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Author Topic: "All Games becoming RPGs" Topic  (Read 3366 times)
Prime Mover
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« on: September 14, 2009, 04:17:01 PM »

Hello, I'm writing this in response to Mark Tjan's article on games borrowing RPG elements. My first thought is that all genres are borrowing from all other genres at this point. There's really nothing different about RPGs in all of this. In fact, there's probably no better example of this than the fusion of platformers and adventure games. The platforming genre used to be very straightforward, it would largely consist of having a character running along, jumping or otherwise getting from one suspended platform to another. They usually had little plot and had individual, thematically based levels. Some had shooter aspects (MegaMan, Contra, etc). Starting with the late SNES and early PS1/N64, though, they started to borrow heavily from the Action/Adventure Game genre, containing large navigational puzzles, interconnected worlds/levels, non-linearity. Similarly, to appeal to larger audiences, adventure games started taking on more action/platformer elements. Needless to say, Mario and Zelda started becoming more and more similar. Now... there really is no such thing as a platformer that cannot also be defined as an adventure game, except for the most basic of handheld games. RPGs have also borrowed heavilly from the Action/Adventure genre. Since, really, all an RPG is is an AA game with menu-driven combat and mathmatical stats instead of graphical representations (hearts for HP, progress bar for magic, etc). But some RPGs have real-time combat, and some graphic adventures use mathmatical stats... So where one genre ends and the other begins is pretty silly to debate.

The reality is that the vast majority of video games these days could be considered adventures. FPSs, Brawlers, RPGs, Platformers... you name it. There are a few genres that clearly are not adventures: sports games, arcade games, sims, or RTS/TBSs. That reminds me, one subgenre of RPGs that clearly isn't an adventure game is the sRPG or tRPG, since it plays out more like a TBS, and doesn't usually have the character wondering around dungeons and countryside.

So, itís not that I disagree with the premise that a lot of games are taking cues from RPGs, but I think more commonly, theyíre integrating Action/Adventure elements into games that commonly are also associated with RPGs. The lines are becoming so incredibly blurred that itís really impossible to determine these days. I donít really see a lot of fundamental RPG elements becoming integrated that arenít also Action/Adventure elements, however.
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wayens
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« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2009, 06:25:23 PM »

http://www.rpgfan.com/news/2009/450.html

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Considering the statistical and adventurous nature of RPGs, I think there will always be games with a distinct combo such as those.  Even with Fallout 3's FPS style presentation there was still so much story and stats that one can't confuse it to be just an FPS.  Half-Life for all the series later cinematic feel was still very much an FPS with its mechanics.  For all Super Mario Galaxy had in additional story scenes, it was still very much a level-by-level platformer with life bars to boot.  Zelda, on the other hand, will always be an adventure game by keeping its complexity simple in always providing button shortcuts to the various weapons and items you'd have onhand and no real stats beyond the standard heart life bar and ammo count.

I do agree with Prime Mover that games are integrating the RPG elements more out of making adventures than to truly incorporate the elements themselves.  The need to be more immersed in the virtual world is what many game makers and gamers strive for.  The surge in MMOs is a big step towards player-determined world adventures.  But other games as a whole also look to grab the players' attention more by giving them a role to play and not just providing a means to stack points.  Look at Henry Hatsworth and the Puzzle Quest series and you know that no genre's exempt. ;p  So it's not so much "RPG in some sense" but captivating all senses.  And RPGs have some key ingredients to contribute to making a heightened experience.

RPGs will always sport a distinctive style that may have elements borrowed but I don't think any specific genre will die out nor would RPGs become truly predominant.  Cross-pollination will always happen.  Hybrids might grow.  But the flowers themselves will still maintain their own unique traits.
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MeshGearFox
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« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2009, 06:56:51 PM »

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That reminds me, one subgenre of RPGs that clearly isn't an adventure game is the sRPG or tRPG, since it plays out more like a TBS, and doesn't usually have the character wondering around dungeons and countryside.

Not entirely. There are exceptions, notably Arc the Lad 2, and Grownlaser 2 and 3 in some marginal sense because, while ultimately battle oriented, they had a higher degree of adventurismo to them. Sort of.

Also there's the King's Bounty-styled SRPG (HoMM, Disciples, Lords of Magic, etc.).

Anyway, RPG's have always been sort of nebulously defined (I am going to used the phrase 'nebulously defined' SO FUCKING MUCH this year because I SO FUCKING CAN and I'm not SO FUCKING HIGH because I'm a vegan) and I have to admit that I found this particular editorial a little aimless.

Quote
Cross-pollination will always happen.  Hybrids might grow.  But the flowers themselves will still maintain their own unique traits.

Except sometimes you get weird things like Cereus peruvianus which isn't well classified and it's not really clear if it's a species, hybrid, or if it even occurs naturally.

Or, more specifically, RPGs, as videogames, arose as an attempt to emulate older PNP games, which were initially a hybrid of the well established tabletop wargame genre with something that would provide an underlying narrative/adventure aspect.

So putting this back into plant terms, FFT is what happens when you crossbreed a Leuchtenbergia with a Ferobergia, and Quest for Glory is what happens when you crossbreed a Ferobergia with a Ferocactus.

I'm a goddamn nerd!
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Lard
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« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2009, 01:14:51 AM »

http://www.gamesradar.com/f/why-pac-man-was-light-years-ahead-of-its-time/a-20090910155446802094
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« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2009, 01:26:44 AM »

I'll read the editorial and the thread later to properly respond, but for now this review of RE5 is relevant.
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MeshGearFox
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« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2009, 11:39:05 AM »


That's like one of those articles by someone that thinks they're funny only they're not actually funny. At all. The only thing worse than parody is bad parody, and the only thing worse than bad parody is bad parody that doesn't really rise above the level of what it's parodizing.

The problem is that gamers want everything because gamers don't really know what we want, which is why we end up with unplayable bugfests that lack clear design goals or clear reasons to exist beyond illustrating the ills of featuritis, like Daggerfall or Battlecruiser.

"Hey, remember Thief? That had really cool stealth in it. What if Game X had stealth?"
"I really like the classes from Team Fortress."
"Stats are a great way to bring cohesion to the experience!"
"Every game should have an open world like Half-life."

(alternatively, going from that Resident Evil 5 review, you also get games that play incredibly similarly to eachother... from a lack of good ideas, maybe. There really are a lot of RPGs that aren't distinct from other RPGs, honeslty, and this applies to a whole bunch of genres too, only people seem more forgiving of really samey RPGs).

(Noteworthy, the funning thing is RE's unique controls are taken lock, stock, and barrel from Alone in the Dark, but nobody remembers that anymore).

(Similarly, I thought System Shock 2's RPG elements were tacked on and not at all well-balanced and I largely viewed them as detrimental for not allowing me to perform some action as a virtue of not having some Numerical Value to let me).

More related and not an aside, if we're using stats as the defining element of RPG gameplay... Well, why do devs think other games need stats, and why do RPGs need stats? What purpose do experience levels and stats actually do to enhance the gameplay, especially if character building is entirely hands off? As I said. It didn't make SS2 any more fun for me -- in fact, quite the opposite.

I think, personally, stats are necessary for abstracting data. So if you're dealing with something large in scope -- such as my favorite wargame, Crusader Kings -- you need a lot of abstraction and you need a lot of stats, in order to keep the game consistent to a central idea (otherwise it devolves into a mishmash of genre melding, modes, and minigames).

So let's put it this way. RPGs, in their PNP form, needed to abstract combat because that's unmanagable otherwise, and I mean, PNP rpg combat is essentially strategy game. Okay. Why do console/computer games need to abstract combat in this way? One reason might be because you want a strategic angel on combat. Fine. Makes sense,

So why the other stats? again, in PNP it was, I guess, a mechanic to force players to remain in character. You can't do anything your character couldn't. This aspect is more downplayed in electronic RPgs, and more or less not existant in console RPGs. So what purpose do stats serve here?

Additionally, why are experience levels necessary? I understand that it's to force the player to wait to get new abilities -- relating to differed gratification, pacing, and balance -- but why not have events unlock new abilities? A few games have done this (or similarly, granted experience in an event driven instead of combat driven way) and it works very well.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2009, 12:01:09 PM by MeshGearFox » Logged

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Ithunn
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« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2009, 01:28:36 PM »

I can't really think of any "RPG Elements" that have been inherently and exclusively for RPGs unless I try to chronicle the advancement of RPGs from P&P and tabletop. I don't have an inclination for purity in categorizing game genres either - I've heard RPGs are sucking more these days because they're not distinct enough from others, and I've heard other genres utilize RPG elements better than the progenitor.

I would prefer for RPGs to incorporate lesser RPG forms in them [not all, but experimentally]. This really only relies on the battle system ultimately becoming more "active," etc minimizing menuing and so forth. Otherwise, I've always considered the category of RPG extremely basic and repetitive than innovative. I think innovation is the key word here.
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Prime Mover
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« Reply #7 on: September 17, 2009, 05:38:11 AM »

I'm not convinced that menu-based combat is exactly a bad thing, or doesn't have room for innovation. It has the potential to be extremely versatile, and explore many different strategic gameplay components. Unfortunately, designers really are not utilizing this much, so it's not surprising that they've moved toward more action based combat. After all, hitting "X" to attack isn't much different from choosing the first option on your list (Attack), anyway. Some ideas I've come up with is ATB style combat, but where more powerful commands are buried farther in menus, so it requires longer to pull them up (thus creating a parallel to having to recall complex spells or special attacks), and having to use more time between attacks. Menus have a lot of potential, but they haven't really been used innovatively for a while.
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MeshGearFox
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« Reply #8 on: September 17, 2009, 11:10:42 AM »

Menus are an interface element and should not be used as a gameplay element. I mean maybe you could try it as an experimental concept in a small, one-off thing, but...

Also I'm a licensed CS major I took an interface class I know this shit. See that S? It stands for Science. i will goddamn science you. Do not contest. Do not step in grills. Do not be harshing mellows.
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« Reply #9 on: September 17, 2009, 01:53:57 PM »

I was actually planning on writing an editorial much much earlier in the year (whenever it was that Dawn of War 2 came out) about how the RPG was no longer a legitimate genre.  Everything is an RPG nowadays, and I was actually going to argue a different point than Mark, not that every game qualifies as an RPG, but that there is no such thing as an RPG anymore.
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« Reply #10 on: September 17, 2009, 10:21:56 PM »

I'm not convinced that menu-based combat is exactly a bad thing, or doesn't have room for innovation. It has the potential to be extremely versatile, and explore many different strategic gameplay components. Unfortunately, designers really are not utilizing this much, so it's not surprising that they've moved toward more action based combat. After all, hitting "X" to attack isn't much different from choosing the first option on your list (Attack), anyway.

Yeah, menu based combat isn't bad. But as far as innovating the battle system, reformatting its premise of actions, aka menus, would seem like a primary mode to experiment with. I would give Final Fantasy XII a good hype up for its gambit system and the premise of limiting menus, but the gambit system was essentially broken causing apparent issues either way. I guess what I'm going for in a very basic example would be something active in disguise of menus such as Rogue Galaxy, or Dark Cloud 2, or a lot of other Level 5 games. I personally liked Infinite Undiscovery, and despite its mishmash of seizure-iffic colors that overlay each other scrambling the visual field, I thought its concept of menus and active exploration were extremely complimentary.
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Prime Mover
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« Reply #11 on: September 19, 2009, 02:33:46 PM »

I was actually planning on writing an editorial much much earlier in the year (whenever it was that Dawn of War 2 came out) about how the RPG was no longer a legitimate genre.  Everything is an RPG nowadays, and I was actually going to argue a different point than Mark, not that every game qualifies as an RPG, but that there is no such thing as an RPG anymore.

Glass half empty, glass half full.

Well, the term "RPG" is kind of unfortunate anyway, and not very descriptive of the genre as a whole. Role Playing implies some kind of attempt to play the part of a different person. Playing the part of a character, creating a personality, and playing along with a character are three different things. Most games either give you a character to play "along" with (Final Fantasy's, most jRPGs) or have a blank slate or you to "create"... (Bathesda games, most wRPGs). I don't usually care for the "create a character" style because it discourages drama, and in most cases, you're left with characters void of personality, or in the hands of adolescents, a chaotic asshole with no personality. Games that have you play along with a character work because they mimic most other genres of entertainment (film, theatre, literature, etc). You are simply watching the actions of a character unfold. You may be controlling the time in which they unfold, you may be playing out non-personality-related events that the character is involved with (fighting), but you are still following a completely flushed out character personality.

Table Top RPGs offer something in between. The ability to have a character whose personality has some basic framework, yet you get to embellish and add to, the way a stage actor has some liberty as to the minute portrayal of their character. This doesn't involve making personality-changing decisions (BioWare RPGs), it means making little tweaks, but ones that really play out in the context of the greater relationships the character is involved with.

I've been watching my girlfriend play FFX, for an example. Tidus is a completely pre-created character, you're simply watching his story unfold (no pun intended). If, for instance, you doddle around a certain area, there is no subroutine that makes Lulu say, "why are you wasting your time here?" and then you get an ongoing reputation for being a bit of a laggart. This would be the beginnings of the kinds of subtle "role playing" that the name actually comes from.

As of yet, there are no games that actually allow you to role play. They either including watching a character, or creating a character from a blank slate... not playing out the part of a pre-created character, with the ability to build on their personality in subtle ways. So the RPG name is kind of a misnomer.
« Last Edit: September 19, 2009, 02:37:41 PM by Prime Mover » Logged


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« Reply #12 on: September 19, 2009, 04:32:47 PM »

It seems pretty simple to me when it comes to how accurate the term RPGs actually is: Most linear RPGs earn the term only because they've evolved from pen & paper RPGs in some fashion, open ended ones typically do their best to try actually providing a role playing experience, and in the end only the pen & paper ones provide true role playing. As such, saying that "Table Top RPGs offer something in between" is ridiculous unless the DM prepares all the characters and hands them to you, games like Bioware's are much closer there and The Witcher really IS that. Even if they're following a premade story or whatever it'd be a step above the interactions in video games due to the level of freedom providing, not stuck between Mass Effect and Final Fantasy.

This has given me some food for thought though. Look at the pen & paper RPGs compared to other board games, they're character driven with a narrative to follow or at least a world to adventure in, using stats and die rolls to figure out what happens without the ability to actually act it out (let's ignore LARPs here). Many video games operate similarly, letting us act out a fantasy with a computer calling the shots on what we can/can't do, so it's little wonder that the systems are being co-opted.
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MeshGearFox
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« Reply #13 on: September 20, 2009, 12:29:20 AM »

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They either including watching a character, or creating a character from a blank slate... not playing out the part of a pre-created character, with the ability to build on their personality in subtle ways.

Torment, and most PnP roleplaying is from a blank slate state, but besides that I'm going to note that a lot of D&D players do not actually roleplay in the sense of getting into character or narrative.

And the notion that you're free to do anything in a PnP game is also a bit misguided because sane DMs don't let you do this because if you sort of ignore the storyline they set up then you're just wandering around and not doing anything.

Also PnP roleplaying games are obtuse and not particularly interesting, really.
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« Reply #14 on: September 20, 2009, 02:07:11 AM »

but besides that I'm going to note that a lot of D&D players do not actually roleplay in the sense of getting into character or narrative.

This gives further proof to the idea that western developers generally try to recapture the pen & paper experience more, or at least did. Either they focus on you playing the role of the hero in a story, or they're straight up dungeon crawls with the barest of narratives.
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