What if a game actually enforced this? Choices you make the first time are permanent, and you can only ever replay the game with those choices intact. It would be phenomenally player-unfriendly, but also really interesting. It's like a variation of the roguelike principle: instead of perma-death, which erases your entire history, you get perma-choice, which sets your history in stone. That, to me, is a far more terrifying prospect.
Slightly off-topic, but why do people now consider linearity a bad thing? Why would a game designer want to trick people into thinking a game is non-linear?
People seem to praise games for being "non-linear" and call poorly designed games that push you through like you're on an escalator "too linear." They speak as if it's a tree of game design that needs to be cut down. As if a game can't embrace modern game design without letting go of linearity.
Are people forgetting how GOOD linearity can be? Are they forgetting how flawed the opposite can be?
The gaming community needs to stop implying that non-linear gameplay is inherently superior to linear gameplay.
A lot of people on RPS wish games had strong stories but that generally pushes things towards a linear design, because there's way too much content to create for a complex branching story. Games without structure that lead to true non-linear design are great, but not everyone can load up Minecraft with the will to make their own CPU out of redstone.
There's absolutely nothing wrong with linear game design, as evidenced by how many people trot out Doom maps as examples of excellent level design. But since half the fun of PC gaming seems to be blaming consoles and AAA developers while praising indie devs (plenty of whom also focus on linear designs) we're going to be stuck in this "linear = bad" period for a whole yet.
Since most single player big budget games attempt to motivate the player through story and they spend most of their time and money on that aspect, the story is the defining feature of those games. And because people are buying a game, they want that defining characteristic (story) to be a game. That is, multiple unpredictable outcomes and meaningful player impact on the game at the story level. Computers cannot do that. and people get angry because the biggest part of the videogame they bought isn't a game, and their input matters diddly/squat; or the extent of it is 'choose ending 1,2, or 3 by pressing one of these buttons' a la ME3/DX:HR.
So some people get pissed that these 'games' are too linear, not realizing that story =/= gameplay. Stories should be seen as being separate from the game part of a videogame. If people understood this, maybe there would be fewer angry gamers, probably not though.
Note that you can draw any number of lines (not saying straight lines) between two points. When people say a game is linear, they most likely mean their progress is a line, and always the same line. Like rails, except that rails are certain to branch sooner or later, "games" aren't. People are complaining because they feel their actions are very limited, there's little or no choice.
It's the number of interesting ways from A to B you can take that matters.
While we're on the subject of linear design, the entire "RETURN TO THE COMBAT AREA" arguments need to be toned down a bit too. Prior to that all we had were big invisible walls or arbitrary walls that blocked off a section that quite obviously went to nowhere. I agree it's a bit silly, but a big invisible wall that clearly indicates "SKYBOX RENDERING STARTS HERE PLEASE DO NOT CROSS" isn't much better.
While I appreciate the effort of devs to add some branching in a mostly linear storyline but often writing suffers and its not a good thing.
Almost direct quote.Quote:
Hey, Paul. The computer wants to merge with my brain or something.
I agree with everyone else on the difference between linear level design and linear story, but I would say that it's on a continuum. On the most linear side of level design you have Canabalt and on the most non-linear side you have something like Minecraft. On the most linear story you have something like Unreal Tournament 3 and on the most non-linear side of story you have Dwarf Fortress, Mount & Blade, or Fallout 2 a few rungs down.
I would say that games can be good anywhere on the continuum, but the further you get to the extremes the more sacrifices you have to make. Also, without the illusion of choice games lose the greatest strength of the medium; which is the ability to make choices and interactivity.
What's off with CoD is the pacing. It's entirely possible to have a linear game and not toss explosions at the player every 20 seconds. Again, having secret areas or giving the player the opportunity to look around a room does not constitute non-linearity.
Even more nonlinear than Minecraft is Hyperrogue. :D
But for me Portal does linearity the best, by far, because it never ever endangers it's illusion with it's design, which is something every shooter game does by default since death is potentially around every corner and you can get stuck and die and repeat a section a bunch of times for whatever reason. And being stuck in Portal means that you're still in the illusion and having to experiment your way out of a problem.
And even Uncharted 2 does it better than CoD because it has pacing and a classy adventure story to tell with characters that you can maybe even relate to. But then you have excellent games in other genres like the Metal Gear games, Super Meat Boy, World of Goo, God of War games (that do the spectacle thing so much better than any FPS game so far) etc.
In my view CoD has become a pretty good example of how not to do linearity, which makes it a bit depressing that every linear shooter out there is so desperate to emulate it.
Edit: Also, I very much second what Nalano said about suspension of disbelief.