View Full Version : The Linear/Non-Linear Balance

5th Jan 2009, 23:57
Having done some perusing on these forums I found myself a little concerned with the support of having a lot of huge, open, explorable maps. Obviously that's a part of it but lets not push too hard for it; this isn't another GTA game after all.

In DX1, the only maps I would consider as huge, open explorable are:
1. Hell's Kitchen.
2. Hong Kong.
3. Paris (Champs Elysees).

Every other map in that game though it may be big and explorable, is a mission-type map where you have to go from point A to point B to fulfill an objective. Of course choosing how you go from A to B is up to you and always should be in a DX game. These 3 though (HK, HK and Paris) are not like that but rather have more of a GTA feel to them where you can go anywhere at any time and steal zyme here, talk to Jamie there, break into a house and get weapons or rummage through a hostel. That is 100% fine. I love those maps as much as the next person, believe me. My point is that a balance of more linear/mission type maps (not linear in the sense of there's only one way of doing it but linear in the sense of its not a GTA free for all, go anywhere, do anything you want map) as well, there needs to be those non-linear hubs in there.

Personally, I feel like DX1 was mainly 'mission-maps' with Hell's Kitchen, Hong Kong and Paris expertly placed in there to keep a balance. They also all fit in seamlessly with the story.

DX2 on the other hand felt like mainly open, 'GTA-eqsue' maps with mission-maps interspersed which made you feel like you weren't really part of the story. Think about it: Upper Seattle, Lower Seattle, Trier and Cairo made up the bulk of IW and most of the missions occurred in those 'hubs'. I would agree too much non-linearity and too much open, huge, explorable map-ness is a bad thing. The Invisible War guys made it impossible for themselves to have a gripping story when the majority of the game is spent in 'GTA-zones'.

In short, DX1: mission after mission, the odd GTA-zone to spice it up (fits in beautifully). DX2: GTA-zone overload where you did the majority of your running around in those zones with the odd mission to spice it up.


6th Jan 2009, 00:14
I always liked how even in the hub zones you get into major troubles, have fights, discover really cool stuff and it wasn't just somewhere to have a transition between missions. Liberty Island turned from a dangerous place full of armed people trying to kill you, to a hub, seamlessly. That was nice.

6th Jan 2009, 01:31
Yeah, definitely. It was a place where a lot of things could happen that weren't necessarily part of the plot that were still interesting. It didn't feel like a transition zone or a nothing zone when playing DX1 because it fit so well together and it made enough sense for you to be there that you didn't have to wonder 'what the hell am I doing here?' Not that DX2 made you wonder that, just in DX2 the majority of missions (crucial to the plot) took place around these hubs which didn't really work in my opinion.

Fond memories of dance clubs (Hong Kong and Paris), bars (Hell's Kitchen), beating up pimps (Hell's Kitchen), market places (Hong Kong) and of course UNATCO HQ. And personally, I thought the secret MJ12 lab of people conspiring to take over the world in the NYC sewer system was much more interesting than finding out the two coffee shop's were owned by the same company.

6th Jan 2009, 10:48
Like you said, I believe that there must be a balance so that there will be both huge maps for exploring and short linear maps with a specific quest. For example maps like Hong Kong and maps like Liberty Island. (Huge ones must be less that short ones though)
Also it would be nice to visit places where we have been already there, like Hell's Kitchen at DX1 and Medina at DX2 so we can see the differences that our choices made on the place.

Sorry for my English :p

10th Jan 2009, 01:06
I like wide open areas ala Fallout3 with plenty to explore, but such things require an immense amount of input.
Another way would be like FarCry2 with 'randomized' side missions strewn throughout an open land. But even random, these missions always felt bland.
Simplified to a boring 'kill everything' while you grab a briefcase, blowup a truck, or assassinate someone.

My preference would be a mix of the two.
Randomized side missions with plenty of options to pick through.
Assassination, retreval, sabatoge, recon, ambush, etc.
Each main mission would have a small list of extra information/resources. Every side mission you complete grants you one of these extras.
Information is left behind on a body, paper, or terminal.
This info lead you towards another mission or gives you additional information/resources to use in your next main assignment.
They could even tell you more about who you work for or are fighting against (just fun facts).

The thing is to give the random factor plenty to work with.
Alot of initial input can go a long way to make things feel less linear.

10th Jan 2009, 06:00
Good points guys, I hope the devs are thinking along the same lines. :)

10th Jan 2009, 06:30
There was a thread very similar to this one several months ago. Not sure what happened to it though.

In any case, I pretty much agree with what's being said in this thread. No need to repeat the same thing over again. :)

10th Jan 2009, 07:12
One thing to consider if I may, and sorry if it's a repeat from a previous thread. The biggest weakness of a complete open world, as highlighted by Fallout 3, is the lack of coherence in the timeline of events and the sheer randomness of many events.

There were obviously several moments where I came in at the wrong time that destroyed the purpose of those events, and there are moments that made absolutely no sense and yet were presented to me as if they should, and probably would, had I been there in a more orderly fashion.

In comparison, in Fallout 2 you couldn't go just anywhere you wanted, even if it was a form of open world, and yet you weren't limited by silly reasons. The lack of transportation, the dangers of the wasteland, or the sheer distance itself discouraged you from exploring areas before its time, keeping you within relative borders. While you could in theory go anywhere, the narrative also heavily guided you to specific areas depending on events. In Fallout 3, the so-called main quest doesn't prevent you from being distracted countless times by senseless events sometimes awkwardly related, but the world, despite its size, is also too small to stop you from going anywhere, except the ridiculous physical barriers that pop up now and then.

As for DX1, its magic to me came from the concept that while your missions were generally specific the "day" didn't end right after you finished. Casually walking around HQ and having a coffee break after a tactical mission was mind blowing for me, and a true revolution. The idea that you could also either go back to HQ or decide to explore around Hell's Kitchen was just as much impressive and immersing, if not more. I expected other games to pick up on this, and yet they went in a rather different direction that certainly didn't serve the industry. I'm not sure what the logical chain of thoughts was. An open world like GTA is completely pointless because you still feel like you are dragged and forced to go from missions to missions, and the freedom you enjoy has zero purpose. In contrast, exploring NY or going back to HQ both served a purpose and made complete sense in the general narrative.