The Linear Design in Dead Space Series

The next Dead Space, has to abandon this design.

A lot of games back in the days have linear design, that’s the thing makes them bad. The problem with a linear designed game, is that players don’t have choices to make other than following what has already been set by the developers.

One particular notorious thing for linear designed and without a consistent plot games is, the Routing Missions.

This kind of missions doesn’t have any meaning, neither do they slow down you on what, since it’s already linear. A routing mission simply means that there is an obstacle blocked in your way, you simply have to follow the direction devs set for you to proceed to the next level. Completely useless to plot. Imagine that your car is driving plainly and suddenly there’s a giant rock got into the middle of road, and, for the progress’s sake, you will have to find another way to proceed. This looks ordinary in a normal sense, but in fact this is where all starts to get dull and stale quickly. And here lies the problem of linear design.

So how do you make the game consistent and connected to the players? In Dead Space series, there’s tons of routing missions happening out of nowhere, sometimes it’s this engine blacked out, sometimes it’s some giant tentacle blocking the way or sometimes you just simply need to go to the left side becoz the middle entry is jammed. If the routing missions don’t lead to anywhere, meaning there’s no actual rewards for this routing mission, then the situation becomes problematic. Some routing missions in DS series would lead players to some puzzle solving scenes, which is another way of rewards, but the number of the missions with total no meaning is just too huge to discuss.

Routing mission is detrimental to game plot itself. A lot of games nowadays praised for its “great plot” have this problem of designing. For example, Spec Ops: The Line, the game itself has a very nice twist at the end of the game, which the reason makes the game so praiseful. But the problem with the game itself, and ever wondering a game that is so “accepted” in public with no sequel announced? is that during middle of the game, there is literally no connection from game to player. Routing missions. Yes again, routing missions. Tons of, without obvious reasons, routing missions designed for you to take a detour and get into some level designs. This is where video game gets boring you know? If it’s your first time to hit and run, you might find it bloodpumping, if you have played too much the type, you’d get bored so quick that you just want to skip it to get to the next plot point.

Routing mission is creating excuse to prolong the gameplay. It’s like a short novel forced to extend to a long novel, and with a good start and good ending, cram nonsense into the middle of content.

Same thing with Dead Space. Fighting necromorph is fun, but fun is fun when times become too much it becomes stale, and boring. It’s simply everytime you using the same tactic to kill a necromorph, and making it harder simply means adding more necromorphs into a battlefield. It’s boring, and mostly it’s in the middle of a routing mission. Completely meaningless and contribute nothing to the plot.

The problem with linear design, is that you need other forms of intel to get you informed of the game’s world. Scattering text document is one way to get players into the world of the game, and it’s a custom for modern games. But the actual information included in these is little, in DS2, there’s only a few documents that pertain to the main plot, others are basically everything you can imagine – “HELP!”; “WE NEED HELP!”; “THIS IS TERRIBLE” etc. Too much, this kind of documents doesn’t do anything to you and the plot per se. And plain stupid if you read carefully.

Linear design doesn’t only show with only this disadvantage, the most defect within the design might still be what stated above – players don’t get to choose. There’s no room for them to go their custom way. I think this is one of the most fabulous thing games, among all entertaining media, can do, being interactive. I think this is the ultimate victorious form, that surpasses any past media.

Linear is dying hard for past few years, meanwhile open-world has been introduced more and more into the games lately published.

I mean, think about Metal Gear Solid series. On an exaggerated level, it’s a movie game, but one thing that so conspicuous about it is that every single main mission is so connecting and consistent for players within. There’s, no sense of stale from it, you won’t feel like you have done the same mission twice, unless you replay, there’s no bullshit routing missions, every mission matters, and each of them is linking to the main plot tightly. It’s a success on linear design. If you can design well like MGS, having a rich plot and giving it the right use.

Dead Space, has a very rich plot, in fact, a very complex deep one.

From my personal experience, whether it’s DS2 or DS3, both didn’t create a consistent horror vibes for me. Because, as long as you get into the combat too much, it’ll consume you, whether it’s being jumpscare or what. Horror, doesn’t mean jumpscare. If you want a shitty jumpscare, welcome to theatres and buy some garbage old thriller films tickets, that’ll do your lust for jumpscare. Being horror, is being scared, having fear, immersing into the vibes that the creepy scary environment provided for you. For me, a vibes that produces suffocating effect is way better than jumpscare. That kind of creepy ass nerves-tingles that constantly bothering you. In an environment like that, you don’t need jumpscare, you will scare yourself to shit even a needle drops.

From a long-term perspective, DS4 definitely needs to abandon series’ linear design, either it’s combining it with more choices provided, or choose fully open world. Otherwise it’s going to be detrimental to the future sales.

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