Massively Overthinking: Breaking your immersions in MMORPGs

Worlds Adrift

Veteran MOP reader and tipster Nordavind is going to break your immersions. Just kidding. He does have a question for us all on that topic, however:

“After the discussion about the recent Worlds Adrift article, I started to think about what my limit is when it comes to plausibility in games. I do not need a game to be realistic; I can easily accept no fall damage ‘because strong,’ shooting flames from your fingertips ‘because magic,’ and faster-than-light travel ‘because sci-fi,’ but things like those serial turbines in the article’s image [shown above] just utterly shatters the little immersion I bring to games. Don’t mess with the physics! Where do you guys draw the line? What odd things do you accept ‘because’ and what pet peeves can break your immersion in even the most fantasy world of them all? (And the answer “other players” does not count!)”

We’re gonna hold you all to that! We posed Norda’s question to the MOP staff for this week’s Massively Overthinking.

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): I’m really picky but… the one thing that really breaks my MMO immersion is when lore doesn’t address why our characters come back from the dead. That was something big in my first MMOs (RIP AC series, Istaria is still chugging along somehow!), but I remember trying to RP in World of Warcraft but… it was so hard to get into without a death explanation, especially for the Horde. Mankrik’s wife was dead and gone, but I died plenty of times before finding that quest. Why couldn’t she just spirit walk back?

By extension, any mechanic beyond whispers to nearby players (including chat channels, except in FF11) messed with my immersion. This is mostly in MMOs though, since AC spoiled me by giving a damn about its lore. Even when it used pop culture references, they fit with the game world. Single player or lobby based games, I’ll accept anything, but be careful with messing with my MMO immersion!

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I always find this question incredibly hard to answer. I hate “I know it when I see it,” but it’s true. I somehow managed to wade through the mess that was Star Wars Galaxies’ Jedi and the Halloween-themed baby Stinky the Hutt backpacks and the Cupid Ewoks at Valentine’s Day; they were stupid and violated every canon and I am the first person to mock them, but in-game, I was able to mentally set them aside as being not part of my reality in the game, even if I was running that content.

And then on the other hand, I can go into a game designed to be “immersive,” without maps or compasses or quest guidepoints, and it’s all fine until I’m lost or bored by the tedium of hyperrealism — because when I’m bored, my immersion is gone.

Stuff like fall damage and spaceship logistics don’t bother me nearly as much as badly designed economies or social rules, either. Go ahead and make travel instantaneous, but dang I get annoyed when crafting systems use nonsensical components and resources!

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): Games need to hold to internal consistency to keep from being jarring. If you’re a wacky MMO with an “anything goes” attitude, then that’s fine but I probably won’t be playing you. Establish your world’s rules and then create within those boundaries so that players have a baseline of what to expect.

Little immersion breakers? Game physics that go wonky. Invisible walls. Players being hyperactive jerks. Lava that doesn’t burn. No explanation why this one race has advanced technology while the rest of the world still uses outhouses and medicinal leeches. Graphical glitches with terrain and object placement (grass that floats a foot off the ground really bugs me). Factions that can’t communicate between each other for design reasons rather than common sense. Ridiculous mounts.

Larry Everett (@Shaddoe, blog): I ran a short series of articles on another website that explored the science behind many video game tropes, powers, and settings. And although I liked to make fun of the conflicts between science and video games, nothing really takes me out of the that would when it comes to powers, or even, really weird mounts. I have trouble with deus ex machina and other items and characters designed specifically to service the plot or in the case of games, mechanics.

My favorite examples come from Star Wars: The Old Republic. During the Fallen Empire expansion, we had to fight some very powerful characters. However, during the actual fights themselves, they were kind of pushovers, until it was the final boss fight and the bosses had to be difficult.

During the Profit and Plunder chapter, we were directed away from fighting Vaylin even though we had fought and one against her brother just a couple of chapters before. (He was supposed to be the more powerful one.) It made zero sense to run away at that point other than it wasn’t time to have a boss fight.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): I want a virtual world, so for me the biggest immersion breakers are when you can’t do something you should be able to in a world. I think the most common example of this is not being able to sit down in a chair at a table in a tavern to swap stories with folks. Sometimes you cant even sit down at all anywhere! Also invisible walls that prevent things like just stepping off a small ledge are also annoying; if I can see the ground, let me jump to it — even if it’s to my death! One pet peeve I didn’t even know I had until recently was when you can’t move your field of vision to look up, down, and around.

On a different front, auto emotes are a major pet peeve. I can be typing something in chat and my character does some totally inappropriate insane physical emote just because I hit a trigger word. Oh man I really hate that!I also do not like nameplates over players or NPCs, or anything floating over heads, especially glowing quest markers. Autopathing is a big immersion breaker. Luckily, these last two are often things I can control and turn off/not use.

Your turn!

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Interesting question, and some good answers. For me, it’s when something completely against the lore or setting gets put in the game. For instance, when they eventually add hover-boards to BDO, that would break a lot of immersion for me. Eastern MMOs are great for that, Western MMOs tend not to do that as blatantly. Like, you won’t see that as much in a Lotro, ESO, Neverwinter or AoC (just some examples), but games like Blade and Soul, Tera, or Echo of Soul… yeah, those games have zero immersion for me. When your Tera character is driving a police car as a mount, that tends to break immersion pretty quick.


As I was scrolling the messages, the screen rolled just enough for the upper half of the picture to appear, and I was like, “what the heck is immersion breaking in that image?”

Then I hit page down and saw the bottom half. And almost hit the floor laughing.

Sally Bowls

I am pretty tolerant of consistent things – poop quests and Harrison Jones don’t bother me in WoW but would in LotRO or SWTOR.

When I read “immersion breaking”, even more so than “p2w”, I just assume that it is far more indicative that the author does not like the game rather than saying much else about the game.


Hills that can’t be climbed. Invisible barriers. Door portals. Inappropriate NPC dialog. Gimmicky cosmetic pets. Over-sized weapons. Silly mounts

Kickstarter Donor

It seems *that guy* is me. Stylized cartoony graphics. That’s just a nope, period. Also oversize weapons, silly pets/mounts, bad voice acting including characters that squeak like mice when attacking and obvious *filler* quests.

Bryan Correll

Ugh, bad voice acting. If you can’t have good readings, then don’t have voice work at all. The horrible ‘Swedish-chef’ accents in Skyrim were one of the things that kept me from getting into that game.


‘silly mounts’

As a person who had never played Wow, I decided to take a look with the free trial. Then I saw a chopper mount. Oh ….


Hmm. I don’t know. I think there might be something wrong with me because if I like the game not much bothers me or takes me “out” of it.

You want to look like a smurf while playing fantasy? No prob. Your Jedi name is “Spank-it”? Cool. You make your toon hideous using every option of your appearance sliders? Neato.

Nope, when it comes to immersion chat doesn’t bother me what others are doing doesnt do it, nearly everything is totally outside of what I am doing with my toon. I’m in my own world. Lol!

I’m not oblivious. I hate gankers, griefers and such, but I wouldn’t say that takes me out of my immersion persay.

So, bring it on! You want to run our next raid in a speedo? You have a pet snail? You walk on your hands? You want to look like “The Thing”? All good here. Just don’t cause me to disconnect, don’t block shit because you can and for the love of Mark Kern, quit complaining and telling us you have the answers to making the best MMO ever!


M Hopper

Fast travel. Especially to places where you can’t get to on foot if you wanted to.
Ex. Warhammer Online. I really didn’t like being ported everywhere, especially to the capital cities.
I could overlook portals in WoW because everywhere you could port to, you could also take the long route and get there overland.

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Paragon Lost

For me, people who insist on bringing the real world into public chat and going on and on about world world events, politics, movies, history, whatever. That’s always the biggie for me and of course “nowadays” it’s the norm, sadly.

Once upon a time online game developers of multi-player rpgs err mmorpgs as they’re called these days were better about enforcing TOS and policing such activity in many of the online worlds. Then WoW came along and it all went utterly down the shitter.

You don’t have to role-play, but you could at least remain in character in what you say in open chat/say. That would go along way towards making the game worlds more immersive again. Keep the politics to private areas, party chat, whispers or private channels. Oh to have just that simple concept enforced.

Until then there is the Friday night Tabletop rpg game instead when I want immersion. Oh look, it’s Friday. :)

Melissa McDonald

l337 speak pretty much ruins RP for me.