Extra Punctuation: The Rise of Rail Roading

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Oh wow....an admonition to the freedom of running around that Tomb Raider (in the pre-Crystal Dynamics era) allowed. If you died, it was mostly your fault, even though the objective was clear. Of course, in hindsight, I realize it was the simplicity of the engine and the flatness of most of the objects due to low polygon counts that created the ability to land and continue from places the developers hadn't considered.

I don't mind linearity as long as it serves a purpose. Esentially, that feeling trapped, contrained and/or inevitably obedient generates an atmosphere or feeling that is used as part of a narrative framework. This can be temporary or go along for all the game, but it has to have some sort of meaning to it. (Examples: The Last Express, Bioshock, every game that pulls the "we took your guns away" schtick at some point).

I just played through Unreal I love the how your not really given any diection in the game. It makes it way more fun.

Black ops is really bad being yelled at every 10 secs what to do. Hitting buttons when told to is too much like simon and very boring.

I also Liked the brothers in arms series for lack of hand holding.

I disagree with the notion that "there is no such thing as a non-linear narrative-driven game" Whatever the fuck gave you that Idea Yahtzee? Just because GTA 4 had a fuck-balls story?

What about Fallout? Or The Elder Scrolls? Bioware RPGs have a good amount of sandbox freedom to them as well(atleast in between missions) and those are, if nothing else, narrative driven games. You might wince at this next one.....but the Witcher 2 gives you quite a bit of choice and freedom. If only you'd done you job that week and actually played the game before slandering it as usual.

Are games really getting dumber? Or are we getting smarter?

Yahtzee, I really think you should give Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway a shot. For one thing, there is no health meter nor blood splatter that magically goes away. Instead, there is a luck meter which you want. If you poke your head out of cover while being shot at, the entire screen will slowly (or quickly, depending on what's shooting at you) turn red. If it goes solid red, your luck's run out, you're shot once, and you die. There's even an option to turn off the red screen, making the game more realistic.
Secondly, you can choose how you want each combat section to play out. You can command your squad to dig in and cover while you go around, any way you choose, to flank the enemy. Or, you can dig in and send your squad. Or you can all dig in and hope someone gets a lucky shot. Or you can be completely stupid and charge headlong--like other shooters--and realize just how bad that idea is as you're cut down before you take four steps.
There are other problems with the game, but based on what you've asked for, I really think you'd enjoy at least the combat part of it.

Irridium:
This is why I love Half Life 2. Yes it's a linear game, but it's built in a way so that it feels like you found some clever way through the level by just being smart.

The opening is especially great. Lets you figure everything out for yourself, and doesn't force-feed you info about everything or give you an annoying-ass companion talking to you, or anything really. Hell, it's about an hour before you even get a weapon of some kind. That hour is spent just... exploring the world and figuring things out. It's amazingly well done.

Half Life 2 trusts you to be smart, trusts you to be smart enough to figure things out for yourself, and I love it for that.

In fact, if you listen to the developer commentary on HL2 Ep2 right when you exit the mine after *spoiler* you heal Alyx, they talk about how they worked towards nudging the player in the right direction without actually taking over the game or with a massive pop-up message telling you to turn around.

I never had a problem with linearity as long as it was fun, but recently I've been finding myself a bit more reluctant to just be going through the motions and wanting more freedom. I've been moving away from first/third person shooters this summer so as to not get burnt out lol it's been a fun summer (sandbox games with free roam, rpgs and etc) so I think I'm ready for Gears 3 and Halo CE A again.

I'm seeing a AAA developer crash in the near future. Or if not a crash some of the support breaking and a good chunk of it coming crumbling down (though that may of already happened). I think this Summer of Arcade in particular has shown us that smaller games use their resources much much more effectively.

I think many AAA franchises have pretty much done everything they can do. Level capped if you will. Which is great for them, except they can't learn any new abilities or skills and just work exclusively on getting slightly better armor to just keep themselves busy...... Don't care what anyone says, leveling a character is so much more fun then end game shenanigans.

"What happened to the trust between player and designer? To the thrill a developer used to feel when players came up with a solution they didn't think of?"

It also used to work the other way...
At least I remember being shocked when I jumped up to the right off the second elevator in Super Mario Bros, aged 7. I was worried I somehow broke my shiny new game. Only to be very delighted to find the portals. It felt like me and Miyamoto became to share a secret.

He had put it there for the smart players, and I was proud to have found it. It made the game so much more fun, trying to find all those awesome secrets in every level of this game and all the next ones (particularily the first SNES game, wow, so much cool big ánd little things to discover.).
A game where you can't even fall down, as you mention it, is the anti-game from Hell... :(

I think it's not just video gaming that's competing with movies these days, but dirt cheap consumer electronics (that just can't seem to stop getting cheaper) coupled with digital distribution. Big-ass TVs and surround sound systems are far more affordable now than they've ever been, and the only real reason people bother to get off their asses to hit the theaters is because Hollywood can't seem to let go of a business model which is fast becoming antiquated. The means exist for the studios to completely bypass movie theaters entirely, yet they doggedly insist on sticking to the old ways.

GrizzlerBorno:
I disagree with the notion that "there is no such thing as a non-linear narrative-driven game" Whatever the fuck gave you that Idea Yahtzee? Just because GTA 4 had a fuck-balls story?

What about Fallout? Or The Elder Scrolls? Bioware RPGs have a good amount of sandbox freedom to them as well(atleast in between missions) and those are, if nothing else, narrative driven games. You might wince at this next one.....but the Witcher 2 gives you quite a bit of choice and freedom. If only you'd done you job that week and actually played the game before slandering it as usual.

RPG's are hurting me the most in this regard. Bethesda RPGs are fine, but BioWare-style RPGs, while enjoyable thanks to excellent writing and polish, are very guilty of putting the player in a straitjacket. I hate all the invisible, artificial walls, lack of jumping and static game worlds. The Witcher is especially bad, were countless times you are forced to walk all around a building because you are forbidden from walking up a slope or jumping down from a tiny ledge.

To be fair however, this is not a new phenomenon. BioWare RPGs have always been rather static whereas Bethesda has thankfully followed the Ultima-way of dynamic, unrestricted worlds.

The Virgo:

Yahtzee, I know that you won't reply to this, but I have to ask you a question: Why does it always seem like you hate us fans? Every time you bring up people who watch Zero Punctuation, you talk the nimrods and morons who infest the earth.

What about those of us, like me, who never say, "HEY YATZEE, REVEIW THIS GAME, PLZ!1!!1", always halt what we're doing every Wednesday to watch the latest episode of your show and never register complaint when you give a bad review to a game we like?

Just curious.

Don't take him too seriously - he takes the piss out of everyone. I'm sure if you hung out with him in his bar in Australia he'd be more than polite. :)

Tiamat666:

GrizzlerBorno:
I disagree with the notion that "there is no such thing as a non-linear narrative-driven game" Whatever the fuck gave you that Idea Yahtzee? Just because GTA 4 had a fuck-balls story?

What about Fallout? Or The Elder Scrolls? Bioware RPGs have a good amount of sandbox freedom to them as well(atleast in between missions) and those are, if nothing else, narrative driven games. You might wince at this next one.....but the Witcher 2 gives you quite a bit of choice and freedom. If only you'd done you job that week and actually played the game before slandering it as usual.

RPG's are hurting me the most in this regard. Bethesda RPGs are fine, but BioWare-style RPGs, while enjoyable thanks to excellent writing and polish, are very guilty of putting the player in a straitjacket. I hate all the invisible, artificial walls, lack of jumping and static game worlds. The Witcher is especially bad, were countless times you are forced to walk all around a building because you are forbidden from walking up a slope or jumping down from a tiny ledge.

To be fair however, this is not a new phenomenon. BioWare RPGs have always been rather static whereas Bethesda has thankfully followed the Ultima-way of dynamic, unrestricted worlds.

Nitpicks sorry. You praise Bioware games for being well polished, than criticize them for not having total freedom, even though in this one situation they are mutually exclusive. Just look at how piss-dreadful the animation looks in Gamebryo games.

And then when that extreme freedom leads to the game being buggy (If I had a bottlecap for every radscorpion that attacked me from underneath the fucking ground mesh....) as was the case in Oblivion, Fallout 3 and most notably Fallout: New Vegas, everyone throws a fucking hissy fit and pans the game outright. Why take the risk say the Canadians and the Polish.

And besides, none of this has anything to do with story. I was just saying that open-ended RPGs can and DO still have awesome narratives.

Hah, you bought a 3DTV.

Next you'll say you're a big supporter of HDDVD and that the Kinect is totally the way of the future for games.

It's not because of gaming. At least, gaming as a lead horse. I don't know why you'd possibly think that.

Wasn't the original Dragon's Lair 30 years ago? Wait for screen to flash, push direction or swing sword to scripted movie.

And this is exactly why I stubbornly defend games like Far Cry 2. It's hardly the perfect game, but it gives you the tools to create your own "action-movie" moments.
Fuck games that tailor each and every scene and force you to play them their way. I can't be bothered with them anymore.

You know, when I hear Yahtzee talk about these linear FPS games that offer no freedom of choice whatsoever, I'm reminded of another kind of game: rail shooters. Those too are often about moving from one predetermined point to the next, shooting at the enemies as they appear, then moving on. The thing is, I've liked rail shooters in the past; you don't see many of them these days (as a result of the sad trend of eliminating video arcades from malls, thus depriving gamers of one of their few excuses to get out of the house and socialize with other gamers) but back when they were around, I enjoyed them, the House of The Dead series in particular. But the model used for rail shooters does NOT work with FPS's for two reasons: speed and control. In the words of an on-air personality on my favorite classic rock station, let me preach on it.

In a rail shooter, you are moving down a pre-determined path (sometimes with the occasional alternate route to be discovered by shooting a switch to lower a bridge or hitting an elevator button or something along those lines) at the game's pace. Being guided in this way means that you're on an active, adrenaline-fueled roller-coaster ride and you have to keep you eyes open and ready 'cause you never know when the next terrorist or alien or zombie or personal injury lawyer is going to pop up and rush at you begging for a bullet to the face. Rail shooter's realized that if you're going to hem the player into a predetermined path, you need to make sure the surprises keep coming and the player doesn't have time to get bored.

But when you put this style of gameplay into an FPS, you don't often get that same feeling of exciting tension. Instead, since the player is in control of their movement speed through the game, they can inch forward, get 1-2 enemies to spawn, then fall back so none of the rest do, shoot the few enemies that show up, then push on. The only way this gets broken up is if the game has ambush scenarios, and usually you can see these things coming a mile away from the layout of the terrain, walking into a big canyon-like area with scattered walls for cover, unless the entire level is designed like that.

Plus, rail shooters always give you a chance to hit the enemy that's about to attack you, if you're quick enough on the trigger and your aim is good. With a FPS, you could be concentrating on one enemy popping in and out of cover in front of you while his friend plinks at you from the side. That, to me, doesn't seem exciting, it's just annoying, like the kid you sat in front of in class that shot spit balls at the back of your head while you were busy trying to do the same to the one in front of you.

That brings me to the other problem: control. Now I don't mean controlling your character's movement this time, I mean the means by which you fight back. In modern FPS's, this is either the analog sticks on your controller or your mouse, the latter of which I find infinitely superior, as FPS's go. But even mouse shooting isn't as fast as the good old-fashioned light gun, weapon of choice for arcade gunslingers everywhere. The modern FPS isn't designed to be played with a light gun, and for good reason; how would you control movement? I suppose it's possible someone could develop something like a foot pedal that would stop and start movement and design a light gun so you'd turn in the direction the gun was pointed (Note to self, write suggestion to Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo).

The problem is without the light gun, enemies can't be made too fast or the player won't have a chance of hitting them. It takes longer to move a mouse-controlled crosshair to line up on a target than it does to swing a light gun to the side and pull the trigger; not much perhaps but just enough that your average rail shooter enemy, with their typically-erratic lurching or their tendency to lunge at you from every ridiculous angle possible, would quickly tear apart someone trying to shoot them with a mouse.

Now, there's two ways to deal with this problem: either slow the enemies down so like a real life person, it takes them a moment to line up their sights on a moving target, or give players options besides trudging down a predetermined path that leads them straight to One Way Bullet Hail Alley. The former route is the better of the two if you must have an extremely restrictive linear playing area, unfortunately game developers often go too far, so much so that enemies are so incredibly dense they rarely make use of cover. This is why games like the original Return to Castle Wolfenstein (2001) are much better than crap like Clive Barker's Jericho. They're linear, but within the confines of a game like RtCW, there's still some room for creativity, whereas in games like Jericho, it's actually less entertaining to play than Nintendo's Duck Hunt.

While I can somewhat agree that games shouldn't completely hold you hand throughout the entire game, I also think a game shouldn't be too cryptic either. Sure, I like the occasional part in a game in which I had to figure something out for myself. And I do feel satisfaction for solving it.

But if a game gives you absolutely no direction or at least some idea about what you're supposed to be doing, it can be easy to get stuck on that particular part for quite some time. And that's when frustration kicks in.

I think a good example of an instance in a game where there's a balance between the two would be the Zombiebot King boss fight in Metal Arms: Glitch in the System. You have to kill a seemingly invincible boss before your friend, who is caged, reaches the end of a conveyor belt and is crushed by the grinders. As you pour bullets into the boss, he eventually tires out and leans over with his mouth hanging out. The game doesn't directly say so, but it's giving you a hint that you need to throw a grenade into his mouth to do actual damage to him. When that part is figured out, you've basically won the fight. Just rinse and repeat and watch out for the minions he spawns.

Irridium:
This is why I love Half Life 2. Yes it's a linear game, but it's built in a way so that it feels like you found some clever way through the level by just being smart.

The opening is especially great. Lets you figure everything out for yourself, and doesn't force-feed you info about everything or give you an annoying-ass companion talking to you, or anything really.

Doesn't force feed you info? Lets you figure things out for yourself? Have you forgotten about this little scene?

Not saying the entire game is like that though. There are definitely moments in that game in which you need to figure things out for yourself.

Urh:
I think it's not just video gaming that's competing with movies these days, but dirt cheap consumer electronics (that just can't seem to stop getting cheaper) coupled with digital distribution. Big-ass TVs and surround sound systems are far more affordable now than they've ever been, and the only real reason people bother to get off their asses to hit the theaters is because Hollywood can't seem to let go of a business model which is fast becoming antiquated. The means exist for the studios to completely bypass movie theaters entirely, yet they doggedly insist on sticking to the old ways.

Exactly. Have you seen the new movie trailer that starts with an image of an actual size image of a big-screen HDTV? It's a fraction of the size of the entire theater screen...annoyingly tiny. A bit ridiculous really. If my living room were the size of a movie theater, I'd understand...just ask the people sitting in the extreme front row if they preferred the HDTV sized display vs. the whole screen. With the right equipment, home entertainment surpasses the movie theater experience.

Another great column Yahtzee. I like the humourless preschool teacher comparison, I think I might save it for later when I need it :)

Irridium:
This is why I love Half Life 2. Yes it's a linear game, but it's built in a way so that it feels like you found some clever way through the level by just being smart.

The opening is especially great. Lets you figure everything out for yourself, and doesn't force-feed you info about everything or give you an annoying-ass companion talking to you, or anything really. Hell, it's about an hour before you even get a weapon of some kind. That hour is spent just... exploring the world and figuring things out. It's amazingly well done.

Half Life 2 trusts you to be smart, trusts you to be smart enough to figure things out for yourself, and I love it for that.

Not saying you do this, but it's interesting how often people will praise Half Life 2 for it's freedom while condemning something like Halo when HL2 is actually far more linear than Combat Evolved. In fact Half Life 2 and all Valve games (not so much L4D) are highly regulated experiences and Valve constantly tries to control the experience. In Portal 2 if testers didn't look the right way for long enough they'd stick an arrow in the path or cut off possible alternate routes. Despite being a huge proponent of linearity, Half Life 2 usually get's a pass for having nostalgic features like a health bar, multiple guns, and decent pacing. Again, not saying you think that, I just knew it would come up.

Also, I know Yahtzee would never mention this, but the Metal Gear Solid games had lots of freedom despite the huge emphasis on cut scenes. MGS4 had ten hours of cut scenes and twenty hours of gameplay that could be played however you chose. Not necessarily as a sandbox, but with a freeflowing choice between stealth and action and levels big enough to choose your own route. Unfortunately it always gets criticized by people who parrot Yahtzee as being too much like a movie even though it's far from that compared to most other AAA games.

And for the record, my favorite game with sandbox elements is Wind Waker. Or maybe S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat.

This isn't some new problem showing up in the gaming industry. It's just that FF style games of "you have no control, just follow the path and watch the fucking movie, you fucker" are kinda popular now.

Hobonicus:

Irridium:
This is why I love Half Life 2. Yes it's a linear game, but it's built in a way so that it feels like you found some clever way through the level by just being smart.

The opening is especially great. Lets you figure everything out for yourself, and doesn't force-feed you info about everything or give you an annoying-ass companion talking to you, or anything really. Hell, it's about an hour before you even get a weapon of some kind. That hour is spent just... exploring the world and figuring things out. It's amazingly well done.

Half Life 2 trusts you to be smart, trusts you to be smart enough to figure things out for yourself, and I love it for that.

Not saying you do this, but it's interesting how often people will praise Half Life 2 for it's freedom while condemning something like Halo when HL2 is actually far more linear than Combat Evolved. In fact Half Life 2 and all Valve games (not so much L4D) are highly regulated experiences and Valve constantly tries to control the experience. In Portal 2 if testers didn't look the right way for long enough they'd stick an arrow in the path or cut off possible alternate routes. Despite being a huge proponent of linearity, Half Life 2 usually get's a pass for having nostalgic features like a health bar, multiple guns, and decent pacing. Again, not saying you think that, I just knew it would come up.

Oh, I know. Half Life 2 is one of the most linear games ever. However, what sets it apart is that it does a great job at hiding the rails. Valve made it feel very... organic, I guess would be the best word to describe it. Even though you are on a forced path, it never really feels like it. It's especially jarring after playing shooters which don't seem to hide them well, and constantly try to shove you where they want you to be, while Half Life 2 lets you take your time, lets you move at your own pace.

It's why I love it so much at least. I know you didn't accuse me of liking it for silly reasons like the health bar/multiple guns, but I just wanted to expand upon my post in case anyone else does.

Though I wonder, why you consider someone liking a game with good pacing to be nostalgia?

Irridium:

Hobonicus:

Irridium:
This is why I love Half Life 2. Yes it's a linear game, but it's built in a way so that it feels like you found some clever way through the level by just being smart.

The opening is especially great. Lets you figure everything out for yourself, and doesn't force-feed you info about everything or give you an annoying-ass companion talking to you, or anything really. Hell, it's about an hour before you even get a weapon of some kind. That hour is spent just... exploring the world and figuring things out. It's amazingly well done.

Half Life 2 trusts you to be smart, trusts you to be smart enough to figure things out for yourself, and I love it for that.

Not saying you do this, but it's interesting how often people will praise Half Life 2 for it's freedom while condemning something like Halo when HL2 is actually far more linear than Combat Evolved. In fact Half Life 2 and all Valve games (not so much L4D) are highly regulated experiences and Valve constantly tries to control the experience. In Portal 2 if testers didn't look the right way for long enough they'd stick an arrow in the path or cut off possible alternate routes. Despite being a huge proponent of linearity, Half Life 2 usually get's a pass for having nostalgic features like a health bar, multiple guns, and decent pacing. Again, not saying you think that, I just knew it would come up.

Oh, I know. Half Life 2 is one of the most linear games ever. However, what sets it apart is that it does a great job at hiding the rails. Valve made it feel very... organic, I guess would be the best word to describe it. Even though you are on a forced path, it never really feels like it. It's especially jarring after playing shooters which don't seem to hide them well, and constantly try to shove you where they want you to be, while Half Life 2 lets you take your time, lets you move at your own pace.

It's why I love it so much at least. I know you didn't accuse me of liking it for silly reasons like the health bar/multiple guns, but I just wanted to expand upon my post in case anyone else does.

Though I wonder, why you consider someone liking a game with good pacing to be nostalgia?

I do know what you mean about it not feeling as rail-roaded as most of today's shooters, it does hide its linearity very well while feeling organic, which I guess is really what matters in the end.

And good pacing being nostalgic was just a dig at how modern games have horrible pacing :P I mean, I myself feel nostalgia for a time when games could actually pace themselves properly.

Irridium:
This is why I love Half Life 2. Yes it's a linear game, but it's built in a way so that it feels like you found some clever way through the level by just being smart.

The opening is especially great. Lets you figure everything out for yourself, and doesn't force-feed you info about everything or give you an annoying-ass companion talking to you, or anything really. Hell, it's about an hour before you even get a weapon of some kind. That hour is spent just... exploring the world and figuring things out. It's amazingly well done.

Half Life 2 trusts you to be smart, trusts you to be smart enough to figure things out for yourself, and I love it for that.

But there isn't any choice. You have to progress in exactly the same fashion every time. Look at the beginning. You aren't allowed to go through the normal line, you have to be pulled into the side room where Barney is. If you wait too long or go the wrong way, you either find a dead end or get beaten up by a Combine with a stun baton. It's all a single path, the entire game. They just made that path zigzag a bit so you aren't walking in a straight line.

It doesn't ask or expect you to be smart. It doesn't give you any choice. Whenever there's a plot event that you need to see, it locks you in the room. Whenever there is a character that is vital to the story, you are rendered unable to kill them.

Is HL2 a good game? Yes, certainly. But does it allow you to find a clever way to do things? Not really. Almost everybody will beat the puzzle the same way. Portal definitely had more options and cleverness to it.

yeah. lately i HAVE been noticing this trend.

games of last generation would have insane levels of customization, hidden collectibles, and just, well, stuff that you could do (example: Perfect Dark)

it seems as time goes on they're stripping out more and more features just so the pores on every character's nose in Modern Warfare 3 will be perfectly realistic.

Seriously? Plants versus Zombies has more content into its 15 dollar self than most 65 dollar games coming out for the rest of the year (including Gears of War 3, Modern Warfare 3, and anything nintendo is churning out these days)

I'd like to hold up Mirror's Edge as a well-made linear game, even if Yahtzee hates it. There's only one way to go, but it's often very circuitous (similar to HL2's fascination with air ducts). Also, since it's a free-running, the linear corridor which you are in is cleverly disguised as cranes and balance beams and empty space to leap through.

For clever people who think the obvious route is too boring, the developers threw in some faster, alternate routes and hidden bags to find. And for those of us who can't figure out which way to go, you can hold down Alt to look in the direction of your next objective. This stops you from getting lost in the middle of a high-octane chase, but lets you still have the fun of getting there. So they did a really good job of leading you through a linear map while making you feel like you're finding your own way.

dyre:
There are plenty of popular recent games/ upcoming games that give you lots of choice. The Witcher 2, all of Bethseda's sandbox titles, Deus Ex 3, for example.

As far as Bethesda sandbox games go, I actually find the more recent ones to be very shallow and limiting. Morrowind was pretty open, and gave you the sense that there really was a whole world out there for you to bang on without fear of finding the edges, but that game is almost 10 years old. Oblivion was considerably less free--yes, there was a big world, but all of the quests were very, very tightly scripted and you were basically lead around by the nose through each checkpoint. Yes there were a lot of skills, but they all did pretty much the same thing and had very little impact on gameplay--was there any actual difference between Blade and Blunt weapons? The skill perks were the same, the damage progression seemed too close to tell a difference. Magic skills opened up spells that did slightly more damage, but they looked the same as the lower level ones and, because the game scaled with the player anyway, it made absolutely no difference. If you gain the ability to do 10 more points of damage, but all your enemies have gained 10 extra hit points when they scale up to match your level, there is no net difference.

I am less familiar with the Fallout games, but from what I've seen and heard they are basically the same--there are lots of choices, but none of the choices actually mean anything.

Another good comparison are the Thief games--Thief 1 and 2 were marvelously open. Each mission had a contained map and defined objectives, but the maps were incredibly detailed and non-linear, and you got virtually no direction about how to approach it. You could explore to your heart's content, find secret passages and figure out gaps in guard patrols, find all kinds of extra things that added to the setting and the flavor of the world, etc. You could eavesdrop on the guards and hear little bits about their lives--in one mission in Thief 2 you hear two guards complaining about the new factory that opened up near their houses and how it smells bad, puts out lots of soot, and is making their children cough and develop asthma. In another you hear various guards complaining about how one of the other guard got drunk and made a big mess all over the place. If you explore around, you can find the drunk guy and find the messes he made. If you want, you can jump out of the shadows and scare him and teach him a lesson. The levels were huge, there were no loading zones or set paths, and you were just left to figure it out on your own and create your own story within the mission. And when you were finished with each sandbox mission, you could complete it and move on to the next one. It was a perfect blend of nonlinear freedom and story.

Compare it to Thief: Deadly Shadows, the most recent installment, and you see the differences in big name game design--the missions are divided up into stages punctuated by loading zones. Guards can't chase you within a certain distance of a loading zone, and can't follow you between them, and once you leave a zone the time there is frozen, so when you come back it is exactly as you left it, guard positions and all. All the loot items glow so you can easily tell what is loot and what isn't (in the first two some things were valuable loot and some things were worthless, and if you couldn't tell which was which because of the light you had to make a tough choice--wander into the open in hopes that it was loot, or leave it alone rather than risk being spotted). The levels are much less detailed and much more path-oriented (there are always shadows exactly where you need them, easily noticeable breaks in the guard patrols, etc; as opposed to the first two, which pretty much made a plausible mansion or fortress and left you to figure out how to get through--it wasn't neat or pretty, and there were plenty of places where you had to get very creative because the designers hadn't done all the work for you).

It can be frustrating when a game has unclear objectives or when you truly are good and stumped about how to progress or how to get more clues to help you progress. But I think those flaws are worth the freedom they bring with them.

GrizzlerBorno:
I disagree with the notion that "there is no such thing as a non-linear narrative-driven game" Whatever the fuck gave you that Idea Yahtzee? Just because GTA 4 had a fuck-balls story?

What about Fallout? Or The Elder Scrolls? Bioware RPGs have a good amount of sandbox freedom to them as well(atleast in between missions) and those are, if nothing else, narrative driven games. You might wince at this next one.....but the Witcher 2 gives you quite a bit of choice and freedom. If only you'd done you job that week and actually played the game before slandering it as usual.

But those games are quite linear when it comes to story. Nothing happens in Fallout (especially 3), Bioware, and the Elder Scrolls unless you arrive. It's not a non-linear story if I receive the quest "rescue so and so from trolls" and I can either do it immediately or dance around the countryside fighting bandits for 6 hours and then do the quest. It's the same quest either way, and events unfurl the exact same way.

A simple example of non-linear story telling would be if you got that quest, but the person is killed if you take too long to get there. Or if you're too far away. Of course this just means the game has to adapt to the character being alive or dead. Ultimately, in a computer game, the developers have to predict all possible plot lines for a narrative to progress. And the only way to do that is to make it linear.

Oblivion after you're done with the story is nonlinear. It's just you in a world leveling up. But the narrative is very linear. Same with Fallout. Old Bioware RPGs just ended. Mount and Blade is a great example of a non-linear game, but it makes no attempt at a narrative.

The only way to have a non-linear narrative driven game is a table-top, where the person running the game is able to adapt and progress the narrative in response to any and all actions taken by the players. A computer simply cannot be programmed to do that.

dyre:
I think there's no need for alarm in that matter. There are plenty of popular recent games/ upcoming games that give you lots of choice. The Witcher 2, all of Bethseda's sandbox titles, Deus Ex 3, for example. And if they are or probably will be a lot more successful than streamlined, linear stuff like Call of Juarez

They won't be more popular than Call of Duty, however.

GrizzlerBorno:
I disagree with the notion that "there is no such thing as a non-linear narrative-driven game" Whatever the fuck gave you that Idea Yahtzee? Just because GTA 4 had a fuck-balls story?

What about Fallout? Or The Elder Scrolls? Bioware RPGs have a good amount of sandbox freedom to them as well(atleast in between missions) and those are, if nothing else, narrative driven games. You might wince at this next one.....but the Witcher 2 gives you quite a bit of choice and freedom. If only you'd done you job that week and actually played the game before slandering it as usual.

He meant in terms of the narrative being completely non-linear.

OT: Its certainly a problem. Somehow Crysis went from a game where I could punch the shack of a wall out, grab the guy inside and throw him through the other wall, to a game where I must press F to look at the pretty scripted sequence happening right in front of my eyes.

Having said that, I don't think developers are jumping back a bit now. As Dyre said, there's Bethesda, The Witcher games, Human Revolution, etc.

Irridium:

Hobonicus:

Irridium:
This is why I love Half Life 2. Yes it's a linear game, but it's built in a way so that it feels like you found some clever way through the level by just being smart.

The opening is especially great. Lets you figure everything out for yourself, and doesn't force-feed you info about everything or give you an annoying-ass companion talking to you, or anything really. Hell, it's about an hour before you even get a weapon of some kind. That hour is spent just... exploring the world and figuring things out. It's amazingly well done.

Half Life 2 trusts you to be smart, trusts you to be smart enough to figure things out for yourself, and I love it for that.

Not saying you do this, but it's interesting how often people will praise Half Life 2 for it's freedom while condemning something like Halo when HL2 is actually far more linear than Combat Evolved. In fact Half Life 2 and all Valve games (not so much L4D) are highly regulated experiences and Valve constantly tries to control the experience. In Portal 2 if testers didn't look the right way for long enough they'd stick an arrow in the path or cut off possible alternate routes. Despite being a huge proponent of linearity, Half Life 2 usually get's a pass for having nostalgic features like a health bar, multiple guns, and decent pacing. Again, not saying you think that, I just knew it would come up.

Oh, I know. Half Life 2 is one of the most linear games ever. However, what sets it apart is that it does a great job at hiding the rails. Valve made it feel very... organic, I guess would be the best word to describe it. Even though you are on a forced path, it never really feels like it. It's especially jarring after playing shooters which don't seem to hide them well, and constantly try to shove you where they want you to be, while Half Life 2 lets you take your time, lets you move at your own pace.

It's why I love it so much at least. I know you didn't accuse me of liking it for silly reasons like the health bar/multiple guns, but I just wanted to expand upon my post in case anyone else does.

Though I wonder, why you consider someone liking a game with good pacing to be nostalgia?

Another thing that bugs me about people who liked Half Life 2 and hate Halo is that they say Halo was bad because Master Chief was a dull character. Meanwhile, they praise Gordon Freeman, who has even less of a personality because you never hear him speak or actually see his face in-game. Seems rather hypocritical of them.

Not saying that all people who like Half Life 2 are like that though.

EDIT: Oops. I thought I was just quoting Hobonicus. This wasn't directed at you Irridium. Sorry about that.

What happened to the trust between players and developers?

Well I believe pirating was the first big misstep, and DRM was the final where developers just came out and said we don't trust you.

This is something that's been bugging me a lot from games I see recently. I haven't really known what to call it, but I refer to the lack of ability to freely move and instead of jumping when you decide, you go to a ledge and it gives a button prompt, and if you press this button the character jumps for you, control be damned.

I assume it comes from the fact that it's easier to do, instead of creating an ability which lets a player move or interact with his environment differently, you just put in a few segments where the character moves himself without any real thought from the player.

It's annoying. The thing that bugs me the most is how little people oppose shallow game making decisions that are invoked to create prettier games faster and easier, and then said games are forgotten in a few months... it's ridiculous, so many games completely rely on an initial pre-order expense and then a few months later they make another one, with no more depth than the last 5.

And that's why I've spent like 50 bucks total on games in the last 3 years. I don't need my hand held through MW or ME, I need you to get your hand out of my way so I can go win the war. I am the player, it's in my job description.

Need me to do something before anything else for the sake of the story? Give me a priority message. Need me to do it in a certain time? Give me a deadline or a timer.

You'll note that I didn't say I needed either of those, they are strictly for the DEVELOPERS' needs in creating the game experience. I can work with their needs if they can work with mine, no problemo.

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