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Replayability & story in an oldschool sidescrolling action/adventure

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If any of you have mistakenly clicked my profile, then you may have seen my Commodore64 projects page and the fact that I've written a sort of action/adventure game series "Metal Warrior" on the C64. Basic premise of these games is that of a metalhead of the near future getting involved with some nasty conspirators and lots of violent combat ensuing. Now, those games have a sort-of open gameworld (that may open up more once you proceed), but you often have to discover the next location you have to go to advance the pretty much linear story. I've been toying with creating an improved & modified re-interpretation of the same story idea, with same basic gameplay mechanics (sideview, alldirectionally scrolling exploration & combat). Whether it's going to be on the C64 or some other platform is irrelevant :) But, this time I'd like to get something more freeform and replayable, while still retaining dramatic story structure (ie. conspiracies & conflict deepen, plot-twists appear) What I've thought of is probably nothing very original, and the list below might not be structured optimally but I'd still be thankful of any comments and suggestions. - Generally plot events would be tied to the player getting to some predetermined location (tried & true method) - Obviously, there would have to be a few major plot events, whose sequence couldn't be altered. These should be kept to an absolute minimum while still maintaining dramatic intensity. In level-design sense, would usually be placed in a chokepoint of some kind. - Then, there would be minor plot events (less important characters/events, optional sidequests etc.) that could be explored out-of-sequence. Also, different routes would be available and perhaps cause different events being triggered. - Order of triggering minor events (or whether they were triggered at all) as well as other decisions/outcomes could affect the further story, even major plot points. Death of an ally never means gameover (evil grin) - Nearing the end of the game, the major plot could fork too. - For depth, there would also be a lot of non-intrusive/optional story material, like emails/logs you could read. - Preferably NPC conversations would also be non-interrupting. But in case of major plot events, there could be obstacles (like a door only the NPC can open) when necessary to prevent player rushing through. Again, kept to a minimum. - Decisions would preferably show through action, not conversation choices or such. Actually the PC could be mute (like Castlevania II, or HL :)) and NPCs would reflect some of the obvious thoughts he might be having instead. - In addition to the "story" mode, there could be "quick action" modes with simple action-oriented objectives. Locations/enemies/allies already seen in story mode could be unlocked here. Idea totally ripped off from Vietcong :) Thoughts?

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