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Why do linearity in games get so much criticism?

seady

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Oct 31, 2009
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fernoca said:
Linear storylines or linear gameplay?
I'm fine with both as long as it was the intention. Don't create illusions of non-linearity (like speech trees that doesn't affect the outcome of a relationship or the story in any way) or put you "exploring areas" when those same areas are covered by either invisible walls or just visible walls.
I am talking mostly about Linear Storytelling (through gameplay).
I guess Gameplay itself can't really be 'linear', we can only call it 'repetitive'. It's the story that makes it linear.
 

WrenchNinja

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mileS said:
The Uncharted example seems kind of silly if you ask me. Would it really be better if there was multiple ways to climb up the train?
Yeah, Uncharted 2 has it's non-linearity with its combat. You could stealth a whole room, take them out guns a blazing, hide behind one cover the whole time, or try punching dudes out. Well on normal and below anyway.
 

Flavius

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mileS said:
The Uncharted example seems kind of silly if you ask me. Would it really be better if there was multiple ways to climb up the train?
I suppose the natural, socratic response would be to ask: does tapping a button to climb the ladder enhance your experience?
 

RSB

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StuBurns said:
The game progresses in a linear manner sure, but the encounters themselves are not scripted in a CoD style mind numbing manner.

When people criticize linearity, for the most part I think they're complaining that the gameplay interactions which are very digital in nature, when the player isn't given freedom to take on an encounter in their own way, which really fucking sucks. And what Halo did was give console gamers that taste of being able to take on gun fights in a far more open manner that encourages replaying because the experience is always different.
We think alike :D

And that's why most of us stuck to the PC ones when we wanted a good FPS title. ;P

Halo blowing up got a lot of developers to focus on delivering shooters on consoles, so even in cases where the PC version wasn't a quick port and the console versions were ported from PC it still ended up with designs more catered for the consoles. You also started seeing less and less PC-only shooters. Hence the going downhill part.

But you're right, for some people there may not have been an appreciable drop-off. ;P
Nice attempt, but PC Shooters like Hal-Life were just as linear. Halo was still as linear in structure as all FPS's of the time, but it incorporated something that not even 10 years has been replicated by other franchises, a rich and dynamic gameplay sandbox that makes every level feel fresh even after numerous playthroughs. And that's one of the many reasons why Halo CE is still the best FPS of all time (yeah, that's including PC FPS's)

Bye ;)
 

StuBurns

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seady said:
I am talking mostly about Linear Storytelling (through gameplay).
In that case, what games are you talking about? You didn't give any examples your first post and I don't see linear storytelling get much shit from people.
 

PataHikari

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Aug 16, 2007
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Patryn said:
One thing is that linearity kills replay value, since you'll pretty much always get the same experience each time. With non-linear/sandbox, you can switch stuff up.
You know what also kills replay value?

A big empty world that has nothing to do in 90% of it.
 
See it's strange really because I don't even consider Fallout 3 and Oblivion open-world.

I'm somewhere else maybe but I'm still sneaking through hallways and whacking or shooting bandits. The only freedoms I have include whether or not I want to do such and such and when I want to do it.
 

HK-47

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Oct 24, 2007
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seady said:
I don't remember when this weird gaming trend started, but it seems that linearity has become a staple on the 'con' side of a standard review checklist, especially from gaming critics. Points are always being marked off for games that are linear.

Linear storyline always have the ability to provide a strong and long lasting impact in people's experience. Like many good books and films, the creator can determine what they want the viewers to experience and shape it in a way that every viewers will experience it the same way. However, the gaming community always favor games that are 'open ended', 'sandbox', 'multiple endings', 'emergent gameplay' and devalue games that are linear in nature.

While I appreciate the unpredictable/open nature of these (comparably) new types of gameplay, I don't think their existence should come at a cost to those games that are more linear. This trend in gaming shows how immature storytelling is in video games - that the industry are still obsessed with what were popular back in the 60-70s with those 'choose your own adventure books' storytelling.
Hasnt helped games that much. Lots of games with decent writing and story, especially western have some degree of branching or multiple endings or what have you. Linearity isnt so much important as having strong themes, characters and main path to build around. That goes for any game story since you are unlikely to see a completely non linear adventure...ever. Also one reason most sandbox games have crummy storytelling because they are tremendously linear where it actually matters, which is the story.
 

DaBuddaDa

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StuBurns said:
In that case, what games are you talking about? You didn't give any examples your first post and I don't see linear storytelling get much shit from people.
To back you up here, for example, Mass Effect 2 got a lot of criticism for it's non-linear storytelling by being able to pick the order of your recruitment and loyalty missions.
 

Shurs

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PepsimanVsJoe said:
See it's strange really because I don't even consider Fallout 3 and Oblivion open-world.

I'm somewhere else maybe but I'm still sneaking through hallways and whacking or shooting bandits. The only freedoms I have include whether or not I want to do such and such and when I want to do it.
Did you blow up Megaton?
 
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Its just an arbitrary way for the developer-reviewer complex to ensure that certain games are given high ratings and sell more.
 

hey_it's_that_dog

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mileS said:
The Uncharted example seems kind of silly if you ask me. Would it really be better if there was multiple ways to climb up the train?
I don't think it's silly, though I hadn't thought that way about linearity before. The train climbing is a great intro to the game. It's engaging the first time you do it because you aren't entirely sure what's going to happen. This helps you to overlook that you literally have to follow one single path up the train. The next time you play it, it's already wearing thin because it's just something that absorbs your time without offering reward or engagement.

I'm not saying they should have done it differently, or that I have a better idea, but it's something interesting to think about regarding set-piece design and the trade-off between a scene's initial impact and its replayability.
 

dralla

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seady said:
Like many good books and films, the creator can determine what they want the viewers to experience and shape it in a way that every viewers will experience it the same way..
that's exactly the reason. games are interactive, if a game is essentially pushing you down a pre-determined path it's not really taking advantage of the medium. isn't the ultimate "goal" of stories in games letting the player change or shape the story by their actions, it's what would separate games from other various forms of story telling
 

HK-47

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Oct 24, 2007
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PepsimanVsJoe said:
See it's strange really because I don't even consider Fallout 3 and Oblivion open-world.

I'm somewhere else maybe but I'm still sneaking through hallways and whacking or shooting bandits. The only freedoms I have include whether or not I want to do such and such and when I want to do it.
What would you expect to do in those worlds? That still makes them open world, just with a lack of variety in what you do. Plus you can approach the situations differently, just maybe not in as myriad ways as one would want.
 
Oct 25, 2006
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Crewnh said:
Yeah, Uncharted 2 has it's non-linearity with its combat. You could stealth a whole room, take them out guns a blazing, hide behind one cover the whole time, or try punching dudes out. Well on normal and below anyway.
This is exactly why I enjoy the combat of Uncharted but hate the platforming.
 

Gravijah

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dralla said:
that's exactly the reason. games are interactive, if a game is essentially pushing you down a pre-determined path it's not really taking advantage of the medium. isn't the ultimate "goal" of stories in games letting the player change or shape the story by their actions, it's what would separate games from other various forms of story telling
The ultimate goal in games is whatever the fuck the creator wants it to be. There are no rules.
 

PataHikari

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dralla said:
that's exactly the reason. games are interactive, if a game is essentially pushing you down a pre-determined path it's not really taking advantage of the medium. isn't the ultimate "goal" of stories in games letting the player change or shape the story by their actions, it's what would separate games from other various forms of story telling
No the ultimate goal of games is to produce a fun games.

Games aren't about telling a story at all.
 

HK-47

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Oct 24, 2007
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dralla said:
that's exactly the reason. games are interactive, if a game is essentially pushing you down a pre-determined path it's not really taking advantage of the medium. isn't the ultimate "goal" of stories in games letting the player change or shape the story by their actions, it's what would separate games from other various forms of story telling
Not really. If the designer wants to tell a controlled story, the only things that really matters is if its good (in storytelling, in style, in gameplay, in player engagement). Giving the player control over aspects of the story has pros and cons and you gotta pick what right for getting your tale across.
 

XiaNaphryz

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StuBurns said:
The game progresses in a linear manner sure, but the encounters themselves are not scripted in a CoD style mind numbing manner.
You're comparing what it did back then to how things turned out now, rather than what Halo was doing in comparison to what other FPS games had established prior and up to that point in time. Plus the initial comment of Halo was referring to it as being one of the major points where the shift towards more linear level design occurred.
 

StuBurns

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People want to feel they are having an impact on the game world, the gravity gun is kind of the ultimate expression of that. It blows so hard when you're playing something like a crumbling city, you die, have to retry and the city crumbles in the exact same way, there is something about seeing that illusion broken that is crippling to my enjoyment of the game.

The climbing part at the start of U2 is lame, the game is great when it's putting you in an environment with enemies and letting you traverse the location and take on enemies in a way that interests you, it gives you enough freedom to enjoy the game and not so much that it asks you to have to find the fun yourself.

XiaNaphryz said:
You're comparing what it did back then to how things turned out now, rather than what Halo was doing in comparison to what other FPS games had established prior and up to that point in time. Plus the initial comment of Halo was referring to it as being one of the major points where the shift towards more linear level design occurred.
I'm not sure what you mean, but console shooters at the time were incredibly linear in their scripting. Medal of Honor, GoldenEye, Perfect Dark, Time Splitters etc.
 

HK-47

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PataHikari said:
No the ultimate goal of games is to produce a fun games.

Games aren't about telling a story at all.
There are a bunch of games that are squarely centered on their story. Experiencing a story can be considered fun and its stupid to assume that they cant be used for such a thing.

Also fun is very subjective and indeed maybe isnt the goal of some games (like the Icepick Studio games)
 

RobertM

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It's usually a knock at how restricted or constricted a game is. Sometimes it breaks the illusion of immersion when the game has a major focus of invoking specific emotions. Take for example Cod4. There are quite of a few moments where you are baffled as to why you can't jump over a fence, and instead follow a linear trail when you know running through the field is a shorter path, not necessarily safer, but shorter none the less.
 

JumpJeff84

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I don't mind the occasional 'open' game, but it seems that most of my favorites are more linear. Games where they funnel you down a specific area usually result in more fildelity in both the graphics and gameplay systems. Ninja Gaiden and Bayonetta are two of my favorites, and the fact that they're very tightly orchestrated is part of what makes them so tight.

I just tried the latest Spiderman game, and I appreciate the fact that it doesn't have that whole 'hey, here's a whole city to swing around in'. They went the linear route, and I think the game is better for it.

To me the sweet spot is a relatively linear game with the chance to explore here and there to find hidden upgrades and shit like that. The more flexibility in the combat (assuming there is combat) the better.

I'm kinda getting tired of playing open world games where the moment-to-moment gameplay is weaker than other games. The gimmick of 'a living, breathing world' only goes so far for me.

I really enjoyed Red Dead Redemption, but I wouldn't say for a minute that I had more fun playing it than I did Mass Effect 2 or Bayonetta. I loved all three, but the focus of the latter two is what I really responded to.
 

John

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mileS said:
The Uncharted example seems kind of silly if you ask me. Would it really be better if there was multiple ways to climb up the train?
That you're asking that question should say that climbing a train in Uncharted 2 wasn't an interesting thing to do. Pace-breaking segments where you just hold a button down for a while and let Drake do it are a big reason as to why I didn't like the game.
 
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If anything, open world games should be a "con." In general, linear games are more focused and have tighter pacing and structure.
 

Red

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PataHikari said:
No the ultimate goal of games is to produce a fun games.

Games aren't about telling a story at all.
A lot of the downsides with game storytelling is probably due to the fact that gaming isn't really a storytelling medium. A game is something that is played, and sure you can turn that experience into interactive fiction (such as Mass Effect), but if you wanted to focus solely on story you should probably read a book.

I'm not trying to badmouth game stories, because I think very interesting things can be done with them. But those interesting things have to do with periphery options made possible by an interactive medium. They are often related to some gaming-specific quirk and require the narrative to be self-aware (see Bioshock).

Words are at the heart of a story. Books are built with words. When you add more, say adding visuals, you can build a movie. Add even more to that- audience interaction, goals, digital input- you've got a game. Those layers necessitate a certain molding of the original words, the original story, to fit the presentation of a new medium.

It's been said many times before: games are built upon rule sets. They are made with specific goals that need to be met, something to keep track of or score, to judge the value of a player's actions. Without that, they are nothing. Stories in games serve as, at their most basic, an impetus for progression. "The president has been kidnapped by ninjas! Are you a bad enough dude to rescue the president?" They are always very clear conflicts, good vs. evil, haves vs. have nots. They give the player an obstacle to overcome and they present tools for dealing with that obstacle. You can argue that conflict is the basis for all good stories. But other mediums allow for a measure of internal struggle. Gaming does not. Everything in a game must be externalized. As an interactive medium, it requires a clear system of inputs and impulsion for those inputs. A player must feel compelled to perform some repetitive action (aligning blocks, racing karts, shooting aliens, etc) in order to establish the reward system intrinsic to gaming (that is, there must be some way to "win").

That's how things are going to be unless there is an eventual paradigm shift. Currently, you don't need a story to tell a game. And when you tell a story in a game, it needs to be a very specific type of story.
 

nincompoop

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Non-linear level design is fine in 2D games, but for 3D, linear almost always = better. For one thing, large open 3D enviornments take way too long to explore and become boring and tedious by necessity. Linear level design also allows you to avoid the camera issues that arise in 3D games and to create a more focused, tightly-designed product.
 

Redbeard

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PataHikari said:
No the ultimate goal of games is to produce a fun games.

Games aren't about telling a story at all.
Games are about a lot of things, telling a story can be one of them.

One of the biggest drawbacks of modern FPS titles is that they have horrible storytelling and characterization. The most recent examples are Halo and Call of Duty.

Both of these games could be elevated to much greater heights with better storytelling. Storytelling is a lot like graphics and sound; sure, it doesn't affect the gameplay per se, but it immerses you into the world that you're apart of, and it has a pretty gigantic impact of your impression on the game. Where would Halo be, for instance, without that great, iconic soundtrack? When I think of Halo, that's one of the first things that pops into my mind.

And say what you want about Metal Gear Solid, but where would it be without its phenomenal storytelling, script and characters? Sure, at times the series went off the deep end, but for MGS1 and 3 I feel much more engaged into the single player experience than when I'm playing something like Modern Warfare 2.
 

XiaNaphryz

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StuBurns said:
I'm not sure what you mean, but console shooters at the time were incredibly linear in their scripting. Medal of Honor, GoldenEye, Perfect Dark, Time Splitters etc.
And that's why most of us stuck to the PC ones when we wanted a good FPS title. ;P

Halo blowing up got a lot of developers to focus on delivering shooters on consoles, so even in cases where the PC version wasn't a quick port and the console versions were ported from PC it still ended up with designs more catered for the consoles. You also started seeing less and less PC-only shooters. Hence the going downhill part.

But you're right, for some people there may not have been an appreciable drop-off. ;P
 

StuBurns

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Redbeard said:
Games are about a lot of things, telling a story can be one of them.

One of the biggest drawbacks of modern FPS titles is that they have horrible storytelling and characterization. The most recent examples are Halo and Call of Duty.

Both of these games could be elevated to much greater heights with better storytelling. Storytelling is a lot like graphics and sound; sure, it doesn't affect the gameplay per se, but it immerses you into the world that you're apart of, and it has a pretty gigantic impact of your impression on the game. Where would Halo be, for instance, without that great, iconic soundtrack? When I think of Halo, that's one of the first things that pops into my mind.

And say what you want about Metal Gear Solid, but where would it be without its phenomenal storytelling, script and characters? Sure, at times the series went off the deep end, but for MGS1 and 3 I feel much more engaged into the single player experience than when I'm playing something like Modern Warfare 2.
MGS has a 'phenomenal script'? It's terrible man.

As for story's inclusion in video games, if it's not intrusive, I like it. If Bungie did a Halo style game with a BioShock style story and telling method, I think it would be a considerably better game. But it needs to be transparent to the player, forcing me to watch cutscenes is bullshit.
 

faceless007

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dralla said:
that's exactly the reason. games are interactive, if a game is essentially pushing you down a pre-determined path it's not really taking advantage of the medium.
Platformers suck. Why the fuck do I always have to go right?
 

BattleMonkey

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Linearity is not bad, the main problem is so many linear games that are like 3-4 hours long. Pay 60 bucks for a game and it's so linear and short that you feel ripped off usually. I don't mind a game being linear, but at least have some length to it.
 

Redbeard

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StuBurns said:
MGS has a 'phenomenal script'? It's terrible man.

As for story's inclusion in video games, if it's not intrusive, I like it. If Bungie did a Halo style game with a BioShock style story and telling method, I think it would be a considerably better game. But it needs to be transparent to the player, forcing me to watch cutscenes is bullshit.
MGS1 and 3 have great scripts for videogames. It's not perfectly edited for most of the series, and it can be inconsistent, but it actually brings up interesting, relevant topics and tends to treat its audience as adults.

With most modern day shooters, it's all dudebro military jargon nonsense. "alpha six, we need you to get to that evac point!" ad nauseum.
 

Jackson

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BattleMonkey said:
Linearity is not bad, the main problem is so many linear games that are like 3-4 hours long. Pay 60 bucks for a game and it's so linear and short that you feel ripped off usually. I don't mind a game being linear, but at least have some length to it.
Did you feel ripped off by Limbo or Portal? A great game, linear or otherwise, should not be judged by it's length but instead by it's content.

flyinpiranha said:
Linear is only bad when it is done wrong ... just like any style of game.
 

gutter_trash

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Feb 4, 2005
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GTA4 is a fake sandbox since the missions are linear and have gotten more linear with the newer GTAs

in GTA3, there were missions where you could carry out your execution multiple ways,

in GTA4, they restricted your missions to almost absolute linearity with poor game play mechanics

might as well play a straight up linear game with solid game controls and mechanics instead