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Vital to Immersion
Jakkar
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March 18, 2011 - 5:16 am
Member Since: February 11, 2011
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http://www.computerandvideogam.....bly-lying/

Once again I with-hold my urge to monologue desperately into the wind, and look forward to yours thoughts, Tappers..

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Steerpike
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March 18, 2011 - 10:16 am
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He's right and he's wrong. People DO make snap decisions based on screenshots; in this way (and others) graphics matter a lot. But I disagree they're necessary for immersion. If that were so we'd have never gotten immersed in old games with ancient graphics and the entire medium would've died out.

The danger is when AAA developers eschew fun for graphics. This is a mistake Bethesda itself made in Oblivion. The games have to be fun to play, first and foremost. If they have beautiful graphics, even better - but I'll play an ugly fun game a lot more than a gorgeous stupid one.

I'd say Crysis is the classic proof that graphics alone neither immerse nor make the game.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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Ernest
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March 20, 2011 - 5:55 pm
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I think of Anachronox, which I didn't play until long after all the patches were made.  It was TERRIFIC.  But its graphics, by the time I got to it, were heavily dated.  Couldn't have cared less.

Also, by the time I played Deus Ex, its graphics were dated.

And the graphics for the various Thief games never were that great--but in my view they were 3 of the best games ever.

Also, I still haven't finished Oblivion.  So it looks like I'm finding myself in agreement with SP.

And Crysis?  Heck I never even finished Far Cry.

But, to be cynical for a moment, it could be that to some extent developers pressed for cash don't care if we finish games--or even if we like them.  All they want to do is get us to buy them.  Which we faithfully do.  I mean, post on any of the big gaming boards about bugs, and the fan boys will come out of the woodwork.  That's how conditioned we've become to expect lousy performance for our gaming dollars.  It's a nonsensical business structure that only benefits companies.  But welcome to the world these days, it seems.

That makes me think of another gaming idea (still haven't seen the zombie games I was hoping for): a world in which corporations dominate everything, quality control and quality of life has collapsed, and people fight to regain power/wake up the sleeping masses who busily are fighting over scraps.blaming each other.  Kind of like The Matrix, I guess.

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Steerpike
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March 21, 2011 - 8:45 am
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Anachronox was fantastic. I had no idea, going in, what a rich experience I was about to have. So good. Recommended to anyone who enjoys RPGs with a dollop of J, a ton of humor, and more tragedy than you might realize. Great game.

Immersion is a tricky thing. We can get immersed in a book or script; those usually have no graphics at all. Meanwhile some of the most beautiful games are hardest to immerse in, because tiny irregularities and Uncanny Valley effects ruin the immersion. I think this is why the melodrama and stylized visuals of opera, or the complex language and usually simple sets of Shakespeare, make it possible to immerse even if you're not converstant with the language and style.

My sister in law works with autistic children, and she mentioned that some of them love anime. I don't mind anime, but I'm not a big fan. And there's a style I loathe: basically the eastern-humor scrunched eyes sweat drops arms-waving kind. Drives me crazy.

GG says that autistic kids love it, and her theory is that it's because emotions are so evident and un-misreadable in that sort of style. She says many kids with autism have great difficulty identifying and processing subtlety, particularly in human emotion, and watching that kind of anime makes it easier for them so they can immerse without battling the constant, terrible flow of input they have such a hard time organizing and prioritizing.

Offhand I'd say I was most immersed in game moments rather than whole games, and usually moments of fear: Shalebridge cradle, the two seconds of Amnesia I had the courage to play, sections of System Shock 2, the tunnels underneath Agroprom in STALKER.

Meanwhile Bulletstorm is easily the most beautiful game I've played in a while, and I did get "into the zone," as it were, during play. That's sort of like immersion, but it really wasn't the graphics that did it for me, it was the gameplay.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

Scout
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March 21, 2011 - 11:36 am
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Anachronox was amazing. I had a few peak gaming moments playing that game. The writing and characterization were the thing with the gameplay close behind. The graphics were, ummm...., stylized.

whitebrice
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March 22, 2011 - 11:52 pm
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I think "good graphics" is too vague a description to get us anywhere. Is Hines talking about realism, poly-count, texture resolution and/or shaders? Even older games could get around the restrictions of the hardware on which they were based through stylization.

 

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is a game whose graphics could not get better. Very few other developers to that point had attempted to make a game with a similar level of thematic and stylistic unity in its visuals. Now we see that kind of aesthetic exemplified in games like Gears of War, Portal, and especially in the output of Platinum Games Bayonetta, Vanquish, etc.. Cave Story is an older game that uses an even older aesthetic to great effect. Its graphics look wholly retro but also wholly unique by utilizing a style a little more detailed than 8-bit and a little less animated than 16-bit.

 

So does the stylistic unity in the above games enhance a player's immersion? I don't know. I think thematic unity enhances immersion in video games the same way it does in any other medium.

 

Also, @Jakkar, I thought it was "taffer"?[Image Can Not Be Found]

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geggis
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March 23, 2011 - 7:37 am
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Just what I needed to hear regarding Anachronox — I've been meaning to check that out for a while.

You raise some interesting points Steerpike regarding the consistency of small stage productions being able to immerse more than something with greater productions values. I think that's the crux of it: consistency. My Suspending Disbelief and Roleplaying article, though way too scatterbrain for my liking, briefly skimmed this. In it I said that it can take the slightest thing to 'snag' you out of the moment; visual glitches, difficulty spikes, bad voice acting, spelling mistakes, broken Engrish, bad controls(!!).

At the moment I'm sick and tired of hearing games being criticised for not having voice overs. You know why they haven't got voice overs? Because the developer probably recognises that good voice acting costs a lot and is hard to get right and that bad voice acting can totally ruin a game. Heavy Rain, for all it's soaring production values, is occasionally let down by some weak voice acting. Thankfully, it's largely spot on but if Quantic can get voice acting wrong then what makes these reviewers think that an indie developer or small developement house can get it right?

You've also got to consider that some people are more sensitive to inconsistencies than others, so the controls and interface in Grim, though huge issues for me, obviously didn't bother every one. Conversely, the melee in Penumbra: Overture, as clunky and undermining of the survival horror as it was, ultimately didn't taint the overall experience for me. The difficulty of a game too is always a contentious issue. I like my games to be as tough as I can handle, while others prefer to breeze through feeling like a hero all the time. Immersion is very subjective and I don't think it's as simple as saying it's down to the graphics, though they're certainly an important part of the argument. I mean, I've got graphic-hoe friends who would wretch at me playing something like VVVVVV or Morrowind. For them, good graphics are the key to the door into immersion.

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Steerpike
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March 23, 2011 - 8:24 am
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Exactly, Gregg. I agree. It's lilke watching a monster movie and seeing the zipper running up the Creature from the Black Lagoon's suit... or a graphical tear that just reminds you you're in a game.

Heavy Rain's insistence on using largely French actors for a game ostensibly set in Philadelphia was ill-advised. It's nice that Quantic tried to keep jobs in le France, but the game suffered as a result. Only Shelby is particularly good, and he's one of the only American actors they imported. Why not just set the game in Lyon, use French actors with French accents. Then the accents would make sense and we'd feel more comfortable in the world.

Personally, while I like voiced games, I read faster than I listen. I don't mind reading and clicking through conversations. In my mind voice acting might be better limited to ambient sounds - overheard conversations, etc.

As Whitebrice says, when Hines says "graphics" he's not exactly narrowing the field. "good graphics" can mean lots of things. Are the amazing faces of Heavy Rain superior to the amazing landscapes of Oblivion or Crysis 2?

Anachronox: outstanding. It has one of the most tragic and heartbreaking side-stories I've ever seen. Unfortunately you have to get pretty far into the game to see the whole story (though you can probably piece the clues together in advance of that). It's also got moments of sheer hilarity. Definitely give it a shot. It's wacky, it's creative, and it's really touching. There's actually a fan-movie of (most of) the cutscenes spliced together, 6-7 hours long I think, so you can watch from beginning to end if you feel the urge. But it's definitely worth checking out. An ION Storm casualty that didn't deserve to be.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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Ernest
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March 26, 2011 - 1:14 am
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@Jakkar: Never withhold your urge to monologue.  I do it all the time!

 

@Steerpike: SP did you ever play Realms of the Haunting?  Maybe before your time.  Still the scariest crpg I ever played.  But as it's probably 15 years old I can't imagine it's held up at all.

I still remember some room where a recording just played over and over.  Brrr.  Cooool there's an unofficial web site: http://www.realmsofthehaunting.com/.  With the music available online!  WAY COOL!  Wow all these years and I didn't even realize it was an adventure game.

Huh.  Site says it's still available...on amazon!  And it is! 

Need to find my old copy.  Hm.  Wonder if I'm too squeamish these days to play it.

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