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World vs. Story: Is It A Tradeoff?


The Quiet Man
In some cases I guess it could be a tradeoff. If you have to choose between a set character and an avatar then yeah, it looks like it's inevitable that you ultimately end up playing favorites between groups of the audience.

I don't think the same thing applies to nonlinear dungeon progression and open world vs a difficulty curve though. You can just make the game around a set order in which the player could do things, and then sneak in some tools for them to (at least partially) curb it. Like say ways to get items before that set order would deem so that could be more difficult but open up more of the game early. The thing is that set order would have to be communicated clearly, maybe in some diegetic way for people who care about immersion.

Make the story tied into the world. Yes, that means take an approach similar to Dark Souls and other games where the story is driven by item descriptions and snippets of voice/text here and there. Why do it that way? So we get the best of both. Would it require Nintendo doing something different? Yes. Best part is that that method is proven to work already (which is why I brought up DS). It frees up making ridiculous cutscenes and handholding sequences, instead allowing for better combat and gameplay design/enhancements.

I like the Souls style of story because I feel that unlike most "narrative-focused games" it puts the game and what the player does as its first priority, as it should. But Zelda these days doesn't really do that type of story. For one thing there's lots of NPCs and livelier worlds, which is where Majora in particular got the most mileage. I'd just love for NPCs to be more dynamic, which is something Souls games do great too. I do agree with having a story that's mostly about what you do, though.
Sep 21, 2014
I don't think the same thing applies to nonlinear dungeon progression and open world vs a difficulty curve though. You can just make the game around a set order in which the player could do things, and then sneak in some tools for them to (at least partially) curb it. Like say ways to get items before that set order would deem so that could be more difficult but open up more of the game early. The thing is that set order would have to be communicated clearly, maybe in some diegetic way for people who care about immersion.
Ah yes, a fine point. A fine point of discussion indeed.

I think that we've been provided with two games that illustrate nonlinearity, and how it can be done well or poorly. Namely, The Legend of Zelda, and A Link Between Worlds.

Legend of Zelda has a progression they had in mind, but with very few exceptions doesn't actually use it to forcibly limit the player, ignoring the few dungeons that require certain items (which can be easily procured without beating the dungeons in which they are housed). However, many enemies you encounter in later dungeons deal much greater damage, or are easier to kill with certain items. This means that beating earlier dungeons will aid you in conquering later ones, but the player isn't forced into line. In fact, a player could decide that they wanted to make the game as hard as possible by playing later dungeons as early as possible.

A Link Between Worlds, however, went a different route. They made the dungeons accessible almost from the Outset, but failed to scale them appropriately. Each dungeon is arguably as challenging as the last, presenting somewhat different types of challenges each time. An individual player may be naturally more or less proficient with the required skillset for a given dungeon, but there's no in-game mechanic for making later dungeons harder. On the contrary (at least as far as my playthrough was concerned) late-game dungeons became disgracefully easy as I became more powerful but my adversaries did not.

With this in mind, let's discuss the linearity/difficulty discussion. This is one of those instances where I posed an example but didn't clue in that I already had a viewpoint from the get-go, in an attempt to keep the resulting discussion from being biased. I do indeed think there are multiple ways to tackle this without the tug-of-war style skew. One, you of course mentioned, is to have an implied, but not established order to dungeons. The other nascent idea is to have enemies that scale up, or are swapped out for stronger ones, or puzzles whose solution changes slightly depending on the dungeons you've beaten. Not drastic changes, perhaps only one good stumper of a room gets harder. For instance, if the player has defeated a dungeon that required a complicated light puzzle to solve, and they solved it in say... under 4 minutes... then the game's code could infer that linear, logic based problem solving is a forté of the player and swap out a later 'sliding-ice' puzzle for one with a more complicated solution. It requires next to no additional effort to develop, but creates the sense of an escalating difficulty for the player.

However, I'd like to point out that while it's possible to balance nonlinearity and difficulty, nonlinearity and story may still be at odds. Case in point: Ocarina of Time's Water Temple/Shadow Temple. In order to trigger the scene with Sheik in Kakariko, you must first at least partially complete the Water Temple. This is an example of tying dungeon progression and story progression together.


Mad haters lmao
May 26, 2010
Hylian Champion
Metroid Prime did this nearly a decade before Dark Souls was even conceived, and arguably in an even better way....
and other games :^)

In any case, I just want to avoid these cutscenes and get a meatier experience overall. Let the gameplay function as my "cutscenes" (but don't make it fleeting!)


Jun 24, 2014
On one hand, you have people clamoring for things like nonlinear dungeon progression,

Nonlinear dungeons is what the first zelda was sort of like, just not really done well. Monsters one shot you if you walked into a high level. Some levels impossible to do without certain items. It was nice to go to any level you want, but they'd have to figure out how to balence the hardness of levels so that players are not OP and that the dungeon is not impossible to do.

true open world, day, night and even season cycles

I am a sucker for open world so if they can do it I don't mind, but they don't have too. Although I would love to see seasons and day cycles become a norm in games. However not at the cost of content. Zelda games recently have been feeling really short. I beat link between worlds in a weekend of EXTREME CASUAL play. I can't really describe how disappointing that felt to me.

emphasis on building a world to explore

I think this goes back to the first Zelda. You had to explore to find things. People didn't just hand you stuff. If you didn't look you were in trouble. I like the idea of exploring. I always love exploring in games, but many games don't allow you as a player to be curious and discover stuff yourself. Everything now a days is just handed to people in a lot of games.

customizable character appearance/gender

I personally think link should stay a male and they should do something like the WW did (become its own zelda game) with a female character. Say having Zelda as a playable character in another game, or having Farore (the human one that never got her game) rising to the role as the goddess of courage like link rises up as the hero. Give her her own legend and game within the world of Zelda. Stop turning every male character into a female just because and actually make a female protagonist with her own lore and game. Sick of all these females literally relying on the fame of some popular man like some sort of trophy wife seeking attention by hanging onto her rich husband. (looking at you super girl, bat girl, and the I am not a female thor, thor)

I don't mind if they allow him to change clothes, but again, not at the cost of content.

voice acting and cutscenes,

1) I don't think zelda need VA. This game is like a shining symbol for all games that VA is NOT needed to have a good game

2) There are so many memorable characters for me because of the simple noises they made. Most characters actually talking I don't remember.

3) The music is something I like from the franchise. Would hate to have the music reduced to something bland so not to distract from the voices.

4) I'd welcome characters speaking in Hylian sort of how Midna and Fi spoke in a language not understandable. I'd prefer it over Eng and jap VA

5) Speaking Hylian would allow the budget for VA to not be grand as they'd only have to pay one set of VA

6) Speaking Hylian allows for any last min game changes to not need the VA to come in and fix, thus saving time and allowing devs more freedom to tweak the game right down to the last hour

7) I don't mind cut scenes but I am not trying to play a movie. I'd like to explore and you know...PLAY the game instead of watching a bunch movies

8) I'd prefer if all the budget went into content, game play, graphics, healthy meals for the staff working really hard on the project, bonuses so the staff can feed their families, taking risk with the game that should it fail won't leave that department utterly broke, funding a zelda series that features a female protagonist with her own legend, music department, rainy day bucket. Really there are just so many other far more important places that the VA budget could be going to.

9) There is no better VA than the ones in players minds

concretely defined character appearance, relationships

Not sure what you mean here. Impa, Zelda, Link, Twinrova, Gorons, Zora's, Deku's, Ganon, and King of hyrule have appeared a few times in the zelda universe and are familiar faces. Even din, Naryu and Farore have appeared twice. Relationships are generally similar in each. Impa being Zelda's caretaker, zelda the princess, link the hero, Ganon the villain, Goron's being generally friendly, Zora's depending on the kind are either evil or good. Ages had the Zora's state they were different from the ones that atked you so I guess in most cases they are good. Deku's are usually just out to kill you.

I would not say its concrete, but every time you enter the game you have a general idea of who is evil and who isn't.

difficulty curve,

Yes I would like them to make the game harder. I don't want to faceroll through everything. Get my brain working to figure out what to do. People should be buying the cheat book and those who don't should feel happy to have figured everything out.

Link's town of origin

Wasn't that what skyward sword did. They came from the sky. I don't know, maybe people are looking for something else?

So what do people think? Are there some things that pull development too far in one direction or another? Is it possible to do almost everything, have an amazing open world and also a tight narrative at the same time?

There is a saying: If it ain't broke don't fix it. Zelda doesn't need all the VA, & movie cut scenes like every other game. Diversity is a good thing and having games that have those things and don't have those things are nice. Nobody is playing zelda because the VA blew their mind, or that cut scene was so epic.So why does it suddenly need these things? It doesn't. It needs to focus on why people fell in love with the game. The adventure, the overcoming of hardships after dying x amount of times to finally come out on top as the hero of hyrule.

I'd like them to focus on content, game play, game mechanics, maybe a little story and music that won't make me want to tear my ears off. Its all a good game really needs.
May 7, 2015
I'd say the question I'd want to ask is, can you have an open world but still force a main quest to keep the player on track?

It's not an easy thing to do admittedly. One thing that always amused me about RPGs, open or no, is you can have this giant, world ending monster looming overhead, but somehow you always have time for sidequests, minigames, escorting that one dude to the next town, etc. If the game is too open, then it is, as Yahtzee once described, like you can just run off and put pots on the heads of dogs while everything's burning. Or worse, you can inadvertently kill an important quest NPC. If it's too closed, then you get annoyances like timed missable quests, which STILL seem like stupid, trivial things in the face of world-ending monsters. (I'm looking at you, Tales series.) I've seen games attempt to balance it, but I don't think I've ever seen any real success...except maybe in Majora's Mask. (Which handled it very cleverly, IMO.)

The biggest source of exploration in Majora's Mask was people. Sure, there was the usual hidden items and heart pieces and all that, but the meat of it was the timed exploration of the lives of the villagers in a groundhog-day fashion. The time travel was merely a tool with which to enable that exploration. It ensured that there was plenty to do, plenty to discover, nothing was missable, but a certain moon hanging over your head and being forced to reset if you ignore it too long always reminds you of your task. In a weird way, that limitation makes it far more open than most RPGs I've played, including stuff like Skyrim.

On the subject of Link himself, this is where we get into the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" territory. Whether or not Nintendo realizes it (and from a variety of interviews I've seen, they have), they've been defining Link and who he is for years, and yet he is still the "silent protagonist" that the player is supposed to assume the role of.

The best way I can describe it is that it is like being given an improvised role in a play, or having somebody make a D&D character for you. You assume a given role. You don't get to decide what that role is, BUT you get to get in character and act your way through that role, deciding for yourself whether to act it humorously, seriously, etc. Rather than having the guy on screen represent you, you assume the role and become the guy on screen through the controller.

It puts the player in a strangely empathic position. When I first played Ocarina of Time, it never, ever occurred to me that Link didn't speak, because every other character was responding to him, giving hints as to who he was, responding to his hopes and fears, etc. The guy had a life and personality. One simply needed to be open to what it was.

So what happens if we change that?

On one hand, what if Link is more heavily defined than he is now? I'd say it's like being given lines in the play rather than improvisation. Not much would really change about the character himself, but then it becomes the company who gets to decide whether he's a total Tsundere or "Excuuuuuuuuse me, Princess". Japanese have a tendency to "overact" when it comes to stuff like that, and the problem is so many people have it in their heads who Link is, I don't think it would go over well with many.

On the other hand, if Link loses definition, or is replaced by a character creator, we lose the empathic character on the screen. We lose the escape into another person's life and existence. We'd lose the 2nd person, immersive, NPC-based storytelling which is unique among games. The game basically becomes Bethesda material...which is fine out of Bethesda, but not at the expense of an existing, beloved series and character.

The only way Nintendo can avoid both is to keep Link how he has been since Link's Awakening. Give him enough of a character to make us want to assume his role and fight for him, but let the player assume how it plays out. It worked for decades, there's no reason it can't work for decades more. Link is already a very balanced experience that puts a lot of freedom into the player's hands while enforcing a role onto them. To be clear, I don't think Nintendo will significantly change the Link we know. I think they are aware that people love the character himself, otherwise they wouldn't be hanging up new renderings of him in Wal Marts and such. That does not, however, prevent them from introducing new playable characters or companions, and I'm speculating that if there's any truth to the "playable female" rumor, that it'll be Zelda or a new character entirely.

And finally, voice acting. Simply put, the lack of it dates the games terribly and just gives the impression of laziness at this point. Problem is, Japanese VAs tend to overact things. This is simply the style of the culture, and if replicated on the NA side of things, would result in characters sounding like petite little princesses or screaming each other's heads off.

I don't think there's an easy answer, but I think the series will eventually adopt it, whether now or in a future game. We already hear the characters' voices (LBW had everybody recorded saying the word "hey" for example, and Wind Waker had a few small lines), we would just like them to be used for more than occasional grunts. As for Link himself, the answer is easy. Record the usual sound effects, record the answers to any "multiple choice" questions (like Fallout did for example), and that should be balanced enough for everyone.

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