Gee whiz, I sure wish I had a picture to put that applied here.
You've probably all heard the rev rant about nonlinearity, and how most sandbox games claiming to be nonlinear really just make you run around with nothing special happening. Now, I do enjoy tromping around a city via car or foot or special power, but there is really nothing rewarding about it. The only real way to advance a storyline is to do the missions given out to you by certain characters on the map, with what you do in between meaning virtually nothing, except perhaps leveling up your character, or finding a new car.
The nonlinearity only comes in during small missions, if that. Sure, you could try several fancy ways of killing someone in a mission, but at the end of the mission, he's still dead, and you get the same reward nonetheless. Nonlinearity needs to be applied to the overall game, not in small chunks of nonlinear possibility that really make no difference to the overall experience.
A game like Oblivion, for example, shows what is wrong with the current way we deal with open world gameplay. The first time I played it and arrived in the city, I unknowingly stole something, and after one thing led to another, I had all the guards on my tail, and I ended up roaming the countryside, looking for NPCs to kill. Needless to say, it was rather fun, but even when I killed most NPCs, they got back up as if nothing was wrong. It was as if the game was saying " well, since you aren't playing the game the way we intended you to play it, we're going to assume you aren't serious about it.
If this game had large scale nonlinearity, my mass murderings would have affected something, anything.
But no, the NPCs still talked to me the same way, and in the end, nothing was accomplished. Open world games need to stop being so focused on getting the player to do one thing and one thing only, and instead just place the setting around them, and let the player do with it what he will, and then have the game react accordingly. Games with so called 'moral choice' or games that have multiple endings or decisions need to stop having the decisions be made via a text decision in a cutscene, and be more subtle, allowing physical actions taken in game slightly alter the environment, having the NPCs react differently to the character, and show the player that what he has done in game has made a difference. If Oblivion did this well, I could have had bounty hunters after my head, or perhaps the ability to recruit henchmen of some kind, but no.
In conclusion, this sort of thing needs to be applied better to story and setting driven games like RPGs and Adventure games more, if people really want to have a game that plays like a sandbox game but actually feels rewarding or important.
This is my first article, so it probably wasn't very good. Ah well. read