“I was in an immersive world of new sights and sounds playing Steel Battalion — as you know, it’s very intense in there. When I left the box my heart leapt out to hug the lady who guided me through the battlefield — it was really cool.”
(play tester Josh Nussbaum)
The “Big Steel Battalion Box” project pushes the boundaries of game immersion and explores notions of bonding and shared discovery.
The game Steel Battalion (Xbox, 2002) originally came packaged with a dedicated controller featuring twin joysticks, ~40 buttons, and 3 pedals. The developers sought to create a simulation game that deepened the player’s sense of immersion by living as much in the somatic world as in the television screen.
The B.S.B.B. project started as an attempt to expand upon that vision by isolating the player in a dark environment, integrating additional stimuli such as lights and vibrations, and enhancing thematic details.
The addition of an external monitoring station and communication headsets began as a simple convenience to guide players unfamiliar with the game. However it rapidly developed into a core conceptual component of the project. By having the “pilot” player guided from their position of isolation by a real-life “coach” player, emotional sensations of reliance, trust, and bonding were created at a level rarely experienced in gaming.
What’s more, it was found that when the player in the “coach” role is an individual unfamiliar with the game—given only a simplified manual as reference—an additional level of satisfaction in collaboration and shared discovery develops.
In summary, this big box makes blowing crap up so damn fun for everyone.