"The concept of "Radiant AI" from The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.
Before then, non-playable characters did nothing on their own, or very little, to run or call for guards if you messed with them. Some had patrol paths that were just walking from point A to point B.
Suddenly, non-playable characters were actually doing things. You'd have to track them down and they would be living out their life. You have no idea the amount of life this breathed into villages and cities. I loved messing with the radiant AI in Oblivion.
I made a spell that enraged everyone in a certain radius for a few seconds that also turned me invisible for the same amount of time. I'd then find a densely populated area in Imperial City and let loose.
Everyone would start fighting each other and wouldn't stop after the rage effect wore off. The best part was that since everyone had relationships with each other people outside the radius of the spell would join in to aid their friends. It's like recreating 28 Days Later."
"In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, there is a boss which makes you confront the ghosts of all the enemies you've killed up to that point. If you've killed no one or only a handful of guys, this section will be through in a minute, but if you've run-and-gunned it up to then, you could be in for a long slog.
The ghosts all appear with wounds depicting the specific way you killed them; some have bullet wounds, knife wounds, burns, and so on.
The part that really messes with you is that, at one point in the game, there are vultures flying around the environment. If you kill a soldier and wait a minute, eventually the buzzards will show up and start feeding on the corpse. If you then kill and eat one of the vultures, the ghost of that guy in the boss fight like half the game later will stagger towards you, with vultures perched on his shoulder, stammering 'You ate me! You ATE me!'"
"In Pokemon Yellow, you can enter the Safari Zone with less money than the normal ¥500 charge, but you get fewer balls to catch stuff with.
If you have no money at all, you can beg the guard multiple times, and eventually he lets you in with one Safari Ball. This is so that if you're stuck at Fuchsia with no money, you can still get the Surf Hidden Machine and the item needed for the Strength Hidden Machine."
"I installed a mod in Skyrim that gives you bonus to speech every time you read a non-skill book. It felt like cheating to just click on them and close them right away, so I actually sat there and read each one in turn.
That history and lore is amazingly detailed. Now I'm actually excited to find new books and flip through them. I'm becoming a Tamriel history nerd."
"I'd say how important The One Ring was in the Bright Lord downloadable content for Shadow of Mordor.
You can't increase your health or number of arrows and you don't have bullet time while shooting so that makes things tougher. However, you have The One Ring at your disposal. You charge it up by mind controlling orcs and then it gives you a temporary period of invincibility, unlimited finishers, and you ignore any immunities your enemies have.
The missions were difficult to do except when you used The Ring. Then they often became trivial. I was thinking 'This is pretty easy. I just have to use The Ring and I will win'. Then when I finally had all five warchiefs under my command, I went to fight Sauron. I immediately activated the ring and just kept doing finishers on him and took him down right as I depleted The Ring. I was thinking it was too easy. Then it turned out that was just the first stage. He freed the war chiefs from my control and so I had to fight all 5 of them at once without the ring.
That's when it clicked for me. The Ring did make it so much easier and without its power I was a weak mortal who thought I could take on Sauron. I consider that to be incredible storytelling right there."
"MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat, back in the mid-1990s had a keybind to eject ammunition. This was a videogame where if you still had ammunition sitting in hard-points within your mech, that the ammo could explode if that location took enough damage. The tradeoff was that if your weapons still worked, you couldn't fire them anymore. If your ballistic/missile weapons were damaged but you still had ammo, you wanted to eject it before you were cooked from the inside out and lit up like Burning Man.
There were keybinds for third person view of all of the angles and first person view of all of the angles.
There were missions where you had to blow up nuclear reactors and you would then have to get far enough away so that the shockwave wouldn't kill you too. If you cut it close and there were still enemies alive, you could get into a foot-race where you were trying to get to the 'safe zone' and would barely make it in time before you were suddenly blinded by a white flash which was shortly followed up by a shockwave that wiped out the enemies still chasing you, assuming they hadn't made it to the safe zone yet.
By far one of the most robust and immersive games in that era. Unfortunately, many of the interesting nuances that they came up with back then have fallen on the wayside today."
"In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry treated the stairs like actual people treat actual stairs. He runs his hand along the banister if you walk close enough to it and sets his feet on each step. If you stop him on the staircase just right while he's on his way up, he'll stop with his weight on the foot on the lower stair, the other foot on the next stair, hand on the banister. It looks like a real person posing on the stairs.
As opposed to countless other games where they just use the same animation sets for 'moving/not moving' regardless of terrain."
"In Dark Souls, in the very first room in the Undead Asylum, there is a pot on the floor of your cell. If you maneuver the camera properly, you can catch a glimpse of what's inside that pot.
It's a turd.
Someone literally modelled a 3D poop so the Chosen Undead would have somewhere to go number 2. It's just a very tiny detail.
I also like how you can see the Stray Demon right when you leave your cell in the Asylum, and you hear its loud footsteps as it walks. Then you face the Asylum Demon, and they look the same so you figure you're fighting the same monster you saw earlier. But once you kill the Asylum Demon and are on your way out, you still hear the footsteps, I guess as a cue that you should come back."
Grand Theft Auto V is full of tiny details which make the game feel alive:
When wading in water, your clothes get wet, but only up to the point you actually waded. The rest of you stays dry.
The 'pinging' cooling off sound from the metal in the exhaust system contracting cars make when turned off.
Sweat will seep through character's clothes if they run or exercise for an extended period of time.
If you pull up to a red light in a sports car next to someone else in a sports car and rev your engine, they'll often burn out and race you when the light turns green.
The raindrops hitting puddles on the ground form tiny ripples.
The road noise changes based on the surface you're driving on. Asphalt, gravel, metal-grated bridges; each offers a unique type of tire roar.
Flip-flops actually flip and flop.
You can shoot the gas tank of a car and gasoline will leak out and will trail in the ground which can be ignited.
You can ignite a puddle of gasoline by doing a burnout on it via the exhaust backfiring.
Street performers get angry if you take a picture without tipping them.
"The idle animations of Elizabeth in BioShock Infinite. I took hundreds of screenshots of the game's beautiful scenes, but more often than not I took screenshots of Elizabeth doing something or other.
She made the game feel so much more real. Also, she is the most absurdly useful character to ever exist in any video game ever. She gives you advice, jokes, money, ammo, picks locks, she finds stuff for you, she doesn't just run after you like a mindless character, she goes around looking at stuff and doing her own thing, she interacts with the environment, and she goes ahead of you.
She felt like a person. That was one of the most personified characters in any game I've played."
"In Asheron's Call monsters have levels and experience, so if players die to monsters, the monsters get experience. If enough people die to a monster, the monster levels up like players.
I remember a bunch of high level players killing themselves to a rabbit so that unsuspecting new players would die if they attacked the rabbit."
"In Xenoblade Chronicles, you can see other areas of the world from where you are. This on its own isn't anything new, but Xenoblade takes place on the bodies of two titans. So at one point of the game, you can look up from a titan's knee, and see the other titan's sword and face above you. When you finally get to the sword, about 30 hours of gameplay later, you see that same cliff side on the knee that you were standing on. I was blown away that they took the time to show you other areas, and in the position on the bodies relative to where you are.
The developers even made clay models of the titans to figure out how to set up terrain on each area. Mountains on the shins, plains on the knee (it's kneeling), a swamp on the butt, forests on the back, an ocean on the head, and the arm is a mountain. It amazes me that they put that much thought into each area's placement in the world."
"In The Last of Us, when you play with Ellie in the winter, if you check her inventory, you will find the toy that the boy who got infected played before he died. Sometimes in the game, when you pull your weapon out on a hunter, he will not fight, he will beg for his life.
The game is full of those little details that make you care for the life of your characters and fell bad for killing people."
"Arkham Knight's attention to detail is amazing. The photo mode itself is a really good way of showing how intricately detailed the game is. I zoomed into Batman's cape while outside and it had glare from light towers, dampness from the rain, wrinkles, wear and tear, etc."
"In the 2016 Hitman game, I found it amazing how the civilian non-playable characters on the map react to witnessing crimes. In one instance I killed a few non-playable characters that witnessed me shoot a guy. A few minutes later I see a lady spot the body and alert guards.
After she came back with the guard I watched as she then pulled out her cellphone and called her husband. She told him what she witnessed and then says 'I love you' before hanging up and being whisked out of the area by reinforcements. I thought the level of detail in that respect is unlike anything I have ever seen in a game before."
"The first time I realized the non-playable characters don't teleport across the map in Fallout 3, they actually walk the whole way.
I don't remember who, but it was a Ghoul. I pissed him off by doing something and he warned he'd come after me. True to his word, a while later he showed up at my door in Megaton.
I reloaded an earlier save file to see if I could undo that interaction and keep him happy, but the only save I have was either too far back, or after the interaction that made him come after me, so I went back to just after that interaction and tried to see if I could choose different dialogue to avoid killing him when he showed up at my door, but he never showed up.
Curious, I fast traveled to the underworld to find him. He wasn't there either.
Oh well. I carried on about my business, and later on I found his dead body in the Wasteland, somewhere between Megaton and The Mall, missing a leg and a head.
Did he really start walking and get killed along the way?
After some Googling, I learned that yes, most non-playable characters actually travel on foot between locations and the game tracks their journey. As such, it is possible for non-essential non-playable characters to die along the way.
That just blew my mind."
Points have been edited for clarity.