BioShock Creator Extols the Immersive Properties of the First Person Perspective

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BioShock Creator Extols the Immersive Properties of the First Person Perspective

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Irrational Game's Ken Levine thinks that viewing a game through the protagonist's eyes makes it easier for the player to become someone else.

When we were kids, we could become someone else in the blink of an eye, leaving behind our mundane personas and becoming a space commander or a ninja wizard with ease. Sadly, it's much trickier to do it as an adult, but Levine thinks that one of the advantages of first person games is that it helps the player tap into that part of themselves again.

Levine felt that playing games with a first person perspective was the most direct way to engage with them. It helped put the player in the character's shoes and removed one of the barriers to getting him or her fully immersed in the experience. He thought that getting the player to "transpose" his or her identity onto someone else's, which was easier to do in a first person game, could lead to a very powerful experience. He said that it was difficult to get adults to do that, as they were usually too self-conscious, but thought that games could often give them a gentle push in the right direction.

You can't really argue with Levine's point, especially not when he's demonstrated just how immersive the first person perspective can be time and time again with games like System Shock 2, Thief: The Dark Project and BioShock. Of course, it's also fair to say that third person perspective games can be just as immersive if they're done well, although that's not something that Levine really seems to be disputing.

Source: Industry Gamers

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First person perspectives are immersive? What a novel idea!

BioShock Infinite looks immersive. Not sure if its an FPS though.. WAIT.. Yeah, still not sure.

My dreams always have taken place(and still do) in third person, so if done well, it works fine.

Correction, it's Thief: The Dark Project.

I do agree with his point, though, and I think that's a big reason why FPS still hold out the way they do. Personally, I've never been able to become too absorbed in 3rd-person titles . . . I also wonder if there's a reason 3rd-person has taken more of a hold on the console market . . .

I've never understood this 'immersion' malarkey.
Never once did I feel as if I was the protagonist in Bioshock. I felt more like a spectator. That applies to all the other FPS games I've played.

imperialreign:
Correction, it's Thief: The Dark Project.

Whoops, so it is. Fixed.

I think Bioshock is a specific example of this because you never hear Jack's voice, or see his face. For all intents and purposes, you are Jack. It's your adventure.

Logan Westbrook:

You can't really argue with Levine's point, especially not when he's demonstrated just how immersive the first person perspective can be time and time again with games like System Shock 2, Thief: The Dark Project and BioShock. Of course, it's also fair to say that third person perspective games can be just as immersive if they're done well, although that's not something that Levine really seems to be disputing.

the third person viewpoint is actually a lot more accurate of what a person really sees. your eyes will only focus at one part of the screen (usually the center). the stuff that is happening offcenter is what happens in our peripheric vision, just like in real life.
in first person, you get a lot less peripheric vision.

so i could argue that although first person can be immersive, third is actually more so.
(especially since i've only ever ducked in my office chair while playing mount and blade :3)

Autofaux:
BioShock Infinite looks immersive. Not sure if its an FPS though.. WAIT.. Yeah, still not sure.

Judging by the level of scripting we saw in that trailer, can we be sure it is even a game?

Optimus Hagrid:

Autofaux:
BioShock Infinite looks immersive. Not sure if its an FPS though.. WAIT.. Yeah, still not sure.

Judging by the level of scripting we saw in that trailer, can we be sure it is even a game?

Interesting question. Might have to wait a while (read: too long) before it can be answered. I suppose if that trailer represents the scripting in the first part of the game al a the first BioShock, there would be nothing to worry about.

yeah...until you have the misfortune of drawing a weapon or looking anywhere but straight ahead, at which point you realise your "body" isn't there & your eyes are aparently at shoulder level

Well i think horror and atmosphere have found a new home in 1st person. "Bioshock" is a very immersive game but the likes of STALKER or Metro 2033 show just how much you can ramp up the tension/ lonliness/ danger factor and really take the player into the game world.

It seems odd to me that all three of these most immersive of shooters actually have med-pack mechanics, i think regenerating health is pretty anti-immsersion in many cases and can kill the tension and resource management/ scrounging that works so well in many survival orientated games.

that's the idea. which is why its called "first person"

in "third person" games you're clearly playing as someone else and playing through their story. in a first person game you are doing the same thing but you "are" that person for the duration.

games that are first person but take you out of the perspective for cutscenes dont work for that reason. which is why fps story's aren't as immersive if they're told "out of body" in cuts cenes.

LavaLampBamboo:
I think Bioshock is a specific example of this because you never hear Jack's voice, or see his face. For all intents and purposes, you are Jack. It's your adventure.

You know, except that I'm not called Jack. Nor Male. :P

Logan Westbrook:

System Shock 2, Thief: The Dark Project and BioShock.

You said System Shock 2 twice. <_< >_> ...

I kid, I kid. I love Bioshock.

imperialreign:
Correction, it's Thief: The Dark Project.

I do agree with his point, though, and I think that's a big reason why FPS still hold out the way they do. Personally, I've never been able to become too absorbed in 3rd-person titles . . . I also wonder if there's a reason 3rd-person has taken more of a hold on the console market . . .

I want to say that it works easier with a controller but i'm not sure.

it gives you more of a movie like experience I think, I remember at school one of my friends loved how the camera shake as it followed you sprining in the first gears made it seem like he was watching a well shot war movie while playing. its probably just the spectacle of it.

I don't really have a preferred pov. they've both worked well in the past.

I get virtual motion sickness from FPS which I do not get in third person (or oblivion and Fallout in FP for some reason). Tends to spoil immersion if you can only play a game for ten minutes then have to rest for 30 minutes in a darkened room before you can continue. Never managed to complete the first Bioshock game due to this.

You know, I've never really bought the idea that first person is more immersive. How the hell am I supposed to get the sense of a character or his personality when all I see are his floating disembodied gunhands, he doesn't speak, and all his actions are determined by me? Or all I can see are the barrels of his weapon, and he only speaks to deliver snappy one-liners, and does cool things in cutscenes that I have no control of?

That makes no sense. It's sloppy design. It makes me want to grab the dev by the collar and shout: "Am I the main character, or is the main character the main character? Do you want me to become him, or does he represent me? Make up your mind!!"

Valve is about the only studio I've ever seen pull first-person off well. It both characterizes Gordon AND puts me in shoes: and it's because they FIRMLY COMMITTED to not having him make a goddamn sound. They also gave him a concrete back-story, and characters reacted to his presence and person both in action and dialogue . All that 'last free man' stuff is a very sneaky writer, establishing Gordon by right angles to the player.

And it worked. When playing Half Life 2, I legitimately felt like I was the silent, stoic super-scientist, coming to save the world.

That having been said, I'll take my third person any day, thank you. Because I'm outside the character, I can actually gauge 3-dimensional spatial relationships between 'myself' and other objects. More importantly: I can get a sense of how the main character carries himself and relates to the world around him. I can read into his gestures, facial expressions, and their subtext (best example of this: SotC).

The point is: I actually feel like a body in virtual space, rather than a tracking viewfinder with guns attached.

I think any game perspective can be immersive if it's done correctly. I honestly don't think first person is any inherantly better at this than any other viewpoint, it comes down to the skill of the creator.

If you want to get technical I think the thing that makes a game most immersive is when you wind up creating the protaganist yourself, as opposed to being given an established hero. To be entirely honest I am one of those people who think that while hearing the voice of the character your playing might be entertaining, the whole "silent protaganist" thing works better, because hearing a voice that isn't your own or what you'd imagine actually hampers the overall effect.

Of course opinions on things like this are going to vary.

As a final note I'll also say that one of the things that made "Ultima" successful back in the day was the way how it came up with a decent gimmick for a "you are literally the hero" premise (or at least at the time) including the slow ascension from a mere nerdy couch potato into a superhuman via magical stat gains and such.

It's dated, but back in the day when Ultima started to lose it's steam (very slowly) one of the big complaints about the later chapters was the details it put into the "real world" in getting the game set up, the less generic it was, the more people felt it missed the point of it being them "transformed".

Agree or disagre, it's something to think about.

Catchy Slogan:

LavaLampBamboo:
I think Bioshock is a specific example of this because you never hear Jack's voice, or see his face. For all intents and purposes, you are Jack. It's your adventure.

You know, except that I'm not called Jack. Nor Male. :P

Touche =) But I mean when a character is faceless and voiceless, it's far easier to put yourself in their place.

And about the male thing... Just imagine those male grunts of pain are coming from someone else =D

He thought that getting the player to "transpose" his or her identity onto someone else's [...] could lead to a very powerful experience.

Funnily, especially Bioshock is extremly guilty of making me feel like merely controlling a detached pair of stupid and exceptionally subordinate arms.

Only criticism of what he says is this; Why in first-person perspective games aren't we allowed to look at ourselves? I mean, why don't developers of such games let us look down at our character's body and always seem to have an excuse for no mirrors in a game unless the protagonists appearance is preset. Being able to do said things would be more immersive, but I've yet to see a FP game do so. Oh and since I played the Stalker games, I believe all first-person perspective game should let you peer round corners; that would make sneaking around or fighting gun battles in a lot of other games way better.

I may be a Bioshock fan but being a faceless mute isn't what I consider amazing in this sense. I actually felt kind of glad in Black Ops when your character actually SPOKE for a change.

I can't really be immersed in a game if I can't see my own feet when I look down. The head bobbing is also a pain in the ass. Yes you do it in life, but in life your brain compensates for it. It doesn't translate to the game so well, and ends up just being nauseating.

When I look down, in most games it just makes me realize that I'm controlling a floating camera with arms.

If they REALLY wanted to make first person immersive, they'd get around to making those personal headsets like what Yahtzee has in Zero Punctuation. Till then I'll keep my third person peripheral vision thank-you very much!

LavaLampBamboo:

Catchy Slogan:

LavaLampBamboo:
I think Bioshock is a specific example of this because you never hear Jack's voice, or see his face. For all intents and purposes, you are Jack. It's your adventure.

You know, except that I'm not called Jack. Nor Male. :P

Touche =) But I mean when a character is faceless and voiceless, it's far easier to put yourself in their place.

And about the male thing... Just imagine those male grunts of pain are coming from someone else =D

I'll try. People tell me I act more like a guy anyways. My one weaknes is baby animals.

EDIT:

Le Tueur:
I may be a Bioshock fan but being a faceless mute isn't what I consider amazing in this sense. I actually felt kind of glad in Black Ops when your character actually SPOKE for a change.

I agree with you there, I felt the same way about Isaac speaking in Dead Space 2, It was much more emersive and somtimes actually mirrored my thoughts, for instance 'Crap.' 'Shit!' 'The fuck was that?' and of course 'Fuck!'.

"First person is more immersive": It's true for some people and not for others. I happen to be one of the others.

Irridium:
I can't really be immersed in a game if I can't see my own feet when I look down. The head bobbing is also a pain in the ass. Yes you do it in life, but in life your brain compensates for it. It doesn't translate to the game so well, and ends up just being nauseating.

When I look down, in most games it just makes me realize that I'm controlling a floating camera with arms.

Part of the reason why I use cl_bobcycle 0 whenever me and my friends suddenly get the urge to play shotguns only Counter Strike.

Irridium:

When I look down, in most games it just makes me realize that I'm controlling a floating camera with arms.

That about sums up what I think of it.

Some games do First Person immersion really well, but more often than not, I can't shake the feeling I'm controlling a camera.

My big problems are the lack of peripheral vision, the inability to have any idea where your feet/legs are and what they are doing (or pretty much any part of your body except your straight-ahead eyes and hands). FPS also tend to rely on superhuman turning and spinning ability to compensate for not really having a working neck. But when you run up against a low wall or obstruction and realize you have to walk backwards to have any idea what the issue is utterly kills any immersion.

I think first-person *could* work, but needs a lot more than the currently accepted default to really feel like you're in anything but a wheelchair (though a very fast one that can spin and has rocket boosts or something) and in a neck brace. Third-person has a lot of problems as well (your own body often blocking what's right in front of you while being able to see what's right behind you); each could use some real innovation.

I've played Condemned, so I really can't argue with this point. You can even see your feet walking if you look downwards. Highly immersive FPS game... without the S part. So it's an FPM I guess.

Serris:

Logan Westbrook:

You can't really argue with Levine's point, especially not when he's demonstrated just how immersive the first person perspective can be time and time again with games like System Shock 2, Thief: The Dark Project and BioShock. Of course, it's also fair to say that third person perspective games can be just as immersive if they're done well, although that's not something that Levine really seems to be disputing.

the third person viewpoint is actually a lot more accurate of what a person really sees. your eyes will only focus at one part of the screen (usually the center). the stuff that is happening offcenter is what happens in our peripheric vision, just like in real life.
in first person, you get a lot less peripheric vision.

so i could argue that although first person can be immersive, third is actually more so.
(especially since i've only ever ducked in my office chair while playing mount and blade :3)

^This. Yahtzee actually had an Extra Punctuation on this iirc, to use his words, "first person view is more like the view of a person with a pair of tape recorders stuck to the side of his face" (or something along those lines). To actually get full immersion from first person, I'd argue we would need a screen big enough so that it encompasses our vision. That or goggles of course, the latter being a much more cost effective solution.

Problem with third person of course is that a person can't actually see themselves or behind themselves and such. As to which is more immersive and which downsides bring down the immersion more, I'd say it's all a matter of how you use them. F. ex., in Morrowind/Oblivion, I feel that while fighting, a first person view is more immersive, however, while going around, third person is. That could just be related to the crappyness of combat in third person within TES series however :\

I find the FPP to be the exact opposite of immersive. nothing breaks immersion faster than a perspective that removes my depth perception and cannot even pretend to give me free movement.

Unless, I suppose, I'm roleplaying a camera with an arm strapped to it.

In real life, my body is more than one (max two) arms; in this case, in order to "help put the player in the character's shoes" you should at least give that character some shoes... lol
What most first-person games seem to forget is: I have two feet, two legs, a belly, fucking shoulders, etc.
(that's one of the many things that makes Mirror's Edge so visionary, btw)

I kinda agree with the ideia, but it's still not being well implemented.

Vrach:

Serris:

Logan Westbrook:

You can't really argue with Levine's point, especially not when he's demonstrated just how immersive the first person perspective can be time and time again with games like System Shock 2, Thief: The Dark Project and BioShock. Of course, it's also fair to say that third person perspective games can be just as immersive if they're done well, although that's not something that Levine really seems to be disputing.

the third person viewpoint is actually a lot more accurate of what a person really sees. your eyes will only focus at one part of the screen (usually the center). the stuff that is happening offcenter is what happens in our peripheric vision, just like in real life.
in first person, you get a lot less peripheric vision.

so i could argue that although first person can be immersive, third is actually more so.
(especially since i've only ever ducked in my office chair while playing mount and blade :3)

^This. Yahtzee actually had an Extra Punctuation on this iirc, to use his words, "first person view is more like the view of a person with a pair of tape recorders stuck to the side of his face" (or something along those lines). To actually get full immersion from first person, I'd argue we would need a screen big enough so that it encompasses our vision. That or goggles of course, the latter being a much more cost effective solution.

Problem with third person of course is that a person can't actually see themselves or behind themselves and such. As to which is more immersive and which downsides bring down the immersion more, I'd say it's all a matter of how you use them. F. ex., in Morrowind/Oblivion, I feel that while fighting, a first person view is more immersive, however, while going around, third person is. That could just be related to the crappyness of combat in third person within TES series however :\

"Immersive" and "realistic" are not the same. It's immersive to be able to see "your" body to give you a sense od weight and location. It's realistic to not see it.

I mean, the thing is, side scrolling platformers can be immersive if properly approached. That's because "immersion" and "character perspective" are completely. Freaking. Unrelated. Similar to them downsides you mentioned (before you think I'm being argumentative).

I think the reason people call FPP more immersive by default is lack of imagination.

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