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Default Rampant Games - Nobody Wants to Be an RPG!

February 24th, 2010, 03:20
They're just not cool enough, and they don't sell in the millions (for the most part), Jay Barnson Blogs on the RPG avoidance issue.
First it was British game development's biggest mouth, Peter Molyneux, claiming that "Fable 3 isn't an RPG." After years of saying he was going to redefine the genre, he changed his tune to say he's going to abandon it. Kinda.

Now, the exemplar series of Japanese RPGs (jRPGs), Final Fantasy, is apparently abandoning the RPG genre as well. The RPG "template" was just too stifling, and the creators were aiming to go off in new directions without any preconceived expectations and requirements.

At least, that's what they are saying now.

Kat Bailey notes this recent trend in her article, "The Loneliest Genre." Mass Effect 2 (and Mass Effect 1) really look like hybrid FPS / RPGs to me (which, I stress, is cool and all…) While Dragon Age: Origins (which I still haven't played) sounds to be pretty much good ol' RPG on the inside, a lot of the marketing did try and make it feel like… something else.
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February 24th, 2010, 03:20
Too many hybrids, too much silliness (adventure games are rarely adventures)… must have new genre labels!
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February 24th, 2010, 05:00
I want to be an RPG… I am an RPG.

The FF creators have been inventing various excuses to explain away the bad press they are getting (they made FFXIII extremely linear, with few subquests or towns). First they said it was because HD cities were too hard to create. Then they said it was so they could focus on telling a good story. And now it's because the RPG genre is "too confining." Ha. Keep dancing, boys.

The ME criticism doesn't really wash, either. Some would argue, in fact, that ME tries hard to claim an RPG title it only marginally deserves.

As for Fable … Peter M. gets a lot of shit from RPG fans, because they are the ones who pay attention to his promises, and they are the ones who get angry when he fails them. Saying Fable III will not be an RPG is a way of minimizing backlash from these people. It's also probably true (Fable III will not be an RPG), but I think the main reason he said it was to try to pre-emptively eliminate more criticism about how watered-down an RPG it is. At least that's my view. It's not that he doesn't want Fable to be known as an RPG. It's that he's tired of getting shit because it's not.
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February 24th, 2010, 11:08
Judging by the constant bickering here at the Watch about whether new game X really is a RPG or not and by how those that are deemed true RPG's are excused for containing even blatant flaws and those that are not deemed true RPG's are being bitch-slapped from top to bottom for even minor details, I can certainly understand why developers would want to shy away from the RPG label.

Sorry, but lately it has struck me how "elitist" (the word is a bit harsh but unfortunately also fitting) the tone here at the Watch has become. If a game meets certain standards (looks like it is from the early 90'ies, plays like it is from the early 90'ies, have been developed by an indie firm or has been made with a tiny budget) it is automatically praised for upholding the "True" RPG spirit no matter how flawed the game may be. Likewise if the game has a been made with a big budget or looks and feels like a game of today it is automatically criticized for no being a proper RPG, again no matter how great the game may be. (e.g. DA:O winner of the most disappointing game of the year here at the Watch)

If being a proper RPG means that a list of requirements must be fulfilled to be able to don that label then I say good riddance. I would much rather play a game that was created based on the concepts and ideas the developers wanted you to play than a game made to fit a predefined mold whether or not it was actually the original concept of the game.

Then again I play most games for the experience not necessarily the gameplay elements (Plant vs. Zombies and similar titles excluded of course). I would much much MUCH rather experience one superb playthrough than several okay repeats.

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February 24th, 2010, 11:21
Originally Posted by fatBastard() View Post
Sorry, but lately it has struck me how "elitist" (the word is a bit harsh but unfortunately also fitting) the tone here at the Watch has become. If a game meets certain standards (looks like it is from the early 90'ies, plays like it is from the early 90'ies, have been developed by an indie firm or has been made with a tiny budget) it is automatically praised for upholding the "True" RPG spirit no matter how flawed the game may be. Likewise if the game has a been made with a big budget or looks and feels like a game of today it is automatically criticized for no being a proper RPG, again no matter how great the game may be. (e.g. DA:O winner of the most disappointing game of the year here at the Watch).
Well said, and I'm sorry to say that I have to agree - at least to a certain point. I mean, there are *a lot* of sensible people here at the Watch, and it's still my favourite site on the net, but that DA:O was voted "most disappointing game" on a site like this… that's both silly and a bit sad IMO.
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February 24th, 2010, 12:29
Originally Posted by fatBastard() View Post

Sorry, but lately it has struck me how "elitist" (the word is a bit harsh but unfortunately also fitting) the tone here at the Watch has become. If a game meets certain standards (looks like it is from the early 90'ies, plays like it is from the early 90'ies, have been developed by an indie firm or has been made with a tiny budget) it is automatically praised for upholding the "True" RPG spirit no matter how flawed the game may be. Likewise if the game has a been made with a big budget or looks and feels like a game of today it is automatically criticized for no being a proper RPG, again no matter how great the game may be. (e.g. DA:O winner of the most disappointing game of the year here at the Watch)

If being a proper RPG means that a list of requirements must be fulfilled to be able to don that label then I say good riddance. I would much rather play a game that was created based on the concepts and ideas the developers wanted you to play than a game made to fit a predefined mold whether or not it was actually the original concept of the game.

Then again I play most games for the experience not necessarily the gameplay elements (Plant vs. Zombies and similar titles excluded of course). I would much much MUCH rather experience one superb playthrough than several okay repeats.
Word !

Im in it for a bit of escapism from the daily drudge.
Give me a good experience and good riddance with narrow genre definitions.

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February 24th, 2010, 12:54
I kind of like mass effect but I cant denay that for most part the game is pretty much a railroaded shooter. I mean thats what you do "most" in the game. If you remove the shooting there wouldnt be much of a game left in it.

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February 24th, 2010, 13:46
I think its naive to believe that a bit of bitching in the dark corners of the internet has anything to do with this "movement" (if it even is one). I think this is simply the result of a trend we have seen going on (and bitched about) for a long time, i.e. that classic RPG-centric features (character systems, dialogue, nonlinearity) are weighed down and action elements are given more weight. That some franchises that have been successful with that strategy (like the two cited here) eventually move out of the RPG bracket entirely is not surprising. Many would argue that actually happened quite some time ago…
At the same time we saw quite significant successes of fairly complex RPGs, such as DA:O, Witcher, MotB, FO3, and more on the way, so I am not afraid for the genre at the moment. Considering that this genre was already pronounced dead more than once, it still produces a remarkable amount of GotY's.
Actually I think this is good news - it would suggest that developers are actually thinking a bit about the genre's definition again, instead of slapping "RPG" on everything that has even the faintest sprinkling of RPG elements.
That is not being elitist, I hope. I love genre crossovers. But it is helpful to remember what some of the core features of each genre are. I see that as a basis to be able to develop these elements that originally made each genre fun (as opposed to just "streamlining" them).
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February 24th, 2010, 14:09
Hmm, since when did we have a problem with actual RPGs not being labelled as such? The problem has always been that all sorts of action games get the RPG label to sell more copies.. has this reversed? I haven't seen any indication of that happening.

The fact that Fable 3 is not being labelled as an RPG is merely honesty from the developers, not part of a marketing scheme.
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February 24th, 2010, 15:16
Originally Posted by KasperFauerby View Post
Well said, and I'm sorry to say that I have to agree - at least to a certain point. I mean, there are *a lot* of sensible people here at the Watch, and it's still my favourite site on the net, but that DA:O was voted "most disappointing game" on a site like this… that's both silly and a bit sad IMO.
Well … specific to Dragon Age, it was both 'best' and 'most disappointing', which makes sense in many ways. It was massively hyped as a 'BG spiritual successor' for years, which sets an unreasonable expectation coupled with a nostalgia for BG that erases any flaws through the fog of years … plus it was the most played game, therefore on a purely numeric basis it was destined to win.

On topic, I think there is much more debate about some of the games where the RPG is lower on the priority list. I mean, I have no issue with Mass Effect 2 as a RPG, but that doesn't mean it is unreasonable for someone to ask if it was developed by ID software or CroTeam if we'd still be calling it an RPG …

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February 24th, 2010, 16:47
Originally Posted by zakhal View Post
I kind of like mass effect but I cant denay that for most part the game is pretty much a railroaded shooter. I mean thats what you do "most" in the game. If you remove the shooting there wouldnt be much of a game left in it.
That's true of almost all (maybe all) RPGs. Take out the endless combat in Gothic 2 and the game would be a couples hours long at most. Maybe less. Take out all the combat in BG2 and it too would be way short. And etc.
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February 24th, 2010, 17:04
Originally Posted by fatBastard() View Post
Judging by the constant bickering here at the Watch about whether new game X really is a RPG or not and by how those that are deemed true RPG's are excused for containing even blatant flaws and those that are not deemed true RPG's are being bitch-slapped from top to bottom for even minor details, I can certainly understand why developers would want to shy away from the RPG label.

Sorry, but lately it has struck me how "elitist" (the word is a bit harsh but unfortunately also fitting) the tone here at the Watch has become. If a game meets certain standards (looks like it is from the early 90'ies, plays like it is from the early 90'ies, have been developed by an indie firm or has been made with a tiny budget) it is automatically praised for upholding the "True" RPG spirit no matter how flawed the game may be. Likewise if the game has a been made with a big budget or looks and feels like a game of today it is automatically criticized for no being a proper RPG, again no matter how great the game may be. (e.g. DA:O winner of the most disappointing game of the year here at the Watch)

If being a proper RPG means that a list of requirements must be fulfilled to be able to don that label then I say good riddance. I would much rather play a game that was created based on the concepts and ideas the developers wanted you to play than a game made to fit a predefined mold whether or not it was actually the original concept of the game.
It's hardly fair to simply position yourself as a populist and simply dismiss others here as elitist (and I am sure I am one of those of which you are labeling as such). I lot of these "elitist" arguments are simply discussions about gaming trends.

That being said, it is fair that many of us (elitist or otherwise) get a certain itch scratched from a true rpg game that is not satisfied by games of other genres. I play all sorts of games and enjoy them regardless of genre or classification. My most enjoyable play experiences this year other than Risen or DA, were probably Uncharted 2 and Bioshock 2. Just spent better part of week getting completely wrapped up in Bioshock 2. Loved it. I knew I wasn't playing an rpg, but never really thought about it or cared that much. But you know what, it wasn't marketing itself as an rpg.

However, when I want to play an rpg, I want to play an rpg and that scratches that itch. All's I want is to be able to play those games and have them still be available in the marketplace rather than have rpgs some vague concept and all "rpg" games watered down. That may be a fool's hope and not part of the mainstream gaming future, but it's hardly elitist. If you loved FPS shooters and they stopped making these games in mainstream gaming (huge hypothetical I know), wouldn't it be possible that you could miss that type of gameplay even if you play and enjoy every other genre.

It's fine if you don't care about traditional rpg characteristics or that certain aspects of that genre are dissappearing from mainstream gaming without any acknowledgment of the fact, but its not elitist for those of us who do and who are not bashing other games or dismissing other types of gamers or gaming.
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February 24th, 2010, 17:24
Rampant Coyote makes cool mini-articles.

IIRC the RPG label has always been bad for publicity where the general public is concerned. Same as Sci-Fi. It's pretty cool that Mass Effect used both and was successful, even if one of them was more of a stretch. I'd also like the genre to expand rather than stick to a narrow definition, and for that reason I'd prefer it if there were more labels to make it easier to actually "call it like it is."

It's the "redefinition of the RPG genre" or "RPGs were too complicated" talk I can really do without. I blame marketing. I certainly don't want every game to be an undefinable genre mix.

Originally Posted by fatBastard() View Post
Likewise if the game has a been made with a big budget or looks and feels like a game of today it is automatically criticized for no being a proper RPG, again no matter how great the game may be.
That's essentially it. We are relatively passionate about the "RPG genre" and are often talking about it to the exclusion of all else that could matter. One always has to keep this in mind. A game can be absolutely great and gorgeous and most importantly fun — but if it is marketed as something it is not, or if it raised false or different expectations by virtue of being a "sequel" to a well-known and loved game or series, or even simply by getting an RPG label (which as we know by now can mean a whole lot of different things), some sort of criticism is only natural.


I see these as two separate issues: Firstly, is a game good or not? And secondly, does it meet my criteria for a good RPG? People here often only talk about the second and sometimes they sound like they are talking about the first issue but are actually basing their arguments on the second. Vice versa for some others. All in all, I'd say there are a lot more criteria that play a part in how a game is perceived.

1. Good game / bad game?
2. Good as an RPG / bad as an RPG?
3. How much hype was there? Overhype?
4. What was a game advertised as?
5. What were my expectations for a game? Were they met?
6. How passionate am I about my preferences?
7. …

Pretty much all of those are very subjective. No. 2 should be the most important if all you want from a game is fun or escapism, but the bigger a game gets, the more all the other questions tend to get asked, and the bigger the audience gets, the more little details tend to get examined under a microscope. Passion is also a very important point — gamers with a more casual interest in a specific genre would probably not care about its intricasies too much and simply enjoy a game for what it is. I usually do, too (I enjoy good games), but I can also see the "RPG issue" (I don't like it when games are called RPGs just for the sake of it.)

Coyote linked to a blog piece called The Lonliest Genre, which is an interesting read, including comments. Its main focus is Final Fantasy XIII, but all of this kinda shows how the current (new? ongoing?) evolution/de-evolution/stagnation of the — western-style and J- — RPG genre is, perhaps ironically, a complex issue. And it is fairly widespread.

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Last edited by Arhu; February 24th, 2010 at 23:02. Reason: grammar
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February 24th, 2010, 18:25
Originally Posted by Arhu View Post
Well spoken and explained. That was way more reasonable and articulate than I could have ever been in trying to make similar points.

I would just like to be able to discuss issues like this on this site without without it devolving into vituperative and dismissive claims of "elitism" and "dumb console gamer". Not saying that instances of those archetypes don't sometimes exist. But that doesn't mean the rest of us can't have a meaningful discussion and debate about rpgs and gaming in general.
Last edited by dagoo7; February 24th, 2010 at 18:38.
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February 24th, 2010, 18:36
Originally Posted by KasperFauerby View Post
Well said, and I'm sorry to say that I have to agree - at least to a certain point. I mean, there are *a lot* of sensible people here at the Watch, and it's still my favourite site on the net, but that DA:O was voted "most disappointing game" on a site like this… that's both silly and a bit sad IMO.
Being one of the people who voted DA as most disappointing I guess its me your talking to. I chose DA because I can no longer play it, it wont load the dwarf town instead it just sits there at the loading screen till I reset my PC, apart from the one time I reset then spent two hours buggering around with sound drivers. This disappointed me not the RP part but the actual G, that doesn't work still after almost a year of the PC code being done.

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February 24th, 2010, 20:28
Originally Posted by [Jez] View Post
Being one of the people who voted DA as most disappointing I guess its me your talking to. I chose DA because I can no longer play it, it wont load the dwarf town instead it just sits there at the loading screen till I reset my PC, apart from the one time I reset then spent two hours buggering around with sound drivers. This disappointed me not the RP part but the actual G, that doesn't work still after almost a year of the PC code being done.

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He heh, well said as well!

You have a good reason for being disappointed then.
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February 24th, 2010, 21:12
Its funny I think the gaming public has a higher tolerance for RPG elements than they know. Make an RPG and forget to call it an RPG and see what happens

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February 25th, 2010, 01:03
Of course if you got 10 of us together somehow we'd come up with 11 definitions of what an RPG "is". And that's the real problem; there's no definition. So my RPG isn't yours and yours isn't that guy's over there and his isn't hers and …
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February 25th, 2010, 04:33
Originally Posted by ToddMcF2002 View Post
Its funny I think the gaming public has a higher tolerance for RPG elements than they know.
Yeah. I'm thinking of Modern Warfare, a game which is hugely popular and addictive, in large part because of its RPG elements (XP, perks/upgrades). RPG elements are getting injected into many games, often with great success.

You might even say the title ought to be, "Everyone Wants To Be (a little bit of) an RPG."
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February 25th, 2010, 06:44
Originally Posted by Anderson View Post
Yeah. I'm thinking of Modern Warfare, a game which is hugely popular and addictive, in large part because of its RPG elements (XP, perks/upgrades).
I don't remember any of those things in Modern Warfare. Were they in MW2?
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