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Default Joystiq - The Future of WRPGs

November 18th, 2012, 23:18
Rowan Kaiser's regular RPG column a Joystiq ruminates on the future of the genre (and related fields like MMOs) this week:
Single-Player RPGs
The last few years should have finally put to the rest the idea that RPGs are an old, dying genre. The success of Bethesda and BioWare at the top, as well as a surprising amount of attention to games like The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, Torchlight 2 and Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning indicate that the genre is, if anything, on the upswing.

The wildly successful Kickstarters of Project Eternity and Wasteland 2, as well as the re-releases of Baldur's Gate with potential for a sequel, also indicate that even some of the styles of RPG which have gone out of fashion, primarily party-based, may be making a comeback, in addition to adding more games at a lower price point. In a business sense, this looks to me like the healthiest the genre has been in nearly two decades.
More information.
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November 18th, 2012, 23:18
The demand for single-player RPGs never went away. There was just an ongoing failure by the game suppliers to understand the customer. I'm speculating that it's because the game companies get locked in on new technologies and forsake concepts that worked in the past.

What is old is new again…
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November 19th, 2012, 11:24
Game companies didn't get locked anywhere.

To develop a successful RPG you can't recruit just anyone - to develop a stupid endless mobrespawning grinder you can employ a braindead monkey and he'll do the job flawlessly. Which means if you don't go for singleplayer RPG: less costs, less risks.
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November 19th, 2012, 11:38
The developers are hardly to blame, it's the publisher desire to maximise profit that has been controlling the outcome. For a while, some genres appeared to dominate sales - and as such, developers were directed to focus on those. That's still pretty much the case, I'd say.

RPG "elements" have become highly popular - but I wouldn't say that "traditional" singleplayer RPGs are highly successful again. The Fallouts/TES games are not exactly traditional or particularly cerebral - and their level of success is not common. The Witcher 2 is similarly action oriented - and doesn't compete in terms of sales with the genres that still dominate the market.

Torchlight 2 is a straight-up action RPG with little or no story. It's among the most hollow examples of the genre. KoA was similarly hollow and action driven. Both games are very far from what I would consider traditional RPGs.

As for Kickstarter games - I think we need to wait and see before proclaiming a true return to form. However, I will say that after Project Eternity - there's more hope for artistically driven quality RPGs than before.

The only game I can think of that seems to support this theory (in a way we should be really happy with) was Dragon Age - which was uncommonly cerebral/demanding and quite successful. But look at what EA/Bioware decided to follow up that success with.
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November 19th, 2012, 11:50
Totally agree with the above (except that I haven't played Torclight 2). KoA on the other hand was one of the most dissapointing excuses for an RPG that I have ever played.
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November 19th, 2012, 15:19
Developers are taking out the need of "knowing the game" , i am replaying Gothic 3 while i am watching some youtube let's play about it , there was no way i could find those damn boars in 1st rebel camp mission while the guy who "knows the game" just walked around the corner ….
I think this is where streamlining is getting into and little by little is changing RPGs into something hardcore followers of the genre don't want to know about .
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November 19th, 2012, 15:30
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
The developers are hardly to blame, it's the publisher desire to maximise profit that has been controlling the outcome. For a while, some genres appeared to dominate sales - and as such, developers were directed to focus on those.
In my opinion, we currently have a similar thing today with shooter games.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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November 19th, 2012, 17:02
How was KoA hollow? Yes, it had a lot of action (which doesn't always equate to "hollow" or "shallow" gameplay), but it had plenty of NPC interaction, quests, dialog, lore, story, RPG systems, etc, too. That game was far from hollow.

Anyway, I think the future of RPG gaming is extremely bright. The sales that Skyrim has earned shows that hardcore RPGs are still very much in demand. I think going forward more companies will try to tap into that Skyrim market and bring us more RPGs.

I would have loved it if 38 Studios was able to stay in business. But there will be other companies bringing us impressive RPGs in the future I'm sure.
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November 19th, 2012, 17:59
'Hollow' is of course subjective. Even with tons of lore it can still subjectively feel soulless. Which was exactly my sentiment with Amalur. Competent, fun for a dozen hours, nothing engrossing enough (like Deus Ex HR, or Mass Effect 1) to really draw you in. It all felt a bit cardboard like, probably because it was meant to be an MMO and was hastily converted? Anyway, it''s a game I will never replay.
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November 19th, 2012, 21:03
KoA was never meant to be an MMO. They had an MMO in development as well as the single player game. But Reckoning was always intended to be a single-player game from the start. It was in development for over 5 years.

Hollow is subjective though, fair enough. Funny that you mention Mass Effect, a game which I thought was very good, but ultimately I spent about 30 hours with Mass Effect before quitting, whereas I spent 180 hours with Reckoning. It completely drew me in and consumed my life for a few weeks.
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November 19th, 2012, 21:28
Mass Effect doesn't contain endless respawning mobs (except a certain point where you simply stop it happening by pushing forward without noticing there is a respawning going on). There is no way you can grind there for 180 hours. And you're right, it's all subjective. I will never be able to have fun with nailing the same mobs over and over again for 180 hours - you on the other hand, can.
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November 19th, 2012, 22:40
In KoA I very rarely fought the same monsters over and over again. I spent most of that 180 hours fighting new creatures in new areas. If I wanted to grind against respawning mobs, I could have spent much more than 180 hours playing the game.
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November 20th, 2012, 12:05
KoA had the most uninspired world and quest design in recent times. Yes, it was huge - but it was also completely void of truly unique content. It felt like a lifeless MMO world with non-descript and almost randomly generated quests. Like WoW anno 2004.

Combat was entertaining enough - but very poorly balanced, and a complete pushover once you got to level ~15 or so.

Ken Rolston went on and on about how deep the lore was, and how much text was written for the backstory. Problem was that it wasn't integrated into the actual game - and every dungeon/location looked just like the last one and you had no idea about the backstory. Yes, you found those little things that told you a bit of completely out-of-context lore - but it did very little to immerse you in the samey locations.

What a complete cop-out and deceitful way to market their game.

Beyond that, they were seriously expecting to sell it to both action fans and hardcore RPG fans. For whatever reason, they expected a beat-em up arcade combat system to appeal to RPG fans, which I will never understand. Also, fans of that kind of combat are hardly going to pick a "deep" RPG for their kicks.

Darksiders 2 was a much more honest delivery of the same kind of thing, and it - at least - understood its audience.

Sorry, but while KoA was an interesting experiment - it was shallow and hollow for a game that was intended to compete directly with TES - with its massive lore and well-built world.
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November 20th, 2012, 12:40
How could it be otherwise?

RPGers have already proven their determination to apply their RPG elements to any kind of games possible, without ever checking up on the validity of the claims.

The future is RPG. It can not be otherwise. As more and more gameplays mature, as the economic crisis deepens (getting the developpers to be more and more conservative), game designers are going to include more and more secondary features to their games.

Expect more and more shooters, car driving games, sports games to include a character progression system, scripted narrative or stuff like that as it suits the situation. And they will be elegible as RPGs, all of them.

And as RPGers consider role playing games not to be about role playing but about the inclusion of certain elements that can be used by so many other gaming genres (that are already included in other genres and will be even more included), expect the number of RPGs to increase.

It is simple: since, through their approach of RPGing, a very large number of games will be eligible to be called RPGs, no future for RPG would mean no future for gaming.

The only way there is no RPG made in the future is there is no longer games being made in the future.

Wont happen.
Wont happen.
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November 20th, 2012, 16:54
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
KoA had the most uninspired world and quest design in recent times. Yes, it was huge - but it was also completely void of truly unique content. It felt like a lifeless MMO world with non-descript and almost randomly generated quests. Like WoW anno 2004.

Combat was entertaining enough - but very poorly balanced, and a complete pushover once you got to level ~15 or so.

Ken Rolston went on and on about how deep the lore was, and how much text was written for the backstory. Problem was that it wasn't integrated into the actual game - and every dungeon/location looked just like the last one and you had no idea about the backstory. Yes, you found those little things that told you a bit of completely out-of-context lore - but it did very little to immerse you in the samey locations.

What a complete cop-out and deceitful way to market their game.

Beyond that, they were seriously expecting to sell it to both action fans and hardcore RPG fans. For whatever reason, they expected a beat-em up arcade combat system to appeal to RPG fans, which I will never understand. Also, fans of that kind of combat are hardly going to pick a "deep" RPG for their kicks.

Darksiders 2 was a much more honest delivery of the same kind of thing, and it - at least - understood its audience.

Sorry, but while KoA was an interesting experiment - it was shallow and hollow for a game that was intended to compete directly with TES - with its massive lore and well-built world.
I couldn't disagree more. We must have not been playing the same game.

KoA was one of the best games I had ever played. The lore was amazing, the dialog was nice, the combat was silly fun, and the quests and world design were anything but "uninspired". They were quite inspired . To say otherwise is borderline insane in my opinion.
Last edited by Fluent; November 20th, 2012 at 17:13.
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November 20th, 2012, 17:17
Well, what can I say. I've only played a few thousand games over the past 30 years or so. Obviously, KoA was amazing in ways I've never experienced

Seriously, to each his own and all that.

I wouldn't say it was a terrible game. I'd even go so far as to call it decent with a few stand-out features. I happened to LIKE the combat system - but found the balance a mess. Then again, I'm a relatively diverse player - and I play many genres.

But I must admit that calling the lore and quests amazing is something I wouldn't expect, even from the most dedicated fans. I can only assume you don't play too many games. Well, that - or I overlooked something in the ~15 hours or so I could stand of the repetition.
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November 20th, 2012, 18:50
This thread has me completely agreeing with DArtagnan. I'm pretty sure a portal to hell jut opened somewhere…
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November 20th, 2012, 21:28
The lore, to me, was amazing. I enjoyed it a lot.

I don't really see what more one could want from the quests. Did you do any of the Warsworn quests? Scholia Arcana? House of Ballads? The Arena? Etc etc. The quests overall were very enjoyable.

Yes, there were some "amazing" quests in my opinion, such as going to visit Windemere and meeting the Maid. Or uncovering the mysteries behind the spiders of Webwood. Or defeating the Ettin priests of Ettinmere. Frankly, there were so many good quests in that game that it really blows my mind that people didn't enjoy them. I don't understand for a second why that is.

I will give you the fact that the game was too easy. I only died a few times while playing on Hard. The challenge definitely could have been ramped up. But really, that's the only thing about the game I feel they could have improved. I wish it was harder. But I still enjoyed it a ton regardless.

Of course, to each their own…
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November 21st, 2012, 00:20
Hmm, Amalur doesn't seem overly popular here?
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November 21st, 2012, 01:06
Seems that way. I'm pretty sure I am the only one on here who raved about it .
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