PlanetCrap 6.0!
Front Page (ATOM) • Submission Bin (2) • ArchivesUsersLoginCreate Account
You are currently not logged in.
T O P I C
Linear:  A case for the retirement of an adjective.
September 11th 2002, 13:36 CEST by Hugin

What do people mean when they say linear? That they can't play the game at thier own pace?  That they feel the game forces them to take actions they don't want to take? Or prevents them from taking actions they do want to take? That they feel the plot is predictable? Or the missions too similar? That they feel the game doesn't have enough side quests and hidden features? That the game is too short? That the physical design of the game levels too much resembles tunnels or corridors?

I've seen "linear" used to mean all of these things at one time or another, and from a game design perspective, they're all manifestly different.  For me, "linear" has become one of those annoying catchwords/phrases that pop up in gamer conversations about game design that have less and less actual meaning, in the same intellectually lazy vein as blathering about "better AI" or "emergent gameplay".

If "linearity" in one or more of its forms is supposed to be a bad thing (and there are arguments to be made that it isn't always bad), more precision about just what we're dissatisfied with would be useful.
C O M M E N T S
Home » Topic: Linear:  A case for the retirement of an adjective.

|«« - Previous Page - Next Page - »»|
#1 by m0nty
2002-09-11 13:41:08
http://tinfinger.blogspot.com
This discussion of linearity is too linear.
#2 by m0nty
2002-09-11 13:54:06
http://tinfinger.blogspot.com
What do people mean when they say linear?

The simple answer as to why we use the word is that is is deriven from game theory and programming principles (as is non-linear).
#3 by m0nty
2002-09-11 13:56:46
http://tinfinger.blogspot.com
This page offers a good working definition of linearity in games:

Linearity is when the player has no real choices as to what happens next in a game. Either he or she gets to the next part of the story, or finishes the steps necessary to get there, but he or she can't skip to some other part and then come back.
#4 by MCorleone
2002-09-11 14:25:33
I agree with the definition in #3.  Playing an RPG where there are fifty cities to go to but having a PC or NPC say "We must go to Tarplekis'Txxxzz'sa'z!"  Rather than let the player pick is linear.  At this point I'm still assuming that we're discussing the definition of the term and not the dis/advantages of linearity in a game.

Creativity is just synthesis without the introspection.  - John Carmack
#5 by "Dev"
2002-09-11 14:43:56
deleted deleted
"What do people mean when they say linear?"

The Omaha beach level in Medal of Honor.
#6 by Ashiran
2002-09-11 14:44:11
Linearity in games prevents gamers from getting lost.

Online gaming? Frustration commences.
#7 by Bezzy
2002-09-11 14:47:51
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
Jesper Juuls would say that linear games are a series of uninteresting choices - where the choices available are fairly finite, and choosing the wrong strategy results in failure, or atleast not success.

DDR for instance, is totally linear. You don't choose which directions to press so much as you are told which to press.

HEY I'M TYING DURING THE ONE MINUTE OF SILENCE! DOES THAT COUNT AS TALKING?

The best way to create an award winning game is to write the acceptance speech first.
#8 by Bezzy
2002-09-11 14:55:24
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
The interesting distinction between Jesper Juuls and classical game theory is that Juuls sees even irrelevant choices as choices. So if you're stuck in a room and you can only go through a door, you still have the choice to run around the room, even though, in game terms, it accomplishes nothing. But if people ignore the goal of "walking out of the room", then there are no goals left to accomplish, and where there are no goals in a game, a player makes his/her own. The player may decide to test their movement abilities in this room, and backflipping off a wall may be their personal goal. It's still fun, even though it's not a designer directed explicit or implicit goal.

Classic thought says that choices are only apparant where there is more than one way to push forward the progress of the narrative... so running around that room does not embody a choice, since it changes nothing about the gamestate.

The difference is the player's thirst for instant gratification. The player will do what they want within the realms of possibility in the game, and will only complete set objectives if that objective is in common with their own, self created goals.

We didn't manage to avoid another September 11th.

The best way to create an award winning game is to write the acceptance speech first.
#9 by Bezzy
2002-09-11 15:01:21
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
To be truthful, I'm not sure of Juul's opinions on the matter, and wouldn't want to misrepresent him. The above was my own extrapolation of what was said at GDCE

The best way to create an award winning game is to write the acceptance speech first.
#10 by Neale
2002-09-11 15:26:21
neale@pimurho.co.uk www.pimurho.co.uk
Maybe I'm being horribly ignorant of one of the Gaming Illuminati, but I have no fucking clue who Jesper Juuls is.

signatures are, as I've stated, for perverts
#11 by LPMiller
2002-09-11 15:28:42
lpmiller@gotapex.com http://www.gotapex.com
I think he was first mate on the Bounty.

I believe I can fly......urk.
#12 by Neale
2002-09-11 15:29:46
neale@pimurho.co.uk www.pimurho.co.uk
Arrrrr!

signatures are, as I've stated, for perverts
#13 by MCorleone
2002-09-11 15:45:42
Wasn't that Billy Budd?

Creativity is just synthesis without the introspection.  - John Carmack
#14 by Bezzy
2002-09-11 15:46:39
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
Jesper Juuls is not too cool for school.

The best way to create an award winning game is to write the acceptance speech first.
#15 by UncleJeet
2002-09-11 15:52:09
While we're at it, let's talk about the stupid people's definition of common enough terms like: engine, cpu, and lag.  Then, later, we can all sit around and discuss Mario's big round ass.

Jungle boogie!

I'm fighting terrorism by playing violent video games!
#16 by MCorleone
2002-09-11 16:06:18
the man has a point.

Creativity is just synthesis without the introspection.  - John Carmack
#17 by Hugin
2002-09-11 16:07:15
lmccain@nber.org
Monty, Bezzy, I think you both have good working definitions of the term, or at least the primary definition of the term.  My point was largely that the word is tossed around to mean some very different things.  For example, in the aformentioned RPG where the plot doesn't move forward unless you go to such and such a town, some reviwers and gamers would insist the game wasn't linear, because you could do side quests, or fight monsters randomly to build up your stats, etc. I'm fine with linearity as a concept, good or bad.  But the imprecision with which it's often used, or worse, the way it's used that covers up discussing smaller points that might actually fix problems and make games better, annoys me.
#18 by m0nty
2002-09-11 16:10:43
http://tinfinger.blogspot.com
Ah. So this topic is about Morrowind. I'm fine with that.
#19 by Bailey
2002-09-11 16:20:10
There's nothing socially acceptable about Morrowind, I'm afraid.

Look at me! I'm totally giving a shit about my health!
#20 by CheesyPoof
2002-09-11 16:33:01
What wrong with Morrowind?  I like it.

Anyway, to have any sort of story in a game, be it MW, DX, NWN, or GTA the main quest will have to be linear.  What makes them non-linear in my opinion is that how or when I follow that main quest is left up to me and not the game designer.
#21 by MCorleone
2002-09-11 16:40:03
And along comes someone to prove Hugin's point.

Creativity is just synthesis without the introspection.  - John Carmack
#22 by TheTrunkDr.
2002-09-11 17:13:29
here's a question... who the hell cares about linearity? I don't give a crap if a game is linear or not as long as it's fun. There have been plenty of fun, linear games, probably more than there have been fun non-linear games. So what's wrong with linearity? Without some form of linearity you can't really tell much of a story, so anything that goes out of it's way to be non-linear, I just feel like I'm wandering about aimlessly, and that's not fun. You need to give the player some direction or they'll feel lost and lose interest.

Women always see a need for improvment, and men only improve things to either keep them from having to get off of their asses later, or to keep drinks cold.
#23 by MCorleone
2002-09-11 17:20:17
I disagree.  Life is non-linear.  Does it lack a story?

Creativity is just synthesis without the introspection.  - John Carmack
#24 by Ergo
2002-09-11 17:20:57
Yes.

"Hey, I've got an idea...and it doesn't involve high explosives!"
-Sam & Max Hit The Road

DVDs
#25 by "Ghost in my Shell"
2002-09-11 17:23:33
Some ppl think FFX is linear as hell, a hallway RPG of sorts... FF6 would have been the same way if it was done in 3D...
#26 by MCorleone
2002-09-11 17:24:02
Life has as much story as you make it.  Haven't you ever watched biography?

Mine's pretty exciting.  I want the soundtrack to be a bit higher though - more oomph.

Creativity is just synthesis without the introspection.  - John Carmack
#27 by UncleJeet
2002-09-11 17:26:58
Almost every game out there is linear - if you want to finish the "story."  Event A always happens before Event B.  If you have a beginning, a middle, and an end - you have a linear game.  Just because you can run about chasing dragons or shooting mobsters outside of the story, doesn't mean the game isn't linear.  It just has diversions.

Now, if something like GTA3 was nothing but driving around the city without a story - ok, non-linear.  But also no point.

People might say The Sims is non-linear - it isn't, if you don't mind never buying your sim anything and keeping him stranded in his barren apartment, sleeping on the floor and pissing on himself.  If you want to buy things, you get a job.  To get a job, you need certain qualities.  To get the qualities, you buy certain things and use them.  Event A (buy a mirror) leads to Event B (use mirror) leads to Event C (get promotion.)

So what's a perfect game of a non-linear nature?  MARIO PAINT, BITCHES!

Pumped a lot of pain down in New Orleans....

I'm fighting terrorism by playing violent video games!
#28 by UncleJeet
2002-09-11 17:32:31
I think the main problem with the use of the word lies with people confusion choices and lack of choices.  Having more than one way to solve a puzzle makes a game non-linear in peoples' minds.  An adventure game that can only be moved forward if you find a monkey and use him as a wrench on a secret valve to a waterfall is linear in those same peoples' minds.

It's nowhere near the actual definition of the word, mind you - but I suppose language is what society makes it.  Doesn't mean I have to like it, though.

Say you, say me - say it together, naturally....

I'm fighting terrorism by playing violent video games!
#29 by Bailey
2002-09-11 17:33:27
Most games need a sense of linearity to keep the story progressing in a logical, advancing order. Non-linear games like Morrowind tend to fall on their face, as the player rarely has direction or a sense of purpose, other than running around on little fetch-me-a-magic-feather "quests". Quests which generally have no real impact on the world and little to no point aside from experience gain.

The difference between your life being non-linear and making sense, and a game attempting to do the same, is that the game can never adapt to the possible permutations you might throw at it, unless it effectively has no tangible end goal. And at that point, there's really no reason to go on playing the game.

I feel that the only way to create a non-linear game is to abandon storytelling altogether and let the player decide for themselves where things are going and why, but for that to be at all entertaining, we probably need about ten years advancement in programming and AI advancement.

Stick to linear. It works if done well.

Look at me! I'm totally giving a shit about my health!
#30 by MCorleone
2002-09-11 17:34:26
Non-Linear:

Welcome to Garbagia.  Here is your gameworld.  Situation is Super-Bad demon is waking up.  You must do 20 things to stop it.  Bye!

Linear:  

Welcome to Garbagia.  Here is your gameworld.  Situation is Super-Bad demon is waking up.  You must do 20 things to stop it.  First, we must fight our way to Ipecac to speak with the old swamp lady.  After, she will send us to the Forest of Furries to speak to the cave-frog.  After that..., ..., n=20.  

That's the difference.  Linearity does not negate the possibility of a compelling underlying story.

Creativity is just synthesis without the introspection.  - John Carmack
#31 by UncleJeet
2002-09-11 17:35:22
Upon further thought, having more than one way to solve a puzzle might make that puzzle itself non-linear, to a certain limited degree.  However, if solving that puzzle is essential to progressing the plot, then the game itself is still linear.

I don't really think any of this matters much, though.  People are stupid.  Deal with it.

You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em....

I'm fighting terrorism by playing violent video games!
#32 by Bailey
2002-09-11 17:35:52
Both scenarios sound fairly linear to me.

Look at me! I'm totally giving a shit about my health!
#33 by averagejoe
2002-09-11 17:36:25
joe_dilworth@mentor.com
This new wonderful game has a bazillion worlds that are completely immersive and interactive...but you will only be able to see things as we lead you through the game by a leash...

Is that what we're griping about?

Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead.
Look kids, my DVDs
#34 by MCorleone
2002-09-11 17:37:22
Bailey, 29:  
The difference between your life being non-linear and making sense, and a game attempting to do the same, is that the game can never adapt to the possible permutations you might throw at it, unless it effectively has no tangible end goal. And at that point, there's really no reason to go on playing the game.


Can you re-phrase that in understandablese please?

Creativity is just synthesis without the introspection.  - John Carmack
#35 by UncleJeet
2002-09-11 17:39:47
MCorleone:

  I'm confused.  If 20 things must be done to stop the demon, then there is a linear progression through the game.  Just because you can choose what order to do the 20 things in doesn't mean that they can don't have to be done if you want to kill the demon.

  You're confusing, like I said, choice for non-linear.  There's a difference.

Now did you read the news today?  The say the danger's gone away!

I'm fighting terrorism by playing violent video games!
#36 by Greg
2002-09-11 17:40:52
"Ghost In My Shell":

FFX very much limited the player as to where they could go. Up until the very end, the game was basically on rails, and backtracking was not typically permitted. Whereas in FF6, at times you could get an airship, allowing you to visit different areas in no particular order.

However, that said, all Final Fantasy games do a great job of hiding that the story is on rails by allowing you to roam the lands. But really, aren't most single player RPGs just like that?

Who is driving?! Oh my god, bear is driving! How can that be?
#37 by BobJustBob
2002-09-11 17:41:42
Linear games suck. EOD.

So there.
#38 by UncleJeet
2002-09-11 17:43:11
BobJustBob

  So you're saying you hate Mario games.  EOD.

Put a little love in your heart....

I'm fighting terrorism by playing violent video games!
#39 by Huge Wood Farmer
2002-09-11 17:45:41
McCorleone,

Non-Linear:

Welcome to Garbagia.  Here is your gameworld.  Situation is Super-Bad demon is waking up.  You must do 20 things to stop it.  Bye!

Linear:  

Welcome to Garbagia.  Here is your gameworld.  Situation is Super-Bad demon is waking up.  You must do 20 things to stop it.  First, we must fight our way to Ipecac to speak with the old swamp lady.  After, she will send us to the Forest of Furries to speak to the cave-frog.  After that..., ..., n=20.  


Gotta agree with Bailey, they are both linear, only one is as confusing as fuck, and one gives you an idea on what needs to get done

<insert sig here>
#40 by m0nty
2002-09-11 17:52:09
http://tinfinger.blogspot.com
The better modern games, like The Sims and Morrowind, allow for both linear and non-linear gameplay styles. You can follow the professional ladder to earn teh bling bling and furnish your pad with the latest phat lewt, or you can just potter around, experimenting with creating ever-larger pools of urine or seeing if you can create a hedge maze that you can torch sequentially to produce the world ELVIS in fiery letters. Similarly, Morrowind players can choose to follow the main quest, stopping only to complete enough side quests to earn the XP neded to complete the storyline, or they can just set off into the wild blue yonder to do whatever they want, wandering hither and yon without a care in the world.
#41 by UncleJeet
2002-09-11 17:54:32
m0nty

...wandering hither and yon without a care in the world.

Sadly, also without any fun or enjoyment or purpose or reason in the world, too.  :(

He's got the whole world in His hands....

I'm fighting terrorism by playing violent video games!
#42 by crash
2002-09-11 17:55:00
if a game has an end, or a goal, or a finale, or a payoff, it is linear.

if a game does not have a goal, or an end, it may or may not even be a game. ("sandbox" applies here.)

in my opinion.

By this time tomorrow we can be doing BODY SHOTS off HOOKERS in some MEXICAN HELLHOLE
#43 by m0nty
2002-09-11 18:00:36
http://tinfinger.blogspot.com
Speak for yourself, Jeet! I had great fun sniping those worm-thingies with one shot. When I got the ability to imbue items with permanent flying ability, I gained endless enjoyment out of constant flight - took me back to the glory days of the Might & Magic series (insert ObJoke here). The third-person camera thingy provided hours of voyeuristic pleasure. Et cetera.

It seems to me that some people just can't handle a certain level of non-linearity.
#44 by "Hoe Muffin"
2002-09-11 18:04:08
tanger@boxfrog.com
All games are linear, there is always some sort of overarching goal that the player is striving to achieve, and there will always be a limited number of options the player can use. Just the way our brains are wired I guess. It isn't so much a debate about what games are non-linear so much as what games are less linear.

Linearity works well for a number of single player games (As far as I'm concerned, multiplayer falls squarely into the far-less-linear section), especially platformers and racing games. Which isn't to say that its necessary: Toe-Jam and Earl, along with Ecco are great platformers which weren't linear. Even today, we're moving further and further away from the one-level after another paradigm, look at Mario Sunshine (a phenomenal game, btw).

What is aggravating about linearity, and my (recently discovered) hatred of the Final Fantasy series, is that there is no attempt to hide it at all. Even adventure games give you the option to backtrack and go over previously seen areas (for at least a small amount. I really would have enjoyed a free-roam feature in The Longest Journey after you beat the game). But FFX, and Xenosaga for that matter, was game-on-rails at its worst. You flesh out an interesting, vibrant world, then you strap the player in and zip past 99% of it. THAT is aggravating. It doesn't feel like a game so much as a crazed designers ego-trip. Ie. You're playing the game MY WAY or no way at all.

It doesn't take much to create a sense of freedom, but FFX and Xenosaga both fail misreably at that.
#45 by "Hoe Muffin"
2002-09-11 18:07:28
tanger@boxfrog.com
#42

Interesting thing about sandbox games (I assume like Black and White) is that we create our own goals. Simcity 2000 doesn't have goals per se, but I'm sure everyone has set little milestones. If linearity isn't there, we'll create it ourselves. Or rather, we create goals for ourselves. Which is why linearity isn't the end of the world, if done well :).
#46 by UncleJeet
2002-09-11 18:08:42
m0nty

  I can handle non-linearity just fine.  I just don't really consider what is essentially a /noclip command to be a feature that would provide me with hours of anything.

  Non-linear is fine, as long as the world lives and breathes around me.  The non-mission aspects of GTA3 are a great example of non-linear that works.

  In your context, m0nty, EVERY game is non-linear.  You can always fire up King's Quest 1 and never have King Graham walk off the first screen.  You could get endless hours of enjoyment from making him turn in circles and stand there contemplating something.  It's all very silly, and not much apart from flying around Morrowind with no rhyme nor reason except to oogle the pretty graphics.

  Simcity is great non-linearity.  The city adapts around what you do, but also lives on its own.  If Morrowind had any sort of depth to the world other than pretty graphics and lifeless characters and actions the player takes that have no effect on the world, then running around doing side quests or robbing people or whatnot would be fun.  As it is now, though, the only reason to rob someone is to get a weapon in their house that changes the numbers you play.  It's not alive, it's just math.

  Non-linearity doesn't work when there's no solid illusion of a living, breathing world around your character, in my opinion.

  Rollercoaster Tycoon in non-linear, and it's a hoot!

  It seems to me that some people just can't handle accurate definitions of words, but instead chose to apply their "opinion" as to what a word means, but that is defined as something other than what their "feelings" tell them.  But, I guess that goes back to the inescapable "language is what society makes it" thing.  Bah!

Bah, bah black sheep, have you any wool?[//b]

I'm fighting terrorism by playing violent video games!
#47 by UncleJeet
2002-09-11 18:13:06
Hoe Muffin

  No one is a bigger Mario lover than I am, and I have to say that SMS is very much a linear game.  You must beat all Shadow Marios before beating the final boss - and you can't beat all the shadow marios without going to each world, and you can't get to the shadow mario level in any world without going through each of that world's episodes in order.  Deciding which world to go to when isn't non-linearity - it's simply a choice of which straight line to go down, one at a time.

Let the blue boy play....

I'm fighting terrorism by playing violent video games!
#48 by MCorleone
2002-09-11 18:13:26
In keeping with the original point of the thread, which is an analysis of what is and is not "linear", and not whether "linear suxexxr00xrrs@"!1" or not, I will accept that my scenario one is still "linear" when it comes down to it, simply because yes, there are certain conditions that must be met for the game to "end".  Why I term that scenario "non-linear" is because my hand is not forced in the gameworld to do certain tasks in a certain order and am free to do whatever I please.  

I guess what we're talking about when it comes to games is not linear/non-linear.  It's forced-linear (read: plot progression "on rails") and loosely-linear.

Creativity is just synthesis without the introspection.  - John Carmack
#49 by Max
2002-09-11 18:13:58
http://massivebraincase.org/
I tend to agree with crash - linearity is a prerequisite for gamehood by most definitions.

I also agree with McCorleone in #21 - we're all proving Hugin's point because obviously it means a lot of different things to different people.

Ergo, are you prepared to keep the official PC definitions list, as well as the cliche list?

Since I doubt any of those ladies would fuck you on a double dog dare, I fail to see... wait... just got distracted by my own imagery. -LP
#50 by MCorleone
2002-09-11 18:20:45
Linear.  Not to be confused with the father of virtual reality, Lanier.

Creativity is just synthesis without the introspection.  - John Carmack
C O M M E N T S
Home » Topic: Linear:  A case for the retirement of an adjective.

|«« - Previous Page - Next Page - »»|
P O S T   A   C O M M E N T

You need to be logged in to post a comment here. If you don't have an account yet, you can create one here. Registration is free.
C R A P T A G S
Simple formatting: [b]bold[/b], [i]italic[/i], [u]underline[/u]
Web Links: [url=www.mans.de]Cool Site[/url], [url]www.mans.de[/url]
Email Links: [email=some@email.com]Email me[/email], [email]some@email.com[/email]
Simple formatting: Quoted text: [quote]Yadda yadda[/quote]
Front Page (ATOM) • Submission Bin (2) • ArchivesUsersLoginCreate Account
You are currently not logged in.
There are currently 0 people browsing this site. [Details]