We Worry About the Future of Games like 'Deus Ex' on Waypoint Radio


#1

We're trying something different with the Friday episodes of Waypoint Radio. One, Danielle is the host! Two, the discussion is framed around a single topic. That doesn't mean we won't talk about games we've been playing (or big news), but generally, this is the new format. In the future, we'll be announcing topics in advance, so you can weigh in with questions. On today's episode, the future of the immersive sim genre (aka Deus Ex, Dishonored, Prey) is explored by Danielle, Rob, Austin, and myself.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/43aj3n/we-worry-about-the-future-of-games-like-deus-ex-on-waypoint-radio

120 Games, 1 Goal - Pile of Shame: 0
#2

Haven’t listened to the podcast yet, but I want to throw it an overlooked game recommendation/exciting upcoming sequel related to the immersive sim discussion:
Consortium and it’s upcoming sequel The Tower are really exciting offshoots of the immersive sim genre.

The first game is a first person adventure set entirely on a futuristic jumbo jet run by a UN or Federation (Star Trek) style peacekeeping force and is primarily a murder mystery in which you can complete a playthrough without ever uncovering the truth. It’s a bit clumsy as a shooter game, but does super interesting things as a game about narrative choice. There are basically no binary Renegade/Paragon choices to be made. Instead you are presented with a pretty wide range of options on how to respond to every question or situation.

The sequel plans to expand it’s scope to a whole skyscraper which has been overrun by terrorists DieHard style. It looks like they’re doing a lot of work to make it a more cohesive game and if it’s ambitions outstrip the team’s ability to deliver it will at least be a fascinating, if imperfect, game.

If you want some vague spoilers about the game’s pretty novel narrative ideas: the whole game had a meta-narrative based around you being a person who is effectively controlling someone in an alternate reality. This means that there is a narrative reason for you to be completely baffled by the world you have found yourself in. There is even a way to reveal to another character that you are not actually of their world. It also gives an in-game reason to play though it again to try out a different path (of which there are many). There is also an insane amount (for what is effectively a five hour game) of world-building hidden in computer terminals if you want to dive down some rabbit holes.

Seriously, check them out if you have a chance. EDIT: lookalike they just entered Early Access:

://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2015/07/27/have-you-played-consortium/


#3

Ok, back after a listen and now I really want the podcast crew to take a moment for Consortium or, now that I’m thinking about it, Pathologic and it’s upcoming sequel. These are the indie immersive sims that you are all sure can’t exist for budgetary reasons.

Also, walking simulators=/=immersive sims.


#4
My reaction to “Danielle is the host!”

AustinsTripleTake

Discussion was still dominated by Austin. I like him, don’t get me wrong, but when he has something to say, oh, boy, you better be ready to be directed and interrupted.


#5

I really enjoyed this ep! topic and format, even though this genre isn’t my forte.


#6

I kept wanting to say “that’s one of my favorite genre’s too!” but I never thought D.A.R.P. got a good definition of what they were discussing. At the start it of the discussion was the System Shock/Deus Ex/Warren Spectre mini-genre - which I remember being called “FPS-RPG hybrids” back in the day - but then the category as discussed got diluted to pointlessness. I guess that was part of Austin’s argument, that the ideas have spread. FWIW I reject the premise that immersive sims are dead. I look forward to enjoying more of them when they inevitably continue to come out.
Also, where did “immersive sims” come from, as a name? Sounds like it should be for eg Euro Truck Simulator.

Thanks for the show, and I like the new Friday format.


#7

The crew may have decided they didn’t need to have a Brooklyn Definition of Immersive Sim, but I made a very clumsy attempt here a few months ago if anyone wants pointlessly argue genre restrictions!


#8

Well, I just got to the end of the episode. As someone who was in the stadium for the top of the 5th inning of game 5, dying a little bit with every screwy at bat (and occasional blown call), let me just say

fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck


#9

No problems with the format or host change but the ad in the middle of Rob talking was a bit jarring. I don’t have problems with ads at the beginning, end or even middle of a podcast but when it’s abruptly injected into someone talking, it’s off putting. I understand ads are necessary but better placement would be a good idea.


#10

So, what upcoming game(s) would you call “immersive sim”?

“System Shock” remake is scheduled for 2018, but that’s cheating.

“P.A.M.E.L.A.” looks very im-sim-y, but I’m not sure how much actual story there is.

“Consortium: The Tower” and “Pathologic 2” (yes, it is a remake but with a “2”, don’t ask).

“Vampyr” can go in that direction, maybe.


#11

First of all, I want to say this format is good and you should keep it up.

But I want to mention something about Neon Struct, a game mentioned by Austin in the episode. Besides the music, Neon Struct is made entirely by one guy David Pittman. So Austin is right that it serves as an example that with some level of personal drive, making an immersive sim isn’t out of reach for any kind of dev team.

While it’s not a game I think too fondly of, it’s problems largely stem from going too wide with it’s design. Pittman obviously lacked the resources to fill the half dozen or so hub worlds with characters or stuff. I think the game could have benefited a lot by reducing down to one hub world or something to emphasize how progress of the game effects its world. Regardless, it’s proof that if a one-man team can make an immersive sim too big, anyone who sets out to make an immersive sim can do it.

But it also raises some questions about whether there’s an appetite for small small studios to actually pick up the banner of the immersive sim, and that has to do with the steam workshop support Austin mentioned. And this is quite possibly, the saddest thing you can find on steam.

Literally no one has ever used Neon Struct’s workshop.

Go there now and you’ll only find two uploads have ever been submitted to the workshop, both of them by Pittman himself. One is an official prequel/DLC for the game, and the other is an example of a level that can be made in as little as fifteen minutes. Neon Struct didn’t sell a lot of copies, but as far as I can tell it’s the only immersive sim, that has a level editor/game making tools included. If there was an appetite individuals stepping into this field you think somebody would have made something.

I browse through the itch.io releases for a personal blog I keep, and I see RPG Maker games uploaded daily. I see walking sims uploaded daily. Somebody probably uploads full skyrim questlines daily. There’s a pile of great standalone Shadowrun mods that could count as seperate games. But nobody is making Neon Struct powered games. These other genres are types of people take up game creation to make, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with immersive sims.

Which leads me to think Patrick’s observation about fidelty is correct. Sure there’s lots of people in the industry liking these games. But when people make them, they want to make them on a full a scale as possible. It doesn’t seem to be a genre people want to make small bite sized versions of (Gone Home is literally the only one I can think of and that’s debatable). The thinking seems to be that if you can’t do all the bells and whistles it’s not worth doing. Even people who passionatley defend immersive sims rarely even shout Neon Struct as an example for others.

What does that say about the immersive sim? Does the genre actually have an identity beyond, look how big and complex and expensive this game was to make. Is the genre structurally tied to the production values arms race. Is the increasing desire for AAA devs to make more conservatively ambitious, yet more polished works going to put a cap on the genre going forwards?


#12

I recon Animal Crossing fits in with that Non-Combat-Based immersive sim point. Weather it could be called one right now, in it’s latest iteration, is up for debate(probably not), it definately shares elements from the genre, and would absolutely benefit from taking more in the future.


#13

(post moved to The Brooklyn Definition: Immersive Sim, but you could still read it here after I deleted it, which was weird…)


#14

Hey, I really enjoyed the discussion on this week’s Friday show and the new format for the Friday-casts, but I was not a fan of interjecting a sudden advertisement into the middle of a conversation. It was inelegant, jarring, and more than a little off-putting.

Also, Austin, maybe chill a bit, my dude, you were eating Danielle’s hosting lunch a bit here and there.


#15

Yeah, I think definition is the central problem. The term immersive sim was created to describe a very specific idea of what games could be by a group of designers over 20 years ago. The core of the definition was that rules and systems would replace prescribed solutions and authored events as driving force behind player interaction. They then added the idea that being first person draws the player into the game.

What we think of as immersive sims today is more the style carried through a number of games by specific designers than games designed with the ethos of immersive sims. I think the confusion is really exemplified when people associate games like Gone Home, Tacoma, or Firewatch with the the legacy of immersive sims. They share some designers, but linear narrative walking sims have little to do with the original definition.


#16

The Google Home ad insert at the twenty minute mark is really jarring. It is on par with when you get popup tutorial text that pauses the game.

The ad itself is fine and I don’t mind ads in general but I would much rather see an ad break happen like Giant Bomb or My Brother, My Brother, and Me. Where the conversation is basically done and they announce they’re going to do an ad read.


#17

Immersive sims aren’t going anywhere. Why? I’m buildin’ my gavedev skill set and I’ll make them myself if I have too lol


#18

a thing that’s really immersive is Austin interrupting the middle of a conversation to beam advertising about some dumbass robot directly into my brain


#19

I didn’t realize that I was a fan of this genre until I listened to this episode. What I mean to say is that the crew stretched the definition and types of games included in the genre past my casual understanding. I love Bioshock and Hitman, but I didn’t know those were counted among the immersive sims because they just feel so different. I thought Deus Ex: Human Revolution was the only game among the group that I enjoyed.

It’s very easy to be bored by immersive sims, and that’s the root of the problem. By their nature, they require players to have an inherent interest in their worlds. Anyone that checks in with a passing fancy is going to bounce off immediately. I played one level of Dishonored 2 before I decided that the world was utterly oppressive and dull. It’s extremely difficult to craft a world that is instantly engrossing, and most sub-genres have been done to death to the point that “dystopian sci-fi” and “steam-punk Victorian” aren’t going to grab many folks on premise alone.


#20

Can Google Home beam Austin’s ad reads directly into my mindspace?