Better Immersion through Proper Insertion

As much as I’m sure the title of this post will have nanny bots blocking my website in no time, it’s a concept worth discussing.

What I mean by “insertion” is, “How does the character start when entering the game for the very first time?” Where is one first inserted into the game? When loading up Hellgate: London for the very first time I found myself standing in a dead-end at the back of an alley. Monsters blocked the way out.

If one’s looking to just clicky-click and kill things, that’s fine. It’s straight forward, it’s idiot proof. That’s great. If one’s looking to lose oneself in the game however, the starting point is just… inorganic (to use the screenwriting term).

It causes the player to think, “Why the hell am I trapped in the back of an alley? Is my character an idiot? Oh that’s right, it’s just a game!”, and that last thought is exactly what you DON’T want your players thinking.

For immersion to work best, a game must strive to make its players forget they are playing a game.

With Hellgate: London, the designers just picked a place that’d be idiot proof, without a single thought towards lore immersion. And that’s a shame, because Hellgate: London has some seriously awesome lore.

All that being said, the opposite is true too. You don’t want your newbie player logging on for the first time into a situation so immersive that all they can think is, “What the hell is going on!?” A balance must be found. A game’s starting point should be idiot proof and lore immersive at the same time. WoW pulls this off with the whole, “Welcome newcomer! So you think you’ve got what it takes? Prove it! Go kill ten boars!” Personally though, I think it could be a bit more exciting.

How could Hellgate: London pull this off? Maybe something like this:

You load into the game. You’re in a room, laying on a cot, killing time somehow when a man runs in and yells, “The Seraphim! The Elite! Something has killed them! Please, Templar, you’re the only warrior here. Find out what happened!” The room only has one exit, so off you go.

I’m sure many of you could come up with a better example, but the point is clear. A starting point like this is idiot proof and lore immersive. The player starts the game pumped , knowing what to do, and thinking, “Oh damn, what have a gotten myself into?!” …Not standing at the back of an alley like a 1980’s side scroller.

First impressions resonate… and with better immersion through proper insertion, the player’s first experience can improve the game as a whole.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dangablad October - 2007 at 6:20 am

The best example of this in WoW is the starting area for undead. I consider this the best pulled-off insertion in the game.

You start in a crypt, and someone promptly informs you that, while you were once alive, you are now undead and a member of the Forsaken.

You walk out of the crypt and into the decrepit church, where you get your first quests as an undead.

Of course, undead always got the best quests in my opinion, from Brill to Silverpine Forest to Tarren Mill. Best lore introduction I have ever seen.

Now if only Sylvanas would remember my name…

2 Cocles October - 2007 at 10:46 pm

I also like the Draenei intro.

In my main article I considered mentioning one of my other favorite intros…. the one in “Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past” for SNES.

The Funny thing is, Danga, the Forsaken, Draenei, and Legend of Zelda all have one bold thing in common, all three begin with you “waking up”.

With that in mind, perhaps “You character waking up” should be seen as a good, safe starting point for one’s in-game character.

Not to say it’s the “only way”, but it’s definitely a reliable default.

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is Halo 3, which begins with you logging on to find your character on fire, plummeting from space towards the Earth. Suffice to say, it grabs you.

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