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June 10th, 2007, 15:08
Re PS: totally, that's why I quoted it as a (rare) example of managing to avoid this Chosen One cliché (even if they didn't manage to avoid the amnesiac cliché).

Butcher Bay is an FPS with a quest mechanic tacked on; there's no meaningful role-playing, choice, or character development to speak of. There are a few situations in which you have multiple solutions to a problem, and side quests that you can choose to do or not to do, but that's about it.

I only brought it up because it manages to avoid this particular pair of gaming clichés extremely well.

But unlike the vast majority of games out there, including many RPG's, Riddick himself is a fully fleshed-out character, with a past, a personality, a motivation, and what have you. And (and this is important), so is everybody else in the game (OK, other than the generic guards you get to kill or avoid in the action sequences), even if they only show up for a couple of lines. They're sketched out with a few lines of dialog backed up by character design and voice acting, and it's enough for you to "get" who they are and even get an idea of their backgrounds.

Incidentally, it also goes to show how much good writing can do to a game, even an FPS -- the dialog is short, sweet, and to the point, there isn't even very much of it, but it feels like every character you talk to, even if it's just a few lines, is a real person instead of a quest-o-mat. It carries the story without the clunky "hello, how nice to meet you, I grew up as an orphan in a little town by a river where a kindly old woodcutter rescued me from the reeds, and now let me explain how I feel about my foster mother" thing you always find in Bioware games.

Also incidentally, the voice acting is a big part of it. I normally hate voiceovers; they're too long and sound uninspired. But in Riddick, the dialog was short enough and the voice actors chosen and directed well enough that they really brought the characters to life. Riddick's "You're in my cell" or "I work alone" or "I don't do favors" or (probably his longest line in the game) "I play with the cards I'm dealt, and then I cheat" communicate more about his character than lines ten times wordier in most other games.

What I'm getting at, I guess, is that there's really precious little role-playing in most RPG's; often what passes for it is building up a spreadsheet or trial-and-erroring your way through a B-tree. And, conversely, there are a few non-RPG's where you end up identifying with the character you're playing and making choices (even if they're illusionary and limited) based on your interpretation of who s/he is.

I would much rather play a game in any genre that does the latter well, than a flawlessly balanced "RPG" with great game mechanics and a sprawling world with all the choices you can imagine that leaves your character a mindless collection of stats and optimizations.

Most of all I'd like to see one that does both.

Oh well, perhaps I can get Fallout to run on Vista. [sigh]
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