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Post What makes an RPG go from good to great?

July 16th, 2020, 02:37
So, I'm happy to announce I get to playtest a new video game in its early stages, and the team are taking suggestions on mechanics. I thought it might be helpful for feedback if I interviewed a few RPG veterans about what makes an RPG tick, since I have very niche tastes, and don't want to be responsible for the ship sinking/sailing based on some of my own personal biases. The only aspect of gameplay I can announce at this point is the combat will be turn-based, almost certainly, because their last game was also turn-based. Lay on with the advice!
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July 16th, 2020, 02:49
Errr, well, the game has a bunch of good aspects. Then they add more good aspects and it goes from good to great? There's a lot of stuff that needs to go right: pacing, storytelling, character development, interesting advancement system, fun combat, NOT using tedium as a goal to overcome…
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July 16th, 2020, 02:52
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July 16th, 2020, 03:06
I always think one of the most precious things in an RPG is a rich and interesting world. I find that unless there is a strong sense of place, and a world I want to exolore, then the rest can't really engage me. In many ways, I think this is what separates the classic titles.
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July 16th, 2020, 04:28
Originally Posted by Ripper View Post
I always think one of the most precious things in an RPG is a rich and interesting world. I find that unless there is a strong sense of place, and a world I want to exolore, then the rest can't really engage me. In many ways, I think this is what separates the classic titles.
This is definitely way up there for me. It's the reason why I can't get into licensed property RPGs like the South Park games. I have no sense of discovery nor any real interest in the world.
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July 16th, 2020, 04:31
Originally Posted by Ripper View Post
I always think one of the most precious things in an RPG is a rich and interesting world. I find that unless there is a strong sense of place, and a world I want to exolore, then the rest can't really engage me. In many ways, I think this is what separates the classic titles.
For once I agree but I'd say story, campaign, and rich/interesting worlds. Most of my favorite RPGs have all three. Combat is next make sure it fits the setting/game.

Nowadays many seem to prefer turn-based but that's not always the case.
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July 16th, 2020, 04:31
Don't be afraid of complexity. People like complexity, at least in their rpgs. So have basic statistics like strength, intelligence, dexterity, etc. and have lots of skills that get more interesting and powerful as you level up, have lots of spells to choose from, just lots of variety and a complex framework of design.
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July 16th, 2020, 05:51
Characters you care about.
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July 16th, 2020, 18:33
Party depends on what your target audience is - if you do it specifically for a target audience.

But in general I want to have good feedback of whether a check suceeds or not. Combat log is a nice thing, but - in my opinion - direct feedback by NPCs is even better. Dialog option, for example, or checks whether a character manages to evade a thrown weapon … Or not bein able to push away a heavy stone which blocks the path … The combined work of both NPCs & player characters could manage that … But NPCs usually want to be persuaded …

There imho should also be moments where something special comes totally unexpected. A critical success, for example, might have different graphics or different animations than a normal success.

What i also liked, because it seemed logical to me, was that beginners - low level player characters - have different, more clumsy animations when fighting. The more points are invested in a skill, the smoother and more fluid the animation becomes.

Just imagine a prayer of some kind of cleric … on a normal success, it helps the party members with several points. With a good success, a great light suddenly appears out of nowhere, as a visual representation of that success. A critical success, however, makes an Angel or something else (or a demon for more darker themes) to appear in a great light, not only helping the party members, but also battling himself/herself for a short while.
I call this "the woah! moments".

And that's why I believe that the occational surprise is good for a game as well.
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July 16th, 2020, 19:14
Thank you guys for all these responses! I am gonna forward this thread to the team, and if anyone wants to continue adding, I think I've gotten a relatively good framework of how certain facets of gameplay should function.
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July 17th, 2020, 23:36
I second what Ripper said. Intresting world and setting is a must. There needs to be a good sense of place and time. Even if you're not going to build an huge in game codex for player to explore, it needs to feel like a real thing. It needs to have an history.

What I really dig about Gothics, Elder scrolls, mass effect, dragon age and Pillars of eternity for instance is that each of those games are designed world ahead. They are not character specific. Like the most obvious literary example: Lord of the rings. It isn't just about specific characters. The story arc is part of something bigger which makes it more meaningfull.
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July 18th, 2020, 11:08
Yes, I agree, that "world building" is an important part. Even professionals say that.

Broken in-setting logic is a VERY bad thing. People will rant about that in the forums as soon as they discover it (saw that a few times).

There appears to be a book in the "Kobold Guide" series about world building as well : https://koboldpress.com/kpstore/prod…worldbuilding/
It's a collection of essays on the topic (I have it, but cannot find it at this moment).

If such world building is done, it's in my opinion a good - yet otional - idea to have in-game texts which explain the world - as seen from the POV of its inhabitants, of course.
PS:T took that imho in a way to an extreme with some dialogs.
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July 18th, 2020, 13:58
IMO the world/setting doesn't matter.
The most boring world can feature the most exciting game just like the superb world can produce a game of boredom and frustration.
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July 18th, 2020, 14:04
Originally Posted by Dez View Post
I second what Ripper said. Intresting world and setting is a must. There needs to be a good sense of place and time. Even if you're not going to build an huge in game codex for player to explore, it needs to feel like a real thing. It needs to have an history.

What I really dig about Gothics, Elder scrolls, mass effect, dragon age and Pillars of eternity for instance is that each of those games are designed world ahead. They are not character specific. Like the most obvious literary example: Lord of the rings. It isn't just about specific characters. The story arc is part of something bigger which makes it more meaningfull.
Yes, I think when there is real depth to a fantasy world, it kind of bubbles up and infuses everything. You can just feel it.

The Lord of the Rings is one of the best examples - it was more about creating the world, its cultures and history, than it was about being a page-turner novel. I think Tolkien was quite deliberate in that way - it had the feel of being translated from some quite dry ancient saga, which is what he actually pretended he had done. I think most of us that love LoTR do so more for the world itself, rather than the characters or plot.
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July 18th, 2020, 16:45
Oh, that's easy! Impractical female armour with lots of cleavage!
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July 18th, 2020, 17:30
Keanu Reeves.








Jokes aside:
- A great game has to have good quality of live features (QoL), to avoid frustration. QoL does not have to be stellar, but it needs to satisfy some minimum requirements. Depending on the type of game, those may be, for example:
*easy inventory management
*intuitive controls for characters
*if there's lots of backtracking: fast travel
*if turn based combat: faster animations or skippable animations (as options)
- Lore, worldbuilding should make the player curious. The world should be consistent.
- Characters should have some depth and, ideally, a believable development process they go through over the game.
- Story-telling should be great. That does not necessarily mean walls-of-text or unending dialogs. A great game can further the story even without using written or spoken language.
- This includes very good pacing. Obviously, it should not be too short. But don't draw out the story too much either, or people burn out before they reach the end.
- Graphics should fit the game and the budget. High-fidelity 3D graphics are nice, but they can also look fairly generic if you don't invest some sort of man power. I prefer well-done 2D graphics (or even pixel-art) to poor 3D.

Of course there are many more issues to consider. This question is pretty difficult to answer in general, because there's so many individual things that need to be just right. The points above are just the first ones that came to my mind.

Originally Posted by joxer View Post
IMO the world/setting doesn't matter.
The most boring world can feature the most exciting game just like the superb world can produce a game of boredom and frustration.
I agree with the latter (good world/setting, boring game). Plenty of examples for that. But this does not make world-building irrelevant. Specifically, I do not think that you can have a great game with a boring world/setting. At least I can't come up with an example, unless you start straying beyond RPGs.

There certainly are RPGs that are (intentionally) vague when it comes to lore/world/setting. That, in my opinion, is not the same as boring or poor. If the developers are good at what they are doing, a setting where the player does not know alot about the world he "inhabits" is one that can be extremely interesting.
Last edited by Cacheperl; July 18th, 2020 at 17:40.
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July 18th, 2020, 20:05
Originally Posted by Dez View Post
I second what Ripper said. Intresting world and setting is a must. There needs to be a good sense of place and time. Even if you're not going to build an huge in game codex for player to explore, it needs to feel like a real thing. It needs to have an history.
I am 100% forwarding this to the team. I think an in-game mythology, lore-keeping, is easily as important as story and dialogue.
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July 18th, 2020, 21:15
I'm struggling to think of any RPGs that don't have an interesting world or setting…? Even the crap ones usually bother to at least 'create a world'? no?

I agree with @joxer and @Arkadia7 in that a game that takes itself too seriously will be restricting its possibilities and that variety is key. I don't think you'll struggle to find examples of widely beloved games that have a huge class selection and associated mechanical variety while you also wont struggle to find huge numbers of mediocre RPGs with very limited classes. In this regard, the rarities are the great RPGs with very few character classes, and even these usually compensate with other types of variety.
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July 18th, 2020, 21:48
Originally Posted by lackblogger View Post
I'm struggling to think of any RPGs that don't have an interesting world or setting…? Even the crap ones usually bother to at least 'create a world'? no?
The mere act of creation is not sufficient, as some parents seem to forget.

Yes, all RPGs have some kind of world or setting. But they may be lacking in certain qualities. For example: Bound by Flame. It gives me the feeling that the world ends just behind the next Tree/Hill/Building. And that's not a criticism of map design. It does not give any sort of view on geography, history, society, anything. It feels hollow.

A great game should at least put some work into that.
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July 18th, 2020, 23:17
Originally Posted by lackblogger View Post
I'm struggling to think of any RPGs that don't have an interesting world or setting…? Even the crap ones usually bother to at least 'create a world'? no?
Lots of them. I don't think even the majority of RPGs have an interesting setting.
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