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Immersion? The word is thrown around quite a bit by both developers and PR people. Every once in a while some get up in arms about the specifics as there isn’t a single form of immersion which fits all situations.
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Immersion is about focusing on a piece of media so much that one’s sense of time and space is warped from the real world to a fictional one.
As such immersion is all about interfaces. Without smooth interfaces any attempt at immersion by the user is interrupted by a wide assortment of annoyances.
When it comes to digital media there are two distinct forms of Immersion.
Let’s see if you can figure out which is used by them marketing executives.
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“Immersion specific to the interfaces between the user and the computer.”
– Physical Input: keyboard, mouse, joystick, etc.
– Audiovisuals: graphics and sound
– Graphical user interface: menus & HUD
Badly designed UIs, a broken key on the keyboard or graphical glitches all break the superficial immersion, but superficial immersion is fast to regain.
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“Immersion specific to the interfaces between the player (user’s avatar) and the digital environment”
– World interactions: All the ways the player can interact with the environment.
– Actors in the world: All the actors in the world, and how they interact with each other, the world and the player.
Some fine ways to break deep immersion:
-Have seemingly usable items in the environment but don’t allow the player to interact with them, even if that would be helpful and make complete sense in the context of the world. For instance doors which can only be opened by NPCs following the script or items glued to their place.
– Characters behaving in ways that make little sense in the context of the world, e.g. a vendor going from selling equipment to “Want to save your game?” or a character’s sole existence being giving the player a single quest and otherwise just standing there.
Deep immersion can be achieved even if superficial immersion doesn’t hold water, it just takes longer to attain that way.
If deep immersion is lost it can be a deal breaker.
(World driven design is a great way to achieve deep immersion)
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PS. When PR people put next-gen graphics and fish AI in the same sentence as immersion, they are blabbering about superficial immersion.