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-   -   The Witcher - Which sort of RPG is it? @ Rock, Paper, Scissors (https://www.rpgwatch.com/forums/showthread.php?t=3040)

Dhruin October 28th, 2007 23:16

The Witcher - Which sort of RPG is it? @ Rock, Paper, Scissors
Respected journalist Kieron Gillen wades in on the "what is an RPG" debate by critiquing and discussing the opening in Dan Whitehead's recent Eurogamer review of The Witcher, where Dan contends it is only "half an RPG". It's an interesting piece, even if a topic we've discussed a thousand times:

And thatís you, The Witcher. No matter what you want - like, say, looking like someone who isnít a incy-wincy bit derived from top Albino Eternal Champion and general glorious self-obsessed fuck-wit Elric - thatís still you. This threw Dan Whitehead over at Eurogamer in his review, where he argues - pretty much - if you canít create your own character, itís not a role-playing game. Which was such a debatable claim, it (er) immediately provoked a debate. In fact, I initiated it, because upon reading the reviewís intro, I mumbled ďChrist, Dan, youíre going to get slaughtered for that, mateĒ, so I thought by getting it rolling in a relatively pleasant way, itíll save the inevitable Final-Fantasy fan arriving throwing a stroppy trantrum in the manner of a final Fantasy character.
But still, it is a perennial question (i.e. It gets argued on forums only slightly less often than Whether Games Or Art) and I thought Iíd try and do relatively brief take on it. Feel free to provide yours, as one of the main reasons to lob this stuff in public is so people can pick it to pieces, so I can rethink gaping flaws.
More information.

Thaurin October 28th, 2007 23:16

People only say that RPG's need to have character creation because they liken it to the whole Dungeons & Dragons faire, where creating and building a character is much more central to the whole game. It's a silly debate, anyway. Now someone's going to point out that "if you play a role in the game, it's a role-playing game," etc. while I'd argue simply that if I'm having fun playing the game, it's a good game. Who cares otherwise.

Dadoom October 28th, 2007 23:37


Originally Posted by Thaurin (Post 51006)
People only say that RPG's need to have character creation because they liken it to the whole Dungeons & Dragons faire, where creating and building a character is much more central to the whole game. It's a silly debate, anyway. Now someone's going to point out that "if you play a role in the game, it's a role-playing game," etc. while I'd argue simply that if I'm having fun playing the game, it's a good game. Who cares otherwise.

Absolutely true.

Purists may argue that you need to be able to create your OWN character in a roleplaying game. I think it's also very viable to slip into a premade character and take over a role. No matter what you do, if the experience is rewarding it's a good game.

GhanBuriGhan October 28th, 2007 23:48

I certainly like games that give me complete freedom in creating my own character. And thats certainly something that usually only RPGs will offer. However, I certainly see the attraction that comes with a fleshed out character, it allows certain things in storytelling that are impossible otherwise. Maybe that approach is, in a way, tilting a game a little more towards adventure games, but who cares. Its semantics in the end if the underlying game is good. There is way too much discussion over these semantics in the RPG world as it is.

Squeek October 29th, 2007 00:38

Reading this, I found myself agreeing with Kieron Gillen a lot, especially when he said this:
"So, abstractly, in a universe where D&D didn’t appear…it’s possible that videogames could have been called “Role-playing games” as a group."

IMO, CRPG was thrown a curve that caused it to turn away from its roots. It reached its pinnacle with games that were already in the works at the time, games like Baldur's Gate, Planescape Torment and Fallout. They all overachieved, because the genre had already committed to leaving them behind in pursuit of something else.

From what I've read, seen and heard, The Witcher is the ultimate expression of that something else: Contemporary role-play gaming blended with arcade game novelty via innovative multimedia graphics.

For various reasons, I'm holding off on buying The Witcher for a while. Everyone seems to be enjoying it, and I'm sure I will too. But it's not the RPG I really want. I'd like to think it may be the harbinger of the next round of overachieving CRPG's as the genre turns back to its roots.

Prime Junta October 29th, 2007 00:46

It's pretty pointless to try to come up with an exhaustive definition of cRPG's. IMO it's a better idea to look at properties different games have. From the following pairs, I think it's pretty clear which ones are RPG-ish and which ones aren't; IMO if a game has more RPG-ish attributes than non-RPG-ish ones, it can safely be classified as a RPG.

- linear/branching
- linear/freeform
- gameplay/story
- twitch/character development
- tactical/strategic
- narration/dialog
- short/long
- narrow/sweeping
- quests/objectives
- inventory space/hotkey slots
- weapon choice/weapon upgrades
- top-down/first-person

Anyone care to add some?

Sergius64 October 29th, 2007 00:51

I think its easier to give a good story to a game when you have a pre-set character.

GothicGothicness October 29th, 2007 02:33

I think it is not a RPG if you create a generic character, those guys never have any personality and it is like playing an empty doll instead of a character. Except in Wizardry, it is the only game where I've become found of my own created characters, maybe because of voice customization and a lot of character development options!

Corwin October 29th, 2007 03:37

Since I consider the Ultimas to be among the finest rpg's ever made and in them you don't really create your own character, I tend to agree with the writer.

Badesumofu October 29th, 2007 04:46

Planescape: Torment. The character you're given is an amnesiac; not quite a blank canvas, but you aren't given the full picture either. You can fill in the blanks how ever you like, gaining some ownership of character. In my view, at least partial ownership of character is absolutely nescessary for a game to be an RPG - without it, you can't role-play at all.

Starting with a preset character has advantages- you can have a tighter narravtive. PS:T wouldn't have even worked if they'd simply allowed you to play as a female nameless one. NWN2 suffered from allowing the player to pick from so many races and classes. You could play as an evil Drow Cleric of Lolth- virtually no one would notice/care. You're shown an example of a Teifling being harrassed early one, but if you play as one, no one seems to really notice. There's almost no content specific to the player character. The Story is preset, regardless of your race/class/alignment. That means that you can't tell an even remotely personal story. It means the story has to work regardless of what sort of character the main character is. It makes for a shitty narrative.

Giving the PC something like the SE from MotB, or the Bhallspawn background from the BG series makes a pretty big difference. In the Fallout games, regarded as two of the greatest RPGs of all time, you're pretty limited in your background. You're human, you're from The Vault/The Village. You're the most capable person from that group. Imagine how much harder those games would have been to make if they'd allowed the PC to be Super Mutant, or a Ghoul, or whatever else. The game would have had to either be a lot more linear, or taken about 3 times as long to put together.

As long as the player has ownership of the PC once the game starts it's a full-fledged RPG. As far as I know, that is the case in The Witcher. Presetting the character's class/race etc should mean the game has a stronger narrative. It should make it easier to make the game a bit less linear. It's a trade-off.

Compare NWN2 OC to MotB. In the former, the game knows absolutely nothing about them ain character. It could be anyone/anything. In MotB, the Game knows you're the Knight Captain who saved the Sword Coast, you had a shard lodged in your chest, and you're now cursed as a Spirit-Eater.

Which of those two games has a better narrative, and was more enjoyable? It's very often a worthwhile tradeoff to make.

Acleacius October 29th, 2007 05:54

I don't really see it as an issue of being or not being an RPG, I mentioned before at least some limited character creation gives players more of a feeling of involvement.

The idea that Geralt couldn't have black, red hair or different clothes seems silly, so I see purist as preventing enough flexibility to attract enough NEW fans in many games and this seems to be why RPGs or Ballads seem doomed to ever get big enough audiences to help expand sales to ensure continued development of the genre.

Hell, I wouldn't care if Geralt had a choice to be played as a female character, if it meant 20% increase in sales and more happy fans.
Who the hell am I or anyone else to tell people how they can or can't play their games or to do what enables them to have more fun.

This is the same debate as having Quick Saves or Console Codes in games, who the hell cares what someone else does, if you don't like fine don't use it, it's offering a choice to make it appeal to more people, so the developers can afford to make another game.

Additionally this doesn't only stem from D&D it comes equally from Coop games (hell if you want to get technical in RL, also), where your running around with your friends, you can't tell anyone apart if they all look the same.

Dez October 29th, 2007 06:53

If creating own character defines the rpg game then we are doomed. I couldn't have imagined people being so narrowminded. Games like gothic, planescape torment, arx fatalis, kotor or deus ex aren't rpgs then.

What I want from a roleplay game is a strong storyline with twists, choises and consequences served with fun gameplay and put in a rich and deep gameworld full of life. Witcher obviously offers all those aspects better than many other purer rpgs lately.


Hell, I wouldn't care if Geralt had a choice to be played as a female character, if it meant 20% increase in sales and more happy fans.
Who the hell am I or anyone else to tell people how they can or can't play their games or to do what enables them to have more fun.
I would. He wouldn't be geralt then if he was she. I agree changing clothes is a trivial thing, but playing the opposite sex changes whole nature of the experience. They would have to build diffent kind of storyline for the female "geralt". And if they wished to base the game on books, obviously geralt must be a male then. I dislike this trend how everything needs to be watered down and made accessible to everyone.

And btw it is explained in the game why his hair is white..

Melvil October 29th, 2007 06:59

predefined characters have been really good in a few games, ultima, gothic (hello!), and now the witcher, not to mention all the others. I can see how this particular game might not work well for girls, other than that, quit whining :)

Cabezone October 29th, 2007 07:24

The entire Ultima series renders this argument pointless. You'd have to be a narrow minded ninny to tell me those are not RPGs.

bjon045 October 29th, 2007 07:25

Ultima did not have pre-defined characters except for a couple of them.

The letters in cRPG have long since stopped being synonymous with the actual meaning of the words "Role-playing game" for me. The cRPG genre is defined by it's forefathers like Dungeon Master, Wizardry and Ultima. Of course that doesn't stop games that now call themselves RPGs from being awesome games, it's just they are a far cry from what used to be called RPGs. If you went by the actual meaning of the words "role-playing game" then nearly every game in existence would be an RPG.

The RPG is dead. Long live the RPG!

JonNik October 29th, 2007 09:06

I think a main point in this discussion, partly illustrated by Badesumofu's NWN2
example is that character customization alone does not necessarily make a game
an RPG in any but the most basic sence.

I can't see how the fact that I can either use a sword or a spell to kill
monster X to get item Y and finish quest z means I am playing a role when the
game only allows me to finish quest z by killing x and getting y. What is there
that differentiates the experience between separate character builds when the
game does not offer any short of meaningful choises to the player to allow him a
different take on the events unfolding in the game's storyline and thus flesh out
a "character" defined by his choises and actions and not his choise of weapon ?

Another (everyone's) favourite example for this disrepancy would be the O game
where You have a veritable avalanche of character choises and also the ability to
create custom classes on a whim. (Customization at its finest), but apart from
game mechanics and gameplay flavour this adds nothing in the way of being
able to affect or differentiate the path that the player takes on the main storyline
or even the kind of sidequests open to you and the available options of solving
them (since any and every combination is allowed to you regardless of level and
with no consequences or any kind of exclusion precipitated by your actions)…

abbaon October 29th, 2007 09:57


Originally Posted by Prime Junta (Post 51018)
Anyone care to add some?

- linear path/open environment
- mandatory/optional
- puzzle/problem
- parable/conundrum

Asbjoern October 29th, 2007 10:38

I'm surprised noone has mentioned this yet, but the name of the website is Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Not Scissors.

Lethal Weapon October 29th, 2007 13:37

Much easier to say what makes a game to be not an RPG than the other way round IMO.

Take HL for example, great game otherwise and the only FPS I ever managed to finish. But in every single playthrough you are going to face the exact same enemies, traverse the exact same locations, in the exact same order. Add all the character customization you want, that fact alone would never make it an RPG.

OTOH, some of my most entertaining PnP sessions involved roleplaying a character that I could not even level up, let alone customize him. In fact, every story is written with a paricular character in mind, character customization simply hides that fact; but it's still there. This is why storytelling becomes so much better when you are given a predetermined character, cRPGs or PnP.

I agree with KG however that the lines are becoming somewhat blurred. I remember not long ago the main distinction was between 'adventure' and 'arcade'. Maybe in twenty years from now most computer games will have enough 'RPG elements' that the categorization will be completely different.

As for the Eurogamer reviewer, his statement only shows ignorance, in the best of scenarios. If I were him, I would be banging my head against the wall, regretting I ever wrote something so dumb.

zakhal October 29th, 2007 19:01

I dont really see the need to classify games so tightly. Whether the game is fun or not is the most important thing. After that everyone can classify it according to their beliefs. I.E I have always thought the elder scrolls series as fantasy dooms with rpg elements. The 3d action ("kill stuff in 3d") has always been the most fun thing in it so that becomes the defining point.

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