Extra Punctuation: The Rise of Rail Roading

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Akalabeth:

Batman Arkham Asylum on the other hand is a classic example of hand holding. When you're having a boss fight and the game tells you, on your first run through the fight, how to defeat the guy it's friggin annoying. Though, less annoying than the fact you have to fight at least four similar bosses in exactly the same way. There may even be more after that, I don't know. I got fed up on boss#4 and started playing Bulletstorm instead.

Exactly. I expected that I'd get all of the gameplay of "being the Batman", and instead I got some mooks to pound, some cutscenes, and a button to push to take out the first bad guy. Then I quit it, uninstalled and it's sitting in my archive of Steam games where it will stay forever.

w00tage:

Akalabeth:

Batman Arkham Asylum on the other hand is a classic example of hand holding. When you're having a boss fight and the game tells you, on your first run through the fight, how to defeat the guy it's friggin annoying. Though, less annoying than the fact you have to fight at least four similar bosses in exactly the same way. There may even be more after that, I don't know. I got fed up on boss#4 and started playing Bulletstorm instead.

Exactly. I expected that I'd get all of the gameplay of "being the Batman", and instead I got some mooks to pound, some cutscenes, and a button to push to take out the first bad guy. Then I quit it, uninstalled and it's sitting in my archive of Steam games where it will stay forever.

Speaking of Batman did anyone ever think "I wish this was more like Thief" while playing it?
Kept wishing I had a light meter for the stealth instead of just sitting on a gargoyle and watching people 10 feet below me not bother to look up even though half their buddies had already been strung up from similar gargoyles.

Or wishing instead that I could use my batarangs to take out the light bulbs like he did in Batman Begins so I could take the guy down in the dark.

I would almost prefer a mission-based game where you pick your gear before you head out and then go and accomplish whatever mission with what you have. X number of batarangs, few bolos type devices etcetera.

Would be a lot less silly than batman calling in his batjet into a building so he can get a grappling hook out of the friggin glove box.

Either way how that game got 10/10 and 9/10 is beyond me. Must be a lot of game reviewers out there who have the hots for batman. I'd give it a 7.5-8 out of 10 maybe

Well put sir. The next time I need to explain why I fell in love with Mass Effect, only to be repulsed by shagging her pretty sister Mass Effect 2, I'll just link to this article. To be fair though, if ME1 had made their morality system actually have any kind of real difference on how things worked out, then I'd never have fucked her sister in the first place.

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.

Except in NV where they had the invisible walls... *facepalm*

JacobShaftoe:

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.

Except in NV where they had the invisible walls... *facepalm*

Lol I gots more to say too. I think what Yahtzee was pointing out was that liniarity (as defined by a path between 2 points) is always enforced in some way by games, unless they somehow went choose-your-own adventure on you, allowing for completely different beginnings, middles, ends etc. The idea that Fallout 2, for example, was a sandbox with unlimited potential AND a game with a strong story is a dialectic I'm not in the least bit comfortable with. You start as the chosen one, you (I don't know how to do the spoiler cover thing, but we all know how the end goes, at least as far as actual gaming, as opposed to cutscenes) end the game the way it ends. Your actions during the game change what ending cutscenes you get, not what happens during the game, aside from peripheraly (like, say, the Mortons). Well, with the exception of an ex gf's little brother, who said he got bored after he killed everyone. He was then stunned to learn there were these quest things, and that you could talk to people. Still, he got no ending, so no linear story. Although at least he had the opportunity to walk off the reservation.

Is it just me or have we all forgotten the dissapointment we felt after we played our first "It's got like 5 endings depending on what you do" game? That dissapointment felt when you realised it wasn't what you did that changed anything, you had to do the same stuff, but only the how that changed the cutscene. I mean, I hear people complain about how your actions don't affect the world in MMORPURGERS, but really, how many games let you do things that actually change the course in front of you, rather than leaving you with a different set of cutscenes at the end?

Yahtzee Croshaw:

Is less choice and less complexity really the future of gaming?

It reminds me of Kojima and Metal Gear Solid a few years back, essentially "Play the game how I want you to or don't play at all."

It seems to be the direction the Triple A game producers seem to be taking.

hahaha i take that as a thumbs up for what im doing - reinstalling rpgs from 10 years ago, guess what they still more fun although i prolly played them 100s of times already :P

This railroading has basically made me completely lose interest in nearly all shooters (and by extension nearly all current generation console games, because heaven forbid anyone make anything that isn't a shooter), but I don't like open world games either; I find them just as tedious and irritating to play as hyper linear games. In an open world game, all I ever do is walk around sixty billion miles of flat terrain dotted with millions of identical skyscrapers performing the same 3 missions over and over again. I spend all my time walking to the damn objectives, and I'm not going through interesting scenery.

I like level design and variety. There was, in fact, a really good happy medium between linearity and openness in early 90s first person shooters. The levels in Duke Nukem 3d are basically non linear with multiple routes and numerous secret areas despite all being hand crafted, distinct environments (rather than copy/pasted procedurally generated shit). As much as I like Half Life, that is the game that led to all this bullshit railroading: Modern games are all constantly forcing you to sit through more tightly controlled variations on the opening train ride sequence from Half Life.

Also, this thing where people claim games are more linear because they're story driven is such bullshit. Video games aren't developing more narrative richness because they're all telling the same fucking story over and over again: "Bald military grunt man must save the world from aliens or terrorists or aliens that are also terrorists." That's it. That's the only fucking story modern games are telling. Mass Effect is often cited as some richly narrative driven game, yet it's just more bald space marine bullshit. It's a game about a vast universe of identical bald military people and off brand aliens having endless monotone conversations about space ethics and space politics. Its bad in the same way the Star Wars prequels are.

People stop using the word "devolving", it's impossible to devolve, you can only evolve.

This is something I really agree on. Trotting out my favorite whipping boy, Final Fantasy 13.. Aka The Tube or The Worst DVD Movie Scene Selection Menu ever. You walk down a hall, occasionally end up fighting an enemy, and the game is kind enough to let you pick your attacks before it carries out the pre-scripted actions, regardless of the battle conditions, then lets you watch a cut scene as a reward. One of the biggest titles of 2010 had almost zero interactivity between the player and the game experience.

Articles like this remind me why I so loved Demon's Souls, and why Dark Souls is far and away my most anticipated future release.

I actually don't see this trend, obviously being from the Pc masterrace and being smart enough to avoid bad titles, I already disliked the former CoJ Games, not going to buy another one.

Now I think the thing here is natural exploration against a cinematic gameplay, having a linear game allows you to script along the ways, see CoD 4 as example, the game does indeed hold your hands here and there, but at the same time gives you enough freedom to deploy your own strategy, the missions where you fight up that hill village, defend it and fight it downwards again comes to my mind, other times like the ship in the beginning at least give you the last room for some freedom fighting, so I think its unfair to say it holds your hands completely, sure you got missions where you go from point a to b, but while doing so it creates immersion in the game, the sniper mission and the first part of the ship come to mind..yet again, not to mention the moment you run from the ship, panic mode just sets in.

On the other side we have big titles like Fallout 3 and NV, where you are free to explore, fight or talk your way around, while the karma, reputation and fraction system is just sweet. Of course the new deus Ex will probably a wonderful throwback to the genius first game and the new bioshock seems to be much more open aswell.

I however don't understand people claiming Halflife would allow much freedom, we are talking about a set of one way underground tunnels here, the only exploration is in the borderworld, if any, and there you just got a few little Rooms with ammo, while Halflife 2 has a few "open" battlefields.
Another old example would be beyond good and evil, while I love the game which gives you freedom to explore around it still restricts you, you always have one..and one way only though the factory's to reach your goal and I only need to decide if I sneak past the guards, kick them or throw a disk at them or even openly attack them and even if I decide to sneak around I will just follow a predetermined path.

So whats the core of all this I ask, do we either have vast games with a lot of choices and a lot of exploration, but at the same time possibly shortening the game, simply because the programming needs time to allow all those decisions or do we like a more cinematic approach, where you indeed just have one linear way, but at least make it a good one.

One last thing that actually killed Deus ex for me, why in the blue hell where you never allowed to kill your brother and stay with UNATCO and MJ12, that would have made the game for me, simply because you could actually switch sides to fight against NSF and thus creating a "dark/evil" path, the maps didn't even need to change simply juggle up your mission objectives and your enemys and you are set. This would have made this awesome game just a bit more awesome.

Something about this rant feels off to me... far be it from me to squash any dissent, but I'm not convinced we should be targeting linear gaming as a concept. The problem here is not the degree of "freedom" (if you can call anything in a game truly free, but that's getting a bit too deep for our purposes). No, the problem is linear gameplay handled poorly. Because as we've seen, simply adding more choices does not make a game better. Sandboxes can be handled poorly too. What we need is for game developers to not make the kinds of mistakes you describe. I have no problem running through a pre-crafted experience. It's the reason I play games in my free time instead of making them myself. But they can't be so obvious or so limiting in how they handle it.

I guess my playing devil's advocate is borne of a concern for games like Mass Effect, which would seem to fall in the same pile into which you toss this Call of Juarez game. I can't know if loosening up the narrative experience in a Mass Effect game would improve it, but I'd hate to see a push for more freedom turn into another rut where devs do the wrong thing. We need game makers to be smart about their choices not chase the whims of a disgruntled demographic. I think that's what bugs me about this rant. It needs that extra tip: design smart. We can have linear narratives, open sandboxes and everything in between. What matters is how it's handled not which style is chosen.

Yes, I remember when games let you make decisions. I remember this one MMORPG that I played called the World of Warcraft. I was a young night elf druid and I was given a quest to go somewhere called Ratchet, which was in enemy territory. So I transformed into a cat and started running there; the monsters were a higher level than me so I would occasionally die and have to walk back to my corpse. The entrance to the zone where Ratchet is was guarded by orcs; I held my breath as I sneaked past them.

I kept going straight down the road, where I came across a town called The Crossroads. I ran around it. At the time I thought I was just avoiding a bunch of Horde guards. It was only later that I learned that I had avoided getting ganked by a Chuck Norris comedian.

I can't remember what the quest was (I think it involved alcohol) but I remember the epic knuckle-biting journey that I took to complete it. And I remember the lolz of my friends when they told me I could've taken a boat there.

Sadly, I started playing WoW again this summer. I blame global warming because it's too hot here to go outside. But less importantly WoW is about as rail roading as it can get now. Which is sad for a MMORPG. Oh well it's a good time sink until Skyrim comes out. I love all the choices and mistakes I can make in Bethesda games, and I hear that this one is "streamlined." YEAH!

bojac6:
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.

That's not the commonly accepted definition of Linearity at all. You've got it all wrong sorry. What you're talking about is a real-time dynamic world. Non-linearity means that the world changes in a tangible manner depending entirely upon your choices. In several Witcher and Fallout quests you can choose to let someone die and that hugely impacts and alters the narrative. THAT's non-linearity.

And besides, what you're talking about; if that was realized in every RPG? It would be a fucking pain in the ass cause you'd have no "sandbox-style" freedom whatsoever. You'd just be fleeting about doing quests non-stop, just to make sure you don't cross any time limits. It'd be like a full-time job....in a video game. It would be even MORE Linear, in fact. You could never stop to just admire the scenery, or do a side-quest.

It works in Mount and Blade because....well because there is no scenery.

a good article as always. Sandboxes are the solution. When red faction went sandbox and then went back to linear gameplay i was like "what the hell are they thinking". in the third instalment they realized the greatness of sandboxing and their going backwards.
But, there are enough games with free choices for us to play, really, so its not such a huge problem, but its a problem that's been around for a long time now.

Completely agree. One thing that's really made this trend stand out in my mind, is playing a game that DOESN'T hold your hand and guide you along. Recently picked up a copy of Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines, and that game is absolutely brutal with the lack of hand-holding.

There is a "main" story line to follow, with plenty of divergent options, and a whole slew of side quests that are both awesome, and cleverly hidden. There's no minimap full of question marks telling you "NEW QUESTS ARE HERE! COMPLETED QUESTS GO HERE," and when you do get a quest, there's no compass or arrow guiding you blindly where you want to go.

"But how will I find my way?" I hear you saying ... easy, you read. You can read the quest logs, examine the items you pick up, talk to the person who gave you the quest, etc. You can figure it out, all the pieces to the puzzle are provided. They're just not categorized, alphabetized and highlighted for you.

And I loved it. There's an actual sense of accomplishment in finding a clue, checking a bus-stop for a map, going to a location and diggin up info on someone's computer... instead of just "GO HERE, KILL HIM, LOOT MACGUFFIN, NOW GO BACK. TURN IN MACGUFFIN. REPEAT"

uuuggghhh doom articles...I dont like them :/

008Zulu:

Yahtzee Croshaw:

Is less choice and less complexity really the future of gaming?

It reminds me of Kojima and Metal Gear Solid a few years back, essentially "Play the game how I want you to or don't play at all."

It seems to be the direction the Triple A game producers seem to be taking.

I actually said something about this specifically on page 2 :P

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.

The Metal Gear Solid games are probably some of the least linear "linear" games I've ever played. Have you actually tried them? You could go stealthily, choosing to kill, knock out, or avoid every guard, or you could go guns blazing, or a mix of both. Even the bosses had multiple entirely different ways to beat them. I'm kind of flabbergasted (that's right, flabbergasted) whenever I hear this because the only possible reason Escapists would say it is by misinterpreting and then parroting Yahtzee.

Maybe you also think that having so many cut scenes makes it more movie-esque, which one: is a different category than the rail roading of gameplay entirely, and two: the gameplay itself is still longer than three of your average modern shooters.

Anyway, maybe you can clarify?

Glad you managed to refrain from blaming "consolification" for it, it seems a lot of people are tired of that argument, I sure am, despite being a PC gamer myself. But I had this article topic going through my head when I heard about the new Hitman game, having some enemies path showed to you by pressing a button. I mean, why?? The best part of it was discovering where the enemies went, and how to engage the scenario, with disguises, hiding bodies, millisecond timing, poisoning, orchestrating accidents and whatnot. Sure, I guess the "ooh hardcore" players just don't have to use it, but it takes away a bit of the flexibility and cleverness/satisfaction you might otherwise feel having done it. But I don't blame consoles for it, nooo I do not.

I blame gamers and developers. The games which have this railroading just seem to do so well, that developers just love pushing them out one after the other. To the point that games which were happy to let the players think are now taking away the controls. Just look at Splinter Cell: Conviction, where as Yahtzee put it something along the lines of "Sam is just a beast you ride and whip him on the back of the head to make him do something, like move to another point of cover or clear a room of enemies". Or the abovementioned Hitman. Actually I don't think that game is out yet so I think I should shut up about that one.

It's just another evolution that we have to swallow I guess, much like QTE's, cover-based shooting, regenerating health and the rest, despite their pros and cons.

the "Shepard,Grunt and Thane murder some collectors" trailer was better than the whole game.

Nope, but here is what determines it, what sells. If Minecraft, Saints row the third and Terraria sell or CONTINUE to sell very well, the market will be shook, at least enough to warrant a BIT more change in the market, its just on what sells and what appeals to the largest demographic. Want CoD and mundane shooters to stop being kings? Buy yourself a action adventure sandbox game, don't want that, an rpg, or simulation, or even some FUCKING indie games, but you HAVE to spend money else where if you really want the market to change.

A big majority of people in the world are playing games nowadays. A big majority of people are stupid. So in order to sell more games, developers have to create something that will appeal to the majority not the minority. It's a sad reality we live in. But there will always be a few diamonds in gaming industry. Indie games as Yahtzee stated, free roaming games like Saints Row, GTA and Just Cause, RPG games like TES, FPS games like Bioshock, horror games like Amnesia. Well, hopefully.

As for the comment about MGS. I agree 100%. It's kind of ironic that my favorite game is MGS3, and I'm a PC gamer. I love all of the different approaches you can take in MGS games. Especially MGS3 and MGS4. Every weapon in the game can be used to create different strategies. Combined with CQC and multiple paths to infiltration, it's less linear than Thief and Hitman.

Another thing that pisses me off. Developers are dumbing down completely linear games. Take Splinter Cell for example. First 3 games, and Double Agent on PS2 were great games. Amazing games. Linear, but still great. And what did Ubisoft do with Conviction? They made it more cinematic and they got rid of all the features that made it stand out from the other stealth games. It wasn't even a stealth game. Stealth should be the first choice in that game, and guns should be used as the last resort, not the other way around. Not to mention how they fucked up the story in the process.

koriantor:
Examples of good railroading: KotOR, Jade Empire, Thief Series, Any Valve Game, Sands of Time, Silent Hill 2 (I'm assuming based on what I know about it). The fact that these games treat you like you're not a bowl of pudding might be one of the reasons Yahtzee likes these games.

Examples of bad railroading: Mass Effect 2 (Dangit, I did NOT want to work for Cerberus), <looking through my games library and realizing I don't have any "standard" shooters since I'm poor and can't afford bad games so if you have more games to add to this please tell me because I can't put down games without playing them in good conscious>

This. Linearity isn't inherently bad, and if handled properly, it's just a part of the experience. A game doesn't have to be a sandbox to be good, but it must be handled properly. Plenty of the old adventure games have linearity, but my interest is still piqued even though I'm mucking about trying to get the "flag" for the next area. About the only memorable bad railroad game for me was Unreal II. Although I did finish it, it was a chore around the end because it was missing something to hold my interest. The same with Brood War. Once I started playing the Zerg, I completely lost interest and never bothered finishing it.

I'm pretty sure the current trend of "railroading" will shift as two or three years ago, you couldn't fart without hitting a sandbox game. Not that there is anything wrong with sandbox games, but it seemed the industry was using a crowbar to shoehorn games to fit that genre because the public seemed to be all over it.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
Extra Punctuation: The Rise of Rail Roading

Is less choice and less complexity really the future of gaming?

Read Full Article

Sooo... Was it about 3D or gameplay linearity?

The illusion of freedom has died off in the past 6-12 years this is when Jrpgs and Wfps's moved to the tighter corridor layout format(with WRPGs following in due time), I blame lazy developers getting rid of exploration for reasons as simple as development time issues, we can save time thus money by dropping depth down a few rungs, these days its worse with dailog tree options and even combat so utterly ultra simplified I am at a loss at times to stay in this hobby thats growing more shallow by the year.

ZippyDSMlee:
The illusion of freedom has died off in the past 6-12 years this is when Jrpgs and Wfps's moved to the tighter corridor layout format(with WRPGs following in due time), I blame lazy developers getting rid of exploration for reasons as simple as development time issues, we can save time thus money by dropping depth down a few rungs, these days its worse with dailog tree options and even combat so utterly ultra simplified I am at a loss at times to stay in this hobby thats growing more shallow by the year.

It gets more shallow so more people can get into it, developers and publishers can make more money. Yet on the flipside games won't gain that respect they deserve when all the newer players see is the shallow, hyped, and or overrated stuff. They're normally put off by older games because of raw difficulty, the need for timing, graphics, there's a curve to control mastery and or the use of raw instinct. Most newer players have it really easy compared to past generations where you had to rush in and get the job done. Now the game tells you when its safe or unsafe to proceed. Even though you had to put in 75%+ of the work in pass generations the games left a better taste after I beat'em, I took in my own tactics and won. I wasn't being handheld because developers think some people are too dense too notice common sense choices when it comes to games.

TheDooD:

ZippyDSMlee:
The illusion of freedom has died off in the past 6-12 years this is when Jrpgs and Wfps's moved to the tighter corridor layout format(with WRPGs following in due time), I blame lazy developers getting rid of exploration for reasons as simple as development time issues, we can save time thus money by dropping depth down a few rungs, these days its worse with dailog tree options and even combat so utterly ultra simplified I am at a loss at times to stay in this hobby thats growing more shallow by the year.

It gets more shallow so more people can get into it, developers and publishers can make more money. Yet on the flipside games won't gain that respect they deserve when all the newer players see is the shallow, hyped, and or overrated stuff. They're normally put off by older games because of raw difficulty, the need for timing, graphics, there's a curve to control mastery and or the use of raw instinct. Most newer players have it really easy compared to past generations where you had to rush in and get the job done. Now the game tells you when its safe or unsafe to proceed. Even though you had to put in 75%+ of the work in pass generations the games left a better taste after I beat'em, I took in my own tactics and won. I wasn't being handheld because developers think some people are too dense too notice common sense choices when it comes to games.

Ya things will get worse and games will get cheaper and cheaper a month or 2 after launch, still 30$ is too much for most modern games, I wait until its 10-20$ before I add stuff to my collection.

I really wish devs would put more effort into options and difficulty settings as so you can turn off the hand holding and glowy guide things.

Sandbox games tent to have five types of missions and 20 clones of each one spread over the map.
Just saying, things are even worse than Yahtzee's vision.

Hobonicus:

008Zulu:

Yahtzee Croshaw:

Is less choice and less complexity really the future of gaming?

It reminds me of Kojima and Metal Gear Solid a few years back, essentially "Play the game how I want you to or don't play at all."

It seems to be the direction the Triple A game producers seem to be taking.

I actually said something about this specifically on page 2 :P

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.

The Metal Gear Solid games are probably some of the least linear "linear" games I've ever played. Have you actually tried them? You could go stealthily, choosing to kill, knock out, or avoid every guard, or you could go guns blazing, or a mix of both. Even the bosses had multiple entirely different ways to beat them. I'm kind of flabbergasted (that's right, flabbergasted) whenever I hear this because the only possible reason Escapists would say it is by misinterpreting and then parroting Yahtzee.

Maybe you also think that having so many cut scenes makes it more movie-esque, which one: is a different category than the rail roading of gameplay entirely, and two: the gameplay itself is still longer than three of your average modern shooters.

Anyway, maybe you can clarify?

Maybe it's that twenty hours of gameplay you mentioned is an absolute fabrication. That game is like 12 hours, including cutscenes and gameplay. I do agree that MGS4 did have some great free form gameplay mind, it just sort of falls apart sometimes. Act 3 is a good example, having only 2 sections near the beginning you can actually explore. Act 5 is even worse; there's literally 2 rooms with actual stealthy bits, then it's boss fight, cutscene button mashing, loooooong cutscene, boss fight, loooooooooooooooooooong cutscene, end.

It's a frustrating game when sneaking through the middle east and the jungle is so much fun, that the game just wants to yank that from you constantly. It's like having really good chocolate, only after you have a piece, it's taken from you. I just want more of it. MGS3 had a somewhat reasonable balance. Still had a fuckton of cutscenes, but there were far, far more areas to explore than in 4.

GrizzlerBorno:

bojac6:
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.

That's not the commonly accepted definition of Linearity at all. You've got it all wrong sorry. What you're talking about is a real-time dynamic world. Non-linearity means that the world changes in a tangible manner depending entirely upon your choices. In several Witcher and Fallout quests you can choose to let someone die and that hugely impacts and alters the narrative. THAT's non-linearity.

And besides, what you're talking about; if that was realized in every RPG? It would be a fucking pain in the ass cause you'd have no "sandbox-style" freedom whatsoever. You'd just be fleeting about doing quests non-stop, just to make sure you don't cross any time limits. It'd be like a full-time job....in a video game. It would be even MORE Linear, in fact. You could never stop to just admire the scenery, or do a side-quest.

It works in Mount and Blade because....well because there is no scenery.

No, the game predetermining what choices you have is not non-linearity. It's several branching paths that you are then locked in on for the remainder of the game. And your entire second paragraph is exactly my point. A non-linear game cannot be narrative driven. You are completely missing the point by saying you'd be doing quests non-stop and be unable to miss time limits. The whole idea is that you would miss time limits, is that you could stop to admire the scenery, but all of those decisions would have consequences. It's entirely open. Mount and Blade has no structured narrative, but if you think about it, most games are the tale of one character becoming something. There are recurring characters, and I would imagine most players become a Lord and have an army and wage war. But it never ends, or at least it ends when you stop playing. To be a proper story, there needs to be a climax and resolution, which you can never have in a non-linear game.

Having a narrative implies story progression, which means that your characters have to develop, there have to be arcs and rising action, which means there is a natural linearity to it. If your game has an ending, a point that the rest of the story builds to and then finishes, it was linear. The fact that I can start over in the Witcher and side with the elves simply means it has branching options, but you still end up fighting the Grand Master. Even if the endings were completely different, it's not a non-linear game simply because you were given an artificial "option a" and "option b" that sets you down two different, but linear narrative paths. You choose a path and follow it to the end, that's still pretty linear. And that's exactly what Yahtzee's original statement meant. In order to be narrative driven, you have to be linear.

Linearity is not necessarily a bad thing. It can and should allow for a much better story.

I've grown somewhat weary of these fatuous notions that games are now shorter and devs have less respect for us now than they did before.
Do you know why games of the 8 and 16-bit eras were longer, in general, than games are now? Because they were "harder," but that challenge came in two basic ways: padding and crippling punishments. RPGs of yore (and even some today) were padded with grinding and I know Yahtzee hates grinding, but I do too. Go back and play something like FFVI, Chrono Trigger or Phantasy Star IV with a Game Genie that raises you instantly to level whatever and see how much "real" gameplay and story is actually there. I guarantee you'll cut the game nearly in half. The others were punishingly difficult (Ninja Gaiden, Super Mario Bros) because they were also hilariously short. This wasn't due to game developers having more "respect" for their customers, it had to do with games having so little space on cartridges and discs that they could only be about 1-2 hours long. So they HAD to make you start over at the beginning because you were paying around $80 for them and they wanted you to feel you were getting your money's worth. Nothing. More.
Besides that, I do agree that it seems like certain devs just want to make movies, which seems like it's part of a growing epidemic of videogames just wanting to be movies (which Yahtzee actually has covered and covered well).

I'm in a particularly despondent and pissed off mood at the moment, and I don't usually get in said moods so it's rather heightened, and reading Yahtzee's chastising, haranguing biting remarks and writings I really feel like venting all my negative feelings towards their perpetrator and sticking it to him (verbally that is).

Undeadpool:
I've grown somewhat weary of these fatuous notions that games are now shorter and devs have less respect for us now than they did before.
Do you know why games of the 8 and 16-bit eras were longer, in general, than games are now? Because they were "harder," but that challenge came in two basic ways: padding and crippling punishments. RPGs of yore (and even some today) were padded with grinding and I know Yahtzee hates grinding, but I do too. Go back and play something like FFVI, Chrono Trigger or Phantasy Star IV with a Game Genie that raises you instantly to level whatever and see how much "real" gameplay and story is actually there. I guarantee you'll cut the game nearly in half. The others were punishingly difficult (Ninja Gaiden, Super Mario Bros) because they were also hilariously short. This wasn't due to game developers having more "respect" for their customers, it had to do with games having so little space on cartridges and discs that they could only be about 1-2 hours long. So they HAD to make you start over at the beginning because you were paying around $80 for them and they wanted you to feel you were getting your money's worth. Nothing. More.

This. Totally this. Just because a game is hard does not always make it "complex".

Sylveria:
This is something I really agree on. Trotting out my favorite whipping boy, Final Fantasy 13.. Aka The Tube or The Worst DVD Movie Scene Selection Menu ever. You walk down a hall, occasionally end up fighting an enemy, and the game is kind enough to let you pick your attacks before it carries out the pre-scripted actions, regardless of the battle conditions, then lets you watch a cut scene as a reward. One of the biggest titles of 2010 had almost zero interactivity between the player and the game experience.

Not to sound like a fanboy, but FF13 is a lot more complex than most people give it credit for. You can make multiple kinds of paradigms with several different mixes of classes. And in order to kill an enemy quick and efficiently, you have to use certain paradigms in order to boost the chain gauge, and then shift to another to keep it from dropping back down. You also have to switch to paradigms that keep everybody healed and buffed. Also, you don't have to let the game choose your actions, there's an option to choose your own actions.

Whether you like the game or not is your opinion. But I'm sick of everybody blowing it off as something that is "dumbed down" or "noob friendly" when it's more than that.

I can agree about the linearity for the most part though. I kind of wished the game was a bit more open.

w00tage:

Akalabeth:

Batman Arkham Asylum on the other hand is a classic example of hand holding. When you're having a boss fight and the game tells you, on your first run through the fight, how to defeat the guy it's friggin annoying. Though, less annoying than the fact you have to fight at least four similar bosses in exactly the same way. There may even be more after that, I don't know. I got fed up on boss#4 and started playing Bulletstorm instead.

Exactly. I expected that I'd get all of the gameplay of "being the Batman", and instead I got some mooks to pound, some cutscenes, and a button to push to take out the first bad guy. Then I quit it, uninstalled and it's sitting in my archive of Steam games where it will stay forever.

Aren't you shooting yourself in the foot there? In and of itself it's a great Batman story and a huge love letter to the animated series, sure there's handholding all over the place but there's still stuff for you to figure out for yourself, like the Riddler's many challenges. While I too feel it could've done with less handholding (although it seems to get better the further in the game you get), it wasn't enough to completely ruin the experience for me.

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