Jump to content

Welcome to Obsidian Forum Community
Register now to gain access to all of our features. Once registered and logged in, you will be able to create topics, post replies to existing threads, give reputation to your fellow members, get your own private messenger, post status updates, manage your profile and so much more. If you already have an account, login here - otherwise create an account for free today!
Photo

Action/Adventure or RPG? What's the difference?

genre rpg role-playing sandbox choice open world simulation linearity narrative infinity engine

  • Please log in to reply
70 replies to this topic

Poll: Role-playing in RPGs (74 member(s) have cast votes)

To what extent do you roleplay in Infinity Engine games?

  1. My character is best described as an IG representation of myself, with some glorified elements perhaps. (29 votes [18.59%])

    Percentage of vote: 18.59%

  2. I don't roleplay; I merely choose whatever seems most fun in the moment. (9 votes [5.77%])

    Percentage of vote: 5.77%

  3. I merely try to make my character believable and cohesive in character creation, but not beyond that. (15 votes [9.62%])

    Percentage of vote: 9.62%

  4. I plan my characters out extensively, including aspects such as personality that are not really represented by IG mechanics. (25 votes [16.03%])

    Percentage of vote: 16.03%

  5. I strive to separate my knowledge as player from that of my character so as to avoid metagaming. (20 votes [12.82%])

    Percentage of vote: 12.82%

  6. I occasionally choose to limit my character's strength or potential for no IG benefit based on what I think fits them. (20 votes [12.82%])

    Percentage of vote: 12.82%

  7. I actively roleplay my character's actions and/or dialog in some shape or form, IG or OOG. (20 votes [12.82%])

    Percentage of vote: 12.82%

  8. Most of my characters end up pretty similar to one another even when this isn't intended. (18 votes [11.54%])

    Percentage of vote: 11.54%

What is the single most important goal you have in playing Infinity Engine games?

  1. To simply "have fun"; I'm not very picky. (8 votes [10.81%])

    Percentage of vote: 10.81%

  2. To complete quests or see the sights via IG exploration and get a sense of achievement. (6 votes [8.11%])

    Percentage of vote: 8.11%

  3. To make the strongest/most powerful character possible given the game's mechanics. (5 votes [6.76%])

    Percentage of vote: 6.76%

  4. To immerse myself in the role of a character of my choosing and simulate their endeavors. (26 votes [35.14%])

    Percentage of vote: 35.14%

  5. To follow the game's narrative and storyline as it unfolds, and ultimately learn how the story ends.. (22 votes [29.73%])

    Percentage of vote: 29.73%

  6. To grind through the game desperately hoping for a romance subplot or steamy sex scene. (1 votes [1.35%])

    Percentage of vote: 1.35%

  7. Something else not mentioned here. (6 votes [8.11%])

    Percentage of vote: 8.11%

What separates the Action/Adventure and RPG genres?

  1. Mechanics: RPGs require number-crunching and planning. (23 votes [10.13%])

    Percentage of vote: 10.13%

  2. Narrative: RPGs are less linear, and more branched and complex. (45 votes [19.82%])

    Percentage of vote: 19.82%

  3. Character Creation and Progression: RPGs let you define your own protagonist. (60 votes [26.43%])

    Percentage of vote: 26.43%

  4. Open World: The more freedom to explore and choices, the more RPG-esque. (23 votes [10.13%])

    Percentage of vote: 10.13%

  5. Realism: The more realistically I can simulate my character's life, the more RPG-esque. (14 votes [6.17%])

    Percentage of vote: 6.17%

  6. Teamwork: RPG's generally utilize parties of complementary specialists. (15 votes [6.61%])

    Percentage of vote: 6.61%

  7. Unlockables: Achievements, awards, feats, perks, etc. (1 votes [0.44%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.44%

  8. Roleplay: A game is not an RPG if people don't actually roleplay. (37 votes [16.30%])

    Percentage of vote: 16.30%

  9. Something else not mentioned here. (9 votes [3.96%])

    Percentage of vote: 3.96%

Vote Guests cannot vote

#1
mcmanusaur

mcmanusaur

    (6) Magician

  • Members
  • 602 posts
  • Location:A moment in eternity.

While I nonetheless expect this to be somewhat controversial, I want to start this off by saying that I appreciate Infinity Engine games for what they are, and this thread is not about what Project Eternity should be. Rather, I ask what Project Eternity is, which is very related to what Infinity Engine games are, or even more broadly DnD-based cRPGs.

 

The reason is that I have noticed an increasing overlap in the past several years between the "action/adventure" and "RPG" or "role-playing game" genres, and it got me thinking about what the difference between them actually is. The obvious realization is that most players don't actual roleplay in any significant capacity when they play so-called RPGs, so where does that leave the genre? Certainly some of this apparent contradiction might have to do with the fact that different players define role-playing differently, but there are certain a substantial proportion of player who can hardly be said to roleplay at all.

 

In some ways I think action/adventure games and role-playing games might exist along a spectrum, with the ideals of one genre at either end, and most games inhabiting the continuum in between. Where do Infinity Engine games, or Project Eternity, fall on this spectrum? I for one feel that the amount of combat focus (which perhaps just comes with any DnD-based game) is somewhat action/adventure-oriented, and at times the games feel more linear than some others that feature more open worlds. Additionally, certain aspects of characters are de-emphasized and the interactivity of the world is quite limited (ability buy property and so on).

 

This leads me to believe that the majority of games marketed as RPGs are in fact action/adventure games glorified in certain manners, rather than games designed with holistic roleplay in mind. Please leave your thoughts on these questions and vote in the poll as I am sure the results will be quite informative to me.


Edited by mcmanusaur, 22 May 2013 - 10:06 PM.

  • BruceVC and aluminiumtrioxid like this

#2
JFSOCC

JFSOCC

    Mentor & Student of the Obsidian Order

  • Members
  • 2254 posts
  • Pillars of Eternity Backer
  • Kickstarter Backer
An action RPG, to my mind, is not actually an RPG, it's a dungeon crawler where you can level up and choose your skills and abilities, there is no playing of roles, little dialogue other than "this is your quest, accept or decline"

Where as a real RPG choice in conversation and gameplay have a significant impact on the narrative and your experience.

Diablo is NOT an RPG, it's a dungeon crawler
JRPGs are not RPGs, there is no role-playing. (You get told who you are and what your motivations are)

Edit: for question 2:
I like role playing games which challenge my philosophical outlook on things, even if they don't change my mind. I see games as a medium of art, (by which I don't think that all games are art) and I believe that they can challenge your mind and preconceptions about things.

When I heard P:E was going to be a more mature game, I was overjoyed.

Edited by JFSOCC, 23 May 2013 - 05:40 AM.

  • KaineParker and TMZuk like this

#3
mcmanusaur

mcmanusaur

    (6) Magician

  • Members
  • 602 posts
  • Location:A moment in eternity.

An action RPG, to my mind, is not actually an RPG, it's a dungeon crawler where you can level up and choose your skills and abilities, there is no playing of roles, little dialogue other than "this is your quest, accept or decline"

Where as a real RPG choice in conversation and gameplay have a significant impact on the narrative and your experience.

Diablo is NOT an RPG, it's a dungeon crawler
JRPGs are not RPGs, there is no role-playing. (You get told who you are and what your motivations are)

Edit: for question 2:
I like role playing games which challenge my philosophical outlook on things, even if they don't change my mind. I see games as a medium of art, (by which I don't think that all games are art) and I believe that they can challenge your mind and preconceptions about things.

When I heard P:E was going to be a more mature game, I was overjoyed.

Right, I should have included some form of "RPGs as a learning experience or philosophical challenge" for question 2, but unfortunately I can't edit the poll any longer.

 

The wikipedia page for cRPGs presents the main subdivisions of the genre as action RPGs, tactical RPGs, jRPGs, and MMOs... and I agree with you that the former are hardly actual RPGs, and I would personally say the same for tactical RPGs too (at best a cross between RTS/TBS and RPG).

 

However, for me narrative linearity and dialogue choices are just not enough to define the RPG genre, as action/adventure games have increasingly featured these aspects as games have generally become more complex. That is why I, apparently unlike many people here, tend to see the "open world/sandbox" and "simulation of a living and breathing society" aspects as essential to the genre, as they allow your character to take on a role much wider than that of the protagonist of a single storyline. I could also see tradeskills and some system of character personality as contributing to the depth of RPG elements in otherwise combat-focused RPGs (for me, almost all RPGs are too combat-focused, not just so-called action RPGs).

 

These are all things that in my opinion would contribute to the potential for actual roleplay, but from the earliest days of DnD-based cRPGs these aspects have been neglected (or initially not possible given technological limitations and neglected since technology caught up), so much so that even the people on this forum seem opposed to these things. Perhaps it's unrealistic for me to expect that people who are simply interested in a nostalgic throwback to old games -as much as I am also interested in Project Eternity- should have concern for the sake of the genre beyond the mostly stylistic and mechanical differences that distinguish the Infinity Engine games from modern RPGs. People don't seem to be here because they're dissatisfied with the modern RPG tradition -in many ways Infinity Engine games set the trend as much as I love them- but simply because they prefer the older ways of doing RPGs that have the same lack of freedom and single-minded combat focus as modern games (I share some nostalgia for the isometric perspective, but do we really believe that makes a fundamentally better RPG?). I don't mean to attack Project Eternity or the people here; if anything my expectations were a bit naive and Project Eternity will nonetheless be a step in the right direction.

 

Over the years the RPG genre seems to have been hijacked by misguided player expectations, which were in turn built on decades of precedent since DnD was first transferred from the tabletop to the PC. I'm not sure how much hope there is for games that actually broaden the scope of how one role-plays one's character in an aggressive and innovative way, and thus I'm a bit pessimistic that RPGs will ever become more than a misnomer.


Edited by mcmanusaur, 23 May 2013 - 06:33 AM.

  • JFSOCC likes this

#4
Micamo

Micamo

    (4) Theurgist

  • Members
  • 312 posts

An action RPG, to my mind, is not actually an RPG, it's a dungeon crawler where you can level up and choose your skills and abilities, there is no playing of roles, little dialogue other than "this is your quest, accept or decline"

Where as a real RPG choice in conversation and gameplay have a significant impact on the narrative and your experience.

Diablo is NOT an RPG, it's a dungeon crawler


Counterpoint: Inquisitor is an "Action RPG" by any reasonable definition. You can find a long essay where I gush about how wonderful it is as a roleplaying game here. Don't confuse the mechanics the used to deliver the content with the content itself.

JRPGs are not RPGs, there is no role-playing. (You get told who you are and what your motivations are)


That's like saying you can't be roleplaying if you're playing D&D with pregens. Planescape: Torment isn't an RPG by this definition. Roleplaying is a state of mind that needs to be cultivated very carefully, it's not some mechanical thing you can pin down and cut and paste into other games.

#5
PrimeJunta

PrimeJunta

    Arch-Mage

  • Members
  • 4900 posts
  • Pillars of Eternity Backer
  • Kickstarter Backer
  • Deadfire Silver Backer
  • Fig Backer
Good questions.

I do roleplay, in the sense that I have a character concept in mind, including traits and some facets of personality, and try to stick with that. However, if this has no support in the mechanics, I tend to drop it pretty quickly; that turns into "larping" which I don't find appealing.

For me the defining characteristic of a RPG is a system of mechanics that do support roleplay. Specifically, choices with consequences. Action/adventures are usually very limited in this respect.

Most IE games and their spiritual successors are a bit thin in the role-playing sense actually. The BG's have the basics down with the companion interactions and the mid-game fork in BG2, but IWD has virtually nothing beyond picking an original alignment. PS:T has its own take on the whole thing, and is in fact the only one where I manage to really immerse myself into the character, even if, curiously, the mechanics don't give role-play much more support than in BG2.

IMO Mask of the Betrayer did it best -- I've played it through both as a generally well-intentioned type and as a ruthless, cold, power-hungry sociopath, and the experiences were really different, both from a storytelling and a mechanical POV. I would like to see this kind of reactivity further developed in P:E.
  • aluminiumtrioxid, Pipyui, Malekith and 2 others like this

#6
mcmanusaur

mcmanusaur

    (6) Magician

  • Members
  • 602 posts
  • Location:A moment in eternity.

Perhaps the roleplay question for Infinity Engine games can be characterized as an issue of narrow scope; you roleplay a character in the context of the specific adventure that the game focuses on, and the ability to roleplay outside of that is very limited. Thus maybe Infinity Engine games are trapped balancing narrative cohesion and role-playing freedom, and it's worth asking whether these two aspects are mutually exclusive to some degree. That said, I don't think that a roleplay-tailored game along the lines of what I describe would be inherently less interesting from a narrative perspective, as it would simply be more player-driven. But when you have a game that is centered on a storyline with a finite boundaries, I can see how more holistic roleplay might fall by the wayside.



#7
JFSOCC

JFSOCC

    Mentor & Student of the Obsidian Order

  • Members
  • 2254 posts
  • Pillars of Eternity Backer
  • Kickstarter Backer

An action RPG, to my mind, is not actually an RPG, it's a dungeon crawler where you can level up and choose your skills and abilities, there is no playing of roles, little dialogue other than "this is your quest, accept or decline"

Where as a real RPG choice in conversation and gameplay have a significant impact on the narrative and your experience.

Diablo is NOT an RPG, it's a dungeon crawler


Counterpoint: Inquisitor is an "Action RPG" by any reasonable definition. You can find a long essay where I gush about how wonderful it is as a roleplaying game here. Don't confuse the mechanics the used to deliver the content with the content itself.

JRPGs are not RPGs, there is no role-playing. (You get told who you are and what your motivations are)


That's like saying you can't be roleplaying if you're playing D&D with pregens. Planescape: Torment isn't an RPG by this definition. Roleplaying is a state of mind that needs to be cultivated very carefully, it's not some mechanical thing you can pin down and cut and paste into other games.

If you roleplay with pregens you can still determine your character's responses, motivations and objectives. Planescape Torment discusses the tabula rasa concept and challenges it, but ultimately you can decide who the protagonist is and how he deals with things.
I agree, it's a lot more nuanced than I put it. I haven't played Inquisitor, so I can't comment on it but your point is valid.

Edited by JFSOCC, 23 May 2013 - 07:25 AM.

  • KaineParker likes this

#8
PrimeJunta

PrimeJunta

    Arch-Mage

  • Members
  • 4900 posts
  • Pillars of Eternity Backer
  • Kickstarter Backer
  • Deadfire Silver Backer
  • Fig Backer
I don't think a cohesive narrative and roleplay are necessarily opposed. You can have branching storylines with shades of gray morality and delayed consequences (e.g. The Witchers). You can have a loose main story arc with lots of smaller stories with a variety of resolutions, which affect the way the world works (e.g. Fallout). Or you can even have a more or less linear story but with reactive companions and NPC's, and your ethical choices reflected in your character mechanics (e.g. Mask of the Betrayer).

You're always constrained by something in the game, of course, but then so are we in real life.

But yeah, player-driven is the key phrase here I think. The game has to give you at least a believable illusion of agency, with meaningful choices and their consequences. Half-Life is not a role-playing game, because you have no agency; you're just progressing through the areas in a predetermined fashion. Deus Ex has some role-playing elements, since the ending is determined by your choices and there are characters in it that attempt to influence you, and react to your choices, but it's by no means a core area of the design: you don't get to do much, but you get to make up your mind about what it means. The Witchers already have a quite a lot of this type of reactivity. And from there on out, it's all up.
  • JFSOCC, mcmanusaur and Fearabbit like this

#9
Pipyui

Pipyui

    (4) Theurgist

  • Members
  • 371 posts
  • Pillars of Eternity Backer
  • Kickstarter Backer

Good poll and good discusion.

I suppose that if I have to define pure RPG myself, I have to agree with Mcmanusaur that simulation of an organic society and sandboxing are probably the most important factors in my mind.  I imagine that a pure RPG isn't so much a game, as it is a society and setting, and an extensive set of rules the player can exploit to interact with it.  I suppose that the more extensive the ruleset is, and the more options this opens to interacting with the player's environment, the more RPG-ish a game is.

 

If I were to make a bad analogy about it, I'd describe it like a Gary's Mod (sandbox Valve Source game mod thingy), that excercises a society engine instead of a physics engine.  Wherein the player is given all of the tools needed to carve themselves a niche in society, but there are no driving forces except those defined within the rules of the simulation (e.g. no food = die, no money = hobo & likely die without food, influence = wealth & power, and whatnot).

 

Note that this is my imagination of something purely RPG, and I think there are more factors out there as to what makes an RPG.  Though I've never played the ever-popular pokemon games, I imagine them to be RPGs, though they don't fit well within my definition (the only real interactions with the world are through combat). :shrugz:


Edited by Pipyui, 23 May 2013 - 09:23 AM.

  • mcmanusaur likes this

#10
mcmanusaur

mcmanusaur

    (6) Magician

  • Members
  • 602 posts
  • Location:A moment in eternity.

Good poll and good discusion.

I suppose that if I have to define pure RPG myself, I have to agree with Mcmanusaur that simulation of an organic society and sandboxing are probably the most important factors in my mind.  I imagine that a pure RPG isn't so much a game, as it is a society and setting, and an extensive set of rules the player can exploit to interact with it.  I suppose that the more extensive the ruleset is, and the more options this opens to interacting with the player's environment, the more RPG-ish a game is.

 

If I were to make a bad analogy about it, I'd describe it like a Gary's Mod (sandbox Valve Source game mod thingy), that excercises a society engine instead of a physics engine.  Wherein the player is given all of the tools needed to carve themselves a niche in society, but there are no driving forces except those defined within the rules of the simulation (e.g. no food = die, no money = hobo & likely die without food, influence = wealth & power, and whatnot).

 

Note that this is my imagination of something purely RPG, and I think there are more factors out there as to what makes an RPG.  Though I've never played the ever-popular pokemon games, I imagine them to be RPGs, though they don't fit well within my definition (the only real interactions with the world are through combat). :shrugz:

That's a good way to put it I think. I'm not too much of a hardcore roleplayer myself (LARPing doesn't appeal to me, and RPing the words my character says in dialogue is of limited interest to me), but oddly/sadly enough the most serious roleplay experience I've found has been in games like Minecraft. What that kind of game really lacks though from an RP perspective is interesting mechanics and any semblance of rational worldbuilding/lore, of course. But it shows you that for pure RP the sandbox elements are quite crucial, and emphasis on combat isn't necessary. The greater problem with that medium is that there is no social backdrop to the interactions of the PCs, and I suppose the ultimate ideal would be a sandbox/open world game that simulates an authentic social backdrop to a player-driven narrative. Somewhere along the lines RPGs seem to have been taken hostage by linear/preordained narrative and a focus on combat/action over other aspects of characters' lives. In terms of narrative, perhaps the most that developers interested in fostering holistic roleplay should do is provide as many optional story arcs as possible for players to choose between, without putting a disproportionate amount of emphasis on a single main conflict.


Edited by mcmanusaur, 23 May 2013 - 09:56 AM.


#11
PrimeJunta

PrimeJunta

    Arch-Mage

  • Members
  • 4900 posts
  • Pillars of Eternity Backer
  • Kickstarter Backer
  • Deadfire Silver Backer
  • Fig Backer
It would be awesome to see other areas besides combat see some real development. I have high hopes for T:ToN in this respect, actually.

Personally, I don't think 'sandboxiness' is crucial in a cRPG. It's a possibility, and can work quite well, like in Fallout and perhaps to a somewhat lesser degree in Arcanum and Morrowind. Quite often sandbox games end up as hiking simulators though, with not a whole lot of reactivity nor choice in the world. Quests are usually linear and of limited impact, so beyond "accept or reject, succeed or fail" there's not much there, there.

If the sandbox really reacts to your actions, it can be a very powerful experience. On the other hand, a branching narrative has much the same effect for me. The turns you take give a feeling of agency and make your choices meaningful. The difference is that in a sandbox game the agency emerges from the systems, whereas in branching narratives it's been written in. I think branching narratives are better for telling strong stories and exploring them from multiple perspectives; emergent agency is a bit of a different experience.

On balance, I don't think I've played a sandbox game that's quite as compelling on an emotional level as the best branching-narrative games. I'm quite intrigued about CD Project Red's attempts at fusing the two in The Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk.
  • Malekith likes this

#12
mcmanusaur

mcmanusaur

    (6) Magician

  • Members
  • 602 posts
  • Location:A moment in eternity.

I don't think a cohesive narrative and roleplay are necessarily opposed. You can have branching storylines with shades of gray morality and delayed consequences (e.g. The Witchers). You can have a loose main story arc with lots of smaller stories with a variety of resolutions, which affect the way the world works (e.g. Fallout). Or you can even have a more or less linear story but with reactive companions and NPC's, and your ethical choices reflected in your character mechanics (e.g. Mask of the Betrayer).

You're always constrained by something in the game, of course, but then so are we in real life.

But yeah, player-driven is the key phrase here I think. The game has to give you at least a believable illusion of agency, with meaningful choices and their consequences. Half-Life is not a role-playing game, because you have no agency; you're just progressing through the areas in a predetermined fashion. Deus Ex has some role-playing elements, since the ending is determined by your choices and there are characters in it that attempt to influence you, and react to your choices, but it's by no means a core area of the design: you don't get to do much, but you get to make up your mind about what it means. The Witchers already have a quite a lot of this type of reactivity. And from there on out, it's all up.

What you say is true, but I think that even having a main conflict that a protagonist character is forced to address (no matter how many choices they have regarding how they go about addressing it) limits roleplay freedom somewhat. It may still be a worthwhile tradeoff, but it does mean you can't have 100% roleplay freedom and 100% narrative cohesion at the same time. Personally I find the whole moral dichotomy aspect of player choice to be rather hackneyed and not entirely fulfilling, and I think that's about the bare minimum when it comes to roleplay freedom. Something along the lines of Fallout with multiple story arcs is closer to what I envision, but importantly I believe that the notion of evil villains serving as the main conflict that the player ultimately resolves is something that may not be conducive to holistic roleplay, because then it becomes a scenario of finite limits (it ends when the villain is killed). Perhaps the "main" or larger story arc that combines the smaller plots should instead be the progress of the greater society that one's character belongs to in overcoming circumstances of nature, technology, or other societies. While an individual dedicated antagonistic serves as a nice foil to the protagonist for narrative purposes, more often than not it leads to a more or less black-and-white battle of good versus evil, and also the sense that the resolution of that battle concludes the game, and for me a consistent world is also conducive to holistic roleplay. My conviction that modern RPGs do far too much ego-stroking also pertains to the question of whether it should all be about heroes and villains or social development.


Edited by mcmanusaur, 23 May 2013 - 10:15 AM.


#13
mcmanusaur

mcmanusaur

    (6) Magician

  • Members
  • 602 posts
  • Location:A moment in eternity.

It would be awesome to see other areas besides combat see some real development. I have high hopes for T:ToN in this respect, actually.

Personally, I don't think 'sandboxiness' is crucial in a cRPG. It's a possibility, and can work quite well, like in Fallout and perhaps to a somewhat lesser degree in Arcanum and Morrowind. Quite often sandbox games end up as hiking simulators though, with not a whole lot of reactivity nor choice in the world. Quests are usually linear and of limited impact, so beyond "accept or reject, succeed or fail" there's not much there, there.

If the sandbox really reacts to your actions, it can be a very powerful experience. On the other hand, a branching narrative has much the same effect for me. The turns you take give a feeling of agency and make your choices meaningful. The difference is that in a sandbox game the agency emerges from the systems, whereas in branching narratives it's been written in. I think branching narratives are better for telling strong stories and exploring them from multiple perspectives; emergent agency is a bit of a different experience.

On balance, I don't think I've played a sandbox game that's quite as compelling on an emotional level as the best branching-narrative games. I'm quite intrigued about CD Project Red's attempts at fusing the two in The Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk.

While we've seen quite a few recent RPGs such as those you mentioned that feature open worlds and free exploration, most of them aren't true sandbox games in that there is little interactivity (as opposed to something like Minecraft where you build your own house). Unfortunately I have yet to discover a series that is innovative in that regard, but at any rate I think it's important to recognize the difference between "open world" and "sandbox". For me the thing with branching narratives is that they tend to have a very limited set of options (often just two for games that utilize a moral dichotomy), and they tend to be restricted to choices relevant to a single conflict. That's just not very deep as in real life there are always multiple conflicts that we deal with, and if roleplaying is the focus then the same should be true for characters. However, you are right to identify emergent agency/choice as a primary issue here, and personally I find that among the most fascinating aspects of gameplay. As you suggest and I state in my last post, I suppose the ultimate question is whether there's a particular story in mind, or whether people and society constitute the extent of a story. In my opinion though, non-player-driven storytelling is not something that really distinguishes RPGs from action/adventure games (if anything I would say the latter emphasizes it as much if not more), though strong narrative is apparently very important to people here judging by the poll results so far.


Edited by mcmanusaur, 23 May 2013 - 10:34 AM.


#14
Micamo

Micamo

    (4) Theurgist

  • Members
  • 312 posts

Good poll and good discusion.
I suppose that if I have to define pure RPG myself, I have to agree with Mcmanusaur that simulation of an organic society and sandboxing are probably the most important factors in my mind.  I imagine that a pure RPG isn't so much a game, as it is a society and setting, and an extensive set of rules the player can exploit to interact with it.  I suppose that the more extensive the ruleset is, and the more options this opens to interacting with the player's environment, the more RPG-ish a game is.
 
If I were to make a bad analogy about it, I'd describe it like a Gary's Mod (sandbox Valve Source game mod thingy), that excercises a society engine instead of a physics engine.  Wherein the player is given all of the tools needed to carve themselves a niche in society, but there are no driving forces except those defined within the rules of the simulation (e.g. no food = die, no money = hobo & likely die without food, influence = wealth & power, and whatnot).


The Sims = Purest RPG ever?

The important part of an RPG, for me, is experiencing a good setting. You don't have to simulate everything, only the parts that are salient with regards to the themes and tones of the world. For example, getting pregnant and having a baby in Morrowind (yes, the mod exists) doesn't enhance that game because it's not what Morrowind the setting is all about. The Sims is a crappy RPG for me because the setting isn't interesting: I feel less like the explorer of a bizzare and exciting new world and more like a babysitter.

Edited by Micamo, 23 May 2013 - 10:53 AM.

  • Malekith and mcmanusaur like this

#15
Ffordesoon

Ffordesoon

    (5) Thaumaturgist

  • Members
  • 553 posts
  • PSN Portable ID:Ffordesoon
  • Xbox Gamertag:Adobe Amena
  • Pillars of Eternity Gold Backer
  • Kickstarter Backer
  • Lords of the Eastern Reach Backer
I dunno, man. I think roleplaying depends as much on the player as the system.

I've talked to players who roleplay their Shepard down to the smallest detail, and I've talked to players who play Fallout as a pure min/max game, with no investment in any sort of character concept whatsoever. I've played JRPGs where I felt many character concepts were valid, and I've played choice-laden cRPGs where I felt as though I was forced into someone else's character concept.

Certainly, there are some games which foster roleplaying better than others. But roleplaying is ultimately just pretending to be someone else, and I don't think it's possible to unfailingly induce that through mechanics alone. Some people just aren't good at that. Is the person who plays Mask Of The Betrayer by picking a pregen that looks cool and then choosing whatever options strike their fancy not playing a cRPG? Is the person who relentlessly pursues a character concept in Mass Effect not roleplaying? And there are plenty of people who will "roll play" in a game of D&D - are they "playing it wrong?" Hell, is relentlessly pursuing a certain combat build not also pursuing a character concept, in a sense?

It seems arrogant to me to define what is and isn't a "valid" cRPG solely based on how well it fosters a certain playstyle that not everyone will engage with. I'm all for reactivity and choice 'n' consequence and all the rest of it, but I think there's a myopia in believing that to be the sole measure of how RPG-y something is.

And before you say something along the lines of, "Well, someone could choose not to jump in a platformer, so—" No, not really. You can't beat a platformer by not jumping, but you can beat a cRPG without once truly roleplaying, because roleplaying is a possible effect of cRPG mechanics on the player, not something inherent to the genre. Admittedly, the name of the genre is misleading, but that's a separate issue.

I have problems with the "True RPGs have stats and turns!" crowd as well, but one thing I will say for them is that all the games they consider part of the genre do have common elements it's impossible to complete the game without engaging with. I don't agree with them, either, but their definition is closer to an objective one than one based on a subjective, personal concept like roleplaying.

To be clear, none of this is meant to suggest that I desire less choice and consequence or role-defining mechanics in my games. My point is simply that it's unfair and illogical to exclude games from a genre because they do not foster roleplaying in you.

I hope that makes sense.

Edited by Ffordesoon, 23 May 2013 - 11:14 AM.

  • Malekith likes this

#16
mcmanusaur

mcmanusaur

    (6) Magician

  • Members
  • 602 posts
  • Location:A moment in eternity.

I dunno, man. I think roleplaying depends as much on the player as the system.

I've talked to players who roleplay their Shepard down to the smallest detail, and I've talked to players who play Fallout as a pure min/max game, with no investment in any sort of character concept whatsoever. I've played JRPGs where I felt many character concepts were valid, and I've played choice-laden cRPGs where I felt as though I was forced into someone else's character concept.

Certainly, there are some games which foster roleplaying better than others. But roleplaying is ultimately just pretending to be someone else, and I don't think it's possible to unfailingly induce that through mechanics alone. Some people just aren't good at that. Is the person who plays Mask Of The Betrayer by picking a pregen that looks cool and then choosing whatever options strike their fancy not playing a cRPG? Is the person who relentlessly pursues a character concept in Mass Effect not roleplaying? And there are plenty of people who will "roll play" in a game of D&D - are they "playing it wrong?" Hell, is relentlessly pursuing a certain combat build not also pursuing a character concept, in a sense?

It seems arrogant to me to define what is and isn't a "valid" cRPG solely based on how well it fosters a certain playstyle that not everyone will engage with. I'm all for reactivity and choice 'n' consequence and all the rest of it, but I think there's a myopia in believing that to be the sole measure of how RPG-y something is.

And before you say something along the lines of, "Well, someone could choose not to jump in a platformer, so—" No, not really. You can't beat a platformer by not jumping, but you can beat a cRPG without once truly roleplaying, because roleplaying is a possible effect of cRPG mechanics on the player, not something inherent to the genre. Admittedly, the name of the genre is misleading, but that's a separate issue.

I have problems with the "True RPGs have stats and turns!" crowd as well, but one thing I will say for them is that all the games they consider part of the genre do have common elements it's impossible to complete the game without engaging with. I don't agree with them, either, but their definition is closer to an objective one than one based on a subjective, personal concept like roleplaying.

To be clear, none of this is meant to suggest that I desire less choice and consequence or role-defining mechanics in my games. My point is simply that it's unfair and illogical to exclude games from a genre because they do not foster roleplaying in you.

I hope that makes sense.

It is true that even if a game's mechanics were as perfectly conducive to roleplay as possible, not all players would role play, because that is indeed a choice on the part of the player. However, that doesn't mean that there is no relationship between mechanics and roleplay; that just means the goal shouldn't be to force players to roleplay, and I don't think anyone has really suggested that. Rather, for me the goal for RPGs should be to support players' ability to roleplay in as many capacities as possible, and at any rate the exclusion of certain mechanics tends to have greater potential to hinder players' ability to roleplay than the inclusion of those mechanics has potential to force players to roleplay, if that makes any sense. In other words, not supporting a particular aspect of gameplay (food for example) might limit how holistically one can roleplay (or at least that leaves it to imagination, which isn't fulfilling for many people), but having food in-game doesn't force people to role-play (if anything it just forces them to recognize it as a mechanic, but often times that inconvenience alone seems to be enough reason to omit features).

 

Thus, the fact that different games foster RP in different people is either due to player choice (which can't be helped) or the fact that different games have different mechanics, which foster different kinds of roleplay, which in turn appeal to different players. That said, there's nothing saying that such mechanics can't be integrated into a single game that might foster RP for multiple kinds of players, and I believe so-called role-playing games have somewhat of a responsibility to err (within reason of course) on the side on more roleplay freedom in comparison to action/adventure games, which might easier justify leaving out something that is irrelevant to the main conflict of the story. Therefore the RPG-ness of a game can be said to depend upon how broad its mechanics are, as this is theoretically correlated with the amount of players in whom it encourages roleplay of some kind. A true sandbox game will have extremely broad mechanics, and thus extensive potential for roleplay as long as the players actually choose to do so.


Edited by mcmanusaur, 23 May 2013 - 11:51 AM.

  • Pipyui likes this

#17
Lephys

Lephys

    Punsmith of the Obsidian Order

  • Members
  • 7245 posts
  • Location:The Punforge
  • Pillars of Eternity Silver Backer
  • Kickstarter Backer
There's definitely been a growing association between simple character progression ("leveling-up," etc.) and the term "RPG." But, I think an RPG's all about influence/reactivity by the player. There's a world and a story, the everything in a bubble around your player is in flux, and depends upon what you, the player, specifically decide to do with it. You can even change history via your character, as you can often decide your character's background as it actually affects the world and the story. You don't just go through the game choosing between lists of the same thing -- take this path or that one, kill this guy or that one, use this weapon or that one -- which you can do in oodles of different genres, but you actually choose between DIFFERENT things that produce DIFFERENT effects and make the story and world and characters all a unique reaction to your role-playing.

I agree with McManusaur that there are spectrums. I mean, how is something a role-playing game, yet completely devoid of anything that is even REMOTELY part of another genre? There's no action or adventure in the game? You just go around playing an action-less, adventure-less role? Probably not. There are even shooter RPGs, etc. I think it's kind of like you said with the spectrum thing, that a game is typically more complex than a single genre code can cover.

Granted, there are a lot of games that only have a sprinkle of RPG in them, even if it's legitimately there. But, I think as long as the game provides the interactivity with the story, world, and entities inhabiting that world that it's supposed to, no amount of action or bullets or drama or racing or aliens or strategy can simply negate its RPG status.

It's kind of like... if you put some diced up strawberries into some vanilla yogurt, then stir them, is it no longer vanilla yogurt? Well, you could call it strawberry yogurt, but the vanilla yogurt's still vanilla yogurt. The two didn't chemically fuse into a new substance that no longer possesses properties of vanilla yogurt. They're simply 2 flavors co-existing now. Maybe it's better because of the fruit, or maybe it's worse. But, it's not a 100% different entity.
  • Pipyui and mcmanusaur like this

#18
LadyCrimson

LadyCrimson

    Obsidian VIP

  • Members
  • 8942 posts
  • Location:Candyland
  • Pillars of Eternity Gold Backer
  • Kickstarter Backer
I don't roleplay (my chr) so I see the differences defined more by combat mechanics (are there environment/skill setup tactics possible or is it all just dash forward and clickclick-spamspecialattack-clickclick), environment exploration/freedom, and dialogue/freedom/world effect (non-linearity). eg, more choices, more story/plot, more affect on the gameworld = moving farther and farther from something like Diablo/pure dungeon crawlers.

So action-RPG/adventure is to story-RPG, like pre-packaged brownie mix is to a multi-layered, 3 foot high, elaborately decorated cake creation.

Sometimes I don't want to do the extra work and want to quickly make and get to stuffing my face with some EZ brownies.
Sometimes I feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen doing all that sifting, beating, layering, etc. to get something more elaborate and have the satisfaction of the complex/more interesting result as my reward.

#19
Labadal

Labadal

    Janitor of the Obsidian Order

  • Members
  • 3901 posts
  • Location:Sweden
  • Pillars of Eternity Gold Backer
  • Kickstarter Backer
  • Deadfire Backer
  • Fig Backer

Games like Diablo, Titan Quest and Torchlight aren't really even action role playing games. It's just what we call them because of the leveling and loot. There's no role playing. Most Japanese role playing games aren't really role playing games either if you want to be picky. There are a few that has choices the player can make, but they aren't many.

 

Games like The Witcher series, Morrowind, Mass Effect, Fallout: New Vegas and Alpha Protocol are in my eyes action role playing games. Then we have the party based role playing games that I would probably use as the closest example of a real role playing game. Planescape: Torment, Baldur's Gate series, Fallout and arcanum.

 

I usually use the term ARPG, JRPG, CRPG, WRPG, SRPG (or TRPG) because they are terms I've always used and I don't really have a better name. It's easy for me to know what type of game someone refers to when they use these abbreviations.



#20
mcmanusaur

mcmanusaur

    (6) Magician

  • Members
  • 602 posts
  • Location:A moment in eternity.

So I mulled this over a bit and came up with a sort of theoretical framework to classify the design philosophies of RPGs and action/adventure games, which is probably incomplete. It consists of four elements of RPG design that can each be measured across two axes, similar to a Cartesian coordinate system. I tried to represent a lot of the distinctions brought up in this thread's discussion, while making sure that the axes for each element were mostly independent from each other (at least theoretically). I also left out factors such as time period or level of magic/realism that have more to do with a game's genre (fantasy or sci-fi) than they do with RPG design. In no particular order, we have:

 

Element: Character

Axis 1: specialized or versatile (with class-based systems on one side and systems that stroke a character's ego by letting them be best at everything on the other side)

Axis 2: customizable or predetermined (how much of the character's past life is predetermined so as to fit within the story? must you play an orphan for example?)

 

Element: Mechanics

Axis 1: combat-focused or holistic (on one side you have pure dungeon crawls, and on the other you have emphasis on anything ranging from tradeskills to relationship drama)

Axis 2: skill-based or strategy-based (real-time or turn-based? reflex-based twitch gaming at one extreme, and intensive min-maxing number-crunching at the other end)

 

Element: Narrative

Axis 1: linear or interactive (self-explanatory, with a more linear game having less player choice, and games utilizing a moral dichotomy somewhere in between)

Axis 2: story-driven or persistent (is there a single main conflict that the character must overcome to "beat the game", or simply a web of loosely related questlines?)

Element: World

Axis 1: open or restricted (how much of the world can you explore? are you confined to areas that are directly linked to the central narrative, or can you travel freely?)

Axis 2: dynamic or static (how much influence does your character actually have on the world around them? how much is society simulated? sandbox games at one extreme)

 

You could therefore hypothetically classify all RPGs by plotting them along the two axes for each element, or conversely display one's design preferences by shading in certain regions for each of the four elements' graphs. Can anyone think of anything I've left out?


Edited by mcmanusaur, 23 May 2013 - 02:09 PM.

  • Lephys and Fearabbit like this





Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: genre, rpg, role-playing, sandbox, choice, open world, simulation, linearity, narrative, infinity engine

1 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 1 guests, 0 anonymous users