Before I hop onto the flying/no flying debacle one of the major arguments that requires a bit of backing up is in regards to gaming immersion within World of Warcraft. Pretend you’re a time-traveler and you’ve read this information AFTER you read my future post.
We need to first analyze what provides a sense of rich immersion within WoW? You would think the developers have this as a check-list by their desks when they design content, but let’s not go there yet.
Here is my quick and dirty.
What Provides Immersion in WoW
Our toons are the starting point as they are the digital representation of what we would like to be as heroes in a fantastical world. We need to feel involved and invested in their progress (take note of the word “progress”) through their adventures and how they live their story as they grow up in Azeroth. Their gestures, dances, transmog outfits, all the customization bolster character-side immersion.
The world of Azeroth plays into immersion. The physical world in which we traverse needs to be fantastic and interesting. That sense of awe when a new player first discovers how BIG the world is, that the zone they are playing in is merely a fraction of what they can discover.
However, just a beautiful zone with no substance is not enough. The story of how we traverse this world, through quest text and story-telling also play a part into immersion. WHY are we doing this? Other than the tangible rewards, it all has to tie back to the grand scheme of things that the developers are driving us towards. Give lore and history to the zones. WoW has done a great job of building up a complex network of stories and backstories giving each and every zone a lot of depth and breadth.
Next we can add on the complex layer of social interactions within WoW and this is where we start crossing lines. Now if everyone was on board and was fully immersed, that is everyone believes the stories, believes the lore and respects the world that they are in, we’re gold. A lot of the tools that allow us greater convenience to connect with others may start breaking down game immersion. Instant grouping, instant teleportation, no need to communicate or share stories. We’re heading towards the Ephemeral World of Warcraft.
What Actually IS Immersion?
Defining what provides immersion is easy. But what exactly IS it? Is it being so involved that you lose track of time? That you mistake Azeroth for reality?
At the very least, we should feel involved with the current story arc, that our characters feel involved and have a solid sense of progress (yet again) throughout the various expansions.
Despite the lack of current content and very little sense of personal progress in WoD, nothing yet breaks immersion as much as garrisons.
Garrisons are Breaking Immersion
Now Garrisons from the get-go did NOT break immersion since we were immersed with the world while leveling. The saving grace: amazing questing stories.
Once we hit end game and maxed out most of our buildings, the garrison breaks down into a few things:
1. Command Table: The main crux of the issue.
2. Mines and Herbs: While this in itself was a great idea, how they killed off professions creates a disconnect to the profession part of immersion.
3. Buildings that just feel like gating.
They tried to implement a system based on the very finicky mobile gaming philosophy of “checking in every once so often”. Now we have to ask: “Who is checking in? Us the HUMAN playing the game, or our characters?”.
The answer is us, the human. Garrisons are breaking the 4th wall of gaming! There is so little interaction and “immersion” with how garrisons are setup in every aspect be it how it has broken down professions to an ugly gated mini-game, but also how our major source of gold and gear (I got 2 700 ilvl gears back to back, that’s pretty major).
As I have mentioned before, the garrison system is a very poorly implemented bastardization of a mobile model/town-builder/player housing. It just isn’t good in any aspect so don’t you go blabbing on about flying breaks down immersion. Even if we CAN fly, where is there TO FLY TO? I am not making an argument for or against flying, but that is my major observation as of right now.
Let’s go back to what we setup earlier.
Immersion basically starts with us feeling connected to our character.
We log in and click things FOR our character, but I doubt they are having any fun at this command table.
The STORY is that we are commanders, but all we do is dish out commands player-side. Our character has no involvement, it doesn’t even animate their HANDS pushing the buttons for us. Along with the fact that character progression boils down to “Hit 100, raid”, there’s no REASON to do any of the side-content (*Cough*VP/JP*Cough*)
We need to connect to the world. We (the human) send our non-immersive “followers” out into the theoretical world to explore…but that is it. We rescue/aid them out in the world and recruit them. That I feel was a good starting point but it just becomes bland once they live within our menus.
Lastly, we have social interaction. As of now, garrisons isolate us within our own little bubble and any interaction with others outside of organized raiding is simply clicking a button and completing your encounter in utter silence.
Now take all this coupled with a lack of world content, no wonder players are starting to slowly dissolve the 4th wall of gaming. We’re not even on our own toons, the game has boiled down to the human player behind the monitor clicking on menus.
Why Didn’t This Happen in MoP?
MoP had its own issues but one thing that is glaringly different is that the game never broke immersion within itself.
We had our personal farms, which was our CHARACTER’s farm. They made friends, worked to build friendships with the various farmers, and physically harvested stuff from a farm you physically tend to. Sure, the herb garden and mine are also physical, but they act to negate a profession rather than complement a profession.
MoP was rife with dailies. Everyday you would log in and feel like you were behind the curve. Gotta do all the dailies and all the reputation things, get in your daily heroic for VP, perhaps scenarios for VP. It was overwhelming and I had hoped to see something SIMILAR, just toned down. Now while all those activities were overwhelming they all acted as a font of progression for our characters, something that WoD severely lacks.
Collecting a bazillion apexis for an out-dated piece of gear by the time you earn it? No thanks.
So in short: Fix this now. Don’t anger your investors. Remember, some of your gamers are also investors and some big investors are also gamers. This is 2015.
Truny the Non-Immersed?