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How Non-Linear Should the Next Game Be?

Linearity Preference:

  • Linear (better story, difficulty progression)

    Votes: 3 30.0%
  • Non-Linear (more freedom)

    Votes: 3 30.0%
  • Combination: if so, describe what this would look like

    Votes: 4 40.0%

  • Total voters
    10
Joined
Jul 7, 2014
So not only did BoTW go for the open world genre, it also flipped from being extremely linear to being entirely non-linear. Allowing people to progress through the game world in any order and way they pleased fit well with the open world design and was a huge improvement to player freedom, which many people have greatly appreciated. However, it came at the expense of being able to tell a good story, which many have criticized, and arguably made it harder to balance the game in terms of difficulty as well.

Which set of pros and cons do you prefer? Or do you have an approach in mind that is more middle-ground?
 

Dio

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Well I don't like the non linear approach of BoTW for a couple of reasons.

In terms of gameplay it means that there is no difficulty increase as you progress and you can do either hard or easy shrines right away. This is also the case for fighting enemies.

I like for a game to become more challenging as you progress in the story so that you must increase in skill and power to carry on. It feels much more rewarding this way to have the hardest enemies to fight closer to the end.

In terms of story you just simply can't have a connected narrative where events in that story influence the form the world takes and have characters respond to story related events if it is told in a totally non linear way. It also means you can't use items as a means to progress the narrative like in OOT where you need to have been to Dodongo's Cavern to get bombs to blow up the boulders to Zora's domain. There needs to be a structure to it with certain events happening in a certain order.

It doesn't mean there can't be some non linear elements. For instance having a couple of easy dungeons which must be completed to get two items to progress the plot but don't have to be done in any particular order. And then the same with a couple of intermediates then a couple of hards. This would give more freedom which some might like but without compromising too much on storytelling. Because the easies would still need to be done before the next plot point which grants access to the intermediates.
 

Azure Sage

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I would like a mix of both next time. After the freedom BotW gave us, taking that away would be really depressing and feel like a giant step backward. However, there's no reason the story can't be linear. I enjoyed BotW's story quite a bit and I disagree with people who say it wasn't good or interesting. But, I also want to keep being surprised by new things. A linear story in an open world isn't impossible. I'd like to have an ungated overworld where you can go anywhere, but the story events don't trigger unless you actually follow them around. That shouldn't be hard to do at all. That gives you the freedom to do the story at your own pace and still have a connected and detailed story. You could do the story all in one go and then explore, or you could get your exploration out of the way and then do the story. And the story segments could scale to your current strength, like enemy numbers and difficulty and such. I really don't think that would be hard to pull off.
 

DarkestLink

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No game should be as non-linear as BOTW. It was so extreme that it got in the way of its own objective. While some non-linearity is necessary for an Open World game, when you remove the ability for the developer to create obstacles, the game is no longer about the journey and solely the destination. Giving the player the ability to just go from Point A to Point B without any interference takes anyway any sense of adventure. What do I mean?

Well say for example, you start a new Skyrim playthrough, learn you're the Dragonborn, and head off to High Hrothgar. So if you head there the game intended you to, you could either follow the path to Ivarstead, cut through the path to Ivarstead, or head there from Riften or Windhelm if you decide to go there first. One way or another, you need to figure out a path and navigate your way there, coming across bandits, traps, beasts, sidequests, and have a real adventure.

Or...you can get a horse and abuse the horse climbing mechanic to cut through the land and instantly climb High Hrothgar. You just reach your destination, there is no adventure. This is what BOTW does and it hurts the world.

Now you don't HAVE to climb in BOTW...but since the game focuses on the climbing mechanic, the developers plan the game accordingly. Even if you don't use the climbing mechanic, you won't have the same adventures you would in Skyrim, because the developers didn't set any up...they assumed you'd just beeline from Point A to Point B. Compare this to those rare moments where the game corals you (Zora's Domain, Eventide Island, Great Plateau) and suddenly you're on an adventure, because the developers have set up enemies and obstacles in your path--because they know what paths you can take and can plan accordingly.

However, there's no reason the story can't be linear.
It can be. It shouldn't be. Linearity and story don't mix. This isn't a movie. You don't need heavy structure for the story. The story should be used to enhance the gameplay, it shouldn't be an annoying interuption. Non-linear games are better at implementing this, which is why Open Worlds are known for being so story focused. Linearity should be primarily used to enhance gameplay.
 

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I would just like to say that I voted non-linear, making 1 vote for each option (meaning each has 33.3% of votes). Anyway, I love Ocarina of Time, it's my favorite game ever. However, no matter how awesome a game is, Nintendo can't just Lon Lon Milk it for money over and over again forever (terrible pun (:). If someone came up with an ingenious military strategy, someone will inevitably find a counter to it a couple centuries down the road.

So that's why I voted non-linear. BotW is, for now, the future of the series.
 

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I want the Zelda series to return to its open world roots, but it would be nice to offer some direction. BotW provides none. No story to follow, no mandatory objectives to fulfill. "Defeat Ganon" amounts to little more than a vague suggestion as you mess around with the game in perpetuity and put off doing that forever. Even the four lame dungeons are completely optional, even if a lot of content is dependent on having done them.

The first Zelda game had clear direction: Find the eight dungeons ON YOUR OWN and in the final one defeat Ganon, rescue Zelda and get the triforce. Boom. Game over. Mission accomplished. But players had to scour the overworld themselves for the dungeons, all but two of which were dependent on having completed certain previous dungeons but all of which could otherwise be completed in any order. Meanwhile, the entirety of the overworld map was accessible from the start.

So the game had structure, it was just rather subtle because the journey was the player's journey. Not the game's. Players got to decided where to go and when, what direction to explore, what dungeons to delved in to. Players were required to do this, but the terms and conditions were up to them.
 
I'd want both.

I love the epic scale of an open world and BotW got that down, it also looked beautiful even if it wasnt very varied... but I want a reason for being there. I need to know why I'm doing things and BotW's approach of everything being optional made it feel as if the game didn't care if you didn't.

This is why I tend not to enjoy BotW as much as I could have, if I had no reason then what's the point. The world got in the way of the story and made everything optional, so I wasn't on a journeybor grand adventure, it just felt like I was killing time until I decided to 'defeat Ganon'

I'd like more structure in the story and the world, Im more impressed by scale rather than freedom, I felt much better in TP than I did in BotW, TP had large open areas but still just one way to prgress by design of the narrative but everything was so grand and steeped in the culture of the world that I was happy to take in the sights and learn about the world as I followed the path, rather than in BotW where I went wherever and learned nothing.

I'd probably say I'm more on the side of linear but I think if BotW had made a better effort with its story and world building then needing a way forward wouldn't have been such a big deal.
 

DarkestLink

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This is why I tend not to enjoy BotW as much as I could have, if I had no reason then what's the point. The world got in the way of the story and made everything optional, so I wasn't on a journeybor grand adventure, it just felt like I was killing time until I decided to 'defeat Ganon'
I can definitely agree that having an objective is nice, but it doesn't even necessarily have to be a story objective. I've found that in many Open Worlds with loose stories or little direction, I can keep myself going with the goal of getting stronger--but this only works if getting stronger feels rewarding. I.e. you're getting your ass kicked a lot and have a genuine need to get stronger or the rewards are unique and exciting enough that you want to grow (gaining items/masks is a good way to do this).
 
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Jul 7, 2014
Although I've stated that a linear structure would allow for better storytelling, as I've thought about it the situation it isn't quite that simple. It depends on what kind of storytelling you are talking about. If the next game were to be non-linear, the key to telling a good story would be to focus more on quality region stories and compelling sidequests, both of which found their best expression in MM. One example of this was the Goron section, where it's endless winter until you defeat the Snowhead dungeon and bring back spring, which opens up a number of sidequests that weren't possible before. While BotW did have some region story to it, the only one that was executed decently was Zora's domain; the rest were pretty lackluster.

As far as the sidequests go, it would be cool if the next game took a page from other non-linear games and allowed for player choice to influence the flow of some of these quests, so that there are multiple possible endings. It would also be cool if these choices ended up being reflected in the ending credits, where some of the scenes could be different depending on which sidequests you did/didn't do, and how you decided to do them.

Both region stories and sidequests allow storytelling to be through gameplay rather than cinematic exposition, or rigid narrative structure, which should be in line with Nintendo's emphasis on gameplay over story and Aonuma's desire for the player's choices to be the story. Allowing our gameplay actions/choices to have a tangible impact on characters and the gameworld might just be the best way of drawing us into the "story" by making it feel like our actions matter.
 
Joined
Jun 14, 2011
There is such thing as too much freedom, and I feel that sort of thing just isn't fun at all which is where BotW fell short. Games like ALttP, OoT, ALBW are good games because they give you a set path to follow more or less, but you can choose to progress the game out of the order the game set for you. That is more intersting to do than being allowed complete freedom from the get-go.

I feel if you give too much freedom, there is little point in playing the game if you can just do whatever you want, you might as well not bother playing it if the objective of the game is so casual. Sure BotW gives you objectives and shows you where to go, but there is no incentive in doing so as the game encorages you to do what you want, when you want. At least in the other games, there is a story driven incentive that motivates you to progress the game.

Now that is not to say Linerity doesn't has it's own problems. As much as I like Skyward Sword, I do think the game is too linear. There was too much handholding and the game pretty much scalded you for going the wrong way and forced you to turn back. Though I do give credit to the first time you traveled to the land below, you were pretty much trying to catch up to Zelda which from a story narrative made sense. But any point after the lanayru Mining Facility, you should of been able to progress the story in any order you wanted, even if the path was layed out for you.

Zelda is capable of a balance between Linerity and open-world, but if you cater to one or the other, The game starts turning into a mess. A Zelda game is more interesting if it has a set path that you can ignore. As long as both journeys end up at the same destination, You can still have a focused objective set in an open-world environment.
 
Joined
Feb 13, 2019
Please make it linear, Nintendo. Don’t ruin the dungeons, bosses, characters and lore just for a “more open”
world with hundreds of major tests of strengths and mountains you can’t even climb up because of the random rain!
 

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