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Default Spiderweb Games - View From the Bottom #8 @ RPG Vault

April 22nd, 2007, 18:12
Jeff Vogel's latest View From the Bottom column at RPG Vault slipped past us the other day…this time, Jeff continues his theme of Why I Hate Fantasy RPGs, making some salient points and a commitment along the way. Here's the intro:
Last time, I wrote about why, after decades of enjoyment, I have come to hate fantasy role-playing games (RPGs for short). The kind people at popular web site Slashdot linked to it, and a lot of people read it. Many people left comments, most of which said in great detail what an idiot I am. I fed on their hate, and it made me strong.
Boy. I tell you. If it wasn't for the fact that I am right and they are wrong, I'd be pretty nervous right now.
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April 22nd, 2007, 18:12
Last time, I wrote about why, after decades of enjoyment, I have come to hate fantasy role-playing games (RPGs for short). The kind people at popular web site Slashdot linked to it, and a lot of people read it. Many people left comments, most of which said in great detail what an idiot I am.
After having read a passage like this

I'm quitting my former favorite sort of game cold turkey. I'll play God of War II again. You can rip a guy's arm off and beat him to death with it. And this, truly, is why the computer was invented.
it's pretty hard not to agree with them…
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April 22nd, 2007, 20:43
I agree with him somewhat. I get tired of having to fight a million of the exact same creatures to level up. I quit Final Fantasy XII about halfway through for this very reason. I started replaying Fallout last night. I love combat in that game. It's very tactical and interesting at the same time. If Temple of Elemental Evil had had a decent story, I would have loved that, too. Many games are becoming too much like Diablo and World of Warcraft i.e. way too repetitive. I do still enjoy seeing the power of my character increase, though, as I really like to decimate later monsters. Overall, I think it's a very interesting take on the genre.
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April 23rd, 2007, 01:28
Perhaps, but it's a bit silly to bite the hand that feeds you!! Using similar reasoning, I could argue that Jeff's games are very repetative and until he gets better graphics I'm not going to play/buy them!! We'd both lose.

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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April 23rd, 2007, 04:01
So instead of doing the same things in fantasy RPG's, he's going to do 'new' things in other genres? How long before he discovers the untapped wonders of WWII shooters? Or match-3 puzzles?

— Mike
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April 23rd, 2007, 06:34
I get your points, Mike and Corwin. I think my problem is that I always come back to RPGs, and I've played hundreds of them, so when I take a break to play a WWII shooter, it might seem novel to me, even though there are also hundreds of WWII shooter clones. I think that's why I bought the wii this Christmas — to try something new. And what's the first game I bought? Zelda — admittedly, not the deepest RPG, but the best Nintendo had to offer. I'm obsessed, I think.
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April 23rd, 2007, 06:39
A lot of what he said resonated with me, the fighting nameless enemies and the long corridor analogy especially. One thing Baldurs Gate did right was that it had a lot of "named" enemies, each one have their own set of loot and sometimes even having a back-story. Gothic 3 certainly suffers from the long corridor syndrome.

I believe the cRPG genre (as we have previously known it) is at its lowest point since perhaps even its inception.

In 10 years time, when you decide to play a game from the past for the nth time, what is it going to be? Fallout? or Jade Empire?

Favourite RPGs of all time: Wizardry 6, Ultima 7/7.2, Fallout2, Planescape Torment, Baldurs Gate 2+TOB, Jagged Alliance 2, Ravenloft: The stone prophet, Gothic 2, Realms of Arkania:Blade of destiny (not the HD version!!) and Secret of the Silver Blades.
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April 23rd, 2007, 09:46
I hope in 10 years time, that it's a game that has yet to be made!!

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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April 23rd, 2007, 14:27
Originally Posted by josephwatson View Post
I get your points, Mike and Corwin. I think my problem is that I always come back to RPGs, and I've played hundreds of them, so when I take a break to play a WWII shooter, it might seem novel to me, even though there are also hundreds of WWII shooter clones. I think that's why I bought the wii this Christmas — to try something new. And what's the first game I bought? Zelda — admittedly, not the deepest RPG, but the best Nintendo had to offer. I'm obsessed, I think.
First off, Zelda is *brilliant* - but not a RPG. It is a grand game that deserves the accolades and is a wonderful entry for the Wii.

My first gaming love is *not* RPG, and I was very late to the party on them. I've been into shooters since before they were really born, and still chop through every one. They are all corridor and nameless, faceless enemies - but it is the intensity of battles and the need for strategy to get through them that matters.

It is not that Jeff is wrong - like he says, I think he is right. But his reasoning is that other game genres are doing it better. Perhaps in some ways, but at the end of the Call of Duty PSP game I just finished I was killing the same Nazis with the same Sten I used in the first level … same goes for STALKER … unlike RPG's where you might start out puny and weak, but end up able to level entire towns with your power (in between carrying cups of sugar from neighbor to neighbor, of course).

— Mike
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April 23rd, 2007, 15:35
Hi Mike,

I have to disagree with you on a minor point — I think Zelda IS an RPG, at least to the same extent that Final Fantasy is an RPG. Maybe it's more of a blend of genres — action adventure, RPG, and puzzle game. I'm not sure. You don't earn experience, per se, but your power does increase as you gather items and defeat boss monsters. You complete quests for people. It feels a little like an old Sierra game (Kings Quest, Police Quest, etc), with more action, but the RPG elements are there.

Anyway, I remember a few years back playing U7 Serpent Isle and thinking, "Wow, if games are this great now, they should be amazing in 10 years!" Based on my Ultima experiences, I assumed that worlds would get bigger, more complicated, and have deeper storylines. I saw that progression in U4-U7. I was wrong, to an extent. The way I saw the genre heading didn't happen. I was impressed by some games — my favorites from the past few years comprise the usual suspects (FO, Baldur's Gate, Planescape, Gothic, KoTR, etc). But Ultima 8 and 9 almost physically hurt me, and, since Serpent Isle, I've only seen a few games where a character's choices have a real impact on an open-ended world (Gothic being my favorite). And maybe no game will ever match what I experienced when I was younger - I'm becoming a bit crotchety in my 30s. Anyway, while I have to have breaks from RPGs every so often, I don't think I can ever quit cold turkey. I have my fingers crossed that Fallout 3 will be something amazing. If not, I still haven't beaten NWN2…..
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April 23rd, 2007, 16:38
Originally Posted by josephwatson View Post
I have to disagree with you on a minor point — I think Zelda IS an RPG, at least to the same extent that Final Fantasy is an RPG. Maybe it's more of a blend of genres — action adventure, RPG, and puzzle game. I'm not sure. You don't earn experience, per se, but your power does increase as you gather items and defeat boss monsters.
Omigod … thread derail imminent!

In the Final Fantasy games (admittedly I've played only the first 6 on GBA & DS), you *do* gain actual power. Zelda games you get extra hearts, but not actual strength. I think they are pure action/adventure games …

— Mike
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April 23rd, 2007, 22:35
Let me insert a quick on-topic Mike and then you and josephwatson can get out the big guns

While I can relate to the idea that clearing trash mobs is less than exciting, and that every crgp made in the last five years has almost the same plot, I still can't find myself agreeing with statements like this:

But for the lucky people who didn't read the previous column, my first big problem with RPGs is this; unlike other computer games, they almost invariably start me as an insignificant loser. Before I can do anything exciting or heroic, I have to pay my dues by spending tons of time gaining levels and proving that I am competent. My time is valuable. If I'm going to enter my fantasy world, I don't want to be a jackass in it. I want to do something cool and exciting NOW.
For me anyway, the whole point of the game is growing the character, picking the skills/spells and attributes and developing strategies that may or may not work. To start at some god-like level and be moving mountains in Act I doesn't really leave you anything to do for the next three acts. Theoretically, gaining levels—rather than a tedious inconvenience— is the fun part of the game, the substance and the reward for tromping all those rats into applesauce.

And I don't know what "other computer games" (besides the ones where he's ripping off the guy's arm and taking Omaha Beach) are referred to; most games understand the appeal of starting low and becoming omnipotent through your own character-enhancing wizardry. Even such genre-defying games as Black & White use the premise.

However, if Mr. Vogel's angst-ridden view of the genre causes him to develop a better format for cRPGs, then perhaps its all good.

Where there's smoke, there's mirrors.
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April 24th, 2007, 00:22
Originally Posted by josephwatson View Post
Anyway, I remember a few years back playing U7 Serpent Isle and thinking, "Wow, if games are this great now, they should be amazing in 10 years!" Based on my Ultima experiences, I assumed that worlds would get bigger, more complicated, and have deeper storylines. I saw that progression in U4-U7. I was wrong, to an extent.
I had a similar experience with Adventure games. Indy & Atlantis plus the Monkey Island sereies were heaven for me - and even more, from a current point of view.

The Indiana Jones series of Adventure games nowadays fociuses almost ONLY on action and combat - not story. No immersion anymore, at leasdt not in ths (rather) "traditional" sense.
Although I must admit that it was at least from my point of view heavily "inspired" by Lara Croft and her kind of "Adventures".

It seems to me as if the "Dungeon Crawler" faction is big today. Today's RPGs are focused on combat, and on hack-fest, instead on story, no more focusing on the story anymore.

"Modern" RPGs - and I mean Action-RPGs - are merely a vehicle for a gamer to "pump up the character", do some powergaming, and ask the fellow gamer : "Now who's got the bigger, better character, items or weapons (or all of them), huh ?"

Role-Playing isn't there anymore. It doesn't focus on the role anymore. Everything has become a mere vehicle for "having fun" in a certain sense.

To me, it's like watching TV vs. reading a book.
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April 24th, 2007, 04:56
Mike:

Actually, in the Zelda games, while your strength doesn't increase, you do learn new and varied moves that are more powerful than previous ones. I'm not a big believer in stats increases defining an RPG, though. I think role playing should define the genre, as Alrik stated. In Zelda, you talk with many people, perform quests for them, and, in general interact with the world. While puzzles abound, Zelda, to me, has many key elements of an RPG. I know a fantasy setting does not an RPG make, but Zelda is definitely related to the genre. (as an aside — Did I mention I hate random encounters? I do. That's why I've never finished a Final Fantasy)

Magarette: I actually get tired of growing stats. However, I did like the stat selection in Fallout. I don't know — there's just something about how unique that RPG is compared with other ones. It seems to reinvent old RPG ideas. I get bored with Diabloesque stat progression schemes, though. No story, no fun.

Alrik: Totally agree. That's why I've been branching out of the genre as well. Here's something that should be controversial (and possibly get my RPG license revoked) — the one game that grabbed me hook, line, and sinker this year was super controversial, at first, and then turned out to not be that bad: Rockstar Game's Bullly. I love how open ended the game fells, how I can interact with many different people, and how they each have their own unique personalities. This game is a far cry from the Oblivion cookie cutter mess. Bully is, in my opinion, the closest thing to an RPG set in modern times that exists, and it's even somewhat thought provoking (in a very juvenile way). A little action-y for some, but not overly so. My two cents for the evening….
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April 24th, 2007, 09:09
Originally Posted by josephwatson View Post
snip*

Magarette: I actually get tired of growing stats. However, I did like the stat selection in Fallout. I don't know — there's just something about how unique that RPG is compared with other ones. It seems to reinvent old RPG ideas. I get bored with Diabloesque stat progression schemes, though. No story, no fun.
I agree. Fallout had some cool perks, and was different than most crpgs cranked out today in a lot of ways, most especially in the story and consequence areas. Also, it was not a hand-holding walk in the park. When you accomplished a goal in that game, it meant something.

By "growing the character," I didn't mean just the stat aspect, though I do enjoy that sort of thing. I meant taking an unformed generic character and developing it into one's own concept of a rogue, cleric, fighter, wizard or whatever. Vogel seems to feel that the first ten levels are a waste of time, whereas I enjoy them as much or more than the last ten.

As Alrik says, the hack-n-slash element seems to be what's being perceived as rpg by a lot of people. I play them and enjoy them, but to me they can never be considered an rpg, for the simple reason that the characters are two-dimensional
and you can't even imagine them having a dialogue; they have no voice, no personality. I consider action-rpg's to be closer to the strategy genre. If played in that spirit, they make sense.

Where there's smoke, there's mirrors.
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April 24th, 2007, 14:57
Originally Posted by josephwatson View Post
the one game that grabbed me hook, line, and sinker this year was super controversial, at first, and then turned out to not be that bad: Rockstar Game's Bullly. I love how open ended the game fells, how I can interact with many different people, and how they each have their own unique personalities. This game is a far cry from the Oblivion cookie cutter mess. Bully is, in my opinion, the closest thing to an RPG set in modern times that exists, and it's even somewhat thought provoking (in a very juvenile way). A little action-y for some, but not overly so. My two cents for the evening….
I know very, very little about that game. Apart from a short note on the publisher's web site (it even has different names in different countries), and very few screenshots.

(I must say that I haven't bought a gaming mag in the last few months at all.)

Could you send me a PN what's this game actually about ? Or, if someone else is interested as well, post it just here.
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April 24th, 2007, 15:06
What bugs me a bit in this discussion is that everyone takes the bits and pieces from the article and interprets them in a way he or she likes. Fact is however that the article is generalizing to an extent that is hardly bearable. The same goes for the wrong/right dichotomy that the author brings up at the very beginning of the article which undermines his own argumentation (which might even contain some valid points).
To be a bit more precise: You cannot claim that you're right if you're talking about personal preference or taste. For many people character building is an integral and essential part to the rpg genre. Therefore it is only natural that rpgs that feature a true "hero" right from the start will most likely be the exception.
In his argumentation Jeff Vogel is also somewhat hypocritical. On the one hand he vehemently argues in favour of breaking old patterns, but on the other hand he very much relies on such patterns. I for once find that the cliché of the mighty protagonist that is able to perform heroic, almost epic deeds is used in an almost inflationary way. As you can see - it all comes back to personal preference.

The author has many valid points, but again and again he seems to draw conclusions that are so far off that one is inclined to just stop reading. Trash for example. I can see his point, and in a way I agree with him. Although I doubt that even the classics of the rpg genre could get along without some trash - but anyway… let's just say the author has a point. And now comes the conclusion:

One solution to this tedium is the extreme one - get rid of everything that isn't a boss. The excellent action game Shadow of the Colossus does this. It's just 16 boss fights (with tedious but relatively quick horse rides between them). It's awesome.
After having a read a passage like the above one, I was not entirely sure if Vogel is serious or not. How the hell can you compare Shadow of the Colossus with a rpg. It's a totally different genre, and it gets rid of one problem by creating several others. And how can you argue that today's rpgs do not feature interesting quests and then praise a pos like that?

Same goes basically for the rest of the article. At some point he talks about God of War and GoW2, both some fairly nice action games that I had the pleasure to play on a friend's playstation. But these games do simply not compare with the rpg genre. They are action games, linear, with a simple story, without character development, and minimum of dialogue. It's easy to make a game that excels other games in just one or two aspects if the rest of the game is that simple.

Look at Fallout, look at Baldur's Gate, look at other great rpgs - most of them have their fair share of repetitive combat and enemies… but they have elements which make up for certain deficiencies in other areas. The more complex a game the more complicated it gets to make a game that excels in every single aspect.
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April 24th, 2007, 17:14
Originally Posted by Ionstormsucks View Post
What bugs me a bit in this discussion is that everyone takes the bits and pieces from the article and interprets them in a way he or she likes.

The author has many valid points, but again and again he seems to draw conclusions that are so far off that one is inclined to just stop reading. Trash for example. I can see his point, and in a way I agree with him. Although I doubt that even the classics of the rpg genre could get along without some trash - but anyway… let's just say the author has a point. And now comes the conclusion:
That wasn't the conclusion. This was.
Originally Posted by JeffV
Solving the problem of trash is both very easy and very hard. All you need to do is make an effort. Make the fights interesting. Make the corridors shorter. Cut down on the number of foes. And do something interesting! Think about what you're designing! A neat setting, a new special ability for the bad guys, a different number or mix of enemies…

Every time you have a group of enemies that is basically the same as the previous one, you suck. And, speaking as a designer, this goes just as much for me, for all the times I've had failures of creativity in my designs. I've stopped putting up with it, and you should do the same.
"Instead of throwing in more monsters to pad out your game, design each encounter to be unique in some way. Yes, I'm as guilty as anyone. It's harder than it sounds." The discussion focused on nitpicky details because nobody could possibly object to his conclusion. If anyone tried, we'd force them to replay the orc tunnels from NWN2.

Statues wouldn't be better if they could move. Model airplanes would not be better if they were the same size as airplanes.
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April 24th, 2007, 17:34
Originally Posted by abbaon View Post
That wasn't the conclusion. This was.
Read again:

One solution to this tedium is the extreme one - get rid of everything that isn't a boss. The excellent action game Shadow of the Colossus does this. It's just 16 boss fights (with tedious but relatively quick horse rides between them). It's awesome.
Yep, you're right… was a solution, not a conclusion. Can't say that makes it less silly… sorry.
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April 25th, 2007, 07:15
Hi Alrik,

Bully is a lot like Grand Theft Auto, except cleaner and to some extent more tasteful. No guns, really, but some violence, albeit mostly of the slingshot variety. It's a huge sandbox of a town, and the residents all have names and personalities. My only beef with the game itself is that you can't control conversations. I've always considered that a valuable part of any RPG. However, there are plenty of different items to try out, and the world is fairly life like. It's just like being in middle school again, only now you can beat up people you don't like.
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