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Default General News - Complexity of Designing a RPG

January 25th, 2013, 14:36
On Gamasutra Jordane Thiboust discusses what makes it so complex to create a RPG with the right user experience.
The RPG genre is a complex one. I've always known this, but I never realized just how much until recently. Beyond the complexity of the mechanics, the multiple systems, and the narrative, I noticed that what makes the RPG genre complex is focusing on, and nailing, the player experience.
I really started noticing this during the pre-production of a project I was working on. A lot of feedback or suggestions would be misguided because of the misconception that whatever was brought to our my attention was "RPG stuff."
The reason behind this is that the term "RPG" is used to describe lots of games, and it is easy to overlook the fact that some of those games have a completely different goal for their player experience. That's the hardest part; narrowing down that experience, asking yourself "What will drive the player for 30-plus hours?" and sticking to it… Instead of simply adding every RPG feature that you can think of.
For that reason, I found out that it is extremely important to subdivide the RPG genre by the experience of each subgenre and focus on, and then clearly decide, which of those subgenres you are aiming for.
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Computer n. A machine which flawlessly performs the instructions it is given, no matter how flawed those instructions may be.
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January 25th, 2013, 14:36
It's an informative article. The best quote from the article is "I don't know the secret of success, but the secret of failure is certainly trying to please everyone." That's something every developer needs to relearn.

I also agree with his assessment of games that tried this.

Dungeon Siege III mixed storytelling and dungeon crawling, giving something diluted; the end result being not a good enough narrative game, and not a good enough dungeon crawler either, since the depth and granularity of its character evolution was not pushed far enough.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning mixed and matched basically everything, resulting in an unfocused experience that had most people stop playing the game quite fast. Is it Sandbox? Not really — you are not so free. Is it a hack 'n lash? Not really, either, even though there is a lot of loot; the random loot generator and its variety are not mastered as well as in a good Dungeon Crawler. It was simply too much of everything, and not any clear drive for the player.

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January 25th, 2013, 14:57
Very informative indeed.

Categorizing games by the experience they provide the player with.

Four categories…

And not a single one that is about role playing.

It is all about role playing games and not a single category is about delivering a role playing experience.

Speaks tons.

Where has the time when role playing games were about role playing gone?
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January 25th, 2013, 15:06
Originally Posted by ChienAboyeur View Post
Very informative indeed.

Categorizing games by the experience they provide the player with.

Four categories…

And not a single one that is about role playing.

It is all about role playing games and not a single category is about delivering a role playing experience.

Speaks tons.

Where has the time when role playing games were about role playing gone?
You probably didn't read his article and comments to the readers did you? He explains why he picked only those four.

Anyway Like it or not those four categories are what defines most western rpg's now.

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January 25th, 2013, 16:20
Yeah, having a good story with choices, a lot of freedom and exploration and lots of character options at the same time is diluting the experience and a bad idea, clearly. You should not try to balance things. Sigh. No wonder rpgs tend to suck nowadays.
Oh, and apparently Mass Effect series got better with each game (at the "main experience" thing, apparently). Well, good to know. I will surely keep an eye on what games is this guy developing, so that I won't buy them by mistake.
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January 25th, 2013, 16:43
Overall a contemplative article, with some interesting points and some key lessons. But I'd like to know where the author places the Baldur's Gate series in his category tree. That was hardly an unsuccessful blending of the RPG genres.
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January 25th, 2013, 17:41
I'm not sure I agree with his conclusions as providing a large range of options can be hugely satisfying in a game. Consider some of the D&D games with its tons of classes and options you will never use. But I do agree that that its the overall experience that is the goal, and keeping your design based on that focus you will be guaranteed a fun game.

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January 25th, 2013, 19:14
I think that any good RPG ist just giving the player the tools to live the story the player wants to live out … Nothing else.

But I've heard that JRPGs are a different breed, no ?

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January 25th, 2013, 19:42
Originally Posted by ChienAboyeur View Post
Very informative indeed.
And not a single one that is about role playing.

It is all about role playing games and not a single category is about delivering a role playing experience.

Speaks tons.

Where has the time when role playing games were about role playing gone?
Which time are you referring to? I don't think there was much role playing in video games until relatively recently. The early computer games from the 1980s incorporated D&D math and fantasy setting, but there was not much RP involved in the gameplay. Certainly nothing like what you could do in the pen and paper RPGs.

The narrative focused games provide at least a limited opportunity for role playing in the sense that you can choose dialogue responses you think your character would say. Some of these games are better in this regard than others.

The sandbox RPGs provide a bit better framework for RP as you can choose to do whatever you think your character would do. The narrative evolves out of your character's interaction with the world and NPCs.

As for the dungeon crawlers, well, I'd agree there is no role playing and these are not really role playing games. I suppose they are lumped in with RPGs because they have a fantasy setting and skill progression.

The author of the article is certainly correct in that each of these sub-genres has its share of fans, and some who are fans of all three categories, but some of his comments are a bit simplistic.

For example, he proposes:

avoid suggestions like, "What about adding this and this from Diablo?" when these are clearly features aimed toward the character evolution experience, while you are making a narrative RPG, and thus focusing on creating an immersive character and story experience.
That comment was a bit silly. Game designers play lots of games of completely different genres, and copy features all the time, often quite successfully. Does anyone really feel skill progression features should be avoided like the plague if you are designing an RPG with narrative or sandbox focus?


Originally Posted by Couchpotato View Post
Anyway Like it or not those four categories are what defines most western rpg's now.
Did I miss something? I think he only mentioned three categories.
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January 25th, 2013, 20:54
Originally Posted by Couchpotato View Post
You probably didn't read his article and comments to the readers did you? He explains why he picked only those four.

Anyway Like it or not those four categories are what defines most western rpg's now.
I read the article, not the comment. It does not change one thing: the main experiences this guy sees RPGs to convey, none of them is role playing.

Basically, this guy only names games that are not RPGs RPGs.

Games whose aim is to convey a narrative experience are not RPGs, they are narrative games.
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January 25th, 2013, 21:01
Originally Posted by CountChocula View Post
Which time are you referring to? I don't think there was much role playing in video games until relatively recently. The early computer games from the 1980s incorporated D&D math and fantasy setting, but there was not much RP involved in the gameplay. Certainly nothing like what you could do in the pen and paper RPGs.
No. Role playing games outside of computer platform, are all social games. It does not exist versions with one player only.

When designers decided to try and transfer the genre to the computer, they have to think how to do that.

Therefore, even more than any other genre, role playing games on computers are a story of progress.

The narrative focused games provide at least a limited opportunity for role playing in the sense that you can choose dialogue responses you think your character would say. Some of these games are better in this regard than others.
No. Narrative focused games are narrative games. They give players the opportunity to elaborate their own narrative (Skyrim) or explore a scripted narrative (The Witcher 2)
The sandbox RPGs provide a bit better framework for RP as you can choose to do whatever you think your character would do. The narrative evolves out of your character's interaction with the world and NPCs.
No. In a role playing game, you do not choose to do whatever you think your character would do, you elaborate decisions of actions relatively to the role your character has.
As for the dungeon crawlers, well, I'd agree there is no role playing and these are not really role playing games. I suppose they are lumped in with RPGs because they have a fantasy setting and skill progression.
There is nothing to agree here. Games with no role play in them are not role playing games. People can agree to deny that obvious fact. That is all they can do.
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January 25th, 2013, 21:33
Originally Posted by ChienAboyeur View Post
No. Role playing games outside of computer platform, are all social games. It does not exist versions with one player only.

When designers decided to try and transfer the genre to the computer, they have to think how to do that.

Therefore, even more than any other genre, role playing games on computers are a story of progress.


No. Narrative focused games are narrative games. They give players the opportunity to elaborate their own narrative (Skyrim) or explore a scripted narrative (The Witcher 2)

No. In a role playing game, you do not choose to do whatever you think your character would do, you elaborate decisions of actions relatively to the role your character has.

There is nothing to agree here. Games with no role play in them are not role playing games. People can agree to deny that obvious fact. That is all they can do.
I'm having a bit of trouble understanding your response.

You feel that the older computer games were not role playing games because there was no role playing. And you feel the newer games are not RPGs, either.

So you believe there is no such thing as a videogame RPG?

The sandbox RPGs provide a bit better framework for RP as you can choose to do whatever you think your character would do. The narrative evolves out of your character's interaction with the world and NPCs.
No. In a role playing game, you do not choose to do whatever you think your character would do, you elaborate decisions of actions relatively to the role your character has.
That's my understanding of what it means to "play a role," simply doing what you think your character would do. It's the same in a pen and paper game. You can have an extremely detailed character concept or a more simple one. The DM asks you, "what would you like to do next?" and you consider what your character would want to do.
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January 25th, 2013, 22:40
I've said it before, I'll say it again, what some people consider the main element of Role Playing in a computer game can be said equally of what are called Adventure games.

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