So, I don't exactly know how many times this topic has been brought up on this subreddit, but to be honest, I don't care. This is a topic I've wanted to talk about for a while, and now I actually have the chance to. But with that out of the way, I'm just gonna jump right into it, and this will probably be a long one, so sit back, relax, and enjoy.
THE ODD ART OF TRUE NONLINEARITY
So my first experience with True Nonlinearity in a game was probably Grand Theft Auto 3. Unlike modern Rockstar Games, which have you following specific directions, with no real room for diverging from the main path without failing the mission, GTA 3 was a lot less refined than later entries (with it being the first 3D GTA game), meaning that a lot of the missions could be approached in different ways. I think one of the best examples of this is the mission "Farewell 'Chunky' Lee Chong". Now the main objective of this mission was to kill Lee Chong, which you do by chasing him through Chinatown, chasing him in a car, and eventually killing him. However, what somebody did after getting frustrated with the mission and failing time and time again, they stole his car before starting the mission, took it to 8-Ball's Bomb Garage, got a bomb put on it, drove the car back and parked it in the same spot, initiating the mission afterwards and getting Lee Chong killed, therefore completing the mission. Now, this wasn't an intentional design choice by Rockstar, it was more or less Rockstar not really knowing what they were doing since this was the first 3D GTA game. Now after this, the company could have done one of two things. They could've:
A. Made their following games have more freedom in the missions like GTA 3
or B. Made the missions in their following games more movie-like, having the player follow instructions and do exactly what the game wants them to do.
And for the most part, they chose B (but I'll talk about that later on).
Moving away from Rockstar though, another game that I think does True-Nonlinearity well is Far Cry 3. Specifically, the outposts. In case you haven't played the game, I'll fill you in. The outposts are side-content in the game which have you clearing out a camp full of enemies in order to claim it. But what makes these fun is that each one is completely different, making it so that you have to approach each one in a different way. For example, there's one camp that only has like two guards, but like a year's worth of dogs to attack you. The cool thing is though, there are still more ways to approach these. You could go in using stealth, trying to take out everyone without raising the alarm. But on the other hand, you could just attach a bunch of C4's to a car, drive it into the center of camp, jump out and detonate them. There's just a lot of ways to do this stuff, which is not only why I love it, but also why it's just damn good fun.
One last game that I think does True Nonlinearity well is any of the Hitman games, but for this example, I'm gonna use the newer ones. These games are just the definition of True Nonlinearity, in my opinion. The missions are basically just, "Here's your target/targets. Go." You're then just thrown into a sandbox with lots of things to use to eliminate your target, plus some optional bonus objectives. Want to kill your target by poisoning some food? Go nuts. Want to kill them by invading a pit crew and ruining their car? Be my guest. And that's just scratching the surface. You can shoot down a giant shark and crush them, you can fill a house with bug poison and kill them. Hell, you can blow them off a cliff with a giant fucking fan. The game just lets you run wild in these sandboxes and kill your target/targets however the fuck you want, and it's fun as all hell.
So in short, I think True Nonlinearity is really just great. It gives the player complete control of how they want to approach the situation at hand without the game holding their hand and telling them what to do, and I barely scratched the surface of games that have True Nonlinearity. I do think that True Nonlinearity kind of works depending on who's behind it, but most of the time it definitely works. Anyway, moving on from that…
WHEN A GAME HAS A BAD CASE OF SPLIT PERSONALITY DISORDER
I know that the header for this part might seem a bit odd, but what I'm basically saying is that I dislike it when a game constantly jumps back and forth between linear and nonlinear. Now keep in mind that I'm not saying that I hate linear games, far from it. Some of my favorite games are Linear, for fucks sake.
- Portal 2
- Half-Life 2 (maybe idk)
- Every Shovel Knight campaign
- Super Meat Boy
- Castle Crashers
These are some of my favorite games, and all of them are fucking linear. Here's the thing though, these games are just linear. And I have a problem with games that just switch back and forth between linear and nonlinear. So I might as well get into some examples…
Rockstar, oh Rockstar, I said you would appear later, and you have. Wanna know why? Because you can't commit to the type of game you want to make. You either make a fully open game where the player can do whatever, or you make a linear Naughty Dog styled action-filled linear adventure, not both. See, I'm on this weird line where I don't hate Rockstar's newer games, I do still enjoy them. The problem is, They can't just make games that bounce back and for between linear and nonlinear. Now I know some of you reading are probably gonna just say, "Oh, you're just overreacting, you are actually just fine with Rockstar doing this." I'm not, I genuinely think that Rockstar needs to decide on which kind of game they want to make. You either make a nonlinear game or a linear game, not both. And I think the worst part is, the "nonlinear" parts of their games barely classify as nonlinear since there are just markers that tell you where to go, and the game tries to force you towards those missions. Once again, I don't hate Rockstar's games, I do enjoy them, I just despise their game design. Even then, I do love some of those linear missions, mainly because they, for the most part, have games with fun gameplay.
Ah Bethesda, I'm honestly a bit surprised that I'm putting this here. But I feel that I should, because their more recent games, specifically Fallout 4 and Skyrim, try to mesh nonlinear and linear gameplay, and it doesn't really work. Now personally, I would go into more detail on why I dislike Bethesda mainstreaming their games, but that will be a post for another day. So for now, I'll try and keep this brief, because this post is becoming really damn long. Like Rockstar, Bethesda has linear missions where you just shoot, and sometimes get into super bland dialogue. Meanwhile, they also have a "nonlinear" open world that's more linear than anything, as it just basically pushes you towards the more linear missions. However, unlike Rockstar's games, at least Bethesda still has a semi-open world with tons of little nooks and crannies to explore. But I digress.
And finally, we have one finally company. You know them, you may or may not love them, please welcome… UBISOFT! Now, I did include Ubisoft in the nonlinear part already, but that was pre-Far Cry 4 Ubisoft. This is post-Far Cry 4 Ubisoft. Ignoring the fact that their recent games are flooded with microtransactions, these "open-world" games are pretty open, but that doesn't mean they aren't linear as all hell. This is mostly the case with Far Cry 5, and Far Cry New Dawn. Both of these games have open worlds that are not only pretty small by open-world standards, but similar to Bethesda and Rockstar, they end up feeling more like long hallways. It just constantly feels like you don't have much player choice in any of the missions, aside from what gun you want to use. And even out in the game world, you feel like Ubisoft is like "No, don't go explore the world around you in an OPEN-WORLD GAME, just go to the main mission and do that instead." It just irritates me how these people tout their games as open-world sandboxes, yet you don't get much fucking player choice.
So, um, that's all I really have to say. I hope you enjoyed reading me losing my fucking marbles over the choices of multi-million dollar game dev companies. If you did enjoy, feel free to share your opinion in the fucking comments. And if you hated it and wanna send me just the nicest death threats, the comments are there for you. Anyway, thanks for reading, and have a good day/night/whatever the fuck the time is for you.
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