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  1. #1
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Kadayi's Avatar
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    My definition of a RPG is.....

    in the same vein as the 'I hate' thread' and the seemingly endless derailing of any vaguely interesting forum discussion on RPGs into yet another mudslinging match of 'that's not an RPG!!!' I thought maybe I'd create a single thread where we can pour all of that back and forth and keep it (largely) out of other threads.

    So taking the title as my lead: -


    '...a game where in the player, guides/directs a character (or characters) predefined or otherwise, through an evolving narrative centred around choice & consequence that shapes not only the game world they inhabit to some degree but also shapes the character(s) as well to the extent that if played again different decisions can radically alter the experience, even if the game ultimately arrives at a singular denouement'

    Feel free to agree, disagree, dissect, reinterpret or dismiss but the principal rule should be that to participate you have to answer the title question beforehand.

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  2. #2
    Network Hub thesisko's Avatar
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    Games I can think of that qualify for your definition: (evolving narrative that shapes the game world based on choice&consequence)
    Wing Commander IV
    Blade Runner

    Games that don't qualify: (static story and game world)
    Morrowind
    Oblivion

  3. #3
    Lesser Hivemind Node TillEulenspiegel's Avatar
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    Also King's Quest VI. Too.

    And many, many VNs.
    Last edited by TillEulenspiegel; 25-07-2011 at 03:14 PM.

  4. #4
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    1) At least one player defined character whereby one player's character can be different from another's. Characters can be defined through numerical statistics and skills, or even through a collection of flags such as "overweight", "unfunny", "intelligent", "cheerful", "economical", "punctual" with no numbers attached to those values. Anything that can allow the game itself (the software) to differentiate one character from another (racial quests, class specific quests, extra dialogue options, low intelligence dialogue, different damage taken when walking through hot environments, different chance to slip when climbing over a mountain, different chance to intimidate enemies into retreat, different damage on a sword swing, different potency of potions created through alchemy).

    2) The removal of all player skill from simple actions that can be neatly abstracted (an attack, a spell casting, climbing a wall). Not the removal of all input. There needs to be a game after all. Aiming a shot in real-time adds nothing to the role-playing aspect, while earlier turn-based games allowed you to aim shots without any player skill requirement at all. The skill involved in the game should be the skill at role-playing a character. Making sure a mage stands behind a fighter, aiming and attacking the most vulnerable/powerful opponent, casting a fireball at a densely packed area etc. This basically means that real-time games aren't as pure a CRPG because they lean towards action games. A game like The Witcher and Oblivion are action RPG hybrids after all. They incorporate elements of both genres, and not just the advantages of both.

    3) The game to acknowledge the player's character by changing the gameplay according to the player's character. There are two main ways of doing this. One of them is through scripting lots of encounters, both combat and non-combat encounters, with each one testing the player's character in some way. The other way is to simulate a DM/GM using the game engine rather than relying on developer created, inflexible and expensive to produce scripted set pieces. Reputation systems for different in game factions, reputation systems for different in game regions, economics, political influence, day/night cycles, days of the year with special events, NPCs that have their own schedule etc. This way means that role-playing comes from performing scripted goals (reaching end game) through emergent ways. You might have a quest to assassinate an enemy leader (like you do in many CRPGs), but instead of doing so through a couple of scripted ways you can do so through ways unexpected from the developers.

    Failing number 2, you have an action/RPG hybrid game.

  5. #5
    Lesser Hivemind Node Keep's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kadayi View Post
    an evolving narrative
    Do you mean a narrative in the sense of quests that the game presents to you ("The King has lost his sword and he needs you to find it"), or in the sense of meaning that you personally invest the game with ("This book tells me there's a mega-sword some King lost in the Underworld? I wanna go find it!")?

  6. #6
    Lesser Hivemind Node TillEulenspiegel's Avatar
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    You primarily control one or several characters. All your actions in the game are defined primarily by the abilities of those characters rather than player ability. The player makes decisions, but the character must be responsible for the degree of success in carrying them out.

    I think that definition covers nearly every tabletop RPG ever created as well. It's the defining characteristic of the genre.

  7. #7
    Network Hub thesisko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keep View Post
    Do you mean a narrative in the sense of quests that the game presents to you ("The King has lost his sword and he needs you to find it"), or in the sense of meaning that you personally invest the game with ("This book tells me there's a mega-sword some King lost in the Underworld? I wanna go find it!")?
    Unless you mean that you advance a scripted storyline by doing (1) but not (2), they're the same thing aren't they?

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by TillEulenspiegel View Post
    You primarily control one or several characters. All your actions in the game are defined primarily by the abilities of those characters rather than player ability. The player makes decisions, but the character must be responsible for the degree of success in carrying them out.

    I think that definition covers nearly every tabletop RPG ever created as well. It's the defining characteristic of the genre.
    Pretty much what I said (in less detail). I can't think of a single exception in the CRPG field.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wizardry View Post
    1)
    2) The removal of all player skill from simple actions that can be neatly abstracted (an attack, a spell casting, climbing a wall). Not the removal of all input. There needs to be a game after all. Aiming a shot in real-time adds nothing to the role-playing aspect, while earlier turn-based games allowed you to aim shots without any player skill requirement at all. The skill involved in the game should be the skill at role-playing a character. Making sure a mage stands behind a fighter, aiming and attacking the most vulnerable/powerful opponent, casting a fireball at a densely packed area etc. This basically means that real-time games aren't as pure a CRPG because they lean towards action games. A game like The Witcher and Oblivion are action RPG hybrids after all. They incorporate elements of both genres, and not just the advantages of both.
    I think this is key to your definition and also key to where it winds a lot of people up. Because lots of things can be neatly abstracted. Conversation, for example, could be abstracted (remove dialogue choices, character speaks based on stats, gets rewarded/punished as necessary).

    But aiming a shot in real time is just as much about player skill as determining whether to shoot that fireball, or which monster to attack first so on. Hitting the right skills in real-time in DA2 is just as much about player skill as hitting the right skills after thinking about it for five-minutes in a turn-based RPG.

    Obviously there's a difference, but you never come out and say it: player 'twitch' skills don't count, player 'thinking' skills do. You basically exclude anything which involves reaction times, any situation where you don't have an infinite amount of time to consider your move. Which is fair enough, if that's what you prefer. They're entirely different modes of play, and will appeal to very different groups of people (or moods - I like both, but the times I want to play twitch games are different to when I want to sit back and think about something). But saying that aiming up a shot manually adds nothing to the role-playing experience may be true. But nor does choosing where to position your mage on the battlefield. One is a physical test, the other is a strategic exercise. Neither are role-play. Or abstracted even more - one is controlling his arm with the mouse pointer, the other is controlling his whole body in the same way.

    My definition is what it always was:

    An RPG is any game which the developer opts to call an RPG

  10. #10
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Kadayi's Avatar
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    @thesisko, @Keep @TillEulenspiegel

    You need to give answer the question 'My definition of a RPG is..... (insert answer)' to participate. A narrative answer is preferable Vs a list of requirements, or references.
    Why yes you're right I'm deliciously evil

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  11. #11
    Lesser Hivemind Node Keep's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thesisko View Post
    Unless you mean that you advance a scripted storyline by doing (1) but not (2), they're the same thing aren't they?
    Well the main difference between them is that with the first, everybody who plays the game encounters the same narrative. But with the second, the narrative arises from each individual's own whims and imagination. There is no capital-n Narrative in the game itself.

  12. #12
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Must have:

    Choices & Consequences

    Usually has:

    Character Progression


    Thaaaaat's it. That was fun! Lemme do it for other genres:

    FPS - Must have: First Person PoV. Usually has: Shooting.
    RTS - Must have: Real Time combat simulation. Usually has: Tactics.
    TBS - Must have: Turn Based combat simulation. Usually has: Hex grids; also, endless debates on the penetrating power of 50mm shells against 4' sloped steel.
    H&S - Must have: Furious clicking. Usually has: Regular trips to ye olde pawne shoppe.
    Adventure - Must have: Quirky Humor. Usually has: Pixel hunts.

    I don't think Oblivion et al (or, for that matter, most Bethesda games) shouldn't be called RPGs, I just don't think they're particularly good RPGs. After all, as thesisko said, the world is static and the characters wooden. Same with "theme park" MMORPGs, tho the effectiveness of the gameworld there really does depend on how much effort the player base is willing to invest: Sure the game is rather static, but social relationships aren't.

  13. #13
    Network Hub thesisko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by deano2099 View Post
    I think this is key to your definition and also key to where it winds a lot of people up. Because lots of things can be neatly abstracted. Conversation, for example, could be abstracted (remove dialogue choices, character speaks based on stats, gets rewarded/punished as necessary).
    I guess you managed to miss the part where he defined the "game" part of it as deciding what your characters should do.

  14. #14
    Lesser Hivemind Node Keep's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kadayi View Post
    @thesisko, @Keep @TillEulenspiege

    You need to give answer the question 'My definition of a RPG is..... (insert answer)' to participate. A narrative answer is preferable Vs a list of requirements, or references.
    Ah bugger :P. I don't really have a definition.

    If I heard someone say "RPG", I'd suppose they're using it to refer to a D&D type swords'n'fantasy game, with an emphasis on statistics, a customisable player-character, experience points and inventory screens, possibly a party'll come about too, likely not from a first person perspective, with an epic story about saving the world. Or something.

    If I wanted to use the word myself, privately properly though...I dunno. I guess a game that gives you a unique individual to play as (one that you have at least some hand in 'designing') and then a persistent world in which the character can affect the environment and vice versa. I don't know, that's very vague and wishy-washy. Do I have to lay cards on the table like this?

  15. #15
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    From the other thread:

    Quote Originally Posted by thesisko View Post
    All other genres are capable of lacking story, why not RPG's? I find it kinda redundant to have a term that describes something so wide that it no longer defines any actual gameplay mechanics.
    Because the original RPG had mechanics which were not unique. The actual mechanics were shared with squad based wargames. The difference between them was that the RPG came to be defined by the story, rather than simply being a squad campaign. As time has progressed, RPGs have gone in many different directions with regard to mechanics. Some are heavily simulationist. Some are dice-light or even dice-free. The key central thread is that there is a plot, however loose, and that its details can be altered by the actions of the characters.

    Quote Originally Posted by thesisko View Post
    Character specialization IS choices and consequences. Your choice of specialization and the consequence of being able/unable to do things. Remove specialization from PS:T and you have a visual novel instead.
    Remove specialisation from PS:T and almost all you change is a bit of stuff in the combat engine. It would not be a visual novel; the level of agency the player has far outstrips any visual novel. You could remove all combat from PS:T entirely, and it would still be an RPG.

  16. #16
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    I don't think we can, or should, neatly define an RPG based on its mechanics. It's more like a default state for any game in which you have some choice in how you play through it (could be the character's skills and/or the player's actions), and is a term separate from the actual genre of the game.

    Baldur's Gate, for example, can be defined as an isometric turn based squad combat and conversation fantasy adventure game; no terms of which are (IMO) required for a game to be an RPG. It's just that "RPG" simply encompasses such a huge and ever expanding proportion of today's games, I don't think any game is just an "RPG". Hell I'd be happy if we got rid of the moniker altogether and used another, less ambiguous, term to describe the game in its stead.

  17. #17
    Network Hub thesisko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keep View Post
    Well the main difference between them is that with the first, everybody who plays the game encounters the same narrative. But with the second, the narrative arises from each individual's own whims and imagination. There is no capital-n Narrative in the game itself.
    Are you hinting at non-linear vs. linear perhaps? Because if you're not actually forced to do the quest in (1) to "win" it's only a more hand-holdy version of 2 I'd say.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by thesisko View Post
    I guess you managed to miss the part where he defined the "game" part of it as deciding what your characters should do.
    It's just on what level you do that though isn't it? In Mass Effect I'm deciding exactly how my character should move her arm and exactly when she should pull the trigger. In Fallout I just tell my character to shoot, but say where and when and perhaps the type of shot. Where is the line? Controlling individual limbs is a no but whole bodies is a yes?

  19. #19
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    To me, an RPG is a game where you lead a character (or characters) on an adventure.

  20. #20
    Network Hub thesisko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Quirk View Post
    Remove specialisation from PS:T and almost all you change is a bit of stuff in the combat engine. It would not be a visual novel; the level of agency the player has far outstrips any visual novel. You could remove all combat from PS:T entirely, and it would still be an RPG.
    Except PS:T has non-combat specialization too. What you can do in dialogue or through text-based actions is heavily based on your specialization.

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