The Linear COD
So. They announced the new call of duty game. Yeah… Seams interesting. Right? I mean its got Kevin spacey as the bad guy! That’s cool. And its got… Um… Explosions? America being invaded… Again. Um, ok the game is another call of duty ass call of duty game. I’ll admit I’m a tad disappointed. They haven’t shown the game and haven’t talked about that single player, apart from the setting and themes. However, I doubt it will be as different like black ops 2 was.
“There are two kinds of COD. The sort of COD that’s Fun, or useless COD. The sort of COD that’s only suffering. I have no patience for useless things.” - frank underwood on the cod series.
It’s a shame really. Having your games story be about pmc’s (private military corporation). The setting alone is ripe for new ideas on how they can design a cod game. It’s something I have been thinking about recently. it brought up some Ideas I had a few years back about non-linear game structures.
For those who are not versed in video games. Most if not all games have a linear structure. When most people think about linearity in games they think of rigid level structure, you have these 10 level and they must be done in this order. This is what most fps game will generally have and I commonly referred to as “corridor shooters”. This is the category that cod generally falls into. However even games that fall into what we typically think of as a nonlinear games, your Skyrim, GTA’s, Dragon Ages, are still linear. You still have a rigid main quest line for you to complete. “Hey, they got them side quest and open worlds!!” Yes, the side quest and open world game design are used to make the feeling game less linear but if you want to finish the game you still have to make your way through the main quest, that remains a rigid line.
Now in my head a game with a non-linear structure is something that can have an arc (E.g. The beginning, middle, and end.) A good example of this is Minecraft the game has a structure that is nonlinear in nature but has a beginning and end (it’s literally called the end). This arc isn’t set to a rigid series of missions you can do any of the tasks to get to the end in whatever order, so, however, you might go about reaching the end another player might have done in a totally different order. A non-linear game structure can be applied in many different ways. if you remember Black Ops 2 they toyed with non-linear game structures. There are some missions you can miss or do out of order, you can even fail missions. It was a nice change to what has become a familiar series of following missions.
Best mission from Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
So if I was to apply a non-linear game structure to a call of duty game it would go something like this. All the missions in between the opening and the end would be chosen by the player. Each of them having an effect on the how the ending of the game turns out. If I was to base this theoretical cod game on pmc’s, it makes sense in the game world to be able to pick and chose the missions you do. it also presents the player difficult choices. so say the player was presented a choice of 2 different missions both taking place in Iraq, ones a peacekeeping mission and the other was an assassination mission and both worth the same amount of money, but as soon as one has been chosen the other one isn’t available any more. Each of these can have a different effect in the in game world and change what missions are available to you afterwards. continuing with this theme of player choice it also the game a variety of missions types. For example, the If the player has done 3 missions in a row of bombastic action they could choose a cover mission, where they have to be sneaky. Or they could just have a mission where they have to peacekeeping in an unstable country, the mission could go off into something bombastic or could be totally uneventful. It gives the player control over the pace of the game, letting them play the game how they would like.
Now these are just some really rudimentary examples. A COD game with the theme of pmc’s offers designers a lot more freedom into how they can create systems and gameplay that can reflect the player themselves not just some bombastic military promotional wank fest all the most recent cod games are. Letting the player chose what they want to do next and by giving that feeling of control of the experience is what lead to games like Skyrim, Mass Effect, GTA 5 and Saints Row, become the giant franchises they are today. This simple Structure change could offer the series the well deserved shot in the arm that modern warfare did way back in 2007.