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The best stories in video games are always semi linear. Planescape:Torment, Mask of the Betrayer, Baldur's Gate 2, Witcher 2 etc.

On the other hand non linear stories are at best servisable (Fallouts, Arcanum).Until now at least.

New Vegas and Alpha Protocol are not famous for their stories. Not a flaw, as they had diffirent focus and New Vegas would be a poor Fallout game with a linear story. Fallout 1 is the same. Great game but noone played it for the story.

Yet Josh said in an interview that he would like to try for a nonlinear, find the waterchip approach. If someone can do this, is Obsidian, but until now they haven't managed it.

Your thoughts? What would you prefer for P:E? A story in the vein of Planescape:Torment and Mask of the Betrayer, or more open like Fallout or Arcanum?

Edited by Malekith

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I like both. Sometimes I want to play story-heavy linear games, sometimes I prefer more non-linear. For me they just serve different purposes and can be equally enjoyable. That is not to say that joining those worlds can't be done. It's difficult, but I don't see why it would be impossible in principle. Many promised that, and someone will eventually nail it. CDP comes to mind - they are promising just that (open world + story driven gameplay) in the new Witcher game, and IMHO they are one of the few that could actually do it right.


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I like both. Sometimes I want to play story-heavy linear games, sometimes I prefer more non-linear. For me they just serve different purposes and can be equally enjoyable. That is not to say that joining those worlds can't be done. It's difficult, but I don't see why it would be impossible in principle. Many promised that, and someone will eventually nail it. CDP comes to mind - they are promising just that (open world + story driven gameplay) in the new Witcher game, and IMHO they are one of the few that could actually do it right.

I'm not holding my breath. At best i expect something like New Vegas. Good story, but not something that will get praises in reviews. unless they don't go the nonlinear path all way through. Open world =! nonlinear. BG2 was open world but it was fairly linear in the main plot.

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The core story should probably be linear. Maybe have a choice of scenarios to go through to progress the story. a -> b or c -> d, with the option to go back and do the skipped-over area if you like. Side-quests should be contained quests with little direct relation to the main story.

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I'm all for as a non-linear approach as possible. Well... Maybe not *that* far but yeah, I really want a lot of choice in the story. I would welcome a "Fallout style" approach where the focus is really on the player and who you choose to support.

 

That said, I think it *can* be combined pretty successfully, or more successfully than has been done at least. I think you can combine the sorta... "politicking" approach in Fallout (by that I mean which ideologies you want to support), with the more personal hook that we also know Project Eternity will have.

 

If we, generally speaking, talk about the IE games I by far would prefer them to be more open in terms of their stories. Torment is *sorta* an exception because it's just so different with how much effort was put into the story part of it all, and it's just so enjoyable to me that it works anyways. 

 

But I have a lot of faith that they will strike a good balance.


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I'm pretty sure the storyline gameplay structure has been described to be very similar to the Baldur's Gate games.

 

But it's basically going to be: Prologue chapter > Pseudo Open World, do the main storyline at your leisure.

 

Whether it's closer to BG1 or BG2 we'll see (also kind of depends how you play BG1).

 

when I play BG1 I generally go Prologue > Friendly Arm Inn quests / Beregost quests > Nashkell / Nashkell Mines, and then work my way across the bottom of the map and up, and go to the Bandit's Camp once I've done all the optional sidequests except the Tales of the Sword Coast stuff, which I usually do in Chapter 7.

 

In BG2 you generally do most of the optional sidequests in Chapter 2 and 3, because after that the storyline kinda becomes linear.

 

Might be something worth asking in an interview.

Edited by Sensuki

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The best stories in video games are always semi linear. Planescape:Torment, Mask of the Betrayer, Baldur's Gate 2, Witcher 2 etc.

On the other hand non linear stories are at best servisable (Fallouts, Arcanum).Until now at least.

 

Actually, KotOR 2 had basically the same story as PS:T, and it managed to squeeze in some nonlinearity. Not to mention that Arcanum and FNV had at least as good stories as BG2 or TW2, so I kind of fail to see your point.

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@Malekith

Somebody clearly needs to replay New Vegas. There is nothing preventing non linear stories apart from the writers ability. In the case of Obsidian they have among the best writers in the industry.

 

Honestly the best non-linear story driven game I've played might be the original Wing Commander: Privateer game.

Edited by Bhazor
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Actually, KotOR 2 had basically the same story as PS:T, and it managed to squeeze in some nonlinearity.

I don't know if I agree with what Malekith said, but "semi-linear" is a good definition for KOTOR2 though perhaps it emphasizes linearity to much. You have some room to go through events in different orders and plenty of choices, but there are still chokepoints and a rough summary/outline of the story would be largely the same for most players though the experience is personalized.

 

Taken to an extreme you get stuff like Alpha Protocol, which is very boxed in terms of level design and exploration (it has set "missions" you go through) but thanks to some system design choices and some scripting ~*magic*~ the end result is very personalized depending on the playstyle of the player (well duh). Which, by the way, is why I'm not necessarily sure I'd group it together with New Vegas that takes a sandbox approach, which obviously influenced the way the story was designed and the storytelling tools (plus, y'know, different engine, different expectation, different timeframe etc.).

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Actually, KotOR 2 had basically the same story as PS:T, and it managed to squeeze in some nonlinearity.

I don't know if I agree with what Malekith said, but "semi-linear" is a good definition for KOTOR2 though perhaps it emphasizes linearity to much. You have some room to go through events in different orders and plenty of choices, but there are still chokepoints and a rough summary/outline of the story would be largely the same for most players though the experience is personalized.

 

Taken to an extreme you get stuff like Alpha Protocol, which is very boxed in terms of level design and exploration (it has set "missions" you go through) but thanks to some system design choices and some scripting ~*magic*~ the end result is very personalized depending on the playstyle of the player (well duh). Which, by the way, is why I'm not necessarily sure I'd group it together with New Vegas that takes a sandbox approach, which obviously influenced the way the story was designed and the storytelling tools (plus, y'know, different engine, different expectation, different timeframe etc.).

Oh, i didn't meant that it was similar. I grouped them together simply as games that story was not their primary focus and went for a personalized experience.

The same reason that i put BG2 in the same category with P:T while they are completely difirent. I just meant that if a game focus is to provide the players the means to have their own personalized story, that story won't be as good as a more focused experience like P:T or MotB where the players had choice, but more or less everyone played the same story.

I don't want a JRPG linear story either. Thats what i used the term semi linear. KotOR 2 is another good example for what i mean.

Idealy, i would want a main story same as P:T, but with many unrelated side stories, maybe faction wars etc. unrelated too the main story. MotB and P:T felt linear because except for the main story there was little else to do in the world

Edited by Malekith

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The original poster's premise is a bit weird. Only F:NV out of all Fallouts had distinct sets of missions leading to multiple endings. And Arcanum has a linear story. And Witcher 2 has completely divergent story paths, which is insanely rare in any RPG (of course, the ending is relatively fixed, but that doesn't diminish anything).

 

Of course, making an ideal non-linear RPG basically means making multiple games in one package, which is too much work and therefore money. But hey. we'll still get Witcher 3 and whatever else CD Projekt are making. Probably not in any Kickstarter-based project, especially because of the short development cycles.

Edited by lordgizka
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I am all for flexibility and non-linear stories. Non-linear provide much immersion, yet have one very serious flaw - they create tremendous problems for sequels as devs have to deal with various consequences of player choices. Ambitious projects that started with non-linear gameplay and multiple choices could easilysuffer if devs could not handle player's choices from prequels.

 

Example - Mass Efect 3. With accumulated mass of various choices players made in ME1 and ME2, they promised we would see the consequences and how our choices shaped the world. In the end, absolute majority of decisions were discarded, streamlined, dumbed down and had no impact at all, turning them into an illusion of choice.

 

So if Obsidian is going to create a number of sequels for P:E, then non-linear gameplay can add a lot of complexity. Yet as they are doing it in Unity, they would not face problems cinematic arcade with RPG elements like ME and DA3 face - no expensive cinematics, no voice acting for main character, les motion-capture and so on and so on.

Edited by Cultist

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The original poster's premise is a bit weird. Only F:NV out of all Fallouts had distinct sets of missions leading to multiple endings. And Arcanum has a linear story. And Witcher 2 has completely divergent story paths, which is insanely rare in any RPG (of course, the ending is relatively fixed, but that doesn't diminish anything).

The original Fallout had two goals you needed to accomplish to complete the game (assuming you don't consider becoming a mutie an ending!) and the way you could reach them was completely up to you. There was certainly a preferred, obvious path for starting players, and it wasn't a sprawling story, but it was a lot more linear than arguably every other game cited here in this thread.

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A sequel can be in the same setting and stillhave wildly new characters. You don't have to take in the small events from the last game

or, alternatively, the devs can decide what's cannon and tough **** if you don't like it.


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Your thoughts? What would you prefer for P:E? A story in the vein of Planescape:Torment and Mask of the Betrayer, or more open like Fallout or Arcanum?

I'd like something a little more open than all of the above.

 

Note: But it would depend on the plotline's subject matter itself. Non-linearity is a story-telling method that simply doesn't work well with some plots, but it can work *great* with others. In general, mysteries (murder mysteries; who-done-it's, Secret conspiracies) and personal stories can really shine when they're non linear. Because in those situations the "fate of the world" doesn't hang in the balance, and thus the player can be given the freedom to "find clues" and chip away at the individual entities involved in the plot without the narrative itself forcing the order of the story's "episodes" or even their results. And of course, in a personal story the sky's the limit. the world doesn't need saving, you do, so it should be completely up to the protagonist to fix his own problems (or not) in whatever order he wishes.

 

At the risk of uttering an unspeakable blasphemy, I'd argue that Planescape torment's plotline would have benefitted greatly from a more non-linear approach.

Edited by Stun

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Non-linearity should be easier to implement near the end than near the beginning. So perhaps mostly linear at the start, semi-linear in the mid-game, then a weighted non-linear end game.

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I am all for flexibility and non-linear stories. Non-linear provide much immersion, yet have one very serious flaw - they create tremendous problems for sequels as devs have to deal with various consequences of player choices. Ambitious projects that started with non-linear gameplay and multiple choices could easilysuffer if devs could not handle player's choices from prequels.

 

Example - Mass Efect 3. With accumulated mass of various choices players made in ME1 and ME2, they promised we would see the consequences and how our choices shaped the world. In the end, absolute majority of decisions were discarded, streamlined, dumbed down and had no impact at all, turning them into an illusion of choice.

 

So if Obsidian is going to create a number of sequels for P:E, then non-linear gameplay can add a lot of complexity. Yet as they are doing it in Unity, they would not face problems cinematic arcade with RPG elements like ME and DA3 face - no expensive cinematics, no voice acting for main character, les motion-capture and so on and so on.

 

 

For what it's worth, Mass Effect 3's ending wasn't really caused by the problem of handling the factors and player decisions from the previous two games. It was more of a... lazy design choice. Not that they couldn't have gone farther with things (even though I understand that with full voice-acting and the like, it was already a very expensive endeavor), but they already had a pretty extensive (more so than many other games that try the same thing) branch-handling system that incorporated your playthrough data from the previous games. At the very least, it was quite polished and fluid, even when it sometimes only accounted for superficial, non-impactful variance in your playthrough's story. Really, the problem came at the beginning of the 2nd and 3rd games, as well as the ending of the 1st and 2nd games, where they kind of had to force a "canon" ending/beginning so as not to have 97 different beginnings and endings to write for the latter games. But, the ending of the 3rd game could have been crazily branching.

 

The thing about dynamics and player choice versus linearity is, it's not so much a hallway versus a giant field as much as it is a narrow hallway versus a much broader hallway. When you make a giant open field, you end up with problems like Skyrim and Oblivion faced. There's almost no direction. Everything might be affiliated with everything else, but there's no sense that you're actually dealing with matters at hand rather than simply dealing with matters in stasis.

 

When you go with a widened hallway (or a cone, even), you still have direction. If you build a cone-shaped labyrinth, with multiple exits, then the western-most exit might be 50 miles west of the eastern-most exit, but both exits are still 100 miles north of your starting point. Yet, you still have the chance of dealing with obstacles in various ways, and taking various paths that will never involve ALL of the given obstacles in the labyrinth.

 

Granted, it's a lot easier to make geometric similes about than it is to masterfully achieve in a game's design. :)

Edited by Lephys
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Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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Evoker makes a really good point.  What a lot of people (including me :p) want is a bunch of (or even infinite) games packaged into one, so that my choices literally affect the world I am in.  Sadly, such a thing is not feasible yet.  Not until someone plugs the brains of our favorite writers into a computer and creates an AI that can build story as you play anyways...

 

Baldur's Gate 2 format was pretty good, but perhaps just a bit more open.  The more major cities filled with actual content the better.

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You seem to be mistaking linear game design with linear narrative. Fallout 3 had a linear, railroad narrative. Just because you could accidentally stumble into a later station on the metaphorical rail-line didn't change the route. There was one story with one endgame (the "choices" tacked on at the end were just that; tacked on.) There's no room for player agency in a linear story. If you want a linear story sans player agency, there are plenty of JRPGs out there.

 

Fallout wasn't a game about a strong narrative, it was a game about the world itself more than anything else. Few people would argue that "find the water chip" is an enthralling story hook, but a well-executed nonlinear story can be much better than a railroad surrounded by invisible walls and rubble heaps just as a well-executed linear story can be much better than an open-world nonlinear story. It's not a matter of "x is objectively better than y."

Edited by AGX-17
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I'm perfectly fine with both linearity and non-linearity when it comes to story, but the important thing for me is that I get to create my own character and choose my own adventure even if the story is linear. I also believe that most important thing in good story is verbal quality of dialog and narrative. Otherwise good story can be easily ruined by bad dialog (a common problem with JRPGs, but it's more of a translation and language issue) to a point that it becomes bad story.

 

I agree with OP though on the fact that best stories in RPGs are semi-linear, but I don't think it's because it's impossible to create good story through non-linear narrative. Making something akin to Fallout in terms of linearity with story of PS:T would be hell of a work and probably take years and years. I think the reason why we have simple stories in games like Fallout is just that more complex non-linear story would require so much branching and different paths that it would be too much for developers to handle.

 

I hate JRPG-type exreme linearity though, even if I'd love to see those mechanics to be ported into more non-linear western-style RPG. Kotor did it already and it's not something I'd like to see in P:E. What I'd like to see (in terms of linearity) is something along lines of Baldur's Gate 2, but with C&C (retarded term, I know) of Arcanum and Torment.

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For those of you who played it, what would you consider the storyline of Crusaders of the Dark Savant? (Wizardry 7)

 

Semi-Linear or Non-Linear or something else?

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Non-linearity increases the chance of **** breaking, and seeing as "bug free" isn't exactly Obsidian's strong suit I'd rather they didn't exacerbate the issue.

Edited by Dream

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Obsidian's games reliability has rised significantly during years, especially when they started their own QA team, as DS3 don't have any major bugs (at least I don't know any). So I am quite confident that PE's quality in that department will be at least adequate.

 

Non-linear story is in my opinion better for not specified main character RPGs than linear story as it gives player freedon to roleplay more his/her character.

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Obsidian's games reliability has rised significantly during years, especially when they started their own QA team, as DS3 don't have any major bugs (at least I don't know any). So I am quite confident that PE's quality in that department will be at least adequate.

 

Non-linear story is in my opinion better for not specified main character RPGs than linear story as it gives player freedon to roleplay more his/her character.

DS3 is the only one, but in that case I'd rather have bugs than the ****show of a PC port that game was. Also that game was a great deal more linear than AP and NV which were some of the most bug filled games I'd ever played.

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