The Soapbox: Inconvenience is not immersion in MMOs or anywhere else

Inconvenience is not immersion.

This strikes me as something rather ridiculous to type; to mildly paraphrase Dan Harmon, it seems like should be one of the more automatic things to tell people, like “I am a human being” or “I have skin” or “I breathe oxygen.” And yet I see this coming up, time and again, the idea that accessibility is somehow a boundary to immersion. Or that you need this sort of tedium in order to have genuine roleplaying or some other tribute to broken mishmashes and unnecessary inconvenience.

Except that, as mentioned, inconvenience is not immersion. They mean two different things. If you’re conflating the two, you’re pushing two unrelated concepts together in a way usually seen in clueless movie executives. (“This movie about young adults with a love triangle did well, so every movie with young adults probably needs a love triangle.”) You are, I assume, smarter than that.

Let’s get some definitions out of the way. Immersion is about losing yourself in the game world, about the barrier between the game (or movie, or book, or whatever) disintegrating for a while. You’re completely lost in the world. Inconvenience, on the other hand, is something obnoxious that you have to do that tacks on time without being particularly pleasant.

It’s important to point out that immersion is about losing yourself, not about being in the same state as the people in the game. To use a perfect example, when you’re really immersed in Fire Emblem, you don’t start thinking, “I am a dozen different soldiers, some of whom are riding pegasi.” You just lose the barrier between the world and the game. You are in that moment, directing, feeling the moment, giving yourself that illusion of directing a fierce battle with tactical acumen.

See, it's always dark and you need to have someone carrying a torch instead of fighting, and wait, come back.

In most classic Fire Emblem games, one of the core mechanics of gameplay is that lost units are, well, lost. Someone catches an inopportune arrow in the face and bam, they’re gone for good, no saving throw. More recent titles usually allow you to opt for having your defeated units return after the conclusion of the battle, which has been decried as reducing the immersion of the games, since now you just get your “dead” units back instead of having them be permanently lost.

Except… it really doesn’t. Losing units permanently can create interesting gameplay moments, like deciding whether you want to replay a battle to avoid losing someone important. But that doesn’t affect your immersion. If you decide that you can’t lose someone, you just reset the game and start it over. It doesn’t create immersion; it reduces immersion because you’re more likely to pull yourself out and focus on the mechanics rather than the moment.

Of course, the Fire Emblem series has yet to produce an MMO. (It’d be interesting to see how that would work, but that’s a different article altogether.) But the genre is full of instances wherein people argue that convenience destroys your immersion. Maps. Fast travel. Instanced dungeons. Consensual PvP. Point to any convenience, and you’ll hear someone saying that it destroys any sense of immersion.

But it really doesn’t. Because immersion isn’t inconvenience. Immersion isn’t about whether or not you are actually stuck in a deep, dark dungeon without any way to get out; immersion is about whether or not you feel as if you’re in a deep, dark dungeon.

When I was playing Final Fantasy XI, at one point I was in Ordelle’s Caves as a relatively low-level White Mage with someone high-level helping me grab my race-specific armor. We nabbed it, but my high-level ally had to jet unexpectedly, leaving me stranded by an exit. And, unfortunately, it was the wrong exit; I was trapped. There was no way out for me safely, stuck in a place where I had no map.

This was not an immersive moment. I didn’t feel like a brave adventurer in an unfamiliar place, I felt like I was now utterly screwed by game mechanics and without anyone to help me. It was certainly inconvenient, but it wasn’t immersive.

By contrast, I remember going back on a new character years later with a full group of Trust NPCs (convenience), stomping through Delkfutt’s Tower to get the key I needed for a rank-up mission. In every way, things had been made far more convenient for me.

I feel it's fair to point out that the tower is now a great place for regular leveling.

Realistically, even dying would have only been a minor slap on the wrist rather than sending me back a long way from Jeuno to try again. But it felt immersive; I wasn’t just doing some stupid crap, I was exploring a dangerous tower where a wrong move could mean death, even though in this situation the penalty, likelihood, and consequences for that death were far lesser than they had been in the former situation.

That’s the thing about immersion. It is pretend. Same thing with roleplaying. The whole idea is simulating things without needing them to actually happen, crafting a persona. It’s like acting, something that feels real without necessarily be real. You don’t have to be hopelessly lost as a player to be hopelessly lost as a character. (I had a paladin in World of Warcraft whom I did my best to bring to inappropriate areas out-of-character; in-character, she was perpetually lost.)

That doesn’t mean it has to not be real, it means that the goal is to give you a fun experience rather than a frustrating one. Games should not be frustrating and annoying to play.

Remembering immersion in older games is easy to conflate with the inconveniences because if you’re remembering the former and you know the latter was there, there’s correlation. But there’s not causation in either direction; a lack of fast travel doesn’t make a game more immersive, just harder to explore. Remember, Ultima Online was replete with fast travel options and maps, and it seems to have done all right for itself over the past two decades – this isn’t even an old-school-vs.-new-school issue.

But even if for whatever reason, you absolutely need your game not to feature a minimap or a functional mapping system (ignoring the fact that, to go back to kicking FFXI, that game had neither and players repeatedly yelled about how it was awful), saying that it needs to have neither is forgetting that the game is releasing in the year 2017 of the common era and will need to deal with other games that are out now. And that’s going to cripple it right out of the gate.

A nod.

There are games I love that are nigh-on unplayable now. I adore Final Fantasy VI, sure, but there are many parts of the game that have not aged well, and that game doesn’t need to compete with anything. If it got a remake that didn’t improve even slightly on the usability issues the original game totally had, it would be a failure, because new players aren’t going to whistle and say, “wow, this is so immersive!” They’re going to see that it’s unpleasantly frustrating to play and then they’re going to go play something else. You don’t have to deal with this “draw a map on graph paper” garbage any more; that game will do it for you automatically.

If you’re having trouble finding immersion in more recent titles, there are lots of potential culprits. You may have less time to play, for example. You might be expecting something that the game isn’t offering you. You might have hardware or response issues that make it harder; it’s hard to feel like a ninja in games that give you ninja-like play options if they also require the reflexes of an actual ninja, for example. That’s going to futz with your immersion. Heck, it’s entirely possible that you’re so focused on looking for the inconveniences or nitpicking the details that you make it impossible to ever lose yourself in the game.

There even is a theoretical point where a game could become too convenient to play, although I have yet to see that happen. (If You Have To Burn The Rope added some form of multiplayer, maybe.) But immersion isn’t the same as inconvenience, and if you’ve made a game devoid of basic convenience features, what you have made is not an incredibly immersive experience but a garden-variety bad game.

Everyone has opinions, and The Soapbox is how we indulge ours. Join the Massively OP writers as we take turns atop our very own soapbox to deliver unfettered editorials a bit outside our normal purviews (and not necessarily shared across the staff). Think we’re spot on — or out of our minds? Let us know in the comments!
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174 Comments on "The Soapbox: Inconvenience is not immersion in MMOs or anywhere else"

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SirUrza

I remember when SWTOR launched without groupfinder… people said no groupfinder was better… it’s a better way to build the community. Yeap… sitting on fleet spamming LFG DPS Red Reaper worked out really well.

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Suikoden

Like Tiresias, I am also getting on in years and with little kids time is a premium. I can take or leave fast travel; although I think GW2 over does it. I AM a big a fan of Instance Queues however. I do not have time to sit around a hub looking for a group, or searching party finders trying to get accepted to an instance run. Let me queue up and do other stuff until it pops. Totally shocks me how many modern MMOs do not have instance queues these days.

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Tiresias

I’m getting to be pretty old at this point. I have a job, a beautiful wife, and interests outside of video games.

If you don’t respect my time I won’t play your game. That’s all there is to it.

There are many games that offer you the ability to fast travel around while still offering immersion. Destiny is a fantastic example — the moment-to-moment gameplay is so good that it’s easy to get lost in what you are doing. The fast travel even makes sense in many way — I have a spaceship waiting for me in orbit that I can translocate to at-will, so I wouldn’t I be able to use it to quickly move around the planet?

Inconvenience that keeps me from playing a game only makes me want to not play that game anymore. This isn’t the same as scarcity or time investment to earn rewards, power, or wealth in game — if I literally just have to spend time getting to places I’ve already been multiple times or waiting for a specific open world enemy to spawn for a quest or any of the other traditional time wasters, I won’t be playing that game for long.

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Video Game Professor

Someone had mentioned that flying makes sense because we live in the world of daily quests.

While it’s true, it also is, as the article described, simply bad game design. If you add a thing to make the last thing you added suck less, you’re addressing a symptom, not a disease.

You need content to justify sub prices? Daily quests are easy. Some people really like them. I was praising world quests at Legion launch, because it felt like variety. But it wasn’t too long before I ran all of them so often that it still because stale. Not long after, I cancelled. I figured I’d wait until a patch, when they introduce a million catch up mechanics, and play then, meanwhile enjoy other titles.

Best way to balance my time and gaming enjoyment while “advancing” in wow is, ironically, not playing.

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Carebear

Inconvenience is subjective though. Some feel having arrows as hunters inconvenience. Some think feeding their battle ally pet inconvenience. Some feel that having to buff your raid inconvenience..

Durenas
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Durenas

They are inconveniences. But, can you honestly say that buffing an entire raid of 40 people, one at a time, every 5 minutes is convenient? It was a huge hassle for me back in classic WoW. And yet, some people desperately want that back in the Vanilla WoW forums, because immersion.

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Carebear

we had greater blessings who were 10 min :P Buffing a 40 man raid was harsh indeed, but the point is that there were buffs that were powerful, and in outside world, buffing a player who pass by you, you were changing his whole game for the next 5 min (or 30 min in case of Priest, Mage). More often than not, it was the reason to start conversation and maybe end up questing together etc.

I take this mechanic over no buffs at all, or buffs that either you have them or not it doesnt matter. As for hunter, it made much sense to have arrows, to craft your own bullets.. to have cheap ammo and good crafted ammo, quiver, etc. That was immersion.. I stopped playing hunter when they removed all these.

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Alien Legion

For what this reader’s two cents are worth … I am not sure there has been a “The Soapbox” I agree more with than this one.

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Khrome

There’s two things which can kill immersion:

1) Fast travel. This one is simple enough. Fast travel done wrong is a sure-fire way to tell your players that they shouldn’t bother with your game world. You’re telling them that you don’t care about the world you’ve created, so you’ve added a mechanic to skip it.

This is what makes World of Warcraft such a contentious game in this regard. Flying mounts were an achievement in TBC, they felt meaningful, but they didn’t come until *after* you, as a player, have gone through most of the world on foot already. It also had some areas which needed a flying mount to access in the first place.

Access to them became a lot easier in WotLK and a non-issue in Cataclysm. WoD and beyond tried to curtail this, but did it by *only* restricting flying mount access without really changing their world design in the progress. It took the worst of both worlds and somehow came out as a lesser product.

Everquest 2 has a similar problem. Flying mounts marginalize a lot of existing content because you can skip it from very early on.

The problem is that almost everything you do on foot suddenly carries a certain connotation, a feeling of ‘why am i doing this’. It detracts from the player experience greatly.

Most importantly, it vastly decreases the size of your game world. Rather than an epic world of adventure you reduce your game to a minimap to be skipped at your leisure. The connections between areas become pointless, the perspectives you can get from certain vantage points are lost completely. It removes any mystique and intrigue your world may have. This happened to our real world as well, as travel has become – compared to 200 years ago – incredibly convenient and quick. There’s nothing left to find, nothing left to explore, nothing left to wonder about. Every place starts bleeding together. There’s a McDonals in every town and if there isn’t the next town is just a few minutes away. All Bethesda games after Oblivion also suffered from this greatly as well for example.

And this is simply very sad, because video games are a way to escape those parts of reality.

2) Dungeon finders.

These are the instrument of hell. They completely marginalize all players, they make all direct contact between players pointless.

People don’t need to talk to each other anymore. They click a button and get matched. After you’re done, you part ways and don’t care anyone in your party every existed.

Even worse, it’s too easy to abuse, and fosters a misplaced sense of elitism. Got 4 italian players in your party and the 5th is a brit? Kick the shithead and wait for someone else to fill his place. Are you and some others completely convinced someone isnt pulling their weight? Fuck newbies, you only want veterans so you can speedrun this shit, so you kick them and have the spot filled automatically.

It does not just kill communication, it kills the very incentive to communicate in the first place. It, basically, removes the community aspect of a game, and one could argue it removes the multiplayer aspect. If the other players don’t talk, aren’t machines of game mechanical perfection and are just there to help *you* through a dungeon, why not just remove the entire multiplayer aspect and add bots instead, or make dungeons completely solo-able?

The communication which *does* remain is almost always toxic as hell, because the only reason you would want to talk to someone when there’s a dungeon finder is to tell them they’re being shit at the game.

So yeah, there are convenience features which are counterproductive to what a game, or at least an MMO, is trying to achieve.

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Chosenxeno .

I remember life before Dungeon Finders. Sorry. Not going back. I’d rather be progressing instead of wasting time spamming a channel. I won’t even spit on a MMORPG that doesn’t have a dungeon finder. Guilds solve your socialization issues. I dunno why people don’t get that. If you want to get all “chatty patty” run with your guildmates. That’s why they are there.

Some of your other whines are things that will get you kick if you don’t announce them beforehand and you perform poorly. You should be telling people if you are doing your first run. I play Healers. It’s super important for me to do that since my role is so vital. I always type: “First Run” and follow up with: “Anything I need to know here?” In the rare instances where I have found myself struggling I remove myself from the group in the hope tht they will get someone more capable. Not being honest about yourself will get you kicked. You know your damage, tanking or healing isn’t cutting it. Yet you’d rather the group spend all day in their so you don’t end up with a bruised ego. I’m not going to let you stop my progression because you aren’t up to snuff. If 4 ppl have voted to remove you there’s a reason. Stop crying elitism all the damn time!

I’m not saying there aren’t people who abuse the system but those people are not the majority. They are not even close. I have never VTK’d anyone who didn’t deserve it. My time is valuable. I won’t have you wasting it because you don’t want to admit your faults. If you want to be coddled run in a Guild Group.

“Nobody talks anymore”. Yea they do. They just mostly talk in their Guild Chat during Dungeon runs these days when they get comfortable with the instances.

As far as fast travel some of your points are decent. I like how FF:XIV handled flying mounts. The thing is, we live in the age of dailies. I don’t want to travel an hour by foot to kill the same 10 rats everyday. Should people be flying at level 10? No. But when I hit the cap I expect to be able to Fly and Tele as I please.

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Dystopiq

Standing around spamming chat to find a group isn’t fun. It isn’t socialization. It was never fun. Group finders were added for a reason.

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Chosenxeno .

Just read that Nostalgia Freak MMORPG Albion(Full Loot PVP) has suffered another population drop. What you people don’t seem to get is to some of us our time investment is important. I will not have you killing me and looting my time investment off my corpse. Full Loot PVP is DEAD! Please stop. Forced Grouping outside of Lairs, Dungeons, Raids is DEAD! Please stop it. XP LOSS IS THE MOST ILLOGICAL AND IDIOT SYSTEM I HAVE EVER SEEN IN A VIDEO GAME AND SHOULD STAY DEAD! I “unlearn” from failing? REALLY? Failure has and always will be the gateway to learning and improving. The fact that some games run counter to this logic is ludicrous.

(Please Note: As ridiculous as XP loss is when you understand that it actually penalizes what is in fact, a EXPERIENCE GAIN obtained through a recent failure, the Nostalgia Freaks don’t consider it immersion breaking lol)

P.S. Turns out that the people playing Albion(based on the Developers metrics) were mostly Life Skilling. Gee, I can’t imagine why the PVP fell by the wayside(really I can lol).

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Chosenxeno .

I’m going to guess Saga of Lucimia caused this article lol. People need to stop being such nostalgia freaks and live in Reality. You are literally killing games. As I said before:

“The next great MMORPG will NOT be a MMORPG that ignores what Modern MMORPGs have done well”.

drivendawn
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drivendawn

People need to stop trying to dictate what other people like and live in the reality that they don’t have to play these games. Don’t worry there will be new mmorpg’s with all the new conveniences YOU say have made new games great for you to play.

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Mush V. Peets

Sure, inconvenience isn’t immersion, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t overlap there if the ‘convenience’ feature pulls you out of the game world. ArcheAge’s extremely common hereafter stone portals, for instance. Perhaps the game would be better off with a more easily accessible form of travel overland than the existing options with their long wait times, but casually hopping here and there through THE HEREAFTER (didn’t a goddess sacrifice herself just to create a large hereafter gate? Now we can do it on a somewhat smaller scale with three common little rocks) is not that solution.

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Michael18

Just a quick example for those who can’t imagine that pure traveling in an MMO can be fun to some people:

In one of my former guilds in LOTRO we had a semi-regular event every few months where a small group of us would meet at one end of Middle Earth (Thorin’s Hall) and then walk – as in: without mounts – all across the world to the other end. We did not do it for the shiny loot (we didn’t get one) and not for the achievements (there weren’t any). We helped some low-level crafting alts to unlock waypoints and such, but that wasn’t the point. It was just about enjoying the scenery of the zones, to see how they slowly changed from the homely Shire to the wild lands of Eregion, the dungeons of Moria, the planes of Rohan, and so on. To experience the vastness of this virtual world and enjoying the company.

My favorite part about this was that you hardly run into any load screens during this long trip:
1. between Ered Luin and the Shire,
2. when entering and then again when leaving Moria,
3. one on each side of the Paths of the Dead when going via Gondor (or, today, only a single one at Rauros Falls when taking the short route to Minas Tirith),
4. a final one in Gondor.

Today you can walk all the way to the gates of Barad-Dûr without an additional load screen.

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Melissa McDonald

Yup there is an “thing” in LOTRO where you walk (not run) from Bag End to Rivendell. It’s not something that is easily done unless you’re higher level and can avoid aggressive beasts, especially in the Trollshaws.

But yes… it’s quite a scenic walk, takes a long time, and you can kind of imagine how it was for Bilbo and Frodo when they made their way to Imladris.

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Schmidt.Capela

At the same time LotRO is a game with fast travel options. You can still enjoy traveling without depriving other players from the option to instantly get where they want.

(BTW, I have explored every nook and cranny of every single zone I went through in LotRO. I’m not against walking the land the first time, what I’m against is being forced to waste time going through places I have already explored every nook and cranny of.)

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Ken from Chicago

PREACH IT, ELIOT! People loved old school mmos DESPITE the inconveniences, not because of them. We didn’t have the technology or experience to smooth out the rough edges then as we do now, but players loved them any way because the older mmos allowed you more immersion–than even older video games did.

No one LIKED waiting hours just to get a healer for a raid, but back in the day, we didn’t have a group finder technology to automatically fill a raid in a few minutes, if not seconds, instead of having to wait hours. Sure, some “hardcore” players might complain that it was “realistic” to take hours to find a healer in ye olde land of FarAway. Fine. Then DON’T use the groupfinder, and manually walk up to every player inviting them for a raid. No one’s forcing you to use the quality of life features. Sure, go to an arbitrary spot in town before changing your outfit. No, manually change your skill set instead saving a build to swap back and forth for a given situation.

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Chosenxeno .

I always tell them that spamming a channel is not playing the game. No one is sitting there creating a metric for that lol

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mysecretid

Well put.

A lot of the complaints against the Quality of Life options (and they are optional, indeed) that you mention actually come down to the old gamer whinge of “Stop liking things I don’t like!” in disguise. Good to see you’re not fooled. :-)

Cheers,

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Zen Dadaist

I like Quality of Life updates for the reasons described in the article. The less time I’m spending focused on the meta level mechanics, the more I’m spending actually going about my business in the game and doing the thing. But there is no universal consensus there.

For example, trash mobs dismounting you. Now if a mob is at least green to me as opposed to grey, then I can see an immersive reason for it to think it can try to challenge me, lob an arrow my way and scare my mount into kicking me off. But if it’s a grey mob 10+ levels below me? Really? It should take one look at this higher levelled hero bristling with epic gear and think “nope, not today”. Having the grey mob act like a red mob is a massive irritant, inconvenient and anything -but- immersive for me.

Polyanna
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Polyanna

Inconvenience is not immersion.

I agree. However, as Raph Koster explained at much greater length, when you’re talking about anything in a game being inconvenient and whether it should be changed to be more convenient, you have to ask two things.

First, inconvenient for whom?

Second, if we make this more convenient, what will be lost?

As Koster pointed out, an auction house is very convenient for players looking to buy things, and better in pretty much every way for them. It also completely destroys the fantasy of being a shopkeeper, which a lot of players might enjoy. What eliminates a source of annoyance for one group entirely destroys any semblance of “immersion” for others.

It may be that letting players live out the fantasy of being a local merchant or traveling trader just isn’t something your game sets out to do. If that’s the case, and if a clumsy or annoying item trading system is only in the game because you haven’t bothered to try and make anything better, then you probably should change it, sooner than later, since a bad trading interface takes away a lot and adds little.

If a clumsy or annoying trading system exists because a substantial part of the game is devoted to being a shop keeping or trading sim, then you probably ought to think twice about who plays that part of the game before you up-end it in the name of “convenience.”

Some features are rarely immersive for anyone when they’re inconvenient to use, but it’s not always obvious at first glance who exactly is inconvenienced (or convenienced), and what changing their game play by changing that feature might mean.

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Dystopiq

Inconvenient for the majority. The minority will get screwed.

antheriel
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antheriel

I can understand this. Some people probably find it immersive to manage a six-slot single-backpack inventory because that’s how their ideal imaginary fantasy land works. But my ideal imaginary world includes Bags of Infinite Capacity (a common fantasy trope–see Harry Potter, for one example), so why can’t I have one? You can fantasize about being an inventory manager while I fantasize about having a giant bag–we can both be happy. Go ahead and run your one-person shop. I’ll shop there if I pass by. But let me access the Bazaar of the Gods, where goods can be summoned from across the land instantaneously. Ride your horse for 20 minutes across the game map if forcibly seeing the scenery in slow-mo every time you have to empty your backpack feels immersive to you, but give me a cool particle effect that lets me teleport like a badass wherever I want to go. Because that’s immersive to me!

I think the real reason that devs don’t let us have our supposed conveniences is because those things are easy to monetize.

antheriel
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antheriel

Totally agree Eliot. I’ve never understood all the people who say that, for example, fast travel breaks immersion. In BDO, I’m playing a wizard who can call down meteors from the heavens twelve times a minute and conjure other-worldly creatures at will. It’s immersion-breaking that I can’t teleport at will to the nearest city.

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Bryan Gregory

It’s okay for there to be both “convenient” and “inconvenient” games. I enjoy both. Sometimes I want to play something a bit faster paced like WoW, and sometimes I want to play something slower, like EQ and FFXI. “Convenient” games might be more popular, but let’s not pretend there isn’t a massive following of players who want to play something a bit different.

It’s okay to feel like “convenient” games don’t provide sufficient immersion. And it’s okay to feel that they do.

However personally I don’t think we should be making blanket statements about types of games in the first place. Level of immersion should be looked at on a game-by-game basis.

Cadaver
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Cadaver

I recently read Kotaku’s review of Lineage Mobile, a game that literally ‘plays itself’:

it’s pretty much all automatic… the bulk of the game is managing equipment, upgrading skills, unlocking achievements, and trying not to spend too much in the game’s cash-shop.

Granted, it’s a mobile title but we’re now seeing features like autopathing make there way into ‘real’ mmos. And why not? It’s the logical next step along the merry path of convenience. In a year or two we’ll no doubt look back and scoff at how silly we all were for actually moving our own avatars and completing our quests ‘manually’. What, you think that was more immersive? Don’t be absurd. It was just an annoyance.

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Dušan Frolkovič

Except that is something that is happening for years now :)
What are mounts or auto-run or teleports if not convenience replacing running around.
As you said it auto-pathing is the next logical step and while i personally do not like it does not mean there aren’t people that do.

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Cadaver

Fair enough. I have to admit that I rarely make use of mounts or mini-maps or the various other travel conveniences. It’s just not how I play. Autopathing is anathema to me. Every so often I need to be reminded that my preferences are far from universal.

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Schmidt.Capela

One of the games with auto-pathing is Zelda: Breath of the Wild. If you start riding a horse on a road, the horse will keep following the road until some enemy manages to stop it (kinda rare as few enemies can keep up with a galloping horse), the road ends, or you stop the horse.

And that is a strong contender for game of the year in about every place that accepts single player console games.

(BTW, for a while during Vanilla it was possible to write auto-pathing addons for WoW. I loved them.)

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PepinoCantador

I think this ends up being a case-by-case thing for me… Or, maybe a matter of perspective. A lot of people consider not having flying at a given point in a WoW expansion to be inconvenient; personally, I vastly prefer it because it really does greatly enhance my own immersion. EverQuest was riddled with things that people would most certainly call inconvenient, but that I always felt added to the lows that made the highs feel so much more amazing.

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Utakata

You won’t get any argument from me or my pigtails on this, Mr. Eliot. <3

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John Mclain

Incorrect, without inconvenience you don’t have immersion, as life is all about inconveniences. From the time you awake in the morning, till the time you fall asleep. Suspend inconvenience, and you suspend belief.

This isn’t to say a game is crap because it does this, just that you can’t immerse yourself in it as if it was another world, it ends up feeling like a board/card game instead.

Nick
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Nick

Mixed on this – based on my love of EverQuest 1. Some of my most vivid MMO memories come from that game. My favorite was when my level 4 High Elf Enchantress from Felwithe decided she hated her ugly Green starter robe and wanted the nicer Blue starter robe you could buy only in Qeynos two continents away. The game was just released and there were no teleporters or high level people to help.

My Enchantress joined with a level 2 Cleric, a level 6 Paladin, a level 3 Bard, and a level 4 Druid on a literal epic journey that took us about 7 hours. We walked from Felwithe to Butcherblock Mountains – avoiding all monsters. We waited for the boat which in that day had a schedule where it had to travel in real time across the Ocean to another city, and then sail back. After what must have been at least a half hour we sailed across the Ocean of Tears to Freeport.

After heading West out of the Commonlands we learned that all of the monsters conned Red and could 1 shot us. We lost the Druid who was bound in Greater Faydark – or pretty much an hour away from our Party at this point. We had to keep going.

We ended up in the dark high-level undead zone – Kithicor Forest -which ended up killing our Cleric who accidentally aggroed a very high level Skelton. We ran from bears and griffons in the Karanas.

Hours of very careful adventuring later, the three survivors triumphantly walked through the gates of Qeynos. My Enchantress bought her Blue newbie robe with no stats whatsoever and everyone cheered. We all then decided that we would live in Qeynos for a while as we didn’t want to risk dying on our way back and having my blue robe stuck hours from Felwithe.

This journey would be far different in today’s games. I would probably pay some small fee for a teleport, buy the robe, and use my return skill to get back. It would have been convenient and only take a few minutes, but I wouldn’t have made those friends and those unforgettable memories.

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Nemui Byakko

As a newbee you can find big troubles for yourself and your newbee party in any modern game, too. May be it won’t be for such small thing as no-stat robe, but epic memories will be the same.

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Rolan Storm

*applause on first paragraph* Yeah, what’s up with that? I have the same fashion sense about my characters.

Great story and yes, exploration is lost on us these days. It is coming back in some games, but not yet on a level.

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Jeffery Witman

Very few games give any reason to explore these days. The details just aren’t put in to most games. It’s ironic that big graphics improvements and beautiful vistas are supposed to be the big money sinks and selling points of many games, but they don’t put the work in to make a world with details to explore.

In games where they do put in the work, however, using those instant travel abilities can deprive you of much enjoyment, even today.

I like how Secret World does it, personally. You can teleport to respawns within a region, or to a single location in other regions, but not until you’ve already visited them. That allows for initial exploration, but also the ability to get around quickly instead of running for 15 minutes through things you’ve already explored.

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Rolan Storm

Heh. More than one common point there, friend. Long time admirer of TSW and as it is now SWL.

IKR? So much CPU and GPU power, yet games are… lacking elementary things. With the overall computing power we have I thought when I started to learn and practice on Z80 GPUs we’d have virtual worlds by now. Yet it did not happen and game development took a very different road.

Well, I am not an enemy of instant travel per se… But I’d like some twist to it. On the other hand when they added galactic map to SWTOR I was really relieved. All this ship hopping nonsense was too much. By the way good example of a big world with yet nothing really to explore. Still love the game, though.

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strangesands

Convenience isn’t immersion either. Interesting gameplay, whether it’s ‘convenient’ or ‘inconvenient’ is always immersive.

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rafael12104

Yes! I’m totally with Eliot here! It makes perfect sense.

My apologies right away to those who might get offended. I really like those that get into games from an RP perspective or try to realize a “real world” feel from exploring etc. etc.

BUT, here is the thing, the mundane is not adventure. The mundane is not immersive. Talking to other players yes, meeting objectives with other players, absolutely. Spending one hour walking from one area to another, NOPE. It isn’t redeeming, it is boring.

Oh, but you have to know how to traverse certain areas and what to avoid, and there is danger etc. etc. That might have been the case the first time or the second, but after that? What is mysterious or dangerous about it?

Ah, but you learned something, you know the map features you are truly immersed in the world. Bullshit. I know the mechanics of the game. It doesn’t make me feel closer to it or like I’m truly doing something during my upteenth 60 minute trip. It actually takes me out of the game, immersion goes on hold, while I think about the things I should be doing other than playing the game.

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Ashley Bau

Sortof strongly disagree. I say sortof because I would agree with the explicit statement that “inconvenience is not immersion” because it isn’t. However, things that ARE immersive can and often are, inconvenient from several perspectives. The common argument that comes to mind is that of fast travel vs limited or no faster travel. Jumping from place to place quickly to get stuff done fast is highly convenient but doesn’t make for a good journey or a strong sense of a world. Even games that do offer fast travel but actually care about their world tend to limit fast travel in certain ways (such as having to unlock the points) which can be seen in games like the witcher 3’s design goals. The more immersive experience, feeling the actual distance traveled, seeing the world between points A and B, is most definitely less convenient if you want to maximize progress for time.

Honestly, despite your pointed statements at the start of the article I think you know better. I think you simply have become so comfortable with the convenience of modern systems that you refuse to see the merit in the alternative. Not every adventure is going to be pure joy from start to finish, sometimes it is going to push you, sometimes it wont be convenient, and often those quirks are what makes the experience memorable. I don’t exactly expect you or anyone else to agree or understand what I am getting at, but hopefully some can appreciate that the experience is greater than the sum of its parts. For some of us, at least some of the time, the convenience priority has resulted in a bland one.

Not to say convenience shouldn’t exist anywhere. It should and it does. But, there are other ways to go and they are just as deserving as the convenient, more casual friendly experiences.

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Nick

So much agree. I really wish sometimes more players liked to slow down and enjoy the journey. Some of my most epic gaming did not involve leveling and gearing but creating stories in the world and our own adventures.

These days it’s a race to the endgame. In FFXIV I couldn’t even enjoy cutscenes without being left behind.

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plasmajohn

The MMO genre’s core strength is multiplayer activity. In an established game what does the level distribution look like? If you said “end game” you win the prize!

I don’t use a screwdriver to pound in nails. If I want a journey then I break out the single player RPG’s which are all about levelling and their story. Often those are significantly better than MMO storytelling.

When I play an MMO I’m much more interested in group content. The sooner I can get involved the better. If that means getting to level cap ASAP then that’s what it takes.

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Schmidt.Capela

The more immersive experience, feeling the actual distance traveled, seeing the world between points A and B, is most definitely less convenient if you want to maximize progress for time.

That, for me, is typically the least immersive option, because if I have to wait until I get to my destination I will be simultaneously doing something out-of-game, like playing Pokémon on my 3DS or watching Netflix, whereas if the game doesn’t waste my time I will remain inside its confines and immersed in its setting.

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Dušan Frolkovič

This is why Elite:Dangerous is my favorite grinding game. I can safely watch something else during travel, cause i know i will have plenty of time to pause and turn to the game should something happen :D

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Ashley Bau

I would hardly consider the journey a waste of time (what great quest doesn’t have a grand journey?). For me, that is an integral part of the experience. I tend to develop a greater sense of attachment to what I have done if I am not just skipping right to the action, at least in rpgs. Its pretty basic story elements you’re seem to be against, you rise to action, not start and end there. You like what you like but, I wonder if its really immersion that you’re getting the way you described it and not something else.

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Schmidt.Capela

What makes the journey interesting is the encounters along the way, not the boring travel time in between. Which is why books, movies, and even many offline games skip the mechanical travel part and focus only on the encounters.

With MMOs, unfortunately, you often can’t separate the boring mechanical travel from the actually interesting encounters because manipulating the flow of time to skip boring parts doesn’t work in a shared environment.

So I stand by my opinion. The travel itself is a boring waste of time, and if I have ever passed that way before I will be multitasking while doing it, paying just enough attention to the game to notice if something interesting starts.

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Michael18

One of my favorite parts of the Game of Thrones books was Arya’s Odyssey across Westeros. The GoT books in general have literally hundreds of pages covering nothing but slow travel: Dany’s and Tyrion’s travels across the eastern continent as two more examples; also Bran’s journey; Brienne; there are so many more. It could be argued that painfully slow travel is one of the major topoi in ASoIaF (only referring to the books here; don’t know the TV show).

I truly respect your preferences, but please don’t try to prove that mine are objectively wrong, invalid or just the result of some delusion :-)

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Schmidt.Capela

If you take a look at the chapters featuring those characters you mentioned, in each and every one of them the characters are doing something else apart from traveling, and as soon as whatever they are doing is finished and travel resumes the chapter ends and the books focus on another character.

Look at Arya’s journey, for example; we see her rescue by Yoren and her conflict against Hot Pie, and the chapter ends as they resume uneventful travel. Next she meets Jaqen, her group is confronted by the Gold Cloaks, and the chapter ends when they resume uneventful travel. Then we get quite a bit of character building as the author keeps skipping the travel bits while focusing on everything else, the burned village scene, Arya meeting a pack of wolves, and the chapter ends when they resume uneventful travel. The next two chapters are the build up for a battle, the siege at the holdfast, and the capture of her group by Ser Gregor Clegane, ending when they take to the road again.

See a pattern yet?

Yeah, those hundreds of pages you mentioned do cover slow travel. But they aren’t covering just that; the books only describe travel when there is something else happening, and as soon as that something else ends and the characters would be merely traveling the focus changes to some other character who is doing something more interesting.

The same strategy is easier to notice in in other books that feature long journeys but have a more manageable number of point of view characters, such as Lord of the Rings; there you can clearly see when uneventful travel is simply discarded to focus on what else happens during said travel, whereas Song of Ice and Fire, by virtue of its sheer number of point of view characters, is able to disguise those cuts by focusing on a different character.

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Michael18

First up, thanks for the detailed reply!

While you sure got a point there (and, of course, I was aware that these chapters aren’t entirely uneventful), I still think that if these travel chapters were only or primarily about the external and internal plot and action, they could easily be shortened by a couple hundred pages in total. Also, it seems to me that many of the events happending in travel chapters only exist to be able to describe a long journey, instead of the journey being just the backdrop for an event which is the primary focus. So, the “things happening” as the story-telling device for describing a long journey instead of the journey being just a means to color up the description of an important event (of course, this does not apply to all events happening in travel chapters).

I believe the feeling of a huge world, long distances, people being cut off from one another and from news about recent events, and the feeling of being isolated in remote locations are all an essential aspect of these books. If you introduced teleportation to Westeros and replaced the ravens by instant communication, you could no longer tell the same story in the same way Martin did.

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Schmidt.Capela

Fast travel, from the point of view of the reader, actually exists in A Song of Ice and Fire, as well as in most books that deal with travel. When you get to uneventful travel, books skip ahead days, perhaps weeks, with a few lines; it’s effectively fast-forwarding through the travel, so while from the point of view of the characters the journey took as much time as it should, the reader wasted almost no time with it.

That, BTW, highlights one of the weaknesses of the MMO format. Since the flow of time is shared across all players it can’t be manipulated like that. So, while books can have boring events that are merely glossed over as the book compresses time, in a MMO boring events are experienced in full.

Also, it seems to me that many of the events happending in travel chapters only exist to be able to describe a long journey, instead of the journey being just the backdrop for an event which is the primary focus.

In a sense, yes. The long journey is the anchoring metaphor for Arya’s change from a strong willed girl into a powerful, resourceful woman. It’s, thus, very important.

But the author can’t just have uneventful travel. That is part of a larger commandment that authors should follow: don’t write anything into your book without a very good reason. If fully describing something doesn’t currently serve a purpose, either just mention it and skip ahead, or else find a purpose for it, something that can give whatever you are describing importance and further tie it to the story.

Thus all the events in Arya’s journey. The author wants to describe parts of the journey, as the journey is of paramount importance to the development of a central character, and in order to do that without driving the readers away he needs to pack those parts chock-full of interesting things: character development, world building, lore, catching up with what else is happening in the world, quite a few action sequences, etc, and preferably multiple of those things happening at the same time. But all other parts of the journey, where he didn’t add all those extras, are still skipped ahead in a kind of literary fast travel.

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drivendawn

Many things can happen if like in XI the world is dangerous to traverse and your not an over powered god like in many new games able to take on 5 or more your lvl at a time.

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Ashley Bau

Interesting, because there is a whole host of media in all the categories they listed that do show travel time. Ex: lord of the rings, conan

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Schmidt.Capela

Yes, they show travel time, but that is because that travel is being used to present something else, something interesting, to the audience; character development, information about the scenario, updates about what else is happening in the world, etc. And preferably more than one such thing at the same time, otherwise it becomes too similar to plain exposition, which is to be avoided unless you want to put the audience to sleep.

This, again, doesn’t quite work with free-form travel in MMOs. It’s kinda hard to pull this off when the player has full control over where he is going, when he intends to arrive, and even the personality of the character.

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drivendawn

Very disappointing article that is just opinion and obviously an answer to the saga of lucimia article about immersion. I loved old school XI and IMO think it was way better and immersive than now and in fact it’s down fall was switching into the things you mention when Abyssea hit. It went all down hill from there because they decided to put wow style crap in to try to gain new players and it did the opposite. Much like SWG but hey at least XI stayed true to its roots longer.

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thirtymil

Personally, I find the real problem is that progression and immersion are at odds with each other more than inconvenience and immersion.

The moment progression becomes an overriding driver for gameplay, the more immersive elements are perceived as an inconvenience to that objective. Lack of fast travel isn’t a problem when you’ve nowhere to be in a hurry. It is perceived as a problem when you have a 690 Champion Point grind ahead of you and those Dolmens don’t just hit themselves you know.

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Schmidt.Capela

My main issue with lack of fast travel isn’t about progression, but about group content. I won’t wait for others to get to where I am, nor will I ever force someone else to wait for me, so without fast travel chances are good I simply won’t be playing group content.

In fact, I tend to not use fast travel, at all, in single player games, with a few exceptions.

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teh evilengineer

you sir are not playing the collector of rare powerful baubles hard enough.

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Arktouros

100% agreed here.

I’m sure people love going down nostalgia lane and remembering how amazing something seemed but frankly that’s never been me. I started in UO and I remember how horrendous that game was to a T as much as I loved it and had fun back then there’s no way I would suffer through those issues or mechanics in today’s gaming.

I’m sure in 10-20 years when the MMO landscape is still WOW and the rest have all failed someone will take the next generation on their trip down memory lane full of lockboxes and pay2win mechanics talking about immersion and simpler times :D

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Michael18

Eliot, you are like a friend who tries to logically prove I must date this super-hot woman with the rich dad, all the while I can’t get my mind off this slightly chubby girl with the slight squint who laughs about my stupid jokes and says she feels so snug when I take her in the arms.

When it comes to subjective human emotions and feelings (like immersion), what works for one person might not work for the next.

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Bruno Brito

Would go with the snug chubby goddess anytime of the day.

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styopa

Illustrating that inconvenience != immersion doesn’t logically prove that convenience = immersion.

“There even is a theoretical point where a game could become too convenient to play, although I have yet to see that happen.” So you didn’t play the Argent Tournament content in WotLK? An instance where you didn’t even have to go through an instance…mobs (trash trash trash boss; rinse, repeat) were just handed to you as loot pinatas.

Personally, I’d say GW2’s instatravel everywhere gates skates pretty close too.

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Chosenxeno .

Argent Tournament was one of my favorite instances for that reason. Also, some of it was supposed to mimic PVP Arena. A lack of Trash Mobs makes sense.

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Schmidt.Capela

So you didn’t play the Argent Tournament content in WotLK? An instance where you didn’t even have to go through an instance…mobs (trash trash trash boss; rinse, repeat) were just handed to you as loot pinatas.

Which is seen by part of the players as one of the best instances in WoW, ever. I myself loved Trial of the Champion (the 5-man instance). Heck, for the most part I really despise raiding, but if you removed the faction champions encounter I would find Trial of the Grand Crusader (the hard mode raid) actually fun.

But then, I loved jousting.

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cista2bpo

Reading through the comments here made me depressed, as I hardly know any of the games that are discussed (the ones I recognise the name of are single player games and I am pretty sure all the others that i don’t know are too). Once again I realise the MMO genre is truly dead and there is no community out there for me to be a part of. So sad!

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Bruno Brito

Everquest 2, WoW, Ultima Online, SWG?

Dude…are you being dense on purpose or just didn’t pay attention?

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Tobasco da Gama

It’s kind of sad that you even have to remind people about this.

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Minimalistway

it would be if we all agree on what is inconvenience and what is immersion.

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yoh_sl

True, while inconvenience doesn’t make something immersive, and convenience can be immersive, it really depends on how they are done.
It’s just frequently inconvenience does lead to creative solutions to problems, and thus immersion, where as convenience often leads to lazy, haphazard design that shatters immersion.

Take Dark Souls 1 for instance. You don’t get fast travel until later in the game as lore item, so until then you simply have to get the lay of the land, unlock shortcuts, and figure out how everything interconnects.
It’s because the level design was specifically designed without fast travel in mind, so the world and levels stack on top of each other and curve back in on itself. As travelling vertically is far quicker then horizontal travel.

DS2 and DS3 however give you fast travel right at the beginning for no apparent reason. And the level and world design absolutely suffers. No longer do you really have to understand how everything connects, because it largely doesn’t.
Everything is sectioned off into very clear ‘levels’, with little in the way of coherency.
Thus it tends to be far less immersive.

However mounts and fast travel can be made immersive, with a little bit of thought.
In most games when you summon your mount it just puffs into existent right in front of you.
Kind of immersion shattering, very gamey.
However in the Witcher 3, when you summon your mount he doesn’t appear right in front of you, Geralt whistles and the horse comes running slowly from somewhere out of view, usually behind you.
Thus giving the impression that your horse has just been following you this whole time.

Fast travel on the other hand, instead of traveling via some giant glowing rock, which nobody in universe seems to acknowledge or even when they do never seems to use to transport goods and services, but rather in the Witcher 3 you use Road Signs.
And when you fast travel time passes, thus giving the impression you did travel on foot, just that you didn’t have to watch all of it.

So you can have immersion whether you have convenience or not, but that requires developers to think about what their mechanics mean. Which unfortunately for MMO’s tends to rarely happen.

Alfredo Garcia
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Alfredo Garcia

One person’s inconvenience is another’s game play. Which may or may not help increase the immersiveness of the experience.

I know The Soapbox is an opinion piece, but this article comes across as 1500 words worth of Eliot trying to convince us that all games should be the same and too bad for anybody that doesn’t like what he likes.

And yes, that is far from a charitable reading. Guess I’m tired of people telling me what I should and should not enjoy.

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Bree Royce

He wasn’t telling you what you should and should not enjoy – he was saying we shouldn’t equate annoyances with immersion in the service of justifying design.

Alfredo Garcia
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Alfredo Garcia

That’s the thing though, it’s a non-point. Anybody who finds something annoying is automatically not going to equate it with immersion. The people that don’t find that thing annoying may or may not find that it helps their immersion. Which takes us right back to “not everybody finds the same things inconvenient or beneficial for immersion”.

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Utakata

Mr. Eliot never claimed that inconvenience can help with immersion, he is claiming inconvenience does not mean immersion. That is the understood meaning outside of any opinion on the subject of inconvenience vs. immersion. Nobody here is telling your or your horde of /upvoters how they should enjoy their games or define their immersion experience.

Alfredo Garcia
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Alfredo Garcia

Nowhere did I claim that Eliot is trying to define immersion or that inconvenience would in any way engender it. Of course something you consider an inconvenience isn’t going to help with your immersion. Anything that bothers you enough to pull your mind out of the play experience is going to be counter to immersion.

What I take issue with is using his own proclivities to define “inconvenience” for everybody. Perhaps that wasn’t his intent, and as I’ve already said I realize this column is for opinion pieces, but the formulation of his words certainly suggests it. What Eliot would seem to consider a “garden-variety bad game” would be pure paradise for some people.

In summary, it’s not the premise of the article that bothers me. It’s the defining of certain features or lack thereof being good or bad, convenience or inconvenience, as undisputed fact.

The wording of the article comes across to me as either sloppy writing, arrogance, or purposeful provocation. Eliot has never really struck me as a sloppy writer. But hey, we’re over a hundred comments now I think, so the piece did it’s job. :P

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Utakata

…or the more hardcore types have gotten their undies all in a twist over this. Just saying. O.o

Alfredo Garcia
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Alfredo Garcia

I really don’t think this has anything to do with the dubious distinction between casual and hardcore gamers. But being dismissed out of hand is bound to twist some undies.

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Utakata

It doesn’t? I am pretty sure it’s the crux of the debate here. Or there wouldn’t the ridiculous clambering in the goal post moving over this. More reasonable folks would get this, and move on.

As for dismissing, nonsense. I am just calling it for what it is.

Alfredo Garcia
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Alfredo Garcia

So you are the supreme arbiter of what is and is not casual or hardcore and Eliot is the supreme arbiter of what is or is not inconvenient. Got it. I should have known better than to even engage.

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Utakata

Yep. And my pigtails are also in your fridge eating your ice cream! <3

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Robert Mann

To counter:

Fair enough, for those who like what they have. For us who aren’t happy, the real problems with convenience in MMOs is that they reduce the need for a virtual society, and counter the idea of a virtual world. Conveniences can be nice, and they certainly fit for gaming that is focused on action oriented fun. That said, if you have fast travel, then having a giant map with different things to happen in different places is pretty much gone. You can’t really have a world story, excepting making it the much decried ‘everyone is the hero and yet also the foil for the real heroes’ experience. You lose so much world, that it’s all about that player character, or the few NPCs that are made to matter.

It is the same with most every other convenience (within reason. Let’s not make Arma-3 default keybinds a requirement!) The more that players can do everything, and go everywhere, at whim… the less anything outside the players matters. That’s not to say that is bad, but rather that there needs to be some diversity in how this is handled.

Simply put, if I’m a part of every story, can do everything for myself, and other players are just a background… I’m going to be happier with a single player game with better graphics, deeper story, and no toxic world chat. I don’t really care if other people want an MMO like that, and I’m happy that they have so many. I just also want something that caters to the other people, those who don’t want a giant shiny path on the ground, markers on the map for every activity, being part of every event and story rather than sometimes hearing about it (which makes the world feel very small to me, when I am part of everything,) etc. You can have that… STOP pretending every game has to be built the same, and allow us to have our ideals too.

It’s not about immersion. It’s about a different set of interests which are not being met. Yes, removing conveniences from standard MMO design doesn’t really fit. However, that doesn’t mean that, for many of us who like things like exploring the unknown, the current trend of status quo with more conveniences is good. In fact, it is worse. It’s just a matter of one size will never fit all.

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Veldan

Sure, I agree that inconvenience is not immersion, and moments of extreme inconvenience (frustration) can reduce immersion. That doesn’t mean that none of the convenience features found in modern games reduce immersion.

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Nathan Aldana

Thats true. But most modern convenience features you can simply choose to not use

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Dug From The Earth

to add to the title:

“inconvenience is not skill or challenge”

Well written Eliot. Thats 3 articles now, in the last month, that ive actually agreed with :P

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Mark

Good article, Eliot and I agree with your points. 10/10 would immerse again

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zoward

He never came out and said it by name, but I can’t help feeling like he’s talking about WoW Classic.

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Nathan Aldana

Nah. he;s talking about an attitude thats been pervasize in MMO and other gaming for decades. The idea that thgere is one correct way to make a videogame and features that take away from that or make games easier for more people inherently make games worse.

See Cuphead for recent examples.

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Robert Mann

On the other hand, the counter to that is the demand that every game aims for that same group of easier going people… by those who have attitude about that attitude.

I sit somewhere between. I don’t want all games made to any set audience, but diversity in the offerings. Sadly, very little seems to be paid attention to outside combat simulators in MMO land right now.

plasmajohn
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plasmajohn

Publishers are just chasing the demographic. Casual gaming is now mainstream. That’s not to say that casual gamers cannot or will not do harder content, it’s just how the publishers perceive the market.

I still get a chuckle from some hardcore raiders whining about easy modes. Mostly their complaints boil down to the loss of folks willing to put up with the frustration of the harder modes.

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Robert Mann

Aye, and I’m very much outside that hardcore raider group. I do think they get more for their demographic size from these games than most people.

It is just interesting to me that we have a bunch of combat centric MMOs, the ultra rare glitch style MMO, and now a little survival MMO stuff… and nothing else. Especially given the apparent demand for something else, here and via so many other places. There’s more than 3 playing styles and focuses, after all!

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Wanda Clamshuckr

Could be in some aspects, but I think he’s directly referring to the game development of Saga of Lucimia. Here’s the article.

Great article, btw, Eliot.

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TheDonDude

Ehh, this seems like it’s arguing semantics. Would “inconvenience is often related to immersion” suffice?

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dr_lucien_sanchez

I don’t care about immersion in MMOs because I’ve yet to play an MMO that gave me any sense of immersion in the first place. That isn’t to say I don’t enjoy them, but that’s not what I get out of them. There is too much “weird MMO shit” going on for me to get truly immersed the way I would with a single-player RPG.

By “weird MMO shit” I mean all the stuff MMOs seem to need to have to be MMOs. Things like enemies that simply stand around all day in the same spot, never moving, simply waiting for someone to come and kill them. And ones that respawn faster than their predecessor’s corpses de-spawn. People standing around waiting to be the hero who saves the village by slaying the monster, only they can’t because someone else is slaying it right now (but don’t worry, there will be another monster along in a minute, and the village will need saving again). Bar patrons who bounce up and down on the table for hours while waiting for this mysterious “group finder” thing to “pop” and yelling at the other patrons to queue.

You know, weird MMO shit. :)

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Castagere Shaikura

As soon as you look at the chat your pretty much out of the game world. The only games to give me immersion were single player RPG’s

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Terren Bruce

Wow… I actually agree with Eliot on something. No offense to Elliot but I just happen to almost never agree with his perspective. But I’m 100% with him here.

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Sally Bowls

Only 99.999% for me; I rarely make the mistake of “You are, I assume, smarter than that.

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jay

I dunno about this, I remember the run from Qeynos to Freeport in EQ1 before there were ports etc. I was pretty dam immersed during that run, and on the edge of my seat. It also gave me a real appreciation for just how big the world was.

Yes when I had to do it over and over, then it got annoying, but man did that run always give me a little chill.

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Isey

I was about to mention how many great conversations I had on that boat ride in EQ. And every time we had to rest to get mana in EQ we talked about things. So yeah, the inconvenience forced connections, but not necessarily immersion. (And the connections bit was the best part).

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Cosmic Cleric

Waiting for the shuttle in SWG comes to mind.

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Archebius

I’ve frequently heard from people that waiting for the shuttle was awesome.

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camelotcrusade

I have a hard time considering immersion as a serious pursuit in MMOs. Other players kill it for me before it even starts. Other players are everywhere, somehow changing the world in exactly the same way, yet doing it by means which are glaringly not the story I’m trying to create–from their appearance to their names to their utterances.

Welcome to Camelot, meet Lancelot on his ubermount, Bunnygurl on the mailbox, MurrLynn trying to form a group for Morgan LeFay’s instance, PercyVal and MoreGAIN PvPing on the fountain and LOLdozer killing all the chickens you need for the farmwife quest.

All of those players and happenings have their charms and I expect them in an MMO. But I don’t expect to feel like the world is my oyster, not when there are so many other actors who are better at stealing the show (and my oysters).

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Veldan

This may be a bit off topic, but I’ve been wanting stricter and better enforced name rules in MMO(RPG)s since the day I started playing them… 13 years and I’m still waiting >.>

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camelotcrusade

Yeah. But I don’t see an easy way out here. When you see a pot of crazy, it’s best not to stir it. On the other, it’s already crazy (ymmv).

Can you imagine an MMO where you were automatically assigned a name that was within design parameters… and that was that? I really don’t know if any game has attempted this. I can certainly imagine the sort of feedback it would elicit, setting up yet another battle between the “I don’t care about it and neither should you” vs. “well if you don’t care about it then let me have it” crowd.

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Robert Mann

If I ever ran one, people who failed naming once would get a reset, a second time would get a random name on the character, and a third time would only have random name options.

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angrakhan

Personally I would reverse it if only to cut down on the need to hire people to police names. That is, everyone has to use the in-game name generator. You can regenerate a name as many times as you like until you find one you find acceptable. If you simply MUST have a custom name you may submit one (for a fee, to pay for the headcount to review these things) which will get reviewed and approved or denied. If denied a list of alternatives will be provided and you can accept one of the alternatives or you may resubmit until a name gets approved. Once approved you own the name and may use it for any of your characters in perpetuity.

This would mean any name you saw in game was already approved by the GM’s an you would never have to worry about needing to group with Ilike2spooge and his friend Donkeyballs.

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Robert Mann

Eh, it’s not that hard to review a list of generated names every so often. A single person could put in a few hours each week, and make this incredibly better… without making people resort to the name generator or pay scheme there.

I feel like if a game did that, they would lose a ton of potential customers right off the bat. Many people use acceptable monikers consistently. Removing those would be a problem. Not to mention this would make alt naming with a key set of letters a huge no go.

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Dušan Frolkovič

I usually actually use the in-game name generators. One big flaw most of them have (and one probably not that hard to fix), is that they do not check if that name is taken already. So I end up clicking through names, finding a nice one, click accept, “name taken”, repeat.

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Syran

Inconvenience is indeed not immersion, but immersion almost always requires a sacrifice of convenience. That’s game design 101, really. Whether or not this sacrifice matters to you is down to personal preference.

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Utakata

“Inconvenience is indeed not immersion, but immersion almost always requires a sacrifice of convenience.”

In what way?

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Dug From The Earth

So if no one cares about the sacrifice, is it really a sacrifice?

the “almost always” part is your get out of jail free card here.

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Syran

Heh, of course it doesn’t matter if nobody cares, but that’s beside the point. The point is that there’s a definitive correlation between immersion and convenience, which, as far as I understand it, this article is trying to deny. : )

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Cosmic Cleric

Actually, there’s been times in gaming/MMOs where I got a HUGE immersion buzz without any inconvenience involved. For example, in-gane atmosphere can really help with immersion.

At the end of the day, inconvenience is in the eye of the beholder. For a MMORPGer, vs. a MMOGFLer especially so.

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Dug From The Earth

The point is that there’s a definitive correlation between immersion and convenience

Defined by who? It seems more to be an opinionated viewpoint than anything else.

A good example is the article the other day about the mmo that refuses to put a mini map in their game, to help keep the games immersion. Im big on immersion, and not once has a mini map EVER felt like its diminished that for me. Clearly though, the devs of that game feel entirely opposite of me.

The only “definitive correlation” between immersion and convenience is that everyone has their own opinion and feeling of what is or isnt, either of those two things. This article is nothing more than the opinionated side that feels that inconvenience doesnt always have to be added to have immersion.

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bakkahentai2600 .

I don’t think the problem is convient tools but rather tools in the game make it so you are better off just using convience. Like minimaps. Why do people use minimaps? Because quest text doesn’t make it easy to tell you where to go. Because markers on the map are too hard to find compared to them being marked on the minimap. Etc.

Why do people prefer fast travelling? Because there’s not much worth running it during questing. It’s easier to teleport back and forth.

Why do people prefer instanced dungeons? Because there’s nothing worth going to the dungeon entrance rather than hanging out at an endgame area.

However, the biggest problem here is that it needs to offer tools to go for what you find immersive vs convienant. When I play FFXIV, I rarely fast travel. I hang around the dungeon entrance when I need to go to a specific dungeon. I turn off my minimap and remove everything off my map until I fully explored the map. I turn off names. The game allows me to do that.

If the game gives me the choice, then I’ll enjoy it how I want. I’m only playing for myself. The game should give you the choice, and it should let you feel good about playing how you want. I like the slow burn and I’m okay with that. Others don’t and they can enjoy it their way. Both feel good.

If the game doesn’t feel good being full of addons and such, there’s a serious flaw in the game’s design.

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Schmidt.Capela

Why do people use minimaps?

My main reason is because I always use maps if they are available. For example, before smartphones with GPS I used to keep detailed maps of every major city in my state inside the glove compartment of my car, and even if I was on foot I would be taking a local map with me. The first thing I do when going somewhere is to get a map. And so on.

Heck, I used to draw my own maps in games before minimaps became a thing.

That being said, I really can’t understand how people can use a rotating mini-map. That thing makes my head spin.

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Robert Mann

Sadly, the moment that convenience features are added developer support for the other way flags. I’ve noted the idea of lots of cool things to do while travelling in the past, and it’s really an explorer’s paradise if done well. I’m afraid that currently MMO game developers are too focused on all combat, all the time, for it to work though.

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CapnLan

Oh my god yes, I agree so hard with this. The amount of arguments I’ve had over the years about this is rather significant.

I’d go a bit farther than just “inconvenience” and go into “realism.” I find that people tend to conflate realism with immersion far too often. Some realism can certainly add to immersion, but too much realism can shatter it. As an example, this is an issue that the Elite Dangerous community has long dealt with.

When you reach a station that has a shipyard, you can have a ship and modules delivered there. The problem is that it takes a long time for that to happen. Anywhere from several hours to several days real time. I don’t find this immersive at all. It’s an inconvenience that was done for the sake of realism. But that realism breaks immersion because then all I do is log out and play something else while I wait. Yet there are many players who want this and argue to keep it. I have no idea why anyone would want to sit in port for hours watching a timer, but they do. Also things like traveling to Hutton Orbital. Because an hour trip in real time is so immersive that people boot up Netflix and ignore the game to stave off the boredom.

The game that I always hold up as an example of incredible immersion without realism is Witcher 3. That game has a highly immersive world and lore with almost nothing realistic about it. Things like whistling for my horse or fast traveling around are all just hand waved away or have minor lore reasons attached to them that keeps your attention on the story and world rather than getting bogged down in awful mechanics using realism as an excuse to waste my time.

Other games like GW2 use a small lore reason like Asuran super science waypoint tech to travel around. I’d argue that a small lore reason like that is actually more immersive than having to walk around everywhere.

Last example I’ll use is one of the Farcry games. It was…number 3 I think? You could drive in a jeep and if your engine was shot out you would have to get out and repair it. It wasn’t some super involved process though. You got out, cranked a bolt under the hood like twice and then the jeep just worked again. Not realistic at all but kept the focus on the game world and the action which helped preserve immersion. I didn’t have to take it to mechanic and pay to have it fixed. I just cranked a bolt and got back to it.

Well that got a bit long, but I guess I had to get it off my chest. I’ve been annoyed with the realism/inconvenience crowd for some time now. Every time I see a good proposition for a new feature in a game it inevitably gets met with “No! It’s not realistic and therefore MUH IMMERSHUNS!” Just want to smack some of them sometimes. Hope you don’t mind I brought out my own soapbox and joined you. :p

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Tobasco da Gama

Also things like traveling to Hutton Orbital. Because an hour trip in real time is so immersive that people boot up Netflix and ignore the game to stave off the boredom.

Yeah, unless you’re literally a hardcore study sim game like Orbiter or DCS, you really need to either give people something worthwhile to do in the game while transiting or just shorten the damned trips.

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Schmidt.Capela

That is part of the reason I really wanted ED to have an offline option.

Every other Elite game before tackled that issue properly; you could just have the game speed up the time while on auto-pilot, going back into real time if you either reached your destination or something noteworthy happened (like a pirate attack). ED, while online-only, wouldn’t be able to offer that, but the then-promised offline version could.

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Vincent Clark

“keeps your attention on the story and world rather than getting bogged down in awful mechanics using realism as an excuse to waste my time.” <– This, so much this!

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Robert Mann

Aye. Those are terrible implementations. The problem with them, to me, is not the time… but the lack of anything to do. Some games and genres will have problems with that, for example a space simulator with a small ship that has one seat and a tiny back room, will not really be good for design to go and do anything.

I do believe that the problem is everyone, in all camps, wants every game to be for them. There’s people on both sides of this who constantly whine and post on every upcoming game about how it isn’t what they want. I want games to please everyone… just not in the same game, because that obviously (the entire reason we are all here on this article) just doesn’t work.

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Matt Redding

Well said. I think a lot of times people make these barriers to game play that they think improve it but are actually just annoying. It’s no different to a diva movie director putting something in a film that’s dumb, and then whining when critics say “this bit was really dumb”.

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Cyclone Jack

So what you’re saying is that cheat codes don’t break immersion and should be on by default, since actually playing the game is too inconvenient. ;)

I can see your point of view, to an extent, but we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one. Sure, not all convenience breaks immersion, but from the games I have played most convenience does indeed break immersion. That said, if the mechanics of the convenience are done well, then they don’t seem like convenience. An example of this would be Town Portal scrolls in ARPGs.

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angrakhan

Straw man argument. He never said anything about cheat codes. You did. Also you state that “most convenience does indeed break immersion” without siting a single example implying this vast litany of examples exist even though it probably doesn’t. More than likely there’s just one or two items like the dungeon finder that rubs you the wrong way so now you just throw all convenience features under the “immersion breaking” bus.

Cyclone Jack
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Cyclone Jack

Notice the ;) which notes at least partial sarcasm on the part about cheat codes.

As for immersion breaking, it really depends on the feature and how it is implemented. Since you stated Dungeon Finder, we’ll look at that. The concept of a dungeon finder has nothing wrong with it. Instantly porting you inside the dungeon from wherever in the world you are, and then dropping you back out to where you were before you went in, is immersion breaking. But traveling to the dungeon and then walking through the front door is fine. Even if you went through a casting animation and then teleported to a summoning stone outside the dungeon (or transported/beamed there ala Star Trek), that would be fine. The same could be said for raid finder. In fact, my biggest issue with DF/RF is less immersion breaking than community breaking. And if DF/RF was server specific instead of cross-server, I’d have very few issues with the feature overall. And before you ask, no, I don’t have any issues with a LFG mechanic that you can check while running around in the world, so long as you aren’t instantly teleported “There and back again”.

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Bruno Brito

A simple question:

The fasttravel staff from Maraudon in Vanilla.

Does that break immersion for you?

Cyclone Jack
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Cyclone Jack

I honestly don’t recall the Maraudon staff (I only ran Mara a few times if I recall, that’s the one with the two entrances that meet in the middle and then there’s a waterfall or something, right?), but if it was a mechanic that was in the lore, I’d probably be OK with it, like a Town Portal scroll. It sounds like you used it maybe like a summoning stone or something. Immersion is a big thing for me in RPGs, and its the little things (isn’t it always) that really stand out.

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Schmidt.Capela

The instant teleportation is a really important part of what makes LFD valuable for me.

While I’m willing to travel the slow way in offline games, that is because I don’t have to wait for NPCs, I don’t have to care about making NPCs wait, and I can pause and/or save at any time to get back to it later without incurring anyone’s wrath.

With multiplayer games, and in particular MMOs, not so much. Not having fast travel available when playing with others means being forced to wait, or forcing others to wait. It also means wasting far more time just getting everyone to where we will actually start playing, which in my case, with my usually short — if numerous — gaming sessions, means there won’t be enough time left to actually play through the group content.

Or, in other words, make the LFD tool without instant teleportation and I will rarely, if ever, use it. Which — given that I play group content almost exclusively through LFD tools — means I will be playing almost no group content in that MMO.

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Wilhelm Arcturus

I tentatively agree with the main point, with the caveat that, as others have mentioned, immersion is a pretty slippery thing to define. I have seen people say all sorts of things break immersion, from the engineer created chopper or the whole post-Cataclysm story line in the Redridge Mountains in WoW to the Plane of Knowledge in EQ to achievements to half a hundred other things I could probably list out if I sat down and considered it.

My own personal immersion breaker is cash shop offers and the like. Anything that makes me start doing mental calculations with real world money kills any immersion I have.

But then, I often don’t notice that I have hit the state of immersion until something like that pops up. Hitting immersion for me is like going to sleep, I’m still not quite sure how it happens, I just pretend I am there for a bit and suddenly it becomes fact. And what is immersion for me… and even that has different layers… may not be what somebody else thinks it is.

Summary: It is like arguing how blue a shade of blue really is.

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CMDR Crow

This feels like it swings past the actual point and the element of “ease” that is downright negative to experience.

First, not everyone defines “immersion” the same way.

What is somewhat distressing about positions like this is that the only outcome produces really bad games. Anyone playing games for the reward isn’t actually enjoying the game. People talk about inconvenience and rail against it, but that is nearly always a code-word for “I want the stuff NOW.”

And that’s the issue. If individuals were playing games because the games, themselves, were good and enjoyable we’d rarely hear this complaint because it is a complaint that is couched in the idea that the STUFF you get as a reward is more important and meaningful than the time spent engaged with the game, itself.

A game that lacks fast travel isn’t “inconvenient” if you’re engaged with your surroundings and aren’t on-rails toward an ending. Naming such as a problem speaks volumes about what people value: and that is certainly not the game that was developed but feelings of superiority or a gambling-like rush.

And that doesn’t even begin to address how “paying for advancement” is the exact logical endpoint of an industry that keeps making their games easier and easier… get them to endgame where they’ll run out of stuff to do and therefore they’ll buy stuff to keep going.

If a game is actually a good game and an individual is playing the game with good-faith attempting to enjoy their playtime, “inconvenience” isn’t even a consideration.

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Schmidt.Capela

Inconvenience is still very much a consideration because not all activities are enjoyable. It’s why my typical approach to offline games is to play them on the hardest difficulty but with mods and cheats to reduce or remove the activities I don’t enjoy; I want to have my skills challenged — not my patience, my tolerance for grind, or my ability to endure frustration.

Making an activity intrinsically rewarding should be up to the devs, not the players.

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Nic Hickman

I respectfully disagree. I remember playing Oblivion when I was younger and not realizing there were fast travel options. Journeys felt super dangerous, and I did way more explorIng as a result of having to walk all the way to my destination. I eventually realized the fast travel options, and I used them, because they were more convenient, but I definitely felt like my immersion slipped. I know I could have ignored the fast travel option, but even knowing it was there had a strange effect on how much I felt like I was *in* Tamriel.

Another example for me was Asherons Call 1 & 2. AC1s map was barely worth looking at – I definitely found it frustrating, but it also meant I looked at my surroundings very carefully to orientate, recall key locations etc. AC2 hit the sweet spot I think – a clear map, with a clear ‘you are here’ marker, and a few key things labeled (portals, major towns.) but apart from that the map itself had been designed with such attention that the topography itself seemed to suggest interesting things to explore.

I think like most things, it’s a case of personal choice. But for me, some element of inconvenience is needed for me to forget that I can just click to get what I want whenever I want. After all, isn’t all gameplay essentially an inconvenience? Ie something is in your way, and you have to do something to get what you want? You wouldn’t call challenging mobs an inconvenience in the way of you receiving xp and loot. To me, mapless slow travel are the mobs of exploration!

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Michael18

mapless slow travel are the mobs of exploration

That’s how I feel, too. Well said!

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Bree Royce

I’ve slowly become convinced that this is an individual player problem, not a fundamental fast travel problem. I never had any trouble feeling immersed in or feeling the desire to explore games like UO, GW, and GW2 to the ends of the earth, and every one of them has fast travel that I can choose to use or not. In fact, as I’ve argued before, the ability to fast travel in games like UO with marked runes actually encouraged me to explore in ways I wouldn’t bother doing in games without those options.

“The curious thing about Ultima Online is that the ease of travel actually made me want to travel and explore more, not less. Instead of cheapening the experience of travel or making the world map feel small and accessible, the spells gave me a sense of ownership over the map, that feeling that I could hop to anywhere at any time and back again if I had to log out in a hurry (a typical barrier to deep-dive exploration trips). Somehow, the ability to go anywhere gave me the freedom and motivation to do precisely that. I once went on a pilgrimage to all the shrines. I sailed my boat around the world (literally, since the map wraps around). I built my own rune library (several of them over the years) for my friends and customers, and in doing so, I explored every inch of the game (more of it as a ghost than I might have liked). So much for the idea that instant travel ruins the game and that slow travel is necessary for a rich MMORPG experience!”

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Schmidt.Capela

That is my experience as well, though in other games. If getting back to where I was takes time, if I have to really commit to exploration in order to do it, then I will do little of it; on the other hand, if I can just jump back between exploration and whichever other content the game has to offer then I will keep mixing exploration with my other in-game activities.

After all, it’s far easier to go out exploring if you can go back at a moment’s notice, without losing the progress in your explorations, if you are needed.

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CMDR Crow

I’ve slowly become convinced that this is an individual player problem, not a fundamental fast travel problem.

I’ve been rolling this response around in my head for awhile, and I’d start by saying that I don’t entirely disagree with your position. However, I think the context could be benefited by expanding the scope of the concept a little bit.

I think framing this in terms of “inconvenience” is difficult because every individual has a different threshold for such. More importantly, “inconvenience” is something that exists only in relation to one’s goals or intended outcomes. That’s super important, here.

If we were to teak the underlying question here we’d get closer to a full answer because what is actually (I believe) at play isn’t “immersion/convenience” but is a very integral question of player motivation versus reward.

We’re discussing a system in which players employ their personal motivation to achieve in-game goals. The idea that needing to travel or spend time can only be an “inconvenience” if it disrupts one’s desired outcome (reward.) I think that is fairly benign as a construction. It is a machine where players load in their motivation and then out the other side spits the transformed entertainment. Someone who has zero desire to play games will see every single aspect of playing a game as an inconvenience as their goal is to be able to stop playing. Someone who loves the mechanics and actual gameplay of a solid title like, say, Overwatch, will find inconvenience in game elements that disrupt the gameplay (such as, for simplest, immense lag/high ping/unbalanced characters/etc..)

We have, at extremes and in simplicity, two sides arguing for their own motivation. Individuals like myself are far less motivated by an end-reward and see the time spent playing as the core of the entertainment and fulfillment.

I have a somewhat negative reaction to the arguments presented in the actual article because it makes base, unexplored assumptions about motivation and goal. This isn’t malicious, and it is an understandable omission if anything.

It is a “player problem” as much as it is a clash between playstyles and, most importantly, the BIG question of “What should I ‘get’ out of playing an MMORPG?”

This is where I get a little uncomfortable, because the assumption is that things which do not directly add to progression, advancement and in-game reward tend to be seen by “reward-focused” individuals as a huge inconvenience as it slows their ability to get what they want. While being reward-focused in itself isn’t bad (we all are to one extent or another, fullstop) it has a negative effect on the larger experience as it completely devalues play motivations aside from the often gambling-like dopamine bursts and the exact kind of mentalities that lead to excessive use of lockboxes and cash-shops. For players at the extreme, the idea of spending $2,000 on the cash shop to immediately be at pinnacle endgame (and often in many more p2w games even better than players who played for their gear/stuffs) is nothing more than normal because the process of leveling up, learning your skills, spending time in the world, etc., is an inconvenience because it either slows the rush to the reward or is rendered optional (and therefore an inconvenience.)

I made a comment over on the Elite Reddit a few days ago in response to someone asking if they’d like the game. I won’t re-create the full wall-of-text but I think the response demonstrates the difference in mentality when individuals are able to put aside some of the “getting stuff is the goal” mentality:

This is a game for space nerds, by space nerds. There’s really not much beyond that. Of course players can come from other backgrounds and have different desires, but at the end of the day you keep playing because being a spaceship pilot is what is most enduring.

You can read every complaint and from a perspective they’re almost all true. But it doesn’t matter that much to people who are enthused to be starship pilots. I don’t play for the missions or the payouts or because I’m hooked on the unfolding story, but because at the end of the day I love being a starship pilot in the 34th century exploring distant stars and discovering things no one has ever seen before. Others love the feeling of turning off the flight assists and gliding around a spinning asteroid at insanely high speeds before settling the crosshairs and getting that kill. Some players love spreadsheets and data and fill their vessels with optimized trade goods or deftly manipulate the political balance of a system. In the end it is the core experience of being a spaceship pilot that runs through every motivation to play.

And this is largely true for my main squeeze, Elite. Players who love the game and keep playing do so not because of some concrete, reward-system endgoal but because the moment-to-moment experience of being a starship pilot is both the base motivation AND the payoff.

I think I feel the need to push against the idea that we need less “inconvenience” because it is a dark hole to begin to traverse. It folds perfectly into the distressing trend of using psychological tricks and ideas to keep players on a reward-treadmill full of gambling-esque highs followed by lows where one works to get that next high. And this is a context where the logical and demonstrated outcome of such a focus on rewards is to sell players more and more instant rewards for the sake of “convenience.”

I just wish more games could be developed without the core being built around selling you ways to not have to play the game. It doesn’t speak well for devs when they sit back and say, “You know all that content we slaved over for years? Yeah, give us $30 and you can skip it all.” It is like walking into the next Star Wars film and paying extra so you can only see the most important scenes and get out in time to tweet before everyone else.

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Schmidt.Capela

We have, at extremes and in simplicity, two sides arguing for their own motivation. Individuals like myself are far less motivated by an end-reward and see the time spent playing as the core of the entertainment and fulfillment.

There is more to players who engage in in-game activities for the activity’s sake.

I’m one such player. I will only ever engage in in-game activities I enjoy; no in-game reward, no matter how large, can make me play through content I dislike, and in fact adding rewards I truly crave to content I can’t stand can make me leave the game instead.

So, if I don’t care for the reward at the end of the journey, why am I very much in support of fast travel? Because it allows me to do whichever activity I want, when I want.

To use ED as an example, if you set out exploring, you are then stuck exploring for a good while; you can’t go back to run some missions, to trade, to chill out with other players, to do some (non-CQC) PvP, nothing. Well, unless you decide to use suicide as a way to fast travel, but there are harsh consequences for that, including losing everything you earned while out exploring.

In a game with fast travel that isn’t the case. I can be out exploring, go back to engage in a match or two of arena PvP, do a few quests, join a group of friends that is planning a dungeon delve, and then get back to exploring without being penalized for my side-treks.

Does this means I’m not fully committing myself to any single in-game activity? You betcha. But that is exactly what I look for in games, experiences that I can engage at will and leave at the drop of a hat, at least since excess commitment got me so burned out with a few kinds of content that to this day I haven’t managed to find joy in them again.

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CMDR Crow

I admire you greatly, Schmidt, because you know exactly what you want and have no qualms about getting exactly that. It is a really wonderful position to be in. You don’t slog through things you don’t enjoy, and you value your own time highly.

You’re also rather a unicorn in that respect :)

There are many sides to everything. With Elite (my main squeeze) I have a patterned tendency to engage pretty hard to achieve one kind of personal goal or another. I made the trip to-and-from Colonia recently, and after I got back to my home station in the bubble I took a five week “vacation” from the pilot’s chair (like a pilot probably would after a 3+ week trip.) It is part of my own means of enjoying the game. I can’t say that the return trip didn’t burn me out a little, because it did. But at a certain point it was “get home so I can rest” which is a perfectly acceptable outcome for me.

I think my worry is absolutely aimed at motivations which, unintentionally, add to the transformation of MMORPGs from living worlds full of interacting/communal players to a bunch of soloers running through things as quickly as possible, buying stuff to speed it up, and then getting bored and repeating the same elsewhere soon after. It is a nasty cycle that only supports the notion of short-term, whale-based business models because the money is there. I’ve had a nasty feeling that so many games could be so much better if they weren’t tied to needing to poke at that dopamine/gambling cycle.

“Fast travel” is somewhat of a whipping post because it isn’t a bad thing at all. Easier access to content isn’t inherently a negative. However, I think we should be hesitant to push too far toward the “convenience” angle because it does create an environment that encourages the kind of cash-shop/lockbox focus which is really harming the ability to enjoy games for what they are: positive entertainment.

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Schmidt.Capela

The basic difference between us seems to be that I look at games as games, as a collection of content and activities that I want to engage with at my leisure, while you are seeking virtual worlds you can lose yourself in. Those are equally valid, if different, approaches to gaming.

I’m also too old to bother with in-game rewards. But hey, I literally started playing games with Pong and went through every single video-game generation (including playing all previous Elite games), so I’m in a better position than most to know how in the end you only take from games the experiences, not the rewards.

(Caveat: early consoles were released here years after their US release, often in bootleg versions as the original manufacturers didn’t bother releasing consoles or enforcing their IP here, so I’m not as old as that bit of information would indicate to someone from the US.)

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CMDR Crow

The basic difference between us seems to be that I look at games as games, as a collection of content and activities that I want to engage with at my leisure, while you are seeking virtual worlds you can lose yourself in. Those are equally valid, if different, approaches to gaming.

I think that hits the nail on the head pretty straightforwardly. I do love “games-as-games” but that is usually more skewed toward board/card games and single-player offerings in the video game world. I have a huge soft spot and love for puzzling adventure games and brain-teasers. I love myself some Prof. Layton or Phoenix Wright-style games that are, truly, about the “game” element. While I love board games with heavier narrative/atmospheric focus, they’re still mathematical/logical puzzles that require a solution first and foremost.

When it comes to MMORPGs, it is really the communal and social elements that make them different from other games. If I want to be intellectually challenged, I’m not really going for MMOs. And my RSI makes the idea of “challenging action combat” into a mound of frustration and sadness.

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Dug From The Earth

The “fast travel” concept bring up an interesting point.

The author is stating that inconvenience is not immersion

At the same time, Immersion doesnt HAVE to be inconvenient.

Walking places, in Skyrim, wasnt inconvenient. There was plenty to do, exciting things to see, materials to gather, things to fight, etc etc.

Much in the same way that a game can force an inconvenient element on the player for the sake of trying to produce immersion, a game can also force a convenient element on the player that breaks immersion. IE: fast travel.

I do not believe, based on context, that this is the type of “convenience” that this article is referring to. I believe there is an extreme left, and right, and a middle ground, and that the middle ground is what the ultimate goal is aimed at.

A ————– B —————– C

where

A= Attempted immersion through forced (and often unnatural) inconvenience
B = A blend of immersion with convenience, without one breaking the other
C = Over done convenience, often completely breaking immersion

Skyrims fast travel would be an example of C
When most people would have been completely fine with the game being B.

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Schmidt.Capela

I myself find fast travel in Skyrim (and other Elder Scrolls games, and the Fallout games, and Zelda BotW, and GW2, and far more games than I care to name) to be the sweet spot. You are never forced to use it (in fact, I almost never use fast travel when I play offline games), but it’s there if you want to. Also, you can only fast travel to places you have already been to, so you need to explore at least once (or, in the case of Skyrim, pay for a ride at one of the carriage stations, but those are restricted to just the major cities).

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Tanek

I know I could have ignored the fast travel option, but even knowing it was there had a strange effect on how much I felt like I was *in* Tamriel.

I agree that in a game like Oblivion or Skyrim, the fast travel option can change the feel of the game. Not only for the purposes of immersion, but for all the potential discoveries and adventures you miss out on going from point to point.

My only problem comes when someone says that fast travel should not be included at all because, even though you have the option to not use it, having it there at all is a problem. (Not saying this is what you would want, specifically, just that I have seen the argument.) Why should someone else’s dislike of the system affect how I am allowed to play the game?

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Loyal Patron
Nic Hickman

I definitely see both sides. Maybe an option before you start the game would be the best way to deal with this?

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Nathan Aldana

No, because in my experience vis a vis things like story mode difficulties in rpgs or newer mario games, the mere inclusion of options that make the game easier for someone pisses these sorts off.

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Barantor

I played Skyrim for a year before I found out there was a quick travel option on the map, I assumed (wrongly) that when folks talked about quick travel they were referring to the wagon carts outside the major towns.

I never felt bad about walking around from place to place, sometimes I would pick up several quests on the way to a major one so I could do them in sequence. I still don’t always use fast travel via the map in that game because there are so many random encounters on roads that you miss if you don’t walk.

It’s all opinion in the end. I find some of the things fun that some decry as inconvenient, but then I hate some mechanics that completely make it cartoonish and rip me out of a groove that are supposed to be convenient.

Cyclone Jack
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Kickstarter Donor
Cyclone Jack

In my first playthrough of Skyrim I forced myself to never used fast travel, even when having to climb that damn mountain over and over, and it was so enjoyable that almost all of my characters were played without fast travel. I would occasionally use it if I was short on time for the evening and just wanted to get to a destination and save. I tried the same with Fallout 4, but sadly that game didn’t hold up well for me. :(

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