53: Filling the Immersion Gap

"Back then, Super Mario Kart was hugely popular, CD-ROM games were all the rage and Joseph Lieberman was getting uppity about Mortal Kombat. Today, Mario Kart is more popular than ever, most PC games still ship on CD-ROM and Lieberman's still trying to convince parents that games are corrupting the minds of their children." Tim Stevens explores how the games of the future will cross the final frontier by finally putting "you" into the game.

Filling the Immersion Gap

This is simply amazing. How about some sort of trophy park where the best stuff, ie kills/laps/items are shown? If it happens, it'll make single player games a thing of the past.

In a way, coming from a slightly different direction, you can see an early iteration of this with Xbox Live on the Xbox360. The only things you carry with you from game to game are "Achievements" that the games themselves award, but it's a step in the right direction. Future platforms (PC, Console, or otherwise) will just keep on expanding this trend.

Even if you're playing single player games, or playing alone, just being connected to a community can add a lot to games. Like global, online leaderboards for classic arcade games.


I don't think this will render one player games a thing of the past. I think it will do the opposite, it will allow one player game achievements to be recognized by everyone...

I really like this concept, because it will in the future (Not may, I truly believe this will be a thing of the future. Look at all the trophy rooms in games currently, now imagine it being made into a pbulic online forum like a website.) really amp up social gaming/gamers. Of course, this will also provide a place to search out others who have similar game interests as yourself. ("Oh! You have the Elf Trophy? I do too! It's hard to play an elf for over 200 hours in (blank game) but elves are my completely favorite!")

I think this will see a rise first in console games, mainly because of a unifed user interface (where on the PC, people can set up their own servers, go through battle.net or some other service, or just set up a LAN party.) and this will provide an easier interface for those who are not computer savvy.

That sounds like an excellent way to destroy any sense of uniqueness that a game's art direction or premise might have. I can't imagine that it would be interesting for every game (or every game supporting this feature; we can at least hope that some games choose not to be endlessly imitative) to look exactly the same - but that's what would have to happen for you to carry your appearance across games. You can either have every game look the same as every other game, or you can have the characters look out-of-place against a non-photorealistic background, or you can require everyone who wants to make an online game to adapt every single character creation option that the system supports to the style of their own art direction. Even barring the technical difficulties of making sure everything transfers, that'd be unrealistically expensive no matter what tools are available. And this is to be a requirement for online multiplayer on consoles?

I think in either case it's extremely difficult to carry over "recognition" using subtle character creation details like that - in real life, so much about the way we recognize people is based on body language and voice. Good luck trying to put that in a character editor. I haven't seen an online game other than City of Heroes where every character didn't look basically indistinguishable from every other, clothing notwithstanding, just because of the way they all acted and moved, and the things that people use to tell each other apart are much more subtle than flashy spandex.

And where do single-player games fit in this? Games with stories, games that don't fit in this Second Life Meets Disney World pipe-dream? Where do you go when you want to stop being your avatar and start being Mario? The only solutions I can think of seem gimmicky and annoying (as much as it doesn't already seem gimmicky and annoying to move an avatar around a persistent meta-world, since surely there'd be ways for impatient gamers to skip that part).

The subscription service would be great... if it's optional. I don't want to pay for games I won't play, and if I am paying for a game, I don't want to have to pay more to unlock new features. The service downloads Madden 20X6 for me? Well, that's great - I hate Madden 20X6. In fact, nothing coming out this month interests me, though that Road Fighter game coming out next month looks interesting. Oh, but too bad, I still have to pay this month. And what's this? Even when it does download Road Fighter, I have to pay more for the character editor? No thanks. Let me choose what I don't want.

There's much good to be had in an idea like this, a persistent character setup, a comprehensive subscription-based game service, never having to swap discs again. But, even surmounting technical issues, it seems like it goes too far. It reads a lot like when Hollywood fitfully tries to cash in on gaming with an underresearched movie with a premise about going inside a video game. It ignores the possibility that developers might make games that don't fit into this model, and fails to recognize that all games shouldn't be the same.

Well I don't even like Xbox achievement points. They are un-fun. Is it fun that someone must create a fresh profile for me (a console noob who just doesn't get gamepad for FPS) taking me to the start if I want to see how COD2 plays on the Xbox360. Because otherwise I'll lower his points.

What if you don't want to be good? What if you want to play COD2 with a knife or a pistol for a laugh, but that lowers your points. It's just a dull competitive sad feature, encouraging only those who are gamers. It's the opposite to what Nintendo want to do with fun stuff involving non-gamers.

Saying my number is bigger than yours bores me to tears as a concept in Diablo 2 and WOW, it seems to only reason to play it is to get the armour of +96, but it is so meaningless, just higher numbers, it's rubbish! What matters more is what your charecter looks like with a certain armour, seeing as it is effectively you in the game, hence in Oblivion and Mount and Blade I factor in aesthetics in my choice of clothes etc. Which is also why I ended up liking Oblivions simple weapon/armour ranking numbers.

Which leads me round to why the reality in the article might work. People like silly things like what their charecter wears, and this could lead the way to these mega things. Although I'd never play one of these ghastly things conjured up in the article, for the reasons Bongo Bill says. I won't even pay subscriptions for MMOs.

Hey Bill, thanks for the comments. The intent isn't to have a character who looks exactly the same all the time, just is recognizable. I hope you caught the references to a virtual protein shake; that could turn your character from a scrawny dweeb to a bulky beefcake before certain gaming sessions if you like. I also mentioned masks and costumes, and since this is all virtual (and imaginary for now) there's no reason those masks and costumes couldn't offer a complete visual transformation.

However, is a certain look for a main character really necessary in all cases? Sure, you may need to be young in one game and old in another, but Fable's shown that you can do that to a character and still make it recognizable. A game like Prey wouldn't make sense if the main character didn't look Native American, but there's no reason that Pac-Man tattoo couldn't still be there. And wouldn't it be nice to have a little more customization in some games? What if I don't want to look like a spikey-haired freak when Square re-re-makes Final Fantasy VII in 2020?

The way I see it the subscription model is almost certainly coming and there's really no two ways about it. But you can take solace in knowing that there will surely be extra fees on top of your subscription to access games like Madden 20X6 :)

I think this article hits the nail on the head about how games today are just pretty remakes of the games we played fifteen years ago. Don't get me wrong, there are some exceptions, but by and large the article is right.

It makes me think why I would ever want to pay so much money for a new system when I could play the same game, usually better, on my old ones. This is a point I try to make to so many people when they say "game XXVIII" is different. It has new levels and puzzles. They usually still have the same dull story and same two dimesional characters as the first one made fifteen years ago. Companies are more worrried about franchises nowadays that they are about actually making decent games.

Is this supposed to be a dystopian vision of the future? Because I can't imagine a worse fate for games. It would completely devastate immersion. You see the same faces in every game... I was just storming a Strogg stronghold with that guy, why is he swinging and axe at an orc now? Because it's a game, that's why.

You can't have the same character in all these different games nor would placing myself in the gameworld increase immersion one bit. If I was playing myself in Counter-Strike, I'd just get shot every time because I can't even operate a gun. I'm lucky I can play this elite member of a counter-terrorism unit.

And the paying for in-game objects and such... Made me sick a bit, mainly because it seems likely. I can see EA (OMG - a naughty word - mod) up games for me in just that manner.

Steve, you must have really enjoyed reading "Snow Crash".

What if you don't want to be good? What if you want to play COD2 with a knife or a pistol for a laugh, but that lowers your points. It's just a dull competitive sad feature, encouraging only those who are gamers. It's the opposite to what Nintendo want to do with fun stuff involving non-gamers.

You have the way the 'points' work wrong - they're not a score for how good you are, and they can't be lowered by playing sub-optimally (often the opposite, actually). The Wikipedia article actually has a good amount of information on them. You can get points for unlocking characters, completing sections of the game, doing bizarre/obscure challenges, and so on. If they represent anything, it's just some loose indication of how many games you've played/explored.

CoD2 might have some other leaderboard tracking or something that keeps track of kills/death records, but it would be completely unrelated. I've never played the game though, so I wouldn't know.

The future is bleak, again!

The future is now!

Playstation home anyone?


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