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Role-playing in RPGs  

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  1. 1. To what extent do you roleplay in Infinity Engine games?

    • My character is best described as an IG representation of myself, with some glorified elements perhaps.
      29
    • I don't roleplay; I merely choose whatever seems most fun in the moment.
      9
    • I merely try to make my character believable and cohesive in character creation, but not beyond that.
      15
    • I plan my characters out extensively, including aspects such as personality that are not really represented by IG mechanics.
      25
    • I strive to separate my knowledge as player from that of my character so as to avoid metagaming.
      20
    • I occasionally choose to limit my character's strength or potential for no IG benefit based on what I think fits them.
      20
    • I actively roleplay my character's actions and/or dialog in some shape or form, IG or OOG.
      20
    • Most of my characters end up pretty similar to one another even when this isn't intended.
      18
  2. 2. What is the single most important goal you have in playing Infinity Engine games?

    • To simply "have fun"; I'm not very picky.
      8
    • To complete quests or see the sights via IG exploration and get a sense of achievement.
      6
    • To make the strongest/most powerful character possible given the game's mechanics.
      5
    • To immerse myself in the role of a character of my choosing and simulate their endeavors.
      26
    • To follow the game's narrative and storyline as it unfolds, and ultimately learn how the story ends..
      22
    • To grind through the game desperately hoping for a romance subplot or steamy sex scene.
      1
    • Something else not mentioned here.
      6
  3. 3. What separates the Action/Adventure and RPG genres?

    • Mechanics: RPGs require number-crunching and planning.
      23
    • Narrative: RPGs are less linear, and more branched and complex.
      45
    • Character Creation and Progression: RPGs let you define your own protagonist.
      60
    • Open World: The more freedom to explore and choices, the more RPG-esque.
      23
    • Realism: The more realistically I can simulate my character's life, the more RPG-esque.
      14
    • Teamwork: RPG's generally utilize parties of complementary specialists.
      15
    • Unlockables: Achievements, awards, feats, perks, etc.
      1
    • Roleplay: A game is not an RPG if people don't actually roleplay.
      37
    • Something else not mentioned here.
      9


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I believe that roleplaying is the essential component in a RPG. I don't believe that the inclusion of stats and levels makes a game a RPG.

 

To do this, I believe that the player has to have full control of the PC and know everything the PC knows.

 

As to Choices and Consequence, while the latter is certainly nice, I believe that the former is all that is really needed.


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The way I define things, an action or adventure game is all about the action and there is no support in the game for roleplaying. An action RPG has a focus on the action and a limited ability to create your character, and an RPG has full character creation and a reasonably large amount of focus on the roleplaying as well as the action, tyically manifesting in such things as dialogue options and choices.

 

Like all such definitions, there can be exceptions and games that blur the lines. It's very difficult to define what makes a roleplaying game, because many people seem to have quite different definitions of what it means to roleplay. Character creation and control is very important to me, but some only want one or the other.

 

Some other things that are important to me in a face to face game are by necessity limited in a computer game. You can't have the NPCs really reacting to what your character does in a computer game -- it would be insane to program in a response for every possible thing, and so we end up with dialogue options. When it gets to the point of extremely limited dialogue options (most of the time having only one or possibly two) or not being able to imagine how the character is saying it, then I start to think of the game as less of an RPG.

 

Choices and consequences and changing the state of the world are all bonuses to me, but so long as it doesn't seem like the character should very much have been able to effect the thing in question but couldn't it doesn't bother me if it isn't there.

 

Combat is also something that I'm quite fond of and like to have in RPGs, but I don't consider it a part of the definition. I suppose basically I define whether something is an RPG or not by the amount of character creation and roleplaying potential there is, and then if that is lacking, define it by whatever else remains primarily.

 

I consider the Infinity Engine games to be some of the best examples of RPGs there are, because for me, they allow great freedom in character creation and control. There are enough diaogue options usually that I can find one that fits, I can make any characters I choose to, and the only real limits are the limits of 2nd edition AD&D (I could well do without the racial class restrictions, as I always did in face to face games, for instance). There is nothing as a particular obstacle to roleplaying. And, while I in many ways prefer the Baldur's Gate series, the Icewind Dale games come up higher on the roleplaying scale for me because there isn't even the hurtle of a partially defined background. I'm also of the opinion that combat that depends on the characters statistics and such is more about roleplaying than combat where you control everything they do, because then the outcome is based off of your characters abilities and not your own, and they certainly meet that requirement.

 

I think this is how many people think about these types of games, but I have to ask: Why is an "Action RPG" like The Witcher 2 not a "real" role-playing game? The action isn't actually the point (Baldur's Gate certainly has lots of action), the difference is that it's realtime. And this doesn't actually diminish any other features associated with the RPG-ness of a game (the game has choices, consequences, different ways to level your character etc.). So why is a "realtime RPG" not as much of an RPG as a "turnbased RPG"?

I have not yet got around to playing The Witcher 2, but for several of the others on the list I would say the problem lies in not enough freedom of character creation or of roleplaying choice. I don't know how much you can choose about your character in The Witcher. I'm guessing at very best it would fall into the same category for me as Planescape: Torment does (as in, enough sheer choice in how you play the character that the fact that you can't create the character to begin with doesn't keep me from thinking of it as a roleplaying ame), and at worst it would be severely limited and so I'd categorise it as an action RPG.

 

This is what I don't understand. For me, games like Baldur's Gate are actually some sort of hybrid between RPG and strategy game. In combat, you do not roleplay a certain character at all, you simply play up to 6 different characters. (Of course nobody forces you to control these other characters, or you could go solo, but I believe when we talk about BG2 we think of tactical party-based combat.)

You do roleplay a certain character or characters. Roleplaying more than one character at a time doesn't make it less of roleplaying. Granted, bringing an entire party of NPCs makes it a little shakier, but you still very much create and control the one PC you have then.

 

Arcanum, Fallout, Mass Effect, The Elder Scrolls and The Witcher let you control exactly one character. One could make a good case that they are the real RPGs.

I'd say that Arcanum, Fallout, and the Elder Scrolls games are all real RPGs. I haven't played The Witcher yet, so I can't say for sure my opinion on it. Mass Effect skirts the line to me, because there is that dialogue wheel strongly limiting the ability to roleplay the character. As the series progressed, it took a nosedive into not being much of an RPG at all.

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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.


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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.

It does... but I think the interesting question is, what is the relationship between freedom and roleplay? There is one obviously, since without any freedom there's no agency, and with no agency you're reduced to a more or less passive observer of the story.

 

However I'm not at all convinced that more freedom always leads to more roleplay. I'd sum up the essence of roleplay as "tough choices." Choices become tough if they're limited: if any choice you make has trade-offs, sometimes tragic ones. These kinds of choices emerge naturally out of crisis situations, and crisis situations emerge out of story arcs. A sandbox with maximal freedom kind of takes the edge off those choices, since by definition you'll have the choice of walking away from the situation.

 

So I see the relationship between freedom and roleplay as something of an inverted U curve -- no freedom, no roleplay, 100% freedom, no roleplay, with the sweet spot somewhere in between where you have agency but your choices are fairly strongly constrained by your circumstances.

 

This can be done in an open-world game too, but to pull it off it needs to constrain your choices in other ways than writing it into the script. Otherwise it just becomes a hiking simulator. Oblivion didn't appeal to me at all, and I didn't even play Skyrim for this reason.

 

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.

I agree strongly. Screw moral dichotomy, let's have shades of gray instead.

 

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).

Again, I agree that the "defeat the King of Shadows" trope is hackneyed and unnecessarily limiting. However, I'm not sure that a scenario of finite limits is a bad thing per se. I like resolution. The alternative is a world that just goes stale and you stop playing because you get bored. I prefer a rousing finale to that.

 

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.

Another +1 on the ego-stroking, good-vs-evil, heroes, and villains. There are other stories that you can tell also. But I do find that to role-play without any story becomes thin gruel.

 

Don't get me wrong, I like simulations as well, but in them I don't role-play. I was really hooked on Dwarf Fortress for a quite a while, but I don't think of it as a role-playing game, precisely because there's no story arc, even in adventure mode. Any role-playing you do has to be "larping." Its strengths lie elsewhere, and IMO it exemplifies both the strengths and the limitations of sandbox games rather beautifully.


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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.

It does... but I think the interesting question is, what is the relationship between freedom and roleplay? There is one obviously, since without any freedom there's no agency, and with no agency you're reduced to a more or less passive observer of the story.

 

However I'm not at all convinced that more freedom always leads to more roleplay. I'd sum up the essence of roleplay as "tough choices." Choices become tough if they're limited: if any choice you make has trade-offs, sometimes tragic ones. These kinds of choices emerge naturally out of crisis situations, and crisis situations emerge out of story arcs. A sandbox with maximal freedom kind of takes the edge off those choices, since by definition you'll have the choice of walking away from the situation.

 

So I see the relationship between freedom and roleplay as something of an inverted U curve -- no freedom, no roleplay, 100% freedom, no roleplay, with the sweet spot somewhere in between where you have agency but your choices are fairly strongly constrained by your circumstances.

 

This can be done in an open-world game too, but to pull it off it needs to constrain your choices in other ways than writing it into the script. Otherwise it just becomes a hiking simulator. Oblivion didn't appeal to me at all, and I didn't even play Skyrim for this reason.

 

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.

I agree strongly. Screw moral dichotomy, let's have shades of gray instead.

 

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).

Again, I agree that the "defeat the King of Shadows" trope is hackneyed and unnecessarily limiting. However, I'm not sure that a scenario of finite limits is a bad thing per se. I like resolution. The alternative is a world that just goes stale and you stop playing because you get bored. I prefer a rousing finale to that.

 

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.

Another +1 on the ego-stroking, good-vs-evil, heroes, and villains. There are other stories that you can tell also. But I do find that to role-play without any story becomes thin gruel.

 

Don't get me wrong, I like simulations as well, but in them I don't role-play. I was really hooked on Dwarf Fortress for a quite a while, but I don't think of it as a role-playing game, precisely because there's no story arc, even in adventure mode. Any role-playing you do has to be "larping." Its strengths lie elsewhere, and IMO it exemplifies both the strengths and the limitations of sandbox games rather beautifully.

 

 

I guess what I'd say is that while more freedom does not necessarily need to more roleplay, more freedom correlates with more roleplay potential, and it's up to the player to utilize that potential. I don't think there's really any stark dividing line between "tough" choices and other choices, as really it just has to do with the kind of roleplay one is looking for, which varies from player to player. There are choices that entail tradeoffs in almost every genre of game, including more sandbox-oriented games, though you are correct that this tends to require conflict. What I'm arguing is not for the absence of conflict, however, but the reliance on hero-focused narrative arcs (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hero_with_a_Thousand_Faces); conflict can equally occur on a social level and roleplay shouldn't require a preexisting narrative structure. From what I've seen the real issue seems to be how relevant choices are to the game's narrative. For me there's nothing stopping people from roleplaying in a sandbox world, but the impression that I'm getting is that people don't really like having to creatively start from scratch themselves. And it's not as if characters are exempt from the influence of important events in sandbox games; they simply have the option of choosing not to participate. Thus it's really the player-driven aspect that deters people, rather than the wider scope.

 

Certainly the persistent world tradeoff is not necessarily a good or bad thing, as it all depends on how story-driven the gameplay is, but I think that games in which there is no "endgame" in that the world does not effectively persist beyond the resolution of the main conflict (and instead cuts off to credits or something) aren't the most fulfilling.

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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?"

Edited by Micamo
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@Mcmanusaur:

 

Ah. Fair enough.

 

Your "four elements of RPG design" are intriguing. Have you heard of Ron Edwards' GNS Theory? I don't take it as gospel or anything, but I think it's interesting to look at that in the context of computer RPGs, because you could plot out pretty definitively where any developer of cRPGs would sit on that spectrum. It's also useful for identifying one's own preferences. I would say you lean pretty heavily towards Simulationism as your One True Way (not an insult, just an observation), whereas I sit roughly at the halfway point between Narrativism and Gamism, but can enjoy all three types of games more or less equally.

 

Micamo was being sarcastic when she (he?) said The Sims was the "purest RPG ever," but I think there's actual merit to that claim. I know it sounds odd, but I would say there's a strong argument for The Sims being a pure Simulationist (obviously) RPG. You have stats, levels, character progression, a "stronghold" of sorts, quests, stat-enhancing gear, choice and consequence, a highly reactive system, plenty of mechanics conducive to roleplaying, a number of protagonists that can be as low as one... Hell, it's even isometric!

 

The reason it sounds silly to say that The Sims is an RPG is partly because of its wholesome and nonviolent nature, partly because it simulates everyday life, partly because you don't have control of your Sim at all times, and partly because there simply aren't many real Simulationist RPGs out there. We tend to think of the Elder Scrolls series as fulfilling that role, but I'd say that series is really somewhere in between Simulationism and Gamism.

 

But you play as a single character or small set of characters, and you direct them through an emergent narrative as they level up their skills. Sounds like an RPG to me.

Edited by Ffordesoon
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Micamo was being sarcastic when she (he?) said The Sims was the "purest RPG ever," but I think there's actual merit to that claim. I know it sounds odd, but I would say there's a strong argument for The Sims being a pure Simulationist (obviously) RPG. You have stats, levels, character progression, a "stronghold" of sorts, quests, stat-enhancing gear, choice and consequence, a highly reactive system, plenty of mechanics conducive to roleplaying, a number of protagonists that can be as low as one... Hell, it's even isometric!

 

The reason it sounds silly to say that The Sims is an RPG is partly because of its wholesome and nonviolent nature, partly because it simulates everyday life, partly because you don't have control of your Sim at all times, and partly because there simply aren't many real Simulationist RPGs out there. We tend to think of the Elder Scrolls series as fulfilling that role, but I'd say that series is really somewhere in between Simulationism and Gamism.

 

But you play as a single character or small set of characters, and you direct them through an emergent narrative as they level up their skills. Sounds like an RPG to me.

 

I think it's silly to say the Sims is an RPG because, even though you can definitely play it like one (I've done it before), it's really best played as a sortof God Game where you make fascimilies of people you know in real life and make them smash their genitals together like Ken and Barbie dolls. Then you get bored and set them on fire.

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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.

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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.

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

 

I've always wondered how a Western developer would tackle the Shin Megami Tensei series. While not particularly deep, it does create potentially deep worlds and potentially interesting questions that are, unfortunately, only treated on the surface level.

 

I mean, take Strange Journey. The basic premise of that game is that humanity has screwed the planet up so badly that the primal forces of nature have decided to wipe the slate clean and start over. On top of that, the forces of Heaven see the chaos as an opportunity to create a universal and eternal YHVH-worshipping theocracy. Yes, you start out the game trying to save mankind, but in the end you're allowed to side with the demons or angels over humanity if you prefer. Possibly interesting questions are either raised or hinted at, but never fully explored or developed and that's a shame.

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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.


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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.

But we can only "tell" a character what we truly want it to do to a certain limit - no game made so far gave each and every one of us the exact freedom of our choice. We can only hope to find given options to our liking;if the game does not present us such,then it is only a "control of a character".

 

Face it,people,we are trying to backtrack the term RPG to where we first met it - the games from the era of D&D,and we get ricochets of it's universality. What of the younger players? Have you ever tried to explain to someone who played only Witcher,Assasin's,etc. why it is not "the true RPG" and faced problems? We are only accustomed to a certain type,a mere 10 or so games,to be called RPG,and to us other games are not. The future to be P:E and Tides of Numenera are a sequel to that type of games specifically,of course we are calling it the true RPG. To us that is what it means.


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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.


Lawful evil banite  The Morality troll from the god of Prejudice

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@Mcmanusaur:

 

Ah. Fair enough.

 

Your "four elements of RPG design" are intriguing. Have you heard of Ron Edwards' GNS Theory? I don't take it as gospel or anything, but I think it's interesting to look at that in the context of computer RPGs, because you could plot out pretty definitively where any developer of cRPGs would sit on that spectrum. It's also useful for identifying one's own preferences. I would say you lean pretty heavily towards Simulationism as your One True Way (not an insult, just an observation), whereas I sit roughly at the halfway point between Narrativism and Gamism, but can enjoy all three types of games more or less equally.

 

Micamo was being sarcastic when she (he?) said The Sims was the "purest RPG ever," but I think there's actual merit to that claim. I know it sounds odd, but I would say there's a strong argument for The Sims being a pure Simulationist (obviously) RPG. You have stats, levels, character progression, a "stronghold" of sorts, quests, stat-enhancing gear, choice and consequence, a highly reactive system, plenty of mechanics conducive to roleplaying, a number of protagonists that can be as low as one... Hell, it's even isometric!

 

The reason it sounds silly to say that The Sims is an RPG is partly because of its wholesome and nonviolent nature, partly because it simulates everyday life, partly because you don't have control of your Sim at all times, and partly because there simply aren't many real Simulationist RPGs out there. We tend to think of the Elder Scrolls series as fulfilling that role, but I'd say that series is really somewhere in between Simulationism and Gamism.

 

But you play as a single character or small set of characters, and you direct them through an emergent narrative as they level up their skills. Sounds like an RPG to me.

I'm indeed familiar with the GNS theory, and I took some inspiration from the Bartle MMO thing as well. While the GNS theory has its merits, for being a theory that lumps people who play RPGs into three camps, I think it is a bit incomplete. For one it's a bit less applicable to the games themselves (than to the players and their attitudes), but it's also a bit of a false "trichotomy" I believe. I don't think think as a player you can escape any of the four elements of design; you simply choose what kind of narrative or mechanics you prefer, and your preferences for each are relatively independent from each other. I suppose you're correct that I would fall under "Simulationism" in that theory, but I think the important aspect of that you're not accounting for when you say that the Sims is the perfect simulationist RPG is that there is no (or very little) sense of setting, which I suspect would prevent my immersion (though I've never played it). Also, it is the game that should ideally simulate a social backdrop for roleplay, rather than having the player do all the simulating (which would distract them from "their" character).

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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
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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.


Lawful evil banite  The Morality troll from the god of Prejudice

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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

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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?

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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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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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Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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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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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

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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.


Lawful evil banite  The Morality troll from the god of Prejudice

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