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Razzie.P

What gameplay/design elements do you believe are critical to a RPG?

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I kind of stumbled into an interesting RPG discussion in another thread, and thought it’d might be kinda cool to have its own thing.

 

What gameplay mechanics, design elements, etc do you feel are absolutely necessary before a game can be considered part of the RPG genre?   


Some feel that story is 100% essential.  Others do not.
Some feel that it must have a “level up/stats” kind of mechanic.  Others say nope.
Someone mentioned that it needs Moral Choice.  Personally, I’m thinking back to some of my favorites, and can’t remember having any sort of choice, other than “continue this quest or just stop playing.”

 

 

What do you guys think?   I’ve been giving it some thought and can’t really come up with anything that I personally feel “needs” to be there, other than the vague notion of “the ability to play a role.”   But there has to be something, right?


Anyways, figured it might make for some interesting thoughts.
 

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I guess it boil down to the fact that "RPG" is a very ancient name that was given at a time where games didn't have much in term of story, character development, were very linear, etc.

 

To me (I'm more into action RPG) a story seems unavoidable. How can you play a "role" when you have no story? If there's no story then it's a sandbox game. Is Minecraft a RPG?

 

Levels/stats are a stable of RPG but per se they might not be required. Although they would make the "role" part harder to achieve. How can you play a role when your actions have no bearing on the world? (unless you donc count fame/previous actions in the stats).

Starbound, for example, come with an elegant way of providing RPG-like levels without doing it : as the story progress you unlock better gear and habilities, so you kinda "level up" after each boss, but it's up to you to build up better armor, craft, buy to loot better gear, etc. (and both armor and gear give you bonuses like a full armor set give your weapon double the hitpoint, which is a very RPG mechanic I feel)

 

Moral Choice isn't so required. I can understand the sense but in most games I've seen, it's a very black and white mechanic, which reduce the RPG element to me since it doesn't leave you a choice. Why couldn't I be a thief that refuse to murder people, or a kleptomaniac white knight?

 

For me a RPG boil down to having a story with multiple paths and choices that will change both your character and the world. If there are no multiple paths then you can't play a role, and it doesn't affect both you and the world, there is no point in playing a role either.

 

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To me the most crucial element of a traditional RPG has always been and always will be combat. RPGs live and die by it  (unfortunately most does the latter) and everything else is secondary. This is the real gaming element of a a videogame and that's what I care about the most. Sure, you can count exploration, survival, character building as gaming too, but these mostly relate to and influence combat anyway. Hence, I've always rated Goldbox games such as Pool Of Radiance way over the  Baldur's Gate and other Infinty Engine successors. These lines have blurred a bit in modern 3D open world  RPGs - eg, combat is definitely not TES games' strongest point, yet they are amazing - but for classics it still holds.

 

It's nice to have a good story to go alongisde, but I much prefer games where you can make your own via imagination and gameplay (aka role-playing), and not because the devs pumped most of the resources into cutscenes and some illusionary "choice" system, which in most cases is extremely linear anyway, or tried for a glorified choose-your-adventure book. When I want to experience a good story I'd rather read a real book or watch movie, and when I play a videogame I want teh actual gaming to be the core element and dev's focus.

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5 hours ago, youxia said:

It's nice to have a good story to go alongisde, but I much prefer games where you can make your own via imagination and gameplay 

To this day, I've put in the most hours on Phantasie out of all the RPGs that I've played. I don't recall that there was any real plot beyond "pick your team..and explore and kill monsters!".

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1) you assume a role/character that has been largely laid out already (you might be able to edit appearance, ala Bethesda games, but a "background story" is still there).

2) there is some form of progression that in theory makes the game easier the more you play it (experience levels, equipment through purchase, loot, quests, or some form of techniques, spells etc) that is beyond just allowing the defeat of end game enemies. 

3) that there is some form of story that seeks a resolution by the end of the game, possibly but not relating directly to your main role/character. 

 

I don't think when it comes down to it, there needs to be more than that, and in some cases, one or more than those can be stripped right back for the purposes of unique gameplay. Nintendo is a good example and there has been a number of videos produced on the gradual minimalism their games is starting to show. Excellent examples of this is two rpg style games: paper mario and Zelda. 

 

Zelda you play the function of link, saviour of the land. Link, even in BotW, gains stronger equipment, gets more life, is able to craft better items, and the story has a resolution. Part of BotW's appeal was making open world very open to the point of not having a wrong answer to where you go (including right to the end straight away), it's only the players ability that holds back. Paper mario faces a similar situation where the complexity of different characters found from n64 to wii, is removed in its wii u and switch varients. It makes it very easy to play if you are young. 

 

I think these basic rules can prevent other games, such as shooters from being defined as rpgs. Most shooters you may well have progression of weapons, but usually because a new enemy requires this to be beaten, or a certain stage of a game may require this particular item, that just so happens to be useful for also mowing down unfortunate redshirts, to progress the game. That's not to say some shooters aren't also rpgs, Metro, Stalker, I can think of others that would fit the bill of both. Action Rpgs have also evolved to open world rpgs. Open World rpgs and rpg shooters (even when linear in area and story) share many similar traits. 

 

The need for more complexity in games as generations have passed has allowed rpg elements to enter most genres, but it's still possible to differentiate in my opinion. 

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Well first it has to be an rpg, not a visual novel with spread sheets, so that throws almost all Jrpgs out the window.

 

Secondly you have to play the role as the character you play as, not a scripted narrative. Simply moving a character around with the stick isn't role playing. You have to play as if you are the character interacting with the world.

 

Just those two elements disqualify 75%+ of self labeled "rpgs" and we haven't gotten off the surface yet.

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3 hours ago, Leeroy ST said:

Well first it has to be an rpg, not a visual novel with spread sheets, so that throws almost all Jrpgs out the window.

 

Secondly you have to play the role as the character you play as, not a scripted narrative. Simply moving a character around with the stick isn't role playing. You have to play as if you are the character interacting with the world.

 

Just those two elements disqualify 75%+ of self labeled "rpgs" and we haven't gotten off the surface yet.

Wait, what? Who made those rules?

 

The progression of RPG gaming in the '70s and '80s for me was Dungeons & Dragons (the board game) > Moria > everything else.

I played the PLATO version of Moria on the VAX at computer camp in 1982, and that set my expectations for the rest of the '80s.

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One of the most important things is the basic 3rd-grade grasp of English to know when to use "a" or "an" in front of a noun.

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3 hours ago, davidcalgary29 said:

Wait, what? Who made those rules?

Himself. Tho technically, I agree with him in that JRPG aren't RPG since they cast you in a character with a pre-written storyline that you usually have little influence on. you play a role in the loosest sense of the term, you follow a tightly-knit storyline. But it's nitpicking, it's my very own opinion and it can certainly be challenged; again, as I mentionned, the issue is that "RPG" was defined way back then in an era where early JRPG would be an advancement over adventures games wich had no concept of character progression or scripted storyline, just "find the items, kill the boss".

Edited by CatPix
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8 hours ago, davidcalgary29 said:

 

 

The progression of RPG gaming in the '70s and '80s for me was Dungeons & Dragons 

And what does D&D let you do?

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4 hours ago, CatPix said:

Himself. Tho technically, I agree with him in that JRPG aren't RPG since they cast you in a character with a pre-written storyline that you usually have little influence on. you play a role in the loosest sense of the term, you follow a tightly-knit storyline. But it's nitpicking, 

It's not nitpicking, especially if you think D&D is one of the basis for RPG.

 

You are pushing Jrpg as nitpicking because they do more than an Adventure game. Truth is that's mostly false. Not all Adventure games are Kings Quest, there are games with overlapping elements that Jrpgs have. Even so there's the visual novel aspect you're not taking into consideration for the "limited" movement and "scripted choices" so that and Adventure combine form the basis of most traditional Jrpgs, improving as tech improves.

 

Outside the basic ones still having gameplay close to games like Wizardry. But as Jrpgs evolved they more fall in line with the genre combo mentioned above. 

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On 9/18/2021 at 4:02 PM, Razzie.P said:

I kind of stumbled into an interesting RPG discussion in another thread, and thought it’d might be kinda cool to have its own thing.

 

What gameplay mechanics, design elements, etc do you feel are absolutely necessary before a game can be considered part of the RPG genre?   


Some feel that story is 100% essential.  Others do not.
Some feel that it must have a “level up/stats” kind of mechanic.  Others say nope.
Someone mentioned that it needs Moral Choice.  Personally, I’m thinking back to some of my favorites, and can’t remember having any sort of choice, other than “continue this quest or just stop playing.”

 

 

What do you guys think?   I’ve been giving it some thought and can’t really come up with anything that I personally feel “needs” to be there, other than the vague notion of “the ability to play a role.”   But there has to be something, right?


Anyways, figured it might make for some interesting thoughts.
 

To me what sets an RPG apart from other game is the focus on stats to quantify your character traits,  and the ability to level it up.   It also should allow you to create your own character, but some RPGs don't and are still stat based.

 

Story/Moral Choice-  you don't need to be an RPG game to have these things, so therefore they don't define what an RPG is.   Real RPGs would have campaigns that included the story elements, but you could also sometimes go meaninglessly slay monsters and loot dungeons.    But to me what really sets the RPG apart from other games is the heavy focus on stats.

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What makes an RPG, best to start with the etymology of the term. A d from there you can figure out what the word meant.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Role-playing_video_game#History_and_classification

 

From the history of video game RPGs, it is clear that they were attempting to emulate the pen-and-paper equivilents. The earliest examples (in both paper and electronic) emphasized...

  • Character or Party creation.
  • A rules system that determined how effective you were in combat.
  • A system of leveling up to improve your skills.
  • Exploration of the unknown (dungeons, wilderness, towns, something)

While the original RPGs were based off of Chainmail / D&D, I dint think anyone would argue that modern games based off of a different rules system aren"t RPGs (be it d20. Grups  or Interlock, etc.). Additionally,  you need to have some control over the character you create. If your role has already been determined, you aren"t playing a traditional RPG. (Japanese RPGs mostly differ from Western RPGs in this regard). If your characters dont improve over time with experience, your characters arent progressing, like in traditional RPGs. I assume it goes without saying, but if you aren’t exploring some unknown and everything is mapped out for you already, I don’t see how it could qualify as an RPG. (Imagine a 4x game without one of the ‘X’s)

Edited by CapitanClassic

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Some of us might be leant towards what we were first exposed to. Jrpgs was in my life before tabletop gaming, which I regard as strategy, and pen and paper role playing games was never a thing for me growing up. 

 

I did wonder if leveling / stat increases is a feature of JRPGs that set it apart from western ones which might have levels, but more freedom in regards to where increases go. Most "Western" rpgs I know still have a level system of some degree but also benefits from stat acquisition or choosing, sometimes both. Eg elder scrolls etc. JRPGS tends to be more grinding = levels = unlocks/stat increases. I take the point that JRPGs tend to also be more locked in for story and often presents few actual branches of choice. I would still argue that "assuming a role" counts as role playing - though there is more differences to WRPGs and JRPGs than just 'one is made first in English' and 'other is made first in Japanese' 

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3 hours ago, Mikebloke said:

Some of us might be leant towards what we were first exposed to. Jrpgs was in my life before tabletop gaming, which I regard as strategy, and pen and paper role playing games was never a thing for me growing up. 

 

I did wonder if leveling / stat increases is a feature of JRPGs that set it apart from western ones which might have levels, but more freedom in regards to where increases go. Most "Western" rpgs I know still have a level system of some degree but also benefits from stat acquisition or choosing, sometimes both. Eg elder scrolls etc. JRPGS tends to be more grinding = levels = unlocks/stat increases. I take the point that JRPGs tend to also be more locked in for story and often presents few actual branches of choice. I would still argue that "assuming a role" counts as role playing -

Well nearly every game out there has you "assume a role", so maybe "role playing game" isn't the most descriptive term to describe these games anymore.   But historically, "RPG" was the name given to video games that adopted aspects of pen-and-paper games like D&D.   So that's what I think of when I hear the term RPG. 

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2 hours ago, zzip said:

Well nearly every game out there has you "assume a role", 

That's different from actually "being in the role" of the "character" interacting with the world. 

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If it doesn't have stats or leveling up it's not an RPG, it's some other kind of game (action/adventure or something).  The name "role playing game" has a meaning aside from the raw literal meaning of those words put together.

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For me, having a decent story is very important -- both in terms of the plot and larger world-building. I like to explore every corner of every map; games like Baldur's Gate particularly reward this behavior with interesting discoveries. 

 

Stats and levelling are likewise important as I am a player that actually enjoys grinding. I hate being frustrated when I am unable to get past e.g. a major boss battle, so I will excessively grind at the beginning of the game until I can get past most anything. I can adjust the difficulty level to suit myself.

 

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