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RPGWatch Forums » Games » Indie RPG » Scifi RPG's - Why aren't there more of them?

Default Scifi RPG's - Why aren't there more of them?

February 21st, 2012, 18:00
Generally, sword and sorcery fantasy is much more pervasive in the RPG genre right now, in both the bigger RPG's and the indie ones alike, with the likes of The Elder Scrolls, The Witcher, Kingdoms of Amalur, Avernum, Driftmoon etc. Of course we have modern scifi games like Fallout and Mass Effect, but these are definitely the exception the rule. Why do you think there are so few RPG's with scifi settings and themes, compared to fantasy, and do you wish game companies would start making more of them? Thankfully, Basilisk is apparently working on a scifi rpg after Eschelon book 3, so I'm looking forward to that.
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February 21st, 2012, 18:17
Well i think you should check that:
http://hazeron.com/
If you can get past the graphics, the countless bugs, you will find a deep challenging game that allow you to do pretty much everything, its often quoted as what spore should have been and a sci fi geek wet dream.
Luckily no one know about it else the servers would crash.
Reading the manual and more important the pdf tutorial is absolutely mandatory.This is not one of those kind of dumbed down mainstream game.
How can i sum it up.. Start with your knife and your balls, and end up leading an intergalactic empire .
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February 21st, 2012, 19:03
More Sci-Fi would be a big plus(IMO)… However, I think we don't see more Sci-fi RPGs because there are so few now. People tend to stick to a mold if one exists, why go outside that comfort spot? For the big guys, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy, if there is little to no market data(aka any original game) then a pub will likely not give the green light/funding. Thus no new data presents itself and pubs continue ignoring original works… As for smaller indies, maybe it is a lot more work/effort to create a logically consistent and original universe?

Perhaps ME's success will change that going forward? It could go either way, since it is no longer what I would call a (single player)ARPG…
Last edited by MasterKromm; February 21st, 2012 at 19:08. Reason: forgot the A in ARPG
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February 21st, 2012, 19:05
Sci-fi games just don't catch my interest as much as hack/slash/magic type fantasy.

Its the same for reading. I don't dislike sci-fi but just prefer the fantasy theme.

Thats my one person sample size reasoning.
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February 21st, 2012, 19:12
I'll blame it on D&D. It established certained game conventions that programmers could be translated to a computer program. Hit points, armor class, etc. The earliest CRPGs tended to be dungeon crawlers and used those conventions, basically so nerds could play D&D when their friends aren't around. I think most CRPGs are evolutions of that same idea.

As humans…in general, most of us…are creatures of habit. We're uncomfortable with change, so CRPGs with new settings tend to not sell as well as our comfortable, Tolkienesque fantasy games. I don't have any links handy, but I remember reading a interview/blog entry in which Jeff Vogel stated that Nethergate and Geneforge never sold as well as the Avernum series. It's a shame, because they are a lot more interesting than Avernum, IMO.

I definitely want more sci-fi, cyberpunk, steampunk, or other original setting CRPGs!
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February 22nd, 2012, 00:09
I think the reasons are legion but there are a few obvious "barriers". The biggest reason is simply that fantasy has an established level of success and publishers are inherently conservative.

Beyond that, fantasy is easier to work with in many ways. For example, have you ever stopped and admired a view or sunset in a fantasy game? I have, quite often. Ever gotten annoyed with the repetitive and dull warehouses and offices in scifi? Yup.

Ever noticed the lack of verisimilitude when the globe-spanning megalopolis has about a dozen NPCs in two corridors - where are the thousands, millions of inhabitants (I'm looking at you, KotOR)? Why don't the police / military respond with crushing force to some of these situations? An ancient evil can still work in fantasy…evil corporations are so predictable. Why are we walking everywhere, by the way - who the hell walks in 2012, let alone 5422? How do you make close-quarters combat make sense when, in reality, your little party of four would get blasted from 2km away with pin-point computer-assisted precision and would never actually penetrate the reinforced concrete and steel bunker in the first place? Don't they have CCTV? Even my workplace has CCTV. And so on.

All of these are avoided with creativity but you could just make a fantasy game with beautiful views, quaint little villages - and magic.

Can't wait for someone to do a good scifi RPG, though!

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February 22nd, 2012, 00:44
Originally Posted by Elisstar View Post
As humans…in general, most of us…are creatures of habit. We're uncomfortable with change, so CRPGs with new settings tend to not sell as well as our comfortable, Tolkienesque fantasy games.
[…]
I definitely want more sci-fi, cyberpunk, steampunk, or other original setting CRPGs!
100% agree.
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February 22nd, 2012, 00:50
Beyond the "conservative market reasons" - which are unfortunately a huge factor, I think one of the reasons is that fantasy provides more direct "escapism" than sci-fi. Fantasy worlds are often idealized while sci-fi is often dystopian. Also we are already surrounded by technology in our everyday lives - medieval fantasy offers an escape from that (ironically, through our computer!). But sci-fi doesn't have to be dystopian necessarily. There are endless possibilities with it - just as much as fantasy, in my opinion. The ability to explore truly alien cultures and planets is just as interesting as any fantasy world.

Personally I would love to see more sci-fi RPGs developed. It really is a relatively untapped genre and has so much potential.
Originally Posted by Mortmal View Post
Well i think you should check that:
http://hazeron.com/
If you can get past the graphics, the countless bugs, you will find a deep challenging game that allow you to do pretty much everything, its often quoted as what spore should have been and a sci fi geek wet dream.
Luckily no one know about it else the servers would crash.
Reading the manual and more important the pdf tutorial is absolutely mandatory.This is not one of those kind of dumbed down mainstream game.
How can i sum it up.. Start with your knife and your balls, and end up leading an intergalactic empire .
Thanks for posting that! I remember discovering this game a while back and meant to check it out but got distracted and forgot about it. It looks like my dream sci-fi game - if only the graphics were a bit better. I think I'll give it a try soon.
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February 22nd, 2012, 01:20
Originally Posted by Dhruin View Post

Can't wait for someone to do a good scifi RPG, though!
Given that there have been so few scifi RPG's, I have troubel thinking back through all of the ones I know of, and conjuring up the truly scifi RPG's, but one that pops into my head immediately is a game called 'Albion'. It is a very good scifi RPG, that people should check out if they haven't tried it. Beyond the Fallout series and Mass Effect, I can only think of some others that are mostly fantasy with some scifi elements, like the later Wizardry games. I would like to say however that I like fantasy RPG's too I am currently playing Avadon: The Black Fortress (My first Spiderweb game) and I plan to check out the other Spiderweb stuff when I am finished with it.
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February 22nd, 2012, 01:36
Well, there's always Star Wars:TOR!!

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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February 22nd, 2012, 03:20
Star wars TOR is quite good, but I call all the starwars games a mix between scifi and fantasy. Not raelly any hard core Scifi games out there.

I really wanted to start working on my own game, which I discussed with basilisk about using a modified eschalon engine, but the cost for art assets and music assets were beyond me at the time. I did write up a pretty good plan. It was going to have not only planetary movement ala Eschalon style, but allow you to do space exploration in a similar 2d way, with an upgradeabnle ship and crew. Damn, I wish I had the time/money.

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February 22nd, 2012, 05:54
EA did one on the Amiga, I think it was called 'Spacecraft' or 'Starcraft' I can't remember. There was another highly rated sci-fi rpg on the Atari ST called 'Sundog.'

I agree the whole sci-fi crpg genre is underserved, IMO.

I think Fallout needs to go in this direction. How about a patch that puts triangular aircraft appearing in the sky once in a while, and don't tell anybody about it?

I'm not talking aliens, but time travelers from the future
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February 22nd, 2012, 06:07
Originally Posted by Sir Markus View Post
EA did one on the Amiga, I think it was called 'Spacecraft' or 'Starcraft' I can't remember.
Do you mean Starflight? I played that on the PC a long time ago and it still remains my all-time favorite sci-fi game ever.

I dabble a bit with hobby game development and one of my dream projects is to make an updated Starflight type of game with a modern interface and even more RPG features. Also I would add a procedurally generated infinite universe / systems / planets and procedurally created alien species so the game would never end. There would always be more to explore.
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February 22nd, 2012, 08:44
Yep, the game was Starflight.

I feel confident that I can do the dialogue, but I'm probably going to be worthless when it comes to code.
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February 22nd, 2012, 10:04
The tried and the true - it all about the money

There have been a number of successful fantasy RPGs over the years but you can probably count the successful sci rpgs with one hand. And the total universe of those game is not much bigger. There's gonna have to be some successful game runs of the sci fi genre in order to tilt the balance a bit. Perhaps if a few developers do some Shadowrun games???
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February 7th, 2013, 00:33
The plethora of Fantasy RPGs expresses a very lazy mentality. With Fantasy, you can easily use any other fantasy source to draw from (there are so many, and you have a very set basis for your game in terms of the kind of races, the kind of stories you can tell, and the types of weapons you can use). With a sci-fi rpg, you have to actually do more work in world building, in defining the elements that go into the game and the gameplay. Do you use cyberpunk? A spaceship/exploration hybrid? Dystopian? Post Apocalypse? There is no one overall set of values to define a sc-fi RPG, as there is for Fantasy RPGs… therefore, from a creative standpoint, you actually have to do more work.

The sad thing is, developers have plenty of sources in the tabletop rpgs to draw from, everything from Shadowrun to GURPs… even a Cyberpunk based game coming up soon. But the majority of actual computer/console role playing games stick with the established, boring norm. Yet if you look at action games, you have many sci-fi properties. I think developers who actually create a new sci-fi property don't then want to do the work to come up with a gameplay system that supports it, so action is in some ways, easier.

But there is no reason why there shouldn't be more sci-fi RPGs, from a customer standpoint, because they do sell well. (Deus Ex and Deus Ex: Human Revolution, KOTOR 1/2, Mass Effect 1/2/3, Fallout 1/2/3/New Vegas). Every single game here has sold very well, but they are also for the most part, very well developed and realized games.

What has trouble selling are the weird/alternative fantasy titles, even though they are very intriguing in their own right, such as Planescape: Torment.
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February 7th, 2013, 01:02
Underail is very promising.

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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February 7th, 2013, 02:07
consider that D&D and early cRPG's of the 70's and 80's owes a lot of inspiration from LotR. Collossal Caverns Adventure even added Tolkien like features. Looking at the first videos games, Space Wars, Space Invaders, Asteroids and their many clones and you see how those sci fi games were very actiony. The early Star Trek game was much more tactical and less about a long walk to Mordor.

But that didn't mean they didn't exist.

The SciFi RPG is a genre in of itself, but they tend to be a subset of the cRPG and not PnP RPG's in genreal. Starflight being one of them. In general they have a lot of crossover between Space Trader games.

Instead of improving your stats as a player you are improving your ship - weapons, cargo space, etc.

I see that Gamma World (PnP) is making another revival at Barnes and Noble. I recall it was sort of an also ran in the D&D games. It certainly made more sense to have Psionics there instead of D&D.

So, of course, there is Wasteland. I hated Wasteland. Who cares if it pulled the player out of the dungeon, it was just another bad Ultima 3 clone.

But the idea there makes more sense. In games in like Space Rogue (c. 1989) walking around in a space port didn't make as much sense as seeing the blind seer to buy reagents. In a Mad MAx world, where society has broken down and the world is a desert turned to glass, RPG's work better.

So basically there are two types of SciFi RPG, but the traditional kind of Space RPG is almost non-existent now. Since Wing Commander its basically been a space flight sim with a few of its old ship imporvement elements and a slow expanding story (I think - as I've never played Wing Commander, nor seen the movie). I think Freespace is the closest we have to that now.

I'd love to see another Starflight game now, where the space options lead to the expanding of a much bigger story with ever impressive options unfolding. This is the essence of great RPG games.

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February 7th, 2013, 05:10
With Traveller 5 coming out near the end of the month, I'd love to hold out some hope that it could be converted to a CRPG proper again. I never played the original CRPG but we played some MegaTraveller back in the day and I'm excited to get the rulebooks for the new stuff even just to reminisce a little. I think it may still be too niche given the new rulebooks made $300k (which was very successful given the target) but is that enough to get a kickstarter CRPG? And given the last CRPG apparently was quite a failure so Marc probably doesn't want to go there again.
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February 23rd, 2013, 06:54
Unfortunately, sci-fi as a literary genre has been fading for the past couple of decades. But yeah, it's a natural for CRPGs.
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