Is Immersion Necessary for Horror?

Regarding immersion, do you think it’s of any value at all, or just minimal value? Surely you must believe a horror game at least requires some level of immersion, to scare the player.

I mean, it’s not just that I don’t think it’s of value. I think all the things that people generally associate with immersion are valuable in some way. I don’t think it’s a real thing in of itself.
Continue reading

Invisible Walls

What do you think of invisible walls in games?

I think they get a bad rap.

World Collision data is, by necessity, separate from visible models, except in the case of BSPs. So something visible doesn’t necessarily have or not have collision unless some guy steps in and adds it. So in any game you play, you can make this mental separation between what you see and what the collision area necessarily is. As you feel around objects and the environment more you can build a model of what the real collision data is. Continue reading

Games Aren’t the Final Artform

Are video games the ultimate art form because they have the greatest possibility space?

What? They’re the only art form that has a possibility space, a state space, other than visual novels I guess.

If you’re saying because there’s more things you can do with games than anything else, then I don’t think it’s comparable. I can’t process it. This question seems like it’s trying to preach to the choir. Continue reading

Immersion is Fake and a Menace!

Yes systems mastery is what’s really important, but don’t you agree stuff like immersion can change how systems mastery feels?

Are you a new reader?

I don’t think immersion is its own distinct thing in the first place. I think it’s a bunch of more specific things wrapped up under one heading that doesn’t really encompass those more specific things well. Like, all the things people positively associate with immersion are real, just I don’t think there is a particular phenomenon that can be called immersion, it’s just people mistaking all these other appealing things for immersion when everyone is actually experiencing totally different things from everyone else.

Beyond that, I think that the whole ideology of immersion is a menace to making more entertaining games with better gameplay. I think we should ignore or embrace dissonance with the story or setting and not worry about suspension of disbelief. If there’s things that “break your immersion” just accept it, and don’t go looking for an immersive experience in the first place. Enjoy the game for what it is.

“Systems mastery” is the game. If you want to change how it feels, change the system. I think saying “fiction” here rather than immersion might make more sense, but I still wouldn’t agree with you. I’m a hardline advocate for agnosticism as to theme, characters, aesthetics, etc. Skin it however you want, if it’s a fun game, I’ll play it. If it’s not, I won’t. The choice of setting, story, and visuals are going to do very little to change my mind. I like games with bad stories (like infamous, mirror’s edge), I dislike games with good stories (legacy of kain, planescape torment). I like games with bad art directions (like new unreal tournament and reflex before they both reskinned, also quake 3), I dislike games with good art directions (too many to name).

I think that immersion and all the things bundled up in it should be beneath our attention. I think they should be secondary, or tertiary, or non-concerns. They’re at best a pleasant bonus, and at worst a system of ideas that actively works to make videogames worse by removing helpful abstractions when they don’t fit the setting.

If immersion isn’t a thing, what would you call the feeling of being enveloped in a virtual world? It’s not just a vague feeling when developers create their games with the intent of player immersion in mind. Removing game-y aspects or streamlining the experience to remove interruptions, etc.

To refer to the specific sensations coupled with VR, that is referred to as “Presence” by psychological researchers. Presence (far as I understand it) is essentially fooling of the senses to a very complete degree.

For games in general, that would be Flow, or Engagement. Hypnotherapists believe this may even be connected to a state of trance (I used to read a lot on hypnotherapy).

The thing is, these sensations are not exclusive to games, we just think they are because we don’t identify them as readily in our daily lives. The world can seem to fall away while reading a non-fictional essay on microassemblers, while driving, while playing a sport, while watching abstract shapes move around. We go into states of intense focus all the time.

The feeling is real, it’s just not immersion. It’s a generic state of focus that people experience while playing a game and say, “oh, I must be in that immersion state everyone always talks about.”

Also, the state isn’t connected or disconnected from game-y aspects. It has no relationship to them. Those things are stop signs that people invested in the “immersion” belief create for themselves. They seek those things out because the belief in a thing called immersion, not merely focus or attention, flow or engagement, causes them to be miserable; creates new opportunities for them to make themselves miserable when they could simply enjoy regardless.

I have a larger article written on this that I am not currently publishing.

Everything that fits under the immersion umbrella exists independently of it. Different people have different (frequently contradictory) experiences with immersion. Immersion in of itself is not a thing. A lot of people take other experiences and call those things immersion even though they mean a lot of different things.

To draw a parallel, some hypnotherapists don’t think that trance is an actual state that people go into. The case made by them is that hypnosis is just suggesting things to patients extremely effectively, so the hypnotic trance state is something that is suggested to patients as a tool to aid further suggestions. It becomes apparently real because the patient thinks it’s real. The patient cooperates in creating an imaginary trance state that effectively works the same as a real trance state would. Whether this is correct or not for hypnosis is still a matter of debate I believe. For the case of immersion, I think I can demonstrate that there is no specific “state of being enveloped in a virtual world,” rather a large group of disparate mundane phenomena.

I think belief in the concept of immersion is harmful to enjoying games. I think it’s also harmful to the critical discussion of games, actively blocking understanding of important concepts. I’ve seen many people remark on how being QA testers ruined their ability to enjoy games, or remark that speedrunning/high-level competition strips the enjoyment of games via understanding their systems instead of seeing the illusion. This is bad.

You’re confuing immersion and engagement. Getting engrossed in reading a book about sharks isn’t the same thing as becoming ‘immersed’ in GTAV because it’s ‘realistic’ (and the devs designed it this way). Here’s an essay on it (read the first part only about the meaning of the term only, it becomes bullshit very quickly): I don’t actually play games for immersion, but I do think the concept is real. It definitely shouldn’t be a development focus, nor is it DA FUTURE or whatever.

I’m already familiar with the origins of the term. Getting “immersed” in a book is a term that predates video games. I recognize that there is a difference between engagement/engrossment and states where the rest of the world seems to fall away.

However unlike the article, I’m gonna say that this extreme state where the rest of the world falls away is absolutely something that can and does happen during Tetris. This state has nothing to do with fiction or realism. I don’t think you become immersed in GTAV because it’s designed with a high attention to detail and consistency between its fictional elements. I think you enter a state resembling trance with the game simply because it’s a highly engrossing activity that possibly also induces a state of Flow, same as Tetris. Also, I’m familiar with that article’s author and I think they’re full of shit on multiple counts.

Also, I’m not confusing immersion and engagement. I’m saying everyone else is. I’m saying that everyone’s definition of immersion is different from everyone else’s. I have an album of screenshots of different people talking about immersion, and you’ll notice that a ton of them contradict each other.

That state of flow where the whole world fades away and nothing exists but the game is present in GTA, Far Cry, Crysis, Ninja Gaiden, Quake 3 Arena on low graphical settings, Fighting Games, Tetris, DYAD, Dance Dance Revolution, and so on. The state where people feel this amazing connection to the narrative is present in Planescape Torment, Legacy of Kain, and reading a good book, it’s probably not really the same thing.

The way that things that break immersion is discussed so often, with such different and contradictory citations for what actually breaks immersion makes me think less that immersion is a state unto itself, and more that immersion is just what people refer to as a lack of metacognition (thinking about thinking). Things that cause them to think about the fact that they are currently playing a game upset them.

I realize that I’m speaking anecdotally here, but I’ve never felt anything resembling immersion in my life, even before I became disillusioned with story/simulation games. I don’t think other people’s experiences are fundamentally different from my own. I think people want to tell themselves a story otherwise.

The future is in realizing the simple (and complex) joys of play. Games aren’t evolving up through the muck into a new art form, games are something we’ve always had, but never examined or truly learned the rules of.

Why am I an Asshole?

How come sometimes your interactions display some serious abrasiveness, bordering on straight-up antagonism, but other times you make me want to puke with your humbleness, modesty, and general submissiveness?

Because I’m an asshole that tries to play honest to the best of my ability?

I want to shake things up, I want to be aggressive and push the border a bit, but I also know that these are just arguments on the net. I’m trying to prove a point honestly. I know where I’m fallible. I know where other possibilities might be true. I have a habit of using weasel words, as defined by wikipedia, in real life all the time whenever someone asks me about something when I can imagine one small exception case where my answer might not be true. “You should do this” “Maybe.” I’ve seen other internet assholes who are completely dogmatic, and I want to know the truth. Dogma and absolute conviction prevents one from growing. I know the limits of my knowledge, I want to own up to my mistakes. I try to take in new evidence and change my beliefs based upon them when it is reasonable, but I also try to defend believing in what I believe. These factors are somewhat contradictory, but I don’t think I’d be where I am if I didn’t have both of these things in my personality. I want to crush people, I want to prove I’m the best, but I also want to learn and grow stronger. Both of these drives are connected for me, and it applies to a lot of stuff I do. One takes aggression, the other requires humility. Sometimes I push it too far on the aggressive side, and I gotta work on it.

When I first started at street fighter, my training partner remarked that the way I played was super split, I’d switch between offense and defense like crazy, going for insane pressure one moment, then backing off and refusing to do anything but capitalize on each little mistake the next, and I’d switch the instant either one of those failed. Dunno how related that is, but it’s a funny story.

re: attitude. Well, what I was referring to was how you get all belligerent when it comes to arguing about games for which you’ve got very passionate opinions, but then you do things like apologizing to a fucking ANON on your blog, an anon who couldn’t muster more than a generic insult (though maybe that is why that person is an anon, because he isn’t capable of amounting to anything greater than subhuman chatter). In the past you’ve chided your readers about using insults and ad hominems, but the problem is that proving you’ve got a point is futile. No one will listen because no one WANTS to listen. Come on man, everyone knows the ultimate use of the internet is to confirm what you already believe! Really, though, there’s no use trying to convince people because the overwhelming majority don’t want to reason, they just want to confirm. Even in history, all ideologies and paradigm shifts even science) were communicated to the masses by demagogues (see: NdT or Dawkins for modern-day examples). But people don’t just want to confirm, they also want to follow. They want to feel like a part of something. I mean, look at how a worthless chump like clam has garnered a following. I mean, yeah, his following baically amounts to a few dozen losers from 4chan, but still. Look at the more popular game pundits. Why is DocSeuss popular in spite of being so wrong about so much? What about the various journalists or dudes like Blow/Fish or CliffyB? Insults are only ad hominem when that’s ALL you’ve got. Using them to compliment your arguments is fine, maybe even essential if you’re going to convince anyone of anything (or at least persuade them to follow a cause, if not convince them of reason). I mean, people are so quick to call you an autist for whatever, but you absolutely refuse to fire away at the concept of immersion. What does that prove? Nothing and your relative popularity reflects this. People appreciate a person whose willing to not just stand for his cause, but all fight and attack for it. Apologizing to anons is not part of that.

lol, you serious? Why are you asking me this anonymously, dude?

I think you’re just trolling at this point. They’re more popular than me because they’ve actively worked to expand their traffic by being on more popular platforms and linking their work elsewhere. I’m not trying at that and, as is typical of me, I’m not going to until I can put my best foot forward.

Think from the perspective of that anon: If I just attack him or dismiss him, what’ll he think? He’s going to dismiss me and that’s one less reader, one less chance for input, one less person. I want to know what his issue is, and attacking him won’t get to that. I want to play to win, not to validate my point. Winning means genuinely convincing people, which is a lot harder and more roundabout than merely proving my point. Winning means saying you’re sorry sometimes. It doesn’t look like winning, it doesn’t look like dominance, but it accomplishes things. It’s seeking power instead of the appearance of power.

Ok, my asks sounded kind of rant-y and demagogue-y, but you should get the point. Apologizing to idiots and being unwilling to add a bit of flair to your writing won’t help you in asserting your dominance and taking down frauds.

I’ll apologize all I want. If someone has a problem with my writing, if they think I’m coming off as an asshole, that’s at least partially my fault. Maybe they have a point, maybe I am being an asshole, but they can’t always vocalize that. It’s up to me to figure out how to make my writing work for people, and part of that is working with them even if they’re being a dick to me. I have a very small audience of people who actually like my stuff, then a small audience outside that of people who know of my stuff and reject it. And if their reason for rejecting it is my tone, is my presentation format, that can be fixed.

I’m not here to assert dominance, I’m not here to directly take down frauds (though frauds may be taken down indirectly). That’s not playing to win. That’s not how you actually convince people. I’ll take the submissive angle, I’ll learn from my mistakes, because I want to know the truth and I want to convince people. I know there’s a lot of opposition, I know my ideas and my personality aren’t popular.

The problem with demagogues is they lack the ability to convince people who are opposed to them, and to grow stronger from incorporating feedback. It’s shutting out a large portion of your potential audience if you simply reject people who reject you, as well as shutting out what may be legitimate ideas.

Becoming a stronger person in part means owning up to your faults and not being so willing to push forward that you’re blind to your mistakes. It means considering the other side’s opinions and second guessing your own positions.

That’s been a stumbling block for me as a person. It’s still something I’m not always consistent at, but it’s how I got to where I am. I’m not going to back down from that.

So stick with me, because I’m not going to budge on this issue.

Real Fukkin Controversies (Depth of Violence, Design Documents)

What do you think your most controversial opinion/stance about game design is?

Practically everything I think seems to be controversial.

The way I think games are art in contrast to other people’s views of games as art is controversial. My definition of game is controversial. Thinking Smash Bros, or more specifically, PM, is a real fighting game, is controversial. Thinking glitches aren’t cheating, or shouldn’t always be patched by developers, is controversial. Thinking modern console FPS sucks is controversial. Talking about games in a formalist way is controversial. Thinking that violence is something with substance in of itself instead of a means to a narrative end, is controversial. So is thinking that RPGs and dialogue trees are bad and shallow.

Oh, here’s a really controversial one: Immersion isn’t real.

Immersion is a like, shared fantasy of a state that people don’t actually perceive, or they commandeer other states, thinking they’ve hit on immersion and everyone thinks these mess of different feelings is that immersion thing that they’ve heard other people talk about, so the myth self perpetuates. Yeah, that load of thought is controversial.

I got me some real fuckin controversies.

hey, of all the things you listed I’ve never seen you mention that violence has substance inherently one. That violence is irrelevant to the substance of the game yes, but not that it has substance by itself. Could you expand on it?

Alright, these are two points that are both really interesting. Basically, violence gets passed over a lot in our culture. There’s a lot of violence in our culture, but it’s used as a means to an end, it’s seen as a means to an end. Occasionally it’s a bit of a spectacle, like gore porn is a spectacle, but rarely do people really dig into it. This is a shame because it’s totally something that has a lot of depth to it, much like dance. Instead it’s seen as an indulgence, it’s schlock. It’s not considered an intellectual pleasure, it’s a primal one to most people.

Here’s some videos that I think are really interesting for describing violence:

It’s like dance in a way, except it’s not just for style, it’s telling a cohesive story. It’s a story of who gets shot, who has cover, punches, kicks, force, position, movement, inertia. It’s building a system of interactions, creating relationships between bodies in motion, and that’s really interesting.

However a lot of people don’t see all that stuff, they just see results. They see the big smash, the destruction, the death and carnage, and just show results. And this is why so many american action movies absolutely destroy all the fight scenes. They cut a lot in continuous realtime and shake the camera, and choose ridiculously close angles that don’t showcase the whole thing going on or give you an idea of the area it’s taking place in. This really pissed me off in the Transformers movies in particular.

The action scene with Freddie Wong has basically nothing except the violence. There’s a timeout thing and a gag, but it’s not instrumental to the story being told. Despite being a random alleyway, they made a relatively compelling scene. There’s actual tactics going on, choreography, and that’s really cool.

And of course critics of violence dismiss it as schlock too, because who wants to watch people hurt each other? That sounds stupid.

And then you get actual competition and there’s this metagame element going on, people aren’t just trying to put together a story full of cool moves, people are seriously trying to out think and out perform each other. People are developing strategies and learning counters on the fly, getting a feel for their opponent’s style and trying to figure out what works.

And in games, sure there’s the abstraction of violence, but the patterns don’t resemble the way people really fight in the slightest. There’s no lows or overheads in a real fight. Grappling in video games basically isn’t a thing, it’s just single effect throws, maybe mash to get out. Go is as much a representation of violence as Starcraft is, as much as rock paper scissors.

So in short, yeah violence is cool. There’s more to it than you might expect on the surface.

What popular existing conceptions about game design theory are wrong?

The design document being a necessary/important thing at all

RNG not being a nuisance

Execution barriers being pointless

“Accessible” design not being a pain in the ass that flattens games out.

Unintended outcomes being strictly undesirable

Formalism/Narrativism/Simulationism, the division between these being so lopsided, and narrativism holding such a large market share.

Slower = More Tactical, More Thinking

Good level design is level design that implicitly teaches the player how to play, keeps them on a steady difficulty curve and nothing else.

The whole basis for understanding games in a formal sense barely exists among like 5 people. Most attempts are like shots in the dark, based on common sense taken from the wrong context and poor understandings of the problem. It’s kind of like early thinking on economics: We’ll just print more money and be more rich. We’ll just divide our collection of gold ingots into twice as many gold coins and have effectively twice as much currency. Even though it seems intuitive that things should work this way, in practice it doesn’t actually work that way. Understanding the actual operation of wealth is a lot harder.

Learning to think rationally in largely uncharted territory is hard, and I think a lot of it is having a good person to argue with, and being willing to question everything. I think I have my initial bearings by this point, and I just need to iterate a lot of more specific things to further my understanding. (and probably actually produce content)

What does “The design document being a necessary/important thing at all” mean?

Okay, that’s mostly there because I was talking with a developer about the importance of the design document right before I answered that question, so it was on the brain. Most of the big names I’ve seen in game development more or less agree that the design document as it’s been formally ratified isn’t very useful to actually communicating the design of a game, it’s a huge crufty document that exists to satisfy publishers, or (ideally) it’s a design specification that attempts to instruct programmers and artists how to build a program that matches the designers’ intent as accurately as possible.

Many big successes weren’t build on formal design documents, most games evolve over the course of production into things different than the original design document. I think having a central place to get your ideas on paper, and some type of central organization is good, I just don’t think the design document, as it has come to be structured, is entirely useful/necessary in that. It makes more sense in many cases to just iterate and play.

It’s like the difference between pose-to-pose and straightahead animation. Corporate loves pose-to-pose because it lays everything out specifically and can be budgeted easily, but pose-to-pose animation isn’t as fluid, and it can be hard to work out in advance how something should move, which can kill the momentum of the final product. Straightahead animation is hated by corporate because they have no idea what’s going on, or when it’ll be done, and it has a tendency to produce characters that grow and shrink in proportion, or become steadily more offmodel as you get further from your initial idea into development, however it has a very strong sense of momentum and fluidity to it, because it was developed in that linear way.

Ideally, you have a bit of both, because both have downsides inherent in them, and mixing them together can help prevent run-away development with no idea where you’re going, as well as developing a product you had no idea in the conceptual stage would turn out to actually be really lame.

Make the design document work for you, don’t try to live up to expectations of what a design document should be because you think that’s what making games is. You likely need some type of organization, give yourself as much as you need, just don’t stick to the rigid, largely useless, structure that design docs have fallen into.

Swapping out Aesthetic Themes

Since you usually say that the theme and story is superfluous in relation to the game, would you say that, while keeping all of the combat systems, we change the theme of the souls games to be, say, My little pony: friendship is magic themed, they would be just as good games?

I actually discussed a sort of joke mod for dark souls of this variety with friends recently, except I said it should be themed like modern warfare with them swinging long barreled guns instead of swords, and stabbing each other with glocks instead of daggers.

I also discussed making a game where the cutscenes were literally cuts of Citizen Kane, or where they would introduce completely nonsensical or contradictory plot points, like alluding to things the player had just done that had never happened, bringing up central elements of the plot that previously did not exist, providing information contradictory to the layout of levels or the events in the stage. Remark on the player’s use of a weapon (recording the actual weapons the player used and always choosing the wrong one, such as saying you used an axe if you used a sword).

I think it would be a cute message. It would show how the game’s narrative isn’t necessarily consistent with events as they play out.

As long as it is clear what the current game state is, and all the elements of the game are consistently and identifiably represented, it does not matter what those elements consist of. If you represent poison (the effect which drains your health slowly over time) consistently as electrical sparks in all of its instances, it doesn’t matter if you name the effect “fred” in-game, players will learn it and remember it (and probably just call it poison), much like they do with poison in every other game its been introduced in. A lot of games name common concepts weird things and are somewhat remembered for it. There’s a TVtropes page for that. I still call any projectile in a 2d platformer game that moves in an upward arc an “Axe” after Castlevania.

When I first got into Brawl modding, I swapped out EVERYTHING, as many character textures and models as I could. I tried to have every character have at least one new thing to them, and tried to swap out every stage. I’ve done similar things in dark souls, oblivion, and skyrim. I don’t genuinely care.

At most I can say that using the MLP horse models in dark souls would look a bit awkward on the humanoid rigs. Otherwise, as long as everything is clear, it’s the same shit. Otherwise we might well have an existential crisis switching from higher to lower graphics modes and vice versa.

Have you actually watched Citizen Kane? For all you know its plot might perfectly fit a rhythm game.

I have seen Citizen Kane actually. I thought it was a good film, and it’s really obvious how it influenced the medium, even without a background in the topic. Of course I looked up its innovations afterwards, many are less obvious. I thought it would be funny to make a game, like a rhythm game, that blatantly had no relation to CK, but used CK’s footage as cutscenes. You could compare it to the Great Gatsby game someone made in flash. I think the “Citizen Kane of Games” to most people represents the breakout moment when a game will finally show everyone else how to tell stories using games that aren’t stilted and awkward, borrowing from film conventions, in the way that films borrowed from theater conventions originally. I think we’ve already discovered all the techniques for storytelling in games that we’re going to, what other means of conveying information in a game format are there? I think I’ve explained previously why I don’t think gameplay and story will ever be perfectly in sync.

Clams and Kierkegaards

Who is that icycalm guy?

He’s nobody important. There’s your tl;dr.

He’s a nutter who’d literally play Journey over a game with bad art because he thinks games are art in the most pretentious way possible (and that the *quality* of the visual representation is of utmost importance).

Like, he’s the end-product of the immersion ideology, though twists it to endorse hardcore games (because games that are harder are more immersive he says, not realizing that things in general that are harder make you pay more attention to them), and his perspective on the matter actively prevents him from seeking knowledge. He has successively tried to dismiss people who play games for score, for time, and competitively in any fashion as an easy way to prop himself up as the “best video game player ever” by removing any sort of metric or criteria for that statement. His belief in immersion as be all and end all leads him to distrust alternate perspectives because he doesn’t understand the joy of playing games, only the joy of immersing one’s self in simulations, which he believes all art is a form of, and games are the ultimate art because they recombine (or eventually will recombine) the other media into a complete simulation of another reality.

The article on competitive gamers he wrote (it was partially reposted to scrub quotes and I heard he put up his paywall again after a fight with some other dude) highlights how limited he has forced his insight to become through his ideology. He can’t understand the mindset of the competitive player, or more specifically, because he doesn’t understand what makes good games, he distrusts the statements that they want a more balanced game, or the tendency to prefer human opponents over AI, or the way that players seek knowledge about the game in order to perform better, demanding players reinvent the wheel, and effectively play a more limited version of the game, rather than attempt to compete directly with the strongest players around in the most deep context of the game possible.


The guy doesn’t recognize that fighting game players want balance so that people who choose to play lower tier characters will not be systemically weeded out of the competition, meaning that more characters will be habitually used at the top level of play, meaning people have to learn more about the game and all its components in order to compete in it. The guy doesn’t recognize the desire to master a complex system, or to keep the complexity of the system balanced enough that all the components are relevant, because of course he’s not operating from the perspective of depth, he’s operating from the perspective of immersion. By his terms, difficulty increases immersion, recognition that there are things outside the game at all, including the other player, decreases it. He asks why people don’t go for the biggest challenge possible, not making the link in his head that it’s braindead easy to make an impossibly hard game (for example, just make a game where you need to press a button on 1/60th of a second chosen randomly across a span of 10 minutes with no visual indication of when it is coming up, and requiring you to hold the button no longer than that interval), but this won’t actually be fun to play.

On competitive bots and other nonsense.

Comparably to his lack of understanding people pursuing depth, he doesn’t realize the issue in pushing AI as a competitor. He claims it will play, “more unpredictably and more intelligently” than a human, citing a study with quake bots where they were mistaken for human players more often than the humans were positively identified as bots. The trouble obviously here is that humans are entertaining to play against versus bots precisely because they’re predictable, but not completely predictable. Humans have thought processes that remember past experiences and create dependencies on these experiences, leading to you being able to condition them, or read their future decisions based on past ones. Bots can generate a random number completely free of causality. In a versus multiplayer game, both players are each trying to gauge what the other’s next action will be based on their prior actions. I believe humans are adapted to subconsciously pick up on tells like that through their mirror neurons. I don’t have scientific backing for this, but there is backing that humans can recognize and respond to patterns that they do not consciously detect.


Furthermore, making a bot that outplays a human at a game based on reaction time or speed or rhythm in any context is trivial. SF Alpha 3 (or alpha 2, don’t recall), Akuma was known for walking up to you, and if you attacked/throwed, he would dragon punch you, if you blocked, he would throw you, and if you dragon punched, he would block. There are competitions for Brood War API (BWAPI), that pit Star Craft AI against one another. The funny thing is, the AI that win these competitions have no reactive component. They don’t scout, they don’t change compositions based on knowledge of the enemy, they don’t even bother recording the location of the enemy. One of the most effective AI in this competition format is one that plays Protoss, builds a ton of proton cannons to protect its home base, then builds a huge fleet of carriers, and attack moves each corner of the map until it has completely eliminated the enemy. Conceiving of an AI that can win in an FPS game is trivial, an FPS AI is supplied with knowledge of the entire game state typically, there is usually a high DPS weapon that is inaccurate or difficult to use, an AI can lock onto enemies, and adjust its fire, reading the random seed so it has perfect accuracy at any range and using its knowledge of the whole arena, can avoid enemies with ease, firing at them from angles that are difficult to defend against.

Of course these are not interesting to fight against, and their counter strategies (fireball trap, a specific timing push, and weapon denial/explosives respectively) are simple and repetitive. Realtime games are designed with the 215 millisecond blind spot of human perception in mind to allow tactics to be a thing at all.

On player learning and collective challenge to build the complexity of the game

Because humans exist with the limitations they do, and have the processes of thought they do, realtime competitive games are significantly more complicated than just their base most optimal strategies.

Players learn and adapt from one another, players make use of all the play elements appropriately, and a wide range of scenario specific strategies are relevant. Programming an AI that can encapsulate all of these ideas, be an interesting and complex challenge relative to a human opponent is theoretically possible, but significantly further off than tricking some low level players that the bots they’re fighting are human. Training a bot to play like it is a high level player is a significantly harder task. If you beat a bot using a tactic it can’t account for once, it will always lose to that tactic. That’s how bots work. A human will frequently realize what quirk of the game enabled that tactic, or at minimum realize how it affects the way the game is played and work around it. If you watch the now famous battle by the bay, an old Street Fighter Alpha 2 tournament, you can see Alex Valle fight John Choi, unleashing his secret Valle CC technique, a pseudo-unblockable custom combo, that he kept secret up until the grand finals just so he could use them without anyone else realizing it existed. John Choi not only works around it, he begins using the technique right back at Alex Valle. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to secure a win, but it was close.

But of course, dude doesn’t care, he just cares if the enemy is hard and “immersive”, and so on hearing people say they play for the challenge of the game, his limited mode of thinking jumps to asking why they haven’t challenged themselves against the logical extreme maximum challenge, not for a second realizing that you can’t understand everything with linear regression (which is why he made the similar error earlier in the article with Heroes of the Storm billing itself being shorter than competitors as a positive thing) and that merely being challenging isn’t the only criteria here, but also making the challenge sophisticated and intellectual (read: Deep, having a large number of differentiated outcomes relevant to the playerbase).

And of course he shuns outside connections with other players, because anything that exists outside the game is anti-immersive, which is why he gets mad at western versus game developers for not having a setting that explains the conflict, instead just using loose set dressing, and he conveniently chooses to ignore that there are currently and were in the past a large number of arcade cabinets for fighting games that had two sets of joysticks and buttons next to each other. It was the standard design for neo geo cabinets. And he diagnoses the tendency of players to seek knowledge about the game not as players trying to integrate and play the most complex and complete version of the game possible, but rather as yet another attempt to reduce the challenge for themselves and simply win.

The concept of attempting to improve at a game because the mental process of learning and integrating strategies and demonstrating said improvement in a quantifiable manner is so alien to his immersive ideology that he can only see it as an attempt to make other people miserable. He doesn’t recognize the way that victors pass on information to the losers so they can collectively build each other up, and together play a more interesting game (a more deep game), or the way that challenge, sharing of information, and competition selectively pushes innovations and drive individual competitors to refine their strategies. It’s everyone working together to collectively bring out and refine the most interesting method of playing the game.

The point isn’t just to win, the point is to play a beautiful game as put here:

Of course, to someone who doesn’t understand the complexity or role of mechanics and depth, it’s a natural mistake to assume that all these efforts channeled into the goal of winning are merely to make other people miserable, to win the most, rather than understanding the more subtle point that organized competition brings out the best aspects of the game. Of course, he insists on only playing games once, on never exploring how a game works, and claims that “gitting gud” is for autists, because in any type of fair competition he knows he’d lose, so he seeks to “win” on fields where comparisons cannot easily be drawn. This is perhaps a perfect example of how immersion pushed to extremes can logically impair you.

He’s a thinker on the level of Extra Credits. I’d say Sequelitis and Super Bunnyhop are definitely way above him, as awful as those are they’ve produced tiny things that can actually be learned from in some way. He doesn’t have any type of artistic expertise or experience, yet thinks he’s the best qualified to comment on art. His ideology actively prevents him from obtaining information on this, because this would require understanding how the components of the world and all the creations of man are put together, which would destroy his immersion in works of fiction. Like Extra Credits, he throws out all sorts of statements about games with no sign of any internal reflection or that he actually thought through what he’s talking about or that he did any sort of research on the matter, or has any sort of experience in the fields he claims experience in. The game reviews on his site offer as shallow criticism as mainstream reviews, they just pick different games to give 5 stars to than the common journo.

His articles do not offer any advice for how to develop games (either in terms of the literal tools used or the more abstract theory for the structuring of mechanics). Games that are not digital are to him not even games, and therefore beneath his attention, same for abstract digital games that could be replicated mechanically. Frankly, I’m surprised he hasn’t claimed that programmers have no skill of any kind since all they do is press keys, given his tendency to drive things to extremes.

He’s a narcissist, acting as though the world that appeals to him is as an extension of his ideology, and that which isn’t is “autistic.” He isn’t seeking the truth, and you won’t find any truth by following him. But hey, might get a few good single player game suggestions, even if ultimately he doesn’t endorse games on the basis of being sophisticated and intellectual to play and solve. Only if they’re “immersive.”

Oh and the guy’s a nut who checks Google for mentions of his name, so here’s a hello for when it inevitably gets back to him.

Trust me, don’t bother with this guy. He’s tiny like a gnat, and works with as obfuscated logic as a protestant.

In the competitive game quote, he makes the totally crazy jump- devoid of any logic whatsoever- that those seeking to not be disadvantaged are by default seeking an advantage. lmao, what? Anyway, towards the end, in your summary of the clown (clam?), you forgot to mention that his philolsophy site is lol.

It’s typical for him.

I didn’t feel like mentioning the philosophy site, it’s not really worth mentioning. He’s insane and his philosophy has no bearing on rationality or how to effectively do anything of use.

Oh, and probably worth mentioning is that the final form of all games for him will be things like open world mmos, worlds to escape into. Which is why he’ll endorse a game that is tactically and strategically uninteresting as long as it is difficult (because difficulty demands attention, giving the appearance that the rest of the world fades away, part of the immersive fallacy), complicated (because ostensibly he wants to pretend to be intelligent even if all the complication ends up being more simple and repetitive than a less complicated ruleset), and models an escape into another reality (shit looks good, has a setting that makes sense, mechanics all reflect rules of alternate reality, etc).

The horrifying alternative to this in his mind is that the illusion that a game is an alternate reality, and therefore the art, is stricken from games, and therefore games are reduced to simple sports, of which they would be the worst, because they are simply about twiddling your thumbs, where others are about growing physically stronger. Ignoring of course that you could similarly reduce a lot of mental activities this way, like playing music, programming, writing, drawing, many fields of science, law, etc. And that because you cannot interact with something without feedback (“turn off the screen, see it’s all just twiddling thumbs”) does not mean that the aesthetically pleasing quality of the feedback is suddenly what defines the experience over the interactions themselves (ie. we could have much simpler or less appealing representations of constructs in games, and honestly it wouldn’t make much difference as long as the feedback of information is still clear, this is why programmers use programmer art before having finalized art assets produced, especially during the prototyping phases. If fun were truly contingent on high aesthetic quality, then rapid game prototyping would be meaningless).

But hey, it’s fun to dismantle the thoughts of small minds. It helps me get my thoughts together and point to areas I have not thoroughly considered yet.

The Effect of VR

Concerning VR, I just have a hard time understanding how we could simulate a Bayonetta or Just Cause. The former would be physically impossible for one thing, and the latter would have us puking our brains out.

This video and other reports on VR make me feel very worried about how VR will influence what game designers make.

Have you ever used Second Life? I heard about it in a magazine a long time ago and thought it was a funny idea, letting people just make whatever world they want basically. I played with it a bit, went around to different areas in the world and looked at all the locations people made. Someone made this Mario castle where you could interact with various bits of it like warp pipes and collect red coins to get a star. Another person made a giant beanstalk you could climb. There was a museum of optical illusions. I got to see the gathering for gardener dragon illusion for the first time.

And it got boring. The most interesting things in second life were scripts other people made that could be interacted with, the rest was set dressing, you walk around and look at things and that’s kinda alright I guess, but there’s not much else to do.

The thing I tell myself is, if I were ever transported to another world outside our own, I’d still want to play games there. VR can’t take the place of games, VR can’t disrupt games. VR can be a component of games, but so can nearly anything sitting on your desk and any technology you can imagine.

The trouble is, I can see people ceasing to make a lot of game types so they can have their games in VR. Fast first person shooters are straight out, any game with sudden scene transitions, anything where the player is suddenly accelerated quickly, anything with warped, fixed, isometric, orthographic perspective, a lot of third person perspective games. The only game type VR really seems to improve are games where you control a vehicle and need to control the acceleration of the vehicle separately from the steering, because in VR you don’t need another stick for the camera.

We won’t be able to simulate things like Bayonetta in VR until we have better control systems. Not to mention that when you change the control systems that thoroughly, you change the game. Bayonetta wouldn’t work with any conceivable form of motion control, because its gameplay consists of triggering animations with digital (on/off) inputs. Motion controls capable of replicating and creating reliable access to all of Bayonetta’s possible digital inputs would not only create a poor analogy between your analog motions and their output, but they’d also be exhausting to use. A sim that actually does create an analogy between your motions and the motion of the character in-game wouldn’t be Bayonetta.

Also attaching your viewcam to Bayonetta’s head would make the game impossible to play, as a lot of things depend on seeing around you and correctly inputting directions relative to the camera.