Tobold's Blog
Monday, February 08, 2010
Immersion is in the eye of the beholder

Wolfshead is worried that the immersion of World of Warcraft is eroding. Apparently he used to be immersed in WoW, and now, thanks to additions like Mr. T and the Dungeon Finder, he is not any more. Immersion is a very personal thing, but I find it a bit strange to draw the line right there. At what point was World of Warcraft so realistic that you could suspend your disbelief and immerse yourself in the fantasy world?

The latest WoW patch added the last wing of Icecrown Citadel to the game, and now it is possible for the first time to bring a long series of events to a conclusion by battling Arthas, the Lich King, himself. So imagine this top guild, in shiny armor battling their way through Icecrown Citadel, to finally arrive in Arthas's throne room. How does the fight start? Well, the warrior walks up to Arthas and shouts: "Hey, Arthas, yo mama is so fat, the last time she took a sun bath at the Borean Tundra beach, D.E.H.T.A. tried to roll her back into the water." At which point Arthas, apparently sensitive to yo mama jokes, in spite of being the most powerful and most cunning being in the World of Warcraft, starts to mindlessly attack the well-armored warrior who taunted him, instead of doing something a 5-year old could figure out: Attacking the healers first, then the dps, and ignoring the tanks. Taunting also works perfectly on creatures like skeletons (diet jokes?), animals, and even blobs of slime. Actually the only enemies who are completely immune to taunts are real humans, you can't taunt other players in PvP. And that isn't a recent addition to WoW, taunt always worked like that. And you find that realistic and immersive?

Fact is that not only World of Warcraft, but pretty much any MMORPG is full of completely unrealistic rules. You can swim in full metal armor, but you can't climb a 4-feet high fence. Killed monsters pop up back into existence 5 minutes later. People in virtual worlds never sleep, and never go to the toilet, except some dwarves for comic effect. It is always winter in some places, always summer in others. Not to mention that orcs, fireballs, dragons, and flying gryphons aren't very realistic to start with.

So what makes some people look at some flying dragon, whose weight and wingspan clearly mean that aerodynamically he could never lift off, and find that dragon totally realistic and immersive, and then meet Haris Pilton or a gnome on a motorcycle and start complaining about erosion of immersion? Funnily enough that gnome on the motorcycle is actually *more* realistic than the fire-breathing dragon, not less. How come the same person who never had any problems teleporting people to the dungeon entrance using the meeting stone is now complaining that teleporting people inside using the Dungeon Finder is breaking his immersion?

Berating a developer for this or that feature breaking immersion is just silly, if the whole game is not realistic at all to start with. Immersion is in the eye of the beholder, and among other things can also depend on totally subjective variables like how often somebody saw the same content. Maybe that same dragon looked realistic and the player was totally immersed in the action of fighting him the first time around, but on his 10th fight against the same dragon all immersion is gone. One player finds one feature immersive, the next player thinks it breaks his immersion. How could a developer possibly create a fantasy world which is immersive to everyone at every time? It just is impossible!

I think that various comments on lack of immersion tell us more about the state of burnout of the commenter than about the game in question. Immersion is too subjective for us to be able to measure it and draw lines of which physical laws fantasy worlds can and cannot break. If you are pretending to be a fireball-throwing elf mage, you just look silly if you start discussing realism.
I think you are confusing realism with breaking the fourth wall. Seeing things that reference the real world directly (like Haris Pilton or the night elf Mohawk) are annoying.

Realism needs to be suspended for disbelief in certain circumstances. I doubt anybody could afford a PC that actively depicted WoW world by the lore (200,000 citizens in Stormwind City alone, for instance), or taking two weeks on a mount to go from one part of the Barrens to another.

Things like fireballs can be explained with pseudo-realism, as long as they are consistent with the game lore. Mohawk hand grenades are not.

Fireballs make sense if the Twisting Nether was real, and one could call upon fireballs. Swimming in full plate is just another gameplay mechanic. If they made it so plate users had to fully remove plate (which wouldn't disappear within a second, but rather you'd have to remove each piece, in a process taking around 2 or 3 minutes, maybe less), otherwise they'd sink and drown would be lame.

Although Dungeons & Dragons Online game up with a middle ground for this particular problem. Rather then making full plate sink you or having to remove all your armour, they made it so you'd lose breath much quicker if you had full plate equipped, but also making full plate take a few seconds to remove.

These types of compromises can keep immersion, while not ruining gameplay.

Fantasy RPGs and MMORPGs have had a slow and long history of trying to find a balance between realism and gameplay purposes.

Realism is a tricky word, because what makes sense in one world could be very different in another. Who knows for sure what is real and not? Nobody can even prove the world exists or no conclusively, and nobody knows what lies behind the Milky Way Galaxy.

Azeroth could be a real place for all we know, but of course we must believe in evidence first, otherwise anything is possible.

Dragons may have existed, and certainly theories like aerodynamics can be proven wrong, or work differently in different environments.

The only absolute truth is that there is no absolute truth.
You knew I was going to comment lengthily on that, didn't you *grin*?

Immersion, realism, consistency, credibility, believability .. the biggest problem here is the word you use.

Realism is the worst expession of the four. Anybody who wants a game to be realistic should play real life. That's the most realistic one.

I love classic fantasy and SciFi stories. I accept it if a mage can cast a spell. It's part of the fantasy world. I also accept warp speed in SciFi, because it's necessary for a majority of the stories to actually be possible to be told. The point is that I dislike all that, and only accept it.

I dislike warp speed. As I dislike that undead in PvP can be sheeped and in PvE cannot be sheeped. The difference is that warp speed is necessary, as are respawning bosses. But sheeping undead isn't necessary absolutely.

All MMOs are based on a simulation. They start as a simulation. A simulation of a fantasy story. They need to make compromises to actually get the gameplay going and not some unplayable and boring thing like 2nd life (or worse).

These compromises should, however, only be made when needed. It's always a trade off. Finding a way to keep WoW playable with taunting only working on living sentient creatures and fire spells not working against fire creatures should be a goal of Blizzard in my opinion.

Blizzard had these things before. They got rid of them in favor of gameplay. It is a tradeoff. The question is: How many tradeoffs can you make before you destryoed the game? Blizzard is testing the limits for years now.

When I started Fallout 3 some time ago again I put myself in the mind of the guy who just got out of the vault and asked myself: "What would I do now if I were him?".

Faullout 3 isn't perfect, but it is possible to play the game for hours with this mindset. I had a lot of fun while doing so.

But every so often I realize that the monsters seem to autolevel with me .. that challenged my believe. I knew I could travel to an area early to set the level of the creatures there and then later come back and kick them in their ass, because they are so low level! This is not the kind of wicked fantasy I like. It's not even intended by the developer.

I go along and at some point realize that I carry 10 full body armors in my backpack to sell them. Again, I start to cry (mentally :). It's hard to keep asking myself the question if the world doesn't seem to be worth believing in.

My favourite region in WoW is are the woods northwest of Arugals tower. That's where a young druid had to learn how to swim. (Nowadays the quest isn't necessary anymore).
The woods are dark and look dangerous; the music fits perfectly. I manage to start to ask me the question "What would I do in this situation?" I start to evade the dangerous monsters .. then I realize that I should kill them to gain exp. It makes me cringe.

Everybody, even you Tobold, likes the simulation aspect of the MMORPGs. You wouldn't like the characters to be replaced by geometric objects, because it's better for the frame rate.

It's always a trade off.
It's just that some people weigth the simulation aspect more heavily than the gameplay aspect.

Most importantly, I hate unnecessary tradeoffs.
I think that must be wrong.

When you participate in a game world you subject yourself to a particular set of basic assumptions, or axioms (such as that elves exist, they can become mages, which mages can throw fire). Those axioms define the world (of warcraft) and you immerse yourself within the world by acting subject to those axioms.

One of the base axioms in Warcraft was that you are entering a vast, living world, with shining deserts, vast mountains and hidden jungle craters. When you were forced to travel to the dungeon and find real people to help you complete it, this was reinforced to you. This immersive world has been replaced with an icon on your UI so that you teleport to the dungeon and group with a bunch of silent (other than "gogogo") faceless randoms who you will never see again. The immersive world is gone.
WoW has always been weak with some aspects of immersion (community, social tools, housing, graphics ... etc). I still find WoW to be an immersive game because it keeps me busy with fun activities/goals and has a half decent lore story.

One thing that has really improved the immersion of WoW for me has been reading the various Warcraft novels that have been written. After reading the books you see lots of stuff in the game that is in keeping with the stories in the books.

If WoW could somehow incorporate some form of player/guild housing I would find it extremly immersive compared to the other MMO's out there.
It's difficult to explain but for myself and several people I know the LFG tool is what has finally made us say why am I playing this?

Immersion is a good as word as any, but what it means is that instead of seeing WoW as a world full of adventure and exploration, it suddenly "snapped" into being a fantasy themed video game. It no longer feels like a world full of adventure, it feels like it might as well be any online shooter game like counterstrike but with a dragons and magic feel.

It's a subtle point, and things like the motorcyles and the mohawk grenades didn't help, but it's the LFG tool which for me has made me think this isn't the game I subscribed too any more! Where did the the world go?

I'm not saying that the LFG tool is bad for the game, many people like it. But WoW has changed into a very different game because of it and I know several people who have basically stopped playing since it due to a vague feeling the game isn't the same any more. Yes they were probably burned out, and this is the final excuse, but I think there is more than that. It's a sense that the world of exploration and adventure suddently went "poof" and vanished and got replaced with a dungeon queue.
To a larger extent, I agree with Wolfshead.

WoW took a subset of the fantasy genre, brought it to life in an 'immers-ive' world and invited you to come along and set foot in it. That world suspends reality with the likes of Dragons, Mages and elves but still operates within the mechanics of a classic fantasy setting. You visit, suspend reality and immerse yourself in a setting for a few hours away from the real world.

Then, fool, Mr 'T' comes along... /sigh

Back to the real world and reminded of a (IMHO) crass advertising gimmick. The epic feeling has been eroded away like a bad tooth with decay and it's only getting worse.

As mentioned, I think you are discussing realism T. Realism is there, because we accept Dragons to be a sensible inclusion in a fantasy world. I personally would prefer not to see 'B' and 'C' list celebrities getting shout outs as this isn't a sensible inclusion that extends the suspension of reality and effectively the immers-ive nature of an MMO of this type and genre.

My use of the word 'immers-ive' is due to fact I am fairly sure there is no such word as 'immersive'.
As others have noted here and over at that's a terrible idea, realism doesn't mean immersion and vice versa. A game, movie, or story can be very immersive while being completely unrealistic. Willing suspension of disbelief and consistency in the fictional worl go a long way towards this. It is easy to accept a premise like "magic works here" for a fictional world and still be immersed in it.

That said, wow was nevery very immersive to me. Dragon age was on the other hand and it is hardly realistic either.
I think game immersions works differently to novel or film immersion.

While other mediums are about the story games are about gameplay and immersion-breaking means breaking the flow of gameplay.

For example a significant number of players don't like switching from an avatar to a vehicle. It's immersion breaking because you're immersed in being a warrior then suddenly you're a dragon with unfamiliar controls.

I remember a complaint here about the Marionisation of WoW, of the game becoming increasingly platformy. That's loss of immersion, a feeling that your familiar and competent Priest was being asked to jump through unfamiliar hoops.

I must say it is ironic that Wolfshead of all people is saying this. He's been complaining for some time about lack of innovation in MMOs. Mr T grenades are utterly original and innovative, I've never heard of any game doing anything remotely similar.
I think you're making a little mistake in your post Tobold.

I believe a game needs to be, to create immersion, realistic within it's own context, not with real life.

For example, I always found UO to be very immersive. Your character WAS a human in some fantasy world and everything in the game kept reminding you of that. A lot of the actions your character could do were realistic within UO's context:
- You couldn't talk to people thousands of (ingame) miles from you without special magical crystals.
- You didn't have a button to magically find people to group with you for something
- You could walk up to some ingame ressource, realistic ones (trees, animals, ore veins, etc), and just do stuff with it, which took time and manipulation.
- You had good people and bad people. You could be a good people, or a bad one. You could even be both at the same time like some anarchist fighter or outcast following their own laws. Heck, you could play pretty much however you wanted, as long as you assumed the responsibilities that came with it.

You get the idea. Of course that all changed as UO did (welcome Trammel and all that crap).

WoW was never immersive to me which is why, unlike UO, as soon there is no longer any viable content, People just leave for months and wait for the next big patch/addon. Bit of a shame since they have a nice background overall.
Thoughtful post, but I'm going to disagree too. ;)

I agree with Nils that internal consistency is more the issue than "realism." Fire-breathing dragons obviously aren't realistic, but they're consistent with our expectations of a fantasy world.

And I don't buy the argument "the game includes immersion-breaking feature X, so it's okay to include immersion-breaking features Y and Z." Obviously no game can simulate a world perfectly, so some suspension of disbelief will always be required. But that doesn't mean that games should force suspension of disbelief where it's not necessary. Most of the features that Wolfshead mentioned, like over-use of instancing, cheesy pop-culture references, intrusive achievements, etc. don't really benefit gameplay that much.

And just based on my own experiences, I think many people value immersion more than they're willing to admit. Why do you think Blizzard spent so much money on creating a huge, beautiful world, lore-intensive quests, racial starting areas, and so forth? None of that is necessary for gameplay. I actually think the market for immersive MMOs is underserved right now (which may explain why EVE is doing so well despite its inaccessibilty).
Ah, Tobold, Tobold. Realism is not the same as immersion. Arguably, realism is the opposite of immersion. I don't "immerse into real life", after all, I just wake up in the morning.

Immersion has a lot to do with consistency, a subjective realism. You declare the rules of your world, and then you make the world behave according to them. If these rules include spell casting and flying dragons, then, in this subjective reality, mages and dragons are realistic. Immersion is the process of adopting that rule set and accepting the subjective realism. If it was objective reality, you wouldn't have to immerse.

The immersion-problem with the Dungeon Finder isn't so much its contradiction with the rules of consistency. It is how functional and goal-oriented it feels. I love the Dungeon Finder for what it does and affords. But in its incredible efficiency it edges dangerously close to making the game feel less of an "adventure", but more of an interface to a database. Which, realistically, it is.

Realistically, all our spells and abilities, all our gear, talents, panels, actions, acquisitions, deeds and failings are merely graphically augmented queries to a database. It's a pretty boring reality though, which we prefer to see masked behind the illusion of a fantasy adventure - which we immerse into.
While any MMO world is unreal, they can be self-consistent. You can be immersed into any self-consistent system. Just look at any religion. They are even less real than fireball-throwing blood elves, and have lot of followers.

Immerson breaks when the system breaks if it's no longer self-consistent, if not the same rules apply to everything.

Example: in an orbiting spaceship everything is levitating. It's very different from our planet. Yet they could get use to it. Now imagine that one and only one thing would keep its weight. That would be some interesting thing.
I think what Wolfshead is getting to, is what myself also has seen as the slippery slope of the further simplifying the game of WoW at the expense of it's virtual world and immersion.

To me, it's not as much the immersion as it is the taking away of the virtual world and replacing it entirely with the themepark design.

At least before the themepark aspect of the game wasn't always in your face with instant travel everywhere, no instanced pvp/pve around at your fingertips anywhere or anytime..

Blizzard has slowly been making these changes over time so it has been fairly gradual, and in some ways necessary due to the games progression.. as in who really wants long travel times anymore in a MMO we've been playing for this long? While it'd make the game feel more real again, it'd put very real life constraints on playing the game with additional time wasted to get from point a to b.

So while the dungeon finder trivialized alot of interaction and experience, its make getting to the core of the game of running dungeons and gearing much easier which is a good thing. I can let go of missing the big pvp battles and meet ups outside various dungeons - they had their time and wow has grown up - so have I, as I just don't have that kind of time to invest anymore into it for trivial things.
Realism <> Immersion.

I have no problems watching a Sci Fi movie like Star Wars or a fantasy movie like Lotr. Of course I know that neither are "realistic".

They both build a world. And we have a good image of these worlds in our heads. If you go ahead and put a terminator in Lotr then you're breaking those world rules.

The immersion will indeed be broken at different time for different people. But some things are just plain wrong. I remember playing Dragon Age when suddenly an NPC popped up with "go visit and buy the DLC!". That was one hell of an immersion breaker.
I'm not saying that WoW is never immersive, or that immersion can never be broken. Obviously a billboard with a Coca-Cola add on the wall of the auction house of Orgrimmar would be immersion-breaking to most players.

But I think you are making life too easy for yourself by only discussing the most extreme cases.

My point is that where the exact line is will be different from one player to the next. Some players don't mind motorcycles, others do. Many people don't mind Draenei, others call the "space-goats" and think they break immersion. And why should the Dungeon Finder teleport be bad, and the Meeting Stone teleport not?
What Carra said. Realism does not equal immersion.

From a literature point of view, immersion is an author's ability to draw you into what they've created -- whether any of it is realistic or not is irrelevant as long as the work itself is internally consistent. (Lack of internal consistency tends to be un-immersive since it reveals the process (e.g. of writing, but of the game works too).)
And to throw some oil on the fire here, if you want to see a game forum errupt with opinions, talk about the so called "immersion breaking feature" called FAST TRAVEL in a game such as Fallen Earth. As it is, there are none, it can take you more than hour to get from Sector 3 to Sector 1 [another hour back], and there's no autopilot option either.

So some would say yes the idea of vast distances are part of their "immersion" and adding portals or trains would "break immersion" .

But on the other more "practical" side of things, players are putting on an episode of Heroes on their dual screen while glancing over to make sure his avatar is not getting stuck to a tree. How's that for immersion ?

In short: No point in adding or removing "immersion" related features when they are not actually fun or practical.

I suppose it's like the summoning stones...yea might be immersive the first time running all the way to a dungeon you're doing twice a week, 2nd time you will not even be looking at the screen while doing it, i guarentee you.
Meeting stones didn't break immersion because pretty much noone ever used them.
Lately I was asking myself, why I actually like MMOs. After all you are quite right, when you say that it is incredibly hard to ignore the myriad of immersion-breaking things in MMOs.

I found out that it is the "difficulty". That needs explanation :)

I am purely talk about the difficulty that is connected with how long something takes you to succeed. Obviously, WoW is incredibly easy except for the most recent raid dungeon.

But I burn through all modern RPG (Masseffect 1/2, Dragon Age etc) in a few days and seem to be unable to replay them. A few days from being noone to superhero of the universe.

In MMOs this takes time. It can take months to reach the newest full T-Set. And to gain entrance into a guild that allows you to reach your goal has always been quite challenging.

I started over four times now in WoW. Selling my account and starting anew. It always was a lot of fun. I might do the same with cataclysm.

But the main conclusion is strange:
I play MMOs, because it's more of a struggle to build your character. And I even accept all the consistency-breaks. At least up to now.

Onyxia coming back without any in-game explanation and an endgame that consists of dalaran+teleports .. I'm pretty certain I won't touch WoW until Cataclysm. Even then I will have to see how many Ragnaros and Nefraians will roam the world .. .. ..
Would't it be cool if Arthas came back ? yeah! let's do it!! .. .. ..

Since I am also terrified by the EVE GUI and the headache I get from the 0.3mm large letters I will probably stop playing computer games until then.

A shame.
Well, he has a point. At least some people had to actually go to the instance to summon the rest; odds are if you weren't a total prick that you would have to venture out into the world to summon your pals from time to time.

Now, once you hit 80 I am always in Ironforge. When I want to do an instance, I que up. Do the instance. Get ported back to Ironforge. Rinse and repeat.

Perhaps the term the original guy wants is "engagement". He's not feeling engaged in the world, because so much of it essentially drops off the map entirely now once you are done with it.
My point is that where the exact line is will be different from one player to the next. Some players don't mind motorcycles, others do. Many people don't mind Draenei, others call the "space-goats" and think they break immersion. And why should the Dungeon Finder teleport be bad, and the Meeting Stone teleport not?

You are right in that the line is going to be different for everyone, however, I think it is safe to say that Blizzard is moving WoW in a certain direction, periodically adding new mechanics, NPCs, etc that expand the intrusion of "game" on "world" and that on a long enough timeline will eventually destroy everyone's ability to suspend disbelief. At some point, WoW will be a "game" to everyone and a "world" to noone.

Is there anything wrong with that? Inherently, no. But since I want to play in worlds it means that Blizzard has lost me as a paying customer.
Any work of fiction can be immersible if it is consistent with itself. That being said, tongue-in-cheek RL references like Paris Hilton or Mohawk T have always been a part of WoW - if one wants to complain about that they should have spent the last 5 years complaining.

'And why should the Dungeon Finder teleport be bad, and the Meeting Stone teleport not?'

I would argue there is a quite a difference there. The former mechanism is well hidden within ritual trappings - players have to 'summon', which is very in-gamey - while the latter is just a push of a button. One could make an argument that immersion quality is determined by how well the game designers manage to disguise the game mechanics.
Rather than realism, a better word might be believable, plausible, or consistent with lore and the 'science' of the world.

I like how even when Blizzard is breaking the fourth wall, they refuse to admit it. They still mix it into the RP and so it becomes disturbingly familiar rather than out of place.
Actually, the game only consists of Dalaran and the Dungeon Finder if all you do is 5-man instances. If you raid or PvP or do any dailies or holiday-related stuff, you will be leaving Dalaran and flying around a lot.

Anyway, while most of the comments here have focused on the realism =/= immersive connection, I think the truth of the matter is that Blizzard themselves just like to have fun with their fantasy world. In WC3, for example, we did have the story of Thrall, and Arthas, and Sylvanas, and Illidan, and those were dramatic and wonderful, but then we also had The Biggest Panda Ever. In WoW, we still have Thrall and Arthas and all them, but we also have a reference to Paris Hilton in Shattrath, references to Link and the Mario Bros. in Un'goro Crater, and hilarious treatises on the proper use of teleporting portals in Dalaran.

If you want a truly serious fantasy world, maybe LotRO would be more suited for your tastes, I dunno, but Blizzard, and WoW, has always had fun with its world.
One nit pick; I always considered taunt to be a magic spell. It wasn't that they were saying anything in particular, it was that they were casting a sort of mental clouding/illusion on the target. Same for demoralizing shout, and so on.

(Earthdawn is where I got this idea from, where every person in the world, from ditch digger to warrior to wizard uses magic for most things. The ditch digger doesn't dig, he uses a "create ditch" spell over and over.)
I really don't get the game world people crying foul over the the Dungeon Finder. As people said, how much immersion was there with stones? I constantly would be the only one to move from Dal just to get other pugs say "can you summon me?".

Also I find the only time a game world gives that immersive feel is the first time through. After that, nothing has changed. That is the biggest difference between game and reality. Someday maybe a MMO will find a way to change that. But as it is the only thing different is seeing other players. The NPC's are the same, the texture on the ground is the same, maybe it's a different time of day or a weather effect but that's about it.

I don't need to fly afk through a zone I have seen dozens of times to go to a instance I have been to a dozen of times.

For me I like the tool but I am just burnt out on WoW. Because I have seen almost all of it and not much in the atmosphere is different which is why the exp will be fun but like everything once I see it all it will get boring.
There was an interview taken of one of the designers from “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.” In it, he said that Science Fiction (fantasy applies too) is wonderful because you have a blank slate and can make anything you want, and can make up the rules. He was speaking in terms of design, but I think it applies to the worlds physics etc. too, like magic. However, he continues, once you establish that design or principle, you have to be consistent, otherwise you break the world.

I think that discussions on immersion deal with the same principles, which is really what he was talking about. If you don't stay consistent with the rules of the world you create, you lose people’s interest. Perhaps not everyone, (or even most, if the real joy of that thing is not so much the world or story, but the visuals or gameplay) but it devalues the story and the world. MMORPGs are in particular danger here, as is a long running franchise like Star Trek, where eventually some writer or director may decide to do something against the established design, or world rules.

To use a television/film example, I never got into Highlander the TV show. I started to, but lost interest once I realized that the series was taking place after the original film. The original film had some very specific rules set up for that world. (We won’t even get into Highlander 2, and what a mess that was). Was the TV show good? Yeah, I hear it was quite good. For me though, they had shattered the believability, and I lost interest in the world. It's not that I really believed in immortal swordsmen running around hacking off each other’s heads in a grand century spanning game. It was that they had set up very specific rules: there can be only One left at the end who gets the “prize,” and at the end of the film, our hero is that One. The sequel material did a poor job of trying to connect with that logic and work into it. Something as simple as the Fate Stay Night Anime setup would have been sufficient. If they had explained that there were actually multiple games, and multiple prizes, and the first movie was just one of many such contests throughout the ages, then it would have made more sense.

You can always add or refine designs, ideas, etc. but there must be harmony between the new material and the old for good immersive world building.
First of all, I'd agree with all the others who have said that realism isn't the same thing as immersion. Immersion is abut the game playing by its won rules that have been set out in terms of the background lore.

Now all games break those rules to a limited extent - immersion isn't broken in a binary way. When it becomes annoying is when that "rule breaking" becomes persistent and intrusive. That's why the Mr T masks were so much more worse than Haris Pilton. She is locked away in a tavern in Shattrath, so doesn't intrude much in day-to-day gameplay and can easily be avoided. The mohawks were all over the place and you had no option to avoid them, as others could hunt you down and cast them on you.

I hate many of the RL festivals that are transplanted into WOW for a similar reason. They don't fit the game world, plus they are all over the place & are hard to avoid.
WoW has never really been an immsersive game. It's always had references to the real world. Now people complain because they don't like the reference that is being made or because there is an interface in their game to make grouping with others easier?

Sounds like people are trying to find something to complain about.
I'm with Gevlon on this one...

creating a game that obeys its own rules is the most important thing a developer can do to allow players to suspend their disbelief...

as long as there is nothing within the game that defies the rules and assumptions that the game has set forth, then it allows for an immersive experience... however, the degree of immersion is dependent on the player and how they perceive the game world.
Well said, Cliff! Although I wonder how somebody who made a movie like "Wrath of khan" could possibly have possessed such insight! :)

The problem with the masks is that they are unnecessary. Everybody here agrees that some concessions need to be made to arrive at a fun gameplay. The problem is when people start to deconstruct the world, just because it is fun.

Humor is an unexpected connection of neurons in the brain.
That's why evolution (women in particular) favored it (among men): People who are able to connect two ideas that are only very slightly connected are creative and resourceful.

Classic example is Churchill:
"If you were my husband, I'd poison your tea!"
"Madam, if you were my wife, I'd drink it!"

Breaks of consistency in stories are very easy. Many people think it is fun, though. (Many still laugh about flan-in-the-face-jokes). But in my opinion it is just sad.

Let's Arthas last words be: "Fuck you, morons!!"
Many people will find this funny - and enjoyable ... Try it a second time, a third .. and eventually it isn't funny.

Try to become even more absurd, like Thrall jumping around in girl clothes and many people will laugh about it. Once; perhaps a second time ...
Eventually you have deconstructed the world and you cannot be extreme enough (make Thrall perform sexual acts) without everybody turning away. It's not funny anymore, because nobody expected anything else.

It is the story of the class clown...
This post seems to assume that 'immersion' is the result of the realism of a game. Given that the game being discussed, World of Warcraft, features seven foot tall green orcs that cast fireballs, this assumption is not a very useful way to think about the topic.

I think a better way to think about 'immersion' is in terms of the internal consistency of the game world. In terms of combat mechanics, do you get better at fighting if you fight a lot of monsters? In terms of

I think the objection to things like Mr T and the Dungeon Finder is that they break the existing 'physics' (not merely the physical laws of gravity, etc, but the rules for how the world works physically, socially, etc) of the world. In the case of warlock summons, we understand that warlocks have powerful magic abilities that allow them to move people around. In the case of the Dungeon Finder, we have an unexplained deux ex machina that teleports a party of people that do not know each other to a location they may never have been before. That, I believe, is what breaks the immersion: things happen that cannot be explained within the context of the game world. If you character were unable to explain how they entered an instance, that is an example of immersion breaking.
Of all people I expected you Tobold to understand the difference between breaking immersion and suspending belief of the unrealistic. I think the difference has been explained well enough here though so I won’t bother.

Blizzard has created a world and they need to abide by the original rules they created for the world or they risk breaking immersion. I honestly feel WoW is really just a game now and not a "world". It lacks the feel of a world and feels more like a continuous string of levels like you would find in any other game.

The lack of immersion in WoW doesn't make the game any less fun. In fact I think Blizzard is making the right decisions to keep WoW popular. It is about giving as much content to as many people as possible now. Immersion requires someone to hold something back. Like all features in a MMO we can't have one thing without sacrificing something else. Blizzard has loosened those reigns.
It's indeed a shame you're dropping Eve because of the GUI, Nils.
I've resubscribed to Eve after quitting WoW and aside of (finally) starting to get the hang of things, the game is getting very immersive to me (or whatever the proper way to say that in English is) as well :)

At first when the LFG tool in WoW was released I was very excited and enjoyed it a lot, but that only lasted a month. So I think it did remove an important part of immersion.
Wow, very few people agree with Tobold?

I'm inclined to think that immersion in current MMOs is practically nonexistent. Not only is the world around you scarcely changing, but your interactions with the world are low in complexity too.

This is what immersion is, if you ask me. What can you do with this stuff?

That said, the Dungeon Finder does take away immersion because there's something that you won't do anymore (thanks to that automation)--find dungeons.
Of all people I expected you Tobold to understand the difference between breaking immersion and suspending belief of the unrealistic.

I understand the difference, and I agree that Mr T grenades break immersion. I do however NOT agree that the Dungeon Finder breaks immersion. I teleport around Azeroth all the time, since 2004, and I'm playing in instanced dungeons since then as well. The Dungeon Finder does nothing that WoW didn't do previously, it just does it more efficiently.
The Dungeon Finder does nothing that WoW didn't do previously, it just does it more efficiently.

The DF isn't a major problem in my opinion either. It is another nail, but in contrast to many others it also has significant advantages.

For Cataclysm, however, i'd suggest Blizzard to disable the DF for Cataclysm dungeons for the first few months. Just so the players actually get to know where the dungeons are .. ..
The actual "world" part of warcraft is now irrelveant. The sense of play and immersion one feels from travelling and adventuring in the actual regions is gone.

I've seen it happen many a time where someone dies and doesn't know the way back to the instance, or takes the wrong door. The game feels very different now --- very "thin".
I do find that the dungeon finder breaks immersion; and here's why:

Previously, when I was being teleported to a dungeon, the agent of that action was another character: two characters stood by the summoning stone and activated its awesome magical forces to tranlocate me from where I was to the focus of this magical energy, the summoning stone itself. This can be completely immersive. I can totally believe in a universe where such things are possible. I could write a Hollywood script with this sort of behaviour in it, and the audience would accept it.

However, none of this magic is present in the Dungeon-Finder summons. There is no agent of change, other than the dungeon finder itself. Why am I being summoned to this dungeon? For no in-world reason. Simply as part of some database mechanics. Who is the agent of change? No in-world character. Just me, the out-of-world wetware, and the aforementioned out-of-world software.

Same thing goes for the queueing mechanism. This also is far from immersive - I don't have to interact with any in-world character or object to join the queue. I simply click a few buttons for no in-world reason.

How would any of this fit into a movie script?

It would not have been beyond Blizzard's wit to have spun some web of fantasy around this, but they chose not to. The result is that each time I queue for a dungeon, and each time I am teleported into one, I'm reminded "this is just a computer game. You're staring at pixels on a screen".
By the way, to address Nils' last point

"For Cataclysm, however, i'd suggest Blizzard to disable the DF for Cataclysm dungeons for the first few months"

I'd prefer a dungeon finder where you are never selected for a random dungeon whose entrance you have not previously found.
I think part of it is people don't think about the consequences of magic or whatever technology. If you could teleport, you can be darn sure some people would devote a whole service industry to teleport you around, because there would be demand. Realistically, it's the zeppelins and gryphon that break immersion, and the teleport that's more realistic.

But that's the difference between good science fiction and bad fantasy. In good science fiction, an author will come up with a new technology (and that's all magic is) and really delve into all the ramifications to society of that invention. In fantasy, that doesn't happen. So you have teleportation but no NPC vendors selling teleportation services, which is ridiculous. But then, it would be game breaking maybe, but also, isn't "fantasy".
I don't think it's a lack of immersion that explains the distaste towards Mr. T or Paris Hilton. Blizzard has played fast and loose with its theme ever since "stop poking meeeeee". I think the point rather is that Mr. T and Paris Hilton are stupid.
But that's the difference between good science fiction and bad fantasy. In good science fiction, an author will come up with a new technology (and that's all magic is) and really delve into all the ramifications to society of that invention. In fantasy, that doesn't happen.

Never thought about it this way. But it seems you are right.
However, I'd love a consistent fantasy story - and I am certainly not the only one.. strange that there is demand, but no supply :(
I don't understand why anyone would complain about something breaking immersion in WoW now. Only now?

WoW is a lot more about gameplay mechanics than immersion, and pretty much always has been. I've never seen WoW as being particularly immersive.

One example? Enrage Timers are old enough and don't make any logical sense at all, other than being a gameplay mechanic. I mean seriously, why would any creature hold back enormously whilst fighting a bunch of X people trying to kill it for 10 minutes and then get 'angry' and kill them all in no time at all. Errrm. Right.
Look to movies as a good example of accepting the art form and "suspension of disbelief" in particular.

There are many psychological rules that make sense surrounding this, from Bugs Bunny, to Lord of the Rings.

Like the WanderingPhilosopher says, under certain rules realism can be suspended but it still has to follow logical rules.

A fantasy world with wizards and dragons, easy enough, until you introduce a dated pop-culture reference(but that stuff can be done, as in shows like Xena and Hercules- they're "colloquialisms" that are twisted to fit that "time period" or fantasy setting).

So even playing the game bye pressing various buttons on a UI can fit into this. That side of it is as simple as how you are viewing or entering this world, and it's no deeper that one is by turning on the TV, going to the movies, or booting up a User Interface that has various tools on it.

I do think that throwing addons here and there can start to separate the suspension of disbelief in some people, but that is only my opinion of it.

In the end, there are intricate and not so intricate rules to govern suspension of disbelief to let the reader/gamer "enter" that world and relate with every aspect of it. Breaking that SOD by way of introducing elements that simply "don't fit" like pop-culture references, certain physics breakers, etc... can break "immersion" which I just view as being the same as "suspension of disbelief" when I read books or watch TV and movies.
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