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(re: A question for Ken – Sierra after move to Coarsegold/Oakhurst) Chris, I fully agree about the “critical path” syndrome. This has actually become an issue for me with 3D platformers as well. The most recent great ones like Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando, and Jak II are very linear. The first 3D platformer, Super Mario 64, was open-ended with huge open spaces and was focused on “puzzles” of sorts rather than getting from point A to point B.
Gabriel Knight 3 is linear, but you basically always have the entire game world available to you, so it doesn’t have your “critical path” syndrome.
One of the best open-ended games I’ve played any time recently was Larry Vales 2, an “amateur” free adventure game. When I first downloaded the game I played entranced for a couple of hours, and then realized that I almost believed I was playing a lost Sierra game – a mix of Police Quest and Leisure Suit Larry. It’s that good.