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Scar

Idea for Non-linear Level progression

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Shadow the Hedgehog.

The one abomination that only a rare few enjoyed. I thought that it actually had quite a nice idea running amidst its veins.

The non-linear story? Fuck that. That just causes a huge mess and is just asking for a mess of plot-holes.

What I'm talking about is non-linear level progression.

For what its worth, Shadow had quite a large variety of stages, all of which were designed to fuel a basic non-linear story. The non-linear story was kind of screwed up because at the end of it all, there was the "true ending" which just made all your work useless. This idea, coupled with a little something from Sonic Colours, gave me an idea.

What if Sonic Games of the future utilised a non-linear level progression system, whilst also maintaining a linear story.

That's Shadow's concept out of the way. Now for the idea Sonic Colours gave me: Multiple goals in each zone. Each zone would have 2 acts. The first act, would have a single goal that gets you to the second act. The Second act would have 2 seperate Goal Posts. Each goal post leads to an entirely different boss, which then leads to an entirely different zone. Having 2 seperate goals means that it would require a large diverse, wide-open level, with many routes. That would allow 1 facet of Sonic games people want to be covered.

The levels continue to branch out like this till the middle of the game, after which they start narrowing down to one zone. That last zone is the where the final boss fight is. This allows there to be a linear story, but non-linear level progression.

If multiple characters are involved, then just have each character go to their own final zone. If necessary, then have a "Secret true final boss" for collecting all the Chaos Emeralds as Sonic. Not necessary, but the option is open.

This would mean that they wouldn't have to have 5 acts per zone just to get enough total gameplay time. Each time you play the whole story, you could find a new combination of zones that lead to the end. This adds replayablility without it being necessary. Have Special stage gates in every zone to provide a reason for making the stages even larger, then add a secret boss fight for Sonic. Gives more reason to replay. Other Characters' Stories are completely optional, so people don't bitch about having to play a someone else just to access the secret final boss, like they did in Sonic Heroes. Its there if you want it.

Here is a dumbed down picture of what I mean:

IdeaforStageconcepts.png

Of course more layers could be added, if the team was feeling creative enough.

The obvious problem is storage. If Sonic stages are to be large and explorable, then they have to be huge, given how fast Sonic is. This I'm sure will mean each stage would be colossal and would take up a lot of memory. So I figure, make use of what you have. Put it on multiple DVD's on Xbox 360 if the need arises, and have the player install it to the hard drive before playing. PS3 users will just have it on a single Blu-Ray.

Edited by Scar

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Having 2 seperate goals means that it would require a large diverse, wide-open level, with many routes. That would allow 1 facet of Sonic games people want to be covered.
The one-goal system they've been using already allows multiple routes, the same as it did back in the Genesis games. And multiple goals doesn't necessarily require significant alternate routes; to be good, yes, it would need them, but if they were lazy with it they could just have one branch somewhere in the level, making the stages about as linear as in every other 3D Sonic. And if they can't or won't do it with one goal, I don't see how having multiple goals would make it any better.

The levels continue to branch out like this till the middle of the game, after which they start narrowing down to one zone. That last zone is the where the final boss fight is. This allows there to be a linear story, but non-linear level progression.
How do we handle the middle, though? Do we have the middle of the story change entirely depending on what path you take, with only the start and end being consistent? Do we have the same cutscenes play out in different locations? Or is the gut of the story so simple that nothing in particular happens?

This would mean that they wouldn't have to have 5 acts per zone just to get enough total gameplay time. Each time you play the whole story, you could find a new combination of zones that lead to the end. This adds replayablility without it being necessary.
Ehh...as far as replay value, that isn't so big an issue, I don't think. The series already has decent gimmicks for post-story playtime, in the form of rankings and collectibles. Besides, why would people want to play just for different paths? Searching out other levels, sure, but what about after they've been found? The 300+(?) paths in ShtH didn't make me want to play it any more (at least, not once we knew for sure there was no reward for getting them all...), and I can't imagine it'd change much if the game was good. And besides, there's only so many times you can play the same exact first level FUCKING WESTOPOLIS I HATE YOU before going just a little mad; it's one thing to choose to play a certain level, but when you're forced to play FUCKING WESTOPOLIS the same level each time you want to explore a different branch...

Put it on multiple DVD's on Xbox 360 if the need arises, and have the player install it to the hard drive before playing. PS3 users will just have it on a single Blu-Ray.
And us Wii owners get left out in the cold, hmm?

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And us Wii owners get left out in the cold, hmm?

I guess you could have it installed to a SD Card for a Wii version.

The whole point of this idea, is that I forsee other people and reveiwers complaining about large levels because there is a slight possibility of getting lost. So if getting lost and straying away from a path, just leads onto another path and a different Goal, then it won't really feel like you've gottan lost.

Besides, seeing as there is no correct way to get to the end, as it all leads to the same endine, people can just leave it and walk away. The problem with Shadow was, the fact that getting all the endings meant you could finally get the true ending. Having it branch out then return as suggested, means that you don't have to complete everything just to get through the whole plot.

The cutscenes would probably work like they did in Colours. Its the same cutscenes but in different locations. Once you beat the game, the cutscenes don't play again, unless you go to the extras and select them.

I dunno it was just an idea. If done well it could be good.

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The problem with ShTH's progression style (well, besides the abolutely ASININE objectives that weren't "get to the goal") is the fact that even though there were multiple level branches you were still going in essentially the same direction. That doesn't really fix anything, that just creates a different kind of linearity. You still start and finish at the exact same location, so taking a different path in between is pretty much for naught isn't it? To demonstrate what non-linear progression should be like, here's a series of text boxes I doodled up in two minutes with MSpaint.

FUCKINGWESTOPOLIS.png

Rather than starting with a mere two paths and flowing in one general direction, the starting point should be surrounded with levels and different ways to get to them. It'd be more or less the equivalent of starting Westopolis in a circle with eight ways out, all leading eventually to a seperate level. Then subsequent levels would have about three exits to the next levels further down the chain, and so forth. If starting in the same level is a problem even with so many ways to complete it, though, I guess you could give the player an ability to choose the starting point and make levels completeable backwards.

Granted, you'd have to make an awful lot of levels to make this work, but considering the sheer amount they've managed in Colours, Unleashed and even ShTH itself, I figure they could make a chain like that big enough to encompass at least a Genesis-length playthrough per path. Even all that said, though, I still have to second the notion of "why the fuck isn't putting multiple paths in the levels themselves enough" - just stating my thoughts on how your idea could be handled.

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@BlackLightning.

The problem with that is, its hard to create a linear story or a definite start or finish. My idea was so that you start at a point and end at a point, but you can get to the end through many different ways. I thought it would be kind of cool to have branching paths not only in the Zones, but with the zones themselves.

There would be no "Correct" way to the end, as it depends on how you play. You can finish the whole story no matter which route you take, and the only reason you look around for other stages is because you want to, not because you have to, just to complete the main story.

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The whole problem with creating a branching idea like this is that they've got their resources spread out enough trying to create a long, satisfyingly interactive linear Sonic game, before factoring in dozens of different paths. In my opinion, as far as branching paths go, something like Super Mario World is most appreciated - if you consider every SMW level to be a Sonic act, then you've got a mostly linear progression through the game, but on a twisted path that makes it seem less linear. You'll play through most of the same acts on each playthrough, with occasional forks in the road that don't last long, secret levels, shortcuts, the odd confusing route on the main map and even different layers of secret worlds (Star Road, Extra World).

But when it all comes back to it, you're still mostly making the same route through the same world and 70/80% of the levels you see on each direct playthrough will be the same, only there's interesting variations on it. The SMW route is definately the way to go.

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The whole idea of non-linear progression in a Sonic game doesn't sound all too appealing to me. Having a simple linear level progression like Gamenerd suggested sounds perfectly well enough. Such a broad method of progression sounds unnecessarily complicated when basic level-to-level progression works perfectly fine on it's own.

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Remember also the only other problem with non-linear progression that encourages multiple playthroughs is difficulty. With a few exceptions, you experienced the entire difficulty curve of Shadow within 6 levels and 1-3 bosses.

The goal rings leading to harder levels would have to be significantly harder to get to in order to have a game with a wide range of difficulty.

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24fmr1h.jpg

Here is the Idea I have in Mind. The Levels could be connected through the current style of gameplay(Unleashed/Colors). Or you can imagine more open areas with it as well.A run from one staring point to an finishing point acts an Level, so there are multiple starting points and goals for one run. Multiple Paths are within the stretch your running in, but the levels would branch off alot more. Basicilly it's like Jak and Daxter where the levels are connected, and have one starting point and a finishing pointing where you end the game.

Check points to warp to other cheackpoints and you can also switch characters. You can play through everything with all characters but paths are more efficiently designed for the recommended character, thus a higher chance for getting a better rank when you play the path with the recommended character. Power-ups give new abilities that open up new paths. Basicilly a MetroidVenia styled game.

Edited by ChikaBoing

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It doesn't look much more confusing than Metroid/Castlevenia map to me,but it's basicilly just an overdrawn priciple lol. I guess it would be better if it didn't had much foucus on power-ups/getting to something you coudn't reach before, since that would mean looking at a map all the time or think where you should go next, and that woudn't be that great for a Sonic game. You could go anywhere to collect Chaos Emeralds but always have clear sense of direction where you can go and just finish up the game. I guess the postion where the eggman base would be should be alot higher on the map so you can't finish the game just like that quickly, and there would be a difficulty range that build the higher you go on the map.

Edited by ChikaBoing

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Shadow the hedgehog had the good example of 3D Free roaming and platforming and explorations.

its just the Free roaming areas were over-large and the missions were some times either boring or frustrating.

but it was a good game, the Gun was a nice gimmick, the Story lines progression is a nice idea that isn't that-well executed.

I Think they should take a look at Free roaming style of shadow the hedgehog and the story line progression and Work on executing that concept better (without missions, just multiple goal rings), I like your idea, TC.

Edited by speedduelist

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You know, you could just simplify it and go the Castlevania: Rondo of Blood route. There was the seven default stages, but there was also a number of optional stages one could enter by finding hidden entrances in the default stages. And then you have hidden fun stuff like rescuing Maria and the three kidnapped women...

Also, that map? Jesus Christ, I'm all for reducing linearity in levels, but I'm pretty sure that's not that I had in mind.

Edited by Masaru Daimon

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