“Making the most of the game world” - What is diegetic mechanics in games (Topic)

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“Making the most of the game world” - What is diegetic mechanics in games


Diegesis is a process when in any work his character and the person who reads / listens / watches this work equally perceive what is happening in him. For example, in Amnesia: The Dark Descent, when you open a door, this action happens the same for you and your character: he grabs the handle and slowly pulls the door towards him, while you hold down the left mouse button and drag the mouse down, recreating this movement.

We have already told you similar things in the translation of material from independent developer Brandon Franklin, who considered the mechanics of the game routine. Today we decided to return to this author of the Gamasutra portal, and tell you in detail about the diegetic mechanics in games. We have selected the most interesting from his material.


What does she add to the game?

According to Brandon, the main thing that adds diegetic mechanics to the game is pace and presence. While presence and immersion are often perceived as the same thing, the former is the more important thing in game design. Immersion is when you become a full part of the game and are immersed in it. You used to feel interested in developing the game, but over time you have become so good at understanding and playing it that you feel confident.

Presence is more than that. You, as a player, really understand that you are in the same position as your character. When you feel, for example, a threat to his life on you. Presence is about consistency, and if something works a certain way once in a game, it will always work that way.

Another advantage of this mechanic is stimulation . Often, when developing a game, game designers think first of all about how to move the rhythm and storyline. Diegesis, on the other hand, makes you focus on the moments, stimulates the player to be more circumspect in their actions, to get pleasure from interacting with the outside world, and not to progress in it.

Yes, when you are making a shooter, you will not think about whether you need a smooth door opening mechanic, since in such games all doors [if any] must open as quickly as possible. But when you are making a game with elements of exploration, the process of finding objects can be as important to you as the item itself.

Affrodance [interaction between a person and a technical device] - this mechanic also creates intuitive situations for us. The developer gives again an example with doors:

“When you come to a door with a round handle, you usually pull or push it. When you have a horizontal handle in front of you, you press it first. These are intuitive things that you don't think about, but they work because you are used to it. It also happens in games and in games. These are WSAD keys for moving on the keyboard, sticks on gamepads or pressing the left mouse button to shoot. When such things are done adequately, you have the opportunity to ignore them and focus on the features of the game that make it unique. ”

Diegetic mechanics tend to deviate from classic mechanics and can be highly individual for each game. For example, in Dishonored, you can walk up to the vise, press a button and this will activate the animation as the vise will unclamp and fall out of the vise that was clamped. First, this lonely action takes place for both you and your character. Secondly, it makes the game world more mundane and shows that you can interact with it.


Signs of diegesis in games

To make this concept less vague, Brandon structures his thoughts.

So, the characteristics of this mechanic:

  • Low abstraction
  • Focus on the process, not the result
  • Creates a clear connection between the player and the game
  • Designed to create a down-to-earth atmosphere

Low abstraction. The moment when the game conventions in the game are reduced to a minimum. For example, when a character picks up an item and immediately uses it or carries it in his hand, without adding it to an invisible abstract inventory. For example, developers can give new meaning to common game items. Imagine climbing up a rope in any game: you walk up, jump on it, and moving forward automatically switches to moving up the rope. But you can also make this process less abstract: make the rope constantly wobble as you climb, limit your angle of view, or add animation of moving hands. Not just copying the obvious, but giving them more meaning for the sake of new experiences.


Focus on the process, not the result. The player should enjoy what he did and feel it. The author of the material cites Prey as an example. In it, you can hit enemies with a wrench by pressing the attack button. This will be shown as a nice smooth animation of swinging it from side to side. But for your punch to be stronger, you need to hold down the key to build up power, swing more and hit harder. This little element makes the process more meaningful for the player.


On our own behalf, we add that in such an action you feel satisfaction, since you really accumulated strength, and managed to apply it in time, which knocked down the enemy.

Create a clear connection between the player and the game. You share the experience equally with your character. As an example - the classic mechanics of health restoration in Far Cry. By pressing the treat button, your character can get a bullet out of his hand or straighten his finger quite dramatically. While it doesn't look as clever as it might, the developers could have just introduced health bar regeneration, but they decided to make everything more atmospheric so that you really feel what your character is feeling.


An example from us - Fallout 4, where they made an animation of the introduction of a stimulant. You see how the character injects it himself, and how the indicator of the amount of substance in the ampoule decreases.


Designed to create a down-to-earth atmosphere. This is the easiest way to achieve presence. I saw a very good example in the Paratopic game. You are sitting in the lobby and waiting for the elevator to arrive, while someone's left cigarette is smoking in the ashtray near you. You can take it out and put it out. And this creates the effect of presence as it is impossible, since there is a high probability that in real life you could do the same out of boredom. You don't have to touch it at all, and it won't play any role in further storytelling. To summarize, diegetic mechanics can create a completely new experience for the player, making the pace slower, bringing him closer to everyday life. It allows a sense of presence, where the player can interact with the NPC and feel that they are truly a part of this world.


This gives the project its own flavor. It allows you to enjoy not progress or pumping, but the game itself. It works best only in certain genres, and everything is best where the tempo is slower, for example, in horror movies.

The Topic of Article: “Making the most of the game world” - What is diegetic mechanics in games.
Author: Jake Pinkman