Main Sliding Scale Of Linearity VS Openness Discussion

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11:41:42 AM Aug 14th 2016
I feel like there should be a "Level 0" bullet, or else add another layer and move everything else down one (so that it's Level 7 is the free-est a game can get), with Level 0 being the game is so linear that you're literally walking through halls and there's very few opportunities to explore.
09:00:51 AM Sep 26th 2012
edited by Aries
I am a bit confused by this. Where would a classic Megaman game fit in the scale? You can play the levels in any possible order from the start, but it is a sidescroller, not a Metroidvania nor a wide-open sandbox.

Kirby Super Star is a game compilation.

And Zelda Skyward Sword is interesting in that you can play many of these levels in multiple orders, but it is still a dense game.
02:10:54 PM Dec 13th 2011
Where would Pokémon fall into this? It's linear plotwise (but always has at least a few minigames, sidequests, and optional battles) but becomes increasingly nonlinear in your strategies as a game goes on in that there's an extreme level of customization in your Pokémon team, which gets higher with each game that comes out. After you finish the game, the region the game is set in becomes a sandbox of sorts, each town providing some things to do like team refinement or minigames, and from Pokémon Gold and Silver and onwards, some new places with a harder difficulty. With the exception of Pokémon Black and White, these regions have a Metroidvania-like structure applied to a turn-based RPG: The player character gets new abilities to use in the overworld, or plot points happen that open up access to another area.
12:02:58 PM Aug 28th 2011
Even though Grand Theft Auto is unexplicitly cited as one of the examples of a level 6 game in the definition of level 6, I honestly think it's a level 5 at most. The games in the GTA series are very plot-driven, while there is a lot of optional faffing about to do in the series they really aren't on the same level of non-linearity as Minecraft, Morrowind, Garry's Mod, etcetera.
02:00:58 AM Feb 21st 2011
I think that the description of and differentiation between the different levels of linearity is really vague and not distinct enough. In fact, I think the lower levels are not extreme enough. For example, Eternal Sonata is being listed as an example of the most linear games, which I think is ridiculous. There are games which are way more linear than Eternal Sonata. (For example, in Eternal Sonata when you are in a town you can go to shops and homes, you can search for things and so on. The game is pretty linear alright, and the freedom of exploration is pretty small, but it exists and I would never say it's an example of the most linear games in existence. Also, there are optional "side tasks", such as collecting musical scores. In a rational classification it should be at least in level 2, if not higher.)

On the other extreme we have Assassin's Creed as an example of level 4, even though it's almost as an open sandbox as you could possibly get (with the exception that new cities "unlock" only after you have advanced enough in the main storyline). This feels like a misclassification. It might not be a completely open sandbox from the start, but it's certainly more open than "slightly above average" (which a 4 in a 1-to-6 scale would be).

If I were to create such a classification, I would say that level 1 is when you have no choice at all where to go next. (It might go to such extremes with some games that you don't even have controls to move, and all movement from one place to the next is automatic.) At level 2 you can actually choose to move, when to move, and have two directions, forward and back, and some room to move sideways (but no branching paths). And so on.
07:02:55 PM Nov 26th 2010
Rgarding Final Fantasy XIII, I don't think there is enough in the game to warrant it being level 2. Level 1 seems more appropriate. The only thing stopping me is the Grand Pulse section. It is an open area at the end of the game that does allow the player to roam freely and complete sidequests (though they're all variations on the same quest). But it is only one are in a game that could in any other case be called an tube.
08:19:15 AM Jul 16th 2010
Some more games for ranking purposes: Risen, Mass Effect 1 & 2, Metro 2033, Bioshock, Crysis, Witcher, Half-Life.
12:14:17 PM Jun 12th 2010
edited by Mman
IMO the levels are currently a bit overwritten to the point where they become fuzzy without reading carefully. I agree with the general degrees but think they need a little editing; here's a simplified draft breakdown that I think would fit better (with parts of the current kept where appropriate):

  • Level 1: Almost literally no chance to go off the main path at all. The closest thing to non-linearity for these games is a minor action along the path that changes the ending or a very short diversion at one or two points. Rail Shooters tend to be the purest examples of this, although some go on the other levels.
  • Level 2: Games here are still very linear but will provide more choice and exploration along the way; for instance you might have a choice of two paths at one point, and there could be frequent small diversions for items and other rewards (and perhaps the occasional slightly longer one). This can also include games with widely divergent routes through them that are extremely linear in themselves.
  • Level 3: Games here can break away from linearity quite a bit. They tend to be akin to very segmented sandboxes; each level only has one real entrance/exit (with maybe a few major exceptions) and either no or minor chances to backtrack between them, but there is a decent amount of choice and exploration potential in each one. Side Quests also start to be a factor from here on.
  • Level 4: This is where things start verging on Wide Open Sandbox. Generally progression is heavily blocked off at first, but once you have access to an area it can be returned to at any point (with generally the whole world being accessible by the end). Games can also fit here if the world is open from the start but you have no reason to go anywhere but where the storyline dictates you must. Most Metroidvanias go here.
  • Level 5: The first true Wide Open Sandbox level. There may be segmentation but it is minor and each area is very large and completely free-roaming in itself (and you can backtrack at any point). This is where side-quests tend to start becoming a large part of the game, and the drive of the main plot usually starts getting de-emphasised.
  • Level 6: The purest Wide Open Sandbox, everything in the world is accessible from the start (the only real blocker being BeefGates) and the main plot is likely to be a very small focus (if it even has a plot). There may be a plethora of Side Quests to keep you busy, or you may just need to make your own fun. Beware of sinking into the Quicksand Box.

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