On Immersive and Realistic Environments for Gaming-simulations

While designing gaming-simulations, it is necessary for a player to feel game-elements represents reality. Game elements, even when simplified or abstracted for the sake of a game, have to represent reality in order to achieve meaningful play. This involves establishing two types of validity:

 

  1. The validity of an action/element within the game world.

  2. The relationship of an action/element with the real world

For example, in a traditional first person shooter game, killing monsters/players/characters should award points if that is the rule set by the game. If a game is inconsistent in achieving this, the player will loose confidence on the game’s validity. Similarly, if the game involves a hammer with functions similar to the real world, it has to be modelled to have the properties of a common hammer and it has to have the ability to ‘hammer’ other objects. The game-hammer establishes an acceptable relationship to the real world hammer though its physical properties in the game, weight, visual, etc. and its usability.

 

A change in the design of game-elements can alter the player’s perception of the game and hence we risk loosing the player’s confidence in a game. Typically, players proceed to experiment within the gaming world in order to establish confidence in its validity. Once established, the training systems can take over and the player can be exposed to an experiential learning environment.     Consider the following scenarios which require an immersive environment for training and learning:

  1. For the sake of training in hazardous environments. A player in the role of a security personnel, during her operations in a simulated disaster situation has to react and respond to the events in the environment.

    In such cases, a realistic experience allows grater level of interaction with the simulated environment.
  2. For equipment maintenance in a hazardous environment, realism of the environment (immersion) induces the sense of caution and intensity in the player and allows her to experience the type of stress that can be expected in such working conditions. Walkthrough of Oil Rig

 

 

Here are some examples of entertainment games where one game design technique stands out in achieving a good level of immersion:

  1. Limbo: The lighting and sound used to create a dark storyline
  2. Sound design in Amnesia to create a sense of fear
  3. Camera angles and a full model of Renaissance Italy to create ” The Leap of Faith” Assassins Creed” to allow players experience falling off buildings.
  4. Enabling people to play in completely non-linear game-play with a near realistic simulation of open-world city (Chicago) in Watchdogs.

In serious games, player learning is paramount without having to sacrifice play. Designing games with realistic visuals and player experiences in serious games have to be combined with learning systems. Such games are then tested for their ability to deliver the experiential learning to its players. While the commercial games focus on entertainment while pursuing immersion, serious gaming approaches will consider addition criteria such as, domain relevance, training, calibration and additional testing for the same.

 

We are very excited about a new tool we have been able to acquire called the Occulus Rift. This is a virtual reality head-gear that can be connected to any standard computer and is capable of presenting an existing 3D environment to a player in stereoscopic format. Unlike 3D movies or stereoscopic “mode” on monitors, using the Occulus Rift in games, we can have the player within a completely interactive 3D environment.

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This allows us to explore a new method of immersion for use in training simulations such as hazardous environment training, disaster management training, etc. By combining this technology with additional sensor based devices such as the Kinect or Wii for motion detection we will be able to enhance player interaction and feedback in the virtual environment. This provides a far more implicit, ubiquitous and realistic means of validation. We have been testing various possibilities for the device at FoV. We have ported a prototype of a training system we developed for the Institute for Plasma Research, Gandhinagar. 

 

We are also very eager to test the this new device for disaster training simulations. Here is a gameplay video using Oculus Rift with the modified safety training game.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
This post is co-authored by Harsha Krishna and Bharath M Pallavalli.

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