Submitted by PockyKing 847d ago | opinion piece

Linear vs. Open Stories – Which Do You Prefer?

OnlySP: “Wide as an ocean, deep as a puddle.” I’ve heard that phrase thrown around a lot when talking about Skyrim, the latest entry in the Elder Scrolls saga, and for the life of me, I can’t figure out if the phrase is meant to be praise or criticism. I can’t exactly disagree with the saying. The game has enough sheer content to keep a player busy for hundreds of hours of real-world time, but aside from a couple notable faction storylines, no quest is particularly engaging in and of itself. (PC, PS3, PS4, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, The Walking Dead: Episode 1 "A New Day", Uncharted Trilogy, Xbox 360, Xbox One)

ArchangelMike  +   847d ago
Depends more on the game itself. Loved the open world of Far Cry 3, but also loved the linear story of Max Payne 3. I also love the wide linear path of TLOU, and at the same time really enjoy fully open world games live Red Dead Redemption.

As I said it depends more on the style of the game in question as opposed to it's general gameplay settings. Assassins Creed for example would not really work as a linear game, while Uncharted wouldn't really work and an open world game.

I have to say though that as I get older as a gamer, I much prefer the depth of story telling in games, to gameplay tropes. That's why games like the Walking Dead appeal to the more mature gamer, where the gameplay is secondary to the unfolding story.

Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us are two great examples of games that are able to hold the balance of open vs liner world; and story vs gameplay perfectly.

EDIT: Dishonoured should also get an 'honorable' mention. :)
#1 (Edited 847d ago ) | Agree(5) | Disagree(1) | Report | Reply
-Superman-  +   847d ago
Both if they good.
Open world like grand theft auto usually has no story, just kill and earn money, while Red Dead Redemption had very good story.
Again, Linear game like Last of Us has also very good story.
Both works!
Thehyph  +   847d ago
It really does depend on the game. An open game or a linear game can both be equally good or equally bad. An open story or a linear story can both be equally good or equally bad.
annaleo   847d ago | Spam
3-4-5  +   847d ago
If they story is good, I just want to continue with it as much as possible. In times like that, I'd rather it be more linear.
Canary  +   847d ago
I wrote up a comment and then deleted.

Because what we have here is a problem with language.

The problem is that we have literary terminology and gameplay terminology that simply do not match up. A linear narrative is simply a story that is told in sequence; a nonlinear narrative is simply a story that is not told in sequence. That means that any story with a flashback or flash-forward--even if only for the briefest of moments--is nonlinear.

When we discuss narrative structure in game, we're not really talking about whether or not the narratives are linear or nonlinear. We're talking more about GAME DESIGN than story. More about /how/ the story is conveyed than what the story is.

What we're essentially discussing is the difference between open and closed game design. With an open game, the player chooses how to experience a given story--by going to X town or Y town, by speaking to person A or person B, or by avoiding things altogether. In a closed game, the player does not have that choice at all.

The structure of an open game can range from the very simple (Baldur's Gate) to the very complex (Fallout 2). Narratives can be constructed like a novel or a choose-your-own-adventure tale.

And, of course, sometimes we're talking about branching narratives versus non-branching narratives, or forked narratives, or spooling narratives, etc., etc.

The key point I'm getting at is that it's effectively pointless to try and discuss game narrative without using the appropriate vocabulary. It's about as nonsensical as discussing "graphics" in any capacity. We end up getting articles like this that try to force a false equivalency between game design and narrative design.

I get that gaming is a new medium and a lot of the vocabulary simply doesn't exist yet, but a lot of it DOES and terms like "open world" have clearly defined meanings... and, more importantly, the literary terminology we need to discuss game narrative does exist, and has existed for a very, very long time.


And the post I deleted was basically me just pointing out that the best example I've seen of an open-world coupled with open narrative design was Romancing Saga on the PS2. You chose one of 8 characters, each of whom had a different origin story and personal quest (which you could ignore), the world had events that would happen as time passed (which you could miss or hear about), so it was entirely possible to "miss" your "destiny" because you took the scenic route and didn't arrive in town X in time... and everything was presented so seamlessly you wouldn't even know you'd missed anything at all.
3-4-5  +   847d ago
^ Knowledge is beautiful.
Hicken  +   847d ago
You win.

I was gonna go the super simple route and just say I prefer a good story, whether open or linear.

But what you've said is so much better. Bubbles for Intelligent.

... or Helpful....

... or Interesting...

I forgot. But there's a positive bubble for you from me.
KyRo  +   847d ago
I myself prefer liner stories with epic set pieces. I love open world games too but sometimes I become so lost in them with side missions, multiplayer and general larking about that I sometimes forget what the story even is to the point where I want to start the whole game again.
Foxgod  +   847d ago
I prefer both, diversion is good.
Jovanian  +   847d ago
I'll take a well made linear game over a loosely made open world one any day

theres nothing inherently wrong with linearity, its what the developers do with it that matters
Tdmd  +   847d ago
I'll take a well made open world game over a loosely made linear one any day.

There's nothing inherently wrong with open settings, is what developers do with it that matters. ;]

Anyway, joking aside, people tend to think that open settings compromise the narrative - I really don't think it does. I think there's plenty of examples of great open worlds with great stories this generation, and yet, there's more to come. Will MGSV have a bad narrative for turning open world? And how about The Witcher 3?
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Rai  +   847d ago
I prefer a linear story, to me a great story and great writing is what keeps me going.
#7 (Edited 847d ago ) | Agree(2) | Disagree(1) | Report | Reply
Minato-Namikaze  +   847d ago
I like Wide Linear. Give me different ways and paths to tackle a situation but always having a clear goal and game pace in mind.
Rai  +   847d ago
if The last of us is considered wide linear, I'd prefer a game like that.

If its Skyrim, not so much.
sdozzo  +   847d ago
The older I get the less time I have... so linear.
P_Bomb  +   847d ago
Both, depending on execution. More often than not though, linear like MGS or a more open-linear style like the Mass Effects seem to be faves for pure storytelling. More focused, deliberate pacing, you don't miss as much. Open world stories there's always a risk you'll skip a great side story for a lame one, or get so distracted you'll forget what you were doing in the first place.
Wni0  +   847d ago
Linear Half Life 2. Bioshock 1. Portal.

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