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[Column] General: What Makes a Role Playing Game?

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Comments

  • jesadjesad Posts: 753Member Uncommon

    For me an RPG is a game that either allows me to create a character that I can identify with, or pulls me into the character that I have been given to play in a way that makes me feel as though I am, in fact, that character.

    A good RPG can make you feel like you are anybody.  Games like the current Batman series for the console systems are a good example of this because even though you KNOW that you are not in fact "The Batman", the game forces you to think, act, and fight as though you were, and that in itself makes you feel like you could be the Batman even if you are in fact a 300 pound dude sitting in your underwear doing BH's in between saves.

    MMO's provide you with the same feeling in a different way.  They do this by allowing you to pick a person within a certain setting and then explore how you are going to BE that person completely on your own.  The more an MMO allows you to do this, via customization, world size, and activities, the more engrossing it becomes.

    Alternatively the more linear an MMO becomes with things like FLOTM's, Builds, required gear, etc....the less fun it becomes.

    In either case it is choice that makes for a good RPG experience and so I would have to summarize my thoughts thusly, reserving of course the way in which that choice was delivered from game to game.  That and a genuine interest in suspending disbelief in one way why allowing it in an entirely different way.

    Like the Architect said in the Matrix, "99.9% of all test subjects accepted the program, as long as they were given a choice, even if they were only aware of the choice at a near unconscious level."

    I think that means that you have to also want it to be a good RPG.  In this fashion a flight sim is, in fact, an RPG as long as it makes the user, who wants to fly planes, feel as though they are flying planes.

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  • sunshadow21sunshadow21 Omaha, NEPosts: 354Member
    Originally posted by jesad

    For me an RPG is a game that either allows me to create a character that I can identify with, or pulls me into the character that I have been given to play in a way that makes me feel as though I am, in fact, that character.

    A good RPG can make you feel like you are anybody.  Games like the current Batman series for the console systems are a good example of this because even though you KNOW that you are not in fact "The Batman", the game forces you to think, act, and fight as though you were, and that in itself makes you feel like you could be the Batman even if you are in fact a 300 pound dude sitting in your underwear doing BH's in between saves.

    MMO's provide you with the same feeling in a different way.  They do this by allowing you to pick a person within a certain setting and then explore how you are going to BE that person completely on your own.  The more an MMO allows you to do this, via customization, world size, and activities, the more engrossing it becomes.

    Alternatively the more linear an MMO becomes with things like FLOTM's, Builds, required gear, etc....the less fun it becomes.

    In either case it is choice that makes for a good RPG experience and so I would have to summarize my thoughts thusly, reserving of course the way in which that choice was delivered from game to game.  That and a genuine interest in suspending disbelief in one way why allowing it in an entirely different way.

    Like the Architect said in the Matrix, "99.9% of all test subjects accepted the program, as long as they were given a choice, even if they were only aware of the choice at a near unconscious level."

    I think that means that you have to also want it to be a good RPG.  In this fashion a flight sim is, in fact, an RPG as long as it makes the user, who wants to fly planes, feel as though they are flying planes.

    That is actually the best definition I've seen. The suspension of disbelief and making you think and react like the character on the screen, rather than yourself, are really crucial elements. I think thats why I tend to not like most of the current crop of games. None of them really pull you in to the point you are that character; there's too many mechanics  that make it impossible to get that level of immersion, and often it's not even the mechanics themselves, but how they are implemented. Earlier games tried to make even the most necessary and obvious mechanics blend with the world as much as possible; now they simply create an interface window that while helpful often pulls you out of thinking as the character and forces you to think as the player. I also tend to dislike the action combat that so many find popular today because too often it forces the player, not the character, to be good at combat, losing a lot of the immersion factor.

    These reasons are probably why games like Mario Bros don't get classified as RPGs; the focus was always on player skill and knowledge, not character skill and knowledge. The Tomb Raider games are similar; they have RPG elements, but ultimately, Lara Croft is still only as good as the player at the controls. Older console and computer RPGs, however, like their pen and paper counterparts, made you play and make decisions as the character. There were still interfaces and/or necessary behind the scenes number crunching, but metagaming, or thinking as the player instead of the character, was very rarely the focus until you got into a handful of key boss fights, or raiding; it still happened, but because it wasn't the focus, it didn't take over the entire game most of the time.

    In the end, it comes down to how much are you interacting with the game primarily through the thoughts and capabilities of the character vs the character very obviously being a puppet with all the skill and knowledge being provided by the player with the specifics of the avatar being largely superficial. Modern MMOs tend to skew more and more toward being a player driven game whereas older games, even older computer games, still relied on approaching the game as that character.

  • eindinblocheindinbloch Dallas, TXPosts: 60Member

    For me, rpg games are all about immersion.  Why do you play Pencil and Paper?  It's because you are able to experience this other world and live as another entity in that world.  Why do I play video games?  For the same reason.

    I don't care what kind of mechanics are in the game.  If the game is immersive and interesting, it will be fun.  Now I say that, the mechanics have to add to and not detract from that immersion.  It isn't immersive for me to grind unless that adds to the game's immersion.

    So for me this mainly entails having a great environment, great sounds, good story (although the story isn't crucial as long as the world feels real and interesting), good AI or interaction with other entities in the world...  If the world feels empty, it isn't worth playing.  If the developers made no effort to make the world feel "alive", it isn't worth playing.

  • GrandYithGrandYith FortalezaPosts: 1Member
    As for electronic RPGs, I've been on an argue about what defines them a few years ago. Ppl claimed the character customization (as in stats and gear) defines an electronic RPG. That said, "an elecctronic RPG is all about how strong you can make your character". I disagree. Tabletop RPGs aren't only abut numbers and dice rolling. They're about you diving into a world as your persona (the character you create from scratch, either you want it or not, is your persona in that game). Some electronic so called RPG titles have the name change option for that matter (so even if slightly, you can feel that the immersion into the game is somewhat deeper if you put on the char a name you like, or why not, your own name). That's mostly why TLoZ series is considered RPG. The name Link means, in the game's context itself, "the hero who links the storyline and happenings". Without Link, TLoZ wouldn't probably be the same (if you look at the entire game chronolgy). Ofc, there would be Zelda, but that's also a name somewhat like Link, but with less meaning on that matter. So, when you give Link another name, it actually makes sense and the immersion (for those who care about it) can be better appreciated, because there weren't only one Hero of Time, but plenty of them. Myself, I just leave as Link because I'm way too lazy to come up with a name that fits the Hyrule universe. Now, as for MMOs, I think they can define way better what an electronic RPG is. Most MMOs are about immersion. Those vanity items and in depth avatar customization aren't for nothing. There are those ppl wh don't give two shits for those things, but there are those who care a lot about diving into the MMO's world. For me, a good MMORPG (and rmb, that's ~for me~) has to have an in depth character creation, so I can create the shell of my persona as I see fit. It's exactly like in the tabletop paper&pen RPG: you have the choice to be whoever you want, not just some pre set options that look awful most of the time. So that would make The Sims an RPG? Well, no... You don't really play as a single character and live like him, you just control a bunch of characters. You're a god on The Sims, so it's entirely different. The gear progression is also an important part of RPG, OFC! I didn't forget about that! But let's forget the boing linear gear progression, like in RuneScape and PSO2 (and well, most MMOs out there, not to mention some other offline RPGs such as other Final Fantasies, TLoZ and so on). Take the free progression of FFXI, Dark Souls and Kingdom Hearts in which you can't say that every single gear is useless if compared to others. In FFXI, different from other FF titles, pro players walk around with more than one piece or complete set of armor and they change them in combat. The different combos of status that each armor on FFXI gives makes them all useful (well, not including the really low level ones in this argument, please take that in mind), not to mention certain weapons. High level red mages are often required to set black mage or white mage as their subclasses, requiring some gear changing such as the elemental staves (recommended to every RDM starting lvl50). I started to play Dark Sols recently and I've been guided by a friend who finished it on PS3. I asked about gear and stuff and he said "well, every gear in Dark Souls is useful in some way, you can't really say any of them are useless". My point with the gear part is that, just like in real life, our personas also have to be improved. The gear progression and skill trees make part of the hcaracter creation, but it's a long term creation since you remodel it through the game. That's one other reason why TLoZ is considered an RPG, bc every gear you find is useful (gods, there is absolutely no useless gear in TLoZ) and this progression takes part on how you will deal with situations (the choices are not only those the NPCs or cutscenes give us, but also those we do in combat or while travelling. TLoZ fans should know that the storyline of thefranchise have a path in which Link dies trying to save Hyrule from Ganondorf, and that death is considered to be any kind of possible death in any part of Ocarina of Time), thus taking part in the immersion. Now, as for the plot... That's not really what defines an RPG. There are great RPG titles with lame plots, but they're still RPGs because of the gameplay features. In the end, I would say that what makes an electronic RPG is the immersion on how you can feel you're part of that world by not just controlling your character, but also deciding how he will be.
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