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Why do linearity in games get so much criticism?

Tain

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a Master Ninja said:
Linearity in storytelling is fine.

Linearity in gameplay is fucking awful. The most "linear" gameplay being QTEs, followed by shit like the train climbing sequence in Uncharted 2. There is literally one correct input. No decision making.
bang, we done.

Here's the entirety of Battle Bakraid's railroad stage:



There are so many meaningful decisions to make here.
 

Yeef

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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?
It seems more silly because it's the tutorial. I don't know that a game like Uncharted would benefit from a non-linear tutorial.
 

GillianSeed79

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I love linear games like Uncharted 2 or recently Mafia II. That's not to say I don't like non-linear games. My problem is the more non-linear a game the more it gives developers an excuse not to make a compelling story. Why can't you have a non-linear game yet have a great, perhaps linear narrative with variable deviations depending on your actions.
 

StuBurns

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Yeef said:
It seems more silly because it's the tutorial. I don't know that a game like Uncharted would benefit from a non-linear tutorial.
An optional one. First time do that, and never have the player have to go thru it again.
 

Sydle

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I don't typically mind it. In fact, the only game that it's ever been a problem for me was Final Fantasy XIII...yuck, what an awful game. I hope SE learned a lesson.
 

Somnid

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Linearity is fine. The problem is less about linearity than an overly-scripted "roller-coaster" type game. If the narrative was driving the game once you experience it there is little reason to play it again. However, if the gameplay was driving then of course it can still be a great game. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is as linear as they come but you can definitely see the difference.

Also open-world games can be shitty especially when there is little direction. I'd say that very few do this type of game well.
 

Red

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Paco said:
I don't typically mind it. In fact, the only game that it's ever been a problem for me was Final Fantasy XIII...yuck, what an awful game. I hope SE learned a lesson.
Making a good game is hard, though.
 

Fimbulvetr

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DaBuddaDa said:
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.
I'm pretty sure the criticism for ME2 has to do with it non adding much to the overall canon.
 

Red

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Fimbulvetr said:
I'm pretty sure the criticism for ME2 has to do with it non adding much to the overall canon.
Not that it didn't add to the canon, but that some people thought it felt like a stopgap and did not advance the story.
 

HK-47

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Somnid said:
Linearity is fine. The problem is less about linearity than an overly-scripted "roller-coaster" type game. If the narrative was driving the game once you experience it there is little reason to play it again. However, if the gameplay was driving then of course it can still be a great game. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is as linear as they come but you can definitely see the difference.

Also open-world games can be shitty especially when there is little direction. I'd say that very few do this type of game well.
Not true at all. Planescape's narrative drives that game is its all the more replayable for it. It depends on the game and how the story is structured. People revisit pieces in other medium all the time despite being completely linear. The story has to be good and the structure of the game has to be good, which includes gameplay since that how you experience a game.
 
Aug 29, 2009
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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.
You answered your own question, it's because linearity is something that's akin to a less dynamic medium. Like all forms of 'art' videogames have their own positive aspects and for a videogame to truly make the most of the medium it needs to avoid relying on the same methods of other form of media.

It's a lot like the reason photo realistic painting was largely abandoned by artists after the invention of the camera, painting was no longer the best medium to portray real life, and so new forms of painting boomed and became popular. If a movie does a much better job at telling a linear story, then videogames should rely on non linear methods, or the thing a movie will never be able to do, to really shine.
 

HK-47

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will52 said:
Grand Theft Auto is responsible for making the masses think that linear = old, boring, and bad.
Joke is that all the GTA are extremely linear in story and mission structure. Open world and sandbox rarely mean nonlinear is a story sense. Exploration is much easier to do then a story that can withstand different choices being made but still be interesting and coherent.
 

HK-47

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les papillons sexuels said:
You answered your own question, it's because linearity is something that's akin to a less dynamic medium. Like all forms of 'art' videogames have their own positive aspects and for a videogame to truly make the most of the medium it needs to avoid relying on the same methods of other form of media.

It's a lot like the reason photo realistic painting was largely abandoned by artists after the invention of the camera, painting was no longer the best medium to portray real life, and so new forms of painting boomed and became popular. If a movie does a much better job at telling a linear story, then videogames should rely on non linear methods.
Game are less linear then movies but are hardly non linear. Most games are best off somewhere in between. Plus non linearity costs resources.
 

GillianSeed79

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Fimbulvetr said:
I'm pretty sure the criticism for ME2 has to do with it non adding much to the overall canon.
Pretty much. I loved ME2, but 99 percent of the game was simply recruiting characters who may or may not be in ME3. I think there was only one major plot point addressed in ME2. ME1, however, had the whole Saren-Protheans-Reapers plot line.

To be fair, I actually like the Bioware style of gameplay. It gives you the illusion of non-linearity but still manages to give a tightly scripted narrative. By comparison, I don't really like the Oblivion style of drop you in the middle of a world with no direction type game.
 

MMaRsu

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Redbeard said:
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.
Love can bloom on the battlefield

"you're a ninja"?

Don't make me laugh. MGS 1 is one of my favorite games of all times, and MGS3 is a close second, but great scripts/story? :lol
 

Aaron

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Metro 2033 has one of the most impressive stories I've experienced in a game recently, and it's completely linear. I hope the devs making Dead Space 2 played it. They could learn a lot from it.
 

Fantasy Final

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HK-47 said:
Joke is that all the GTA are extremely linear in story and mission structure. Open world and sandbox rarely mean nonlinear.
GTA pretty much defined the sandbox genre so I agree that it brought the thinking that linear now suck.
 

Shurs

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PepsimanVsJoe said:
I needed a nice place to keep my stuff so yes.
Had you disarmed the bomb, you could have gotten a house in Megaton.

I blew up Megaton too. Though I'd wager that our motivations and the events that led up to the settlement's destruction were different.
 

jman2050

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Frankly if your goal in making a video game is to tell a story then you're clearly doing it wrong from the beginning.
 

HK-47

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Fantasy Final said:
GTA pretty much defined the sandbox genre so I agree that it brought the thinking that linear now suck.
Right but only in world design.
 

ULTROS!

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If you mean linear like FFXIII then no, not really.

If you mean linear like FFVII, Grandia, etc., then yes. I prefer this kind of linearity over an open-world game. I don't think I can play open-worlded games anymore (don't have the patience, it feels tiring, etc.).
 

Redbeard

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MMaRsu said:
Love can bloom on the battlefield

"you're a ninja"?

Don't make me laugh. MGS 1 is one of my favorite games of all times, and MGS3 is a close second, but great scripts/story? :lol
A few cheesey lines isn't going to do your argument much good. MGS is pretty much cherished for its story, characters, and script. That's why it has such a large fanbase.

For as much as MGS has lines like that, there's much more discussion about the cold war, nuclear proliferation, the future of private military companies, etc., which is a lot more thoughtful and serious than what you'd get with other titles.

Yes, MGS has its eccentricities, but the original was way ahead of its time, and the games still fully engross me into their stories unlike what I can say for your typical shooter with its boring non stop barrage of military banter.
 

MMaRsu

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Fantasy Final said:
GTA pretty much defined the sandbox genre so I agree that it brought the thinking that linear now suck.
Yeah but that's not what he was saying. GTA games are very linear ( extremely so in most cases ) in their missions.

If you want non linearity in your sandbox gaming, buy Saints Row 2.
 

Fantasy Final

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jman2050 said:
Frankly if your goal in making a video game is to tell a story then you're clearly doing it wrong from the beginning.
Well it's an entertainment. If it's done right and the story is really good, I don't see the problem. You can have fun watching a movie so in the end, the result is the same.
 

PataHikari

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jman2050 said:
Frankly if your goal in making a video game is to tell a story then you're clearly doing it wrong from the beginning.
Unless it's an Interactive Fiction game.

Exception that proves the rule.
 

Dead Man

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a Master Ninja said:
Linearity in storytelling is fine.

Linearity in gameplay is fucking awful. The most "linear" gameplay being QTEs, followed by shit like the train climbing sequence in Uncharted 2. There is literally one correct input. No decision making.
Agreed on this, for all its greatness, there a few times in UC2 when I wished the devs had just made a cutscene I could skip on replays, instead of hitting one button over and over for 10 minutes.
Teknopathetic said:
Depends on the type of game. However, making the player think he has choices that he doesn't (invisible walls, exploding cars instantly killing a player preventing him from walking past/around a certain area) is just fucking hokey.
This is true. I don't automatically dislike linearity in a game level, but as someone said, when it is like MW where it is just arbitrarily blocked off by some knee high fence, or some other conceit that is totally immersion breaking, it just aggravates the hell out me.

In general, the greater the feel of freedom, even if it is artificially induced, the more I like a game. I will take a lack of visual polish for more freedom. That doesn't necessarily mean open world, GTAIV is an open world game with almost no freedom. It means having a variety of ways to interact with the world, and complete objectives.
 
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I don't really think the problem should be linear vs. non-linear.

It is much more relevant to the game experience how the game handles its inner structure; the point is how much a game gets repetitive on multiple playthroughs.

Take L4D as an example: its basic structure is far from being a sandbox, it's a linear shooter, in the sense that you only have one main route.

It avoids being repetitive having random enemy spawns over successive playthroughs; it utilizes a good AI, so you won't predict every movement of the enemies; there are other elements that make the game more dynamic and unpredictable, like dynamic environments, etc.

And I don't see linear games getting over criticized; Call of Duty, that is the exact opposite of games like L4D, is one of the most critically acclaimed game, and it's the biggest blockbuster of the entire industry.
 

dimb

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Linear games get shit because most of the time a monkey could lift the veil.
 

HK-47

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jman2050 said:
Frankly if your goal in making a video game is to tell a story then you're clearly doing it wrong from the beginning.
And why is that? I mean I hardly doubt bringing actual good stories or theme exploration will stop the Marios of the world. Hell most current storytelling in game just apes movies and is done by crummy writers. Just because only a few lone individuals actually care and possess the talent to do it doesnt mean it cant be done. Its is probably the hardest medium to tell a story in though, because there isnt a lot of groundwork and there is a stigma against it. Plus its the only interactive storytelling form (unless one includes CYOAs).

I wouldnt just pick all the games I wanted to play on the basis of story though (especially not at the current time).
 
Aug 29, 2009
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Gravijah said:
One cannot interact with a book. One can interact with text based games.
turning a page is an interaction, and so is selecting which page to flip to is also a dynamic interaction, much like input to advance a story is interaction. =/