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Default Joystiq - Thematic Consistency in RPGs

February 27th, 2012, 19:50
Joystiq has an editorial about rpgs and thematic consistency. Rowan Kaiser compares the settings in the old rpgs with those of modern rpgs - from Wizardry to Dragon Age. A quote on how it used to be:
Wizardry's setting was not exceptional in those days. For example, the Might & Magic series was a pastiche of different fantasy and science fiction tropes, all jammed together without rhyme or reason. It's still around, in the Heroes Of Might & Magic strategy spinoffs, where fairies, bears, and dwarves all live together in the same towns. Even Ultima, in the early stages of the genre, included totally random Star Wars-like space combat sections, mandatory for completing the first two games. Across the Pacific, Japanese games like Final Fantasy included airships and aliens alongside its fantasy tropes. I miss this wildness sometimes. Modern RPGs are built around thematic consistency. They're set in worlds that attempt to make sense. To take Dragon Age: Origins as an example: it has a recognizable, historical political system. The characters generally understand the state of the world, and are motivated to deal with that. These are not bad things. As a critic who deals with narrative, creating worlds without inconsistencies appeals to me. My problem is that this has become the default mode for role-playing games. I like the thematically consistent, intense stories of a Dragon Age, yes, but I also miss the goofy weirdness of a Wizardry.
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February 27th, 2012, 19:50
Hear hear! It seems everything these days has become a homogenous soup of mediocrity. Very few developers are straying from the traditional game archetypes, whether that be medieval or otherwise. I think it has a lot to do with the learning curve of a person to try something different as opposed to what they're used to. And parameters from studio execs.

Nevertheless, if this site's latest poll (Obsidian crowd-sourced game setting, etc) is anything to be believed, many people miss the quirky RPG settings of yesteryear.
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February 28th, 2012, 04:18
This guy doesn't pay attention to the story in those older games since (at least in Ultima and Might and Magic) there were reasons for the sci-fi elements and without them it wouldn't make sense so they weren't thematically inconsistent. Unless you think anything that doesn't fall strictly into the generic fantasy or sci-fi genres is thematically inconsistent.

PS. Being thematically inconsistent is creating a theme and then randomly adding things that break the theme without reason.
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