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Dee Yun Dee Yun: (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2005-10-19 07:00:15

NPC = Non Player Character

The term "Role Playing Game" or RPG is bandied about too freely nowadays. The only RPGs many individuals have been exposed to are in video game form. While they may be highly entertaining and worthwhile on other merits, they generally fail to provide a meaningful role playing experience. I found the following quote on a video game discussion board:

"We can get into the technicalities of what RPG means to each individual, but to most gamers, an RPG game is defined by the amount of stat manipulation and customization you can perform on your character."

Well, for this individual, a Role Playing Game is defined by the amount of role playing involved in the game. This is no mere "technicality", but by definition, an absolute requirement. The core gameplay in video game "RPGs" usually fails this acid test. The majority of these games fall under at least one of these categories:

Press "X" repeatedly until the next cutscene

These games, exemplified by the recent Final Fantasy games, are little more than interactive films, as the player is railroaded along a predetermined narrative with no options (other than stat manipulation and character customization) to speak of. You run down some paths, kill some monsters, and then they show you what you do and say next. The better examples of this genre do present entertaining stories and rewarding gameplay, but little of it involves actual role playing.

Hack and slash

These consist of continual combat. To quote Tycho of Penny Arcade, "[you] do things over and over again, until you are strong enough to do them over and over again on a more powerful foe with more powerful abilities." This was in reference specifically to the online multiplayer variants, but it equally applies to single player dungeon crawls as well. Again, quality games of this genre provide appealing action, but scant role playing. It's funny how Blizzard has set up some "role playing" World of Warcraft servers, but the only real difference is that the players just use a lot of "thee"s and "thou"s.

Bioware is teh r0xx0rz!

A handful of video games feature storytelling deep enough to allow for a range of player decision-making sufficient for rudimentary role playing, but due to the intricate nature of branching plotlines, these require a tremendous amount of technical and creative savvy to produce. Ultimately, even the best of these offer a discernibly finite set of possible choices, plots, dialogue, etc. The ability to step into somebody else's shoes, and to act as them, is still incomplete.

A true role playing experience requires complete freedom to fully determine the actions of your character. Until HAL 9000 becomes a reality, this is still best done with a storytelling 'game master' governing a pen and paper RPG. And when Direman Press publishes its pen and paper game, you should buy 36 hundred copies of it.

David Vargas David Vargas: (dave-deleteme[at]-deleteme-squishycomics [dot] com) 2005-10-19 19:51:19

So... Weary...

I had quite a few rants lined up.

I am also very tired at the moment, so you're all spared :)

Instead I will just say this: I want another good Bioware game. They seem to be the only ones who've recently made any "RPGs" (I agree with Yun's take on RPGs as show above) that I really enjoyed.

Anyway, hope you enjoy this strip.


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