What are some ways immersion can be used to add gameplay depth?
By immersion adding depth, I guess I’m referring to mechanics that are realistic, but tie into gameplay somehow. Like how its realistic that you can catch animals in snake eater, but you can also throw snakes you catch to distract and poison enemies, adding a bit of depth.
Something I’ve said before is that simulation elements can definitely help make for better games. A prime example of this would be stealth games in general. The earliest ones, like Thief, were made by people with a huge immersion bent. The group of games that grew up around Thief were called Immersive Sims for this reason.
Using the ideas of simulation or narrative as inspiration for mechanics is perfectly fine. Seek inspiration wherever you may find it. I once was working on an aborted game project (our programmer was a fuckass who wanted everything to be randomly generated using free engines that didn’t work right and I haven’t dealt with the guy since) that later became the basis of my thesis film and the style of motion in it was inspired by some early preview clips I saw of attack on titan, the guys flying on grappling lines.
The key to understand is that good game mechanics aren’t usually a 1:1 mapping of simulation into mechanics. Thief has you keep the light value of the tile you’re standing on when you lean around corners. Thief has guards psychically search for you when investigating so you need to evade them progressively instead of simply hiding once and being fine.
The real world is a complex mesh of interconnected systems. The immersive ideology is that you should translate these systems into mechanics such as to create a believable world. My ideology is that you should see where these systems can be leveraged to create a game dynamic with a diverse range of challenging outcomes. Thus you get something like Thief with very detailed simulation of light from light sources and the noise propagation of different types of floor tiles. It’s also a matter of thinking outside the box, from a game mechanical point of view to see ways to push the system further without thinking about how it maps to the real world or the theme of the game until later.
I do a lot of that, coincidentally also with regards to stealth games, in this article:
The trouble with the immersion ideology is, it tends to add a lot of cruft into the system for the purpose of creating a more believable world, rather than any genuine purpose (like the economy system originally proposed for skyrim where you could destroy certain products and affect their prices and devalue items by selling too many of them), and it tends to limit more abstract mechanical ideas where they can’t be justified in a fictional context (such as not liking the way active reload in Gears of War will boost your weapon’s damage for a short period, but being fine with the fictional/simulation concept of reloading fast and sloppy versus taking the time to do it right).
By all means, seek inspiration wherever you can find it, just remember the design should be in the service of depth, and there is frequently a lot to be gained through more abstract mechanics.