Staff Roundtable: The Future of Simulations Part 1 – PC’s versus Consoles Page 2

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McGonigle (continued): How does a sim become less “simmy”, if the mathematical model is right and the environment is wrong, either slightly wrong in some minor details, or wrong, in some more obvious way? Clearly it is not a sim if you can fly or drive without fuel, or if the laws of physics are violated, but apart from such easy examples, which in fact are flaws in the mathematical model, it is very hard to define when a sim is a sim, and when it is a game. You can talk about high-fidelity or low fidelity sims but that just shifts the problem through more categories and labels.

The answer I think is in obtaining the right balance between sim and game. The closer the game-elements are to real life, the better. This helps immersion and aids the player in entering the make-believe game world. So all the bells and whistles in terms of audio and graphical presentation as well as support for peripherals need to be as close to a real life environment as is possible. The air base needs to be right, the color needs to be right and the sounds need to be right for the player to be able to sink himself into this simulated existence as a pilot, a race driver, a train engineer, a submarine captain, or whatever example you care to mention.

Break the immersion and you have committed a very serious offense against the player, violently taken him away from the sim-world, almost like waking a sleeping person by firing off a gun close to his ear. No wonder we defend our favorite sims and argue about the correct size of wheels and the correct color or decal. It’s our existence in sim-world we’re defending, our sim-persona, and that’s a very important part of our lives.

The rub here is of course when we discuss immersion; This is a personal and subjective thing, and as such it varies with each and every player, making it impossible to arrive at a bulletproof definition of what is a sim and what is not.

Perhaps the offending immersion breaker is that plane being the wrong color, or operating in the wrong theater. Perhaps it is a join-lag in multiplayer, perhaps it is the AI, perhaps it is the voice or wording of the spotter, perhaps it is because the textures or models don’t seem right to you, perhaps it is because the supercharger does not sound like it should to you. Perhaps it is the long loading times which remind you that you are indeed just playing a game. Small things like that can have a big influence on the overall level of immersion, especially if there are several small things in one particular sim that put you off like that. Another user might not notice, not care or find that the very things that put you off, are in fact the same things that he thinks are great.

The hardcore sim player is just a person who has some previous experience with sims, who may or may not have first hand information about the objects being simulated and who may or may not have studied material relating to the objects being simulated.

"Society has changed and it's changed us."guod: Very good, thanks. Let me build on that a little and perhaps shift gears.

We live in a high-speed society where none of us has the time to spend on sims as we used to, or would like to. Society has changed and it’s changed us. Same with model building. Sounds like many of us also (or did) have that as a hobby in the past and have the same time challenges.

Regardless of what hardware platform we all will be playing on (and who knows or really cares as long as we have good sims to play) the retail marketplace is where the biggest changes will be. At the rate store displays for PC games have diminished, we’ll be buying sims from a single vending machine in a couple of years. In my opinion the digital downloads will take over completely in the not too distant future. It’s just a question of how fast. When the market wants to turn, it can turn fast. We geezers remember how fast vinyl left record stores for CDs. It was a matter of weeks. The game industry could change even faster.

It’s all about available retail shelf space and what moves the market. PC games just don’t have the turnover that the consoles have (for all the reasons mentioned above). The quick turnover is what stores — all stores — are looking for, and static inventory is death to brick and mortar shop sales.

That’s why marketing and sales love console titles and why we get aggravated at the “suits”. But they’re just doing their job, and their job is to move product off the shelves.

What say you guys, what does the future hold for us simmers?

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