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View Full Version : On Non-Linearity, and its implementation.



Pretentious Old Man.
2nd Jul 2010, 23:24
This thread was inspired by the excellent thread on plot by Graeme, found here (http://forums.eidosgames.com/showthread.php?t=110687), and could be regarded as a logical extension of it.

You see, much has been made of DX3's non-linearity. EM devs and publicists, keen to prove that their game is a Deus Ex game, have continuously told us how much time and love they have poured into this aspect of the game's design.

However, there are different types of linearity. What do we want for this game? Well, we'll see.

The first type is pretty basic. This is what we KNOW (as an absolute minimum) we will have in DX3. Let us assume we have three objectives (call them A, B and C). In this first type of non-linear gameplay experience, we are given the briefing for A first, and find a way to do it. Whether we infilitrate a roof vent, mow down our enemies, or talk our way into, we complete the objective, and then do the same for B and C. This is quite a basic form of non-linearity, and involves a set progression of events, but giving the player massive amounts of freedom to do as s/he wills. This, at least, is in DX3.

However, there is another, deeper type of non-linearity, which we saw in the original DX, which may or may not feature here. I refer to the "choice and consequence" model of story telling, as shown in games like Alpha Protocol and DX1. We shall assume (since we know its in there) that the first type of linearity is included here as well. However, objective points A, B, and C do not HAVE to occur in this type of non-linear game (it can be summarised as "make your own story", albeit in a controlled way). We have many examples of this in the original. Did Paul live or die? Did Jock live or die? Did you believe Maggie Chow, or did you get suspicious and ferret around in her flat, thus skipping you on? Did you defect straight to the NSF, or did you wait till you HAD to? At what point did you kill "bosses" like Gunther, Anna and Walton? (as soon as possible, in my case). There was a huge list.

This meant that, not only did you have some influence on how you handled objectives (stealth, hack, swim, computers...), you also had some influence on what the overall story would be, based on your actions. You could not actually change the main story arc, but major characters and major plot twists could be manipulated at whim. This helped make you feel that it was "your" story, done your way, and not just the developers story with you merely choosing the mode of execution.

I remember, for me, how emotional the scene at Paul's deathbed in the MJ12 lab was. This would not have been nearly as emotional had it not been for the fact that I could have saved him, if I had not chickened and ran away. If the devs just wrote in "oh dear, Paul died", I would not have felt any guilt at all. Same with Jock.

How do you feel about DX3's story? Will it be totally linear, or will it be like DX1's and let you do things, to a point, your way?

Discuss.

Pinky_Powers
3rd Jul 2010, 00:42
Based on the PC Gamer interview with lead Deus Ex writer Mary DeMerle, I've grown very hopeful in regards to the malleability of the story. She seems to really understand her craft.

Let us all hope she does not let us down. :)

Delever
3rd Jul 2010, 09:34
I think I heard something like "linearity with illusion of choice and consequence". That's exactly what first Deus Ex had. I mean, you can't continue to work for UNATCO and you can't avoid prison, but you can influence little things that may appear important to you.

Pretentious Old Man.
3rd Jul 2010, 11:45
I certainly hope that is true.

It's overrated, being able to choose every last vestige of story. Invisible War tried it, and just ended up feeling lifeless, as though not one single group represented morality. Even the Dentons.

JackShandy
3rd Jul 2010, 13:20
I certainly hope that is true.

It's overrated, being able to choose every last vestige of story. Invisible War tried it, and just ended up feeling lifeless, as though not one single group represented morality. Even the Dentons.

But what if next time I have Romeo and Juliet go through the story naked and standing on their hands, would that be way cool, or what?

Pretentious Old Man.
3rd Jul 2010, 14:51
But what if next time I have Romeo and Juliet go through the story naked and standing on their hands, would that be way cool, or what?

...

xsamitt
3rd Jul 2010, 14:56
...

...

Pretentious Old Man.
3rd Jul 2010, 14:58
...

???

:) (c'mon, I'm running out of Final Fantasy Lines)

xsamitt
3rd Jul 2010, 15:02
???

:) (c'mon, I'm running out of Final Fantasy Lines)


It's my silly way of agreeing with you.:nut:

Pretentious Old Man.
3rd Jul 2010, 15:15
It's my silly way of agreeing with you.:nut:

Oh, I see! :group_hug:

pringlepower
3rd Jul 2010, 19:20
Well according to the head writer interview, they're going for the sort of non-linear storyline of Deus Ex 1, in that you're going to have a lot of choices, but some major plot decisions will be out of your control, for the sake of having a stronger plot and more emotional connection (i.e. UNACTO bad, let's leave them).

Pretentious Old Man.
3rd Jul 2010, 19:41
Well according to the head writer interview, they're going for the sort of non-linear storyline of Deus Ex 1, in that you're going to have a lot of choices, but some major plot decisions will be out of your control, for the sake of having a stronger plot and more emotional connection (i.e. UNACTO bad, let's leave them).

Good, good. I just hope we can still get out of boss fights, and use creative ways to solve problems (think Maggie Chow's balcony)

Mindmute
3rd Jul 2010, 19:52
Good, good. I just hope we can still get out of boss fights, and use creative ways to solve problems (think Maggie Chow's balcony)

In the part where you're tasked with taking take of the UC I once brought a metal box with me all the way to right before the part where Maggie Chow confronts you with the Dragon's Tooth. After that I proceeded to baiting her to move towards the stairs, climbed back up to where I had left the box and dropped it on her head...


...It was very satisfying.

Pretentious Old Man.
3rd Jul 2010, 21:13
In the part where you're tasked with taking take of the UC I once brought a metal box with me all the way to right before the part where Maggie Chow confronts you with the Dragon's Tooth. After that I proceeded to baiting her to move towards the stairs, climbed back up to where I had left the box and dropped it on her head...


...It was very satisfying.


Watch this. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Yhky437kqA

Mindmute
3rd Jul 2010, 22:31
Watch this. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Yhky437kqA

You do realise that when my girlfriend asks me why we haven't gone out this weekend is because I'll be playing yet another playthrough of Deus Ex just to do that, right?
It's your fault if I end up single by the end of the week, just saying ;)

Pretentious Old Man.
3rd Jul 2010, 22:39
You do realise that when my girlfriend asks me why we haven't gone out this weekend is because I'll be playing yet another playthrough of Deus Ex just to do that, right?
It's your fault if I end up single by the end of the week, just saying ;)

All part of my epic plan. You will see..... :flowers:

Pinky_Powers
4th Jul 2010, 00:47
After I emerge from the Ocean Labs and Walton Simons confronts me, I could not avoid dying. I tried everything, but he always got the first shot off, and it was almost always a kill shot. And after our conversation he was too close for me to use a GEP rocket without killing myself.

So I came up with the idea of just running past him, and firing my rocket before his AI was triggered to fight back. I miss out on a nice bit of dialog, but take out a Boss with one round. :)

xsamitt
4th Jul 2010, 01:38
After I emerge from the Ocean Labs and Walton Simons confronts me, I could not avoid dying. I tried everything, but he always got the first shot off, and it was almost always a kill shot. And after our conversation he was too close for me to use a GEP rocket without killing myself.

So I came up with the idea of just running past him, and firing my rocket before his AI was triggered to fight back. I miss out on a nice bit of dialog, but take out a Boss with one round. :)

I just ran and ran.....Didn't bother to kill him there.

JackShandy
4th Jul 2010, 02:13
Powered up my Meelee Aug and killed him in one hit with the dragons tooth sword before he actually said anything. It felt really cheap, but I couldn't find any other way - he just killed me in one hit with his plasma thing if I even stuck around to hear him speak.

Pretentious Old Man.
4th Jul 2010, 13:54
I ran past the huge Karkian and greasels, which I bated with a lam, and then made them follow me into Walton. All this with my speed aug on.

xsamitt
4th Jul 2010, 14:18
I ran past the huge Karkian and greasels, which I bated with a lam, and then made them follow me into Walton. All this with my speed aug on.


I just slashed them with my almost allpowerful sword.:D

pringlepower
4th Jul 2010, 19:19
I just slashed them with my almost allpowerful sword.:D

A recoilless sniper rifle repeatedly to the head works.

Which, now that I think about it is a total gamebreaker. Recoilless silenced sniper?

Tverdyj
5th Jul 2010, 00:18
huh

I'm fairly sure I just killed him with my HE Assault Rifle.

either that, or made the barrels next to him blow up.

Graeme
6th Jul 2010, 00:57
Hey there. I've been away and so haven't been on the forums. This a very important topic and as always, it's disappointing to see it move to the back pages so soon while the majority of critique returns to third-person whine-fests. Fortunately that's been limited to only a few new guys for the time being.

Anyway. I agree with your interpretation:

1) Non-linear level design (how to complete the level). Key points:
-multiple paths to cater to different strengths - I've heard talk about how EM wants to make sure that you can always do every pathway, so as not to exclude anyone. I really hope they harden up and make it so previous decisions affect whether or not you can do one path or not...
e.g. whether or not you chose to spend the money on the multi-tool, or got one from Sam Carter instead of the lockpick and took time to search the Hong Kong canals to find one should determine whether or not you are able to access the one route. Similarly...whether or not you chose one aug over another should determine which pathway you can do.
-natural implementation - compare entering the NSF warehouse with entering the Mako facility in IW. First of all, the NSF warehouse was, " Your mission is to destroy the generator" after which you take the train to Hell's Kitchen...have a long, very immersive stroll around Hell's Kitchen in which you saw your UNATCO boys fighting terrorists, went into the free clinic and talked to bums, roughed up a pimp, found a weapons dealer, bought Jock some booze and dealt with hostages in the 'Ton. You talked to the locals and figured out how to get into the warehouse district (numerous paths and combinations of each made this level extraordinary)...whereas Mako was: "Your mission is to get to the Mag Rail" and you're dropped ontop of the building and basically either go left to go in via the rooftops or right to go in via the ground (which 'cleverly' turns into either the front entrance or the back entrance...ohhhh, non-linearity).
-subtlety - Don't show us the secret door behind the pop machine unless we pick the box and bypass the pad (or have a chocolate bar for the kid). Don't say: "Hey, there's a vent in one of these shacks in Battery Park that connects to the ventilation shafts!". I don't want to have it all just laid out for me...so I can pick A, B, or C...I want to DISCOVER A, B and C...then choose one (or a combination) and go for it.

2. Non-linear story
Focus on relationships with other characters - Sandra Renton, Gilbert Renton, Joe Greene, Jock, Jacobsen, Reyes, Anna, Simons...Manderley, Paul Denton, Miguel?, Maggie Chow...uhmmm...you get the idea. Your choices should impact where they pop up or if they continue to pop up at all.
Subtlety - Important here once again. We didn't know what it would mean if Reyes stayed at UNATCO...it was a risk (but we get paid off for it big time later). We didn't know we'd meet Sandra at that gas station, or if we gave Gilbert Renton a tranq gun that she would stay in NYC with her dad. Same goes for most of these encounters.

Tverdyj
6th Jul 2010, 04:00
Hey there. I've been away and so haven't been on the forums. This a very important topic and as always, it's disappointing to see it move to the back pages so soon while the majority of critique returns to third-person whine-fests. Fortunately that's been limited to only a few new guys for the time being.

Anyway. I agree with your interpretation:

1) Non-linear level design (how to complete the level). Key points:
-multiple paths to cater to different strengths - I've heard talk about how EM wants to make sure that you can always do every pathway, so as not to exclude anyone. I really hope they harden up and make it so previous decisions affect whether or not you can do one path or not...
e.g. whether or not you chose to spend the money on the multi-tool, or got one from Sam Carter instead of the lockpick and took time to search the Hong Kong canals to find one should determine whether or not you are able to access the one route. Similarly...whether or not you chose one aug over another should determine which pathway you can do.
-natural implementation - compare entering the NSF warehouse with entering the Mako facility in IW. First of all, the NSF warehouse was, " Your mission is to destroy the generator" after which you take the train to Hell's Kitchen...have a long, very immersive stroll around Hell's Kitchen in which you saw your UNATCO boys fighting terrorists, went into the free clinic and talked to bums, roughed up a pimp, found a weapons dealer, bought Jock some booze and dealt with hostages in the 'Ton. You talked to the locals and figured out how to get into the warehouse district (numerous paths and combinations of each made this level extraordinary)...whereas Mako was: "Your mission is to get to the Mag Rail" and you're dropped ontop of the building and basically either go left to go in via the rooftops or right to go in via the ground (which 'cleverly' turns into either the front entrance or the back entrance...ohhhh, non-linearity).
-subtlety - Don't show us the secret door behind the pop machine unless we pick the box and bypass the pad (or have a chocolate bar for the kid). Don't say: "Hey, there's a vent in one of these shacks in Battery Park that connects to the ventilation shafts!". I don't want to have it all just laid out for me...so I can pick A, B, or C...I want to DISCOVER A, B and C...then choose one (or a combination) and go for it.

2. Non-linear story
Focus on relationships with other characters - Sandra Renton, Gilbert Renton, Joe Greene, Jock, Jacobsen, Reyes, Anna, Simons...Manderley, Paul Denton, Miguel?, Maggie Chow...uhmmm...you get the idea. Your choices should impact where they pop up or if they continue to pop up at all.
Subtlety - Important here once again. We didn't know what it would mean if Reyes stayed at UNATCO...it was a risk (but we get paid off for it big time later). We didn't know we'd meet Sandra at that gas station, or if we gave Gilbert Renton a tranq gun that she would stay in NYC with her dad. Same goes for most of these encounters.

Wait, how could you give him a tranq gun? he always took my pistol, the bastard!

Fluffis
6th Jul 2010, 04:10
or if we gave Gilbert Renton a tranq gun that she would stay in NYC with her dad. Same goes for most of these encounters.

She may stay. It's not a given that she will stay. I think it depends on your earlier interactions with her.

Pinky_Powers
6th Jul 2010, 09:13
She may stay. It's not a given that she will stay. I think it depends on your earlier interactions with her.

She's one stubborn bint, that's for sure. Reminds me of my youngest sister. :)

Daedalus CiarĂ¡n
6th Jul 2010, 12:27
She may stay. It's not a given that she will stay. I think it depends on your earlier interactions with her.

As far as I could tell, if you took down JoJo, she'd leave. But if Papa Renton got in on the action and hit JoJo, even once, then she'd stay. If I remember it correctly, if JC killed JoJo by himself, Sandra would tell her father she wouldn't stay because he had let JC do all the work.

I don't think the previous interactions greatly affected her responses. Unless she didn't show up later if you left her out on the streets and didn't speak to her, but I've never checked that.

Graeme
6th Jul 2010, 16:46
Wait, how could you give him a tranq gun? he always took my pistol, the bastard!

If you have no pistol or stealth pistol in your inventory, you give him the tranq bow instead which KO's Jojo instead of killing him. Sandra decides to stay after that.

Amore
7th Jul 2010, 21:12
Talking of little things, I remember when I told Jaime to get to Hong Kong when he could, even after Alex got to Hong Kong, and Jaime still wasn't there, I got extremely worried and couldn't stop thinking of him.

Did he get executed at UNATCO for being a traitor? Did he get caught in Hong Kong? Where the balls is he?

I kept worrying if he was able to escape or not. When he finally arrived in Hong Kong, I was so friggin relieved, I had told that man to risk his life, he might not have made it. I got really connected to him, but, I always get EXTREMELY emotionally evolved in everything I do. Hell, I've cried before at movies on Comedy Central.

So, even the little things as to whether or not this one character lives, I am VERY concerned with that all by itself

One thing though, that bugged me to the smallest extent, is that all my previous actions in the game really didn't amount to much at the very end, where I simply had to choose from these couple of endings. I'd like it if ALL my actions mattered, and could make a difference on my ending. Although, either way, I was still satisfied that I was able to have all the characters I liked live. I never let an innocent soul die

Ilves
7th Jul 2010, 21:19
I remember, for me, how emotional the scene at Paul's deathbed in the MJ12 lab was. This would not have been nearly as emotional had it not been for the fact that I could have saved him, if I had not chickened and ran away. If the devs just wrote in "oh dear, Paul died", I would not have felt any guilt at all.


I came to DX quite late (2007, was it?) so I knew about how to keep Paul alive from the get go. Only in my latest playthrough this summer I let Paul die for the first time. I can't describe how much depth this event added to the whole experience. :thumb: Indeed, when I came across his body in the labs I was so very genuinly moved. Ain't DX special like that. http://media.ign.com/boardfaces/7.gif

FrankCSIS
7th Jul 2010, 22:01
One thing though, that bugged me to the smallest extent, is that all my previous actions in the game really didn't amount to much at the very end, where I simply had to choose from these couple of endings.

No doubt the ending was a little weak in terms of non-linearity, but keep in mind that most of your actions really had a limited scope on the bigger things. Most of what you did had an impact on one or two person at a time, which is, realistically, what normally happens with our actions. I think it's preferable to see change throughout the game as we go along, than it is to just have one massive epilogue describing "where are they now". Those little changes, they gave the impression that everything was happening logically, fluently, as if your "scenario" was the only possible outcome. It all made sense, and covered all the ground which needed to be adressed with each issues you had approached.

Amore
7th Jul 2010, 22:43
No doubt the ending was a little weak in terms of non-linearity, but keep in mind that most of your actions really had a limited scope on the bigger things. Most of what you did had an impact on one or two person at a time, which is, realistically, what normally happens with our actions. I think it's preferable to see change throughout the game as we go along, than it is to just have one massive epilogue describing "where are they now". Those little changes, they gave the impression that everything was happening logically, fluently, as if your "scenario" was the only possible outcome. It all made sense, and covered all the ground which needed to be adressed with each issues you had approached.

Maybe something of the sort like what Call of Pripyat did? At the end, it had a series of a images with narration, like a slide-show, that explained what all happens after you had beat the game.

So, if you had helped Trapper in the Jupiter area hunt down all the mutants, at the end you'd get a slide explaining how the area of Jupiter was flourishing and having lots of Stalkers coming in and becoming profitable.

If you didn't help him, then it explains how Jupiter becomes one of the most dangerous places in the Zone, and Trapper didn't return from one of his hunting expeditions.

I kinda of liked that ending, didn't have as much of an epic feeling as a cinematic cut scene, but I did feel a sense of accomplishment that all of my efforts throughout the game actually had an impact in the end.