Thursday, January 15, 2015

Thoughts On Role Playing Games

Role Playing Games are infamous for their specific game mechanics and they are well known for giving the player the ability to roam through game worlds as freely as possible. Most RPG's allow players to wander off and go in any direction, and it's up to the player how many dangerous traps and enemies they want to encounter. RPG's simply play differently compared to other genres because they are more strategy-based, detailed and methodical. RPG's are not every gamer's cup of tea, but considering the high volume of players that gather for MMORPG's, it's not unusual for one to think that this genre is highly influential.

Role Playing Games originated not in video games but on board games. These kinds of RPG's featured players taking on the roles of characters that were pre-established, having their own sets of features such as strengths, weaknesses, interests, weapons of choice, etc. and it was up to the players as to how they would configure their characters. How would players position their characters for victory on the game board? What would they be willing to sacrifice on any given turn? How often would 4 players play 2-on-2 variants of RPG's? These are just some of the varying questions you would normally hear about board game-based RPG's.

Nit exactly "that" kind of quest you were thinking of!
In the scope of video games, however, RPG's have proven to be much more expressive and detailed in comparison. With the addition of gaming technology, RPG's are able to tell deeper stories within their own worlds, giving players expanded experiences whenever they play these kinds of games. There is a large range of options for players to use in Role Playing Games such as determining how much strength your character will have, how much speed your character will have, or how many skill points your character will start out with. You always give the players options when you are developing a game written script, but it also helps when the general game mechanics themselves give the players options right from the start.

Perhaps that is part of the ongoing appeal of RPG's, the fact that when you begin the Story Mode of such a game you are given a wide variety of things to do to help your character progress through the world. You have a ton of things to account for and you have a ton of things you can alter before you even start your journey. You help make your own experience in an RPG. You help make the story of the game. You as a player factor into the building of the story depending on your actions. So... is it any surprise that millions of gamers participate in online RPG events?

Video game RPG attacks relate to board game RPG rolls
For me personally, I am not a huge fan of Role Playing Games, but it's not because I don't like the general concept of RPG's. In theory, a game developing company can make an awesome RPG provided that they have the right resources and content to put all the puzzle pieces together. I believe there is potential to make truly interesting and innovative RPG's that gamers will enjoy playing. You just have to know what kind of themes you want to hit on before you dive into the development of an RPG title.

What I do like about RPG's is the fact that the turn-based style of play that gamers get into once they engage in battles against enemies comes across to me as interesting. The turn-based style catches my attention with the main reason being that unlike other gaming genres, you don't need to go all out in one swoop and defeat an enemy. With the turn-based style of fighting that RPG's are best known for, players are given some time to adjust their strategies and think about whether or not it's worth it to keep fighting a certain group of enemies. Most RPG's feature the option of running away and leaving battles, which always helps.

Now Here's What I Don't Like About Role Playing Games...

The gigantic overemphasis on the element of mysticism. I see this way too often in RPG's and I find this extremely troubling. Basically being used as the calling card for at least 90% of all RPG's that have been made in the Video Game Industry, the element of mysticism (or to be plain, the use of magic) has run rampant as the primary source of entertaining gamers throughout RPG experiences. I understand where this originates from. The board game phenomenon known as Dungeons and Dragons pretty much began the craze as people literally dressed up as their characters in order to "play out" what was going on in the game.

I don't think the Video Game Industry is overall sending a healthy message to the masses by basically saying that without the use of magic there can never be a reliable and legitimate Role Playing Game. I don't think game development companies get creative enough when it comes to the RPG genre because most RPG's blend in with each other. You see one RPG that contains mysticism and then you see another RPG that contains mysticism. Then you see another, and another, and another... It's funny because we often warn people not to repeat themselves when it comes to making business-related decisions, and yet, here we are with RPG's that have remained unchanged and stuck with this same stigma of "It must be about magic or else it's not a true RPG".

I would like to go into detail on the core reason why I don't approve of most RPG's, as I specifically have spiritual beliefs that oppose the core values of RPG's, but I won't be going into detail here. I don't believe this is the right time for me to discuss this core reason.

RPG: Lack of a True Identity for the Genre

Fundamentally speaking, I don't believe the RPG genre has ever established a true identity for itself, as in core gameplay mechanics may have been established for titles, but I don't get the sense of anything stable being secured for this genre. Let me explain. For an RPG it's very easy to get caught up in experimentation because of the fact that players are given so much freedom to dictate where their journeys are taking them. This in theory isn't a problem. However, it's the execution of these RPG's that I find to be underwhelming and unappealing. Remember what I just stated about the gigantic overemphasis on the element of mysticism, and that RPG's often repeat themselves and each other? The RPG genre suffers from tons of copycat titles.

Mainly because of the fact that the core of most RPG's is the use of magic do we see the same things in these games. If everything is the same in their core, how can we tell the difference between this RPG and that RPG? You can create as many different characters as you want, but the same core still exists, and that to me is a big problem. Why do we need to tell an RPG story and include mysticism? That's what I don't get. It feels like it's an unwritten rule of some sort, and honestly I don't agree with that rule.

A general setup of RPG play
Overall it's still about creativity...

Being in the Video Game Industry, we are in the business of getting creative with our video game content, and whatever we decide to add in our developed games comes down to whether or not this game we make will be creative enough to capture the attention of gamers. It shouldn't be about what we can do to match a competitor's interpretation of a gaming genre. It should be about what we can do to stand out from the competition, to offer something different for gamers. Just because the RPG genre has remained unchanged in its core values doesn't mean that there will never be a time for us to transform this genre into something different. I believe the industry needs the RPG genre to change its core and get away from just the one theme it's known for.

I am very tempted to write a game story for the RPG genre that doesn't involve any kind of element relating to mysticism. 0%. None whatsoever. Not a single trace. Some gaming insiders and RPG enthusiasts will probably call this tactic of mine barbaric, but I know it can be done. I believe it already has been done in a few obscure RPG titles that hardly anyone knows about. I believe game development companies should be willing to redefine what the RPG genre is all about and try different themes. Consider the following ideas. An RPG game takes place in the setting of the Wild West, or in the setting of the world we live in today, or perhaps in the Revolutionary War times, or even on colonies established under the sea or on the moon... Apply a different core value to this kind of RPG and that's where creativity will kick in.

There are positives to take from the general mechanics of the RPG style of play and the statistics that come with the characters we create or are given in these games, but the negatives stem from the unchanged core values of the RPG genre that are holding it back from its true potential. You can be creative with an RPG and not stick to the status quo.

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