Overview Article on Immersive Sims


#21

I can certainly agree with this. It calls to memory the Thief 4 developers justifying the removal of jumping by saying that it’s too unrealistic and breaks immersion for a thief to be jumping all over the place. Now that’s missing the point.

This is true, what with Shock 1 and the Thief games following Underworld. But thankfully it seems everyone else involved in those circles decided they preferred the original concept and we got the glorious RPG-sim blend back en masse, most notably resulting in Shock 2, Deus Ex and Arx in particular.
Thankfully for you, maybe. And me, I suppose - I can't exactly complain about getting Deus Ex and Arx. I love all of these games but Thief is far and away my favorite, and still nothing has succeeded it :(. At least there's always fan missions.

Out of curiosity, what do you consider LGS’s direct lineage aside from the usual suspects (Arkane, Ion Storm, and Irrational)? I tend to associate STALKER and EYE Divine Cybermancy, and maybe there’s something to be said for Pathologic (its director cited Thief 1 as an influence and his favorite game, yet the games themselves are very different). And the newer Fallouts and Elder Scrolls, although New Vegas is perhaps the only one I’d count as a good example.


#22

Direct: Ion Storm, Irrational, Otherside, Arkane. Arkane count because Neurath and co. under Floodgate Studios helped with Arx, and a number of ex-LGS joined their ranks.

Indirect: anything inspired by LGS but no/minimal networking ties, or the game/s in question only partially follow those old design concepts e.g VTM:B, STALKER, EYE and everything Bethesda did.

And the newer Fallouts and Elder Scrolls, although New Vegas is perhaps the only one I'd count as a good example.

New Vegas is great. The greatest of the indirect category :smiley:

I can certainly agree with this. It calls to memory the Thief 4 developers justifying the removal of jumping by saying that it's too unrealistic and breaks immersion for a thief to be jumping all over the place. Now that's missing the point.

Yeah, it’s more immersive and realistic to be able to jump on demand anyways (just like we can in real life – we expect that agency), along with resulting in better gameplay.
If they truly wanted to prevent people being spammy with the jump key a fatigue system would probably help (could easily compliment Thief imo), along with removing bunnyhopping speed increase.


#23

Not sure this logic holds up all that well - if you listen to this interview with Ken Levine he basically says that the stats and RPG elements were put in to Shock 2 as the Dark engine just wasn’t good enough to do a straight up shooter, so they needed something else to develop the gameplay:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V55P7r4MUQw
(relevant part is from about 45:00 but the whole thing is an interesting listen on Kens role at LGS and subsequent transition to Irrational

Similarly as has been mentioned by others in this thread I believe Paul Neurath has been on record as saying that the stats and more hardcore RPG elements were not the original plan (or at least the core focus) for Underworld back in the day.

I love the RPG elements on SS2 and Deus Ex (and of course UU) - but lets not pretend that there was some grand manifesto that the guys drew up which stated “Though shalt have stats and RPG systems in an Immersive Sim”! :smiley:


#24

…I wasn’t. There is no strict rule and I never claimed otherwise, but clearly the design concepts and designers have a substantial affinity to it, since it dominates 4 to 1 and it in its original form was an RPG hybrid.

I think those who chase immersion to the point of declaring “thou shalt NOT have stats and RPG systems in an immersive sim” (as posters in this very thread have, and it’s frequent to see in general) have poopie design priorities. Immersion is great and all and defines much of the design to varying degrees, but it isn’t more important than the gameplay experience overall.

Now, if you were to remove RPG elements for other reasons, say:

-To focus on pure player skill-based gameplay.
-Aim for faster gameplay pacing
-Because RPG elements would simply clash with the overaching experience and it’s a very atypical Immersive Sim.
-and yes, also the potential immersion increase.

Then that’s weighty reasoning. To remove with the sole or prime intent of boosted immersion though? Poopie. Gameplay comes first (in the average context) is game design law in my eyes. People can and some will disagree though.


#25

Who here has declared that “thou shalt NOT have stats and RPG systems in an immersive sim”?

RPG elements are just a tool, like anything else. Having RPG elements doesn’t make an immersive sim automatically better. The Thief reboot had RPG elements and I’d argue that it wasn’t better for it.


#26

I have conflicted feelings about this. As an RPG fanatic, I enjoy the stats and skills. But if it could be replaced with something better, in the name of progress, I would not be disappointed. However, it would have to be just as addictive as number crunching for this gamer. :wink:


#27

That is my fear. That we are honoring the tool, and forgetting the master. The craftsman, in this case, points towards innovating new systems and not reiterating past victories. Most of my complains about past looking glass games have hinged around the incorporation of derivative systems, such as shooter combat. But one should not have a revolution in gameplay mechanics everytime you create a game just because you want to experiment. The result of such hodgepodge would be a mass of game bugs and imbalances. So we evolve along tangible lines.


#28

A genre has to evolve or else it becomes stagnant and formulaic. And I doubt the people at Otherside would want to keep making the same game over and over again either.


#29

I think the trick would be to replace stats with something better, rather than something arbitrary.


#30

You don’t need to replace something that doesn’t have to exist in the first place. Did Thief need to replace stats with something better?

A better idea would be to consider in each individual case whether a game mechanic needs abstraction or whether it is better represented directly in a fully immersive 3D world. For example, does it make sense to abstract core gameplay skills that the players can do by themselves: swimming, aiming, sneaking, jumping, etc? Do you need a bashing down the door skill when you bash down the door directly by smashing your weapon into it? Where is the focus of the game: does it really need character progression or does equipment-based progression and player skill progression suffice?


#31

Nobody said nor even implied that, what are you on? I personally favor the classic RPG-sim blend as a concept, as defined by the games in classic Immersive Sim history. Of course things go south when the design and execution is no good e.g Bioshock, or your example, the Thief reboot. Give me the clear non-RPGs Shock 1 and classic Thief over those any day.

For example, does it make sense to abstract core gameplay skills that the players can do by themselves: swimming, aiming, sneaking, jumping, etc?

I think it’s possible you’re incorrectly assuming RPG elements have to abstractly substitute those skill-based actions, rather than complement and deepen them in ways that controllers and mouse and keyboards cannot support…because we don’t “do those actions ourselves”, not in full. We press simple buttons and awesome happens in a simple abstract way (e.g movement = WASD). What about stability, strength, stamina, endurance etc? How are these represented in a skill-based manner while we are swimming/sneaking/whatever? Now whether they should be relevant to the gameplay in the first place; needed at all or not is another matter, but the point is you can have those things compliment the skill-based actions with none of the skill removed, and the final result actually being potentially MORE realistic and representative than without, should it be desired.

Also, not sure if you pay attention. See:

Now, if you were to remove RPG elements for other reasons, say:

-To focus on pure player skill-based gameplay.
-Aim for faster gameplay pacing
-Because RPG elements would simply clash with the overarching experience and it’s a very atypical Immersive Sim.
-and yes, also the potential immersion increase.

Then that’s weighty reasoning.

You’re unknowingly parroting. I already mentioned RPG systems simply may not fit the design vision (for reasons I find acceptable, rather than exclusively muh immersion/realism).


#32

And who here talked about “exclusively muh immersion/realism”? Who made that argument?

When I say that RPG elements are just a tool and don’t make things automatically better, I’m arguing against the idea that you have to have a reason to remove RPG elements, rather than putting them in in the first place.

Also, I’m saying that certain game mechanics, like core gameplay skills, don’t necessarily need to be abstracted, not that RPG elements are abstract substitutes for actions you can do directly. Maybe you got confused by that? For example, strength is not a skill in the game.

Finally, I wasn’t parroting, I was responding to Dawn’s idea that stats need to be replaced with something better. Not everything is about you.


#33

Speaking of the Immersive Sim genre, Raphael Colantonio (head of Arkane) had an interesting comment a few days ago:

As a fan of Immersive Sims, I think that the genre will eventually disappear because its values must migrate to all genres eventually: choices, consequences, play-styles, simulation, layered systems, emergence, non intrusive narration... Great values that all games should embrace

That sounds desirable to me, up to a point. I think it would deliver more value from what computers uniquely offer to games. As long as it’s always possible to make other/simpler games, I agree this would be a positive outcome.

I’m not as sure it will happen. Inertia is a real thing.

But maybe?


#34

Immersive sim is not a genre. It is a deepening of all other established genres.


#35

Immersive sim is a genre characterised by a design philosophy, rather than mechanics or theme.


#36

And yet, you cannot have one without the other, or you would not have a game, you would just have an idea. :slight_smile:


#37

Indeed, but my point is more that mechanics and theme are not really what defines an immersive sim. It’s not that immersive sims are deeper fantasy or sci-fi or FPS or role-playing games or a combination of any of them. It’s that they are constructed in a particular way to evoke a feeling as if you were really there, striving towards a certain realism. This means making use of systemic gameplay, non-linear design, narrative devices that make it easier to step into the shoes of the protagonist, consistent worldbuilding… any number of things that enhance the immersion and simulation parts of the formula.

As Raphael Colantonio points out, things like these are not unique to immersive sims, but, in my mind, immersive sims are unique in that they use these tools in order to create a very particular experience, a total work of art.

Finally, I’ll note, as I’ve done before, that the realism of immersive sims is not realism in the conventional sense. It’s realism in service of a particular purpose. It’s not about the look of things, but about the feel of things – being in a world that operates independently, being a free agent in that world, being able to effect change in that world, being in control and not having it taken away from you arbitrarily and so on and so forth.


#38

I’m leaning towards agreeing that immersive sims are becoming less of a set genre and more of a design style. I’m sure there are plenty of games that, in some way or another, are actually designed a lot like the classic immersive sims. Heck, the first immersive sims (Thief, UW, System Shock, etc) were so revolutionary BECAUSE the world was so fully realized while surrounded by games that provided a single concept (ex: beat-em-ups, PONG, etc) without a world. YOU were offered to be a part of a world that didn’t center around you; and that felt AWESOME.

I think a lot of worlds and games like RPGs have been picking up more immersive sim style elements, which makes those experiences and world exploration so exciting.


#39

Right. Immersive sim is a hybridized genre. I would love to see what a “pure simulation” without other elements would look like, but I’m leaning toward seeing it blended with other gameplay styles, to simply deepen the systems.


#40

Speaking of immersive sims, a game (series) that’s often included in the short list of games that emphasize ImSim elements is STALKER.

Well. They’re back.

Apparently GSC Game World boss Sergiy Grygorovych posted to his Facebook page a link to a new web site with the date “2021” on it. VentureBeat has an article with everything known so far.

I’m hoping this – finally – turns out to be the real deal. Not a half-attempt, and not the weird quasi-legal thing (“Areal”) that a splinter group tried to crowdfund, but a true sequel that gets made with the same fantastic atmosphere as the original.