There's No Such Thing as Nonlinear Narrative

TheGameReviews writes: "Most games which have been touted as nonlinear experiences can easily be classified as linear. While being one of the most infamous sandbox games in gaming history, Grand Theft Auto IV is still very much a linear game in that there are certain missions, or "tentpoles" as Abernathy christened them, that add up towards completion of the game. It doesn't particularly matter what you've done between said tentpoles, as those specific tentpoles are the ones that progress the main narrative. Each and every person who picks up, plays and completes GTA IV will begin in the exact same place, and end in the exact same place. It's the minutiae that change, not the major events. Again, this falls into a grey area that isn't really linear or nonlinear." [Spoony Bard #1]

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Ziriux3792d ago

To some extent I agree, but games like Mass Effect, give doubt to that statement.

cain1413792d ago

To me, the sandbox games are still just as limiting as linear ones, they are often just less jointed and full of segments of traveling between mission destinations.

Until we can actaully leave the sand box, we will not see true freedom for the player in the game.

The closest game I can think of to this concept is Scribblenauts. And even that has a finite limit.

himdeel3792d ago (Edited 3792d ago )

...because all "sand box" types games including the yet to be release Mass Effect 2 even with it's multiple endings will still be pretty linear. That being said RPGs like Mass Effect and Fallout 3 offer lots of choice to give the perception of non-linearity.

The closest thing to non-linear gameplay only exist in part with MMORPGS but there isn't much non-linearity in those games as well. The only reason I mention MMORPGS is because you can choose one action and never really explore the main story of a MMORPG.

Most traditional games have a requirement and trigger making it necessary that you move through the main story. But again I know someone will argue that getting to chose what actions you participate in through those main story arcs means it's not linear. Again I disagree.

reddevilyi3792d ago

I don't know the Elder Scrolls games have that non-linearity to them. You can pretty much just do whatever you want and have an enjoyable experience. That said I do agree with the author of the article in that most "non-linear" games just give you different ways of getting to point a to point b. You are still ultimately dong the same thing no matter what.

ReservoirDog3163791d ago

I suppose they're right. To finish a game you have to go through the story bits that are set for you. We always have to go talk with Roman in GTA IV. We always need to go into that Oblivion gate in Oblivion. Everyone has to fight the same ending boss in Mass Effect. Everyone that plays these games till the credits will do exactly that.

But what does it matter? Linear storytelling in video games has given us GTA IV, Half-Life 2 and many more. We have some of the best stories out there and we got it with linear storytelling. So, I don't care if we ever get nonlinear storytelling. The means we have to tell stories in games, books and movies is sufficient.

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midi3792d ago

Is it wrong that I actually prefer games with largely linear gameplay? For example, I don't think Bioshock would have been half the game it ended up being had they tried to make it more sandbox-y.

Haly3792d ago

Same here. I much prefer a strong tightly written plot.

Marquis_de_Sade3792d ago

I think it depends on the game, but personally I prefer a linear game experience that focuses heavily on plot and storyline.

SlamVanderhuge3792d ago

I have always preferred linear games. Much tighter focus usually equals a better overall progression.

Alcon Caper3792d ago

I prefer linear games too. Sandbox games should be an escape from linear gameplay, not a replacement. It's impossible to link them together, especially with today's bonus/secret hungry gamer...

Marquis_de_Sade3792d ago

I tend to play sandbox games to relax, cruising round Liberty City or sneaking through the Savannah in Farcry 2, I rarely feel motivated to complete actual missions though.

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shoinan3792d ago

That the nonlinear game is impossible, or simply hasn't been invented yet? I'd agree with the former.

Ziriux3792d ago

He possibly is and makes a great point. There are a few games like Mass Effect and Fallout 3, that do take it out of the linear fashion but somehow still have a predictable outcome.

stewie328873792d ago

I think the nonlinear game is impossible.

There is never going to be a game developed without some finite limitations on it. Unless it's something like a solely online FPS game, you have to begin and end somewhere. All we can do is make things a bit LESS linear. IE: offering multiple endings.

Proxy3792d ago

Is a game a game without rules? Play chess with me without rules.

I win, because I said so.

Kamikaze1353792d ago

Heavy Rain will start you out with one story, but branch out to tons of different scenarios and endings. Your character can die, but you can still continue with the story through a different perspective. Since your initial character was killed off, some events in the story will change.

Doesn't that count?

jmare3792d ago

Heavy Rain is closer, but it is not nonlinear. Each characters story starts at the same place every time you play it and there are only so many paths you can take to get through the story. For example, I don't think you can get the junkie FBI agent to hook up with the reporter and run off to vegas. Or maybe get the dad to commit suicide. That is why it is not a nonlinear game.

BetaChris3792d ago

Nice article. I'd like to think that there is some exception out there, a truly non-linear game that is different for everyone who plays it, but I am drawing a blank. Could it be that such a game exists, and has somehow fallen into obscurity? I'll have to get back to you on that one...

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