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Default Confessions of an RPG Developer @ Atomic PC

May 24th, 2007, 01:57
Originally Posted by Squeek View Post
Well, I'm having a little trouble understanding your conclusion, despite that distinction and those examples (sorry). Isn't simulation a tool that benefits thinking?

I don't get how using a computer means you're not doing what you're doing. We're really having this discussion, right? We're not just simulating it? Would this be more real if everyone were speaking face-to-face? Are these our real opinions or phonies?
The fact that it's a single player computer game makes all the difference in the world. Don't mistake an SP CRPG for some computer-aided roleplaying session. The latter is easily conceivable; imagine a chat room where people from different parts of the country play DnD together. They'd be playing an RPG, doing mostly the same thing they'd do in a regular PnP setting, but the computer would be allowing them to play together even though they're far apart. They would be roleplaying just as much as they would in a normal PnP RPG session. That's not simulation.

Contrast that with an SP CRPG. It's a completely different experience. First, the player controls everybody on his side, be it a lone adventurer or a party of 10. Second, and related, there's no interaction. Nobody (EXCEPT YOU!) cares if you "play" any particular "role" poorly or well. And that, now that I think about it, is the key distinction. A traditional RPG, and indeed any activity that can be called roleplaying, requires participants or players to play a role. That is the absolute definging characteristic of non-computer roleplaying and RPGs. I mean duh. But as has been pointed out countless times, a CRPG does not require this ANY MORE SO than any other type of SP computer game. Yeah, in Gothic I assume the role of that nameless guy, but no more so than in Halo I assume the role of Master Chief. In either game, you can "roleplay" EXTERNAL to the game to a lesser or greater extent, but in neither is it REQUIRED. That is the difference between RPGs and CRPGs.

"But that's not true", you counter, "when I play Gothic I always roleplay like so and so and I only have my character eat such and such and I always dance a sexy little dance after I win 3 combats in a row, or to put it more strongly, CRPGs give us 100X as many (and much better) ways to express this roleplaying side of us, and Halo just doesn't." Fine, no argument from me. But consider: I don't play Gothic* the way you do. Suppose, oh just for the sake of argument, that I don't give two bleeps about the various ways a game gives me to express my roleplaying side, and I just play the game like I would Diablo. That's right, Diablo. I just kill stuff until I'm powerful enough to kill more stuff and I click my way through all the dialogue, yelling "BORING!" every time I have to sit through a speech. And If I ever have to make a choice, I always pick the second one, no matter what the choice is. All I want to do is kill stuff an get fat lewt and grow mighty and rich.

Are we playing the game two different ways? Sure.

Are we playing two different games? No. Should your roleplaying-centered Gothic be classified in a different genre than my power-up my guy for fun Gothic? That would be kinda silly, what with us both playing the same game.

Can you classify the genre based on what's going on in the player's head? Doesn't it make more sense to base genre distinctions on the mechanics of gameplay, as opposed to an impossible to define holistic gameplay experience that is unique to each player?

And that's why this is a silly topic, because the devs, the publishers, the game stores, the review sites, and the players have already done this. A CRPG is a game with character advancement, through levels, attributes, skills, and/or equipment. A game that focuses on something else but includes those things is called a "XXXXX with RPG elements". I absolutely believe this classification for these games needs to exist, but I do wish it had ended up with a less misleading title.

If you don't believe me, consider: Monkey Island** would be a CRPG and not an Adventure game, if only you gained experience, level'd up, and improved your abilities. That's how you can tell that character advancement is our genre's defining characteristic.

*I haven't played Gothic at all, but I want to. I probably should have picked a different example. BTW, if you could only play one of them, I or II or III?

** OK I haven't played that one either. But I bet I'm right.
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May 24th, 2007, 02:16
Originally Posted by Ionstormsucks View Post
You're just taking the whole question to a more abstract level - that's all. As soon as you're saying that CRPGs try to simulate P&P rpgs you'll have to specify how they are trying to achieve it. And then you'll end up with drawing parallels between RPGs and CRPGs and their defining features - pretty much what we tried in our previous posts.
Oh I totally disagree, because what they're simulating from the PnP games is not the roleplaying experience at all. It's the combat system, and the character advancement system. And they do a great job of that.

Consider: a flying game, they simulate the cockpit. They try to give you the same experience a pilot would have. But a CRPG, do they EVER simulate the dining room table, the ordering pizza, the arguments about which rules to apply, or the fact that you have to stop playing after a certain number of hours because someone goes home? Or less silly, does a CRPG ever penalize you for stepping out of character? Of course not. Your roleplaying ability is just not a part of the equation. What's simulated is the mechanics of the combat and advancement system and, to a varying extent depending on the game, your interaction with a story or campaign; the choices you make and what-not. BUT this latter facet is not the defining one.

Non-linearity, living world, large world, morality system, consequences for your actions, immersion, etc; these are all characteristics that we can appreciate to a greater or lesser extent depending on what we value in our gameplay experience. But there are just too many variations, and the factors too difficult to quantify, to possibly come up with a workable formula that can sort games into CRPG versus not CRPG. Absent actual "roleplaying", which I can't emphasize enough is COMPLETELY and INHERENTLY absent from any single player game, the only brightline feature capable of separating CRPG from other genres is character advancement.
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May 24th, 2007, 03:19
You're examining this too closely, Yeesh. You're missing the forest for the trees. Back up and consider a different perspective. It's just not that hard to tell the difference between CRPGs and other games.

Alfred Hitchcock once said, "When an actor comes to me and wants to discuss his character, I say, 'It's in the script.' If he says, 'But what's my motivation?, ' I say, 'Your salary.'

When I was a student, I took a lot of acting classes, did some plays and helped make a few films. None of the folks I did any of that with could ever agree on what everyone should be thinking. There's a converation there but not one that will ever help define anything.

Unless you're performing, you're just having fun when you role-play. You're entertaining yourself (and you do it collaboratively if you're part of a group). It's easier when you have something to work with. Role-playing game are especially convenient, and some are better than others. That's it, really.
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May 24th, 2007, 05:17
Originally Posted by Yeesh View Post
Oh I totally disagree, because what they're simulating from the PnP games is not the roleplaying experience at all. It's the combat system, and the character advancement system. And they do a great job of that.

Consider: a flying game, they simulate the cockpit. They try to give you the same experience a pilot would have. But a CRPG, do they EVER simulate the dining room table, the ordering pizza, the arguments about which rules to apply, or the fact that you have to stop playing after a certain number of hours because someone goes home? Or less silly, does a CRPG ever penalize you for stepping out of character? Of course not. Your roleplaying ability is just not a part of the equation. What's simulated is the mechanics of the combat and advancement system and, to a varying extent depending on the game, your interaction with a story or campaign; the choices you make and what-not. BUT this latter facet is not the defining one.

Non-linearity, living world, large world, morality system, consequences for your actions, immersion, etc; these are all characteristics that we can appreciate to a greater or lesser extent depending on what we value in our gameplay experience. But there are just too many variations, and the factors too difficult to quantify, to possibly come up with a workable formula that can sort games into CRPG versus not CRPG. Absent actual "roleplaying", which I can't emphasize enough is COMPLETELY and INHERENTLY absent from any single player game, the only brightline feature capable of separating CRPG from other genres is character advancement.
What you are describing is the sourcebook for a pnp rpg. Pnp rpgs are COMPLETELY and INHERENTLY absent of any roleplaying. What's simulated is the mechanics of the combat and advancement system (and loot tables, etc). Roleplaying is something you have to provide. If you are playing pnp with a group, the group has to support that. If you are playing on a computer, the game has to support that.

But you skiped the questions: what makes rpgs diferent from every other form of entertainment? Why and for what purpose were rpgs created?

And when you answer that here is you last question: why should the answers and the reasoning change when you change mediums?

I like when people says something isn't possible. No one tries to bring the real reasons behind rpgs to the computer any more. And it would improve incrimentally, little gains and little gains, like graphics over the years. I have a lot of ideas how to make big leaps in the right direction (mainly because I think different than most people). And if developers kept with a lot of the gains that were made in the early to mid 90's (and some later great but rare examples), instead of going 100% in the opposite direction, we would be a lot closer today.
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May 24th, 2007, 15:03
Originally Posted by Yeesh View Post
Oh I totally disagree, because what they're simulating from the PnP games is not the roleplaying experience at all. It's the combat system, and the character advancement system. And they do a great job of that.

Consider: a flying game, they simulate the cockpit. They try to give you the same experience a pilot would have. But a CRPG, do they EVER simulate the dining room table, the ordering pizza, the arguments about which rules to apply, or the fact that you have to stop playing after a certain number of hours because someone goes home?
Sorry mate, but the argument is flawed. In a flying game they also usually don't simulate when your co-pilot has to go and take a piss. It's external to the act of flying and has nothing to do with it - the same goes for ordering pizza, or one of your friends having to leave. It's external to the act of roleplaying.

Or less silly, does a CRPG ever penalize you for stepping out of character? Of course not. Your roleplaying ability is just not a part of the equation. What's simulated is the mechanics of the combat and advancement system and, to a varying extent depending on the game, your interaction with a story or campaign; the choices you make and what-not. BUT this latter facet is not the defining one.
One could argue that "your interaction with a story or campaign" is roleplaying - or at least the attempt to simulate it. It all comes down to what you consider to be roleplaying really. Personally I have to partly agree with you, because as I said earlier I very much feel that role-playing means enacting a character. And in my opinion that is fairly impossible in a CRPG. But there are many people who have a different approach. For them role-playing is first and foremost being able to control a characters actions who is independent of themselves. And that IS what you're doing in a CRPG. It all depends on your point of view and what aspect of traditional roleplaying you're emphasizing. Garriott is emphasizing the aspect of fulfilling a role, sticking to a certain role, whereas Roper emphasizes the rule system. Other people might emphasize different aspects like free character creation, etc.

Don't get me wrong - in many points I agree with you (although not in all), but sometimes your conlcusions contradict the way in which you came to them…

You're saying:
CRPGs are called RPGs not because they involve roleplaying, but because they SIMULATE playing pen and paper RPGs;
Then you're saying:
A traditional RPG, and indeed any activity that can be called roleplaying, requires participants or players to play a role. That is the absolute definging characteristic of non-computer roleplaying and RPGs.
And last, but not least:
Your roleplaying ability is just not a part of the equation [meaning of a CRPG].
If you follow this line of argumentation you can only come to one conclusion: A redifinition of the genre is necessary, because CRPGs cannot simulate the absolutely defining aspect of the thing they are trying to simulate. But if a flying game cannot simulate the aspect of flying or a racing game cannot simulate the aspect of driving, then you simply cannot call it a flying or driving simulator. Accordingly the term CRPG would be null and void. You basically couldn't call it a CRPG anymore. In a way this strengthens your point since you're saying roleplaying isn't the defining factor of a CRPG, but it also strengthens the position of those people that claim that what we're calling CRPGs has nothing to do with RPG.

There is a lot that speaks for the assumption that a genre has several defining features. Take your Monkey Island example. You're saying if one had added character development to MI it would have been an RPG. Therefore the conclusion can only be that character development is the one defining feature of CRPGs.
Fact is however that most RTS or TBS titles today include heroes that get experience, level up, and become stronger. But no one would ever say that these are true CRPGs. Which brings us back to your MI example. The example works so well, because adventures have a certain relationsship to RPGs, they share some of their features. It's safe to assume that adventures already possess other features of the RPG genre.
Or look at Diablo. A lot of people who have experience with CRPGs would tell you that Diablo is not a CRPG - and Diablo has basically everything you see as defining for a CRPG. I won't deny that the industry might at some point have decided that they consider Diablo a CRPG, but that doesn't mean that players have to adhere to that view - I certainly don't. Quite the contrary - in my opinion it backs up Garriott's statement that many CRPGs have become "building stats and inventory-based management games."

Yeesh, you're dealing in absolutes - and that's the problem. The fact that you are right from your point of view does not mean that everyone else is wrong.
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