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The Nature of RPGs


Purkake

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Instead of derailing the Mass Effect 2 thread any further, I decided to make a new thread to discuss what makes a game an RPG. There is a wide variety of games billed as "RPGs" from Diablo to Deus Ex to Baldur's Gate to Final Fantasy to Mass Effect, one might even make a pretty decent case for Bioshock being an RPG. So what are the bare minimum requirements for something to be called an RPG?

 

Disclaimer: The purpose of this thread is not to find out some universal truth or create the perfect system for categorizing RPG, rather it's to have an intelligent discussion on the nature of RPGs.

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Disclaimer: The purpose of this thread is not to find out some universal truth or create the perfect system for categorizing RPG, rather it's to have an intelligent discussion on the nature of RPGs.

 

I hadn't realised you were such an optimist Purkake.. :lol:

 

Hm, I would go with the generic having a central character you can take the role of, and choose various course of actions during the story of the game, with your choices affecting the course of the story.

 

Unfortunately, I also think that's kind of the "ideal" which doesn't really happen in most crpgs.

"Cuius testiculos habeas, habeas cardia et cerebellum."

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I think it gets rolled into the idea that as the story progresses, and you make choices within that tory, a character should grow and development in some meaningful ways. In books and films, that tends to be represented by emotional maturity more then "stat growth" .. hm, although the standard training montage in most martial arts movies could represent stat/ability growth.. :p

 

Within the arena of computer roleplaying games, mechanical stats are a fairly simple way to represent character growth and increased skill levels.

"Cuius testiculos habeas, habeas cardia et cerebellum."

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You could argue that getting better weapons in a FPS is also character advancement. I don't think there are any FPSs with stats though.

 

I think that even though they usually happen in parallel, mechanical character growth and character development are not necessarily linked. Just having your stats go up doesn't advance the character development in any meaningful way, maybe the mechanical growth as an abstraction of actual character development is just a holdover from the early days of RPGs?

Edited by Purkake
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You could argue that getting better weapons in a FPS is also character advancement. I don't think there are any FPSs with stats though.

 

Hm, accumulation of "stuff" isn't really character advancement. It might be "game advancement" but guns and gear by itself isn't representative of growth of the character.

 

Maybe the increase in capabilities in using gear could be growth, but just getting access to the gear wouldn't. At least to my mind. :p

"Cuius testiculos habeas, habeas cardia et cerebellum."

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I'm only an optimist compared to all you jaded cynics. :p

 

So having a character and making meaningful choices. What about character advancement and stats, are they necessary?

I would say that they are the only things necessary, especially given your examples. The ability to customize your character's abilities and having those abilities advance throughout the game is the only thing tying all of those titles together. There are no branching dialogs or meaningful choices in Diablo 2 or FF. There is very little exploration in DX and ME (to consider the Mako secitons to be exploration is a painful idea). Diablo 2 gives you several different builds of characters within each class, allowing you to attack baddies in a good variety of ways. RPG inventory is a method of character customization (getting a new weapon in an action game isn't really the same thing, since the weapon itself is usually all or nearly all of the gameplay). Stats are just a representation of how you have customized your character's abilities and skills. Party selection is character customization, since the party itself becomes your character. The story is important, but most of the time it just needs to keep you motivated enough to continue through the next level, on to some more advancement and customization opportunities.

 

Choices and effects are nice, but they are a separate principle and don't imply customization or vice versa. If an FPS allows you to make a choice on level 6 that will affect whether you go to level 7a or 7b and gives the big baddie at the endgame a different exposition, is it suddenly an RPG?

 

That's probably why ME2 is so effective. By downplaying its RPG fundamentals and concentrating on choices and shooting, it comes off as an action game with a level of C&C and character interaction never seen in an action game before.

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Some good points there.

 

I can see customization being forced to give something up in favor of something else versus just having it all (ala Doom).

 

So a game with C&C, but not customization would be an adventure game, right?

Edited by Purkake
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I meant that instead of leveling up and getting better at swinging your sword you could argue that you do the same in FPSs by getting a better weapon.

But in an FPS you usually don't get much choice about your upgrades. Even if an FPS allows some RPGish elements, like Wolfenstein, they're not still not enough of a focus of the game to make it an RPG.

"Moral indignation is a standard strategy for endowing the idiot with dignity." Marshall McLuhan

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I meant that instead of leveling up and getting better at swinging your sword you could argue that you do the same in FPSs by getting a better weapon.

But in an FPS you usually don't get much choice about your upgrades. Even if an FPS allows some RPGish elements, like Wolfenstein, they're not still not enough of a focus of the game to make it an RPG.

I wasn't implying that having character advancement would make a game an RPG. I was trying to figure out if it was a trait inherently unique to RPGs.

 

Also character advancement and customization are different things. You can advance down a linear path with no customization, as long as your character's capabilities improve, it's still advancement.

Edited by Purkake
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So a game with C&C, but not customization would be an adventure game, right?

 

.. Or most japanese . hm. bishojou games? :p

"Cuius testiculos habeas, habeas cardia et cerebellum."

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Although to be a tad more serious, I think c&c along with the "puzzle" aspects in one form or another make up an adventure game, not just the c&c.

"Cuius testiculos habeas, habeas cardia et cerebellum."

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are we talking pure rpg? or just a game with enough rpg elements to earn having a hybrid classification (action-rpg, shooter-rpg etc)?

 

pure rpg is in my opinion: table top games only. they existed before any form of virtual rpg and really created the whole idea. so D&D is grandad.

 

then you get crpg's, like fallout and baldurs gate

 

then action rpgs like diablo

 

shooter rpgs like deus ex/system shock

 

then mixes of those two hybridgenres, like borderlands...

 

then of course the jrpg, which goes a long way back all the way to nes dragon warrior etc

 

common elements:

 

diablo is primarily stat and equipment based, there are some sidequests and a main quest, but story and C&C are very light

 

deus ex has oodles of C&C, moderate stat and equipment, moderate amount of storyline

 

dragon warrior had essentially no story C&C or quests, it was all character and stat based, you wander around killing stuff until you level up and buy a new sword ad infinitum (actually, this is basically diablo but turn based lol)

 

so look at the forefather: D&D - fully customizable, but ideally there is a TON of C&C and story, built on a framework of character AND equipment advancement. so any games which take some of these elements to at least a moderate amount of import in the structure of the game, earns itself the ______-RPG title

 

 

call of duty? fails to earn an rpg hybrid, there is no character advancement, or C&C. there is only equipment advancement. call of duty is skirting closer to earning a hybrid title by adding "levels" but the character levels only serve to unlock more equipment, so its still just an equipment based game. but if they were to throw some serious C&C into their storyline... then yeah i'd say it was close enough to earning a hybrid title, (hell thats basically what bioshock is...)

 

IMO.


Killing is kind of like playin' a basketball game. I am there. and the other player is there. and it's just the two of us. and I put the other player's body in my van. and I am the winner. - Nice Pete.

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@Raithe: But if you had a hypothetical game that only involved dialogue along with C&C, but wasn't interactive fiction(ie you actually have a character) or a Japanese dating sim, what would you call it?

 

@entrerix: I'm trying to avoid the ___-RPG thing because it is very subjective(as we have seen time and time again around here) and just focus on what the different games that go under the RPG label have in common.

Edited by Purkake
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@Raithe: But if you had a hypothetical game that only involved dialogue along with C&C, but wasn't interactive fiction(ie you actually have a character) or a Japanese dating sim, what would you call it?

 

.. a game with a gru about to eat you?

 

Edit: for a proper answer.

 

But depending on the storyline that went with it, I could see a rpg using purely dialogue to play through. Some of the best pen n paper rpg sessions I've had with friends involved no combat, but was pure roleplaying dialogue in various situations.. political machinations and the like, whether d&d fantasy based, vampire emo angst based, or even space opera Star Wars..

 

All dialogue, dialogue, dialogue, with choices and consequences.. If the storyline works with it, that's all you need for roleplaying.

Edited by Raithe

"Cuius testiculos habeas, habeas cardia et cerebellum."

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What would be an example of a game with C&C that wasn't an RPG?

 

Hm, Civilization, Masters of Orion, Alpha Centuari maybe?

 

There are lots of choices and consequences you make within those sorts of strategy / exploration / research type games. They don't always have much story to them (although AC did make a nice effort), but they definitely have a wide open ability to choose as you wish and then have consequences to deal with from every choice.

"Cuius testiculos habeas, habeas cardia et cerebellum."

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