The Importance of Immersive Details and Easter Eggs in Games

In this article, we prepared 7 cool details and easter eggs that make video games more immersive and asked some of the artists who worked in the game industry about creating and adding said details to games.

Hello everyone! We at 80 Level, both readers and editors, have played our fair share of games, and we all know how valuable the small details and easter eggs are for the gaming experience. These small and sometimes insignificant things can bring the level of immersion no other medium can. That's why we decided to dedicate this article to immersive details and fantastic developers that give them to us. We collected 7 great examples of them in various video games and asked several Game Developers that were featured as our wonderful interviewees here on 80 Level about adding such details. So, without further ado, let's begin.

Chairs and Soccer Balls in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

2019's CoD: Modern Warfare is widely known for the tiny environmental details that might sometimes be unnecessary for gameplay purposes but make the game more immersive. And we're not talking about destructible flower pots or explodable canisters, such gimmicks are as old as the game industry itself. What does deserve some attention is the foldable chairs and deflatable soccer balls that can be seen on some of the levels.

The chairs can be folded by shooting or rifle-whipping them at the right angle, while soccer balls can be deflated by shooting them... at any angle. Such details do not change the outcome of the shootout but make CoD: MW one of the most immersive shooters ever created.

A Sad Easter Egg From GTA V

Many of you might already know about this detail/easter egg from GTA V but it is just too memorable not to include it in this list. While visiting Vinewood Cemetery as Franklin, the player will encounter a Skye Terrier walking towards an unnamed grave with a bouquet of flowers located nearby. This detail, besides being one of the saddest and depressing ever, is a reference to Greyfriars Bobby, a Skye Terrier who became known in 19th-century Edinburgh for spending 14 years guarding the grave of his owner until he died on 14 January 1872. The story continues to be well known in Scotland, through several books and films.

We asked Senior Lighting Artist at Treyarch Pasquale Scionti his opinion on adding immersive details and easter eggs to projects:

I think details in games impact sales as people love to see next-gen and they expect to see details in games. Sometimes, it is not the details that count, for example, I really like the retro style and pixel art games, but if I would buy a AAA title, I would expect to see a lot of details. Little touches are always important in games like dirt on a street or debris makes the scene come to life rather than a clean simple street.

The details are a great way to secretly insert some clues in a game like a symbol or a prop that has a connection to the franchise's next IP or the previous IP or even a totally different one it is up to the player to find them.

I have personally inserted an easter egg in the archviz sample scene that I created for Epic Games. If you zoom in very close in the picture frame there is my name there:

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Becoming a Bus Driver in Vice City

Another, much more lighthearted, detail from the GTA series is the ability to become a bus driver in Vice City. If Tommy hijacks a coach and stops at bus stops, pedestrians will board the bus. The player is awarded $5 for each passenger that is picked up. This detail adds some to the immersiveness of the game since it is completely unnecessary but fun and somewhat realistic even. Plus, you can earn some money that way, so next time you decide to play Vice City, try yourself as a bus driver.

Geralt's Beard in Witcher III

Unlike many RPGs where your character's appearance doesn't change over time, Witcher III has a great indicator of the time you spent playing – Geralt's beard. The beard grows as time passes and when Geralt moves between locations. The beard has several "states" and these states determine its length – from a light scruff to a full-grown beard. 

3D Artist at Ubisoft Rémy Lauret has this to say about the topic:

For me personally, these kinds of details in video games are very valuable because they make the games seem more real and we need realism a lot to be fully immersed.

From my experience as a student, the details are added at the end of the process because it’s important but firstly, we need a game that has a good concept and is playable.

As for the easter eggs, it’s another kind of detail, for me, it’s a way to play indirectly with the player. As a developer, it’s fun to create and add some easter eggs.

For example, in my end-year project – an enigmatic game in the pirate universe – I had a starfish with the color of Patrick from Sponge Bob Square Pants. It’s not a big deal but it makes me laugh.

Thin Ice in The Last of Us 2

The Last of Us Part 2 is filled will tiny environment details you can easily miss. One of these is the fact that thin ice shatters when you try to walk across it. Although some people might say that this is misleading, since the surface looks walkable at the first glance, it is undoubtedly one of the most realistic and immersive details in the game.

Elevator Music in Max Payne

The next detail is from the original Max Payne and was demonstrated in full by a YouTube user Neo150392. When you enter an elevator you can hear the most generic, annoying, and nerve-wracking "elevator music" in existence. But you are in a video game, and you've got a gun, so nothing stops you from ending this musical abomination by simply shooting the medium. If you do so, the protagonist will thank you for making a wise decision. A cool detail that can be easily overlooked.

A Hard Surface Artist Leon Fotevski has this to say about immersive details:

Immersive details, which I would really say is attention to detail, and caring about what you are creating, can be quite important, but are heavily dependent on the audience of your game. You could put a lot of immersive details on certain simpler games or games with a certain audience (like Fortnite or CS:GO) which wouldn't really care, at least in my opinion.

For games that are based around details and have an audience that likes or even expects such details, it can be something that helps your game grow quite a bit, and can even be part of the marketing of the game since the people playing these games are drawn to them when it looks like the developer truly cares what they are doing. Here I am talking about car games, flight sims, tactical shooters, simulation shooters. In some cases, it can even be a make or break situation, like for example in flight sims where people will count the number of bolts that you have put on the airplane, and if it is wrong you run the risk of being quartered. 

As for the pure effect of the experience to the player, I think it has quite an impact. They feel they have bought something that was made with care and attention almost custom made for them, and this in term will be positive for the developers themselves since there's a good chance that such care and attention will be talked about and the knowledge of your game will spread organically through word of mouth.

These little touches are important because, in my opinion, a deep game with many intricately designed systems where whenever the player returns will find something new can really make a game timeless. Sometimes these details can really help immersion and can boost the gameplay feeling quite a bit.

From my experience, some easter eggs and details are done in downtime or when making an asset you sometimes do a little joke and hide something small and interesting in the asset or the texture.

Usually, they aren't something that takes a long time to implement, though there have been cases of the opposite where developers really like the easter eggs.

For example, in a project I worked on, DCS F-14, there is a plane in which creaks and groans as you turn, it is completely unnecessary to the gameplay, but it really makes you feel like you are inside of the airplane and it's also both alive and quite old.

Another thing would be Metal Gear Solid 3. While being an older game it has so many different little tricks and systems that you can employ, it's simply too many to count, but something I always remember is that you are given a tranquilizer gun to knock guards out, however, you can also put animals to sleep, and by using it you can capture a poisonous snake that you can, later on, throw at enemy guard to make it bite him.

Another thing is that throughout the game there are beehives on branches. If you shoot a beehive and it falls on a guard, the bees will attack him forcing him and any other guard that the attacked guard gets close to to also be attacked by the bees, and they will all run away outside of the area, letting you quickly move through without any danger

Changing the Painting in Dishonored

At the beginning of the game after a quick tutorial, you'll go to meet Empress Jessamine Kaldwin in the gazebo. On your way up there, you'll come across Anton Sokolov who is painting the portrait of High Overseer Campbell. Next to High Overseer Campbell there is a bottle of brandy that can be taken. Later in the game during one of the missions, you can get into High Overseer Campbell's secret chamber and find his painting hanged there. If you took the brandy bottle when you first met him, it won't appear in the painting. 

This is what Technical Artist at Silver Rain Games Jordan Smee thinks about our topic:

As for me personally, I love small details in games and my favorites are the ones players won't notice consciously, or that they'd only notice if they were pointed out or if they took the time to watch the environments they're in. These details breathe life into the world a player inhabits and add to the realism and groundedness that a lot of games strive for, even stylized games whose appeal is the exaggerated nature of their world still head to these subtle details because it gets players more immersed than they would be without them.

I believe that these small touches are incredibly important. In any project, your goal is to keep the player invested and interested and there are many ways to do that, but for some players having a world they feel they can immerse themselves in is how they stay. 

So including these details not only keeps them in the wonder of the smaller details and fun immersive bits that are around them, but for players not looking for them they can be a nice surprise when they notice them by accident.

One of my favorites is the birds in Hollow Knight, as you travel through the game in some of the larger areas there are birds in the foreground that move off as you get closer, but as you keep traveling a larger group of birds flies off from behind, I never noticed it until it was pointed out by a friend and I thought it was really cool because I'd just accepted that, that was normal in the game. Hollow Knight does a bunch of stuff like that which is really interesting. 

At least for me it's been something that's evolved naturally out of an already existing task, I'll be looking at something I've done and it is fine, but you know adding that extra detail will make it more interesting. With easter eggs, from my past experience they're usually started as a small joke, a "wouldn't it be cool if" sort of deal. Then if there's extra time in development we'll find places to add them in.

Thank you for checking this article out, we hope that you've learned more about easter eggs and immersive details in video games. What details did we miss? What other easter eggs do you think we should have added to the list? Leave your thoughts down in the comments below. 

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