Author Topic: Article: 21 RPGs that brought something new to the table

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90sgamer

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Article: 21 RPGs that brought something new to the table
« on: June 26, 2015, 09:04:45 AM »
http://gamasutra.com/blogs/FelipePepe/20150625/244262/CRPG_History_Abridged__21_RPGs_that_brought_something_new_to_the_table.php
Cool article raising awareness of the innovations of pre-Xbox generation WRPGs as well indie games. I'm always glad to see the party AI/democracy system of Ishar getting recognition, but it's kind of an eclectic mix: some RPG staples like Wizardry, Ultima, and Might and Magic are mentioned, yet equally innovative and well known RPGs like Planescape: Torment, Pool of Radiance and Darklands are omitted.  

Too bad he didn't give a shout out to the character creation of Realms of Arkania or the NPC system of Magic Candle (you cant enter NPC homes with out knocking on door and asking for the right person first)! Any other 80s/90s CRPGs that innovated features but are now forgotten that you guys can think of?
« Last Edit: June 26, 2015, 09:08:46 AM by 90sgamer »

Annubis

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Re: Article: 21 RPGs that brought something new to the table
« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2015, 10:21:08 AM »
It's a descent article, but it feels like there wasn't any real research involved and that it was made in one afternoon.

There's also one thing in there that's completely wrong =/
Magical Diary (which I do own and quite like) should simply not be there as Deus Ex it did it much earlier (and even then, I'm not sure if Deus Ex would be the originator of this)

Also, I don't get why everyone foams at the mouth about Neo Scavenger.

Nothing about SO1 perfecting real time combat on a 3D field?
Final Fantasy 7 summon animations?

MeshGearFox

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Re: Article: 21 RPGs that brought something new to the table
« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2015, 02:40:33 AM »
Screw Alternate Reality: The City for being on the list. That game's an awful Bard's Tale clone with no goal, and all of the unique features were either partially implemented, not interesting, or stuff the fanbase is imagining that's not even in the game.

And Wizardry 4's pretty widely regarded as the worst one in the series.

And Wizardry 8 wasn't particularly innovative at all

Also Quest for Glory did the thing that Magic Diary does, just in a more limited way.

Quote
Nothing about SO1 perfecting real time combat on a 3D field?

Star Ocean 1 was not 3D and it was barely realtime????

I wouldn't include RoA's chargen because a lot of the stuff you could create wasn't actually used in the game. Like a very good chunk of skills were just there cause they were in the PnP system and the PC games /never checked them/.
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90sgamer

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Re: Article: 21 RPGs that brought something new to the table
« Reply #3 on: June 27, 2015, 08:52:55 AM »
Wiz 4 is too punishing, but that doesnt diminish the fact that playing as the former antagonist is innovative. Wizardry 8 didn't do anything super innovative, but it took party based dungeon crawlers to the third dimension and managed to make one of the best dungeon crawlers&party based RPGs of all time while at it, which is a pretty big feat. But I agree that if the purporse is to raise awareness of the innovations of obscure RPGs, World of Xeen and Wiz 8 don't belong on the list (but like he said, when you're writing to a "mainstream" audience that does not play RPGs beyond Skyrim and FF7, it's hard to know if they're even aware of genre defining games like the Goldbox games or not)

The concept of having negative character traits as well is pretty damn unique in the world of min maxing, though I do know that some obscure RPG had them in the early 80s before RoA, I just cant recall its name right now.
It's a descent article, but it feels like there wasn't any real research involved and that it was made in one afternoon.
That guy is writing a book on CRPG history (it will cover 350+ games IIRC) so he has done his research and knows more about RPGs than most people, but his selection of games might be random
There's also one thing in there that's completely wrong =/
Magical Diary (which I do own and quite like) should simply not be there as Deus Ex it did it much earlier (and even then, I'm not sure if Deus Ex would be the originator of this)
I haven't played Magical Diary, but what does a VN/dungeon crawler have to do with a 3D FPS/RPG hybrid? Btw, how does it compare to Labyrinth of Touhou 2?

Annubis

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Re: Article: 21 RPGs that brought something new to the table
« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2015, 11:25:50 AM »
Star Ocean 1 was not 3D and it was barely realtime????

Well, illusion of...

MeshGearFox

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Re: Article: 21 RPGs that brought something new to the table
« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2015, 04:58:34 PM »


Nooo? (I'm not trying to be /that guy/ I'm just really confused :V)

Also this was about PC RPGs anyway.

- edit -

I get the impression that this guy's research involves a lot of second-hand information gathering and not having actually /played/ these games. Although that's how I feel about a lot of retrospective lists. Admittedly doing so would be a massive time sink so I mean it's not like I'd expect anyone to actually do that buuuuuut

I guesssss that's why I don't really like these lists much. I'm more interested in hearing about someone's personal experience with a game than just reporting on game history.

1. Also if you REALLY want to include Wizardry 4 on the list, technically it's the first game where you summoned up underling demons ala SMT to fight for you. So that's a better reason.

2. Ultima 4 shouldn't be in the runners up section. AFAIK, it was the first CRPG to have lengthyish NPC conversations, a meaningful moral system, and a more experimental storyline. U4 was and still is a pretty BFD (and it's also a solid game that's still quite playable because it avoids a lot of the dumb stuff that most older CRPGs did).

3. As someone that actually does like Ultima 8 a lot (in spite of its wonkiness), it shouldn't be on the list for the reasons that guy mentions -- U8 itself doesn't really make the avatar do anything evil and that's more of a retcon introduced in U9. For instance, U8 does have you murdering a dude, but that's at the dude's behest because he needs you to do it so he can ascend or something. Also the avatar DOES screw something up at one point but that's because he was tricked into doing it so that doesn't really count.

4. Dragon Wars essentially invented New Game+. You could restart the game at any time if you were in an uwinnable situation, and keep your characters' stats. This is nearly identical to what Dragon Quarter did actually.

5. I like Ishar, but the guy's kind of overstating the importance of the NPC 'personality' thing there and I THINK Wasteland did something similar first.


6. Rogue's omission from that list is... peculiar. Rogue is probably the most influential RPG that wasn't Wizardry or Ultima.
« Last Edit: June 27, 2015, 06:03:24 PM by MeshGearFox »
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90sgamer

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Re: Article: 21 RPGs that brought something new to the table
« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2015, 05:36:47 PM »
Why not leave a comment in the article? He responds to all comments. I've checked out his books page and it doesnt seem like his research is wikipedia article reading, even if he isnt as thorough as the CRPG addict (very few RPG fans are). He's got big names like Chris Avellone and Tim Cain on board doing write ups.

I think Rogue's omission is for the fact that people to this day use the term "roguelike", where as "doom clones" disappeared from use eons ago.

Ramza

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Re: Article: 21 RPGs that brought something new to the table
« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2015, 05:56:09 PM »
Elder Scrolls I: Arena isn't in there and desperately needs to be. Stupidly-large randomly-generated fields to create a topography that is (in-game) hundreds or thousands of square miles. Yes, everyone ends up fast-traveling, unless you want to just randomly fight critters and level up along the way. Then you end up in the weirdest of places.

There was nothing like that before it, and I get a strong sense that the only reason it got omitted was (a) the author never played the first game and (b) the author didn't want his list to include something as popular as, say, Morrowind, so no TES.

90sgamer

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Re: Article: 21 RPGs that brought something new to the table
« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2015, 06:51:08 PM »
Actually he wrote another article where told about his experience of giving a talk about RPGs to game design students.
http://gamasutra.com/blogs/FelipePepe/20150211/236041/The_Ministry_of_Hype_The_danger_of_letting_the_gaming_industry_curate_its_own_history.php
Quote
Recently I was asked to give a short lesson about CRPG history in a game design class of about 30 students. I started by asking how many had played Skyrim. All raised their hands. Then I asked how many considered themselves to be really hardcore fans of the Elder Scrolls series. About 60% kept their hands raised. The next question: "how many of you played Oblivion"? Now only 20% still has held their hands high. Only two hands remained in the air when I asked about Morrowind, and none at all when I asked about Daggerfall and Arena.

That was not a casual audience. Those were students of a game design school, people who decided to bet their future on gaming. More than half of them had professed to be "hardcore fans of the Elder Scrolls series", yet not a single one had bothered to learn the origins of the series. I'm not talking about watching obscure foreign documentaries or reading huge and rare books - I'm talking about playing games, at the very least trying them out for like 10 minutes. And free games even! - both Arena and Daggerfall are freely available for download at Bethesda's website.
So I think it's safe to assume that the author has played Arena.
There was nothing like that before it, and I get a strong sense that the only reason it got omitted was (a) the author never played the first game and (b) the author didn't want his list to include something as popular as, say, Morrowind, so no TES.
Fate: Gates of Dawn predates Arena by 3 years. Daggerfall would've been a more interesting pick anyways as it's to this day the hugest RPG ever made, and the most deep and feature rich out of all the Elder Scrolls games. It's nuts to think that Bethesda keeps getting more popular the more features they strip away from their games. "Evolution" of gaming, heh.

« Last Edit: June 27, 2015, 07:14:06 PM by 90sgamer »

MeshGearFox

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Re: Article: 21 RPGs that brought something new to the table
« Reply #9 on: June 27, 2015, 07:44:44 PM »
I would like to say that the crux of my dislike for Daggerfall is ultimately that the random generation method they used to produce the towns and dungeons was quite poor (even when compared to its immediate predecessor).

Essentially it fudges it's scope by repeating content a lot. To my knowledge, there's absolutely nothing at all in the majority of the... however many square miles it is game world, there's about 12 unique dungeons and another 3 unique dungeons worth of dungeon parts, about 52 unique building interiors, maybe three towns worth of building exteriors, and 200ish unique quest scripts (some of which are repeated). It's actually a rather tiny game that uses some smoking mirrors to appear massive -- it's like if FFIII had 200 town, and 190 of them were identical to Narshe.

This is particular problematic with the dungeons, though. iirc there's about five dungeon templates (Tower, dungeon going into a natural cave, and then a few variations on straight-up dungeons) and they work by piecing together dungeon segments a la Phantasy Star Online (and it should be noted that, unlike PSO or Arena, dungeons are not being procedurally generated as you play -- they were procedurally generated during development, and the resultant level structures were stored).

The huge issue with this is that the level geometry is vastly more complex than what PSO or Arena have, so you end up with a lot of familiar dungeon segments (there, again, are quite few unique segments) that never really link up in a coherent or entirely bug-free fashion. They're also needlessly massive (individual dungeons easily get as large as Ultima Underworld in its entirety) and quest targets tend to be in strange places.

But I'm going to ignore that because saying that a game is bad because it has bad level design isn't really interesting, even if it's true (ie, shmup community can waffle on about Sine Mora's mechanics as much as they want, but that game falls apart because the levels are nearly empty and nothing else matters after that. But discussions about mechanics are more interesting).

So'p.

Daggerfall would've been a more interesting pick anyways as it's to this day the hugest RPG ever made, and the most deep and feature rich out of all the Elder Scrolls games. It's nuts to think that Bethesda keeps getting more popular the more features they strip away from their games. "Evolution" of gaming, heh.

With full disclosure that I don't like Bethesda in a general sense and I'm not really saying this in defense of their later works, removing features isn't really the opposite of evolution. You see this a lot in older CRPGs but there are a lot of what I guess you could call boilerplate features -- things that are present out of tradition/roots in tabletop gaming that don't really make sense in a videogame, and tend to get in the way of doing what you want to do anyway (or why you have, for instance, debuffs in Breath of Fire 2 even though they're hardcoded to always fail).

Honestly I think a minimalist approach works better sometimes -- I don't, frankly, think tying an action RPG's attack success chance to dice rolls and skill levels makes much sense. This is a big part of why I find Morrowind so unplayable, and why I think System Shock 2's skill system feels so grafted on (whereas in Deus Ex, the skill levels have a more meaningful, functional impact on what you're doing -- having a high pistol skill steadies the reticule more, but there's never a random miss chance so you can always overcome low stats if you've got good reflexes. This is true albeit to a lesser extent for Gothic -- so it worked for me in that case).

I don't think that embedding sub-system after sub-system into your core game mechanics necessarily improves anything. I'm of the opinion that depth comes from the way a game's mechanics /interact/ with eachother and grafting more /features/ onto a game has a strong tendency to make mechanics that get silo'd off instead of interacting. Which is why you end up with games that have elaborate crafting systems that don't really matter.

But I mean that's true of software design as a whole.

Essentially it's addition by subtraction. What's the /core/ experience you want to deliver? Does a feature enhance that experience? If not, why is it there?

The core experience of TES that resonates with players could be summed up as "immersion," and while there are the hardcore Daggerfall fans out there that would disagree, a lot of the features from Daggerfall that were removed were holdovers from the game's PnP inspirations, that ultimately served to highlight the interface between player and game and disrupt the immersion that the current fanbase seeks from the series.

It's not a case of removing nuance to make something more palatable to the mass market; it's a case of coming up with a more cohesive product by removing inappropriate features. And the cohesion is what grew the fanbase.


<Edited to redact cynicism; introduce malapropisms>.
« Last Edit: June 29, 2015, 01:26:02 AM by MeshGearFox »
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Annubis

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Re: Article: 21 RPGs that brought something new to the table
« Reply #10 on: June 27, 2015, 08:06:55 PM »


Nooo? (I'm not trying to be /that guy/ I'm just really confused :V)

Also this was about PC RPGs anyway.

https://youtu.be/j-406f6Swgg?t=152
In this segment, you have a character using a circular skill around himself and another doing a jump attack. Other examples would be most of the special attacks of the dagger throwing girl.
It's all smoke and mirrors 2D that pretends to be 3D (like Mario Kart) but the illusion and maths were good enough to appear like a 3D battleground with 3D attacks/hitboxes.

And about the other thing: my own mistake for not reading his intro ^^;;

MeshGearFox

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Re: Article: 21 RPGs that brought something new to the table
« Reply #11 on: June 27, 2015, 08:36:48 PM »
Oh, okay. I get what you're saying now. I thought the game was using space differently -- namely I wasn't aware it had jumping and I remembered the movement being more rigidly grid based for some reason (OH SNAP DID I CONFUSE IT WITH LIVE-A-LIVE).

... Man now I feel like giving SO1 a proper go. Why are there so many videogames I can't cope with this distraction 8<
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Ramza

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Re: Article: 21 RPGs that brought something new to the table
« Reply #12 on: July 03, 2015, 12:50:13 PM »
Actually he wrote another article where told about his experience of giving a talk about RPGs to game design students.
http://gamasutra.com/blogs/FelipePepe/20150211/236041/The_Ministry_of_Hype_The_danger_of_letting_the_gaming_industry_curate_its_own_history.php
Quote
Recently I was asked to give a short lesson about CRPG history in a game design class of about 30 students. I started by asking how many had played Skyrim. All raised their hands. Then I asked how many considered themselves to be really hardcore fans of the Elder Scrolls series. About 60% kept their hands raised. The next question: "how many of you played Oblivion"? Now only 20% still has held their hands high. Only two hands remained in the air when I asked about Morrowind, and none at all when I asked about Daggerfall and Arena.

That was not a casual audience. Those were students of a game design school, people who decided to bet their future on gaming. More than half of them had professed to be "hardcore fans of the Elder Scrolls series", yet not a single one had bothered to learn the origins of the series. I'm not talking about watching obscure foreign documentaries or reading huge and rare books - I'm talking about playing games, at the very least trying them out for like 10 minutes. And free games even! - both Arena and Daggerfall are freely available for download at Bethesda's website.
So I think it's safe to assume that the author has played Arena.
There was nothing like that before it, and I get a strong sense that the only reason it got omitted was (a) the author never played the first game and (b) the author didn't want his list to include something as popular as, say, Morrowind, so no TES.
Fate: Gates of Dawn predates Arena by 3 years. Daggerfall would've been a more interesting pick anyways as it's to this day the hugest RPG ever made, and the most deep and feature rich out of all the Elder Scrolls games. It's nuts to think that Bethesda keeps getting more popular the more features they strip away from their games. "Evolution" of gaming, heh.

OK, I was wrong about his knowledge. I'm glad he offered up that story. Well, that's game design schools for ya. "Yeah we're hardcore! We played that one game!"

But if Fate: Gates of Dawn (which I've never played) does the crazy stuff that Arena did, how come that game isn't on the 21 games list either? :P

Is Daggerfall really the most feature-rich? I remember it being the most glitch-rich (if you exclude Battlespire and Redguard). Arena had create wall, break wall, create stairway, etc magic that allowed for crazy navigation of dungeons. Didn't Daggerfall cut some of that?

MeshGearFox

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Re: Article: 21 RPGs that brought something new to the table
« Reply #13 on: July 05, 2015, 01:19:52 AM »
Is Daggerfall really the most feature-rich? I remember it being the most glitch-rich (if you exclude Battlespire and Redguard). Arena had create wall, break wall, create stairway, etc magic that allowed for crazy navigation of dungeons. Didn't Daggerfall cut some of that?

I had a long post detailing why Daggerfall's not that feature rich until I removed it and went with something more meta, but basically from a raw numbers perspective, Daggerfalls has a lot of features, especially with regards to char and action reputation, but a lot of them just don't work right (the boat, language skills), force the player to grind a lot (the way reputation works), or just offer essentially pointless options (you can tweak a lot with enchantments but it's kind of pointless).

http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Daggerfall:Daggerfall goes into more depth about the mechanics.

Anyway the particular flavor of open-world RPG gameplay that TES uses is pretty much what Might and Magic came up with well before TES, the key difference being that the M&M games are a lot smaller than Arena/Daggerfall but as I said, that doesn't really count because Daggerfall just repeats/copy-pastes a small amount of unique content over and over again to LOOK big.

Now, I DO think that Daggerfall was the first RPG that used a true 3D, room-over-room engine. iirc Ultima Underworld was still doing the Doom thing, where you had 2D maps that got extruded up. So arguably if you want to put it on the list, that'd be a better reason.
« Last Edit: July 05, 2015, 01:33:09 AM by MeshGearFox »
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90sgamer

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Re: Article: 21 RPGs that brought something new to the table
« Reply #14 on: August 03, 2015, 06:01:44 AM »
Part 2. Yet another eclectic mix, with notable games like Arcanum and Might&Magic thrown in. Magic Candle gets a shout out this time! I don't think that Superhero League of Hoboken or Gorky 17 are anything special or that novel though.
http://gamasutra.com/blogs/FelipePepe/20150723/235190/CRPG_History_Abridged_II__12_more_RPGs_that_brought_something_new_to_the_table.php