Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Credibility, Consistency, Immersion vs. Gameplay and Flow

[This is a modified comment on Tobold's post.]

For easy reading:
"Credibility, Consistency and Immersion" = "C/C/I"

Firstly: "Realism" is a very, very bad word in such discussions. E.g. fireballs are not realistic. There is a reason I usually use the words "credibility", "consistency" and "immersion" instead of "realistic". Nobody wants realistic games. Nobody!
"Realism" in these discussions is often used as a straw man.

The only realistic game there is, is real(istic) life and why should anybody want to play a second real life? (Pun intended).

Now, if a fireball hits a wooden door and nothing happens, that is not credible, because it is not consistent with the idea that the fireball is a ball of heat that can burn things. Here, consistency and credibility and therefore immersion are strongly connected. That is very common.

Many people wouldn't care about the fireball, but there are some people who consider the fact that a fireball burns some things, but doesn't burn other things to break the flow. You suddenly stop and think "How stupid!!". Breaking C/C/I can break gameplay flow!

On the other hand, there are people who are not able to find a single logical problem in the latest Star Trek movie. Sometimes I envied them, but I never admired them.

On a scale of 0-10:
Nobody would like a game with C/C/I of 0. That would mean that e.g. your character would want to keep the house he lives in safe. Only to stop at the next McDonalds to eat, while the house is burned down outside the window. After all, he is hungry.
That might make it easier for the story teller, because the guys who started the fire also eat at McDonalds and this way a barfight can take place. But most people would consider it rather stupid or "not credible". They would start talking to other people in the cinema, thus breaking flow.

Also, nobody would want to play on a scale of 10, because that would indeed require the developers/story tellers to make sure, you know that this guy never has to go on toilette, because he has some better way to release his body's fluids.

Most people like a rating of perhaps 3 or 4. I like a rating of maybe 6 or 7. That's all.

There is a reason many games start at the real world and change it. Real world is simply interesting. To have heat destroy things is a fact from real life and not something a game designer imagined. 99% of most games is a simple copy/paste from real life. It is less than 1% that we are talking about here.

In my opinion, a good game tries to maximize Credibility/Consistency/Immersion/Flow/Gameplay. All five of it.
Unfortunately, too much flow can hurt credibility and too much credibility can hurt flow.
There is an optimum here.

The trick, however, is to find game mechanics/explanations that let you increase one or more of these attributes without reducing the rest.

For example, the death penalthy in WoW:
You could imagine a hundrend and more stupid time sinks after you died. But Blizzard decided to use a ghost-running. That is much better than some arbitrary minigame, because there is some connection to the issue. It is not perfectly consistent with the rest of the world and therefore not perfectly credible, but it is much better than some puzzle or a simple timer etc.

EVE has an even better explanation for death that is almost perfectly credible and logically consistent: Clones. I like that as a gameplay mechnism and as a credible explanation.

Often real life mechanics can enhance games. For example collision detection, done right, could replace the silly concept of threat.
Of course, good collision detection is very hard to code. That is why we have "threat" today. But how much cooler would it be to really hinder the evil guys to hit your healers instead of 'taunting' them. LoL ;)

1 comment:

  1. "For example collision detection, done right, could replace the silly concept of threat."

    Bravo Sir!