Posted by PerryVandell (2109 posts) -

What makes a game something truly special? Is it a story that can turn your tears of sorrow into tears of joy? Is it gameplay that makes you forget you are holding a chunk of plastic in your hands? Or, is it its ability to transform a supposed weekend of productivity into a weekend of Diet Coke and pizza rolls? I look for all of these qualities when buying a new game, but for many people it all depends on how realistic the game is. It’s why some people play Burnout and Call of Duty while others play Gran Turismo and Battlefield. But when does a game’s realism transform from an asset into an obstacle?

Unfortunately there is no exact answer to this question because everyone has different tastes. A game mechanic designed to add a realistic effect might be engrossing for some, but tedious for others. So, I’ve compiled a list of game mechanics whose purpose is to make a game feel more realistic, and shared my thoughts on what I think does and does not work. Enjoy.

Weapon/Armor Degradation

  

 I can’t tell you how many times I've run up to a guy in Far Cry 2, only to be insta-killed because my damn gun jammed. It sucks to die in any video game, but it’s especially bad if the death wasn’t directly your fault. And while it sucks to have a weapon break in the middle of a fight, weapon degradation is still a great tool that developers can use to make their game more realistic. In fact, weapon degradation is one of the things that make Far Cry 2 stand out in a world that’s overcrowded with first-person shooters. Weapon degradation encourages the player to visit gun shops and complete missions they might have passed by, because all of the weapons the enemies use are rusty pieces of shit. 

 

 Using rusty weapons in Far Cry 2 is basically Russian Roulette

 The same goes for the Elder Scrolls series and the latest Fallout games. Part of the reason you explore the world and search through containers is to ensure that you have enough supplies/money to keep your equipment in good shape. I’ll admit there are other reasons to exploring in the Fallout/Elder Scrolls universes, but there’s no denial that weapon condition is an important factor.

It’s important to note that weapon degradation should not be included in multi-player. It works in single player because you have the time to find a nice quiet spot to repair your weapon or visit a safe house and pick up a new one. Also, good multiplayer is based on a system of fairness. If you die, it should be because you were caught reloading your gun or you forgot to check your corners—not because some complex algorithm decided your gun should stop firing instead of the enemy’s. 

  

 Arsenal Size   

 

 One of the things that set Halo apart from other first-person shooters was its restriction that kept you from carrying more than two weapons. While Master Chief may have had top-of-the-line armor and training, he still lacked the deep pockets of Gordon Freeman and the main character in Doom. While it was nice to never drop a weapon, cycling through your entire arsenal during combat became a nightmare—especially on consoles.

    

 Realistic Damage

 

 A great way to make a game feel realistic is by making objects respond to damage as they would in reality. A big reason why I chose to buy Burnout Paradise over all the other racing games was because Criterion managed to make crashing your car fun rather than aggravating. Sure I may total my car and cost myself a race, but it’s hard for me to get frustrated while I watch my $500,000 car suffer the effects of Newton’s third law in remarkable detail. In fact, realistic car damage is practically a necessity for today’s games (that contain cars).

Of course the only things more impressive than expensive cars smashing into guardrails at 200 mph are expensive collapsing buildings. Unfortunately realistic building damage is still a relatively new technology, and seems to only be prevalent in Bad Company 2 and Red Faction: Guerilla. The problem many developers probably have with building damage is that it allows the player to pick and choose how they enter and exit a building, which can be a problem if players are meant to stay on a set path. Still, it would be nice if the damage buildings sustained in future games was more detailed than an ash mark. 

 
 Knock knock...

Realistic damage ceases to be a positive game element when it is applied to the main character of a game, a.k.a—you. Let’s face it, most of the characters in today’s games are walking tanks, capable of taking a dozen bullets with the only symptom involving their vision turning red for a couple of seconds. The reason video game characters can be shot, stabbed, and mutilated without dying, is because most people would chuck the controller at their TV an hour into the game.

The point I’m trying to make is that it’s fine to make a game feel realistic as long as the player’s enjoyment isn’t sacrificed in doing so. The highest priority a game developer should have is to make their game as fun as possible. And if that means directly depositing money into a player’s pocket instead of forcing them to visit a bank, so be it.

#1 Posted by PerryVandell (2109 posts) -

What makes a game something truly special? Is it a story that can turn your tears of sorrow into tears of joy? Is it gameplay that makes you forget you are holding a chunk of plastic in your hands? Or, is it its ability to transform a supposed weekend of productivity into a weekend of Diet Coke and pizza rolls? I look for all of these qualities when buying a new game, but for many people it all depends on how realistic the game is. It’s why some people play Burnout and Call of Duty while others play Gran Turismo and Battlefield. But when does a game’s realism transform from an asset into an obstacle?

Unfortunately there is no exact answer to this question because everyone has different tastes. A game mechanic designed to add a realistic effect might be engrossing for some, but tedious for others. So, I’ve compiled a list of game mechanics whose purpose is to make a game feel more realistic, and shared my thoughts on what I think does and does not work. Enjoy.

Weapon/Armor Degradation

  

 I can’t tell you how many times I've run up to a guy in Far Cry 2, only to be insta-killed because my damn gun jammed. It sucks to die in any video game, but it’s especially bad if the death wasn’t directly your fault. And while it sucks to have a weapon break in the middle of a fight, weapon degradation is still a great tool that developers can use to make their game more realistic. In fact, weapon degradation is one of the things that make Far Cry 2 stand out in a world that’s overcrowded with first-person shooters. Weapon degradation encourages the player to visit gun shops and complete missions they might have passed by, because all of the weapons the enemies use are rusty pieces of shit. 

 

 Using rusty weapons in Far Cry 2 is basically Russian Roulette

 The same goes for the Elder Scrolls series and the latest Fallout games. Part of the reason you explore the world and search through containers is to ensure that you have enough supplies/money to keep your equipment in good shape. I’ll admit there are other reasons to exploring in the Fallout/Elder Scrolls universes, but there’s no denial that weapon condition is an important factor.

It’s important to note that weapon degradation should not be included in multi-player. It works in single player because you have the time to find a nice quiet spot to repair your weapon or visit a safe house and pick up a new one. Also, good multiplayer is based on a system of fairness. If you die, it should be because you were caught reloading your gun or you forgot to check your corners—not because some complex algorithm decided your gun should stop firing instead of the enemy’s. 

  

 Arsenal Size   

 

 One of the things that set Halo apart from other first-person shooters was its restriction that kept you from carrying more than two weapons. While Master Chief may have had top-of-the-line armor and training, he still lacked the deep pockets of Gordon Freeman and the main character in Doom. While it was nice to never drop a weapon, cycling through your entire arsenal during combat became a nightmare—especially on consoles.

    

 Realistic Damage

 

 A great way to make a game feel realistic is by making objects respond to damage as they would in reality. A big reason why I chose to buy Burnout Paradise over all the other racing games was because Criterion managed to make crashing your car fun rather than aggravating. Sure I may total my car and cost myself a race, but it’s hard for me to get frustrated while I watch my $500,000 car suffer the effects of Newton’s third law in remarkable detail. In fact, realistic car damage is practically a necessity for today’s games (that contain cars).

Of course the only things more impressive than expensive cars smashing into guardrails at 200 mph are expensive collapsing buildings. Unfortunately realistic building damage is still a relatively new technology, and seems to only be prevalent in Bad Company 2 and Red Faction: Guerilla. The problem many developers probably have with building damage is that it allows the player to pick and choose how they enter and exit a building, which can be a problem if players are meant to stay on a set path. Still, it would be nice if the damage buildings sustained in future games was more detailed than an ash mark. 

 
 Knock knock...

Realistic damage ceases to be a positive game element when it is applied to the main character of a game, a.k.a—you. Let’s face it, most of the characters in today’s games are walking tanks, capable of taking a dozen bullets with the only symptom involving their vision turning red for a couple of seconds. The reason video game characters can be shot, stabbed, and mutilated without dying, is because most people would chuck the controller at their TV an hour into the game.

The point I’m trying to make is that it’s fine to make a game feel realistic as long as the player’s enjoyment isn’t sacrificed in doing so. The highest priority a game developer should have is to make their game as fun as possible. And if that means directly depositing money into a player’s pocket instead of forcing them to visit a bank, so be it.

#2 Posted by Skald (4369 posts) -

In video games, realism is a gimmick. 
 
I mean, when the norm is over-the-top craziness and gigantic explosions, how could it not be?

#3 Edited by Doctorchimp (4078 posts) -
@Fullmetal216: 
 
I pretty much agree with you, I don't know who wouldn't. It all depends on the developer and the game they want to make. They determine what's real or not possible in their universe. But they should have the player's best interests at heart. Like Jeff was talking about at the event he went and they had a guy go through why games should stop trying to punish players unnecessarily without purpose.
 
Although, it should be noted that there are definitely different strokes for different folks. Realism is fine by me as long as they strive to do it in a fashion that makes sense for their game and consistent or it isn't set up just to take advantage of the player. For the record I really liked the way Fallout 3 and Elder Scrolls handled weapon conditions, really made you feel like you had to scavenge and be ready. Pretty soon those things become a non factor in those games as you gain skill in repair and armorer.
 

@extremeradical

said:

" In video games, realism is a gimmick.  I mean, when the norm is over-the-top craziness and gigantic explosions, how could it not be? "


Sarcasm...right?
#4 Posted by HadesTimes (825 posts) -

I think realism is pretty relative. I mean most movies don't get it right, so how could video games.  I'm thinking whatever the gets the job done is great as long as it is couched in the fiction and oh yeah. It NEEDS TO BE FUN!  No matter what anyone says, if the game isn't fun or interesting to play. Who cares?

Online
#5 Posted by CL60 (16906 posts) -

I prefer realistic FPS games over crazy ones. Things like SWAT, or the old Ghost Recon games, and the old Rainbow 6 games.

#6 Edited by RedRoach (1206 posts) -

When it comes to shooters, I enjoy both ends of the spectrum, from the over the top Call of Duty sequences to the more tactical stuff like Rainbow Six and Operation Flashpoint. As long as the components fit with each other and are consistent, you can't make a really fast paced game but only be able to take one bullet. 
 
As far as racing games go, I can never get into the hardcore sims like Forza and GT5, dirt 2 is as close to real as it gets for me.

#7 Posted by BeachThunder (12284 posts) -

Borderlands is too realistic.

Games should be games first and foremost, meaning that enjoyable gameplay mechanics should take precedence over abject realism.

#8 Posted by HandsomeDead (11863 posts) -

People need to replace the word realism with context. Everything is context and the amount of games that ignore that is pretty crazy.

#9 Posted by l4wd0g (2010 posts) -

Realism is great, but I don't need it to enjoy my games. I would chose Mario Galaxy over Far Cry 2 any day. As you said it's all about enjoyment of the game.

#10 Posted by Skald (4369 posts) -
@Doctorchimp said:
@extremeradical
said:

" In video games, realism is a gimmick.  I mean, when the norm is over-the-top craziness and gigantic explosions, how could it not be? "

Sarcasm...right? "
I worded that poorly. Realism is a feature. Most games have you running around being a nigh-upon-invincible soldier type, so when something like Heavy Rain or LA Noire come up, it intrigues people.
#11 Posted by Yanngc33 (4496 posts) -

Too realistic would be enemy soldiers, while bleeding to death, calling out for mercy. I would probably stop playing that game.

Also, weapon degradation is just stupid

#12 Posted by LordAssinhiemr (195 posts) -

For me, realism matters most in the sports genre. It's the main reason The Show dominates baseball on gaming consoles.

#13 Posted by Simplexity (1382 posts) -

My limit to realism in games is when I get shot in the foot and have to spend the rest of the mission walking at the same speed as that of a snail walking backwards.

#14 Posted by SMTDante89 (2613 posts) -

Brown.  Lots and lots of brown.

#15 Edited by JoyfullOFrockets (1177 posts) -

When you can't reload while running, when your jump doesn't do shit, and when you die by falling from 3 meters. (actually, the last one is more unrealistic in it's own way.)

#16 Posted by crusader8463 (14426 posts) -

I like games that are as realistic as possible, but the moment it makes the game artificially frustrating then it needs to go.

#17 Posted by Grumbel (910 posts) -

Just a little throw in: What the OP is taking about isn't really realism. A well maintained gun will last you decades, compare that to games that rarely last more then 10 hours. So the realistic approach would be to never have a gun degrade over the course of the game, as there just doesn't pass enough time. Same with the damage model, ever seen a house come down because somebody bunched it five times with a hammer? Doesn't really happen, those things are not made out of styrofoa. So again, a realistic approach would be quite different and not allow you to just punch holes everywhere. 
 
About realism is general: Trying to judge one game element in isolation is a common mistake. Yeah, having your random "kill 1000 people FPS game" wouldn't be so great if everybody of those 1000 people could kill you in one shoot, but what is forgotten here is that killing 1000 people isn't realistic in the first place. So the whole setup is already an overpowered hollywood phantasy, thus throwing in one element of realism wouldn't work at all, but that doesn't make that element wrong. But take a stealth game in comparison, there your goal is to stay undetected and one of the reasons why they work is because the enemy guns are far more powerful, they force you to stay hidden and not just go running around gun blazing, as that would be instant death. In an adventure game having one shoot kills might again work totally different. If something works or not really depends extremely heavily on context and there really aren't many game mechanics that you could judge in isolation without knowing the context.

#19 Posted by iam3green (14390 posts) -

great realism make the game slow. i do enjoy a few real games like gran turismo 5. it's enjoying because you can't take a turn at 90 mph. other racing games like need for speed, and burn out you can take turns at high rate speeds and not crash. in the world you would not even turn. you would end up just going straight and crash. some games get realism to be good while other games make realism crap.

#20 Posted by HaltIamReptar (2029 posts) -
@Fullmetal216: Yo dog, essay writing 101.
 
Never ever lead off with a question.
 
Seriously.
#21 Posted by SpawnMan (748 posts) -

I like this blog post - I agree that sometimes too much realism can be a pain, but would you have the other option? No realism? The reason games such as BioShock, Burnout and even movies such as The Dark Knight and the like work well is that they meld an unreal, totally fantastic scenarios with real causes and effects. BioShock would just be a weird shooter under the sea if it wasn't laced with a rich alternate history of how free thinking was forced underground - it's all about creating the new and melding it with realism. 
 
The problem for me are those games which go too far. I find that Capcom and Ubisoft try too hard for realism. Their characters must have realistic names and motives and plots which try to be too complicated, even if they're not. I'm looking at games such as Army of Two, Rainbow 6, indeed Farcry, and the like - it just gets boring. If they keep the realism to the effects and game mechanics, I'm happy, but you can't have both - not BOTH realistic plot and game mechanics. It's one or the other for me.

#22 Edited by atejas (3057 posts) -

Realism works- when it's appropriate. Far Cry actually wasn't that realistic because even sub-Saharan African weapons wouldn't explode violently in your face after you had fired them three times.
Really, asking for a game to be realistic in all aspects is pointless and wasteful. Look at STALKER(w/ mods)- weapons degrade, hunger sets it, you get fatigued, and if you're using one of the more tacticool mods, bullets ricochet and every shot will make you wince because it has the potential to ruin your day. But STALKER really doesn't need destructible environments, they wouldn't contribute anything to the game. 
When it comes to games that try to simulate real firefights, like SWAT, Operation Flashpoint, the older Rainbow Six games, and what have you, I can't claim I'm a fan.

#23 Posted by MordeaniisChaos (5730 posts) -

@HaltIamReptar: Because every piece of writing needs to be a formal essay, right?

#24 Posted by mnzy (2920 posts) -

Sometimes it's not even clear what that means.
I've heard people say FIFA and PES is more realistic. One because the animation looks more like a real match, the other, because it has lesl assisting technology.
The same with driving games.