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Viewing Topic: Linear vs Non-linear - Page 1
#0: 03-30-2011 @ 12:40:17 pm
Link to this Post: http://www.machvergil.com/gamenight/messages.php?go=1750#1750

MachVergilMachVergil

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So to start, watch the below video (it's 15 minutes).  It's YouTube producer Egoraptor's commentary on the difficulty between Castlevania 1 and Castlevania 2 - which in and of itself is hilarious (at least I thought so).

But it also has a commentary at the end about good linear games and games that use RPG elements and back-tracking mechanics to artificially pad game length. I'm curious if anyone else feel any response to these comments.


We set Wednesdays on Fire!
#1: 03-30-2011 @ 01:31:00 pm
Link to this Post: http://www.machvergil.com/gamenight/messages.php?go=1751#1751

St00fSt00f

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I remember egoraptor now.......name sounded familiar, I had simply forgotten about all the yelling.

He makes a lot of good points. And because my critical thinking skills are shot at the moment (thank you MuseScore for destroying my patience), the only thing that is coming to mind when he's talking about these various devices meant to lengthen games is Darksiders.  Mostly because I'm nearing the end of it, but also because it is a fairly linear game.  It really is.  I've managed to pick up 95% of the chests/artifacts on my own without a walkthrough, and the only times I've really needed to look at any guide is to make sure I'm thinking of the right place when I'm heading back to get stuff with my newly acquired toy.

However, I found myself doing something I haven't done before in any Zelda game -- I went back to previous areas and farmed experience for my weapons. I didn't do this for long (mainly because I'm lazy and I kill everything with my sword anyway), but I thought to myself: if I was more of a completionist, this would add so many hours to the game. I also haven't bought all the moves in the game, nor will I -- that requires more souls that I would have to farm. As such, these things have not really enticed me too much, and so I haven't had my game lengthened in any substantial way.

Another game that comes to mind (now that I've had some time to think) is Shadows of the Colossus. Very linear game set in a sort of non-linear setting. Huge, expansive world -- one real goal. What I found out half-way through is that you can get upgrades for your grip stamina and health by searching for specific things in that world. You don't need them to finish the game (ask my sis), and in order for them to make a significant difference, you need to scour the map to find them.  Which I did. Now, while that added MANY hours of gameplay, I was not perturbed by it at all. Maybe it's because all that scenery was gorgeous to look at (even though it's a PS2 game). Maybe because I like killing sneaky lizards with my bow and eating exotic fruit. Maybe because I didn't have to do extra fighting -- simply galloping around hearing only the wind, hoofbeats, and occasional hawk whistle can get kind of relaxing.

Leveling, collecting rewards/weapons, spending time farming areas for various things -- I feel like these elements can add to a game done in the right way. Sometimes they're heavy-handed, and that makes it a chore. Sometimes they're enforced, and that's just bad. Honestly, I think I prefer the non-RPG game where if I want to set out to make myself better, I can, but I'm not forced to in order to finish the game. Doesn't everyone though?

This post was edited by St00f on March 31, 2011, 11:38 am


Canadians are my favorite mythological creature.
#2: 03-31-2011 @ 11:17:07 am
Link to this Post: http://www.machvergil.com/gamenight/messages.php?go=1756#1756

MachVergilMachVergil

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In a weird, indirect way, Egoraptor and the AVGN actually go on to make the same argument.  The Castlevania 2 video that Egoraptor refers to is actually part of a Castlevania marathon the AVGN did near Halloween one year.  At the end of it, he speaks of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and recognizes that most of the gaming community thinks its the best Castlevania game of the francise.  Despite this, the AVGN likes Super Castlevania 4 more, mostly because of it's linear, classic feel.

Meanwhile, Egoraptor ends his video here comparing Castlevania 1 to the later portable games, saying that even though they are all much better designed than Castlevania 2's RPG elements, at the end of the day it's no replacement for a well polished linear game, even if said linear game is HARD AS HELL as a result.

I feel like I'm watching a pendulum swing where modern games will get critiqued by game reviewers for being "a purely linear affair" sometimes, while these more classically minded video crafters diss on more flexible game experiences that use backtracking and RPG elements to give the game depth.

For me, I think that what Egoraptor misses here is that what's wrong with Castlevania 2 isn't that it has these game lengthening mechanics, it's that they are poorly implimented and executed.  I wouldn't say Castlevania 2 is poorly designed, I'd say it's poorly executed.

Castlevania 2 was the one NES Castlevania I never got to play as a kid, so I missed out on it.  When I talked to people who had played it, they almost always described it in much the same way Zelda 2 gets talked about - as either an awesome, stand out game in the series, or a shitfest. Based solely on it's concept, a Castlevania game with a more open ended world to explore, abilities to make your upgrades more fixed, with towns and NPCs to flesh out the setting sounds great.  However, the way it got executed, with the mindless grinding, the poor controls, lame enemies, and poor bosses clearly indicates that in the end they left too much of what makes the game fun in the name of making it longer.

I've had mixed results with the whole Linear vs Non-Linear thing in games.  Sometimes it certainly can be fun for a game to give you the freedom to explore them at leisure.  For example, I love the Zelda games, but none of them have ever felt as EPIC to me as the first one.  Why is that?  It's not length, Zelda 1 is far shorter than every one of it's sequels.  It's because the world doesn't hold you back.  The game never tells you what level to go to, in what order, or even where the levels are.  Your only clue is that the levels are numbered 1 through 9, but unless you get lucky there's no guarantee you'll find Level 1 first, and honestly, there's nothing, aside from challenge, stopping you from beating level 3 before 1 or 2.  While that might sound like cause for frustration, I remember as a little kid it made me feel like your adventure in Hyrule was an epic journey of discovery.  The rest of the game was rock solid - the combat, the music, the sound, so exploring Hyrule aimlessly wasn't frustrating or unrewarding, and there were secrets to be found everywhere on your quest to find the levels.  When you did finally learn where the levels were, then there was the matter of beating them, claiming their treasures, beating their bosses, and many of those levels invited you to find secret ways to complete them, or traverse them faster through bombing walls and the like.   It made Zelda 1 a very social game too, because my classmates and I in school would sit around the lunch table and share tales of our journeys with each other as we tried to put together enough combined knowledge to figure out how to win the damn thing.  It's no wonder gamers took so quickly to the internet!

This is far better, by the way, than filling your game with unhelpful NPCs.  If they aren't going to add to gameplay or setting, remove the damn things and let us get back to our adventure.

By the same token, some of my favorite games I've ever played have been linear, even if they traffic in the illusion of being open ended. For example, Final Fantasy 6 and Chrono Trigger, or Super Metroid.  There are moments in both of those games near the very end where the game opens up and lets you choose in what order to tackle things, but for the vast majority of the game you more or less have to follow a single path with any diversions you take being overall time wasters that have the only benefit of letting you grind more levels in the process. The result of this enforced linearity however is that those games are MUCH better at telling a STORY because they can guide the player along a path and know what scenes they are triggering before others.  Other games, like Bayonetta, thrive because they are linear, meaning the developer can introduce a solid, well planned difficulty curve to the player, that partners well with an upgrade system that allows the player to feel like they are getting more powerful through gaining new options for attack, without actually making them able to overpower through the content.

So yeah what I'm trying to say here is that I don't really agree with the notion that a well planned, linear game is automatically better than a well planned non-linear one because the linear one has less 'filler.'  What really matters is that the game is well planned, regardless of which approach they take.

Now that said, there are two things he does touch on here that I do want to mention quickly.  I do agree with the notion that grinding is a dumb as hell way to pad the length of your game, and I flat out don't have the patience for it I did when I was a kid.  I remember when I played Chono Trigger, FF6, and FF8 there were points where I put the plot on hold to grind monsters until I was some level because I wanted some level, or spell, or limit break, before I progressed further into the story.   I had a low patience for that back then, and as a result I've never had a fully maxed party in Chrono Trigger, or earned Knights of the Round in FF7, and I can't stand that shit now.  Even when I play a non-linear game, I expect to be able to progress at all times w/o having to double back and grind up my power or else I'm going to get mad at the game.  This is again, what I love about Fallout 3 is that despite it's non-linear gameplay, I never need to feel like "Oh man, that place has Super Mutants, I better go grind Raiders until I'm strong enough to fight those!"  This is again what I think made WoW a lot better than it's predecessors is that there was always a quest to do somewhere so I didn't have to resort to grinding to progress, even if it meant I had to leave the zone I was in to go to another one.

The other thing I wanted to touch on was that quick note he made about "Avatar Power."  This is something I've seen discussed in other places, and it's the concept that there are games that lie to you about them being difficult by basically establishing a flat level of player difficulty and then raising the power of the player and the foes at the same time so that regardless of what number the "level" of the encounter, the game is just as difficult at all times.  I want to say that this is again something else that I really love about Guild Wars over WoW.  Leveling up in WoW really doesn't get harder as you do it... it's just as hard to complete a level 59 quest as it is to complete a level 10 quest - hell personally I found a lot of the level 10 quests a lot harder because you have such a small selection of abilities and such crappy gear at that level than you do closer to cap.  Meanwhile, Guild Wars missions get progressively harder and harder despite the fact that you are not gaining new gear or levels to keep up with it, and the monsters really aren't either.  Instead, its that the monsters gain more powerful sets of skills that synergies better either with themselves or with attacks from other monsters in their party, and sometimes the monster's AI gets tweaked up too, forcing the players to adapt to an honest to god more difficult fight as opposed to just grinding something until their loot is epic enough to overcome the problem.

Wow that's a lot...  umm... so in summary - I don't think Linear or Non-Linear ever is a discussion of one being better than the other it's just a matter of doing whichever you pick right.  Also, games should have increasing difficulty, and your character should get more powerful through the gaining of new options to overcome challenges, not just gaining the ability to face-roll auto-win your way through the entire game.


We set Wednesdays on Fire!
#3: 03-31-2011 @ 11:42:12 am
Link to this Post: http://www.machvergil.com/gamenight/messages.php?go=1757#1757

St00fSt00f

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Exactly.  Make your game fun, not tedious. Design it so I want to do the side stuff, not have to. Make it challenging without resorting to cheap tactics that make me want to tear out my hair (wonky camera + unresponsive controls /= challenging). And don't make me grind/farm. I'll do it if I want to, but don't make me.


Canadians are my favorite mythological creature.
#4: 03-31-2011 @ 12:23:15 pm
Link to this Post: http://www.machvergil.com/gamenight/messages.php?go=1758#1758

DominionDominion

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I get the feeling the end bit of that video is another "Back in my day, we had REAL vijma gamez!" rant. Not to say that the video isn't hilarious or that he didn't make good points, but that end bit just screams out "Today's games are good, but NES games were teh best."

Anyways, what people have said I pretty much agree with so I don't have much more to add to this =P


"Video games are bad for you? That's what they said about rock and roll." Shigeru Miyamoto
#5: 03-31-2011 @ 06:26:37 pm
Link to this Post: http://www.machvergil.com/gamenight/messages.php?go=1759#1759

Misharum KittumMisharum Kittum

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Video games were better when I was younger because I could suspend my disbelief easier and had a more active imagination, so I got caught up in the magic of the game easier.

 

That being said, you guys picked wonderful titles from many points in my gaming history as examples here. Zelda 1 was awesome for me. When I was little we had this huge map we were making of the overworld. Every screen got a full page of paper that my brother and I would carefully draw in color, editing in secrets as we found them. The exploration was great, the dungeons were challenging (so much so that my dad had to actually do the last one for my brother and I because we were too young to beat it), and the world was big enough to explore without having to spend frustratingly long amounts of time going from point A to point B.

Chrono Trigger is still my favorite game of all time. I loved the story and setting so much that I did get a party up to level 99 by playing it over and over, discovering all its little secrets, and seeing all the endings. The story was fairly linear, but it still allowed for some exploration and some side questing, and as mentioned opened up at the end. The characters were great. Even the ones I hated I loved to hate (Dalton, that asshole. Ozzie, Slash, and Flea remind me of the Ginyu Force. And fuck you Queen Zeal!) No other game has ever drawn me in as much as Chrono Trigger, not even Super Metroid with my love for Samus and wall jumping.

Bayonetta was fantastic. The game was completely linear, but the combat was so much fun and the characters were so well done that I enjoyed the game enough to, after rushing a hard mode victory for the Penny Arcade contest, went back to the hardest difficulty and beat it yet again. Despite the complete lack of meaningful exploration and side quests everything was so well done that adding in those elements would have made the game less fun. Prototype was the more sandboxy version of Bayonetta and I liked Bayonetta better.

 

One thing I haven't seen done right yet in games is when they are advertised as a game where you create your own adventure. Where the game is one huge sandbox with very little plot or direction, or is just a huge mess of side quests. Either the developers are lying about it being open and are just using openness as an excuse to not have a well directed story, or the game ends up boring me pretty damned fast due to nothing happening in it. No sense of urgency or motivation for me to do anything, or worse yet, no indication of what the heck I should be doing other than walking around. Maybe Fallout 3 will get it right for me, but I've barely started the game so can't say one way or the other yet.


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