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

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

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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%

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#41
mcmanusaur

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The difference between action/adventure and RPG is choice and consequence. Action/adventure generally has little to none, usually if it has any its a single choice at the end of the game. RPGs allow you to make choices and the world reacts to those choices.

 

I think the keywords for a what makes an RPG are agency and reactivity.

I get to choose what I do, and the world is geared to take my actions into account and respond to them.

 

The only way to summarize every version of "what makes a true RPG" would be to say: Role playing game is a game that strives to opt you with a wide variety of freedoms,choices and consequences that you can explore-/&-exploit to your personal liking.

 

I would agree that choice is probably the central pillar of "RPG-ness", but to me it begs the question how much choice is enough (or too much)? Should your character be able to financially support themselves via tradeskills instead of adventuring? Should you be able to purchase property, or control your character's diet, or spend your time romantically pursuing other characters? Obviously this varies between games, but if player choice is what defines an RPG, is the game that gives you the most choices the truest RPG? That is the question I intend to raise in this thread, as the mechanics and/or narrative of Infinity Engine games somewhat limit the player's choices (nothing against Infinity Engine games for being what they are, but perhaps their RPG-ness is limited). Where are the games that actually do this?


Edited by mcmanusaur, 24 May 2013 - 06:49 AM.

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#42
cleric Nemir

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I would agree that choice is probably the central pillar of "RPG-ness", but to me it begs the question how much choice is enough (or too much)? Should your character be able to financially support themselves via tradeskills instead of adventuring? Should you be able to purchase property, or control your character's diet, or spend your time romantically pursuing other characters? Obviously this varies between games, but if player choice is what defines an RPG, is the game that gives you the most choices the truest RPG? That is the question I intend to raise in this thread, as the mechanics and/or narrative of Infinity Engine games somewhat limit the player's choices (nothing against Infinity Engine games for being what they are, but perhaps their RPG-ness is limited). Where are the games that actually do this?

 

Agreed,most probably the truest RPGs are ones that give us most choices. And the games that actually do this? Well,by constantly adding more options that enrich the game mechanics we seen would seem the right course in evolution. It is a goal yet to be accomplished,but with no doubt the goal developers should always bear in mind.



#43
mcmanusaur

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I would agree that choice is probably the central pillar of "RPG-ness", but to me it begs the question how much choice is enough (or too much)? Should your character be able to financially support themselves via tradeskills instead of adventuring? Should you be able to purchase property, or control your character's diet, or spend your time romantically pursuing other characters? Obviously this varies between games, but if player choice is what defines an RPG, is the game that gives you the most choices the truest RPG? That is the question I intend to raise in this thread, as the mechanics and/or narrative of Infinity Engine games somewhat limit the player's choices (nothing against Infinity Engine games for being what they are, but perhaps their RPG-ness is limited). Where are the games that actually do this?

 

Agreed,most probably the truest RPGs are ones that give us most choices. And the games that actually do this? Well,by constantly adding more options that enrich the game mechanics we seen would seem the right course in evolution. It is a goal yet to be accomplished,but with no doubt the goal developers should always bear in mind.

 

 

I'm not sure though; I think to some extent modern RPGs have inherited things like a disproportionate focus on combat (which in turn leaves less resources for other mechanics) from as far back as the earliest days of DnD. There are also other ways in which RPGs are regressing in my opinion, such as the recent trend toward streamlined/simplified mechanics, or the cursory treatment of player agency in the form of black-and-white moral choices. At any rate I'm not too aware of any developers aggressively pushing the envelope in this regard.


Edited by mcmanusaur, 24 May 2013 - 07:22 AM.


#44
mcmanusaur

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A quick search on Wikipedia will tell you what the fundamental difference is between action and classical rpgs - direct control of a character versus telling the character what to do. I agree with that and would like to add that every other element of being an RPG is unrelated. The combat, story, dialogue are all dependent on the design of the game, not the genre. Sure, they bring some general guidelines and limitations with them, but that's about it.

 

I'm not entirely sure what the big difference is there. Are first-person games inherently not RPGs then? Where exactly is your source for that?



#45
mcmanusaur

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Personally, I love roleplaying in a sandbox environment. I just flutter about, sniffing the flowers that catch my eye and passing over the ones that don't. That I want to see what's there is motivation enough. The art of enjoying a sandbox game is the art of giving in to interesting distractions and the whim of the moment.

The trick to building a good sandbox is to provide the player both with sufficiently interesting distractions, and have a high enough density of them so it feels like there's always something to be doing (also as insurance in case the player decides your hooks aren't as interesting as you think they are). The #1 mistake DMs make when they set out to have a "sandbox campaign" is to just drop the players on a complete blank slate world and say "Okay, what do you guys wanna do?"

 

 

 

The #1 mistake DMs make when they set out to have a "sandbox campaign" is to just drop the players on a complete blank slate world and say "Okay, what do you guys wanna do?"


Bingo.

I've run my PnP campaigns as fairly sandbox-y, in that I barely ever force the players to go anywhere or do anything. However I figured out maybe 20 years ago that to keep things interesting I have to keep them hungry; give them some burning issue to address. The nice thing is that with PnP it's a continuing back and forth with the players, which means that if things go well, they'll start to develop their own ideas about what matters and what doesn't, and then that can become the impetus for the story. But there has to be some at least somewhat hairy situation they're in. "You all meet at a tavern and decide to go adventuring" doesn't really work IMO.

 

 

It's quite interesting to me how tabletop/PnP RPGs are such different animals than cRPGs, and I think that sort of gets at a lot of the issues discussed in this thread. While linear gameplay and railroading can presumably occur with certain DMs as well as in video games, I think in many ways the tabletop/PnP approach is closer to my ideal than restricted story-based cRPGs, although I don't really have much interest in active roleplaying every word my character says, which is the tendency I suppose.


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#46
Lephys

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Bingo.

I've run my PnP campaigns as fairly sandbox-y, in that I barely ever force the players to go anywhere or do anything. However I figured out maybe 20 years ago that to keep things interesting I have to keep them hungry; give them some burning issue to address. The nice thing is that with PnP it's a continuing back and forth with the players, which means that if things go well, they'll start to develop their own ideas about what matters and what doesn't, and then that can become the impetus for the story. But there has to be some at least somewhat hairy situation they're in. "You all meet at a tavern and decide to go adventuring" doesn't really work IMO.


Yup. Even if you're just gonna let the players sculpt whatever they want to, you've still gotta give 'em clay. Players don't like to invent their own clay.
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#47
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Interesting find: http://tvtropes.org/...RPGsEqualCombat and also http://tvtropes.org/...arityVsOpenness


Edited by mcmanusaur, 24 May 2013 - 12:50 PM.


#48
Micamo

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It's quite interesting to me how tabletop/PnP RPGs are such different animals than cRPGs, and I think that sort of gets at a lot of the issues discussed in this thread. While linear gameplay and railroading can presumably occur with certain DMs as well as in video games, I think in many ways the tabletop/PnP approach is closer to my ideal than restricted story-based cRPGs, although I don't really have much interest in active roleplaying every word my character says, which is the tendency I suppose.

 

Actually, I think they're more similar than you may realize. Writing a CRPG is most similar to writing an adventure module. My favorite modules are the ones that, rather than crafting a plot for the players to experience, craft a situation. Make a location, fill it up with NPCs, decide what the NPCs are trying to do. Then drop the player in there, perhaps with a quest hook for the reason why they're there and what they hope to accomplish (e.g. "Find Pharod"), then allow the player to do whatever they want with what's there. Give advice for how NPCs will react to various things the player might decide to do, but then hand it off to the DM to do the rest.

 

The main difference with a CRPG is you don't have a DM, you have to settle for scripts. This isn't as big of a difference as it sounds, though: Handled intelligently, a script can substitute a human DM very effectively within the assumptions of the type of game being played. Where you encounter problems is when the players decide to do stuff that's completely insane, or runs counter to the assumptions of the game. Like, a game where the players are all pirates trying to become captains of their own ship (ala Skull & Shackles), but then the players give up piracy and decide to run an orphanage instead. A human DM can handle this but no amount of scripting can.


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#49
mcmanusaur

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It's quite interesting to me how tabletop/PnP RPGs are such different animals than cRPGs, and I think that sort of gets at a lot of the issues discussed in this thread. While linear gameplay and railroading can presumably occur with certain DMs as well as in video games, I think in many ways the tabletop/PnP approach is closer to my ideal than restricted story-based cRPGs, although I don't really have much interest in active roleplaying every word my character says, which is the tendency I suppose.

 

Actually, I think they're more similar than you may realize. Writing a CRPG is most similar to writing an adventure module. My favorite modules are the ones that, rather than crafting a plot for the players to experience, craft a situation. Make a location, fill it up with NPCs, decide what the NPCs are trying to do. Then drop the player in there, perhaps with a quest hook for the reason why they're there and what they hope to accomplish (e.g. "Find Pharod"), then allow the player to do whatever they want with what's there. Give advice for how NPCs will react to various things the player might decide to do, but then hand it off to the DM to do the rest.

 

The main difference with a CRPG is you don't have a DM, you have to settle for scripts. This isn't as big of a difference as it sounds, though: Handled intelligently, a script can substitute a human DM very effectively within the assumptions of the type of game being played. Where you encounter problems is when the players decide to do stuff that's completely insane, or runs counter to the assumptions of the game. Like, a game where the players are all pirates trying to become captains of their own ship (ala Skull & Shackles), but then the players give up piracy and decide to run an orphanage instead. A human DM can handle this but no amount of scripting can.

 

 

You're probably right, but I guess the one thing I would say in response is that I suppose even the concept of independent "modules" within the geographical/chronological scope of a game's setting have certain implications for game design. In real life I think we'd be hard-pressed to say that there is always a primary conflict or central narrative (are foreign relations, technological progress, environmental concerns, or social inequity more important than one another?), and one could argue that dedicated roleplay would be similar. I suppose one big thing I can take away from this discussion is that games and player expectations vary widely when it comes to the "span" or "width" of roleplay. Obviously the other variable at play, which everyone can mostly agree on, is "depth" and to some extent width and depth might compete for resources (but in another sense they could also be emergent with relation to one another). Perhaps then it would be useful in the so-called RPG genre to distinguish games in terms of specialized (whether focusing on combat or narrative or any other particular facet of RPGs) versus holistic roleplaying games. At any rate I think you're right that it's somewhat of an artificial intelligence question (and maybe even a step more complex for simulation of societies), but we're going to get no closer to finding the most appropriate algorithms to accommodate such complexities without developers being ambitious.


Edited by mcmanusaur, 24 May 2013 - 04:52 PM.


#50
cleric Nemir

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I'm not sure though; I think to some extent modern RPGs have inherited things like a disproportionate focus on combat (which in turn leaves less resources for other mechanics) from as far back as the earliest days of DnD. There are also other ways in which RPGs are regressing in my opinion, such as the recent trend toward streamlined/simplified mechanics, or the cursory treatment of player agency in the form of black-and-white moral choices. At any rate I'm not too aware of any developers aggressively pushing the envelope in this regard.

 

It's the money. It's always money. The market that refuses to see us as a group of interest,we can wave our bills all we want - and we are the ones that will pay,certainly and gladly - but they want more. We tried to prove our numbers - still we are graded as a bunch of oldschool players in a sea of freshborn customers-to-be. It's not a fast food market,dafuq.

Noone ever stops to think how and why we even grow in such number. Certain people will always like RPGs,and some of those are yet to be born. The number ain't small,that is a fact.

 

Ultimately,they all fail when they try to present us with something they think we want and like (with the little bit of "simplify-and-focus-flashy-action-so-that-more-people-would-buy"). Look at the greatly announced Kingdoms of Amalur - what a dud.

And all the complains about piracy and how piracy is guilty for their demise! Piracy is not a problem,problem is your very product. I will pay if you deliver me what I expected,at least. Sorry all,had to mention this,it irritates me too often.

 

We had some long years since the Black isle,fed on scrap,I was growing desperate until all this with Numenera and Eternity.

My wisdom failed me - Kickstarter never even occurred to me as an option.. Yes,I was actually stressing myself over how to help and further engage people into fight with the grand beasts of the gaming market. Anyway - glad something finally happened.

 

If P:E and T:ToN,these two bombs,hit their target maybe it will do much good for the future of RPGs.



#51
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@Mcmanusaur:

I didn't say The Sims was the perfect Simulationist RPG. My point was that it could be considered an example of a true "Simulationist RPG," at least provisionally.

If I were to look at it as a Simulationist RPG, I would call it heavily flawed, if for no other reason than the fact that it is impossible to play as a truly despicable character. Sure, you can play as a heavily sanitized version of a vampire or a burglar, but there is an ethical boundary implicit in the choice of actions presented to the player. There are mods which give the player some more power in that regard, but there's not, for example, a human trafficking mod.

Which is fine, as it is ultimately intended as a family-friendly simulation of everyday life rather than as an RPG. Its RPGness is accidental. My real point (which I failed to elucidate in my previous post, due to being in a tired haze) was that a true Simulationist RPG of the sort you describe would do well to take as many lessons from The Sims as from Fallout or the IE titles.

As for your worry about the lack of a definite setting, I can see your point, but Sims 3 in particular actually does a pretty good job with that. Its accidental-RPG status prcludes the sort of solid world-building you see in, say, Torment, but there are plenty of defined locations peopled with all manner of randomly generated Sims. You can go to the library and hit on the movie star who lives three doors down from you, then go back to her place, for example, or go to a house party and mingle. Neither of which indicates the setting is particularly believable, I admit, but again, accidental RPG.

You might also find Space Rangers 2 worth a play, while I'm recommending things. Its generic name is a turnoff, and the graphics are kind of meh, but it is an inspired piece of Russian lunacy that defies genre classification. There is a real-time strategy game in there, and a space sim, and a text adventure, and an RPG, and a turn-based strategy game, and a third-person shooter, and and and. I believe them what made King's Bounty did Space Rangers first, and SR is by far the more ambitious game (SR2 is actually a remake of the first one, so it's not necessary to play the first, um, first). Kind of broken, but really interesting nonetheless.

Ultma VII, Divine Divinity, and the upcoming Divinity: Original Sin also carry the Simulationist torch to an extent, as does Darklands. You probably know about all of those already, but I feel I should mention them anyway. Oh, and Fable II had some intriguing - if half-formed - Simulationist elements. They all do the hero's-journey bit to some extent, and Fable II is basically nothing but ego-stroking, but they're interesting games to study.

Unrest also popped up on my radar just today, and it strikes me as intensely fascinating, if not necessarily your particular cup of tea. Certainly, the heavy focus on non-combat mechanics and the player characters who are simply a part of the setting rather than being Epic Hroes Of Destiny sounds like it might scratch an itch or two of yours. It scratches the hell out of mine.
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#52
JFSOCC

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How about minecraft? Everything you do there is your decision. It's lots of agency, if not reactivity.

#53
mcmanusaur

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How about minecraft? Everything you do there is your decision. It's lots of agency, if not reactivity.

 

Sadly enough I've spent a fair share of time on Minecraft attempting to tailor it to an RPG, and while it has some positive characteristics, there are definitely a few disadvantages as well. One, the character of the setting is childish and generally terrible (ex. Villagers, Nether dimension, Ender dimension)- and all of the effort the development team puts into such features is wasted. Two, many of the so-called "RPG elements" of Minecraft are rather poorly implemented (leveling, alchemy, etc.), and don't provide a satisfying gameplay experience to someone who has played legitimate RPGs. Three, the world is bare and empty save for the occasional procedurally-generated structure, and thus there's no sense of immersion in a larger world or society (you have to work really, really hard to get anywhere close to this even on a custom map). This in turn hinders the reactivity as you point out, even if there's an immense amount of freedom. I've given up MC, but if you could have all the sandbox aspects together with a properly designed world/setting and legitimate gameplay mechanics (and slightly better graphics I would optimistically hope), that wouldn't be too bad in my opinion.



#54
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you're telling someone who has discovered minecraft last week and has been totally addicted to it, how crap it is. I have to disagree. it's very immersive, the nether is scary, you make your own challenges (quest) you have total decision power what you'll do next. And it's constantly getting updates with new features.

Edited by JFSOCC, 30 May 2013 - 12:25 PM.


#55
mcmanusaur

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you're telling someone who has discovered minecraft last week and has been totally addicted to it, how crap it is. I have to disagree. it's very immersive, the nether is scary, you make your own challenges (quest) you have total decision power what you'll do next. And it's constantly getting updates with new features.

 

Lol, then wait and come back after you've played it for two years... Nah, but it's good at being a more or less "pure" sandbox game; I just find its stated "RPG elements" to be a bit underwhelming. That and most of the new features added are slightly watered down versions of popular mods, which have yet to be properly supported by the developer. I have spent far too much time playing it to call it crap, but at some point you become eager for something more.


Edited by mcmanusaur, 30 May 2013 - 01:10 PM.


#56
Lephys

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I never really even got started on Minecraft. It's too... Sims-y to me, but without even the Sims progression and such. It feels like too technical of a game. Like most of the focus is just on sandbox for the sake of sandbox.

 

Granted, I've never actually PLAYED it, so I reserve full and complete judgement on it for such an occasion. However, I am currently rather enjoying Terraria. It's still sandboxy, with the focus mainly on exploration, progression, and pure gameplay... er... action, for lack of a better word.

 

But, yeah, if you've never played Terraria, and just for extra context on this particular topic, I highly recommend it. I started getting a little bored with it when I had done almost everything there was to do in the first "half" of the game. I had one boss left to tackle (The Keeper of the Underworld), and I finally tackled that boss, which queues "hardmode" (which is ill-named, since it makes it sound more like a difficulty, when it's more like the 2nd tier of gameplay that washes over the world). Now, I'm pretty hooked again. Of course, I'm playing on Difficult instead of Normal, so I drop all my stuff every time I die, and things in hardmode are QUITE THREATENING. 8P

 

I digress.



#57
mcmanusaur

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I'm not intending to plug anything, as I just stumbled upon this today, but this seems to hit on a lot of the things discussed in this thread (and has some similarities to Minecraft in terms of being voxel-based and procedurally generated). That said I'm a bit skeptical about their answer to the "narrative vs. freedom" question and unfortunately the general character of the game seems a bit juvenile. Even so it's reassuring to see some developers taking the risks of infusing sandbox and RPG elements, even if we have yet to see this is in a convincingly mature context.

 

http://www.kickstart...rdkingdom/tug-1

 

I guess it ultimately begs the need to distinguish between what might be called "empty" or true sandboxes a la Minecraft/Terraria and clones (where the emphasis is on the PC forging new civilization in a more or less empty and usually procedurally generated world) and "full"/"social" sandbox games (which still allow roughly the same degree of interactivity but there is a functioning society that exists before the PCs arrive). And then both of those could in turn be contrasted with open world games like TES or to a lesser extent GTA, which don't have too much interactive dynamism. It is the setting and context that the former empty kind of sandbox games lack to me, and which I think could work as a substitute for the traditional story-based narrative. I guess ideally what I'm looking for is not strictly a "story" or a "sandbox", but a "situation".


Edited by mcmanusaur, 30 May 2013 - 01:55 PM.

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#58
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you're telling someone who has discovered minecraft last week and has been totally addicted to it, how crap it is. I have to disagree. it's very immersive, the nether is scary, you make your own challenges (quest) you have total decision power what you'll do next. And it's constantly getting updates with new features.

 
Lol, then wait and come back after you've played it for two years...


I have spent far too much time playing it to call it crap, but at some point you become eager for something more.

2 years is a lot of value for money TBH I don't expect to be playing Project Eternity for that long.

#59
mcmanusaur

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you're telling someone who has discovered minecraft last week and has been totally addicted to it, how crap it is. I have to disagree. it's very immersive, the nether is scary, you make your own challenges (quest) you have total decision power what you'll do next. And it's constantly getting updates with new features.

 
Lol, then wait and come back after you've played it for two years...

 


I have spent far too much time playing it to call it crap, but at some point you become eager for something more.

2 years is a lot of value for money TBH I don't expect to be playing Project Eternity for that long.

 

 

Fair enough. As I said there's little arguing that Minecraft is pretty good at what it was originally meant to be, but for me the "RPG elements" are lacking or a bit out of place at best.


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JFSOCC

JFSOCC

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I never really even got started on Minecraft. It's too... Sims-y to me, but without even the Sims progression and such. It feels like too technical of a game. Like most of the focus is just on sandbox for the sake of sandbox.
 
Granted, I've never actually PLAYED it, so I reserve full and complete judgement on it for such an occasion. However, I am currently rather enjoying Terraria. It's still sandboxy, with the focus mainly on exploration, progression, and pure gameplay... er... action, for lack of a better word.

Minecraft is 3d Terraria, which also a cool game.
I tend to play these games intensively for a while and then not ever touch them again.





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

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