This is our third issue of Immersive Details, last issue we talked about Static Worlds and how something as simple as having NPCs move about the world can drastically change our immersion level of a game. This week we’ll be taking a look at a feature I haven’t seen implemented into many MMO based games: Prey vs. Predator. This feature is mostly seen in single player games and even then, it isn’t very common. To name a few Far Cry 3, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and World of Warcraft all have it to a small extent.
During a recent conversation with a friend I asked him “Do you think wildlife in video games needs to be improved?”
“I doubt you’ll really notice it,” was his reply.
One of the first things I noticed when playing Skyrim was that the wildlife had a presence, it was aware of its surroundings and had a “will to survive” so to speak.
So this week in Immersive Details let’s take a look at Prey vs. Predator–when the wildlife of the game you’re playing interacts with its environment. I understand why my friend would think you probably wouldn’t notice a feature like this, and he is correct. A feature like this is such a small detail, yet can play a massive part in how we immersive ourselves into the game.
Let’s take a look at World of Warcraft, an MMO that in a small way has this feature. If you have ever played World of Warcraft before and stood outside Stormwind city you might have noticed a wolf attack a deer or a rabbit. These are random events that happen in WoW if a prey walks too close to the predator, but this feature is lacking, it has no life to it. Sure the Predator attacks the Prey but the Prey never reacts to the encounter it stands there awaiting its inevitable demise. WoW has creatures like this throughout the entire world, they are called “critters.” I consider them filler creatures. Prior to the most recent expansion (Mists of Pandaria) these critters served no real purpose in the world other than to fill up space and make the world feel more “lively,” but where’s the liveliness of a creature that just stands there and gets mauled by another creature.
Far Cry 3 has this mechanic but I don’t think it is as well done as Skyrim. In Far Cry 3 you’ll see animals attack other NPCs for example if you’re attempting to reclaim an outpost you can look around within the outpost, sometimes you’ll notice a bear, tiger or other ferocious animals caged within the compound. If you unlock the cage and let the beast escape he will attack anyone who comes close, including the NPCs. If no one is close the beast will wander back into the forest.
Skyrim went into much greater detail for this feature. In Skyrim if you’re wandering through the lands of Tamriel you can witness how the environment comes alive around you, wolves will chase Deer and Rabbits. You can see the Deer and Rabbits run away for dear life, just as they would in a real situation. If you tried to get close to a Prey animal (Predator animals will attack you and chase you down) they will get “scared” and try and flee, using the terrain to their advantage. I’ve seen deer climb and jump rocky cliffs to try and get away from me.
Immersion is different for everyone but one thing stays the same: if you question a game mechanic while playing, your immersion is broken. You are no longer part of the world, you are part of a game. It could be a big mechanic or something as small as, sitting a chair, NPC acting as statues or even deer not running away from impending death.
This is my plea to Zenimax, please do not forget about the little things, they do matter.