The Importance of Absurd Detail

Detail is what makes or breaks immersiveness.  Adding little things to a game world (pen or computer based) that make it seem a little more "real" make it more pleasurable to the player.  The less detail there is, the more you break the illusion, and the more you remind the player that he is playing a stupid game.

Sometimes, the level of detail in the pages seems completely excessive and unnecessary.  Does it really matter to the average player of your game how good your basic grain yield is per acre?  Does he care about the details of your ficticious history about the rise of the merchant class?  Or the differences in a sword forged by standard techniques as opposed to pattern-welding?  Probably not.  He just wants to know what the best weapon is, and where the monsters are.  However, they are important to some players, and it gives you a stronger basis for logical story evolution and lore.

It also helps you deal with questions from the players and unanticipated actions.  When players start asking you about why they should care about defending the outlying farmlands, you can tell them that they will starve if they don’t and why.  If they want to know why their orc loot isn’t netting them much (if any) coin from resale, you can explain that orcs use bronze and stone for weaponry, and why they don’t have readily available high-quality iron and steel.  And of course, you can provide basic information that explains to the players exactly why they have to go kill them in the first place, without shrugging and saying, "Duh, it’s a role playing game, of course you go kill the orcs!  That’s what they’re there for!"

There is also a certain "cool" factor associated with mad levels of detail.  The first time one of your players discovers that the monster spawns actually migrate in a logical fashion, and react to massive defeats at the hands of players by relocating, they can think, "Wow, that’s cool."  If they can actually watch and supervise the construction of their house by hired carpenters instead of just double clicking a deed, that’s cool too.  Attention to the most minute of details helps to engross your players into the environment, maintaining their interest.  Minute detail sets your game world apart from other game worlds with comparable fun factors and interfaces, and you can enjoy the corollary benefit of players who appreciate this using it as ammunition to flame your competitors, an indirect act of aggressive consumer-based marketing.

One note about extensive detail:  Extensive detail is especially important when constructing the lore of your world, making sure that it all makes sense, it follows a logical progression, and most importantly is well-written.  However, the general lore of your game setting is only initially released in small, broad amounts, like a basic timeline and common knowledge.  The detail exists in-game as layers to discover and ultimately disseminate through the internet, but that’s okay.  The fact that your history makes sense, and that lore-minded players can research it, is another avenue of play, something that is very important.

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