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Default Original Sin - Why Larian Studios Should Get Your Money: The Current State of RPGs

April 10th, 2013, 19:17
Michael CromWell wrote an editiorial that explains why we should give our money to Larian. It's a pretty lengthy post, but it's full of infomation. Well read on and share your opinions. Do you Agree or Disagree?
It sounds almost self deprecating as a PC gamer to say it, but RPG’s really are a niche genre now’days. Far be it from me to define what an RPG is, but in recent years we’ve seen a slew of visually appealing, highly polished titles that aim to deliver an overall immersive aesthetic, or context, with swaths of nuance and plenty of legend and myth. A lot of time, these games seem more like references to RPG’s than RPG’s themselves. They dabble with RPG mechanics, and deliver open worlds to explore – but they often feel manufactured, lifeless, and heavily scripted.

You can program the AI of a fox to react to its environment, and you script and record (that’s the important bit) as much dialogue as you want, but in the last – perhaps 10 – years I’ve felt like many of these games are trying to be RPG’s by ticking boxes, and substituting depth for gimmicks – tokens that allow us to ignore our intuition, and really immerse ourselves in the world. Distractions.

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Last edited by Couchpotato; April 11th, 2013 at 08:17.
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April 10th, 2013, 19:17
It sounds almost self deprecating as a PC gamer to say it, but RPG’s really are a niche genre now’days.

That's incorrect. RPGs were a niche genre in 2000. Nobody has made an RPG in nearly a decade, which makes the RPG an extinct genre. He needs to get his terminology straight. He does do a pretty good job in that quoted blurb of describing what it is that resulted in the demise of the RPG, though, and I agree with him. However, Larian is and always has been part of the problem, so I'm not real clear on why he wants RPG fans to support Larian. The genre took a wrong turn at Diablo II, and Larian's first game was a Diablo II clone. Was it not?
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April 10th, 2013, 19:47
It sounds almost self deprecating as a PC gamer to say it, but RPG’s really are a niche genre now’days.
I came here to post the exact opposite: this would have been true in 2011, but now RPGs are enjoying a massive resurgence, not just from indie developers, but thanks to Kickstarter from big names too.

Larian doesn't interest me in the slightest, but thankfully this year promises more games (and more promising RPGs in total than I've seen in the last 8 years) than I have time to play anyway.

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April 10th, 2013, 19:52
Mmmh… as someone who plays and has played many RPGs from throughout the 90's, I'm not really sure the nostalgia is warranted. The genre has definitely evolved, and games like Diablo and Skyrim have added to that evolution. Also, when you think of hardcore RPG elements like reactivity and choice and cosequence, most pre-2000 titles don't fare so well.

Bottom line for me is, Larian don't deserve money because they're going to make it like in the good ole days. They deserve money because they're making a solid modern RPG that doesn't have any competition outside the realm of Kickstarter.

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April 10th, 2013, 20:36
screeg: …but now RPGs are enjoying a massive resurgence, not just from indie developers, but thanks to Kickstarter from big names too.

As of now all we have is promises, and in the case of the "big names" you mention, the promises are coming from people who've broken promises before. Kickstarter may give old timers a second chance after they've let people down, but as a certain game personality asked: what can change the nature of a man?

I noticed in one of the other threads that the Lord British kick starter has an awful lot of personnel involved in a title that's being done on spec. Doesn't seem that long ago game companies were complaining RPGs (such as Fallout 2) weren't profitable enough to justify development despite being big hits, when the real problem was that the companies making RPGs had 10x more people on staff than they needed, due to the people running the companies not having any damn business sense and wildly over-estimating how much money they'd be making in the future. Lets hope they've learned their lesson, and don't decide they have to use kickstarter to make a new and improved super mario brothers game for the iPhone. They aren't going to be able to blame mysterious men in suits who work in the marketing department, this time.

Sacred_Path: Also, when you think of hardcore RPG elements like reactivity and choice and cosequence…

These are "hardcore" RPG elements? I don't even know what "reactivity" means in terms of roleplaying games, and "choice and consequence" is something people made up to describe how their interactive movies work, as far as I can tell. Hardcore RPG elements are intangibles such as freeform adventuring, exploration and character development (not stat sheets, in game character development), as far as I'm concerned. Fallout 2 had those things, for instance. So did Baldur's Gate II, though in the case of BGII it was mostly just an illusion so finely crafted most people didn't really notice there was nothing freeform about it. In recent years, Bethesda's titles come the closest but the Bethesda folks severely lack creativity and they take the freeform aspect to such an extent their games actually end up seeming formless, and pointless. A sandbox where there's nothing to do but the same trivial activities you've done a thousand times before, as your character and the environment arbitrarily rocket through levels together, with a tedious storyline that gets shoved down your throat as you hit hard-coded triggers.
Last edited by CraigCWB; April 10th, 2013 at 21:27.
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April 10th, 2013, 20:43
Originally Posted by CraigCWB View Post

RPGs were a niche genre in 2000. Nobody has made an RPG in nearly a decade, which makes the RPG an extinct genre
How so?There has been some pretty outstanding RPGs in last decade

Originally Posted by CraigCWB View Post
However, Larian is and always has been part of the problem, so I'm not real clear on why he wants RPG fans to support Larian. The genre took a wrong turn at Diablo II, and Larian's first game was a Diablo II clone.
Diablo created aRPG genre which added to diversity in genre and that should be good thing.

Also calling Divinity diablo clone is just plain wrong.Beside difference in core mechanics, there is lot more interaction with world,both with NPCs (who react differently based on reputation and skills) and objects.In that regard DD is more similar to U7 than anything else.
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April 10th, 2013, 20:59
RPGs are niche games nowadays? Really? Then explain the massive success of games like Dragon Age and Skyrim. They're hardly niche games, they're just very difficult to get right, and cost quite a bit more to develop due to the high complexity.
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April 10th, 2013, 21:23
Methinks the last two commenters either didn't read the post or did read it but didn't comprehend it. And Nameless One, I think I explained myself pretty well the first time, in the comment you replied to. You disagree with me. That's fine. But don't ask me to explain even further what I've already explained in detail. You're just trying to drag the debate into semantics because you think that's where the "i win" button is. There's no "i win" button for me, because developers stopped making games for people like me and started making games for people like you a long time ago. You're calling that evolution of a genre and I'm calling it extinction of a genre. Read my earlier comment, that's the word I actually used. You countered with the exact opposite (evolution). What I see as the demise of a genre you're seeing as an improvement of that genre.

This is exactly what went wrong with RPGs. Quite some time ago. You became the target demographic, and I became the niche that wasn't worth servicing. And that's why you don't understand why this post is referring to RPGs being niche.
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April 11th, 2013, 00:27
I've pledged to quite a few kickstarter campaigns. As an rpg fan I feel compelled. It seems like I'm almost always looking for a good rpg to play and we're lucky to see one good release a year and none of them are ever party based or isometric.
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April 11th, 2013, 04:50
Originally Posted by CraigCWB View Post
Nobody has made an RPG in nearly a decade, which makes the RPG an extinct genre… The genre took a wrong turn at Diablo II, and Larian's first game was a Diablo II clone. Was it not?
If you put 100 people in a room and ask them to define an RPG, you will likely get over 10,000 distinct definitions. So I won't argue your assertion that RPGs are extinct but I will just say that I certainly disagree with that. But if RPGs of the last decade don't fit your definition, that's fair, everyone's entitled to their opinion.

I will however argue that Divine Divinity certainly was not a Diablo II clone. It borrowed some elements of D2 (namely combat style and itemization) but DD had a much wider feature-set and those features had considerable depth compared to many games these days. You may view DD as just another pseudo RPG catering to the dirty uninformed masses such as myself, but no way is DD a D2 clone.

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April 11th, 2013, 08:17
Guys the man states in his article it's only his opinion. Some of the information from his perspective is biased , but it's also informative. I can't post his whole article on a newsbit.

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April 11th, 2013, 08:17
Originally Posted by CraigCWB View Post
Sacred_Path: Also, when you think of hardcore RPG elements like reactivity and choice and cosequence…

These are "hardcore" RPG elements? I don't even know what "reactivity" means in terms of roleplaying games
in an RPG context, I would sum it up as feedback you get on your actions as well as static elements (race, class)

and "choice and consequence" is something people made up to describe how their interactive movies work, as far as I can tell. Hardcore RPG elements are intangibles such as freeform adventuring, exploration and character development (not stat sheets, in game character development), as far as I'm concerned.
welp, you're wrong. Meaningful choice is basically the foundation of all roleplaying, otherwise you can only plow through a numbers game. Which is fine sometimes, for a certain audience, but it's not what puts the RP in RPG.

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April 11th, 2013, 09:29
A major in philosophy who is not shy of dealing in sophistry.

He does not want to define RPGs but still is able to call that certain games are references to RPGs, not RPGs, that a certain game is true to form for people who love rpgs…

Several options:

-he thinks his readership are idiots who cant see through basic manipulative schemes.
-he is a major in philosophy and thinks his education in philosophy allows him to deceive people easily
-he wants to make traffic and creates a controversy on cheap ground.
-he is a major in philosophy only by title

etc…
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April 11th, 2013, 09:54
Originally Posted by Nameless one View Post



Diablo created aRPG genre which added to diversity in genre and that should be good thing.
Actually, that is quite the opposite. Diablo and the movement it was standard bearer crushed diversity.

Diablo is not a RPG. Diablo is one of these pivotal moments that signaled that both the industry and players were more interested in trading labels than content.

For both of them, it no longer matters for the game to be a RPG to be labelled a RPG. What they want is trading the label. A trend that took wings in the gaming industry with many labels being now used as trading items: cooperative play, interactive environment etc are to be added to the RPG label.

Diablo was part of another gaming genre. When the claim that it was RPG was made and maintained, it was done at the expense of RPG as a genre. It ate on RPG space.

Any developper interested in developping a RPG now faces the fact that the word refers to games that are not RPGs and that players used past mistakes to legitimize present mistakes( since Diablo was called RPG in the past, every game resembling Diablo should be called RPGs)

All that wrong perception leads to a decrease in diversity: RPGs are no longer needed as such to count toward diversity in gaming, since games that are not RPGs can make for them.
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April 11th, 2013, 17:45
Originally Posted by CraigCWB View Post
As of now all we have is promises, and in the case of the "big names" you mention, the promises are coming from people who've broken promises before.
Not really. I've played the working demos of games like Underrail and Age of Decadence, so as far as indies go I know what I'm going to get. You mention Lord British to bolster your argument, but as far as I am concerned he is an ass.

As for the other big names, I don't get your cynicism. Thanks to KS, they're unburdened by publishers and marketing directors and their only goal is to appeal to their fans. At that point it comes down to their skill and ability to deliver the game people want, setting their own deadlines. In that scenario I have a lot of confidence in those developers.

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April 11th, 2013, 22:21
Originally Posted by ChienAboyeur View Post
A major in philosophy who is not shy of dealing in sophistry.

He does not want to define RPGs but still is able to call that certain games are references to RPGs, not RPGs, that a certain game is true to form for people who love rpgs…

Several options:

-he thinks his readership are idiots who cant see through basic manipulative schemes.
-he is a major in philosophy and thinks his education in philosophy allows him to deceive people easily
-he wants to make traffic and creates a controversy on cheap ground.
-he is a major in philosophy only by title

etc…
You accuse me of engaging in sophistry whilst at the same time attributing my education to some kind of ultimate evil goal? Oh sweet irony.

Do you know how needlessly upsetting that is to me? I get paid nothing. I pay myself nothing. Larian pay me nothing. I get no perks. I write because I enjoy writing, and this particular piece was written because I know there are some people who feel the same way as I do.

Exactly how and why am I manipulating anyone in my attempt to reach out and discuss RPGs with other people? If I'm proposing an argument, it is only insofar as my own opinion is concerned. I don't define RPGs - in fact, the closest thing I come to that is stating that there are differences between aRPGs and other RPGs.

I think my readers are idiots? Exactly why? Because I have a website, and I'm relatively literate? Does that offend you in some way?

It's clear to anyone with any sense that everything in that article is merely my opinion. It's not uncommon for someone to argue, and articulate, their opinion. Just because I decided to do so, does not mean that I think I am just, or correct, or better than anyone else.

It is people like yourself who make it incredibly difficult for me to do my job. I do my job for you guys… those who get some enjoyment out of my articles, or spark up a discussion about them.

When I went to speak with Larian in London, I paid for it myself. I wrote a 6000 word transcript of my conversation with Swen myself. I wrote previews and interviews myself. No one paid me. I didn't try to persuade anyone to do anything.

Your opinion differs to mine? That's fantastic! How boring would this world be if everyone had the same opinion as myself, or you.

What's not okay, is people like you, hitting me hard, out of spite and out of cruelty.

Sorry for the essay, guys. To those who enjoyed the piece, high five! To those who read it regardless, thank you for taking the time, because simply having you read what I've written is humbling.

Cheers.
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April 11th, 2013, 23:01
That's what ChienAboyeur does. He is the only person on our forums who really knows what an RPG is and keeps everyone in check to make sure they do not stray to far from the path only he can see. He frequently preaches on the topic and lectures us to make sure the true words of RPG are not lost.

Ignoring usually works

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April 12th, 2013, 00:31
Chien was the first and only one I put on ignore. After a fruitless battle myself over the flexible nature of an RPG and his completely adamant refusal to accept any other viewpoint on the nature of an RPG outside of his own world … well its pointless to discuss it with him.

Back to the article I enjoyed it and shared it actually on a few other forums I go to where we are enjoying discussing it.

So far most folks agree with the points on voice over and some of the cost issues you brought up (with VO as well as different ways of making games).

Personally I only agreed with some of your points. I an an old gamer who grew up on Pools of Radiance, Kings Quest, Heroes, Might and Magic, Wizardy, Ultima, and later into Baldurs Gate, NWN, Kotor, all the Bethseda TES games, Fallout, Torment, Icewind Dale, and even into current games many around here dislike - like Dragon Age Origins, DA2 (well okay that one wasn't that good IMO), and the Mass Effect games.

Course you made the mistake of coming down on Skyrim :-) and I am a mega-huge fan of Skyrim with 800+ hours into it. Got into modding and the community and its just such a hugely fun and entertaining sandbox game. I agree, however, they spread themselves to thin and wish there characters could have been deeper like in Fallout New Vegas. But it is hard to be everything. They went with size and exploring and sandbox and I think they did it well. I have a super hyper-active imagination so I have zero problem adding my own depth and role playing aspects to Skyrim with zeal. I did the same thing with Morrowind (probably my favorite for character depth) and Daggerfall.

One comment I saw raised twice on your article is you don't really back up your economics. Are there hard numbers to show detailed 2D isometric games cost less than 3D ones? I happen to agree with you - it seems like it would be a lot cheaper - but I saw a few arguments indicating its wasn't that simple.

Anyhow it started some great discussion that I have been enjoying. I also feel it isn't black or white. I love the older games but I also love the newer games. I enjoy playing DAO, FNV and Skyrim as much as I did BG, FA1-2 and Daggerfall. So while I am very happy to support, and play, some of these indie games I also would hate to see some of the newer games go away.

Course in my own ideal world the consoles would just burn up and go away. When I see what Skyrim could have been for the PC if it hadn't been crippled by console limitations … sigh.

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April 12th, 2013, 05:06
The Witcher 2 surpasses its predecessor in almost every way, but to do that, it had to become a much more linear experience.
Wait, what?? That wasn't my impression at all, though I only got half way through Witcher 2. (I'll give it another go when Witcher 3 is closer to release.)

Porting a product across three platforms is a huge blow to both manpower, money, and time resources.
Hopefully that won't be as bad with the next gen's PC-like architecture. I'm sure it won't be as simple as doing a recompile with the -SonyOSv4 flag set, but it should still be less.

You don’t have to worry about recording, funding, and financing your silly little joke…
Yipe, wait a second, it's still not free! Somebody has to translate all that stuff! You've still got to script it in right and test it, too. It's definitely WAY cheaper (which is the point) but let's not go nuts here!

Overall, we're basically talking about depth vs. graphics. To me, it's just like arguing books vs. movies, only we get to have a sliding scale instead of picking one or the other. I would definitely put that scale much further toward the graphics for the "optimal" point, though. I want that 3D world BAD! I'm fine with text most of the time but I would like some voice acting in cutscenes with some good camera work and music to really push the emotion of the situation, too.

P.S. Hey, what about the music? I'll take a great musical score over an extra dozen characters any day, myself.
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April 12th, 2013, 10:06
Originally Posted by CromWelp View Post
Sorry for the essay, guys. To those who enjoyed the piece, high five! To those who read it regardless, thank you for taking the time, because simply having you read what I've written is humbling.
High five then!

It's always interesting to read well thought out pieces like this, even though I don't agree with everything. Normally, I'd say burning a lot of resources on graphics and voices is a waste, but not always. I still remember being blown away by the atmosphere in Gothic back in 2001, partly because of the voice overs. It was probably the first time I felt that "living worlds" could be possible in games.

Of course, Gothic 1 & 2 are probably still the pinnacle of games with a rich atmosphere, so the progress was rather temporary.

Still, the point remains: It's not always out of place. Certain games do benefit from it, but only if you can juggle your resources in a way that still lets you focus on important aspects like gameplay, story, characters.
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