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mkallman

Non-linearity, a second look

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I have no idea of whether this is a new concept or not. Given this particular industry, it is probably not. In any case, I am just looking for feedback. Take a typical, "non-linear" story/game. For ease of communication, we will depict the story model as a tree. There is usually the main story (the trunk), and the offshoot stories/plots (branches). Now, in the case of most games, whether or not you can access story branches at any given time, they are often limited, and you must still follow the main story in order to progress the game. I am sure there are more closer-to-the-truth models out there, but this is how many developers define their games to be "non-linear." Reasoning this way, then in my point of view, Diablo II wasn't linear. Which it is. But what if we chose a model where there were several main stories, or "trunks"? Even though these trunks themselves might perhaps be linear (with possibilities of branches, of course, and maybe crisscrossing - interacting with another trunk), on a macro level this would be much closer to something we could at least call emergent non-linearity. Of course, independently of our story-line of choice, there would still be a general direction much the same for them all. It's simply different ways of telling one story, from different perspectives. This would, undoubtedly, mean a lot more of work. But in disregard of that, what is your oppinion on this? Are there already games with this kind of a story model? EDIT What we are looking at here is a system/model to be used in a single player game. I am sorry I forgot to jot that down the first time ^^ [Edited by - mkallman on January 16, 2005 3:18:10 PM]

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all the truley non-liner game i have played feel like im just doing random errans for people for no reason other than a few gp. I would be a intersting game if you had a decent storyline but could feel like you were actually in control of it
I have played a few story games that give you options but there are usally only a few branch points or all the option have the same end result, this is probably becouse as you already stated it would requre exponentially more work

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But what if we chose a model where there were several main stories, or "trunks"? Even though these trunks themselves might perhaps be linear (with possibilities of branches, of course, and maybe crisscrossing - interacting with another trunk), on a macro level this would be much closer to something we could at least call emergent non-linearity. Of course, independently of our story-line of choice, there would still be a general direction much the same for them all. It's simply different ways of telling one story, from different perspectives.


well, take half-life, for instance. they had the original game, and then other versions were made where you ran through the same story from different perspectives (guard, army guy). in that case, you kinda have to pick who you are at the beginning, whether by menu or a more masked "career day" sort of level. chances are this would be the case in most games that were to try this method, since its a little hard to suddenly switch in the middle and still have it make sense.

something like morrowinds houses might work nicely, only incorporate that as a big part of the main quest. there are three different houses, all with their own benefits and weaknesses, all at odds with each other, and all with their own missions (even though there were really only a few missions in that whole game, just different people and places to do them in). at a certain point in the story, you HAVE to choose a house, and that affects the things you do in the rest of the game.

as far as "running errands" for people, you could do something like a mob type element, where you start out doing things for low level thugs, and gain renown, and end up working with the big boys for far better pay. that would give a little more incentive to actually do side missions instead of just killing the guy and taking his stuff to pawn off later (usually that pays better :-D). of course, if you DO kill the guy and take his stuff, maybe the mob puts a hit out on you. and no one wants that.

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I think the next step in multiplayer non-linearity would be to make X version(s) of the same quest. If you are Group2 to do it, some of the changes by Group1 would still be visible.

You took the example of DiabloII, so I'll stick with it. Imagine that you need to kill Diablo in Act4. In order to do that, you need to open 6 gates first. Let's say Group1 didn't succeed in its first attempt. Well, maybe in your "instance" your party would see dead corpses of Group1 with still some gates activated.

Sure DiabloII was more real-time than a normal MMORPG, but if you start with this idea, you can mix it with your mega story tree of doom and it would be some sort of "new" step.

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Nut sure if it's the same as 'tree trunks' or different, but we've been describing _Xenllure_'s plot structure as a tapestry, where there is one strand for each major NPC, the y-axis represents time, and the player can slide throught the tapestry along any direction as long as they are also moving down (forward through time and plot arc). Technically our tapestry should also have all the strands starting together in a big knot at the top to represent the game's single start point.

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Well, what do you want to be different? Another slant on "non-linearity" is that you want the same relative story time location (story(t)) to have different meanings based on the player's actions or inactions. The kinds of differences are really up in the air, but so far the "meaningful choices" we've seen in prior games have included dialogue, mission goals, rewards, and level path. The latter is used very infrequently, and the most notable example that I can think of was Marathon: Rubicon, a mod released several years back.

But I digress. Going back to the story(t) bit, as sunandshadow said, the hope for nonlinear games is that you have several possible storylines woven between eachother. In math terms, story(t) is not a function because story(t)={a, b, c, d} and we can be at one of many locations at that point in time. The catch for being here rather than there, however, is in the choices the players make.

So here's what I think would work best for this: write a series of scenes, that only contain or are concluded by a clearly defined choice. You can run and gun down the stairs, or you can jump out the window to escape. You did or didn't bring back that heavy piece of evidence that proves the duke's sister's treachery. Whatever. Write and design a storyline off of both results, label it appropriately, and put it on the stack.

Your content developers will hate you forever, but you have a nonlinear story. I don't think it's done very frequently commercially for one very simple reason: money.

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Original post by Sta7ic
Your content developers will hate you forever


It doesn't have to work that way. The only major difference duplication of content in our desgn is in the script and possibly the scripted scenes/FMVs; all the settings, models, etc. are the same for all paths through the plot.

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Original post by sunandshadow
Quote:
Original post by Sta7ic
Your content developers will hate you forever


It doesn't have to work that way. The only major difference duplication of content in our desgn is in the script and possibly the scripted scenes/FMVs; all the settings, models, etc. are the same for all paths through the plot.


Granted, it doesn't have to work that way: I'll cop to exagerating. But depending on how drasticly one branch veers from another, you may (or may not) end up with extra stages to set and dress.

mkallman: Don't'cha hate how when you hint "role-playing game" or "story-driven", the unwashed masses immediately think "massively multiplayer"?

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Perhaps that is so. I myself only think of the topic :P In any way, it hardly matters: the only difference would the suggested persistence of, for an example, a Diablo II quest.

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