a reply to: JinMI
I think it VERY much depends on the game, and indeed, on the quality of the voice acting concerned.
As a person familiar with the history of the lands which comprise the modern UK, for example, I always find it amusing when Scots dialects and
accents, are used to portray a particular sort of character, despite that character having nearly no resemblance to a historical Scots, or Pictish
person, or no familiar origin to such a person.
That being said, its always a difficult thing to voice a character in a pure fantasy, without indulging in a bit of stereotyping, with regard to
casting. You do not expect, for example, a powerful clan chief in a fantasy game, to have an Essex accent, nor do you expect the hearty townsfolk in a
city, to speak the Queens English. Voicing, therefore, is a tricky task, from the casting all the way to the writing, the script.
One of the Elder Scrolls games makes this clear, with one of the characters speeches being interrupted by a request from the voice actor, suddenly
breaking character to say "Let me do that one again", a phrase which surely was not meant to be in the game, and avoided being edited out by sheer
Let me approach this, however, from a different position, by telling you what attracts me and aids immersion in a game of this nature.
Lets start with the most important things:
Worlds created for the purpose of fantasy gaming, are arguably more important than the characters themselves. Richness of detail and granularity, a
world populated not just by the player and by plot specific enemies, but by creatures in droves, whose actions are as apparently wild and untamed as
any real world equivalent, areas of "natural" beauty included not as theatres for specific plot points to act themselves out, but just because they
"ought to be there", the feeling of a living environment which operates whether the player is aware of it or not, are, in my opinion, crucial to
immersion. Nothing snaps a person out of the world in which the game places them, like being made aware by bad design in the setting, that without
them, none of the bears, wolves, trolls or what have you, have any animus of their own.
Many times have I come across a bear or troll, battling wolves or other creatures, as a totally random encounter, giving the impression to the player
that they are but one thing living in the artificial world, a part of something greater than themselves. Nothing breaks immersion like walking into a
city, to find every NPC starting in the exact same place they did, when you first walked in the gate, for example.
The plot, or the story if you like, of a game is also very important when it comes to engaging and immersing the player. A layered plot, with many
potential strands, such as Skyrim has, for example, is infinitely more appealing than a linear, one thing after another, the same every time plot, has
a greater capacity for engaging and immersing the player in both the world itself, and the lore surrounding its facets. Games with expansive, epic
writing in their missions and their overarching architecture, always win out over a more shallow experience. This applies however, to virtually all
games, of any genre.
Combat and Character Building
A solid, visceral combat system, absent wherever possible, the dreaded quick time event, is always more immersive than a sluggish, unresponsive,
unrealistically pedestrian one. Having many options as to what weapons one can wield, how one can wield them, what skills a character might possess or
acquire in a game, adds layers of personalisation as well as satisfaction to the experience of combat. For example, in Skyrim I have played as many
different types of character, and because of the utility provided by the leveling system, even a basically human character has many different
potential paths to advance along. I favour the two handed weapons only, no shields ever, berserker type of character myself, but have played with
sword and board, made a battle mage (equally as deadly with steel as with magicks), and so on.
NPC Depth and Believability
This links with the idea of a fully fleshed out world from the Setting segment, but is a thing unto itself. I must believe a king is a king, not a
serf. I must believe that the thief is a thief, rather than a merchant or more believable as a town guard. Characters must FEEL like the thing they
are supposed to be, if immersion is to be as deep as it needs to be to satisfy my particular preferences. But at the same time, if I am to be betrayed
by a character, I like to know of it only when it occurs, not suspect it from the start. There is an art to ensuring this, and many games fail at it
from the get go, by being almost pantomime like in their shallowness. This is always a mistake, and usually issues from someone cheaping out when
hiring talent, either in the writing department, the voice acting department, or both. Having NPCs be about business unrelated to your quest until you
speak to them, is another important way of making sure that the first impression one has of them, the one that sticks, is one which matches their
intended identity, not one which breaks the feeling of being embedded in an unfamiliar universe. Devoting time to making the flow of a city, town or
village in a game, any game, feel realistic is fundamental to its success when it comes to immersion.
Skyrim delivered on all of these points for me. I played it through a number of times, used many different character builds, followed different paths
along the way, and found new and interesting things about each path I took, each character I built. It had MASSIVE replay value for that reason. Now,
there is more to it, but those points cover the most important aspects for me, personally speaking. No doubt there will be people who have different
angles on it, but thats how I see the thing, at any rate.