There are many opinions on what makes a great game. For Tomb Raider
creator Toby Gard, the answer is immersion.
"I would argue that the power to immerse the player, to absorb his attention completely, is the common attribute of the greatest and most successful games," Gard wrote in a new Gamasutra feature
He said that when creating a game, the entire development team -- not just the artists -- should put forth effort in establishing immersion within a game. "Gathering and studying reference is critical to creating immersion for the player," he said.
This gathering of reference material is crucial for game makers to create a game that isn't based on their own simplified representations of reality -- schemata that aren't true to life. When these schemata seep into the final game, they can often break a player's sense of immersion, particularly in realistic games.
"When designers or artists rely on their standard schemata to judge their own creations, they are mistakenly assuming that others will judge their work using similar standards as they do," said Gard. "This can be particularly egregious when people from one country try to reproduce locations from another."
He added, "American dumpsters sitting in the back streets of Paris or French road signs on the streets of Chicago might seem acceptable to the developers because they do not mismatch with their very simple schemata of those distant locations, but these contextually inappropriate placements will be laughably inaccurate to people really familiar with those places."
"Given that games are released worldwide, it is difficult to overestimate the damage to audience immersion and perception done by poorly researched levels for a large percentage of your audience," Gard said. "Remember, it's your worldwide reputation on the line."