Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Part 2: Linear Games, Linear Stories

7 February, 2010

Often linear games can be more engaging than other formats. Consider that a person who is writing a linear game will know exactly when an event will occur. A writer can then know how characters have interacted, and how players have interacted with their characters. In open ended games a writer must create an immense world in which the player might never fully interact with. I would much rather spend more time creating a full story and character knowing the player will interact with that character, and that they won’t just overlook the character in a crowd. This is why even open-ended games have some linear element to them. I would be grateful to see a game with complete interactivity along with the depth and width of a 100,000 word novel, but its infinitely complex. Its always a trade-off between interaction and story telling. I recently played Bioshock for the first time a week ago. The game pulled me in immediately, and only in a way that a linear game could. For example, if I was allowed to just roam the streets of an underwater city I would have no idea where to start. For the first hour I would probably try to find a purpose to exploring. With the linear story though you are given exactly that purpose up front. Do x to receive y. Meet with x to talk about y. If something odd is going on, the player knows it will be explained soon, without the player having to ask everyone in a town what is going on (receiving the same 2 answers from everyone).

In any other format, creating a strong bond with a character might be difficult, if not impossible. Creating a bond might not be with just a character you control, but other characters in the story. For example in the Mega Man series the player never controls Dr. Willy, but has a strong bond to him because he is Mega Man’s creator. In Resident Evil 4 the player has to protect the president’s daughter, and after a while the player will probably despise helping her out. However, the player still feels a stronger connection to her than a guard in World of Warcraft (or really any MMO). A player could imagine the guard as being the next king and set upon defending the guard from any danger that approaches. After a while of defending the guard the player will probably find it pointless, as the guard will respawn when it dies. In the act of making the game open-ended, the player has no real way to bond with the guard. It is just another object in the world. In a linear game there could be a sequence where the player must aid the guard in defending a castle, and during the fight the player learns about who the guard really is. Perhaps later in the game the player will be able to visit the guard and have a conversation about when they defended the castle together. It seems like a tiny point in what a game is, but these little bits add up to the overall engagement of the player with the game. The experience can be vastly more rewarding than the ability to defend any guard who will never truly interact with the player.