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Thread: Iconic elements of the immersive sim

  1. #1

    Iconic elements of the immersive sim

    Hey TTLG,

    Our magazine is running a feature on Warren Spector, Harvey Smith, Looking Glass and the immersive sim as a design philosophy. I'm coming up with ways to illustrate this article (for print) that utilise something a bit more interesting than screenshots of key games.

    So what do you feel are the defining, iconic elements of all of the above? Looking at the Thief manual, the silhouette of Garrett sliding down a rope arrow on the side of the page is the kind of thing I'm after. Or, a picture of the Statue of Liberty, minus her head.

    But what else could be done?

  2. #2
    Moderator
    Registered: Jan 2003
    Location: Tokyo desu
    One of these photos from LGS's final day might be good --
    1. http://www.digital-eel.com/mc/008.htm
    2. http://www.digital-eel.com/mc/025.htm
    3. http://www.digital-eel.com/mc/078.htm
    4. http://www.digital-eel.com/mc/040.htm
    5. http://www.digital-eel.com/mc/072.htm

    Out of those, I'd probably say the trophy case of all their awards for their games (#3) is one way to get across the message of what these games represented. These were groundbreaking games.

    Edit: or you could find one yourself. Here's the first page of those photos: http://www.digital-eel.com/mc/fdays.htm

    Edit2: If you want something really iconic from an actual game, the first game in the LGS line that really set the standard and concept of the immersive sim was Ultima Underworld, so some image of that would be good. Maybe an image of the big cloth map that came with the game would be an iconic image for it? -- http://www.uo.com/archive/ftp/maps/uw1/abyss.gif (I mean this was still back in the paradigm total immersion days where they'd put things from the world literally in the box.) Or this shot: http://www.ultimaaiera.com/wp-conten...underworld.png
    Last edited by demagogue; 5th Jul 2012 at 00:41.

  3. #3
    Knows his stuff
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Finland
    You're making a print version of Sneaky Bastards? Cool.

    Quote Originally Posted by demagogue View Post
    I love this one. Captures how much dedication and work went into it, and at the same time it's kinda sad since it's been taken down because they're packing up and closing the studio.

  4. #4
    Member
    Registered: Oct 2002
    Location: Deutschy-Deutschland / London
    Tricky. How about a picture of a door? I mean, in a standard game, doors are literally just things that stop you getting somewhere, or stop something else from getting in. In (at least) Thief and Deus Ex, your relationship with doors is somewhat more involving. Doors are things you hide behind. They block sound and they block vision, meaning you stand a much better chance of being undetected by the AIs. Doors give you more than just safety, they give you privacy. Somewhere to check your gear, look at a map, listen until everyone else has gone away. To me, a lot of the immersive sim experience can be defined by this more flexible sense of gamespace, of hiding and being actually hunted for, and I think the actual simulation of doors (as distinct from just the modelling of them) is a large part of that. On the other hand, a picture of a door isn't particularly interesting to look at.

  5. #5
    Member
    Registered: Feb 2003
    Location: On my bicycle \o/
    Of those, the pic of a desk full of good 'ol PCs buried in clutter is the closest thing to an iconic image for me...

  6. #6
    Member
    Registered: Jun 1999
    Location: Procrastination, Australia
    These games are all about emergence and the interplay of a great deal of factors, to me anyway. When I think of what they have in common, aside from first person and high interactivity, it's player agency and the large web of factors/nodes/junctions that go into every unique moment.
    How you translate that into design I don't know. Network diagram for the sci-fi stuff, actual webs for Thief maybe? Or pipes.
    Dunno really (I've known for some time I would be shit at design)

  7. #7
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2002
    Location: Landahn
    What Muz said.

    +

    Rabid fanbase that is unable to accept any deviation from the gameplay template set by games now 15 years old.

  8. #8
    Member
    Registered: Aug 2005
    Location: Australia
    Quote Originally Posted by henke View Post
    You're making a print version of Sneaky Bastards? Cool.
    ThePhotoshop is also (deputy?) editor of PCPowerplay, an Australian PC gaming mag.
    On topic, Muzman's network diagram is good I think. Or if you're looking for iconic images from any of the games, I'd suggest one of those light tower things from TDP or TMA, if you know what I mean? They were something unique to Thief in my eyes, something that drew together the steampunk and magic of the setting into one object.

  9. #9
    Moderator
    Registered: Jan 2003
    Location: Tokyo desu
    That reminds me, somebody was making a visual plot diagram to help them outline their fan mission, and it ended up being this total spider web looking thing with boxes and lines going everywhere because it was so non-linear. And I was thinking, if you could find a plot diagram image like that for a Thief or Deus Ex level, that would be a really cool way to see what's special about their design philosophy.

    Edit: A google search gives the third image on this page: http://rooc.offtopicproductions.com/...-level-design/

    Or diagram on this page: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/e...fe_soliloquy/6
    Last edited by demagogue; 5th Jul 2012 at 10:04.

  10. #10
    Taking a break
    Registered: Dec 2002
    How do you design immersion?

  11. #11
    Member
    Registered: Dec 2001
    Location: Central Europe
    You might want to take a look at Randy's GDC lectures on design in stealth games. Basically it's about systemic design that responds well to player's actions rather than authoring the experience. Lately he was talking about that while presenting Dishonored so that's probably his favorite design approach

    Here are the two lectures in .ppt format: http://www.sendspace.com/file/4nnky1

  12. #12
    I'd use the soda machine from the Unatco HQ. It's all about giving the player choice, then totally ignoring it.

    (or the Unatco soda machine with LAMs all over it)

  13. #13
    Moderator
    Registered: Jan 2003
    Location: Tokyo desu
    "You will be working with Agent Orange."

  14. #14
    I recommend reading the following articles:

    Postmortem: Ion Storm's Deus Ex
    http://www.gamasutra.com/view/featur...ex.php?print=1

    Ten Years of Deus Ex
    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/tag/...rs-of-deus-ex/

    Dark Futures: Where Now? For the Immersive Sim.
    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/tag/dark-futures/

    I would also recommend checking out Warren Spector's series of lectures for his Master Class in Game Development that he taught at the University of Texas.

    http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list...7&feature=plcp

    Quote Originally Posted by demagogue View Post
    That reminds me, somebody was making a visual plot diagram to help them outline their fan mission, and it ended up being this total spider web looking thing with boxes and lines going everywhere because it was so non-linear.
    I remember seeing a diagram of every possible route/approach to completing the second mission at Battery Park. It included every fine detail whether it was picking a lock or destroying the door to hacking turrets among other things. I really wish that I had saved that image. Would anyone here happen to have it?

    Although not a representation of the the open level design typically found in an immersive sim, the following image is still somewhat relevant.



    In addition to the articles that I have made available in my previous message, I would also like to direct your attention to Arkane Studio's manifesto on game design.
    http://ttlg.com/shownews.asp?id=902

    Here is another article with regard to Arkane Studio's that also delves into Harvey Smith's previous work on games like Thief, System Shock, and Deus Ex.
    http://www.theverge.com/gaming/2012/...ex-arx-fatalis
    Last edited by SDF121; 10th Jul 2012 at 02:00.

  15. #15
    Cuddly little misanthropic hate machine
    Registered: Aug 2004
    Location: i am the avatar of tolerance
    I love how you're all responding to Koki's post seriously as if he was actually curious in asking that question.

  16. #16
    Taking a break
    Registered: Dec 2002
    Seriously.

    It was a rhetorical question. Of course you don't "design" immersion. That's like designing a game to be "good". You could argue that everything works for this, sure, but why bother. How about stop using silly buzzwords instead.

    I have no idea what "immersive sim" is supposed to be either. And how is it different from a normal sim? Is Deus Ex an immersive sim? PROTIP: It's not even a sim. ArmA or Falcon 4.0 are sims.

    You used to just say "emergent gameplay" and call it a day, what is all this newspeak

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by dethtoll View Post
    I love how you're all responding to Koki's post seriously as if he was actually curious in asking that question.
    I was simply responding to the OP.

    Quote Originally Posted by Koki View Post
    I have no idea what "immersive sim" is supposed to be either. And how is it different from a normal sim? Is Deus Ex an immersive sim?
    Warren Spector coined the term in his Postmortem for Deus Ex. You may find a link to the article in my first reply to this thread.
    Last edited by SDF121; 10th Jul 2012 at 02:01.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Koki View Post
    You used to just say "emergent gameplay" and call it a day, what is all this newspeak
    Fine, but the term "Immersive Sim" isn't exactly newspeak, it's been around for a while.

  19. #19
    Cuddly little misanthropic hate machine
    Registered: Aug 2004
    Location: i am the avatar of tolerance
    Dude, it's Koki. He doesn't care.

  20. #20
    Uh, thanks for the first few replies, but I think this thread has kind of veered off topic a little. I wasn't asking about how Looking Glass games / immersive sims are designed, but how you could represent that design philosophy with iconic visual elements from their (and Ion Storm's / Arkane's) catalogue.

  21. #21
    Of course you don't "design" immersion. That's like designing a game to be "good".
    You can design immersion. Having things like sound traveling slower than light and gravity affecting bullets goes a long way to making a game feel more real. Deus Ex and Thief had things like doors that can be damaged open, enemies that drown and can still be killed when unconscious, and good sound propagation. They were more sims than any first person game that came before them.

    ThePhotoshop:

    Thief 1: The inside of "The Haunted Cathedral".

    Thief 2: Rooftops from "Life of the Party".

    Deus Ex: Statue of Liberty. Hong Kong's Tonnochi Road. Maybe the Lucky Money dance club.

    System Shock 2: Anything really. But I would keep the inventory screen with the research tab open to show those off. I always loved how wordy and scientific the research was in SS2. Compare it to Bioshock's "+ Damage".
    Last edited by Dresden; 7th Jul 2012 at 03:47.

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by ThePhotoshop View Post
    I wasn't asking about how Looking Glass games / immersive sims are designed, but how you could represent that design philosophy with iconic visual elements from their (and Ion Storm's / Arkane's) catalogue.
    My mistake, I was confused by the wording of your initial post.

    Quote Originally Posted by ThePhotoshop View Post
    'm coming up with ways to illustrate this article (for print) that utilise something a bit more interesting than screenshots of key games.

    So what do you feel are the defining, iconic elements of all of the above?
    I was under the impression that you were wanting something more than just pictures. I now realize that you were asking for something more than simple stock photos of the game.
    Last edited by SDF121; 7th Jul 2012 at 13:02.

  23. #23
    Is that the Eidos logo in the F12 aug slot?

  24. #24
    Member
    Registered: Oct 2002
    Location: Deutschy-Deutschland / London
    ... right, so now that SDF121 has posted all the screenshots, let's try and get some half-decent suggestions for imagery representative of immersive sims. Most of them involve stealth and environmental manipulation (beyond just shooting bullets into things) to a large degree. I think it probably should involve some or all of the following: crouching in shadow, air-vents, leaning, fiddling/hacking something important looking while the guard a few metres away stares into the middle distance and mutters something about rats, and some kind of visible two-tier AIs - bots (accessable to player manipulation) patrolling the background, maybe, and humans (not accessable) the foreground? I mean, that's getting quite specifically deus ex, but that's the kind of mood-board I'd put up.

    I presume this is going to be an illustration of some kind, right?

  25. #25
    How about a scene where the character is hidden in the shadows while hacking into an enemy computer terminal to turn the guards machines against them? The image could show the character up on the second floor balcony of a hanger manipulating a computer while down below a machine is seen attacking a group of guards. Some of the guards will attempt to engage the machine while others will flee (to sound the alarm) and run into a few explosives strategically placed by the player. Perhaps there can be some turrets on the ceiling that the character hacks into as well. Maybe some cameras that he can disable. The hacking of the turrets and the robot should be apparent from them turning on the guards but perhaps the cameras being hacked can be demonstrated with a red light (instead of a green light) by the lens or perhaps the artist could illustrate these options on the screen of the computer that the character is hacking. Alternatively, you could always go for something more simple that represents the ability to lure your enemies into a trap by having the character hiding around a corner waiting to beat an unsuspecting guard with a melee weapon. With regard to this specific example, a certain piece of System Shock 2 concept art comes to mind.

    Last edited by SDF121; 10th Jul 2012 at 01:58.

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