[Article] The Concept of Immersion

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[Article] The Concept of Immersion

Postby IskatuMesk » Thu Feb 26, 2009 9:16 am

This article is wrote based on my views as an individual. They do not represent the views of CC as a whole and should not be treated as such. This article may not be recited anywhere else, in part or in whole, without my written permission.

Take pause for a moment and remember the old days, when you were but a child playing your favorite Classic. For me, that's Starcraft. Your memories are fond, but why? You were too young to be a competitive gamer, too young to understand the finer elements of the story, and too naive to know the painful future that awaited you. But still, this title drew you in. Perhaps it wasn't a game. Perhaps it was a movie, or it was a TV show.

The point is, is that whatever this fantasy world was, it drew you in and captivated you. The elements were so powerful, so inspiring, they immersed you. Engulfed you.

Immersion, The Concept
Making or breaking the foundation for your world, your story, your words and wisdom

Immersion is the most powerful element of any kind of media. To captivate the user and, much more challenging, to draw him in and hold him.

Immersion is generated by the overall effectiveness of media elements. Sound, visual, and with games, interaction (to a degree). When I was young, Starcraft and Diablo were the most immersive environments. Shooters felt too linear, but the art and sound direction of these games drew me in very well.

In Starcraft, it was the fog of war and the unknown nature of the Zerg. You were the Terrans, fighting for survival against an unknown alien enemy that, at the time, was fairly unique for me. But when the Dominion zerg experimentation projects along, it "detoothed" the threat of the zerg for me, and the immersion was broken. This illustrates to me a very careful balance I have tried to achieve in all of my writing and productions to date, and something I'm aiming to break the barrier with in my newest production.

Immersion. Immersion is to captivate the audience and keep their attention.

Modern movies fail to immerse you because their elements are mismatched. For example, most modern movies are now using Hans Zimmer-ripoff soundtracks bastardized with metal elements where they don't fit. Sound is so incredibly important for a movie or a game to immerse the audience, but in the last few years it has been abandoned by all but a few companies.

Lair, a PS3 launch title, has one of the greatest soundtracks ever created. The composer, John Debney, was unleashed by the game crew to make a massive soundtrack spanning several hours. The result is what I would personally describe as the best soundtrack of any kind of game ever produced. Close rivals include the infinity-engine games.

The infinity-engine games. Produced by Black Isle before it was destroyed forever and the good name of "RPG" tarnished in the later future with total garbage like NWN2, this engine contains a series of games widely considered to be the best of the best, a legacy whose shoes can never be filled. But what made these games for me, out of the little bit I've been able to play, other than the incredibly well-done graphics is the amazing soundtracks.

These soundtracks were composed by, I believe, both Jeremy Soule and some other dudes. These represent the absolute best of Jeremy's work before it descended into a mass of repeditive sound, such as in Guild Wars and Oblivion.

What makes these soundtracks so unique is not just their compositions themselves, but how they sound. They are strong, but soft. They surround you, and fill you, while soundtracks like that for 300 just kind of blasts at you with cliche metal forced into an orchestra.

Where 300 is bold, it is also forceful. It forces its sound upon you, instead of drawing you into it. It is a difficult concept to describe, but the soundtrack really broke the immersion of 300 for me.

The concept of immersion is that the combination of elements provided in either a movie, a story, a game, or any kind of media trying to deliver a story of some kind, draw in the audience and grant them a believable, tangible world. Any kind of element can break this immersion. The bad placement of a piece of music, bad-looking graphics, out of character actions. Ect...

How do you decide how to portray these elements is up to you, and the world you're trying to portray. In this article I'm going to try to give you a glimpse into my own process of choosing and controlling these elements. I'll try to give multiple examples of several of my worlds, and the thought processes that I went through when constructing them.

Mod Trailers

This basic production is the easiest but also the most commonly bastardized media element seen out there. A mod trailer, strewn with extremely energized J-pop from the latest anime, showing all of the action in the beginning and then drawing out across 10 minutes. I'm looking at you, Lord A! Your AA trailer was horrible for all the right reasons for this article. But don't feel bad, you've only just joined the billions of fools making the exact same mistakes.

The trailer in question shows large, but very slow moving, fleet battles and then draws out to small fighters flying around. With anime J-pop in the background. There's no sense composition, no sense of immersion, and it lost any practical attention I had a half-minute in.

There's tons of videos much worse than this strewn about Pooptube and moddb. Trailers that spam out a ton of random gameplay set to death metal or other unfitting music that doesn't match the pace of the video at all.

As someone who's been constantly praised on his choices of music, I consider it a religion, an art, to pick the right music for the video and the mod. But it isn't just about picking music, it's about composing your footage. A trailer is a very important piece of media. You're trying to either show off gameplay to demonstrate your mod, or you're trying to give a glimpse into your story.

Trailers must maintain a balance of "Show and tell" with "Hide and seek". That is to say, a trailer shouldn't show everything and tell the audience everything. It should make the audience crave for more. This is called Hype, and plays into the whole "Don't hype until you're ready" thing. But I won't get into that.

Generating hype generates interest. You can generate hype by showing everything about the story or mod, but then that hype, and the interest, will burn out very fast. Once they get the project, they already know everything about it. There won't be much sense of exploration or sense of surprise. Knowledge is power, and too much power is a bad thing.

The same goes with stories. When you portray your story, you want to show enough to interest the audience, but you don't want to give away any key elements, twists, or anything that you feel should be revealed in the gameplay or campaign.

So, how do you present immersion without giving away all of the juicy details? The solution is quite simple: Produce an interesting environment, and use the environment to portray your elements. Don't tell the audience, reveal to the audience.


.... unfinished ....
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Re: [Article] The Concept of Immersion

Postby IskatuMesk » Wed Mar 18, 2009 3:02 am

By watching my trailers, you probably wouldn't expect me to be a major fan of death and gothic metal. I enjoy bands like Sirenia, Battlelore, Farmer Boys, Machinae Supremacy and Sabaton. But I very rarely, if ever, use any of these tracks in my videos. Why? Copyright? Pah. Your silly american laws do not touch me.

No, I don't use these tracks in the videos because my trailers aren't about my taste in music. They're about my worlds. My dreams. My creations. Indeed, I am a fan of orchestral and classical, but I always choose what suits my world best. For the Lour Saga, this is choral, hungarian and oriental-styled music. Hard to find, and harder to make video adhere to, but that's what theme is that fits it. Every one of my worlds has a unique sound, and everyone of them is represented by that sound.

[youtube=425,350]IEd_3RCYngo[/youtube]

This is not my best of video editing. That's why I released it unfinished when the mod died. But I'm going to use it for another example I have.

Here we have some deep, sad music. Influenced by hungarian folk music, Joseph LaDuca composed a fantastic soundtrack for Xena and Hercules, where this track comes from.

But why am I showing this track against the backdrop of a fleet battle? Doesn't this go against everything I've just said about keeping the flow of the environment stable?

Nay. In fact, this fits better than an action piece. Why?

This is a play upon the mood and emotion the trailer was supposed to set in place. The Lour Saga is a very sad universe, and Throne of Armageddon is ultimately a very dark and terrible world with no sanctuary untouched by war and bloodshed. Both the races shown in the first part of this cinematic are well-known instruments of pure death and destruction - the Anahn and the Xy`Kranasha. These names alone, if you are familiar with the universe, will make you nod your head in acknowledgment of what I'm trying to say. Locked in blood feuds, the darker souls of the world vie for supremacy in an unending cycle of carnage.

There's more at work than just backstory, though. The voice is that of Xul`Amon, the current central mind of the Xy`Kranasha. He looks upon the world and its creatures as you might look at a passing fly while you drive down the highway in your unmarked white van. You have other destinations in mind, and this fly is just an insignificant distraction in your journey. Xul`Amon has no regard for life, or even for existence as a whole. To him, existence is merely a fleeting moment in the flow of energy that he has become part of, known as the Eternal Dream. A state where all things become one, where all flows become pure and singular. It's not unlike how the Vyru see the world, but Xul`Amon is not content to stand by and simply watch the fly permeate the loli in the back of his van with aids.

The battle depicted in the video is overlayed by the music and Xul`Amon's voice, intended to give the perspective of Xul`Amon himself. While the music sets the mood of a depressing world and the battle tells the audience what's going on, Xul`Amon's voice itself is truly setting the stage here. As the video reachings its end, you get a glimpse of the Undead, and suddenly the mood changes.

Xul`Amon's section and the section that was intended before it was quite simply a buildup of energy. In order for events in your production to really deliver impact and thought to the audience, they must have energy. The objective of immersion is to build this energy. The energy in turn sparks interest and, thus, hype. A very well done video will be much more effective than this half-assed clip I showed you, but surely enough to get the idea.

The segment with the Undead is supposed to release this energy. Suddenly we're not looking from Xul`Amon's perspective anymore. Suddenly we don't know what's going on. It's a huge goddamn Undead fleet, and they're hellbent on killing every last thing in every universe in existence. Why would they want to do this? No real reason. They just hate you and your little white dog, too. The transition plays upon the music and the slow overshadow of the Undead vessel, but I was unable to get the footage I really wanted for this scene before I discontinued the project. Ideally, you'd see the entire Undead ship by the time the choral section in the music finished, and then it'd transfer over. But the collision models inside homeworld 2 totally fucked with the camera and what I wanted simply wasn't doable.

If you check my account on youtube (mancatcher), you'll see several such videos. Some simple, some complex. Most of the homeworld 2 stuff was produced for a small audience on the fly as gameplay demonstrations. No serious work was put into them.

But they created immersion nonetheless.

Opening your story to the world

Whether in a movie, or a campaign, or a mod, you're trying to tell your audience a story. Your graphics may be ultra flashy, and your gameplay designed by Boxer himself, but ultimately you're trying to tell a story. At least, that's what this section assumes.

I create Total Conversions. TC's aren't exactly the best thing to showcase a world as massive as mine are. So, I used voice acting, sounds, and music as my major instruments. The Undead were fucking evil, the Confederates exceptionally retarded, and guns went fucking bang when they went off.

Sounds convey the strength of your weapons firing often moreso than the damage they do in a game, at least from a conceptual and immersive perspective. If you have a desert eagle in Counterstrike, and it sounds like it does by default, I think "Eh." Because that sound is very cliche and I've heard it everywhere. Replace it with something meaty. Something beefy. More punch, less reverb.

Describing sound in text is gay.

Anyways, what I mean is, for a weapon, it has to sound big. Sure, stuff inside SC is almost as small as your dick, but that doesn't mean they should sound small. A great example is the marine gauss rifle. It doesn't sound too small, but it doesn't exactly make you think of a rifle a guy in power armor would be using to blast apart 12 foot aliens with, either.

[youtube=425,350]jFDiNgLSrwM[/youtube]

Check out that other HW2 video of mine. Compare it to what you traditionally hear in HW2. Big difference, huh? Here we have some traditional mass driver weapons, autocannons, ect. and then some Undead Deimos-based energy weapons. Virtually everything you're hearing here is totally new. When the Anahn Valkyrie lets loose its Quad-linked side autocannons and rains a volley of molten Tiran elemental slag into the Undead Hydra corvettes, you hear it.

Another thing about sounds that is important is their quality. HW2 sounds have a notoriously bad sound quality. Not all of them are terrible, but most of the mass drivers sound really bad.

It doesn't take high kbps to make a good-sounding sound. Let's take my Age of Wonders 2 mod, Loladins of Legend: 2042. That game takes a maximum of 22,000khz for sounds, half of what you can easily throw inside starcraft. Yet all of my sounds jacked from lineage 2 and Warrior Kings: Battles sound just fine.

Variety. Everything should sound different. No two weapons should sound the same. It breaks the uniqueness.

Okay I'm just ranting now but at least I'm giving you good tips.

This document is unfinished. I'll wrap it up sometime later.
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Re: [Article] The Concept of Immersion

Postby Lavarinth » Wed Mar 18, 2009 10:51 am

So far it's great, I can tell you one example of bad music here at CC! *Looks at original LoaM Chapter 1 music featuring that battle music from FF8 during jokes, conversation, etc, all before the actual battle*

Well done so far.
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Re: [Article] The Concept of Immersion

Postby FlyingHat » Wed Mar 18, 2009 6:54 pm

Lavarinth wrote:I can tell you one example of bad music here at CC! *Looks at original LoaM Chapter 1 music featuring that battle music from FF8 during jokes, conversation, etc, all before the actual battle*

Pffft.

http://www.youtube.com/user/TheFlyingHat
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Re: [Article] The Concept of Immersion

Postby IskatuMesk » Wed Mar 18, 2009 6:55 pm

Dear god, that mod is still using the OOOLD infoceptor tank hackjob that doesn't have working player colors!? /facepalm

You know, I could fix it in half a second for you if you sent me the grp.
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Re: [Article] The Concept of Immersion

Postby FlyingHat » Wed Mar 18, 2009 7:16 pm

That would probably be up to Voy, but if anyone wanted the tank to be fixed it probably would've been done earlier.

hopefully nobody else watches any of the other videos... >_>
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Re: [Article] The Concept of Immersion

Postby IskatuMesk » Wed Mar 18, 2009 7:20 pm

So many of your mods use that graphic that I'm astonished it hasn't been fixed yet. It's such a glaring problem.
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Re: [Article] The Concept of Immersion

Postby Lavarinth » Wed Mar 18, 2009 7:56 pm

FlyingHat wrote:
Lavarinth wrote:I can tell you one example of bad music here at CC! *Looks at original LoaM Chapter 1 music featuring that battle music from FF8 during jokes, conversation, etc, all before the actual battle*

Pffft.

http://www.youtube.com/user/TheFlyingHat


What? ... I'm sorry.. WHAT!? I don't get it, haha.
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Re: [Article] The Concept of Immersion

Postby FlyingHat » Thu Mar 19, 2009 5:50 pm

Lavarinth wrote:
FlyingHat wrote:
Lavarinth wrote:I can tell you one example of bad music here at CC! *Looks at original LoaM Chapter 1 music featuring that battle music from FF8 during jokes, conversation, etc, all before the actual battle*

Pffft.

http://www.youtube.com/user/TheFlyingHat


What? ... I'm sorry.. WHAT!? I don't get it, haha.

Apparently a bunch of money scrounging assholes decided to mute the horribly mismatching music on the Mod Night 56 video. Originally it played We're Not Gonna Take it by Twisted Sister. The last time I watched the video with the music I was afflicted with a dozen hernias.
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Re: [Article] The Concept of Immersion

Postby IskatuMesk » Thu Mar 19, 2009 9:22 pm

They also muted the music on one of my wow videos with 60 views. I let them know how I felt about that in the comments.
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Re: [Article] The Concept of Immersion

Postby Lavarinth » Mon Mar 23, 2009 6:05 pm

They're removing audio?
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Re: [Article] The Concept of Immersion

Postby UntamedLoli » Mon Mar 23, 2009 8:04 pm

This video contains an audio track that has not been authorized by WMG. The audio has been disabled.

They are going to be busy tracking down all the videos using said music.
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Re: [Article] The Concept of Immersion

Postby Lavarinth » Tue Mar 24, 2009 11:21 am

Wow. Just wow.
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Re: [Article] The Concept of Immersion

Postby GreatGodSajuuk » Wed Mar 25, 2009 4:25 am

This is inanity on a scale never before seen. Youtube has almost hit rock bottom. When they start censoring violence in the video it will be the end.
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