Choosing an Era and Style for my Immersive Sim Game

Before I even started with anything else, I needed to decide on the style and era of my immersive sim. It’s the most important thing to do before I begin the full design because it dictates so much of the rest of the game from the story, the type of levels, the weapons and powers (if I have them) and more.

When it came to making the decision on my setting, I spent some time looking into the pillars of the genre and what their worlds were like and how that dictated the design of everything from how the world was put together to how the game itself played and what sort of systems were put in place for it. I also drew on all of my favourite media and the more recent things I’ve read, seen and listened to.

From looking into it, immersive sims have all kinds of settings that allow for pretty much everything from the swords and sorcery fantasy settings of the Ultima games through the alternate history of the Bioshock series and into the sci-fi tech heavy Deus Ex and System Shock games. Then there are games like Dishonored and Thief that use gaslamp fiction and steampunk respectively as inspiration. Personally, I enjoy the idea of magic more than tech as it allows for much more fantastical powers but at the same time I’m a sucker for decent gun combat. I very quickly realised I was heading much more into a Victorian/Edwardian sort of setting.

Some other things in my life also helped cement that period of time as the main inspiration for my world. I live in the UK and in the last few years, as a country we have been looking back on World War 1 and all the horrors and impact it had. I personally took my then nearly year and a half old son to the nearby Remembrance Sunday service on the 100 year anniversary of the end of the war. That and the fact I played a lot of Battlefield 1 made me want to set something in that very particular few years but I very much didn’t want to set it on earth.

I decided that since I didn’t want to set it during WW1 but did want that setting, I would have to build my own world and history to create the sort of situation that would lead to similar enough circumstances. Doing this would also allow me to have better control of the styles and look of everything in the world because I would not be tied down to what was historically accurate.

From the outset, I wanted to have some sort of magic involved and my favourite Immersive Sim games are the Dishonored series which marry the Regency period with steampunk and gothic horror amazingly well. Although the source of magic in my world will be similar in that they will be provided by some other-worldy being, the technology level will be much closer to WW1 in nature.

Another huge influence on me for this is a planet from the Orphanage series of books by Robert Buettner called Tressen. This series of books is among my favourite military sci-fi and at one point the main character Jason Wander ends up on a planet very much in the middle of a WW1 style war with a tech level roughly the same. It shows up a few more times later in that series and in one of the books in the follow up series Orphan’s Legacy. Part of my plan is to reread them at some point in the next year to refresh it in my mind.

Now my setting is chosen, my next step is to start building things like a world map, what exactly is providing the magic, who runs the various countries and all manner of other things. I can also start throwing together a basic first level as I already know I want to set it on a battlefield in the middle of trench warfare. My approach to world building is rather haphazard so future article will likely be all over the place in terms of content as I go through the things I have created for my game.