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February 10th, 2013, 18:11
@MigRib:

So many things to comment on here.

First off, I pretty much entirely disagree with your view on games and art. Games don't need to become movies to be art. Movies can already do that, and the further down that line they go, the more they just become.. movies. Not games. The two forms of media operate on entirely different principles, and it doesn't make sense for games to slavishly emulate something that's not interactive. If games are to be art, they need to be both -games- and -art-. It's terribly deep or anything, but a game like Hotline Miami comes closer to game-as-art, IMO, than all the strong-narrative-but-weak-interactivity style games. Why? Because the narrative, the game mechanics, the visual esthetic, and the music all come together to create a common experience. You essentially lose your damn mind playing the game, and it's glorious.

When it comes to RPGs, I think likewise. RPGs, as a genre, shouldn't go for a ME-ish movie narrative with a few slight tweaks to the story due to player choice. As you yourself note, they should be about role-playing. About making your own decisions in a world. Not only does that strongly differ from your focus on games-as-interactive-movies, but it also complicates your obsession with voice acting. Insofar as games provide voice-acting, they'll be less capable of creating a truly dynamic or interactive environment. You can technically have both, but it becomes increasingly expensive and difficult as the amount of true dynamism and role-playing increases. At a certain level, I'm not even sure the two are truly compatible. Imagine a game as open ended as Dwarf Fortress with voiced dialogue. It doesn't even make sense.

Now, don't get me wrong, there is a place for movie-style games and thoroughly voiced games. However, they're just different than games that focus on dynamism and role-playing. To some extent, you can compromise. You can voice only so many characters or only so many dialogues. You can reduce the complexity or dynamism of your game. You can streamline the potential choices, a la Mass Effect. However, at the end of the day, you can really make a game of one type or the other.

As for this discussion of tactics and RPGs, I think it's worth pointing out that the earliest RPGs were wargames. Chainmail, the immediate predecessor, was a wargame. Gary Gygax developed it with some 'Lake Geneva Tactical Studies Association' acquaintances. After this, D&D co-creator Arneson took chainmail and used it to resolve combats in his own wargame, Blackmoor. This is when RPG progression mechanics were developed, and, not long after, D&D was created.

The association with wargaming was not accidental, and it did not begin with computer games. The fact is that D&D is a descendant of wargaming the same way birds are descended from the dinosaurs. It's clearly a new, different thing now, but you can see traces of the roots everywhere.

Of course, not all the earliest PC RPGs were tactical. The PLATO games were more like proto-roguelikes then, of course, there are the roguelikes themselves. There's also the Ultima/Akalabeth-style RPG, which didn't really introduce tactical elements until later. However, once parties became the primary operational element, rather than single player characters, some sort of turn-based element became necessary to make this manageable. Wizardry did this with a turn-based combat screen approach. Then the Gold Box games, some later Ultimas, and a few others went with a full-on tactical approach.

There's nothing about this approach that made them "lesser" RPGs or anything. It was just a different emphasis on the original PnP mechanics. If anything, I think the early party-based RPGs were more successful in role-playing and capturing the PnP games than the solo RPGs, but, of course, that's arguable. At least these still captured the idea of parties working together to deal with issues, and the possible social interaction of the different party members.

In any case, I don't think that tactical-style combat is -less- of an RPG experience, especially when real life skill-based gameplay is the alternative. There's certainly no twitch gameplay in PnP.
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