A nonlinear gameplay is a gameplay that offers players with challenges that can be completed in a number of different sequences. A more linear game will allow a player with fix sequence of challenges and a less linear game is the one allowing a grater freedom. For example, a non linear game may allow you a choice between paths to victory or in better words permit multiple sequences to finish the game. Some games are released with both linear and non linear elements, and some of the games offers sandbox mode which allows player to explore the game environment independently from main theme of the game.
Most games feature linear storyline, which runs on a fixed plot in a single sequence. A true linear game is the one which doesn’t have a story at all. A truly nonlinear story is the one which completely depends on the actions of players completely. A non linear story is comparatively difficult to design. Non linear stories usually preserve the overall story arc while allowing multiple solutions to a specific challenge, or a choice between multiple challenges. Most of the non linear games come with a dynamic feature for game dramatics, pacing, and difficulty called the Director. The way of directors working is called “Procedural narrative”. Instead of just having a difficulty level which just runs up to a constant level. The director analyzes how the players fared in the game so far, and tries to add subsequent events that would gave them a sense of narration and nonlinear game gameplay.
A world or game level can be linear or non linear as well. In the game with linear levels, there is only one route that the players must use through the level. In the games with nonlinear levels, players might have to revisit locations or choose from multiple paths to finish level. Like other game elements, linear level design is not absolute. While a non linear may offer players the freedom to explore or backtrack there are still fixed sequences of challenges that player must solve in order to progress in the game. Even if a player has to encounter the challenges in a fixed sequence, they must be given the freedom to identify the challenges without having presented one after the other. In a more linear game, in order to finish game player has to finish the levels in the sequence. The ability to choose between levels, skip, and repeat makes game less linear. A sufficiently large and open ended level may be described as open world or sandbox. In a sandbox mode of a game, player may turn off or ignore game objectives. This can give rise to possibilities that were not intended by the game designer.
Non linear games are preferred more compared to linear games as modern day players want to be the part of the game more and more. The feeling of narration gives players feeling of enjoying every corner of the game, as they are unable to do this with traditional linear games. Non linear games also proved to be commercial hits. Some of the famous non linear games are: Assassin’s Creed, Left 4 Dead, Grand Theft Auto franchise, Freelancer, Crackdown, Elder Scrolls series.