Will Project X be a good game?
56 members have voted
I have written before about the strange position occupied by RPGs in modern computer gaming (PC or otherwise). In summary: tabletop RPGs and most of their CRPG kin were born out of mechanics necessitated by the realities of playing a game with dice, paper, and pencils. Everything was either uncontested expression on behalf of the player or a simulated contest governed by probability. Modern PCs and consoles can now, with a fair amount of accuracy, simulate movement, lighting, perception, and virtually any type of physical activity in the world or through mini-games. It leaves "probability simulation" RPGs, or perhaps all RPGs, in an odd place.
When one plays Thief, Splinter Cell, or Oblivion, stealth is governed by the player's ability to move from shadow to shadow while avoiding the vision and proximity of bad guys in real time. There may be a numerical value (such as Chameleon in Oblivion) that modifies the ability of creatures to perceive the character, but the fundamental mechanic is still something that feels more player-driven than character-driven. Many people (myself included) feel that this is more engaging and generally rewarding than clicking a "stealth" button and letting probability take over as D&D games like the Infinity Engine and NWN titles do. The former rewards moment-to-moment player ability and quick decision making. The latter rewards character building choices, ones which often took place far from where the abilities are used.
Many gamers may reasonably say, "But RPGs are about character building, not player skill." Though I think one can make a fair case that some form of player skill is always heavily involved in any RPG, it does leave traditional CRPGs in a strange place. The fact that they are often referred to as "traditional" makes them seem like antiquated throwbacks. And though I was somewhat annoyed by an early review of Neverwinter Nights 2 that focused heavily on comparing its thick D&D mechanics to Oblivion's relatively straightforward, "player + character" systems, I can't say I was all that surprised by the outcry. I return to the idea that games like D&D, like GURPS, like H