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Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Prey 2017, and The Modern Immersive Sim

The mid-late 90’s spawned the immersive sim, a genre defined by influential PC titles such as Thief: The Dark Project and System Shock with the original Deus Ex following suit at the start of the millenium. Ion Storm and Looking Glass Studios pioneered the open-ended design we currently associate the genre with–design that consists of two core tenets:

Large interconnected environments
Player expression

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TheOptimist207d ago

Great article.... Good to find someone who knows what they are talking about and also how Prey is put where it's supposed to, in the immersive sim category and not the "Bioshock In Space" or FPS category.

Immersive sims are canvases for both, the player and the designer. In an interview Warren Spector, himself had said that he found a player who cleared an obstacle in Deus Ex in a way he had never imagined.

Immersive sims are an expression from both sides and only the most creative/ambitious of people can make these games.

Darkwatchman207d ago

Thank you. This article took a lot of effort on my part and I wasn’t sure if it was good enough to publish online, but yes. Prey is an excellent immersive sim and it’s a shame how many people dismissed it without giving it a fair chance. It’s one of the best games of the generation easily.

edeprez207d ago

I very much enjoyed my time with prey, it was good fun. That being said, there were a lot of things that were in shambles when the game released on PS4.
1. There were no dead zones on the analog sticks. My character would float off in whatever direction i pressed last.
2. There was a massive amount of input lag which they attributed to ( analog sensitivity) but clearly it was a delay in all actions on screen, granted it was remedied eventually. But their patch to fix the lag introduced frame pacing issues.
3 this one's personal, but the main enemy types looked kinda uninspired and boring, but that's just me.
Those are my issues I had, but i still played a lot of hours and enjoyed doing all of it.

Darkwatchman207d ago

@ed

I was well aware of the game's issues and didn't play it on ps4 pro until after it was fixed. The framepacing issues the game introduced when adding pro support were fixed in one final update after and seeing as I didn't touch the game at all until after it was completely fixed, my experience has been perfectly smooth.

Aeery207d ago

Nice reading, finally someone that takes some time to write something interesting.
I mean, these kind of games are just one of the best expression of game design and the *real* freedom solve a problem. Anyway, I'm only worried that the not impressive success of these games could mean that there will be less investment of this kind of game.

Legion21207d ago (Edited 207d ago )

Hey I play primarily on console and wanted to know if technical limitations hindered the experience at all. I'm a huge fan of the modern Deus ex games so I would love to play something in the same vein. I have a base PS4 and Xbox

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vickers500207d ago

I really liked Prey (and games like it), and Bioshock in space, mixed with a bit of Dishonored, is exactly how I described Prey to my friend after beating it. He plans to buy it when he has funds available.

There's nothing wrong or inaccurate with that label, it's true. It may not be the whole truth, but Prey shares a ton in common with Bioshock, enough so that if you have to boil down a game into a sentence to try and sell it to someone, "Bioshock in space" is pretty accurate.

I'm also curious, Darkwatchman, why no mention of Dishonored or Dishonored 2? Do you not consider that an immersive sim? Or was it just a tad too old that you didn't mention it? I can see Bioshock not being technically an immersive sim, as the paths are set, even though there is a lot of creative freedom in how you can take down enemies and engage in combat (in my opinion anyways).

But Dishonored 2 I think deserves a passing mention at least, if you choose to write more articles in the future about the immersive sim.

Idk, maybe my definition of immersive sim differs from other peoples. It doesn't seem to have much of a strict definition, it's kind of vague. "Objectives with multiple ways to approach a situation". But even that can be subjective.

In Bioshock 1, I handled big daddies a tad differently from everyone else. I didn't shoot them really, I attached a whole clip of proximity mines to an exploding barrel, and then used telekinesis to hurl that barrel at a big daddy, taking it out instantly. Discovering that little trick, what felt like my own personal little secret, was what made bioshock undeniably my favorite game of all time, and caused me to seek out similar experiences in deus ex hr, deus ex hr in turn caused me to seek out games like dishonored and prey, and look forward to reboots of similar franchises such as thief (which apparently sucked, but I was excited for it), the upcoming system shock reboot and sequel.

Maybe bioshock doesn't fit within the strictest definition of immersive sim, but for those of us who werent pc gamers back in the day, it introduced players such as myself to the genre.

Darkwatchman207d ago

Dishonored could be considered one if you wanted to group it in there, but it's not quite as complex as Prey by the same studio so I really wanted to focus on that more. Also, I haven't played Dishonored 2 yet so I can't comment on that one. And Bioshock is a good game. I like it for its atmosphere and world building, but it is far from being an immersive sim. Bioshock isn't filled to the grim with Rapture being a huge interconnected city like Prey's space station. It's broken up into smaller chunks that are connected.

And it also doesn't offer much of the emergent simulation gameplay you'd come to expect from proper immersive sims. You won't be solving logic puzzles or reaching seemingly inaccessible areas through outside of the box interactions with the game's simulation that the developer may have never thought of. It's all deliberately planned and conceived. Bioshock is not an immersive sim. It is a shooter.

vickers500207d ago (Edited 207d ago )

"It is a shooter."

That's a gross oversimplification of Bioshock 1. It isn't just a shooter. I could probably say the same thing about Prey in someone elses hands. Emergent gameplay scenarios depend almost entirely upon the person playings willingness to try creative things. And the way the game encourages and reminds you to play in different ways (i.e. an enemy standing in a pool of water in bioshock, or a dead npc at the top of an area with a half finished gloo gun bridge in prey, both scenarios reminding you there are multiple ways of approaching situations).

It sounds to me like your definition of what an immersive sim is, or emergent gameplay is entirely environmental and limited to just where your character can go and how they can get there, as you seem to be neglecting unique and creative ways these games have of dispatching of the inhabitants of these worlds.

Hacking stationary and flying turrets, setting proximity traps, choosing between different combinations of tonics and plasmids, pitting enemies against each other by manipulation, using different environmental elements such as water and electricity together (not just electro bolting a guy inside of water, but getting the tonic that makes you emit a burst of electricity when hit, leading an enemy to water, getting hit and triggering the pool without using any eve for one of many examples), hacking health stations, all these variety of things are not found in simple shooters.

Go play bioshock 1 on survivor and tell me if you can successfully or easily dispatch of that first big daddy with just your guns. At that point, I think you have a few plasmids, the wrench, the tommy gun, pistol and shotgun. Assuming these are all full of regular ammo and about 5-10 shots of more effective ammo, thats still only about half of that big daddies health bar. You have to either get creative in your attacks or setup, or find a good cheese spot to pick at the big daddy from.

Most other simple shooters give you the tools and resources needed to deal with whats in front of you, even on harder modes. In Bioshock, you need to get creative. Maybe when you played Bioshock, you played it on easy or normal, maybe hard. Maybe you played it as a shooter, but that doesn't make it one, just as it wont make prey "just a shooter" for my friend whose play style in these types of games is simply run and gun. It depends on the person playing it.

Darkwatchman207d ago (Edited 207d ago )

You read my article. You should know what I define an immersive sim as. Bioshock and PREY are not even in the same league in terms of freedom of expression for the player. Your examples of being able to kill an enemy in more than one way can be applied to literally almost every action game in existence. I can use this weapon or I can use that environmental hazard by them or I can run up and melee. That is NOT the extent of an immersive sim. You are completely ignoring the underlying core system of rules and logic that can be "exploited" to solve situations in ways a designer never would have thought of or intended.

Using that plasmid on that body of water where that splicer is...that's not immersive sim ideology at play. The body of water and splicer were placed there deliberately BECAUSE the designer expected you to do that. If you read deep into the article and paid close attention especially to the commandments Ion Storm had in place during the development of the original Deus Ex and then compare that to the neutered, simplified, and basic design of Bioshock--it's not an immersive sim. It's not even attempting to be. You are not understanding the true intricacies that mark an immersive sim as well....an immersive sim. I played Bioshock well over 6 times through the years and never once did I stop and think "man, this is a really intricately designed game and I am astounded that the developers had this much foresight in every single step of the development process" whereas I found myself saying that consistently about both modern Deus Ex games and about Prey because they are true aspirations of what a modern immersive sim would be if developers like Looking Glass Studios and Ion Storm still existed today.

If it makes you happy, Bioshock can be considered an "immersive sim-lite" as in it tries to be one, but with all the true complexity and intricacies stripped out for a more modern audience which that degradation and simplification of the industry is a part of what I touch on in the article. And a game with simplified design and structure is by its very nature not an immersive sim because they are not built for mainstream casual audiences. They are built for a niche that wants the truest distillation of what player freedom entails.

vickers500207d ago

I skimmed through parts of your article, read about half of that chart, because ideologies and points in a chart that devs keep in mind don't directly translate to a deep and immersive game, they're just nice ideas and goals to work towards, but they can't and don't come together in the ingenious ways you describe these games.

It sounds to me like you're looking for complexities and brilliance in things that really aren't at the levels you're imagining them to be.

Is prey good? Hell yeah. But finding 3 different ways to open every door(exaggeration), go into every room or unlock every lock is not as limitlessly varied as you make Prey out to be, it doesnt lead to infinite amounts of fascinating gameplay scenarios, it's just another way to unlock a friggin door or reach a platform. You're still being guided to the same place, the same scripted areas, using the same tools to make it through the game that the devs intended.

I'll go back and re read your article again, but the few examples you gave that I did read of why Prey is so complex and awesome were just finding different ways to get to the same scripted items or the same set up and crafted locations.

I played Prey about 3 or 4 months ago, and just platinum'd the bioshock 1 remaster a couple of weeks ago, and I was impressed at a few things that it does better than any other game I've played in recent memory: the cues.

In nearly every game I play, whenever game wants you to notice something, they do a horrible job at it. Audio cues that are meant to immerse in a game like prey, that are supposed to happen when you SEE an enemy happen before they are even on screen, or when you are supposed to have come into proximity of a gruesome scene that implies some storied shit went down there with specially designed audio cues, in Prey and other games, that shit happens when you're around it, but not looking at it, which means much of the intended effects (sound, visual cues and things meant to draw your attention to said scene) are lost and totally wasted, and instead leave the player with the question of "wait, was something supposed to happen just then?".

Or when some npc is supposed to whisper or talk quietly or be just in your view. I often think about things like this in games recently, it's ridiculous how bad developers are at this. The alternative is that they can override your control of the camera and pan the screen to where they want you to look, but that just makes the game feel far less free. Bioshock directs your attention in a subtle way that you are going to see, hear and experience the "scene" the way it was meant to be experienced, without making you feel locked into it. I don't know if this is intentional or coincidental, but I have a feeling it is intended.

Prey, at least in the last hour or 2 of gameplay rushes you to finish, which I hated. They give alex yu all this dialogue to listen and absorb in the end, and you're supposed to react to it emotionally on a timer (the point where you press the button to start the self destruct). Thats one bit I didn't like, in addition to characters cutting themselves off in dialogue when you reach certain proximities, god forbid you walk or run a bit faster to your intended location, it's like an actor stopping mid script to read the line 4 pages ahead, it's annoying as fck, but not something exclusive to prey by any means, it's just something I happened to notice recently after not sure how many playthroughs (once on every platform at the very least, twice on 360 and ps3 I believe) that Bioshock does very well.

vickers500207d ago

Any way, I think I'm losing the point of what I was talking about, maybe it's that Bioshock and Prey are very similar games, and while prey is deeper because it's newer, it's not titanically more varied than bioshock. At the very least, they're in the same ballpark when it comes to the types of games they are.

At their cores, they're both exploratory, super power gun wielding shooters with combos. Prey just has more complexity when it comes to interacting with your environment (overall environmental design is subjective, I will always prefer rapture to talos 1, I grew to dislike the necessity of zero g backtracking).

It's a god damned shame though that it did so poorly sales wise. There need to be more games like it.

Darkwatchman207d ago (Edited 207d ago )

PREy is not automatically deeper because it is newer. The system shock games and old thief games and original Deus Ex are older and are WAY deeper than bioshock. Also every single one of those commandments I listed from warren Spector present in full capacity in both mankind divided and prey to a much greater extent than bioshock could ever hope for.

vickers500206d ago (Edited 206d ago )

"I listed from warren Spector present in full capacity in both mankind divided and prey to a much greater extent than bioshock could ever hope for."

And Bioshock is a much better game than either of those 2 games could hope to be.

Deeper also doesn't automatically mean better either. Mankind Divided may have more lines of dialogue, emails, text, etc, but almost none of it is worthwhile to read. The story is a convoluted over dramatized mess. They focused too much on making sure there's a thousand vents and cracks in the wall and forgot to focus on things that matter to the players.

Bioshock manages to strike a perfect balance of "deepness" and polish, of making sure what it does decide to do, is the best at what it does.

Immersive sim is a fairly new term as I understand it, but if it absolutely must stick 100% to those stupid "commandments" then it's just a god awful term that not even the majority of hardcore gamers will use or know about. Terms are supposed to be broad and simplify something to give someone a general idea of what something is without having to study what it means to understand it.

"Immersive sim", in addition to being stupid for the reason that it implies it's a realistic simulator, is also very stupid name if it must fit every one of those stupidly specific commandments set forth by mr specter (or your misinterpretation of those guidelines as commandments, not simple guidelines that he set for himself and his team). It's like the people that say skyrim isn't an rpg just because it's rpg aspects are watered down in comparison to its previous entries. Annoying and pretentious.

Darkwatchman206d ago

Now you’re just arguing about something completely differently as you have been doing here and there. Okay, if you think bioshock is better than either prey or Deus Ex, you can argue that. They’re different kinds of experiences that do different things and you can absolutely say bioshock is better than either of those games. You can’t, however, say it is in an immersive sim because it is too limited and watered down to be one.

People can say that mass effect 2 is better than the first as an overall experience even though its rpg elements were significantly stripped down. It absolutely does things better than 1, but 1 is more of an rpg than a shooter and 2 is more of a shooter than an rpg. Those are just facts. That still doesn’t change that you can like one over the other. Being in a genre doesn’t automatically make a game better.

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TheOttomatic91207d ago

10/10 fantastic article showing why I love the games mentioned in said article.

Darkwatchman207d ago

We can only hope Bethesda continues to let Arkane do what they want

edeprez207d ago (Edited 207d ago )

100% agree. They made most of my favorite games of the past few years. And Bethesda in general fills out another large chunk of that list. So glad there are publishers left that still make single player games, and I will buy whatever I can to show that there's still an audience for them.

Jillian__207d ago

My last paycheck was $2500 for working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 8k for months now and she works about 30 hours a week. I can't believe how easy it was once I tried it out. The potential with this is endless. This is what I do >> http://4u.fyi/4h5

Fist4achin207d ago

Cool. Just picked up Prey and mankind divided recently. I'm looking forward to them!

Concertoine207d ago

Mankind divided is a little weak on stpry but man the world building and sidequests are great.

Sciurus_vulgaris207d ago

I really enjoyed Deus Ex: Human Revolution and its sequel Mankind Divided. I am also playing through and enjoying Prey, even though I think the game is a bit "rough around the edges". The problem with immersion sims, is that the current gaming market doesn' t really seem to want to support them. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and
Prey (2017) both under-performed commercially. Interesting I think Perfect Dark, if rebooted would benefit from the immersion sim treatment. I personally consider Prey (2017) and Deus Ex to still be FPS games (albeit non- traditional ones).. With Prey (2017), encompassing action-adventure, and Deus Ex branching into and being supported by action- RPG and stealth elements.

D3TH_D33LR207d ago (Edited 207d ago )

The Dark Project is still the absolute best first person stealth game you can ever play.

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