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RPGWatch Forums » Comments » News Comments » Armchair Empire - Skyrim, now with Disco Soundtrack

Default Armchair Empire - Skyrim, now with Disco Soundtrack

November 4th, 2012, 00:44
Following on from his recent blog post about what he would like to see in cRPGs, Matt Barton rails against the current state of the [major releases of the] genre and discusses the movements of fashions and trends:
Styles, Edwardian or Victorian or whatever, inevitably change as we become bored with them. A truly clever developer is able to recognize when the reigning style is growing stale, and then swoops in with something fresh (but just as compelling). As merely a critic, it is obvious to me that both Skyrim and Dragon Age II are the discotheques of the 1980s. Pretty soon, anyone who still listens to and dances to this music will feel as ridiculous as they look.
That said, I think it's always a mistake to think something radically new will appear, though that's always how it's presented in the marketing. "Revolutions" in videogames are notoriously anti-historical, refusing to even consider that what they think makes them so novel has been done many times before. I'd go so far as to say that nothing of real consequence has changed about games since the 1980s. It wasn't like kids playing Donkey Kong weren't just as impressed with the graphics or immersed in the gameplay back then as a kid today playing Halo 4 is today. Please don't kid yourself into thinking that the industry has made any "progress," or done anything else but simply go along laterally, temporarily embracing and later abandoning one fashion after another. I'm sure plenty of New Wave fans of the 80s felt that their music was more "advanced" than disco, just as some heavy metal fans of today feel their favorite bands are much "heavier" or more musically sophisticated than Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. In truth, though, there's nothing like that in the music itself, but just in our waning and waxing affiliations with different groups of fans.
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November 4th, 2012, 00:44
"Please don't kid yourself into thinking that the industry has made any "progress," or done anything else but simply go along laterally, temporarily embracing and later abandoning one fashion after another."

Strongly strongly strongly disagree. And I'm usually a big fan of Barton's. I mean, in terms of RPGs, of course there has been progress. That doesn't mean EVERY sub-genre of RPG or EVERY approach to designing an RPG has been improved, but there have been RPGs released in the last twenty years that have added to the RPG genre. This is even more obvious outside of RPGs. Action-style games, platform games, etc. have all grown by leaps and bounds. Try playing a fighter from the 80's, then play a BlazBlue or Guilty Gear. Try playing Double Dragon then.. I don't know.. Guardian Heroes. Or Final Fight 3. Or God of War (basically a beat'em'up).

I basically see video game evolution as comparable to biological evolution. There's not a straightforward trend "forwards," but there is increasing diversity and complexity. As such, we are always making progress as a community.

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November 4th, 2012, 01:18
Whole lot of stating the obvious.
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November 4th, 2012, 03:35
Building upon the rants of last week's "old school RPG" features, this guy is continuing to just put me off. He's sounding more like a maniacal twit with tunnel vision than a person worth listening to.

I want a classic RPG experience as much as the next person, but statesment such as the following just serve to undermine any arguments you make:
CRPGs are not the genre of the elite anymore. This is the genre of the spoiled rotten brat.
Elite? Matt sounds more and more like a misguided, arrogant, and bitter twit these days. Perhaps he should be in a barber shop some place lamenting to passerbys about walking to school in the snow, up a hill both ways. Things change, the market changes and, while I'll tip my hat in mourning depth in our RPG's, I'm not about to yell, "Get off my lawn, you spoiled kids."

…I have to wonder if he hangs out at the Codex often and if that bitter and crazed community has rubbed off on him. No offense meant to the more rational (and less vocal) visitors to that site.
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November 4th, 2012, 11:46
Ah, finally someone from the magazines has found out that there are fashions in gaming, too !

Took quite long, though.

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November 4th, 2012, 20:54
RPGs were never the genre of the elite. But he does have a point, he certainly sounds like a spoiled rotten brat.
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November 5th, 2012, 00:24
Oh well I prefer story in my rpg's so I guess I'm part of the problem. Only thing I got from his article is I hate change.

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November 5th, 2012, 03:33
I prefer story, too
And that's partly why I can't play hack & slay games nowadays anymore … Divinity was one notable exception …

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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November 5th, 2012, 13:28
I'm looking forward to the next installment when this writer will sink into deep apologies as he is a commercial writer writing to please his readership. Telling things roughly is never a right way to solidify readership. The article is a product of all that RPG elements story and shows how from flawed premises, you only hit a sound conclusion once in a bluemoon.

Stunning article as it delivers some basic observations brutally but omits some other observations that are as obvious.
Connecting that article to the other article claiming that RPGs elements were colonizing other genres, here, that is the countrary tune: RPGs are tainted by other genres. This last version is the right one for some reason..

Because of the way of thinking, the author is compelled to treat every gaming genre the same as the RPG genre. The stagnation or the decline of RPGaming is extended to some other genres which is obviously wrong. The Shooter genre
has been progressing giant leaps.
With one main drive: having the priority right by admitting the obvious: shooting is the essence of the shooter. And efforts to better games should go to enhance
the shooting experience. This could go through various elements but elements that are nothing than supporting elements to enable the shooting experience. And shooters are assessed through the delivery on the quality of the essence of shooters: shooting.

On the other hand, the RPG genre has not evolved as consumers prefered not to accept that roleplaying is the essence of a roleplaying game. On the contrary, they prefered to promote game mechanics as being the core of the RPG genre. It gives assessment of the story, assessment of the character progression system, assessment of the inventory management,assessment of the combat difficulty and supposedly tactical depth etc Never the assessment of quality of role playing provided by the game. Very hard to improve on anything when progress is measured through liminary aspects.

You cant put two genres that have been going through so different paths in the same bag, no matter how frustrated you are by the current RPG situation.

The trend discussion helps to miss the global picture: beyond the trends, there are categories. Shooting games have maintained a continuity in essence, that is focus on shooting as the heart of a shooting game. This allows that shooters are recognized shooters no matter the time of their release. This is their fixed point that has not changed as time flew by. Doom is a shooter. So is Halo x, and recognized as such by players.
Contrary to RPGs as players can not recognize RPGs independent of the time they were released. For the same reason: because roleplaying is not a fixed point in the RPG genre. Roleplaying is not the measure for RPGs.

This goes beyond trends. For clothes,people can recognize them as they are independently of the times of weaving. Adjustment is required but taking pants from the 1970s, 1980s,1990s,2000s and 2010s and people tell that those are pants.
It is the same for shooters. Not the same for RPGs, leaving room to endless discussions on what game is what or was what.

There is persistence in some gaming genres while RPG never managed to establish these persistence.

Nice thing to discuss trends but the bigger picture exists.

This leads to another pittrap : drawing conclusions on RPGs from Skyrim. That starts by reporting Skyrim is a RPG. Skyrim is just a RPG by label. It has no RP in it. Cant blame Bethesda for conning the customer as they did their utmost to remove most things that could be associated close or far to the notion of role. They made it clear and Skyrim has no role in it. The conclusion is straightforward: no role, no role playing enabled, not a role playing game. Dismissing the dimension of roleplaying in a RPG and prefering to cling to secondary features as story, character progression system, combat etc to tell a role playing game from a non role playing game wont change that Skyrim is not a RPG.

Skyrim is a narrative game. It is a game that provides the gamer with an environment to developp a narrative for his/her PC to live through. It can not even be a poor RPG as it is not even a RPG.

And you can draw no conclusion on the RPG state from Skyrim. You can on the narrative game state.
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November 5th, 2012, 17:39
Matt Barton needs to stick to the interviews .

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