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Designing for Immersion: Recreating Physical Experiences in Games
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Designing for Immersion: Recreating Physical Experiences in Games

January 7, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

At What Cost, Gameplay?

While focusing on immersive systems can do much to freshen up a traditional genre experience, it can also be a frustration for fan expectation. Completing simple objectives can suddenly feel like chores with a wobbly camera, motion blur, and disorienting animations.

Deciding to leave out certain immersive features, and subtly balancing the ones you do include can be a tricky business.

"One thing we investigated was -- during cornering -- having the driver's head tilt and look in the direction of the apex as it would in real-life," said Tudor. "Whilst it was a cool feature, we found through testing that that focal point wasn't necessarily where the player was looking, and in some cases it made them feel motion sick."

In developing Mirror's Edge, DICE built a lot of movement systems that wound up not working in the flow of the game as they had hoped.

"We tried what sounded like an awesome system for realistic foot placement whilst sidestepping," said O'Brien. "It looked great and had a more natural feel, but as a player you lost a degree of accuracy. This proved to be too annoying so we abandoned it."

With Resident Evil: Darkside Chronicles, Cavia tried to find a balance between playing on the senses while not getting in the way of the basic point and shoot gameplay. "As a gun-shooter, we needed to restrict the speed, not only to evade enemies but also to give players more time to aim," Kentaro Noguchi, producer at Cavia, said.

"We didn't feel the need to implement gun recoiling into the system. This game requires extensive concentration from the players, so we wanted to make sure not to include anything that would distract them from concentrating on the game."

Resident Evil: Darkside Chronicles

But what about games that actually want to make things hard on the player? Killzone 2 won praise for its terrifically detailed visuals and tactical multiplayer mode. It was also stung by criticism for its weighted controls that struck many players as an unnecessarily realistic inconvenience.

"What we have seen through many playtesting sessions is that a vast majority of gamers had no problems with the controls," said Mathijs de Jonge, Guerrilla's Creative Director in Killzone 2. "However, the more hardcore (and vocal) part of our audience needed some time to adapt to it."

"We added the ability to jump following the same mantra: no unrealistic double jump or insane low-gravity-jumps. And climbing ladders isn't simply bumping into it and then scrolling upwards. Your player character has to climb the ladder step by step."

There is no quick fix for determining what will or won't work. Finding the right balance is, in many ways, a luxury of having enough time to spend on experimentation, prototyping, and play testing.

"At the end of the day we are making a game, not a simulation, so the dividing line needs to be judged by playtesting," said O'Brien. "Then you can see the point where realism just becomes irritating."

Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

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