I’d like to talk about immersion and SOTA. Read this while your loading bars go. I disagree with the dev’s take on it, which seems to equate it to “realism”. That’s not my view. It’s more about how “into” the game I am. A chess player can be super immersed into a chess game, even if it’s just a bunch of Pokemon figurines arranged on a 8x8 grid. More like a day dream, I can fall into being immersed in a game, or I can be snapped out of it. They talk about not having immersion get in the way of having fun, but I’d say that if I’m not immersed, I’m probably not having fun. Here’s my categories of what challenges immersion, from most to least. Internal Consistency I’ve jabbed at the idea that drinking alcohol improves my crafting ability. However, neither that, nor teleporting ladders, challenges my immersion. Take No Man’s Sky, which I see parallels to Shroud of the Avatar’s development. It’s been improved a lot… still has a long ways to go, and has some non-zero amount of fun you can have with it. I can take molecular hydrogen (H2), and combine it with “chromatic metal”, and get a hunk of antimatter. It’s not in a container. I apparently just hand-craft it, and carry it around. I can also MacGyver together a base computer with nothing but pure chromatic metal. … and the planets are uncomfortably close to each other. These things aren’t really an issue to me, because the game is so unwaveringly consistent at presenting this cartoonish world of physics, that my mind just accepts it as-is. It doesn’t matter if there’s antimatter chewing gum or I’m playing a game of triangle characters. Realism wasn’t the issue. In SOTA, my character’s Truth virtue is very bad. It became this way because I told a bunch of NPCs that my name is “asdfasdf”. Yet, assuming I can find a housing lot, I can build a gigantic underground complex of rooms full of zombies, liches, trolls, etc, all with nasty intentions, beneath Central Brittany (Player dungeons). Why isn’t this tossing my virtues into a blender? The city guards don’t even seem to care. The Cabalists should be knocking at my door, trying to recruit me. “We humbly beseech you to teach us your ways. We have been besieging the city for years, and have never been successful. But somehow, you’ve infiltrated the city and created a forward operating base for evil!” I can’t take the game seriously, because it doesn’t take itself seriously. Imagine reading through the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, where midway through the book, it cuts to Frodo, Galdalf, Sauron and the One Ring (who is human sized and has googly eyes and Disney cartoon gloves), all playing poker. Then as quickly as this asserts itself, we’re thrust back to the regular plot. I’d probably set down the book, saying “what the hell was that?”, and would be far less likely to pick it up. Writing a good story has certain best practices and methodology for keeping the reader engaged. So do games. How quickly would a D&D session’s fun fade if the DM wasn’t consistently presenting a world to the players? … yet that’s how Player Dungeons appear to me. It’s like multiple different games had some kind of transporter collision accident. These may be salvageable if they tied into Cabalists, or played a role in meaningful base building out in the hostile world (Fallout 76 C.A.M.P. style). The game has no internal consistency about these “virtues”, which could hypothetically be a compelling world mechanic. I tend to think the movie “The Truman Show” is about a guy whose immersion was broken. He ended up leaving the game in the end, and could no longer be monetized by the game company. It happened because he ran into an internal inconsistency in his world. Depth Is the game deep enough to immerse myself, literally? Kind of. That chess game may appear to be simple, but there’s a lot of thought and depth to strategy and outmaneuvering the opponent. Relative to the game, there’s quite a bit of depth. Something on the scale of an MMO, relatively, needs more depth. How about regional economies? Factional politics? The game needs “project potential” on a personal level. It’s about as much of a sandbox as MS Paint is comparable to Photoshop. At the end of the day, I can only do so much as the game provides tools. If I’m spending most of my time imagining mechanics in my mind’s eye, why am I playing the game? Decorations and player housing are largely shallow and non-functional. PVP doesn’t exist on more than a dueling level. There’s no point to player dungeons. Why would I enter someone else’s? Depth doesn’t necessarily mean complex or convoluted. I see Minecraft as something very deep for how simple it was. That’s why it continues to be very engaging to a lot of people. A few mechanics went a long way. Depth doesn’t mean - keep adding additional unassociated mechanics. Depth can mean - does anything in the game matter? Relatability I don’t tend to get into abstract stuff so much. I liked Fallout New Vegas quite a lot, despite it being a bug, manifest. I also played The Outer Worlds, and was meh-ish. One reason was, I found the post-apocalypic Earth more relatable than random alien planet with unrecognizable things all over the place. SOTA isn’t too bad in this department. But I may be more interested, if the physics-challenged shattered moon was explored as a topic more, for example. I can relate to moons. They’re relatable. Reminding you that you’re playing a game This is when you’re face-slapped out of your day-dream. This can break down into some some-categories. Making you feel like you’re wasting your time. This would be grind, loading screens, progression bars, teleports, etc. Progression bars while crafting could be a Surgeon Simulator style process where, how well you swing your hammer, and at what angle, has an effect on the output of a sword. Instead, we have loading bars. Ultimately, games are a waste of time… unless you’re having fun. I don’t go “WOO HOO” over progression bars. Nothing is quite a splash of cold water to the face than wondering where the fun is. I rarely ever felt this way while playing Fallout 76 or Satisfactory. I always felt like I was making meaningful progress, until I felt I exhausted their potential (and FO76 went’ down the P2W-lite path… I mean “sell convenience purchases because we decided not to do qualify of life improvements, but instead make you pay for antidotes for poisons we intentionally leave in the game”) Bugs and Performance Issues I tend to think people complain about bugs a lot more when there’s nothing else to focus on. But even crashing to the desktop can break my immersion. I don’t think this needs more explanation. Conclusion I don’t think we should brush aside issues of immersion, as they often are the canary in the coal mine for whether there's game design issues. While the bugs and technical issues are resolved, the game needs a creative director, who is still involved, to stitch together a vision of a consistent, deep world.