Mechanics and Realism?
In a 2009, Famitsu interviewed director Fumito Ueda, the game “Hito Kui no Oowashi Toriko” (aka The Last Guardian) was being discussed circa the first officially released trailer. The topic of this post is centered around a few minor comments Fumito made concerning mechanics and realism. As of the date of this post, Gamestop has the release date for this game listed as Dec 2012.
There seems to be an almost unending list of considerations that a designer must review when creating an experience. Mechanics are at the core of this effort.
I personally believe that, unless you are completing a fantastical, surreal or magical themed physics system, reality must be the core of your mechanics design. Mind you, I said design, not aesthetics. To simply explain this, the easiest way to make something functional is to use something that you know. We all know, intuitively, standard physics of motion. We all understand, instinctively, if a predatory animal is moving correctly or not. (A possible holdover, our ancestors needed to know if they had to run, or if they could kill, and eat, that predator themselves). This is ingrained in us all. Even young gamers can see a boss on a poorly done game and go say,”Daddy, that monster walks funny.”
Admittedly, this can be intentional, sometimes, but the more that the mechanics make the creature appear realistic, the more subconsciously immersed your players will become and a deeper their experience will be. Combine this with other factors such as FIERO and usability, and you, my friend, are on the right road to gaining a fan base of billions!
Using the mechanics of these NPC’s with the realistic and plausible mechanics of the player character, and you have something believable, and you have a great foundation for immersion. From that point, you can easily add in great story, and even a few jokes, to increase the player’s sense of realism and connection to the game. For example, in the Trico trailer, there is a scene were it appears that the creature sneezes on the boy, which knocks the boy down. While humorous, this lends to the realism of the game. THAT =’s IMMERSION! The players will be so busy either trying to figure out why the creature sneezed, or angry that it blew snot all over them. Either way, that is the hook that draws them into the game!
Hooks are wonderful things, and can be applied to many different areas of entertainment. Unfortunately, as designers, we seem unable to define a formula (like with everything else…) to insert hooks into our games. Some do it with story, some do it with themes and genres, but I say that we should start toying with mechanics as hooks a little bit more. Some games do this, to a point, but almost feel as if the designers did it subconsciously and never take it to the full measure. The cyclical mechanics of caring for Trico lend to the realism, and can, for some animal buffs, be the source of the immersion all together.
Overall, The Last Guardian appears to be a great example for the design of mechanics. Its development is something all of us should study. It has a very interesting blend of player, NPC-ally and NPC-enemy mechanics that should do wonders for player immersion. If Team Ico actually hear my prayers and add a random generation engine to this title, this may be yet another masterpiece for the ages, and I attribute it all to their outstanding work with mechanics and realism.