding. In order to raid you need to focus on numbers. You need to focus on efficiency. And there are usually only a few narrow paths to get there. Which means abandoning all the ideas we've had about who are character is, and transforming them into the same exact characters everyone else has. The same builds, the same gear, the same macros. This is terrible for immersion.

    A lot of people think that immersion players are “bads” that they can't raid because they have no skill. The truth is many immersion players would be perfectly capable of raiding, but to do so, they would have to sublimate their entire game experience prior to that in order progress in the game. This isn't acceptable. Therefore, any game that offers raiding as the only way to progress is going to close the door to immersion players. Eventually those players will leave the game for a game that understands them.

    Some people think that immersion players are a small, minority of the gaming audience. It would be interesting for a large company to take a poll to see what percentage of MMO players neither raid nor PVP. I think that such a poll's results would surprise developers and probably PVPers and raiders alike.

    There are far more immersion players out there than is immediately apparent. But because our style of play is harder to define, until now, we haven't had a unified voice. I encourage immersion players to speak out, and tell developers what they want from a game. If they don't, we'll be stuck with gear grind for another five years.

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    Prophet of Telara Vexille's Avatar
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    Immersion requires the development and maintenance of real content.

    Sadly, that concept died years ago.

    Blizzard has refined the "modern" approach to content to a 2 pronged gerbil wheel approach. Rift, smartly, adopted the exact same approach.

    Unfortunately, things like "immersion" are incompatible with a business centric approach that seeks to mass produce cheap and quick "content".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vexille View Post
    Immersion requires the development and maintenance of real content.

    Sadly, that concept died years ago.

    Blizzard has refined the "modern" approach to content to a 2 pronged gerbil wheel approach. Rift, smartly, adopted the exact same approach.

    Unfortunately, things like "immersion" are incompatible with a business centric approach that seeks to mass produce cheap and quick "content".
    I think that it's a misnomer to say that the businesscentric approach requires the production of cheap content. Remember that games subsequent to WoW aren't making the same money that WOW is and WoW did start off, in some ways, as an immersive game. A large, seamless world that you could explore and vary your character in, with multiple starting areas.

    Unfortunately, Blizzard decided the rep grind and gear grind were the way forward, but make no mistake. Without the early immersion, they wouldn't have been able to trap people with the gear/rep grind hamster wheel. In fact, no game since WoW, at this point in time has been able to equal their profit.

    In order for a game to profit TODAY, it has to take a chance and do something different because, increasingly, people are getting tired of the grind games. It's only a matter of time before other devs recognize this, so don't throw in the towel.

    Getting devs to see that people will walk away from their games if they don't provide real content is the first step to getting better games.

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    Immersion requires not MMOs. DnD is still active, but MMOs are jsut not immersive games really.
    Quote Originally Posted by Walsingham View Post
    Yes, if you need to know, Vespera hit me with a big pointy spiky thing. It was immensely painful.

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    The simpliest, easiest way to add immersion in any game is to make people care about their toons.

    The best way to make them do that is to make sure they don't die. It's like when in school they give kids an egg for a week and tell them they have to watch it and don't let it crack or they fail or keep it safe and pass.

    Kids then 'care' about their egg because there is a, in this case, negative/positive reinforcement to keep the egg in their gaze.

    Players don't have any sense of real 'danger' so they don't care how many times their toon dies in today's mmos. It's mainly just an inconvience. Because of this, the lore means nothing in most mmos. If I can die and simply rez, then nothing I do really matters game wise. You become detached to the story.

    Games need to inject that sense of danger back into the game. I don't think every player would like that; as a matter of fact I'm sure probably a third of mmos players would type /godmode if that worked. But for gamers who want immersion, death awareness is a big, primary step towards immersion.
    Last edited by Laughingstock; 07-05-2011 at 07:40 PM.

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    Trion! Hire this guy!

    Great read. I kind of found out after reading your post that I am an immersion player too and that might be why I am so attached to my warrior in WoW because of all the lore and achievements I have been through with him. Most of stuff you pointed for an mmo to do are lacking in this game so I think it would be a good time for Trion associates to get their pens and papers out and start taking notes from you.

    Once again amazing read, I have serious respect for you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Naronas View Post
    Immersion requires not MMOs. DnD is still active, but MMOs are jsut not immersive games really.
    So are you saying they can't be? Because I don't believe that.

    In fact, I believe there is a market for immersive MMOs. It's just that no one has really attempted one YET. There are a few games on the horizon, in development now, that are attempting to make a more immersive MMOs, but I don't want to derail this thread by naming them.

    I'd rather talk about immersion in general and how we can explain to the developers what we mean when players talk about immersion.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nagennif View Post
    So are you saying they can't be? Because I don't believe that.

    In fact, I believe there is a market for immersive MMOs. It's just that no one has really attempted one YET. There are a few games on the horizon, in development now, that are attempting to make a more immersive MMOs, but I don't want to derail this thread by naming them.

    I'd rather talk about immersion in general and how we can explain to the developers what we mean when players talk about immersion.
    I don't think they can be because of one important thing: the players.
    Quote Originally Posted by Walsingham View Post
    Yes, if you need to know, Vespera hit me with a big pointy spiky thing. It was immensely painful.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Laughingstock View Post
    The simpliest, easiest way to add immersion in any game is to make people care about their toons.

    The best way to make them do that is to make sure they don't die. It's like when in school they give kids an egg for a week and tell them they have to watch it and don't let it crack or they fail or keep it safe and pass.

    Kids then 'care' about their egg because there is a, in this case, negative/positive reinforcement to keep the egg in their gaze.

    Players don't have any sense of real 'danger' so they don't care how many times their toon dies in today's mmos. It's mainly just an inconvience. Because of this, the lore means nothing in most mmos. If I can die and simply rez, then nothing I do really matters game wise. You become detached to the story.

    Games need to inject that sense of danger back into the game. I don't think every player would like that; as a matter of fact I'm sure probably a third of mmos players would type /godmode if that worked. But for gamers who want immersion, death awareness is a big, primary step towards immersion.
    I'm of two minds on this. On one hand, I hate death penalties that are too severe, because though that can be realistic, it can also affect how the game is played. If I spend time trying to regain experience lets say, the game once again becomes more about numbers. Eve Online had a good idea with the idea of clones, giving the game a realistic, in game explanation for rezzing.

    I'm almost of the opinion that rezzing itself has to be acceptable or understood in games, because I don't think a game where you die and have to start a new character each time is going to sell many copies. So rezzing becomes a necessary evil.

    I dislike games where you have to run back to your body. This is a very annoying dymanic to me, but I'm not sure that that has anything to do with immersion. It seems a bit arbitrary to me. I'd rather rez at a rez shrine and be alive again, preferably with some in game explanation of how that can happen.

    I do agree that something needs to make death matter, but that balance is very delicate and might be hard for the immersion community to agree on.

    In any event, as an immersion player, penalty or not, I simply hate dying in games. I don't enjoy it. That in it of itself is a penalty to me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Naronas View Post
    I don't think they can be because of one important thing: the players.
    Keep your eyes tuned to where MMOs are going in the next couple of years. I think you'll be surprised.

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    Ascendant Naronas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nagennif View Post
    Keep your eyes tuned to where MMOs are going in the next couple of years. I think you'll be surprised.
    For every player who wants immersion, 2 more exist to **** it up.
    Quote Originally Posted by Walsingham View Post
    Yes, if you need to know, Vespera hit me with a big pointy spiky thing. It was immensely painful.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hope3nder View Post
    Trion! Hire this guy!

    Great read. I kind of found out after reading your post that I am an immersion player too and that might be why I am so attached to my warrior in WoW because of all the lore and achievements I have been through with him. Most of stuff you pointed for an mmo to do are lacking in this game so I think it would be a good time for Trion associates to get their pens and papers out and start taking notes from you.

    Once again amazing read, I have serious respect for you.
    Thanks very much. I'm an immersion player from the old pen and paper days, and all I really want is a character I can attach myself to (or for me 20 or so characters). I think there are a lot more of us out there than developers realize.

    But this game isn't just about Rift itself, so much as the genre as a whole. Even WoW has moved away from immersion in recent years, and made the game about raiding and gear grind, which is just terrible for immersion.

    Glad I was able to help you define your experiences, because the better we understand why we play games, the more we can insist that developers make games that we enjoy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Naronas View Post
    For every player who wants immersion, 2 more exist to **** it up.
    You can always put players on ignore and keep playing. You can't put stupid quests on ignore, though.

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    Ascendant Laughingstock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nagennif View Post
    I'm of two minds on this. On one hand, I hate death penalties that are too severe, because though that can be realistic, it can also affect how the game is played. If I spend time trying to regain experience lets say, the game once again becomes more about numbers. Eve Online had a good idea with the idea of clones, giving the game a realistic, in game explanation for rezzing.

    I'm almost of the opinion that rezzing itself has to be acceptable or understood in games, because I don't think a game where you die and have to start a new character each time is going to sell many copies. So rezzing becomes a necessary evil.

    I dislike games where you have to run back to your body. This is a very annoying dymanic to me, but I'm not sure that that has anything to do with immersion. It seems a bit arbitrary to me. I'd rather rez at a rez shrine and be alive again, preferably with some in game explanation of how that can happen.

    I do agree that something needs to make death matter, but that balance is very delicate and might be hard for the immersion community to agree on.

    In any event, as an immersion player, penalty or not, I simply hate dying in games. I don't enjoy it. That in it of itself is a penalty to me.
    If we are talking immersion and what's 'real', death is real. In life there is a consequence and death is permanent. In most mmos, death is fake and not permanent. So there has to be something to bring a sense of caring to toons other than a few pieces of gold to fix gear or a 5 minute debuff, or even a long run.

    I'm not saying permadeath which is extreme. I'm not even saying serious exp hit. There are positive reinforcers too.

    Say you have someone leveling, and they don't die after missions. They get a bonus that earns rep. Get enough bonuses, and you get rewarded with really good items or special awards (not stupid titles). Things that will make your toon unique and care about death.

    I came from the FFXI school of Hard Death. I can go either way, but I think most people need a reward for not dying. That makes them care.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Laughingstock View Post
    If we are talking immersion and what's 'real', death is real. In life there is a consequence and death is permanent. In most mmos, death is fake and not permanent. So there has to be something to bring a sense of caring to toons other than a few pieces of gold to fix gear or a 5 minute debuff, or even a long run.

    I'm not saying permadeath which is extreme. I'm not even saying serious exp hit. There are positive reinforcers too.

    Say you have someone leveling, and they don't die after missions. They get a bonus that earns rep. Get enough bonuses, and you get rewarded with really good items or special awards (not stupid titles). Things that will make your toon unique and care about death.

    I came from the FFXI school of Hard Death. I can go either way, but I think most people need a reward for not dying. That makes them care.
    Okay I can see that. I'm trying to figure out how to place this in the article, but I'm not even sure that most immersion players would agree with it, and that's the sticking point here.

    I'm trying to create a document with very little disagreement among immersion players, or it would be indeed hard to unite. lol

    I'm going to ask people here, what are your thoughts on death penalties, particularly with regard to immersion. I'm interested to know if making death matter will make gaming more immersive for you.

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