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Default Gamasutra - Game Design Essentials: 20 CRPGs

July 3rd, 2009, 13:34
Game Design Essentials: 20 CRPGs is drive-by tour of 10 Western CRPGs and 10 jRPGs. Each entry gets a brief background summary and then some descriptive text and a quick glimpse at key design elements. It's too short to be very detailed, although the entire article is long enough across the 20 games. On the CRPG side, Ultima, Wizardry, M&M, Nethack, Elder Scrolls, Wasteland, Baldur's Gate, Gold Box Series and Quest for Glory are all covered. Here's a snip from M&M:
Might & Magic is a series that's fallen into disuse lately, which is a great shame because, in many ways, it is the most faithful homage to the old-style, exploring-for-its-own-sake D&D campaign ever sold as a computer game.
First off, it is highly non-linear. Each game's dozens — maybe even hundreds — of quests and tasks tend to be scattered around the world in a semi-scrambled fashion. Players are left to their own devices as far as figuring out what to do and what level they should be at to do it.
I must remind the reader that this is a style of game that relies on the use of unlimited game reloading, so players can recover when they unpreparedly run into that group of Cuisinarts while less than level 200. Usually the player has no clue an area is out of depth for him until the monsters wipe him out.
Once granted this quirk, the M&M games are marvelously open-ended and wondrous experiences. They remain one of the few games to adequately express one of the most unique joys of the old-school RPG experience: that of unabashed powergaming. Might & Magic II has a magic space in one of its caverns that grants all the characters, one time only, a thousand free max HP.
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July 3rd, 2009, 13:34
they've got some excellent points.
perhaps too much coverage for an article alone.
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July 3rd, 2009, 15:50
The Essentials articles are pretty short. I don't think they're meant for expert readers, which RPGWatch's readerbase would be, but instead for people with little to no knowledge in the field.

They're solid lists. I like everything about this one, 'cept maybe the listing of WoW over MUDs/older MMOs.
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July 3rd, 2009, 16:59
I realise not everybody's personal favourite can make the list, but I'm somewhat disappointed that Planescape: Torment didn't even make the "honourable mentions". Yes, it uses the Infinity Engine, but it's sufficiently different in style and approach to Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale to warrant discussion. That and the fact that it probably has the best writing and characterisation of any computer game ever made…
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July 3rd, 2009, 17:04
Originally Posted by mogwins View Post
I realise not everybody's personal favourite can make the list…
You realise this isn't a "best of" list, no?
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July 3rd, 2009, 17:28
Exactly. Tomrent made a lot of things better, but design-wise it wasn't very innovative.
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July 3rd, 2009, 18:51
Originally Posted by Brother None View Post
You realise this isn't a "best of" list, no?
Yes, I realise that. But I'd argue by placing character, story and writing at the heart of the design (instead of bigger swords, more monsters, etc), it was more innovative than a number of games on that list. But like I said, that could be seen as personal favouritism.
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July 3rd, 2009, 20:19
I have a few comments about the conclusions made in the introduction. Harris obviously did his homework, and he got a lot right. But he's not quite imagining the original game as it was actually played.

While it's true that the term "role playing" wasn't used in the original books, it was implied and was nearly unavoidable. A lot of us got excited about D&D and talked about it after having played it for the first time. Every recollection was the same: We told stories and described the parts we played in them.

It's true that the narrative wasn't "top down" DM-driven, and it certainly was a simple free-form dungeon crawl. But no one ever would have considered that an adequate description. There was always a story, one that was derived through collaboration. It wasn't created or followed expressly; it was improvised intuitively.

D&D put players into roles like the ones in the science-fiction and fantasy-adventure stories they enjoyed, and even the stiffest, least-imaginative players preferred interesting over dull. Players on the one hand and the DM on the other collaborated and by doing that achieved something unexpected and special.

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July 3rd, 2009, 21:40
Originally Posted by mogwins View Post
I realise not everybody's personal favourite can make the list, but I'm somewhat disappointed that Planescape: Torment didn't even make the "honourable mentions". Yes, it uses the Infinity Engine, but it's sufficiently different in style and approach to Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale to warrant discussion. That and the fact that it probably has the best writing and characterisation of any computer game ever made…
Quite on the contrary, PST does get mentioned, in the last section Additional games, and in passing in the BG part of the article. While it is a great game, and I agree that more RPGs should take a hint a ditch the standart sword and sorcery fanfare, and more than borrow from the ideas of Torment, almost nobody does. Therefore while it is recommended material from a design point of view, not really essential material. BG put DnD games back on the map, which enable the creation of Torment. Torment, apart from being a great game, has had little impact on the genre in general (in my view).
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