|
Your continuous donations keep RPGWatch running!
RPGWatch Forums » Games » General RPG » CRPG: The final (?) definition

Default CRPG: The final (?) definition

June 18th, 2013, 23:18
Originally Posted by Wulf View Post
BTW HiddenX, the downloadable forum formatted code link looks a bit strange via firefox browser - any suggestion to make it look more easy on the eye?
I use Firefox 21 - looks normal to me ->
there are not so many good formatting options in this forum-code.

Here's is a complete Word-file for easier reading:
Attached Files
File Type: doc Definition_of_a_CRPG_094.doc (61.5 KB, 13 views)

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong. - HL Mencken
Last edited by HiddenX; June 18th, 2013 at 23:36.
HiddenX is offline

HiddenX

HiddenX's Avatar
The Elder Spy
RPGWatch Donor

#221

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: NRW/Germany
Posts: 3,551

Default 

June 20th, 2013, 20:54
An article that is very close to our definition:

What Makes a Great Role-Playing Video Game? by j-u-i-c-e

If you're a fan of computer RPGs, you've no doubt seen some games classified as RPGs that you would not classify as RPGs. You've probably also seen games that you consider RPGs being dismissed by other gamers as not being worthy of the title.

No doubt, you've also wondered about games that claim that they have "RPG elements". What, exactly, are those elements? Should a game that only has a couple of RPG elements be considered an RPG? How many RPG elements does a game have to have to move from the realm of action or adventure (or strategy or any other genre) to the realm of RPGs?

In this hub, I take a look at some of the elements that are typically classified as staples of the genre. In my opinion (hey, I wrote this for fun!) a game that contains all of these elements is not only an RPG, but a great one!

1. Setting


Many great RPGs start with a great setting. By setting I don't mean the 3d or 2d art that is used to create the map that the players explore, but the history, geography, races, cultures, religions, technology, traditions, factions, lore and legends that inspire the player and make them want to get involved.

Any great setting can be a great start for a RPG, which is why you often see popular franchises (eg. Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Star Trek, etc.) being turned into role-playing games. But even games with very unoriginal or derivative settings can make for great-role-playing as long as enough of the other elements are well executed.

The Elder Scrolls, for example, could hardly have been called 'original' when Arena was released back in 1994: most of it was obviously derivative. Over successive sequels, however, the developers have managed to create a deep and rich history through books, dialogue, architecture and other elements so that players who have grown familiar with the setting can now immerse themselves in one of the most elaborately detailed fantasy worlds ever created.

2. Character Building

Once you have a great setting, it's only natural to want to immerse yourself in it, and the best way to do that is to create a character that can be used as a vehicle of exploration. If you are exploring a world filled with interesting races, factions, and occupations, it's only natural to want to try out a few of those options yourself.

Personally, I prefer RPGs that give me complete control over my character's race, gender, appearance, class, skills, equipment, and history. The more control I have, the more connected I feel to my character and the easier it is for me to immerse myself in the environment.

Many RPGs, though, don't give you a choice when it comes to character creation: instead, they assign a character to you, or allow you to choose from a selection of pre-made characters. Once you assume control of that character, you usually have some degree of control over that character's progress and you can choose things like which skill trees to develop or how you want your character to interact with NPCs. The amount of control that you have varies depending on the game.

Developers usually take this approach of assigning pre-made characters so that they can tell you a specific story. They've probably invested a lot of time and talent making this story as exciting and engaging as possible, and, indeed, these RPGs often excel in narrative structure, dialogue, characterization, cinematics, music, and voice acting. But in order to provide this quality and attention to detail, they often have to sacrifice player choice. It's hard to write dialogue directed at the player's character if you don't know beforehand what their race, occupation, or personal history are.

Different players have different views about player choice vs. narrative power when it comes to RPGs, so it's best just to leave this up to personal preference. There are always going to be some developers who prefer to focus on narrative and others who prefer to focus on player choice.

3. Exploration

Once you have a character and a setting, the first thing you're going to want to do is explore the game world. Game worlds take on a variety of shapes and sizes, from strictly linear 'links in a chain', where the player progresses through narrative fragments, or scenes, and isn't allowed to stray from them, to zoned world maps where players must progressively unlock later maps after completing earlier maps, to completely open game worlds where the only real limit imposed on the player is the outer edge of the map.

Exploration covers more than just moving around the map, however. An important part of exploration is how interactive the world is and how dynamic it feels. If you can pick up many different kinds of objects and move them around, open doors and containers, turn lights and taps on and off, etc., the world feels much more real than a world that only allows you to interact with a limited number of quest objects. Similarly, a world with dynamic weather, a realistic day/night cycle, moving water, realistic plants and animals and all the appropriate ambient noises will feel much more alive and inviting.

Personally, I prefer open world maps with real weather and day/night cycles. Choice is an important element in RPGs, and being able to choose where your character is headed at any given point in time is an important element of choice for me. If I'm restricted to exploring a limited area, the weather never changes, and my character feels frozen in time it doesn't really feel like I have very much choice.

Other players, however, feel that having an open world results in bland, unfocused gameplay. They would rather enjoy a tightly focused narrative than a more sandbox style of game. Both preferences are valid forms for RPGs.

4. Quests


Most RPGs have some sort of quest or mission mechanic. These give your character a reason to get out and explore the world, gain experience using your skills, accumulate wealth, and make an impact on the game world.

Quests are important because they extend the length of the game in a meaningful and fun way. Games with more quests take longer to complete and allow your character to progress more. Generally speaking, the better the quests, the better the RPG. Really good RPGs provide a wide variety of quests, many with interesting twists or branching paths. RPGs that don't provide much beyond simple fetch or escort quests aren't generally as much fun to play.

5. Gameplay Variety

RPGs typically offer the widest range of gameplay options when it comes to video games. Most non-RPGs are highly focused on a small number of elements, like racing games, FPSers, sports games, arcade fighters, puzzle games, etc.

Most RPGs give you a variety of ways to complete mission objectives. For example, in a fantasy RPG you might use combat, magic, or stealth to complete a quest. In a modern or sci fi RPG you might use combat or stealth or enhance yourself through gadgets or other kinds of upgrades.

You also generally have access to other gameplay elements: other ways to move about the game world (eg. swimming, flying, riding, driving, climbing, etc.), crafting (finding materials through exploration and turning them into new inventory items like weapons or armor), solving puzzles (logic puzzles, physics puzzles), solving mysteries or crimes (where you don't necessarily have to fight someone at the end to beat the quest), forming relationships with NPCs (getting married, joining factions and guilds, hiring retainers or attracting companions), and engaging in other non-combat activities (eg. buying and decorating homes, hunting, fishing and farming, owning a business, buying and selling items, etc.)

Generally speaking, the more gameplay options a game gives you, the easier it is to immerse yourself in the world and role-play.

6. Character Progression (and Stats)

One of the key elements of any RPG is character development or progression. If your character doesn't change somehow between the time you start the game and the time you finish the game, it's probably not an RPG.

Character progression can take on a variety of forms, typically, RPGs allow the player to view their character's attributes, things like strength, intelligence, agility, health (or 'hit points'), mana (or 'magic points'), etc. They also generally allow you to control things like skill progression, either by allowing you to use any skill and progress by using it, or by providing you with a set of skills bundled in a class and then allowing you to choose how you develop certain perk trees within that class. The number of different variations in game design here is tremendous, so you are likely to see a wide variety in how character progression is implemented. No two games—even from the same developer in the same series—are likely to be exactly the same.

The principle mechanic that controls character development is something called leveling. When players complete actions (kill an enemy, complete a stage of a quest, etc.) the game awards them experience ('xp'). When the player earns a sufficient amount of xp, they gain a level, or 'level up'. When the player levels-up, they are generally allowed to make some sort of improvement to their character, either by increasing attribute scores or by learning new skills, perks or spells. One of the chief satisfactions of playing an RPG is leveling your character and becoming the best that you can be.

7. Party Mechanics

Party mechanics are one of those things that are so common to RPGs that I would be remiss not to mention them. At the same time, they are one of those elements frequently neglected by many very good RPGs, so while they are common, they are by no means essential.

Most RPGs, however, do provide some way to manage more than one character. Some are built around parties and utilize strategy and tactics as a central gameplay challenge. Others only provide you with indirect control over NPCs for a limited time. Other games (like MMOs) allow you to form parties with other players and adventure together. How parties are handled has a significant impact on the experience you have and help to define the game.

Having access to a number of different characters can both help and hinder immersion. On the one hand, being able to customize your party is great for immersion: it allows you to build a team of characters that have a reason for being together and that complement one another. On the other hand, you won't feel as attached to any one character as you will if you only have direct control over one. Like customizable characters, this is an area where equally effective RPGs may be entirely lacking or overflowing with potential.

8. User Interface Tools


In order to manage character progression, track quest progress, and locate yourself in the game world, most RPGs provide the player with a number of tools or widgets. The most common tools are the character sheet, the inventory menu, the quest journal, and maps.

The character sheet allows the player to track their character's progress as they advance in level, allocate attribute or skill points or assign new skills, perks or spells when they level up, view their standing with various factions, view the number of enemies they've killed or the number of places they've visited, etc.

The inventory menu allows players to add and remove items from their inventory, equip and unequip weapons and armor, combine inventory items to create new items, and share items between their character(s) and NPCs.

The quest journal records conversations that the player has had with NPCs, provides more or less detailed directions to quest locations, makes lore available to the player in the form of books or journal entries, and sometimes provides tips or hints on gameplay.

Maps come in a variety of forms. They may be complete geographical representations that start out with only a few marked locations (major towns or cities), blank voids that must be filled in through exploration, or something in between. There may be various levels of maps (world maps, local maps), they may be editable by the player, and a mini-map may be provided which shows up on the HUD while the player is playing.

In order to simplify gameplay, many RPGs also offer in-game icons to indicate which NPCs the player should talk to, which direction they should travel, and which items are worthy of inspection. These are generally called map markers or quest markers or icons.

Finally, in order to make all of the complex gameplay manageable for the player, many RPGs provide elaborate hot keys, shortcut menus, dialogue menus, and other widgets to give the player ready access to a wide variety of actions and inventory objects.

Although a game's interface is primarily responsible for making game content accessible to the player, rather than providing that content itself, many RPGs are made or broken based on the quality of these tools.

9. Dramatic Narrative

Face it, when you're playing a RPG, you're usually playing the role of a hero. It only makes sense if that hero is faced with a challenge of epic proportions. Good RPGs usually have a good story arc to go along with them.

But that epic story arc conceals a hidden danger for RPGs: if the story is too tightly scripted, you can only guarantee the player will experience its full potential by removing choices from the player. Generally speaking, the stronger the narrative, the fewer choices the player will have. Writing a strong, rousing narrative that doesn't limit player choice is a challenging task. When playing RPGs keep this in mind. If the narrative is really good, I don't mind if I don't have a lot of choices. By the same token, if the game gives me a lot of options, I don't mind if the story is a little shallow. I recognize that it's very, very difficult to write a good story that can appeal to a wide variety of players and play-styles. Narrative style is one of those key elements that defines a game.

A good deal of the narrative in RPGs comes in the form of dialogue with NPCs. It's here that players are given a chance to express themselves, find out what motivates the NPCs that populate the world, and uncover clues about the setting. This is also one of the main ways that players make decisions that have consequences for themselves, NPCs, and the game world in general.

10. Consequences

Closely related to dramatic narrative is the element of consequence. Consequence is that element that allows your actions as a player to shape the world that you're exploring. If it doesn't matter which dialogue option you choose, your choice has little consequence. If it doesn't matter whether or not you complete a quest, your actions have little consequence.

Your actions and decisions in dialogue should reflect on your character, shape the opinion of NPCs, and alter the game world in more or less permanent ways. Unfortunately, consequence is one of the hardest things to get right. Too much consequence and players won't enjoy their experience: they'll hesitate to play because they'll be afraid of cutting themselves off from rewarding experiences. Too little consequence and the players will wonder why they're bothering to help anyone at all.

The best RPGs take a balanced approach to consequence in that if you choose to do something that closes one door, another will always open. This keeps the game fresh and interesting every time you play.

Additionally, it is important to mention that consequence only applies when you have a choice. In a linear game where your only 'choice' is to pass or fail a level, there really isn't any consequence. Whether you pass or fail doesn't shape the world, it just brings it (and your game) to an end. (Until you reload it, anyway.) Consequence is special in RPGs because you have to live with the consequences of your actions, they will continue to affect you to one degree or another for as long as you play the game.

What Do They Mean By RPG Elements?


Many games incorporate many of these features. Most games, for example, have a well-defined setting, a dramatic narrative, some gameplay variety and various interface tools. Only RPGs have some amount of all of these elements, though in some cases, those amounts may be very small.

One element that seems common to almost all RPGs is character progression and 'stat watching'. Typically, when a game says that it contains 'RPG elements' it means that it gives you some degree of control over how your character improves over time. Usually, it means that you can choose to pursue different skill trees and perks every time you play the game, allowing you to explore different strategies for completing the missions. Sometimes it may be nothing more complex than weapon and armor upgrades. Don't be fooled, though: an action game with RPG elements plays nothing like a real RPG where you are given real choices that have lasting consequences on your character and the game world.

Ultimately, RPGs are about choice. Sometimes its about choosing the character that you play, sometimes its about choosing the path that a pre-made character takes, but all of them require you to make decisions that affect your character's growth and the shape of the world that the character lives in. And there's nothing quite so intoxicating about a game as having a choice.

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong. - HL Mencken
HiddenX is offline

HiddenX

HiddenX's Avatar
The Elder Spy
RPGWatch Donor

#222

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: NRW/Germany
Posts: 3,551

Default 

June 21st, 2013, 20:15
The Art of game:

Let’s Build a Better RPG

What do we want?
So, what elements should be used? What would make for a good CRPG?
  • A highly unique setting — Earthbound and Fallout more or less built themselves on not being high fantasy. These days, however, we need to do a little better than ‘kinda sci-fi’. Most genres under the sun have been done, so we’ll need to craft a setting carefully.
  • Characters with actual motive and choices — We need to craft a story that is neither impossible to follow, or numbingly dumb. But moreover, the player needs to be able to impact it. They need to care about their character, and their character needs to be more than use a pre-scripted doll.
  • Limited Inventory – items get ignored plenty easily most of the time. Player’s need to weigh the usefulness of taking things with them if we want them to matter. However, we don’t want this to be overly complicated or stressful.
  • Involved Combat — We can’t get away without conflict, but we can get away with making it meaningful. Players need to be able to move around; position needs to count. Players need to have more to do than FIGHT/MAGIC/ITEM/RUN.
  • Non-Lethal Win/Lose — If you get in a real fight, usually it doesn’t end with one side of the conflict totally dead. Why should games be different? We need to let players have this option — make it preferable, perhaps.
  • Involved Non-Combat — Players need more to do than just fighting things. We need to give them other options and tasks that they can use beyond combat that are AS developed as combat.
  • Simple numbers — Players need to be able to easily understand whatever numbers we present them; they need to be contextual too. Fallout’s S.P.E.C.I.A.L. made it easy to quickly survey a character. The low numbers in the Mario RPG series made it clear when things were effective or ineffective.
  • Explorable World — Most RPGs trap the player in a line. While we don’t need a giant sprawling world, we DO need a world that doesn’t feel like a movie-set. Players should feel free to explore it, and we shouldn’t penalize them for doing so, or for failing to do so.
  • Unimportant Items — Most stuff is just stuff. If we offer the player varied equipment, the decision on what to take should be deeper than ‘what can I afford’. Player’s shouldn’t just simply find ‘better armor’ in the next area — the idea of equipment being ‘better’ should be entirely relative.
  • Living World — Things should occur without the player’s intervention. They shouldn’t be the center of the universe.

What do we want to avoid?
  • Probably the first thing is a lame story and plot — this can be tricky though. Silver and Dark Cloud both tried to be original and failed to be interesting. What can we do to avoid this problem? Editing and planning, primarily. It also helps to have a professional writer either create the story or at least consult on it.
  • Meaningless Combat — Random encounters are a weird beast; making the player fight through swarms of meaningless enemies. Eliminating random encounters doesn’t solve the problem; combat needs to be fun, regardless of the encounter. This should also mean multiple effective strategies are always viable, though they don’t always have to be evenly effective.
  • Meaningless Activity — Like combat, we need to make sure that players aren’t boring themselves on meaningless tasks. No stupid fetch quests, no stupid puzzles. We should offer them multiple solutions to problems if it is reasonable to do so. This also includes overly repetitive tasks.
  • Reality Defying Mechanics — We can suspend disbelief, but we should avoid mechanics that don’t make any sense; preferably it should make sense in our world, but DEFINITELY it should make sense in the game. Unlimited inventory is only the first mechanic like this we should avoid. Things like phoenix downs are another good one to avoid. Using a giant slot machine to perform an attack is definitely out.
  • Eliminating Realistic Options — Much like including Reality Defying Mechanics, failing to include options that make sense inside the game’s context can pretty quickly destroy suspension of disbelief.
  • Action Elements — While there are a lot of Action RPGs out there, I feel that we should avoid it for this project so that it won’t be considered an action game with RPG elements.
  • Confusion — We don’t want to use brand new terminology; we want everything to be clear and understood.
  • Too Much Information — Likewise, we don’t want to bog the player down with too much information.

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong. - HL Mencken
HiddenX is offline

HiddenX

HiddenX's Avatar
The Elder Spy
RPGWatch Donor

#223

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: NRW/Germany
Posts: 3,551

Default 

June 24th, 2013, 20:47
A great read for CRPG fans:

Dungeons and Desktops: The History of Computer Role-Playing Games by Matt Barton

(I just bought it)

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong. - HL Mencken
HiddenX is offline

HiddenX

HiddenX's Avatar
The Elder Spy
RPGWatch Donor

#224

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: NRW/Germany
Posts: 3,551

Default 

July 9th, 2013, 20:02
In the book "Fundamentals of Game Design" by Ernest Adams you can find the following short definition of CRPGs:

A role playing game is one in which the player controls one or more characters, typically designed by the player, and guides them through a series of quests managed by the computer. Victory consists of completing theses quests. Character growth in power and abilities is a key feature of the genre. Typical challenges include tactical combat, logistics, economic growth, exploration and puzzle solving. Physical coordination challenges are rare except in RPG-action hybrids.

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong. - HL Mencken
HiddenX is offline

HiddenX

HiddenX's Avatar
The Elder Spy
RPGWatch Donor

#225

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: NRW/Germany
Posts: 3,551

Default 

July 9th, 2013, 20:26
Nice and succinct.
Thrasher is online now

Thrasher

Thrasher's Avatar
Wheeee!
RPGWatch Donor

#226

Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Studio City, CA
Posts: 9,863

Default 

July 9th, 2013, 22:01
That right there is a solid definition of crpg's, imo. I like the physical coordination distinction that's made at the end, totally agree that that change is what creates an action rpg.



-Carn
Carnifex is offline

Carnifex

Keeper of the Watch

#227

Join Date: Oct 2011
Location: Edmonton, Alberta, CA
Posts: 1,495

Default 

July 9th, 2013, 23:53
Sounds like a nice simple and succinct definition to me as well. Will also check out the book and add it to my wish list, thanks for mentioning it!

Character is centrality, the impossibility of being displaced or overset. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
wolfgrimdark is offline

wolfgrimdark

wolfgrimdark's Avatar
Keeper of the Watch

#228

Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: NH
Posts: 856

Default 

July 10th, 2013, 11:20
I like this short definition, too. Let’s check it against our own definition 0.94:

a) A role playing game is one in which the player controls one or more characters,
C1: you can control one or more characters

b) typically designed by the player,
C4: you can create your characters

c) and guides them through a series of quests managed by the computer.
S2: you can follow quests (=> there is at least one main quest)
S3: you can progress through connected events (= Story)

d) Victory consists of completing theses quests.
(Explicit victory conditions are not in our definition, I can integrate this in S2)

e) Character growth in power and abilities is a key feature of the genre.
C2: you can progressively develop your characters' stats or abilities (=> e.g. through quests, exploration, conversation, combat, …)


f) Typical challenges include tactical combat,
F1: Combat efficiency is in some way tied to character stats or abilities (=> e.g. amount of damage, chance to hit, weapon access, …) -> we don’t demand tactical combat.

g) logistics, economic growth,
C3: you can equip and enhance your characters with items you acquire - we could add "getting richer" somehow.

h) exploration and
E1: by exploring the gameworld you can find new locations
E2: you can find items that can be collected in an inventory (=> not only puzzle items)
E3: you can find information sources (=> e.g. NPCs, entities, objects that provide info)
S1: you can get info from information sources (=> e.g. hints, goals, quests, skills, spells, training, …)

i) puzzle solving.
S8: advancing in the story requires thought (=> e.g. irreversible choices, moral dilemma, riddles, …)

j) Physical coordination challenges are rare except in RPG-action hybrids.
See tag list 0.94

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong. - HL Mencken
HiddenX is offline

HiddenX

HiddenX's Avatar
The Elder Spy
RPGWatch Donor

#229

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: NRW/Germany
Posts: 3,551

Default 

July 10th, 2013, 13:37
Re:-

d) Victory consists of completing these quests. (Explicit victory conditions are not in our definition, I can integrate this in S2)
…………………….
What is victory?

Some games have quests that must not be done (eg: subliminal via storyline) - victory in completing a quest might look good for exp' points etc' but completing the *concept motive* has failed. The writer's generalisation does not account for this deeper role-playing aspect.

Unless someone is prepared to evalute every CRPG for subliminal or covert quest stretching, i would leave this well alone, i would stick with current CRPG (V0.94)
Wulf is offline

Wulf

Wulf's Avatar
Inquisitor

#230

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: North-West England
Posts: 1,104

Default 

July 10th, 2013, 13:55
Victory in a CRPG is reaching the end of the main quest/goal. So S2 could be:

S2: you can follow quests (=> there is at least one main quest, reaching the end of the main quest is equivalent to victory)

Then we would introduce a border to pure Sandbox RPGs with no defined ending.

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong. - HL Mencken
HiddenX is offline

HiddenX

HiddenX's Avatar
The Elder Spy
RPGWatch Donor

#231

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: NRW/Germany
Posts: 3,551

Default 

July 10th, 2013, 16:14
We are getting into swampy territory here, completing a quest (and there can be many fedex type quests) is more a 'progression' rather than victory. Reaching the end of a game is 'game completion'.

Victory usually determines the outcome of say a battle, although to banish evil could be a victory.

I suspect the writer is very conversant with action games and uses the term 'victory' in that light, eg: end of level boss victory, winning a campaign can have a victorious outcome.

Which type of non-combat quests could be described as 'victorious' ?
Wulf is offline

Wulf

Wulf's Avatar
Inquisitor

#232

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: North-West England
Posts: 1,104

Default 

July 10th, 2013, 17:24
He uses the word victory in a sense like "Beating the game", "Finishing the game" or "Reaching the end of the game" (It is a book about all computer games, not only CRPGs).

In other words for CRPGs: Victory = Finishing all questlines that are not optional.

We don't need the term "Victory" explicitly in our definition, because we already postulate at least one main quest.

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong. - HL Mencken
HiddenX is offline

HiddenX

HiddenX's Avatar
The Elder Spy
RPGWatch Donor

#233

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: NRW/Germany
Posts: 3,551

Default 

July 16th, 2013, 11:25
Another CRPG definition, this time from

Playing With Premise
A Discussion of Story and Setting in Video Games

Definition

“A CRPG is a video game in which the primary driver of progress is the interplay between the game’s narrative elements and the defining traits of the characters.”

Explanation:

A CRPG is a video game…

I’m sort of stating the obvious here, but a computer role-playing game (or CRPG) is, in fact, a video game. The more important function of this phrase is to differentiate a computer role-playing game from a pen-and-paper role-playing game or a free-form activity. Many definitions of CRPG emphasize the historical origin of the genre, either tracing it back to simulations of Dungeons and Dragons or to the attempts of D&D (and its contemporaries) to imitate classic war games. By separating the CRPG from its predecessors, this definition attempts to liberate the genre from its predecessors. The CRPG is its own genre, and deserves to be considered on its own merits.

…in which the primary driver of progress…

It is an easy trap to try and define a game genre by its features. After all, for over twenty years you could do just that. Even when Deus Ex and System Shock began to advertise skill system and statistics as “RPG Elements”, no one mistook those games for CRPGs. Recent years have tested the usefulness of this method, though. The 2010 release of Mass Effect 2, for example, seemed to cause quite an uproar within the RPG community as players split over whether a game with such heavy third person shooter influences could really be called a CRPG. To be honest, these developments have only emphasized a far-older issue in the community. I don’t think there’s been a time in my life when the CRPG hasn’t been split between the linear plots produced by Japan and the more open-ended approach favored by Western developers.

That said, I don’t think the situation is going to become more clear-cut any time soon. This definition attempts to take that into account. By emphasizing the main way in which the player advances through the game, it tries to take the emphasis off of potentially ephemeral systems (turn-based combat, inventory management) and place it on the aspects that differentiate it from other game genres. Not only does this hopefully produce a longer lasting definition, but a more streamlined one. It should not take three conditions to separate the Baldur’s Gate series from the Masters of Orion series.

… is the interplay between the game’s narrative elements…

Many definitions of CRPGs place a heavy emphasis on strong plots, to the point where a few have treated it as a key element of the genre. This is not an unfounded claim, as strong narrative execution is perhaps more important to the RPG than other genres, but it underestimates the storytelling capacity of other game types. The Metal Gear series often received attention for its prominent stories, to the point that one of the common criticisms of its later installments is that they seemed to forget there was supposed to be game between the cutscenes. Super Mario Galaxy drew quite a bit of attention for the plot that slipped in, to the point that there was backlash when Nintendo developer Shigeru Miyamoto announced that its sequel would feel more like a traditional Mario title. When asked for an explanation, the answer seemed to be that he felt deep plotlines belonged in The Legend of Zelda games, not Mario. Neither of these series are mainly RPGs, though to be fair the Mario Bros. have starred in a few.

What truly separates the CRPG approach to narrative from the other genres is the degree to which its elements are developed. Detailed settings, characters, and plots are hallmarks of many games, but few are so elaborately built and explored. It is the attention to all the narrative elements that distinguishes the great CRPGs from the classics of other genres. Yet I must against stress that this is not what makes the CRPG itself distinct. It is how those elements interact with the game.

…and the defining traits of the characters.

Specifically, it is how those elements interact with the playable cast that truly separates the CRPG from other genres. What makes the CRPG unique is how central the ability of the qualities which form the characters to effect how the game progresses, and vice-versa. This manifests in many ways, based often on what the “qualities” in question are.

First and foremost, “attributes” represent the core capabilities of the characters: How strong, smart, or fast they are. While these play the most obvious roles in combat, where the statistics influence how effective a character’s actions are, they can also influence social situations. Games such as Planescape: Torment often use attributes like Charisma and Wisdom as thresholds to advanced dialogue options, allowing players to talk their way out of situations. Some games will introduce similar elements governing aspects less essential to progress, such as the skills of Icewind Dale or the social attributes of Persona 3 (and 4). While these aren’t quite as critical, they still play a major role in deciding what the player can or cannot do. So important are attributes to CRPGs that some have claimed the real definition is little more than “a game in which you make numbers go up”.

Another way characters are defined by their qualities is through the implementation of “meters”. These are scales representing moral integrity, organizational standing, and relationships with other characters. Each of these are directly effected by how the character interacts with the game world. This enables a game to produce complicated systems of cause-and-effect, giving choices greater weight, as a single action may effect multiple meters. Changes to these scales are almost never insurmountable, though. It is entirely possible to murder an entire family and still be hailed a virtuous hero, providing the effects on the corresponding meters are offset by other deeds.

The third, and increasingly popular, method of describing the character is through what I’ll call “history”. These are choices and events the character has been involved in that directly and irreparably shift how the setting reacts to him or her. In the past these were pretty much fixed qualities, as the history of the character and his journey was often forced by the progression of the events. The protagonist of Suikoden 5, for example, is always the prince-in-exile of Falenas. The player character of Baldur’s Gate 2 has always saved the Sword Coast from Sarevok prior to the game’s events, as otherwise the events of Baldur’s Gate 2 wouldn’t have occurred. Player choice was often limited to elements outside the main plot, and therefore non-essential to how the greater narrative unfolded, or was only acknowledged at the end of the game, giving the player some control over how the story ends. Furthermore, any sequel would have to decide how things ended before, making large amounts of player agency a tricky thing to work with. This has changed in recent years, as companies experiment with transferring old save data and providing choices between protagonist backgrounds, making historical definition a much more player-driven affair.

To be honest, this is probably a rubbish definition, and I fully expect to be proven wrong. An annual event here on Playing With Premise will be taking the definitions like this and revising them as I learn more about modern gaming. Until that happy time comes, however, this is the Working Definition of CRPGs for 2011.

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong. - HL Mencken
HiddenX is offline

HiddenX

HiddenX's Avatar
The Elder Spy
RPGWatch Donor

#234

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: NRW/Germany
Posts: 3,551

Default 

August 2nd, 2013, 08:29
I had started working on v0.94 of the NtH list, but RL work caught up and I got swamped (still am, actually). I'm not sure about the exact status, but here's the most recent version of the NtH list (v0.94), as well as v0.94 from HiddenX' word doc. I attached a text file with the forum code.


Definition of a CRPG (V0.94)

The three core categories Character Development, Exploration and Story that need to be applied and quantified to determine if an interactive computerised game can be defined as a Computer Role Playing Game (hereafter referred to as CRPG) are listed to show the necessary component elements and qualifying factors. Any proposed or purported CRPG must contain all three core categories and their Must Have (MH) elements fulfilled to achieve CRPG status.

These core categories must maintain some form of progressive nature that will improve from when the game starts and leads to a conclusive game ending.

Each core category and the auxiliary category Combat also has a related Should Have (SH) sub list, the reviewer should make a comment if a sub list item is not fulfilled. Should one or more (SH) not be fulfilled the game is most likely a special CRPG (see Tags) or a CRPG light.

If all (SH) are fulfilled too there's no further discussion necessary -> the game is a true CRPG.

Optional elements are listed in the Nice to Have (NtH) list. With it you get precise information which optional CRPG elements are implemented in the game. A general game info questionnaire is added too, to do some rating.


I. A CRPG is a computer game that fulfills these criterions:

Character Development
Describes ways to change or enhance your characters in order to increase their effectiveness in the game.
  • Must Have
    C1: you can control one or more characters
    C2: you can progressively develop your characters' stats or abilities (=> e.g. through quests, exploration, conversation, combat, …)
    C3: you can equip and enhance your characters with items you acquire
  • Should Have
    C4: you can create your characters
    C5: character development requires careful thought and planning

Exploration
Includes how you can move through the game world, as well as everything you can find, see, manipulate or interact with, like locations, items and other objects.
  • Must Have
    E1: by exploring the gameworld you can find new locations
    E2: you can find items that can be collected in an inventory (=> not only puzzle items)
    E3: you can find information sources (=> e.g. NPCs, entities, objects that provide info)
  • Should Have
    E4: there are NPCs in the game
    E5: you can choose a path (=> there is at least some branching)
    E6: you can manipulate the game world in some way (=> e.g. pull levers, push buttons, open chests, …)
    E7: the gameworld can affect your party (=> e.g. weather, traps, closed doors, poisoned areas, …)
    E8: you may have to think or plan to progress or overcome obstacles (=> e.g. unlock locked areas, repair bridges, dispel barriers, …)

Story
Concerns all narrative elements like setting, lore, plot, characters, dialogue, quests, descriptions, storyline(s) and similar, including how you can interact with them.
  • Must Have
    S1: you can get info from information sources (=> e.g. hints, goals, quests, skills, spells, training, …)
    S2: you can follow quests (=> there is at least one main quest)
    S3: you can progress through connected events (= Story)
  • Should Have
    S4: the story is influenced more or less by your actions
    S5: you can interact with information sources (=> e.g. NPC conversation, riddle statue question, …)
    S6: you can make choices in those interactions
    S7: your choices have consequences
    S8: advancing in the story requires thought (=> e.g. irreversible choices, moral dilemma, riddles, …)

Combat
Describes how combat is influenced by elements of Character Development, Exploration and Story.
  • Should Have
    F1: Combat efficiency is in some way tied to character stats or abilities (=> e.g. amount of damage, chance to hit, weapon access, …)
    F2: Combat works with some random elements (game internal dice rolls)
    F3: Combat should be challenging (=> e.g. preparing, use of tactics or environment possible)

Spoiler – II. (Informative) Tags

Spoiler – III. (Optional) Nice to Have: 115/115 = 100%

Spoiler – IV. (Informative) General Game Info
Attached Files
File Type: txt crpg-checklist-forum-0.94.txt (17.6 KB, 10 views)

"Mystery is important. To know everything, to know the whole truth, is dull. There is no magic in that. Magic is not knowing, magic is wondering about what and how and where." ~ Cortez, from The Longest Journey
Last edited by Arhu; February 27th, 2014 at 11:58.
Arhu is offline

Arhu

Arhu's Avatar
Feline Wizard
RPGWatch Team

#235

Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Germany
Posts: 2,313

Default 

August 3rd, 2013, 09:12
Hello,

First, I would like to stress that I haven't read the thread fully in detail. I've mostly skimmed through the 12 pages, and I must say that what I've read, I found genuinely interesting (relevant to my interests). Your effort seems to be team-based, which is a plus in my book, since I tend to be skeptical towards definitions provided by some "over-night geniuses" (as I call them) to get mainstream sites a cheap and quick buzz for advertising purposes.

Next, I hope you'll manage to forgive my rather blunt style in providing feedback. My intention is neither to mock your effort (I can't do better), nor harm it in the sense of attempting to bring it to a crawl by raising arguments. I just happen to be direct in my objections.

ANALYSIS OF THE ISSUE

This being said, as much as your effort seems laudable, in my opinion it's still far (and I mean really far) from reaching a definitive conclusion about what a cRPG is. Indeed, it seems to me that if you manage to pinpoint most of the features that one could assign to a cRPG, your definition still fails to describe what makes it a cRPG *comparatively* to another style of games.

Otherwise said, since at least one of you is a mathematician, you've been mostly inclusive so far, but never quite exclusive (and there is a reason for that, more about that later). In my mind, you constructed a pretty "matching card" game, in which you pick what you think to be cRPGs (or features thereof), and find out eventually that they are, indeed, cRPGs.

To me, the real question should be (in theory at least) : what differentiates a "pure" cRPG like PS:T from a "pure" FPS like HL ? From a "pure" SIM game like Princess Maker 2 ?

I am fairly certain that one could easily find games which would definitely not be considered cRPGs by most players (not to mention their own producers and devs), yet still satisfy to all of your different MH criteria : "Character Development", "Exploration", "Story" and "Combat". I won't attempt to make many a demonstration here, to keep the post digest, just getting back to my example of Princess Maker 2.

Depending on how your criteria are to be interpreted, one could find in it : a main character (C1), "stats" that increase (C2), "dresses" (C3), new areas (E1), items that enhance "stats" (E2), NPCs and quest givers (E3, S1, S2), and the game has a non-linear story with a beginning and an end (S3). It also features combat, before you ask.

Hence, PM2 is a cRPG! I think not…

I am aware that you intend to provide additional guidelines on how to use your "tool", but I fail to see how they could make your criteria any less "empirical" (inspired by your own experiences as gamers) and subjective compared to "definitions" elaborated by other authors before you, several of whom you quoted (kudos to you) like cRPGAddict. Because the issue lies precisely in that : the *subjectivity* of defining a genre that is perceived very differently by a vast population of gamers.

Now, I could stop here, go with my common sense, and state that no one will ever answer the question to a satisfying degree. However, I also tend to be curious as player, and while I enjoy RPGs the most, there's a broad spectrum of other genres that I hold dear to my gamer's heart, like war-games and adventure games. These do suffer from much less controversy, if any, in their definition, or about specific games they should cover. So how come we can define what a war-game is, and not a cRPG ?

SUGGESTION OF A SOLUTION

In my mind, the answer is not one of properly constructed semantics, like you're attempting to achieve, but one of *consensus*. The truth is, you'll never be able be to proceed by exclusion, which would be needed to set boundaries somewhere. It's the purpose of a definition.

If one can't give an intensional definition of "what is a cRPG?", it's still possible to give an extensional definition of what has been traumatizing whole generations of RPG gamers since the dawn of humanity (alright, let's remain modest, since the '70).

How ? If you have a look at the community built around the particular genre that is "Visual Novels", you will find a site which can be reached at VNDB.

It's a database of every game that people *suggest* as VNs. If the community accepts the game as such, it's instantly documented and classified, accordingly to an impressive number of tags, which are in turn moderated by the community so that things do not get out of hand. In that spirit, you will find titles on it that are "pure" by pseudo-academical standards like Wikipedia, but also some which could be considered borderline, some kind of half-bred cross-overs between genres, or still a mish-mash of different subgenres. It may not look like it, but it's far from trivial, and it works smoothly, efficiently, and stands as undisputed reference for the genre. In my experience as of today, this is the closest we'll ever get to defining our own genre.

This answer may not satisfy everyone, and probably none of you who have been working on these quite impressive info-graphics, charts and documents (I'll keep them under hand, properly credited, with the permission of their authors that is), but there you have it.

Feel free to prove me wrong.

PS : Much of what has been worked on in this thread could very well serve as starting material to feed the database needed to start an equivalent endeavor to VNDB for cRPGs.
Karmapowered is offline

Karmapowered

Watcher

#236

Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 35

Default 

August 3rd, 2013, 09:53
Thank you for the input, unfortunanetly I don't know Princess Maker 2 .

Defining CRPGs by listing them in a big CRPG database is certainly an approach that could work, if you have a group of good CRPG experts that decide what game will be in the database and which will not be in.

But don't you think each of the experts works with "internal checklists" just like the ones we have written down here?

Many CRPG elements are used in different genres, so our definition will classify some games with borderline CRPG elements as CRPGs, but the vast majority of them will don't meet all Should Have Criteria, so the reviewer has to comment on them.

To get more precise, we could make a similar Must Have/Should Have definition for Adventures, Rogue Likes, Sims, Shooters and Strategy Games.
(Some of this in short is already in the Informative Tag List).
But this would be a lot of work…

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong. - HL Mencken
HiddenX is offline

HiddenX

HiddenX's Avatar
The Elder Spy
RPGWatch Donor

#237

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: NRW/Germany
Posts: 3,551

Default 

August 3rd, 2013, 10:39
I would say that it's the only approach that would work ^.^

Last time I checked, Princess Maker 2 could be found on about any Abandonware site, but I admit it's been a while since I did. To take another example of a more recent game that could commit quite some of your MH criteria is Far Cry 3. Granted, there are no stats or experience, but conceptually, what is different between :

1/ using the same sword, increasing your strength by levelling up, and doing more damage
2/ using a better gun, found in the next area ("level"), and doing more damage ?

Yet, Far Cry 3 obviously does not classify as a cRPG (to me, anyway).

The beauty of the community-moderated database is that there are no "experts", as you might imagine them. Games get suggested, added to the database or rejected, documented and classified by the community. Everyone has their vote, and only their vote (there are moderators to be fair and accurate). If I thought that JA2 was one of the best cRPG ever, which I do, and wanted to add it, other people might object to it. In the end, it's a matter of consensus, and discussed as such over time. It might end up being tagged in a subgenre.

Finally, even if one disagrees with my argument two posts above, one has to wonder which goal is easier to reach : a consensus over qualifiable entities classified in a database, like real games, or semantics ? Which one yields more tangible results over the journey ?
Karmapowered is offline

Karmapowered

Watcher

#238

Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 35

Default 

August 3rd, 2013, 12:18
A CRPG database is a good idea (we have one at the Watch).

Our goal with our definition and checklists is more than just to say:
This game is a CRPG or not. This is not a black/white decision.
We want to have info on all CRPG elements.
If the game is a borderline CRPG, you have to qualify it with informative tags.
I know that I have to write an article for this some day to make that clear…
Promise: I'll do this if we reach version 1.00

This could be realized with a big questionaire for all users and a database behind it.
Maybe if Myrthos has too much free time some day…

PS:
Far Cry 3 is a Shooter CRPG by our definition. It misses only the Should Haves C4 und C5 IMHO. I can live with this classification, because I played this game more than 500 hours (single and multiplayer)

JA 2 meets all critera, I think it is one of the best CRPGs ever made.

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong. - HL Mencken
Last edited by HiddenX; August 3rd, 2013 at 12:37.
HiddenX is offline

HiddenX

HiddenX's Avatar
The Elder Spy
RPGWatch Donor

#239

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: NRW/Germany
Posts: 3,551

Default 

August 3rd, 2013, 16:14
Originally Posted by HiddenX View Post
This could be realized with a big questionaire for all users and a database behind it.
Maybe if Myrthos has too much free time some day…
That, and some understanding on what it is you actually want

Computer n. A machine which flawlessly performs the instructions it is given, no matter how flawed those instructions may be.
Myrthos is offline

Myrthos

Myrthos's Avatar
Cave Canem
Super Moderator
RPGWatch Team

#240

Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Netherlands
Posts: 4,043

Tags
character development, combat, crpg, exploration, story
RPGWatch Forums » Games » General RPG » CRPG: The final (?) definition
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT +2. The time now is 22:11.
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Copyright by RPGWatch