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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Opening a Time/Space Linearity

For a developer to give their players freedom, they must sacrifice the boons which come associated with a linear game style - cinematic, scripted events such as those seen in and Half Life 2 and Call of Duty - likely to be unseen and difficult to implement in a freeform game. This seems to be the current state of affairs. But do things always have to be this way?
Everything I've heared about Armed Assault sounds amazing. I'm a huge fan of Operation Flashpoint and AA clearly seems to be it's spiritual successor. The gameplay of AA operates on the basis of placing you, the player, as a soldier in an ongoing massive battle fought between two modern armies comprising of combined arms and giving you the freedom to fight how and where you choose. So far, so open. But you are a soldier, and so you are a part of the chain of command, meaning you will have officers posessing the knowledge of the battlefield and demanding that you double-time it over to repel an assault on the crossroads, or to reinforce an attack on a supply base etc... and so rather like the original OF there is also a degree of linearity to the game. As the battle is fought between two relatively balanced foes, the war could swing either way and it will be not just the player's actions but the battles fought by Artificial Intelligence that affects the progression of each game.
This is exactly the kind of game that I'd like to see a lot more of. Games with no pre-determined path laid out by the developers, the possibility for the player to lead their own adventure. I believe there will continue to be a place within this kind of game for those stunning cinematic set pieces mentioned earlier. Perhaps for these to be possible, the emphasis of development time would require a shift away from creating the next generation of ultra realistic water reflection effects, and perhaps will be helped by the demise of E3, and therefore, a lesser degree of necessity to develop a playable tech demo within a certain time frame when the game could be recieving more attention in the mean time. Instead, I suggest a greater understanding of the potential for a player to interfere with the triggering of a scripted event in an open game. Redundancy would need to be coded into every event. Event A is triggered by speaking to Character B, but Player has just brutally garrotted Character B, and so instead Event A is triggered by standing in Area C. I can't imagine this degree of extra coding would be simple and it would certainly be time consuming, but I don't understand how it could not be possible.
I fall in love with an impressive explosion or whisp of realistically rendered smoke plumes as easilly as the next gamer, but I'd sacrifice these essentially superficial pleasures for a better game at the drop of a flak jacket.


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