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The Rise, Fall, Death, and Rebirth of the Immersive Sim.

IbizaPocholo

NeoGAFs Kent Brockman

Immersive sims are some of the best video game out there: System Shock, Bioshock, Thief, Dishonored, and a ton of others like “best PC game of all time” Deus Ex. Immersive sims come from a small family of game developers, most of which stemmed from Origin Systems or Looking Glass/Irrational games under the direction of gaming icons such as Warren Spector, Ken Levine, and Raphael Colontiano. Nearly all subsequent studios can trace their staff back to these studios and creators which is absolutely surreal.

Despite being a category of games that have a penchant for sweeping game awards shows and being nothing less than Iconic (we are still making Deus Ex memes nearly 20 years since it came out, aren’t we?) the immersive sim has had some rough patches and creating them is a long, hard process that can eat studios alive. Just look at what happened to poor Troika Games when they made Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines. Most studios that make immersive sims tend to fold on themselves but the devs that make them always get back together to make more great games.

So what will become of Immersive Sims and the future of great games? Well, while the last few years haven’t been kind with the Deus Ex sequel cancelled, the system shock reboot rebooted, and the promising Atomic Heart being locked in turmoil, the future is full of hope. Within the next couple years we’re getting Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2, System Shock 3, Bioshock 3 (or is it Bioshock 4? Game series naming conventions can get weird), and whatever the heck Ken Levine has been working on for the last 6 years. The only way for us to know is to stay tune, and play the games.


The History Of Immersive Sims | Part One

Immersive Sims are a special breed of video game that tries to simulate life or a profession in unique and engaging ways. In this two-part essay, I will be exploring the history of this ever-evolving genre of games.


The History Of Immersive Sims | Part Two | Arkane Studios
 

Alexios

Cores, shaders and BIOS oh my!


Looks like the casual nooblets have arrived in the thread to spew the usual ignorant trolling allowed here, "it's just games with many cut scenes", lmao, that's basically the opposite of what these games strive for, being system and gameplay driven more than anything else you childish bozos 🤡
 
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SlimeGooGoo

Party Gooper
Another one of those annoying buzzwords. It's like "Metroidvania", it means literally nothing.

This is design by checkbox.
Instead of encouraging game designers to make muh "metroidvanias" or muh "immursive sims", ask them to use their brains to make something original and fun for a change.

Or just call those "First Person RPGs" and be done with it.
 

diffusionx

Member
Another one of those annoying buzzwords. It's like "Metroidvania", it means literally nothing.

This is design by checkbox.
Instead of encouraging game designers to make muh "metroidvanias" or muh "immursive sims", ask them to use their brains to make something original and fun for a change.

Or just call those "First Person RPGs" and be done with it.
I would never demand more immersive sims because it is outside the reach of virtually every dev and they shouldn’t try.
 

Alexios

Cores, shaders and BIOS oh my!
Doom x immsim :messenger_fire:


Looks like the casual nooblets have arrived in the thread to spew the usual ignorant trolling allowed here, "it's just games with many cut scenes", lmao, that's basically the opposite of what these games strive for, being system and gameplay driven more than anything else you childish bozos 🤡
 
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Wildebeest

Member
Another one of those annoying buzzwords. It's like "Metroidvania", it means literally nothing.

This is design by checkbox.
Instead of encouraging game designers to make muh "metroidvanias" or muh "immursive sims", ask them to use their brains to make something original and fun for a change.

Or just call those "First Person RPGs" and be done with it.
It isn't like Metroidvania at all. The term was invented by Doug Church, a programmer on Ultima Underworld, to describe what they were trying to do. People don't call them Ultima-Underworld-likes because the term took off internally and found its way out.
 

SlimeGooGoo

Party Gooper
It isn't like Metroidvania at all. The term was invented by Doug Church, a programmer on Ultima Underworld, to describe what they were trying to do. People don't call them Ultima-Underworld-likes because the term took off internally and found its way out.
It's still a buzzword.
Zelda BotW is as "immursive" and "sim" as those games, but nobody calls it so.

Developers should just get rid of meme buzzwords from their marketing and focus on making a good game without a checklist.
 

StreetsofBeige

Gold Member
It isn't like Metroidvania at all. The term was invented by Doug Church, a programmer on Ultima Underworld, to describe what they were trying to do. People don't call them Ultima-Underworld-likes because the term took off internally and found its way out.
I loved UU games. Among my most fav PC games of all time (although I got stuck in UU 1!).

UU wasnt the first to do storytelling, first person, or have interactive items like making popcorn or lighting a lamp. But it came at the right time where tech was getting into 3D so it was right there with Doom, although both games took different stances to 3D gameplay.

I'd say the biggest innovations in UU was the 3D levels which were much more complex than Doom's.

If anything, I'd say Doom is more immersive sim than UU. It was a frantic fast paced FPS with tons of shots being slung at you and you had to act fast. At that time, PC games were still in slow/turned based gaming and good twitch gaming like a console or arcade machine were slim. UU had very slow paced real time gaming with the dumbest AI ever. Walk into a room of Headless, and then run backwards a room or two and the enemies suddenly have no idea where you are as they seemed to have that canned radius effect of chasing gamers. Same goes for Gazers. In one of the games, you run into one in this circular kind of room with some loot bags. If you run to the room, it attacks. If you run out of the room, it stays there.
 
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StreetsofBeige

Gold Member
You mean first person lite RPGs?
The game also had the most simple hack and slash attacks ever.

Each weapon had thrust, slash and chop.

The best attack to use was thrust (like youre a fencer) because it did good damage and if you did it fast enough combined with moving your character backwards, the enemy's reaction attacks wouldnt hit you as you were out of range. Enemy's had such abysmal movement and reaction times it's like your character was The Flash and they were always stuck in molasses. I beat UU2 using a sword doing thrust attacks all game and had no problem.
 
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I_D

Member
Based on the comments in this thread, it would seem that "immersive sim" needs a bit of clarification.

Nevertheless...
Personally, this is my favorite genre.
Deus Ex, System Shock, Bioshock, Dishonored, Thief, Hitman, Tarkov, Star Citizen, Dark Souls, etc.... They're all within my favorite genre.
The feeling of discovering a new ability, or coming up with some weird solution, or finding a glitch, or etc. is completely unmatched in other genres. There really is nothing else out there like immersive-sims.

Personally, I can honestly say that if a game isn't an immersive-sim, I probably don't like it.
If the game doesn't have some sort of hidden feature, or if the tutorial isn't teaching you in real-time, it's probably not a well-designed experience; and instead relies on basic gaming conventions.
Admittedly, that makes my list of enjoyable-games fairly small.
Nonetheless, this genre is the way games are meant to be played.

Everything else just feels like an extended cutscene. Console-friendly games are especially bad at this.
Horizon, Tomb Raider, Sunset Overdrive, Uncharted, Gears of War, Halo, Spiderman, Assassin's Creed, etc. are all extremely similar to each other, in terms of gameplay and mission structure. They all use the same tropes, basically.

Immersive sims are not only the primary way to escape console-itis games, but are such a massive jump in quality above those types of games that it feels like it's not even an us-vs.-them dynamic.
It's more like a "real game" versus "casual game" dynamic.
And I definitely am not a fan of "real game" conversations, but it is what it is. There's just such a gigantic jump in quality that it feels unfair to compare 'popular' games to those 'actual' games.

And, what's even weirder, is that there is even a level of quality within those "casual" games.
Obviously Angry Birds is more user-friendly (aka "casual") than most games.
And yet, it's not even in the same caliber as other console games.

Obviously Call of Duty is a user-friendly game.
But it's far more simple than other user-friendly games, such as Battlefield.

Obviously Fortnite is a user-friendly game.
But it's quite a bit more simple than other user-friendly games, such as Team Fortress.

Obviously Far Cry 12 (or whatever we're on, nowadays) is a user-friendly game.
But it's quite a bit more user-friendly than other user-friendly games, such as Minecraft.

But immersive-sims are not user-friendly at all.
They're the only genre left, basically, that doesn't hold the player's hand.
They really are a lost genre, basically. And it's a damn shame that this is the case.

And that's not to say that user-friendliness is a bad thing. There are a multitude of reasons why those games exist. And they make a ton of money, so the reasons are pretty darn self-evident.
And immersive sims make hardly any money at all, so it's no wonder why they're very-rarely made.

Nonetheless, games like Deus Ex are so incredibly above other games, even those in the same genre, that it really does feel like comparing Kubrick against Michael Bay. Both options have their levels of enjoyment, but one is quite clearly superior to the other.
 
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SlimeGooGoo

Party Gooper
Both options have their levels of enjoyment, but one is quite clearly superior to the other.
Here's your clearly superior "immursive sim" bro.

Also, soccer bad because not immursive sim enough.
Chess bad too because not immursive sim enough.

"Immursive sims" attempt to do everything, but excel at nothing. Combat usually sucks in those games.

Finally, if Thief and Dark Souls are considered "immursive sims" than that just shows how loose the terminology is, to the point of people being able to change it's meaning to fit whatever criteria they want.

But since it's a buzzword nobody knows what it means, just that it's supposed to be used when reffering to clones of Deus Ex or System Shock.
 

StreetsofBeige

Gold Member
Here's your clearly superior "immursive sim" bro.

Also, soccer bad because not immursive sim enough.
Chess bad too because not immursive sim enough.

"Immursive sims" attempt to do everything, but excel at nothing. Combat usually sucks in those games.

Finally, if Thief and Dark Souls are considered "immursive sims" than that just shows how loose the terminology is, to the point of people being able to change it's meaning to fit whatever criteria they want.

But since it's a buzzword nobody knows what it means, just that it's supposed to be used when reffering to clones of Deus Ex or System Shock.
The term would have a million definitions. I dont think most gamers have even heard of the term before. I didn't until this thread. But it seems like the general consensus is a game that is slow paced, SP and has enough narrative in it.

Gamer #1 definition
- turn based hex games with tons of management and detail is immersive sim

Gamer #2 definition
- real time gameplay is immersive sim because actually playing the game with controls is better than the AI controlling your units for you

Gamer #3 definition
- create your own character is immersive sim because I can make the character like me so I'm in the game

Gamer #4 definition
- canned characters are more immersive because the game maker can craft a story totally based on the character instead of your "Fighter named Brad"

My defnition
- I'd classify Aerobiz more immersive sim than any of those action/adventure games listed in this thread as it dealt with money, real cities, buying airport hubs, setting seat prices and real planes
 
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Wildebeest

Member
It's still a buzzword.
Zelda BotW is as "immursive" and "sim" as those games, but nobody calls it so.

Developers should just get rid of meme buzzwords from their marketing and focus on making a good game without a checklist.
OK. Terms like "Immersive", "Visceral", and "Cinematic" are all game marketing buzzwords, but they still all mean something. There is a risk that you become so tired and jaded by the industry BS that you stop using your brain. Cinematic means that you can expect a lot of horrible graphics effects like chromatic aberration and there will be lots of cutscenes, or at least there are many times when the there are very bad in game "dramatic" scenes in game which you have to endure. Visceral means that there is lots of blood and guts, and they try to make it sound and look like characters are putting in real effort and are suffering and so on. Whatever.

To say a game is a real-time simulation is just technical computer science terminology. Immersion is a term borrowed from early VR research. What do you want? You want people to say that all computer software is in the genre "magical pixie sprites" and cannot be described using human words, only magical elf words? To say what makes Zelda different to Deus Ex in design in terms of immersion and simulation is to use those words, take them seriously, and go into a deep dive of how they work practically.
 

SlimeGooGoo

Party Gooper
To say what makes Zelda different to Deus Ex in design in terms of immersion and simulation is to use those words, take them seriously, and go into a deep dive of how they work practically.
  • Immersive: providing, involving, or characterized by deep absorption or immersion in something
  • Simulation: the imitative representation of the functioning of one system or process by means of the functioning of another
There, by this definition all games are both. Where did this got us? Nowhere.

Usually most labels attributed to genres are dumb anyway.
  • "Action" games? Which games don't have action in some way or another?
  • "Adventure" games? Usually is used for slow paced games with emphasis on story+puzzles, but what does that have to do with "adventure" alone? Oh the first game of the bunch, called "Adventure" or "Colossal Cave"! Ok, very useful...
  • "RPG"? Most games labeled as such don't even allow the player to choose whatever role he want to play in the story. Oh, it's loosely based on the tabletop game with the same label, which is a different experience altogether.

I know labeling and categorizing things is something natural and useful (e.g. fruits, vegetables, animals, insects), but most of those examples have technical definitions that are accepted by all.
Video games lack that technical definition, or don't have one that is commonly accepted. Thus, everyone has a term for something they like and enjoy, but the term usually is malformed and most of the time doesn't help in discussions.

Marketing loves all those terms though, because it makes them sound smart when promoting their game.
 
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TwinB242

Member
Im actually in the middle of playing through Prey for the first time and I can't believe how good it is. Its a shame that it seemed to fly under the radar at release and wasn't much of a success sales wise.
 

CleverCaviar

Neo Member
Im actually in the middle of playing through Prey for the first time and I can't believe how good it is. Its a shame that it seemed to fly under the radar at release and wasn't much of a success sales wise.

It had laggy PS4 controls, if I remember. That didn't do it any favours.
Bethesda's PR machine did very little in the way of marketing, if I recall.
It confused/irritated some with the name. Mostly because of Bethesda's previous corporate skullduggery.

However, it's a shame it got blighted by those - it's a really great game.
 

Wildebeest

Member
I know labeling and categorizing things is something natural and useful (e.g. fruits, vegetables, animals, insects), but most of those examples have technical definitions that are accepted by all.
Video games lack that technical definition, or don't have one that is commonly accepted. Thus, everyone has a term for something they like and enjoy, but the term usually is malformed and most of the time doesn't help in discussions.
It doesn't matter if technical terms are "universally accepted" as nothing is so universal. Tomatoes are fruit, but you do not put them in fruit salad, and so on. The fact that you do not have a deep understanding of what immersion could mean in game design to the point where you can break the term down into several categories of immersion and give practical examples does not make you an old wise head who has mastered the secret code of calling out BS when you see it.
 

SlimeGooGoo

Party Gooper
It doesn't matter if technical terms are "universally accepted"
If anyone wants to have a technical, objective conversation about anything, yes they do matter.
Unfortunately most people just use those marketing terms to sound smart and technical, but almost never reflect upon the meaning of the word, or if it makes any sense at all to use them.

Tomatoes are fruit, but you do not put them in fruit salad, and so on
Some people do, actually.

The fact that you do not have a deep understanding of what immersion could mean in game design to the point where you can break the term down into several categories of immersion and give practical examples does not make you an old wise head who has mastered the secret code of calling out BS when you see it.
What are you trying to say?
 

Beechos

Member
Arcane studios got this genre on lock. Hopefully they chnage the art direction after their next game from cartoony to being more realistic. I feel alot of people dont give their games a chance because of their graphics/art direction. Screenshots/videos dont do their games justice.
 
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kiphalfton

Member
I played Prey (the new one) and really enjoyed it. Seems like the only other “immersive sim” besides that I unknowingly played was Bioshock. I have all the Deus Ex games AFAIK, Dishonored, Thief, and probably a couple of the other games in some of these lists, but never touched them (thanks to steam mega bundle sales long ago).
 
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