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Thread: "You Are There": Verisimilitude in Gaming

  1. "You Are There": Verisimilitude in Gaming

    I've been playing SMT: Devil Survivor 2 lately. I enjoy the Devil Survivor sub-series in part because the city of Tokyo is a character in the game. The maps are based on real Tokyo neighborhoods. The games have a very strong sense of place. This is less true in Devil Survivor 2 because that game takes place in several Japanese cities. But it's still there, to a lesser degree.

    I enjoy games that pay attention to verisimilitude. Put simply, I like games that have a really strong sense of place. Shenmue is my favorite example of this. I've never been to Yokosuka but after playing the game, I really feel like I know the place (or at least the Shenmue-ified version of it).

    The Grand Theft Auto games (after III) are also good at this. They're fictional cities, but they're populated with realistic-looking buildings and landmarks. You might even argue that IV was a little too good at this, the way it included a freeway system linking all the Liberty City buroughs together.

    Jet Set Radio is another great example. Come to think of it, a lot of Dreamcast-era Sega games had a wonderful sense of place: JSR, Skies of Arcadia, Shenmue 1 & 2, even Crazy Taxi.

    Sometimes a game can actually turn me off if it doesn't have a good sense of verisimilitude. Usually this happens when a game is based on a real city or place, yet doesn't stay true to that setting. A great example is The Saboteur. It's set in Paris, but the Paris in that game bears no real relationship to the real city. Which is too bad, because a game set in WWII-occupation-era Paris with real verisimilitude would be awesome.

    Assassin's Creed III supposedly really gets colonial-era Boston right. I'm not interested in the game at all, but for the fact that it gets this representation right.

    What are your favorite "verisimiltude" games? Games that really nail that sense of place? Games that faithfully replicate an actual place? Or games that have disappointingly bad verisimilitude?
    Last edited by sleeve; 06 Feb 2013 at 06:53 PM.
    The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure it is always right. -Learned Hand

    "Jesus christ you are still THE WORST." -FirstBlood

  2. You named most of the more recent ones that come to mind, so I'm going to go a little further back.

    It might be a laughable example by today's standards, but Duke Nukem 3D blew me away with this. Where earlier FPS games, even ones with better graphics, had these semi-abstract mazes of arbitrary switch puzzles, Duke 3D's levels really felt like they were places, that had a purpose besides to befuddle lost space marines. Half Life took this concept a bit further.

    Even further back, Out of This World managed to accomplish this in 2D. You always had a sense that where you were was a logical part of a greater whole.

    Riven, with all its painstaking detail, felt like a very believable sort of fantasy world.

  3. The Midgar portion of FFVII definitely nailed a well-defined sense of place. I remember being fairly disappointed when I discovered there was an entire world beyond it.

    Morrowind really got it right too, with a distinctive (and often bizarre) architectural style that varied by region in a way that made sense if you understood the world's lore and politics. Imperial forts aside, everything felt quite alien.

    I'd say Silent Hill deserves a mention as well. The one portrayed in the first three games, anyway.

  4. Quote Originally Posted by Frogacuda View Post
    It might be a laughable example by today's standards, but Duke Nukem 3D blew me away with this. Where earlier FPS games, even ones with better graphics, had these semi-abstract mazes of arbitrary switch puzzles, Duke 3D's levels really felt like they were places, that had a purpose besides to befuddle lost space marines. Half Life took this concept a bit further.
    Great example. I'm really looking for the more unusual examples here. Stuff I haven't heard of, or thought about. Duke Nukem is a series I haven't played much and wouldn't have thought of. I do remember that Duke Nukem really did strive to create a world in a way that Doom didn't.

    Even further back, Out of This World managed to accomplish this in 2D. You always had a sense that where you were was a logical part of a greater whole.
    Another great example. OotW, of course, managed to do this without using words. Which makes it all the more incredible.

    Quote Originally Posted by No One View Post
    The Midgar portion of FFVII definitely nailed a well-defined sense of place. I remember being fairly disappointed when I discovered there was an entire world beyond it.
    Midgar is definitely the most memorable part of FFVII for that very reason. I know that I disliked all the prerendered backgrounds at the time. But looking back, I think it was the strongest part of the game.

    Morrowind really got it right too, with a distinctive (and often bizarre) architectural style that varied by region in a way that made sense if you understood the world's lore and politics. Imperial forts aside, everything felt quite alien.
    Interesting. I never really got into Morrowind but this is one of the reasons I love Dark Souls. That game really did pay attention to architecture in interesting ways, and actually told a story with its locations. Kinda reminiscent of OotW, actually. The best example of this is New Londo Ruins. You really learn a lot about the game world by wandering around there.
    The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure it is always right. -Learned Hand

    "Jesus christ you are still THE WORST." -FirstBlood

  5. Rapture sold me Bioshock. You go down that lighthouse and this whole world you never new was even down there comes to light. Each section is different, now haunted by the lives the were looking for a utopia. Loved how you were lead through with action and dialog that reveals what happened before you got there.
    Last edited by Rumpy; 06 Feb 2013 at 07:23 PM.

  6. I'd probably go with Sigil from Planescape: Torment. The Planescape universe is off-the-rails in general but Sigil still feels like a natural consequence of a city that just happens to be in the middle of millions of doors to other dimensions.

  7. Quote Originally Posted by sleeve View Post
    I've been playing SMT: Devil Survivor 2 lately. I enjoy the Devil Survivor sub-series in part because the city of Tokyo is a character in the game. The maps are based on real Tokyo neighborhoods. The games have a very strong sense of place. This is less true in Devil Survivor 2 because that game takes place in several Japanese cities. But it's still there, to a lesser degree.
    I'm playing DS2 right now and I find it has none of that. It feels like a series of disconnected pictures that are supposed to be linked but fail at giving me any real indication of size or distance, kind of like playing the old Carmen Sandiago games.

    That aside, this is part of why I love MMOs. It's the one genre that consistently provides entire continents and worlds to explore with everything to scale. Like No One brought up, FFVII's Midgar was a fantastic place, but it got kind of ruined once I went out into the rest of the world where everything was completely disconnected dots on a map. This effect was even worse in FFVIII with the ability to drive cars around between hyper advanced cities mixed with super low tech cities, and they were all really separated from each other on a representational map.

    Then I hop into WoW or Tera or FFXIV and it's all being able to travel huge distances and really explore the little nooks and crannies of the world, and having real live people running around doing things gives the cities life. It's not just the one blacksmith who provides armor for an entire army who also has time to craft special never-before-seen items before, but is instead crowds of people all milling about and interacting with the economy and so on.

    FFXII did a good single-player job of having a "real" land to explore thanks to limiting themselves to a small but properly proportional expanse. SRPGs also usually manage to strike a good balance, such as how Tactics Ogre and Gungnir only give glimpses into things outside of battle but are populated with so many people all working their own agendas that it really helps sell the world.

  8. #8
    There is definitely a lot of Carmen Sandiego in Devil Survivor. Hilarious but true.

  9. Quote Originally Posted by Rumpy View Post
    Rapture sold me Bioshock. You go down that lighthouse and this whole world you never new was even down there comes to light. Each section is different, now haunted by the lives the were looking for a utopia. Loved how you were lead through with action and dialog that reveals what happened before you got there.
    Rapture is good, yeah. My memories of it are tainted by my overall disappointment with that game. But Ken Levine and company really put a lot of effort into telling a story with that setting, even though I can't really remember too much about it today. I remember System Shock 2 a lot more vividly, perhaps because I've played it through 3 or 4 times.

    I place Rapture in a different category because I find the idea of Rapture difficult to comprehend. You've got this gigantic city underwater built by a bunch of Ayn Rand fanatics. It's memorable, but hard to relate to. Columbia (in Bioshock Infinite), I expect, will have that same problem.
    The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure it is always right. -Learned Hand

    "Jesus christ you are still THE WORST." -FirstBlood

  10. Quote Originally Posted by Mzo View Post
    There is definitely a lot of Carmen Sandiego in Devil Survivor. Hilarious but true.
    Quote Originally Posted by MechDeus View Post
    I'm playing DS2 right now and I find it has none of that. It feels like a series of disconnected pictures that are supposed to be linked but fail at giving me any real indication of size or distance, kind of like playing the old Carmen Sandiago games.
    You're both right! I hadn't thought of that at all. I actually enjoyed Carmen Sandiego quite a bit, for what it was.

    The sense of place is much, much stronger in Devil Survivor 1/Overclocked, because it all takes place in Tokyo. By the fifth day in DS2 you're literally teleporting back and forth between Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya and it feels much more disconnected. But the sense of place is still there. I like the way Devil Survivor introduces local myths into the game, like Billiken and the Tsutenkaku.
    The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure it is always right. -Learned Hand

    "Jesus christ you are still THE WORST." -FirstBlood

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