Thursday, 9 September 2010

Where is your self in a game?

Introduction
When you are playing a videogame, an external observer will probably say that you are sitting in a sofa or at the computer desk. But is this really where you are? When immersed in the virtual world of a videogame, do you still feel that you are sitting on a chair or in a sofa, staring at the screen?


An experiment
Before moving on, I would like you to consider a simple experiment. You can easily do it with the help of a friend if you got the right prop: a rubber hand. Put your own hand next to the rubber one on a table, and place a screen between them, shielding your own hand from view. Now ask your friend to stroke the fake and real hand at the same time, at the same place. Something strange will now happen. Your body image will change, and the rubber hand will become part of you. As your friend touch both hands, you will feel as if the feeling arise in the rubber one. All of a sudden, you will have made an external object, become part of your self!

With this experiment in mind. The question of where you are becomes more interesting. When playing a game, where do you transport your self to? Does it depend on what the game is about and from what perspective it is played from?

I think this is not only an interesting curiosity, but a very important part of the experience. Identifying where the player is when playing, can be very useful. And even more crucial, being able to "place" the player correctly is a very useful skill.


Spectator or something else?
Let's start simple and explore movies first. In movies there is no interaction, so surely you must be a spectator to every scene in a movie. A clear example of this, is when you see a horror movie and have one of those "don't go in there!"-moments. This clearly puts you in a spectator seat, treating the actor as a separate entity.

However, things does not get so polarized in other situations. Consider a gruesome torture scene or similar. These can get almost unbearable to watch and blurs the line between yourself and the actor. The reason why this is so is because of something called mirror neurons (here is a good video on the subject). What these do is to make you copy emotions from other people, replicating some of their sensations. One could even argue that they expand yourself, no longer limiting it to your own body.


Interaction added
Let's go back to games now. As we can see there are two forces at work: we can trick our brain into extending the body image and we have specialized neurons that copy other people's emotions. How these will affect us will depend on what type of videogame we are playing.

One of the major differences between games today is the viewpoint, ie first or third person. Does this matter? First person places you inside a character, putting your viewpoint where it usually is. This increases the feeling of being the character. In third person, you are removed from reality, and look upon yourself as if in some kind of OBE. This might make one think first person is superior, however, this only applies to the sense of sight. Another important sense is the proprioceptic one, which keeps track of your different body parts. When in first person, you see at most a hand or two, while in third-person gives you a full body image to copy. Third person can also give your mirror-neurons more to work with, like facial expressions. So depending on the kind of actions you perform, first or third will have a different feeling of being.

Also worth noting is how easily we shift between different states. For example, in Silent Hill 2, I feel very much connected to James when I run around town. Then when entering a cut-scene, I sort of float out of him and become distanced. I am no longer in control of the character and no longer part of him. Then when controls comes back I once more float inside him and the virtual characters becomes an extension of my own body again. This kind of movement happen in just about all games.


The roles we play
Now that we have explored how the self can shift position as we play a videogame, an interesting question arise: What is the player's role in these different positions? As videogames contain interaction; not only do you fee,l to various degrees, part of the on-screen character, you also control her/him/it. What does this make the player? Some kind of puppet master? An devil/angel on the shoulder? And more importantly, can the role assumed, change how the game is played?

In most games, you do not control all actions in a game, but mostly give general commands. You tell your character to jump, but not how much force to use and so on. You command a character to pick up an item, but have no control over any finer movements. This is not that far off from real life though, as most of your day-to-day movements are made without any conscious thought besides the thought of initiating them. This means that making a character jump by pressing a button gives you a very close connection. In these instances, you might feel like you are the character.

However, not all games have this close connection. Consider an adventure game where you just pick a destination for the character or choose between prefabricated lines of dialog. What role does this give the player? Some kind of guardian angle - a guiding voice inside the protagonist's head? Does this change the way that the player think of the character and how to interact with the game? Perhaps this role-assignment distances the player emotionally from the game's protagonist?

It is interesting that some games actually explicitly give the player a role. This is quite common in adventure games, where the protagonist might look at the player and directly address her. Do developers really consider how this can affect the placement of the player's self? I must confess I have not thought about this until very recently and have not heard of many discussing it.

I think it is very important to decide where the player is and what her role is. If this is not coherent than it might have a negative effect on how the player choose to interact with the game's world. If you know your role in the game, it gets easier to be immersed in it and know how to behave. This does not mean that the assigned role and placement of self needs to be the same throughout, but that it must be consistent with what needs to be done. A simple example of when this goes wrong is quick-time-events during cut-scenes. This can be very confusing at first, as you have just gone from being the character (in normal play mode) and gone to spectator mode (when cut-scene is playing). All of sudden you are required to control the character, something that is not coherent with your current role.

This shift in placement also explains why emotional moments can be hard to get right in cut-scenes. As you enter a cut scene you move over to "spectator mode" and all of a sudden you are no longer as connected to the character as before and do not care as much. JPRG:s like Final Fantasy 7 have it easier here, as the normal gameplay is more close to a "spectator mode" and thus the difference is smaller when entering a cut-scene. Same goes for a game like Heavy Rain. An important thing to note here is that contrast in position seem to play a huge role. When there is a violent shift in the location of self, it is very noticeable and the emotional connections are lost.

Finally, I also want to add that the same game, can have players assume very different roles to themselves. A good, although a bit extreme, example of this, is a recent Gamasutra article, where the writer let his mother-in-law play the new Sam and Max. The interesting part is that she did not release she could or should control the characters. She just assumed (probably from lessons learned from experiencing other media) that she should be in spectator mode. One should have this in mind when designing a game and tutorials for it, and not just assume that a player knows what role they play.


Our take on this
Location of self and the role of the player is something that I have not really thought about until we where developing Amnesia. I would therefore like to discuss how Penumbra and Amnesia: The Dark Descent differ in this aspect. As a lot of thought have gone into making the player become the protagonist in Amnesia, it has had a different focus compared to Penumbra.

In Penumbra, Philip narrated all the scenes, yet in normal gameplay the player very much was part of the character. As these narrations are very subtle, it gives a bit of schizophrenic impression. For example, at one point Philip comments that he does not like spiders upon seeing one scuttle by. What happens here is that we are forcing very specific emotions on the player who will either accept or reject them. If rejecting them, it means a large shift in the position of the self and Philip stops becoming a part of you. From being part of the world yourself, you are reduced to being a passenger inside Philip's head. As mentioned before, this contrast can be very bad for the immersion and the emotional connection.

In Amnesia, our goal is for the player to become the protagonist. This is vital for the story and experience as a whole. Because of this, there are never any words spoken, and there are no Daniel-subjective comments. We hope that this will place the player's self inside the body of the protagonist, and to think about what "I am doing" and not what "Daniel is doing". Our hope is that when you encounter facts about Daniel's past, it feels like your own forgotten memories. I know this is not an easy thing, and I am not sure many players feel this way. There is also the issues of adding smaller cues like breathing and heartbeats. Since these are actions that are not totally under our control, it is not incoherent to force them onto the player, but only if the player accepts it. Judging from player comments so far, there are people on both sides and having it in is a bit risky (we are actually thinking of having them optional in the future because of this).


End notes
There is a lot more to explore, but did not want to make an already long post longer. So consider this as just a discussion starter and a brief introduction on the subject.


Now I am really interested in hearing how you feel about this! What role do you feel that you play in different games? Please share your experiences!


37 comments:

  1. I undoubtedly agree with you on various gameplay techniques such as cutscenes, quicktime events, and other mechanics which noticeably separate the protagonist from the player. So far one of Amnesia's focus points is definitely to merge the protagonist and the player as close together as possible to ultimately achieve a nearly flawless connection which is virtually never broken through the whole span of the game. Just to give an example, right in the very beginning of Amnesia, the game informs you that YOUR name is Daniel, not that "you are playing as a MAN called Daniel" which was certainly one of the many wonderful techniques which made the game so incredibly immersive and "natural."

    In my opinion in absolutely any FPS the merging of the character and the player should be one of the first priorities, especially if one of the main focus points of the game is immersion, and immersion is an incredibly important thing to a game like Amnesia, and thankfully it clearly cherishes that immersion using virtually every method that it was given by the developers.

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  2. This post is appreaciated beyond simple measure.
    Like is very much like. So much.

    Sssssweet to thought. It likes. We too.

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  3. Great post. I think you definitely succeeded with Amnesia. I'd say I'm on both sides of the sense with the effects...so optional would be great. Not a huge deal though. :)

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  4. I get the feeling like I'm part of the gameworld's I*m in : )
    great post btw : )

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  5. Interactive fiction in particular grapples with this quite a bit, perhaps because nearly all of them are telling a story via text in the second person. On top of this, IF also raises issues of the relationship between the player and the storyteller. I can think of at least three interesting examples off the top of my head:

    Fail-Safe by Jon Ingold: I'll try not to spoil too much, but more than most IF, this one seizes on the unique relationship between player and narrator. The game is in fact one long conversation in which the player answers a distress call from a spaceship. All descriptions and narration take the form of verbal communication (well, realized as text) from the person calling for help, and the commands you enter are interpreted by the narrator as instructions on what to do. (So you get responses like "I told you, I already tried that! The comm unit just isn't powering up at all! Oh God Oh God...") As I recall, it even simulates some of the messages occasionally getting garbled by radio static.

    Bellclap by Tommy Herbert: I judged this one in the 2004 IF Comp, back when I had time for such things. It was in fact not a successful game, but the central gimmick was so marvelous that I'd love to see someone try it again. Unlike most text adventures where the player identifies the protagonist and the narration generally tries to stay out of the way of this relationship, Bellclap features three distinct personalities: the player as a deity, a man named Bellclap who is a worshipper of said deity, and the narrator who serves as a sort of intermediary between the two. Bellclap is lost in the mountains and has stumbled into your temple; your job is to give him divine guidance through the narrator, who then relays Bellclap's progress back to you: "He's managed to climb up onto the statue's shoulders, sir, but he can't reach any higher than that, and he says his fear of heights is doing him no favors." You could give all kinds of unhelpful and/or dangerous commands, too, with the expected funny messages from the intermediary about how confused you were making the poor sap. A real shame that the actual puzzles were so unintuitive and the story so short.

    Photopia by Adam Cadre: A classic that really should be played by anyone with the slightest interest in interactive fiction, it borrows the fractured chronology and some narrative themes from the film "The Sweet Hereafter". It's confusing at first because every ten minutes you seem to be launching into entirely unrelated scenes with completely new protagonists and even game-universes, but as you keep playing, the pieces start to fit together, and the unconventional nature of some of the narration and storytelling starts to make sense. It's also novel in that, while it turns out that all of the scenes and viewpoints are linked to a certain central character, you never actually play as that character.

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  6. And this post goes straight into my 'Finest Articles' bookmarks folder.

    Personally, I'm something of a roleplaying kind of player. In most games I either make the protagonist become myself or I make myself become the protagonist. The former is much easier when the player character is a blank slate or silent protagonist - a cypher.

    For example, in Half Life 2, as the elevator ascends to the final conflict I instinctively positioned myself/Gordon in front of the doors and envisioned myself/him pressing my/his HEV-gloved hand against the glass opposite Alyx's. This is what I would do in this situation, and what I decided Gordon should do. In this case, we are one in the same.

    Contrarily, in the Mass Effect games I decided from the beginning to play a Paragon-style Shepard and, against my own better judgement in some cases, followed a generally Paragon-centric path. While I would have thought about myself performing these acts, it was in the guise of a defined character (even if I defined the character myself). While Mass Effect is third person, so supporting this separation of self and character, it can be true for first person games such as the Elder Scrolls series where I begin with a set play-style and personality in my head.

    The games are crafted to encourage emotion and intellect, for players to become engaged on an emotional level with the story. If I instead examine my actions in a shallower emotional gaming experience - Overlord or just about any multiplayer game - then perspective doesn't really come in to it. Yes I think that *I* am going to take that control point or *I* am going to kick those filthy peasants around, it does not register on an emotional level. This action needs performing so I, the player, perform it but it is Chris Fox doing this thing as part of a game rather than Kast the rocket-launcher totting soldier doing it in a life-or-death battle.

    As far as Amnesia goes, I slipped between roleplaying Daniel as I thought he would think (or rather projecting myself onto him) - a man seeing the evidence of his own crimes with the clarity of hindsight but muddied and twisted by failing insanity and desperation, how would I respond? - and playing as myself trying to win the game. Luckily these moments of metagaming were rare as the atmosphere drew me in so expertly and I played in a dark room with few outside distractions.

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  7. I think you succeeded beautifully at bluring the line between the player and Daniel in Amnesia. Beside the audio clue like the heartbeat and breathing, I think the sanity effects, which are after all independent of a person's will, and the realistic handling of doors, drawers and objects generally really helped a lot too. This might also explain why people react so strongly to the game ("I can't play for more than an hour before having to go out and drink some coffee" type of comments can be found everywhere).
    ~Problems~ arise when the believability is broken : objects which can not be taken up, chests which can't be opened, stuff that doesn't burn when thrown into a fire, etc... The reasons are clear. You can't have EVERYTHING be interactive (and the burning part would remove one crucial element of the game, namely the darkness), but those details shout at the player "This is just a game! YOU are NOT Daniel". It's not a criticism by the way, as you really did an astounding job at creating a believable and consequent world.
    Most games rely (too) heavily on selective interactivity though, with only ~quest~ objects being interactive, even if they share the same model as hundreds of non-interactive ~background noise~ (chests and NPCs are the typical targets). In the same vein, I think that many people complained about the kids not being killable in Fallout3 not because they were sadistic, but because it broke the believability of the world and therefore the immersion. It just didn't make sense in the world THEY were in, while playing.

    The gist of all my rambling is that if you can create a subjective (1st or even 3rd person) experience which is in itself logical, you already halfway convinced the majority of players that they are THERE, and not in front of their computer in their cozy home.

    As an aside, I would say that audio cues are much more important that visuals. Thief:The Dark Age and System Shock2 are good examples. They both boast subpar grafics (and they were subpar even when they were released), but, besides the above mentioned believable worlds, they also had top notch audio design ... and were (and still are) therefore incredibly immersive experiences.

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  8. Wow! That was a great read! I appreciate everything you guys at frictional games have done for us, like giving us the commentary. Playing Amnesia has been a crazy experience. I've never played games like these, I from time to time jump and let out a yell just because of how much im into the game world. You guys have really succeeded in creating horror, and I really hope to see you guys continue on so we can continue to experience what true horror is. Theres no feeling like being trapped inside a horror game.

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  9. I am where the dev's want me to be.

    I don't think the dev of Spelunky wants me to think that I am IN the cave, whipping snakes. I don't think he cares where I am and if I'm listening to the news while playing his game. If Amnesia wants me to think that I am Daniel ( "In Amnesia, our goal is for the player to become the protagonist. This is vital for the story and experience as a whole.") then I am Daniel. You can't read Lovecraft and stop thinking that science and/or reason dictate that antediluvian monsters don't exist and then just get back to reading. Some stories have no relatable characters at all. I can even scare myself at home, just sitting and thinking unnerving thoughts. If the game tells me that I am afraid of spiders then I am afraid of spiders. Whether it's Bram Stoker or Dmitry Glukhovsky, I am taking the story at face value and seeing where it takes me. I want to be scared.

    What stops me being where the dev's want me to be is more important than where they want me to be.

    For example, any form of HUD is an immediate immersion breaker for me. Shake the lantern and listen how much oil you have left. Open the zipper of your backpack and search inside among all your other items for a key. Maybe all these are too much to program, I don't know, but would make for interesting gameplay, for me at least. Throwing your inventory (backpack) to distract something that's chasing you and going after it later. Or maybe leaving items behind (or carrying them in your hand(s) ) because they don't fit in your backpack, they all seem logical, immersing obstacles. If I can hear "my" heartbeat why do I have a mystical, shapeless inventory with me?

    And if players are fidgeting their legs under the desk while playing maybe they could do something with their hands ingame to relieve stress.

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  10. Genkaz92:
    - "Just to give an example, right in the very beginning of Amnesia, the game informs you that YOUR name is Daniel, not that "you are playing as a MAN called Daniel"
    We actually debated quite a bit on what to say in this sequence. Should it be "I am Daniel" or "You are Daniel". Both works as talking-to-yourself speech, but we did not know what would be the best for the player. The end choice was just pretty random, so I am glad it worked out for you! :)

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  11. Shih Tzu:
    Yes, this is very interesting too, and I was gonna discuss IF but felt the post was long enough already. The whole first person narrative is kinda tricky, and it does not really assure that the player thinks herself as the protagonist.
    I actually read a book with first person, Halting State by Charless Stross. And I was really thrilled how it would turn out, but after a few pages, it felt like any other novel. I was never inside the character but always imagined them from the outside. Perhaps this was becuase of the multple characters in the book, or because the writing forces tons on emotions, views and traits on to the _you_.

    Also have to say I really liked the idea in Fail-safe. Have not played the full game (I suck at IF puzzles :() but spent 2 hours or so with it. The idea to have the entire game be voice comm is brilliant. It kinda reminds me of Experience 112 (a PC game) where you played as guy at a monitor. The execution was kinda lacking in that game though, but idea was awesome.

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  12. Kast:
    The whole role playing aspect you mention is very interesting and I gonna do a post on that soon. Have had some reactions from different kinds of Amnesia players that are really interesting.

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  13. I my mind you have completely nailed the immersion in Amnesia. I committed 100% to the game with headphones, dark room, wide-screen monitor.
    Because I committed to it I am getting the most out of it. The message at the start of the game really helped focus you. (Don't play to win etc.).
    The character sounds are fine - its like when you are in the cinema and there is a collective shriek or release of tension. I posted over on Rock Paper Shotgun something to the effect of: this game is probably like Blair With Project or Paranormal Activity - some people just won't "get" it or cannot project themselves into the "place" which has been created. You definitely need to be wired a certain way.

    This is the first game I needed a pause to let my heart calm down. I mean, I was getting worried about my health. Seriously. This of from someone who has probably watched 99% of all the classic psychological horrors (you know, Night of the Demon and all that) and read endless classic novels of the likes or M.R. James and so forth.

    Also I have to ask, were you influenced by Gilles de Rais / the "Bluebeard" fairytale? Also I am guessing Pan's Labyrinth was some kind of influence - you will know the scene that I am on about.

    Sorry I know this was a bit off topic - I have just had an incredible gaming experience with it so far - and I have been playing games for 25 years (since the Spectrum 48k).

    Okay. I would say that you have broken away from the 3rd person wall of Alone in the Dark (1992) and Resident Evil (very fond of the atmosphere in the 4th). The tension in those games is simply the fact that your character turns very slowly - the games hinge on it. Same as Dead Space. Already this distances you from what is happening. Also fixed camera angles - its like a film with many static tracking shots. This limits the engagement somewhat.
    This is also where Blair Witch project and Paranormal Activity succeed - it felt like you were REALLY THERE - there were no cinematic cutting techniques. Its like your trapped in the hand-held camera with them. They rely upon your imagination to fill in those horrible gaps.

    I never though a game could be as disturbing as a good ghost story or film - consistently for its duration - Amnesia just proves it can.

    Edward / Huggster

    P.s Nice Escher ;-)

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  14. AFAIR there were only a few games in my gamer history that managed to capture me inside them as to think I was the character. Wolfenstein 3D mainly because there weren't many fps games at that time ;-). Unreal 1, cause it was so visually good. Half-Life, because of the live cut-scenes. And Penumbra (I didn't play Amnesia yet, I'll wait for a promo - 20$ is quite a lot of money in Poland to pay for a game :-( ), and it did capture me a lot more that any other games. Mainly due to the interaction, the pull and push anything mechanic etc. And I do love HPL's works and Penumbra reminds me so much of them ;-).

    Thank you for making such gems among games that you create.

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  15. My first comment died so here we go again ....

    I have been gaming for 25 years since the ZX Spectrum, and I have played through a variety of survival horrors. Many are classics, but they all have some flaws:
    Alone in the Dark (1992) and Resident Evil - rely on slow turning to create tension (its a consequence of a game play design choice). The same goes for Dead space. Fixed static cameras with tracking for the older versions, 3rd person - all detach the player somewhat.
    Thief 3 - The Cradle - it is only one level, and its not the main thrust of the game.
    Condemned: Criminal Origins - starts off well but you soon become de-sensitised to the unease and terror.
    System Shock 2, Undying ... these are all good games but ...

    Amnesia is really terrifying - its the peak of the genre from the hours I have put in so far. Its the first survival horror where I have had to break due to my heart pounding so hard - I was worried about my health. Seriously.

    I think about films like The Haunting (1960), the Woman in Black (1980s) - all those classics, and authors like M.R. James - and I realise you have dropped me into one of these stories. The essence of those terrifying moments in literature and film.

    I see influences from the disturbing "Bluebeard" fairytale (Gilles de Rais) and Pan's Labyrinth (you know the scene I mean) - and I just go "Yes, that's it, you have done it - you nailed it".

    The character noises just add to immersion - its like when people gasp in terror at the cinema - its a COLLECTIVE terror.
    If Penumbra BP was a homage to The Thing (have a look in the Kennels ...), Amnesia is a homage to everything Gothic horror.

    This is how involving immersive simulations should be. It made me feel alive. Terrified but alive.

    Edward / Huggster
    p.s. Nice Escher!

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  16. I'll break down my post in 3 shorter ones, so you can skip to what you find interesting.

    (1) Congrats [this post]
    (2) Advice
    (3) Where is your self in a game? - answer and afterthoughts
    ---------------------

    The fact that Amnesia: TDD was so well received makes me REALLY happy, cause I've been interested in your work the moment I saw/played the Penumbra Tech Demo. If someone deserves to succeed it's FG.
    You've been doing what you love probably since some time before you made Fiend, and over the years you've become more proficient at it. You are an example of what it means to be creative, innovative, brave, and just plain good at what you do! You've done the research, and you've openly discussed your ideas with the community, and in the end you made one of the scariest God damn horror games (if not THE scariest) ever.
    Truly, I wish you all the best.

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  17. (2) [A friendly advice]
    OK. Now you've bound to make an impact on the industry. Hopefully, this will bring you more money for future projects, and some fame. Don't let it overwhelm you! Don't let the people with the money influence the way you create games [read: don't let them tell you what to do]! And don't stop evolving!

    After Amnesia: TDD, you're the ones who set the standards, you're the ones who set the bar higher.
    Now, you will be expected to keep it up.

    But, your last blog entry makes me feel confident that you'll continue to learn and grow, and make even better games. So - thumbs up for that.

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  18. (3) [Where is your self in a game? - The Answer and Afterthoughts]
    You must not forget that there are DIFFERENT KINDS of players out there.
    Lovecraft said that horror literature requires a special kind of reader, the one that is ready to let the story in, or to relive it. Same goes for any other media.
    For example, I - who have a bit of an actor's streak - tend to immerse myself in the game even if the game itself does everything wrong in this respect, and I try to BE the character. Depending on the game, this can either mean that I see the game world from my personal perspective, or I act as the persona that the game defined - or something in between. When one immerses, one adds so much to the game experience (the game-world is enriched with things personal to the player)- and I'm sure you know it's a tricky thing to design the game to allow for it.

    However, some people are more imaginative, some are less, some are not at all. So, if you let ALL the actions and decisions to the player, a few bad things will happen: the player might not be up to the challenge; the story you wanted to tell can become something else entirely - often not a god thing; you will have far less control over the overall mood, etc...

    So, IMO, freedom in games is good, but too much of it is not.
    It's the good old rule: Just because you can do something, it doesn't mean you should. I suppose you are aware that if you want to go in that direction, you must perform an extensive amount of research and gameplay testing before you can get it right.

    Quote:
    "There is also the issues of adding smaller cues like breathing and heartbeats. Since these are actions that are not totally under our control, it is not incoherent to force them onto the player, but only if the player accepts it. Judging from player comments so far, there are people on both sides and having it in is a bit risky (we are actually thinking of having them optional in the future because of this)."

    NO! These are VITAL to the game. It's as if you said that you should remove the (in)sanity effects, because some players didn't quite feel insane in real life.

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  19. Is it possible for player to immerse himself (or herself) to a character that is not a human in a same way like if the character was a human?
    For example: You are playing a horror game where you are playing as a mouse which is chased by a wild animals. Can you (the player) immerse your self in to the game when the protagonist (the mouse) is something different that a human being? Will this immersion be somehow limited by the fact that the main protagonist has a different physical proportions and abilities?

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  20. P.S. About the "rubber hand experiment" - if you can't find a rubber hand, you can probably achieve the same thing by using a relatively large mirror and putting it in the medial plane your body, so that the mirror conceals one of your hands/arms, but shows a reflection of the other one in it's place.

    [It's actually a method used with relative success with patients who lost a hand, but have the feeling that the missing fist is still clenched, wich is interpreted by the brain as pain. It was featured in an episode of House MD, maybe you've seen it?]

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  21. Since you've mentioned FF7: While playing it I've identified myself with Cloud pretty well. And after Cloud leaves the party at one point of the game, I suddenly lost interest in the game and after a short while stopped playing it completely...

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  22. Quote:
    "Klayman said...

    Is it possible for player to immerse himself (or herself) to a character that is not a human in a same way like if the character was a human?
    For example: You are playing a horror game where you are playing as a mouse which is chased by a wild animals. Can you (the player) immerse your self in to the game when the protagonist (the mouse) is something different that a human being? Will this immersion be somehow limited by the fact that the main protagonist has a different physical proportions and abilities?"

    Well, the moment the player starts to play, the creature get's imbued with human characteristics - so, if the game does everything right, it's possible.
    Have you played as Alien or as Predator in AVP2. I had no problem being the Alien :)

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  23. http://www.pcgamer.com/2010/09/06/amnesia-the-dark-descent-review/
    "It was utterly, panicinducingly horrible. I made errors in judgement, I missed jumps, I clenched. When it was all over, I nearly had a little cry."

    Brilliant! ("made errors in judgement, I missed jumps, I clenched")

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  24. Funny, my (3) post dissapeared... Here I go again...
    (3) [Where is your self in a game? - The Answer and Afterthoughts]
    You must not forget that there are DIFFERENT KINDS OF PLAYERS out there. Lovecraft said that horror literature requires a special kind of reader, the one willing to let the story in. Same goes for other kind of media. Some players are more imaginative, some are less, some are not at all. Some players will make an effort to immerse themselves, some just aren't that good at it.

    So, you can't leave all the actions and decisions to the player. If you do, maybe the player will not be up to the task. In fact, most won't. The general player population does require some help.

    As for making the character become you, or making yourself become the character, or doing something in between - this depends on the game and on what it hopes to achieve.

    Quote:
    "There is also the issues of adding smaller cues like breathing and heartbeats. Since these are actions that are not totally under our control, it is not incoherent to force them onto the player, but only if the player accepts it. Judging from player comments so far, there are people on both sides and having it in is a bit risky (we are actually thinking of having them optional in the future because of this)."

    NO! These are VITAL to the game. It's like you've said you're considering to remove the (in)sanity effects because some players said they just feel to sane to by it.

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  25. Also, about giving the complete emotional freedom to the player: as I said - are you sore all the players will be up to the task?

    It that's the way you want to go, you must be aware that it requires an extensive amount of research and gameplay testing before you can get it right.

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  26. Klayman:
    Consider how people can be moved to tears and so by animated film, I would say yes. As long as we see agency there can be attachament. At least I think think so, it is an interesting question.

    Anonymous PS:
    Ramachandran who came up with the idea speaks about it here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rl2LwnaUA-k


    "Also, about giving the complete emotional freedom to the player: as I said - are you sore all the players will be up to the task?"
    It is an interesting thing to research, but I think something like this is required to evolve the medium.

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  27. Games like these are hard to find, some people are even afraid of playing it after theyr first time. Wich proves how immersed they are with the game and the character.

    I myself love horror, besides Amnesia and Penumbra the most scariest game i ever played are the Project Zero / Fatal Frame series. The Sound, timing, atmosphere and surprise effect is great. there are short cut scenes but youdon't really lose alot of immersion. I'm sometimes even reluctant to continue the game.

    Sound is a very important aspect of a game, without the right sound/music and timing offcourse the game will lose alot of credibility and the *horror* effect will be reduced.

    Amnesia has all of this in it, being helpless adds in to the fun and immersion, when something is after you, you panic, run and hide. You hold your breath untill the coast is clear, much like the character himself. You dont know what behind the next door or corridor, so you keep your ears sharp and prepare yourself to act immediatly.

    As has been said befor, horror games should be more like this, and not action-like. other companys and developers of horror games can definitely learn from Frictional games about immersion and the horror-effects. Also the physics system being use i'd love to see it being use more in the future, it adds another depth to the game.

    But i think there is alot more to explore about immersion, i think one aspect wich will be used in the future(wich some games already seem to have but not really used) would be 3D wich will make the surroundings more realistic and closer to the player.

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  28. Anonymous is right : Amnesia is one of those games which would REALLY benefit from 3D, mostly due to its slow pace. Back in the 90s I had nVidia 3D shutter glasses (used modified D3D drivers to change the camera position in rythm with the shutters), and in many games it was just a gimmick. Either things looked unrealistic (3D on distant objects just doesn't work) or the game was so fast moving that you never actually registered the 3D in itself, but (to name them again) in Thief, System Shock2 and AvP1 it actually added an extra dimension (for lack of a better word) and intensified the immersion.

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  29. Making it "3D" - stereoscopic, actually - is not that difficult, in principle. You just need two cameras instead of one, that would be positioned at a slight offset. The problem is the equipment the player is required to have. And I'm not talking about the old-style red/blue (anaglyph) glasses, but of the light-polarizing lenses used in cinemas.You can't expect every player to have them or to be able to obtain them. Also, I don't know if it can be done on a standard monitor, or it would require specialized hardware.

    @Thomas:

    >> >> '"Also, about giving the complete emotional freedom
    >> >> to the player: as I said - are you sore all the players
    >> >> will be up to the task?"

    >> It is an interesting thing to research, but I think
    >> something like this is required to evolve the medium.'

    But, bear in mind that, in order to evolve the medium, the audience must evolve with it. This means that you must asses if an innovation is a step forward or a leap of faith - again, there's no better way to assert this then testing. Consider the Gamasutra article you referenced: the author's mother-in-law didn't get it because she missed quite a few steps in the evolution of interactive media. For her, it was a leap. So, what I'm saying is basically: don't create a game that is too much ahead of its time, because it would end up being unjustly forgotten. Not to say that brave and new things shouldn't be tried - it's just that you need to feel the pulse of the audience too. No theory is good without practice, no martial art can be learned without a sparring partner - you get what I'm trying to say, right?

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  30. >> 'This means that you must asses [...]'
    He, he... That was "assess", sorry...
    :">

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  31. The 3D could be optional, the one that have such glass´s can use or the ones that want to use it can buy them if they like,
    but not a *need* to play the game.

    A game like Amnesia would benefit alot, just immagine playing Amnesia in 3D. Kinda gives me a chill down my spine.

    It's also not ahead of it's time as more games have it but not activily use it and it's not mention in the manual or such (for sofar i know). My graphics card option has a whole list of supported games in it wich can make use of it. I also am not sure if you can use it with a normal screen or need a special one. But the PC is different from a TV as everything rely's on hardware/software a special screen might not be needed.

    Kings Bounty: Armored princess for example, has it in the options screen, you can turn it on/off and set the degree of depth aswell. I don't own such glass's so i havn't try'd it.

    But in a way this is also a idea for Frictional Games to consider in theyr future games. Suggestion/idea's i think are always appreciated.

    The audience is there, but it's not promoted enough. Just like everything else, if promoted enough or becomes more standard, almost everybody will have 3D glass's. Thats evolving the standards. Long time ago seatbelts in cars were uncommon, now it's standard in every single car.

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  32. Thomas, please, update your post and provide everybody with this useful link
    http://www.ted.com/talks/vs_ramachandran_the_neurons_that_shaped_civilization.html

    It is the original link for the same youtube video "VS Ramachandran: The neurons that shaped civilization", but with subtitles available in 27 languages there!

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  33. The greatest role I have ever played in any game is that of the Thief 1 and 2 in the series. I only played at night alone in my home. As soon as the lights went off and the game began I was Garrett. (I was 57 years old then.)
    For me that is the deepest I have ever felt for any character.

    The best things about a game for me is when I can be a .. a .. well let's say it, a confident, clever, sneaking petty thief that gets hired to rob, not kill, in different settings.

    And the VERY last thing I want to do in a game is to save the world or become a leader. Nor do I want to become a weapons expert or a kungfu ninja, so I like my games to take place before the advent of guns and if weapons are required then just a knife used mainly to threaten civilians, or a club to knock out a guard.

    Your new game, now played, is exactly how I like my character to be, no weapons and just his wits, scared stiff much of the time in hiding.
    However in Amnesia, Daniel is NOT a likeable character. He is too unsure of himself and is a wimp when it comes to the dark, not to mention he's a cold blooded murderer of children (Gad! who's idea was that?).
    By the way, I played most of the game using very few tinderboxes or oil. I LIKE the dark. I also spent most of my moving time creeping (Ctrl key) along tight against the wall, avoiding the creature.
    The very best part was breaking the window in the study and hopping along to the open window of another room. I would like a lot more of that, maybe a mod will come out with more up on the rooftops and breaking in windows adventures.
    I also felt really comfy and safe in that tunnel below the bed. I would have liked to have had more reasons to hide and more places to hide in or under.
    Drilling into heads and sawing them off was unnecessarily gross and not what I like my character to do.
    I enjoyed those puzzles. They were fun to solve (except the head thing)
    Not enough traps. I crept around in the dark and never fell down a hole

    I'm glad you have the editor. The game ends after an evening or two of playing leaving one with a now what do I do?

    Its like a 3 year job for you guys and 10 hours game for 'us'.
    Without the editor I would be finished the game and back to Oblivion but now I can mod my own things into the game which is where the real enjoyment for me is - in the modding.

    PS: To marketing: Totally ignore everything I write because I'm retired and know diddlyswat about what the market wants today, but from all I've seen from games and forums, is that loud noise, killing, blood, violence, nudity and sex with kinky looking women sells. Put all that together for your next game with as much shock and awe as you can design and you'll have the world wide success you want.

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  34. This post was a great Read.

    I got your game Amnesia and thought it was good. Though as far as full immersion goes, I felt through the whole thing that I was always playing a character, only because of the aspect of the game that didn't let me interact with the monsters.

    When I saw the first monster in the game, this was somewhere down in the wine cellar, I was so tensed out that I actually just ran towards the monster to see what it would do. When the game mechanics forced me to the ground and blurred my vision, and the monster simply turned around and left though I was lying 3 feet away from it on the ground ... I was disappointed. I knew I wasn't playing by my rules. Daniel would fall to the ground, I wanted to fight or die trying.

    The lack of empowerment was more frustrating than enjoyable to me. Fear is a defence mechanism, at times it can lead us to do some crazy things. But sadly all it does for Daniel is render him useless at times.

    It would have been interesting if the game even had some form of "hopeless attack." Something the player does that shows as an act of fighting back (maybe weak punches or shoves), but it doesn't have to hurt the monsters at all. Just the option and the fleeting idea of being able to put up some sort of resistance would be enough. After the player tries to defend himself and fails, next time he'll just run.

    The game was still a solid play through, once I decided to accept what was expected of me... I enjoyed it for the story and puzzles.

    I wish you guys all the best in your future projects.

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  35. I just finished Amnesia today, and I don't think I've ever experienced a game in which I got so lost in the character. The blurring of my identity with Daniel's really hit in the saw torture chamber (the one where the victim was strung up upside down while Daniel and Alexander sawed him in half). I picked up the saw and had to cast away in disgust with guilt. I truly felt as if I was remembering myself as the one who participated in the act.

    Don't know how you've done it, but it was a truly incredible experience. Well done. Looking forward to what comes out of your studio in the future.

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  36. First of all, I really do think that this is a great article that makes you think about how easily you are tricked by your mind.
    But secondly I think it points out that GAMES are GAMES and that it can't be made realistic at all.. Or at least not 100% realistic, because of all the things you would need to be able too.
    But anyway I really enjoyed playing Amnesia it was such a great game, actually to be honest it wasn't very expensive (Which is a very big plus for me) not that i'm a cheapass but because then it just makes it much better when it is a success!
    And Amnesia I have never loved that much being close to piss in my pants because of a bloody monster knocking on the door.

    But I have a question does anyone know if there will come a sequel? :) Or atleast a new game from you guys at Frictional Games I would really LOVE to play another game made by Frictional(Also horror, Don't want to play Penumbra, its kind a old I think))

    But will Frictional soon come out with something?
    I also read on your page www.nextfrictionalgame.com that it says: "Soon this site will come to use again. Follow the engine progress in our blog."

    Soo :)?

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  37. Although I did not manage to complete Amnesia (mostly because I was so freaked out after a second monster approached and killed me while i was still playing around with the remains of the first one that I never played the game again (but will probably try again now...)), I can comment on it, and I even as I had no doubts that I was Daniel, I actually preferred the first narrative system of penumbra. Due to human psychology, it is slightly difficult to disagree with another person which you do not dislike, and as I recall I have agreed to every piece of narration through the penumbra series. This made the character lifelike, and I felt that I was both him and the spectator of a life walking to a horrible end. This was a highly enjoyable experience and made me stick through as I knew that I was not alone, but with the game character with me. In amnesia I simply felt lonely (as I never did before) and simply wanted to escape the castle by whatever means necessary. When the first monster died, I actually felt a sense of regret that I was completely alone, although this did not stop me from throwing his head around the room in joy.

    What you said about Silent Hill 2... I mostly felt that I was James. Even through the cutscenes, I did not feel distanced at all, because I could relate to what he said and mostly treated them as parts of a beautiful movie. What you say about cutscenes is true, and I can recall many experiences where I actually wanted to get away from the boring cutscenes and simply continue slaying things. But if excecuted properly and under the right conditions, they can still be great, Silent Hill 2, as I have said, being a great example.

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