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Regulus

Are Sonic fans too critical of linearity?

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9 minutes ago, Supt. Gabe said:

I don't think there's really much reason for discussion if you're not really interested in portraying the opposing side in question (those in favor of nonlinear levels) in a neutral light, let alone actually portraying their side of the argument.

I mean you're using Adventure 1 as the only example of a non-linear Sonic game that non-linear fans like, and you've point-blank called it overrated (regardless of you saying you like the game earlier) and made nothing but negative comparisons to other games (Adventure 2, Generations, Lost World). When added with your above remarks making the opposing side of the argument look like they're downright stiff-necked on the topic of linearity in Sonic games in general...from the looks of things, you're purely seeking arguments in agreement of your own viewpoint. In which case, what's the point?

Er, what? No.

I prefer non-linear level design and I like Adventure 1, it's a good game. I am the so-called opposing side in the sense that I prefer non-linear level design in Sonic games. 

I've also never called Adventure 1 overrated (seriously quote me on it). Adventure 1 is misinterpreted as something it's not on the internet, there's a great deal of misinformation and confirmation bias with how its a lot more open than it actually is, but it's overly criticised if anything. It is not overrated. The so-called 'negative comparisons to other games' is merely me saying the levels in Adventure aren't as open-ended and non-linear as the more expansive levels in Generations, Lost World, Heroes e.t.c. I mean, that's not an insult, the whole topic is how linearity isn't necessarily bad!

What I'm talking about, and where I differ from the guys I'm talking about (so-called opposing side), is how many, many, many Sonic fans argue that non-linear level design for a Sonic game is somehow objectively better. They say things like 'the Sonic  stages in Adventure 2 are bad because they are linear', as if that somehow objectively makes the levels worse than Adventure 1, for example (it's the most common comparison). That's what I'm talking about and I want people to discuss. I want people to explain why personal preference is somehow objectively superior. 

I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in people agreeing with me.

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1 hour ago, Regulus said:

I can't help but feel we are getting a little de-railed here. I'm not interested in discussing whether the Sonic fandom whines too much about linearity or whatever else.

I can't speak for the Diogenes or Supt. Gabe but I'll happily refrain from anything else that isn't related to the topic at large from here on out. It was another conversation that would have spiraled into to pointless arguing over misconceptions.

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11 minutes ago, Regulus said:

Er, what? No.

I prefer non-linear level design and I like Adventure 1, it's a good game. I am the so-called opposing side in the sense that I prefer non-linear level design in Sonic games.

If you're on the opposing side that prefers non-linear levels, I really can't say you're doing a good job of speaking in its defense. The side you're supposedly on you just described as "too enamored with non-linear gameplay" and outright saying their preference of non-linear gameplay is "personal bias" in your previous post. There isn't really any distinction made between advocates of non-linear gameplay that do act like that and those who don't --up to this point, you've just referred to these people as a broad group rather than a selective one--"the Sonic fandom", "a lot of fans" "many, many, many Sonic fans". It looks like you're saying the majority of non-linear advocates act this way.

6 minutes ago, Regulus said:

I've also never called Adventure 1 overrated (seriously quote me on it). Adventure 1 is misinterpreted as something it's not on the internet, there's a great deal of misinformation and confirmation bias with how its a lot more open than it actually is, but it's overly criticised if anything. It is not overrated. The so-called 'negative comparisons to other games' is merely me saying the levels in Adventure aren't as open-ended and non-linear as the more expansive levels in Generations, Lost World, Heroes e.t.c. I mean, that's not an insult, the whole topic is how linearity isn't necessarily bad!

Mistake on my part, I was focusing more on this bit:

On 3/18/2016 at 0:24 PM, Regulus said:

I've seen a lot of Sonic fans criticise Sonic Adventure 2's linear level design as if this makes them objectively bad. Not, oh I prefer Adventure 1's more open designs (which I personally think is overblown anyway), but actually say the stages are objectively better.

...but I didn't phrase it correctly. Apologies.

That said, I don't really think this disproves the general notion I was pointing out earlier. You've only cited Adventure 1 as the only Sonic game with "non-linear" levels, and then outright admit you think said levels in the game are overblown anyway. You're not exactly giving the supposed "non-linear" side of the argument the benefit of the doubt here.

Then you talk about how its non-linear approach was done better by three other games--none of which you've actually described as non-linear or linear games. Without the context established beforehand it looks like you're comparing them to "linear" games, and saying that they're better is what I mean by saying its a negative comparison (the topic title is about if Sonic fans are being too critical about linearity--that makes it sound like Sonic games with linear levels are the ones supposedly being put on the spot here).

When all is said and done, it looks like what's supposedly being the target for criticism --"fans in favor of linearity / Sonic games with linear levels"-- actually have the more reasonable/compelling argument than those of the conflicting viewpoint.

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Complaining about linearity in the levels is something I'm unable to do considering the fact that I lack the ability to notice it. I seriously don't even know what to look for when judging it or what the definition of it entails when speaking about the levels.

 Imagine my surprise when I came online and learned it was apparently a big deal. I wonder how the equation of linearity relative to the square root of level construction equates to a bigger percentage of fun. 

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I feel like it should be mentioned that this isn't a black or white issue - just because people may want less linearity foesn't mean they instead want sprawling, directionless Green Hill Paradise-esque madness, and just because people may want level design to stay focused and largely in one direction doesn't mean they instead want endless corridors of featureless boost spam like Unleashed had a habit of devolving into. Can we stop generalizing both sides of the argument like this? To be frank, it's fucking juvenile. Personally I'd rather explore where the limits of both reach - how open can you make a level without getting lost in it? How focused can you make the level design without making it utterly drab and flat? More importantly, how do they interact and work hand in hand?

Personally I'm not much of a level designer so I'm not sure how much clout I have in the matter, but I feel regardless of openness that unless the entire intention is to wander and explore (ie: sandbox game), there should be a clearly defined forward direction to everything you do. In 2D games that's fucking easy because there is literally only one direction to designate as forward, and that's towards the right of the screen like every other platformer, so branches in the path were designed around height instead. 3D gives you a lot more options as to where the branches start and finish, but also a lot more opportunities to inadvertently lose focus and branch off pretty much for the sake of it rather than for any tangible comfort or benefit to the player. It's easy to say these diversions mean little when you never lose sight of the main path, but I feel the reality is that it's actually pretty important that all paths converge on the same place, so as to funnel the player in a direction they can clearly identify as "forward" when it concerns the relation of the level goal to themselves.

When it comes down to the way levels are designed at present, I feel the worst I can say is that current attempts at forks in the level are just... boring. Part of this is because there's no exploitation of mechanics on a higher level to encourage them - getting on top of a loop is exhilarating because there usually isn't a direct path up there so much as a careful calculation of momentum and a well-timed jump, which makes it all the more surprising and rewarding when they put all kinds of goodies atop in acknowledgement that they actually expected people to make it up there, to say nothing of the time you could potentially save by not having to run a full loop squarely in your path. Of the more recent pathing I can think of, there's little to no experimentation involved - usually it's a spring or a zipline or something in a different spot to the usual, and just like the standard level design it has a bad habit of simply carrying you from one spot to the next irregardless of your input. Some of this is down to mechanical differences between games, granted, but it would be nice simply to be able to jump to some place a little out of the way and have it take you on a little journey of its own without losing track of where the level goal is.

Does... any of this even make sense? I kinda just typed it all out on a whim without knowing where I was going with it. >_>

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10 hours ago, Gabe said:

If you're on the opposing side that prefers non-linear levels, I really can't say you're doing a good job of speaking in its defense. The side you're supposedly on you just described as "too enamored with non-linear gameplay" and outright saying their preference of non-linear gameplay is "personal bias" in your previous post. There isn't really any distinction made between advocates of non-linear gameplay that do act like that and those who don't --up to this point, you've just referred to these people as a broad group rather than a selective one--"the Sonic fandom", "a lot of fans" "many, many, many Sonic fans". It looks like you're saying the majority of non-linear advocates act this way.

That's because I believe they do :P . Most fans of Sonic Adventure 1 say something like 'Sonic Adventure is better than Adventure 2 because the levels aren't so linear'. It's not enough to say they personally prefer it, it's that they say that it's somehow objectively better. And it's not like I'm saying this argument is wrong or anything, I just want to know why people feel this way. 

Again, it's not like I dislike Adventure 1 or anything. I like both Adventure games a great deal. I just wouldn't say Adventure 1 somehow has this way more expansive and, especially, objectively superior level design to Adventure 2.

I saw Azoo write something along the lines of 'it suits the spirit of Sonic to be non-linear because his games were non-linear from the outset. That's a pretty interesting argument. I want to see more discussion like this basically. Arguing why it is more befitting for Sonic to be non-linear.

10 hours ago, Gabe said:

When all is said and done, it looks like what's supposedly being the target for criticism --"fans in favor of linearity / Sonic games with linear levels"-- actually have the more reasonable/compelling argument than those of the conflicting viewpoint.

 That isn't the intention. I just want to know why people think linear level design is somehow objectively worse for Sonic somehow. 

8 hours ago, Blacklightning said:

I feel like it should be mentioned that this isn't a black or white issue - just because people may want less linearity foesn't mean they instead want sprawling, directionless Green Hill Paradise-esque madness, and just because people may want level design to stay focused and largely in one direction doesn't mean they instead want endless corridors of featureless boost spam like Unleashed had a habit of devolving into. Can we stop generalizing both sides of the argument like this? To be frank, it's fucking juvenil

Where has this come from :o . Who's being generalised here?

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On 3/18/2016 at 0:08 PM, Hyp3hat said:

You just hit the nail on the head - SA2's levels seem more linear, but they are about the same as SA1. SA1's levels are big open spaces, with huge vistas to run around in, like Emerald Coast, but the path is pretty straightforward. You can't explore in Emerald Coast, there are no 'branching paths', only short cuts to get you to loading zones faster. Red Mountain is probably the closest to true exploration, but it still forces you to get to one platform to go inside. Speed Highway has a couple of shortcuts, but it forces you to that set piece. But the corridors are all in open space, which gives the illusion of non-linearity.

SA2's levels, on the other hand, are far more boxy and corridor like in their presentation. Lots of them are just walking through literal corridors to set pieces, like Pyramid Cave or Crazy Gadget. 

Part of this is probably due to the multi-character thing - lots of the level assets are shared between Sonic/Shadow and a slower, less mobile character, like the mechs, so that may have limited their scope. 

As to whether it's a problem... no? A true non linear level Sonic level looks like Shadow The Hedgehog's ARK sections or something from 06, which is to say, NOT FUN. Loads of games are linear, and given how Sonic's control has changed, it's essentially impossible to make Sonic move at 200mph in a non linear fashion - you'd need to make HUGE levels with no structure.

This is my opinion on the matter as well. The linearity in most of the 3d games isn't bad, nor were the 2D games that open in the first place. "Branching paths" is a lot different from "Open World".

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