Zelda Wiki
    How Non-Linear Should the Next Game Be?
    • Linearity Preference: 29
        Linear (better story/difficulty progression) (5) 17%
        Non-Linear (more freedom) (9) 31%
        Combination: if so, what would this look like? (15) 52%
      So not only did BoTW go for the open world genre, it also flipped from being extremely linear to being entirely non-linear. Allowing people to progress through the game world in any order and way they pleased fit well with the open world design and was a huge improvement to player freedom, which many people have greatly appreciated. However, it came at the expense of being able to tell a good story, which many have criticized, and arguably made it harder to balance the game in terms of difficulty as well.

      Which set of pros and cons do you prefer? Or do you have an approach in mind that is more middle-ground?
    • I don't think my issue is this black-and-white, but an overall interpretive problem of how to design a good game, imo.

      The world itself needs to be non-linear but smaller, more focused on quality not collection/RPG BS. I love open world games but I'm not a big fan of BoTW because it was way too empty and the majority of gameplay was very dumb and boring, like collecting junk, running, slashing and collecting more. More gameplay like MM/TWW's deep quests and story-puzzles with tool items like hookshot and masks, where there's plenty of investigation and exploration, but better stories than before.

      This ideal "combination," as it were, can be achieved as such:
      • Lots of story and story puzzles in this world: But because of non-linearity, they can be lots of shorter, yet very deep and meaningful, region stories, that have to do with Link's narrative/timeline and reintroducing or introducing new side-characters. Nodes of whimsical personality and intriguing scenarios.
      • Please less of this giant-world collection crap and boring RPG gameplay. Focus more on story and quality puzzles in an open world: less of this vast empty/shallow feeling to everything. Less world is more. Bring the real Zelda gameplay back, that is, lore-focused with quality tool-items like hookshot, masks, etc. Great things and puzzles everywhere that mean something to the world and story.
      • Make it a non-linear game with depth, not just "everything is interactive/collectable" BS. Quality events and activities, like how Zelda used to be. Less is more, when it's of superb quality.
      • Bring back the time-travel or seasons mechanic as the main gimmick for everything, that has so much puzzle potential and epic quest potential.
      • The kind of dungeons where the whole overworld is an outside non-linear dungeon, one BIG adventure world (not huge like BoTW), but deep NPC puzzles in there. Like MM/TWW stuff in there. What sorta comes to mind in effect here is the outside gaming of Banjo-Tooie with more gates open that are environment puzzles or deep NPC-puzzles to get around. Plenty of Zelda's mechanical puzzles in the overworld, and deep story-item puzzles we see in MM/TWW, to figure out and help people in the lore.
      • This is how story can become the gameplay.
      • This is best achieved where there are nodes of deep story to find and feel everywhere. And remember, story doesn't mean dialogue necessarily, but for a game itself to also tell the story.
      • Overall, lots of interesting character-focused quests where you're solving re-continued puzzles about them, but that it takes you traveling doing other epic quests, battles, epic dungeon pieces out in the overworld you have to trek past, ie. outside dungeons = the overworld, to finally find and put the pieces you're looking for about these intriguing fantasy characters, how they tie to the big picture of the story/legend, their deeper schedules and secret possibilities and how they connect the story together.
      • It's non-linear world-building at its finest, with great mechanical puzzles and a dungeon-world outside. It really is MM and TWW taken to an epic level.

      What is a Zelda game? My take on it.

      The post was edited 21 times, last by Aeluras CVII ().

    • @Aeluras CVII

      You've got a lot of interesting ideas. I didn't get around to responding to them in the dungeon style thread, but I'd definitely like to here.

      I agree that the key to telling a good non-linear Zelda story would be to focus on region stories and compelling sidequests, both of which found their best execution in MM. One example of this was the Goron section of MM, where it's endless winter until you defeat the Snowhead dungeon and bring back spring, which opens up a number of sidequests that weren't possible before. BotW did have some region story to it, but the only one that was executed decently was Zora's domain; the rest were pretty lackluster.

      As far as the sidequests go, it would be cool if the next game took a page from other non-linear games and allowed for player choice to determine the outcome of some of these quests, so that there are multiple possible endings to some of them. It would also be cool if these choices ended up being reflected in the ending credits, where some of the scenes will be different depending on which sidequests you did/didn't do, and how you decided to do them.

      Like you said, both region stories and sidequests allow storytelling to be through gameplay rather than cinematic exposition, or rigid narrative structure, which should be in line with Nintendo's emphasis on gameplay over story and Aonuma's desire for the player's choices to be the story. If our gameplay actions/choices have a tangible impact on characters and the gameworld, then this is truly be the best marriage of gameplay and story, and is the best way to draw us into the world and make it feel like our actions matter.

      As a sidenote, I also agree that it would be awesome to see the time/seasons mechanics return in a 3-D open world game. That would actually allow for (actually it would require) the overworld to be smaller, as it would entail exploring each area multiple times (in each of its iterations). This would definitely allow for the quality of exploration over quantity as you said. It might be difficult for the dev team to pull off, but if they could do it (and in a reasonable amount of time) this would truly be awesome.

      The post was edited 1 time, last by Zero_Origin ().

    • Yes, yes, yes!
      Truly I love the way you devise some of these essential concepts so accurately. I agree. I should make a note to respond to some of your posts too.

      One other point of interest, is that a region story, with all its dungeon and story puzzles, can be redefined in some parts of the game as not taking place within a specific region, but within a whole overworld--ie. the overworld itself has lots of story to explore and, ie. that particular quest really continues as you explore more of the world, overall making the story feel more epic and centered around you uncovering the world.

      Quests like these should focus on not only high quality time/environment puzzles and mechanical puzzles, but high quality story investigative puzzles. Moreover especially, they should not just be about which items to use, but about truly thinking about which character information to use and leverage in different ways. Because in this way, you're using your peering imagination + critical thinking, and this is how a great story-gameplay is born. This is the making of a new type of MM/TWW game that is more epic than the originals (a real Zelda game for once imo, with still all the deep dungeon themes and lores and battle encounters in there).

      Finally, here's were it gets interesting...

      I think the whole open-world needs to be centered around stories both in some lesser form of lore, ie. atmosphere, but mostly in their greater forms of investigations, questions, feeling deep connections with the NPCs and their lives, deep connections with the current region you're in, and most of all, getting the most joy out of the game when that cutscene finally comes up, because the sentimental/passionate build-up was finally there. Not just pushed constantly like TP/SS, but it's like when you meet Agahnim and then seek out to discover the Master Sword, or a mystical and unexpected scene captures your attention in OoT/MM/TWW. It baffles you because the gameplay-story was always there always, but now scenes are deepening and starting to entrance you like a brilliant short-film. The true trick with making a lot of story in a game, is, it simply needs to be really good, get rid of the bad scenes like George Lucas did, the bad gameplay, and there needs to be silence and music to let it express the interpretation of the story in a deeper fashion than ever before, imo. Like when a cutscene is brief and then continues when you decide to explore that route deeper.

      In Zelda's case, it needs to achieve something more incredibly whimsical, mysterious, and legendary in its story where it needs not to be all dialogue. Part of the legendary mysticism of finding the master sword was that (yes) it was all quiet and atmospheric when it happened, BUT it was tying directly into the story dialogue that just previously happened. You were acting out more of the story in a really epic way! This is so key to a perfect Zelda experience where dialogue and cutscenes don't dominate the exploring but rather, gameplay atmosphere, sound and music, going around the corner to see the next surprise, it fulfills the story. BoTW didn't do this, it didn't fulfill any mind-blowing story with deeper themes of exploration/progression. Instead most everything was loads and loads of contextless areas and junk that weren't designed for engineering a rich story puzzle-progression. The majority of that type of stuff needs to go, and I'll tell you why. Overworld activities need to have some lore or sentimental meaning in a story sequence attached to all of them, even if you don't realize that what you're grabbing has deep meaning until later. This is Zelda mysticism 101, in my eyes. This is how you build a REAL game.

      As you commented, a smaller quality open-world is the key here, rather than a quantity open-world. I've had no problem with the epic feeling of older Zelda games when they came out, they don't need to be so huge and simplistic as I felt BoTW, the large majority of it, was. A new Zelda title is about putting forth an open world much more cerebral and story-oriented. I love the option of multiple choice story continuations or endings.

      What is a Zelda game? My take on it.

      The post was edited 43 times, last by Aeluras CVII ().

      Post by ich Will ().

      This post was deleted by the author themselves: Either I misread the thread title or it changed after I made this post ().
    • @Aeluras CVII

      I'm curious about how you would extend the region quests into the overworld itself, especially from a gameplay perspective. From a story perspective I could definitely see each region quest being tied back in some way to the central antagonist of the game, as a variety of ways in which the bad guy has cursed or otherwise damaged the world and it's people, which Link must rectify/undo. In this sense each region would still be tied in to main storyline/premise of the game, but would still not be so intricately linked that they would require a linear progression/narrative.

      Also, as far as overworld exploration goes, do you think the kind of lore focus and puzzle solving you advocate can be pulled off effectively in an open world and or non-linear environment, especially one where climbing and paragliding may still be featured? The kinds of experiences you are seeking to implement still seem to me like they might be a better fit for a linear structured game, where the dev team knows when you'll be in certain areas and what direction you will be entering that area from, and can therefore more directly craft/tailor the experience.

      Also, it seems like you really want a lot of puzzles in the overworld. Do you still want interior dungeons to show up, or would you really prefer a game where the dungeon gameplay is entirely found in the overworld?

      All this is to say that I find your ideas intriguing, but I'm still wondering about the specifics of how you would like to see them implemented.
    • Non-linear, as they have a far richer gameplay in my book. LoZ, ALttP, ALBW and BotW are among my top Zeldas. I like freedom and variety; being able to decide at any moment whether I want to advance the story, explore around, do sidequests, or solve optional dungeons (such as the shrines in BotW).

      I'm going to be blunt. Linear, overly scripted games like TP, SS or most handheld Zeldas bore me and feel aged. I hate the lack of freedom, and their game world seems to exist just to provide story sequences and little else, making the gameplay feel very restrictive and barebones. Sure, they had occasional sidequests, like the fetch quests in SS, but even those were restricted by story progression, and they didn't make up for the lack of exploration. I also found it ridiculous that after OoT, the games forced you to beat dungeons in a set order despite keeping the "fetch a number of magical artifacts from the dungeons" formula. I was this close to giving up on the series until ALBW happened, I applaud Nintendo for finally bringing back and expanding the freedom and exploration of early non-linear Zeldas.

      The post was edited 1 time, last by Maku Scrub ().

    • Non-Linear is usually the best in my opinion. Take a game like elder scrolls oblivion. Quite old, but lives up to fantastic graphics, nice voice acting, and very good story.

      Why was it goty you may ask? Well, because it was a non-linear game with the ability to do whatever you want. To be honest, I like some linear games but only because the story is nice. Most people dont care about the gameplay, but how well the story was written. For example, each megaman X game has great story, but focuses on the same mixture. Run and gun shoot n' tootin action. Each Megaman X game also has a new story to tell, for instance, in x2, There are new X hunters that have a job to defeat X (If you got the good ending of the game, it doesn't go well for them) and they also have to revive zero. Each game after x1 had 2 endings. Usually a bad ending and good ending. (In x5, If you dont stop Urasia or something or Urasia crashes into earth, thats the bad ending. But if you destroy Urasia, its the good ending, however in x6.. it just messes it up) Some games (Like megaman x6) take the endings and make a very bad omelett out of them. In megaman x6, it takes both of x5's endings and takes little bits from each other (Like how X has zero's saber from the good ending, and Eurasia crashed in the bad ending). Back to the point, linear and non-linear games are still great. A new zelda title thats linear AND non-linear would be a treat to some fans, and a piece of trash to others. I perfer open world, non-linear games (Like elder scrolls) because it allows me to do whatever I want and not get stopped by a main quest.
    • I think it's neat to tackle dungeons in different orders. The items and/or abilities you gain in or from clearing each dungeon can help you in other dungeons, but I like it better when each dungeon is designed around some item or concept. ALBW and BotW both took novel approaches, with ALBW building each dungeon around a particular item which you need to enter the dungeon in the first place and BotW requiring some manner of miniquest to be completed before entering each of the Divine Beasts. ALBW also included treasures in the Lorule dungeons which either upgrade your gear (Blue Tunic, Titan's Mitt, Hylian Shield) or contributed towards an upgrade (the four Rare Ores which are used to upgrade the Master Sword twice), while BotW's Beasts each reward you with a new Champion power upon clearing them.

      I think I'd like a mix of the two; short, sweet, and simple quests that earn you items which you use to enter the dungeons, additional treasures found within the dungeons, and maybe helpful magical powers earned for clearing the dungeons.
    • They need to learn how to reconcile storytelling with open world gameplay eventually if they're gonna keep banking on that style, so I hope they do so. That being said, I gravitate toward the lore and story elements of the franchise and find the concept of "freedom" in games to be grossly overrated and overvalued, so I voted accordingly. I'm not interested in "making my own adventure"- I want the game to take me on an adventure, and deliver the proper context to make me care about the world and its inhabitants in the doing.
      Wither and decay... End this destiny... Break these earthly chains and set the spirit free...
    • What I don't understand is how people keep thinking that linear = better story telling. Honestly the market is saturated with so many open world games that manage to tell a good story (most in a non-linear manner) that you'd think this myth would've disappeared.
      It's a shame to ruin such a beautiful morning by being awake

      -Bill Watterson
    • If the games have to be linear like SS, to actually put effort into the story, and make the story understandable on your first playthough, than so be it. I TRULY had no idea what was going on in the backstory of BOTW due to finding all of the memories in different orders, and only came to understand the story when I watched all of the memories in the right order, which just makes me question why the things were attainable in any order to begin with. Also the "present" story wasn't very good either. It felt very shallow and disconnected.

      Likewise, I'm not a fan of not feeling like I'm progressing through a game and utilizing items I've found elsewhere, so if it has to be more linear to get that feeling back than so be it.
    • More linear, though I would like multiple start options.

      Like, you can start in a town, in jail, in the wildnerness, or even in a dungeon.

      If you start out in town, you get a full tutorial without any hostile enemies to get used to everything.

      If you start off in a dungeon, you get a tutorial with hostile enemies and have to figure some things out.

      If you start out in the wilderness, you get a basics tutorial and have to figure out a lot.

      If you start out in a dungeon, you get no tutorial and are basically on your own. Good luck escaping alive!
    • more linear but keeping the open world.

      It should keep the open world like botw because that was cool, but I really miss classic Zelda dungeons like the forest temple and spirit temple in oot and the dungeons in alttp so here are my thoughts:

      For the first halve of the game, have 3-4 classic dungeons but you can do them in any order you like (keeping the open world)

      And have 1-2 optional divine beast like dungeons.

      Then for the second halve of the game, replace them with new dungeons (3-4 classic and 1-2 divine beast like ones) that continue the story of the first halve and when you have beat all the required dungeons, you can go the final boss.

      But it has to stay open world and you can do the dungeons in any order

      I think botw lost the most important parts of what makes a Zelda game a Zelda game ( real dungeons and a great story)

      The game has to have a real story

      The post was edited 2 times, last by Dragonfart ().

    • I LOVED Botw, but I did feel a bit empty playing it, which is unfortunate because it's such a massive world! I'm entirely obsessed with story when I game. If a game doesn't have a sense of adventure and story, I usually struggle. I think Botw has a really excellent foundation though. It was fun to have a game that allowed you to be innovative, and it was fun exploring, but I want to explore a world that makes me feel like I'm part of something complex and woven.

      So linear, but more story oriented, I suppose. Lol

      The post was edited 1 time, last by Faye Away ().

    • Combination: if so, what would this look like? (9):

      I liked what they did in BotW, with the memory recovery. But I think they can do much more.

      Stories within a region
      They tried this with the Divine Beast quests, where the story in one area didn't influence those in other areas. But it can be much better. A longer quest chain which has you running through the whole area.

      Storylines that don't depend on location
      Imagine Beetle had his own story going on. Whenever you'd meet him in a new place, you'd unravel a new part. This way, it wouldn't matter what area you entered first, because you'd always run into him and start the storyline. This could be implemented for many characters. Or recurring locations like the Stables, where you could get a job and make promotion (just throwing out random ideas).

      An overarcing story where progression can be triggered by multiple things
      So maybe the villain attacks Hyrule Castle halfway the game. That happens when you have completed 5 dungeons. It doesn't matter which dungeons. In BotW, nothing big happened and that was boring. Sure, you had the 'go to Kakariko, go to Hateno, go to the Divine Beasts, go to Hyrule Castle' thing, but it was so barebones. More can be done, more should be done.

      All in all BotW just didn't have a focus on the storytelling. The next game can fix this by having more character dialogue, more storylines, more sidequests and more important things happening while playing (instead of in the past).
      100% | Finished | Now playing:
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    • The core story of saving Hyrule should be simple; pure, wholesome simplicity is one of the series' strengths, as it compliments the spirit of adventure well. But I like when the various NPCs help flesh out the story with their own subplots. Saving the world feels a lot more satisfying when you have a personal connection to the people you're saving, as MM demonstrated. Battle Ganon and save Hyrule? You do that because you're the chosen hero. Help a family get out of poverty? You do that because you're a good person with a kind heart. The little deeds you do on the way to fulfilling your destiny are what really define you as a hero. As they say, it's all about the journey.
    • pj777 wrote:

      What I don't understand is how people keep thinking that linear = better story telling. Honestly the market is saturated with so many open world games that manage to tell a good story (most in a non-linear manner) that you'd think this myth would've disappeared.
      Well, I fundamentally disagree with this. Open-world games with good stories invariably split themselves into the two types of gameplay - RDR2 for example has an extremely open free-roam, coupled with extremely narrow missions, where neither cross over or influence each other.
      It's the same way with BotW even, open air free-roam coupled with relatively restricted story-events and dungeons. It's much better than RDR in having them overlap, but to me that only proves the value of the linearity.