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While we momentarily stopped our news coverage, the Guido Henkel-led G3 Studios team pushed four new updates out for their Deathfire: Ruins of Nethermore Kickstarter update (15, 16, 17 and 18). There's quite a lot of ground to cover in there, from the suggestion to purchase a pledge as a Christmas gift for someone, to a write-up on non-linear storytelling which I'm going to quote in full:
Non-Linear Gameplay in Stories?
Because we are not creating an open world in (Deathfire: Ruins of Nethermore,) the question often comes up how linear the gameplay of the game will be, and I'd like to take a moment to talk to you about that.
The term linear gameplay is often thrown around all-too quickly, I feel, because it seems to mean different things to different people. For some people it's the mere existence of a story that makes a game linear, for others its a little more complex than that.
I am defining linearity by the number of options the player has to go through the game, and how player actions affect the game as a whole. Many games, even though they are vast in scope, are still linear, in my opinion, because they offer very little gameplay alternatives, channel the player down a particular path and almost inevitably lead him to the same conclusion every time.
That is not what we are trying to do. While our world scope may be more limited, our flexibility will not. If you've ever played any of the (Realms of Arkania) games we made during the 90s, you will remember that these games always provided alternatives to what seemed to be the most obvious choice. Even in combat, the player could try to avoid a battle altogether by attempting to run from one side of the battlefield to the other, without ever engaging the opponent. Try is the operative word here, of course, because the odds were that the monsters had other plans for you. But long before a battle ensued, particularly in events surrounding the story of the game itself, the player had a wide variety of choices leading up to certain confrontations.
(Ruins of Nethermore) will follow in that mold that we defined back then. Depending on the argumentative skills of the party members, situations will arise where the player can avoid combat altogether by talking to the opposing party or by bribing them. Sometimes a simple show of force also known as intimidation may be necessary to get your opponent to back down. It all depends on the moment and the balance between the two groups.
As the story unfolds, some events will be avoidable, while others are not, but it will be important for the player to understand that actions have reactions. Even if you avoid combat, something that is an honorable intention for sure, it can have consequences. Imagine a scenario where the players need access to say, oh, a dungeon. It is guarded and your heroes just bribed the guards to get inside. Dumb as they are, the guards shove off to the next tavern where, in their drunken stupor, they tell everyone about a bunch of fellows throwing their money around while walking into certain death. What do you think should happen next?
Well, in our game, the odds are that a bunch of villagers become very interested in your money and will follow you into the dungeon. Will they become a threat to you?
That once again depends on your party's abilities to pick up distant noises. If your characters can hear them coming, they can prepare themselves, perhaps place traps, perhaps create an ambush or perhaps simply wait for them, stealing their element of surprise as they try to sneak up.
But perhaps they aren't even trying to sneak up. Perhaps these villagers are, in fact, so noisy that they will alarm everyone, including a group of Grim Tarks patrolling the tunnels. They get tangled up in a skirmish and get out alive only because of the helping hand you lent them. What then? Will they still want to steal your money, or will they rather have you for allies? Will you take the survivors on as NPCs? What if it's a facade and the stab you in the back later?
More importantly, however, what about that one guy from their party who got dragged away into a side corridor and is now on his way to being tortured for questioning by the Tark? What if he repeats what the drunken guards told him? That you are on a quest to find the Orb of Fury?
Ahhh, what am I saying? Perhaps you should have just killed those guards, after all.
I think it is easy to see from an example such as this, how even a story-driven game can very quickly become very unpredictable non-linear. In fact, in many ways, it is typically much easier and tempting to create complex situations that interact with each other in a story-driven environment, where every element and plot device hinges upon others - unlike an open world, where most events are entirely unrelated to each other.
It is also the reason, of course, why we provide multiple different endings in the game, each one with different varieties, because the player will have an effect on so many things within the game world and the story, that the story should never lead up to one universal outcome.