The Sunday Papers

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday, Sunday, Sunday Papers.

Back from the Ukraine and it’s time to catch up on a week’s reading. Hey – why don’t you join me, in the RPS regular we’re calling “The Sunday Papers”. In it I link to some pieces that caught my eye in the last week for your to dwell over, and try to do so before linking to Youtube novelty records which are a bit too close to how I operate. GO!

Failed.

45 Comments

  1. Homunculus says:

    I find it difficult to lament Big Huge Games’ strategy-only focus in the face of the disappointing performance of prior titles, when it made them consider a role playing game for their current project. It ignites coruscating glee pathways in the ol’ grey matter to contemplate a Brian Reynolds RPG set on and within the milieu of Alpha Centauri, which has such a well fleshed out pre-existing background the themes and conflicts would pretty much write themselves. Factions with clashing ideologies! Survival of recognisable nascent societies in a hostile environment and the form they take! Post-humanism and adaptation to said environment!

    As Electronic Arts own the property, though, and Ken “Elder Scrolls” Rolston is project lead over at BHG, it’s probably swords n’ boards fantasy fare. But, man! Alpha Centauri!

  2. MeestaNob! says:

    Cup of Brown Joy is… brilliant!

  3. MisterBritish says:

    Apparently I need Elemental in my life. Is there other stuff online? A homepage? I’m not really sure what to search for, ‘rapper’ doesn’t really fit – ‘rhapper’ maybe?

    Edit: Blind – link to jazuk.f2s.com

  4. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    I really rather liked Rise of Legends. I couldn’t stand the fact that the campaign mode was about “one faction vs. itself” battles, though. Otherwise, everything that needed to be said of the story mode has been, and I don’t want to repeat it for fear of crumpling under my own lament. Never could do well online, as the only people who played the game loved it so much to be capable of crushing me under the weight of That Spider Thing From Wild Wild West. Or, usually, before the match could ever get to that point.

    However, I noted a review–and many comments–on the game seemed to take issue with the sound design. The Vinci muskets, in particular. That they sounded too… “popcorn-ish.” I felt the need to slap these people–especially that one reviewer. Was it IGN? I’m not sure anymore, it’s been years. Either way, they didn’t know that most guns really do sound like pea-shooters, high caliber rounds notwithstanding. Muskets especially, though they’re much more intimidating to hear when a line of fifty or so men all fire at the same time.

    While it may have been a design-choice mistake to treat the sound effects for those muskets fairly realistically (being notoriously underwhelming in real life, if heard from a bit of distance) they had the nerve to criticize BHG as being “unrealistic” in this regard.

    This is, of course, a very strange issue to defend when it comes to Rise of Legends.

    …..

    I only now summoned up enough strength to wade through the Stuart-Bruce bloodbath when people noticed that Bruce made a mighty deleting run, and someone caught him red-handed.

    … If I weren’t so sleepy, I’d say something at least half-pithy. But, at this point, I can only shake my head in dismay. Naturally, one can’t help but be conflicted. I don’t pirate games, because of guilt and multiplayer. But I pirate just about everything else (I’ll buy the DVDs of the fansubbed shows I really like, I tell myself) so for me to say one thing or another on the issue would be hypocritical, either way.

    Also, Darjeeling > Earl Grey.

    What is it with people and bergamot, anyway?

    Honestly.

  5. Lacero says:

    Yeah, great video but Darjeeling deserves one all to itself.

    Good to see Sins get some publicity even if it is mostly inside the industry, maybe we’ll get more of that kind of game. ie. original.

  6. James G says:

    Regarding Chris Remo’s comments: I certainly agree that its nice when games provide something deeper to think about, however I feel its worth raising the fact that some of this subtext will be as much a part of the player, as any intentional moves by the designer. How a player interprets a game is going to be influenced as much by their past experiences, and individual route through the game, as it is my anything consciously added in my the designers.

    If this is the case, it is up to the designer to provide a canvas on which some of these subtexts can arise. Some of this will be through a desire to communicate a particular message, but some will arise organically. Exactly how one goes about inducing the latter is something that is beyond this humble biologist.

  7. Kadayi says:

    Interesting read on Gygax and the D&D influence, and certainly one I agree with, in that it relates more to the broader sense of what a games can be (devices for interactive story making), rather than the P&P gaming mechanisms themselves. In a lot of ways I think some people (I won’t name names but you know who I mean) mistake those old mechanisms for the message, and can’t see beyond them. With 3D game engines, fully able to simulate physics, and players able to solve challenges through direct interaction and observation, is it still necessary to have those P&P mechanisms in place to for a game to be considered an RPG? What is GTA IV at the end of the day but a cRPG stripped of the redundancy.

  8. Alex says:

    In a lot of ways I think some people mistake those old mechanisms for the message, and can’t see beyond them.

    You had (and have) those people in P&P games too, ofcourse. Very funny to play with – for a short while. A friend of mine played like that, he even DMed for a bit, which was an experience in and of itself. Imagine a brutally unforgiving ‘old testament’ DM – never giving players any slack, giving all the power to the dice, PCs dying when the dice dictate, etc.

    We used to have long, long conversations with the guy trying to tell him the difference between bureaucratic number-crunching and, you know.. fun.

  9. Albides says:

    This being the internet, I was wary about about clicking on anything with the title “Cup of Brown Joy”. There was… an incident. Thankfully I overcame my trepidation and was richly rewarded.

    And yes, true connoisseurs drink darjeeling.

    But, man! Alpha Centauri!

    Now there’s gaming as an extension of literature. Subtext galore, a narrative that engages like no other strategy game, an interesting original setting and a manual with two pages of inspirations/reading recommendations. I love that game.

  10. Kadayi says:

    We used to have long, long conversations with the guy trying to tell him the difference between bureaucratic number-crunching and, you know.. fun.

    I always felt that DMs of that ilk tended to rely on the rules for adjudication, because they lacked the imagination and heart to make the judgment calls themselves. The rulebooks were the crutch rather than the guide they relied upon.

    Oh and Lapsang souchong > Darjeeling by a mile

  11. James G says:

    @Kadayi:

    While its true that strict P&P rules do not need to (Or perhaps even should not) be the be-all and end all of an RPG, I’m equaly wary of any suggestions that ‘direct’ interaction is inhernetly superior. I know I’m a rare breed, but I prefer the combat system in games such as NWN and Baldur’s gate, to say, Oblivion. Just because we can have full physics and reaction driven game mechanisms, doesn’t mean we have to. The skills involved in each system are different, and there is room for both.

    But also, what defines the borders of each genre? As we start blurring those lines, aren’t genre catagories meaningless. What defines an RPG? Afterall you play a ‘role’ in pretty much every game.

  12. Kadayi says:

    @James

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not decrying games like Fallout or Baldurs gate, both great games of their time (I’m about to play through fallout 1 again this week in fact). What I’m questioning is whether the mechanisms that underly them, whose origins firmly owe a debt to to the P&P rule sets of old are still relevant to the future development of cRPGs, when gaming technology itself has outstripped them in what it can deliver as a playing experience.

    Certainly cRPGs will never fully be able to match the imaginative element that P&P under a good DM/referee could, but what they are very good at delivering and increasingly so with every advance in technology is player immersion. The more you can put the player into the game space and less into an interface (the hangover of P&P), the greater the immersion and players emotional investment in the storytelling aspect. Consider the ending of HL2:EP2 as a good example of that. I don’t know anyone who finished that who wasn’t thinking and feeling ‘Those Combine bastards will pay for that’.

    Certainly I agree that defining borders is a waste of time, but there plenty of places on the interweb where claiming GTA IV is a cRPG would result in howls of derision (and probably a swift banning). Fortunately so far not RPS (thank god).

  13. Alex says:

    The one big thing that cRPGs are lacking in compared to traditional P&P games is ofcourse enticing the player to use his or her imagination (although in P&P games that’s also dependant on the DM, ofcourse), which to me has always been the one of the biggest attractions of RPGs in the first place.

    Any imigination coming from the player is mostly cosmetic – make up a name, choose a face, etc.

    Shamus Young wrote an entry on his blog last year exactly on this, how the current run of D&D cRPGs are lacking in this aspect, taking a ‘plot-driven door’ from the NWN2 expansion Mask of the Betrayer to illustrate:

    (kind of SPOILERIFIC, although he doesn’t go much into plot)

    link to shamusyoung.com

  14. Will Tomas says:

    Personally I always find an immersive-type game like Oblivion far more imaginatively stimulating than any kind of top-down D&D-influenced game. It’s only then that the games become worlds you can inhabit rather than the modern equivalent of a board game-with-a-story, for me, anyway. I know that some people love them, but I would much rather games decided that old pen&paper rules were not the best basis for RPGs of the future. They can have their place, but I’m happy that they aren’t the only game in town anymore.

  15. Rob says:

    Well I finally succumbed to guilt and ordered Rise of Legends. I honestly don’t know why I didn’t order it at the time, Rise of Nations was (and is) an absolute blast. Better late than never? I guess since at least it’s not in the same situation as Startopia, I can still support the developer.

  16. Alex says:

    Personally I always find an immersive-type game like Oblivion far more imaginatively stimulating than any kind of top-down D&D-influenced game. It’s only then that the games become worlds you can inhabit rather than the modern equivalent of a board game-with-a-story, for me, anyway.

    I don’t know.. I think Oblivion was a fantastic game and I loved the first person aspect, but the amount of ‘imaginative freedom’, if you will, still was mostly cosmetic.

    This isn’t a complaint, btw, to actually pull something like that off would be more or less saying “please create an AI that’s very much equal to human intelligence”. And when that’s actually technologically possible we will only use it for creating pornbots and the Terminator series of killer androids.

  17. James G says:

    @Alex

    But then people will mod their porn bots to DM their RPGs. It will result in some imaginative results, albeit ones that only seem to play arround with rule 34. To be honest, the Killer android would be suited to many of todays games, although thats all assuming you could get close enough to mod one.

  18. Kadayi says:

    The one big thing that cRPGs are lacking in compared to traditional P&P games is ofcourse enticing the player to use his or her imagination (although in P&P games that’s also dependant on the DM, ofcourse), which to me has always been the one of the biggest attractions of RPGs in the first place.

    I don’t think we should canonize P&P and DMs too hastily over their cRPG offspring. I played plenty of P&P games back in the day where there were clear limitations set down by the DM as to just how far you could stroll off the beaten track before for getting redirected. If a DMs spent a couple of weeks mapping out a nice campaign for you to play through, and a whole host of detailed NPCs, they don’t tend to take to kindly to it, if you don’t follow it through and play it to a degree as it’s intended. If the mission is to rescue the Princess, siding with her kidnappers at the first opportunity isn’t well received in my experience. cRPGs might not match human DMs for imagination, but they don’t take personal affront if you don’t play entirely by the rules.

  19. Leeks! says:

    Elemental pretty much summarizes my practical knowledge of the UK in general. Of course, I’d have no problem if someone’s knowledge of where I’m from was based entirely on Cadence Weapon.

    Double fail.

  20. BrokenSymmetry says:

    Why isn’t Rise of Legends on Steam? Other THQ games are.

    Edit: Oh I see ROL was published by Microsoft. Then when will Microsoft finally bow to the superiority of Steam, and publish their games there?

  21. Rob says:

    @BrokenSymmetry

    That’s certainly what I’ve been waiting for up till now but it just seems too unlikely. A shame, but there we go.

  22. UncleLou says:

    Personally I always find an immersive-type game like Oblivion far more imaginatively stimulating than any kind of top-down …

    Not quite sure if you mean the underlying ruleset or the graphics – I for one yearn for some topdown stuff again. While seeing the move from isometric/2D to 3D was initially amazing, there’s just something about an isometric perspective that I terribly miss these days. It’s probably that it gives you the perspective you had over your toys as a kid that does it for me.

    While I realise this has also a lot to do with getting older, Ultima III wasn’t less immersive for me than Oblivion.

    If Diablo 3 isn’t topdown, heads will roll.

  23. Will Tomas says:

    The graphics obviously play a part, although not exclusively, but with Oblivion I also preferred it for much of the ruleset: the levelling up through practice (rather than whacking goblins repeatedly making you better at alchemy), the combat (for all its flaws, it stopped looking like it was based on dice rolls, thank god), and the interaction with the world on a first person level (if you go into a shop you see everything you can buy on the shelves). I don’t think I’m representative of everyone by any means, but for me I want the fantasy of being in another world and acting in it as myself, rather than playing with toys, as you put it.

    As far as the imaginative freedom goes, it’s more about being able to put myself in the environment of the game, and the imagination is applied to iron over flaws in the game (the levelling wandering monsters, the problems with the conversation), and also to explore the possibilities: I’m much keener to see what’s over the horizon if I’m immersed in the game as a world than I am if I’m immersed in the game as a story. And when I say immersed, I mean feeling as close to being part of that world as possible while sitting at my computer, which is something I never got from top down games. Maybe never playing P&P games myself has something to do with it, but it’s how I feel about it.

  24. Kadayi says:

    I wouldn’t say your missing out on that much. One of friends from back in the day, still does P&P and eschews all things computer based (he’d sneer at the guys at the RPG Codex as a bunch of lightweights, which they are in comparison), and is always trying to convince me to see the light and give up the evils of cRPGs and return to the fold. However although I know one day I’m bound to pop around to his club for an evening or 2 of D10 rolling and murmured conversations. I know ultimately it’s going to be a case of a bunch of geeky guys and gothy girls pushing a bunch of brightly painted Citadel miniatures around a map and to me that’s all it’s ever going to be. Once you’ve seen OZ, Kansas just doesn’t seem the same anymore….

  25. apoca1ypso says:

    Surely isn’t Elemental’s Cup of Brown Joy the guy from http://www.weebls-stuff.com?

  26. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    As far as Oblivion went, the flaws Will Tomas mentioned destroyed immersion for me, and I found myself complaining about every little thing because of it.

    Not even the “mods to fix balance, among other things” did anything to restore my confidence, because I couldn’t help but wonder why Bethesda didn’t see the problems with their design from the start. That, and all conversation, NPC-to-NPC or otherwise, was pretty boring and meaningless. If I had a GM that RP’ed like that, I’d probably fall asleep at the table.

    The fact that you could pepper a lvl 1 bandit’s face or crotch with arrows to no avail also had something of a negative effect on immersion early on.

    Making elves uglier than orcs didn’t, but bothered me on another level.

    Oblivion just reached the “uncanny valley” of immersion and dug itself in, far as I’m concerned. A lot of breadth and a wealth of minor details to improve realism and environmental immersion in a number of ways, all of them rendered moot by blatant illogical gamism (the character development system encourages players to choose “specialized skills” that their characters definitely do not specialize in, or even use, in order to play a non-crippled character), lack of foresight with regards to the concept of immersion in a rational or emotional way (the level scaling issues, which lead to a number of logical gaffes, some of which more hilarious than others, as well as the futility of many of the optional activities one can partake in, can potentially kill any personal investment in Oblivion’s “immersion”), and some really annoying graphic effects (there’s no way in hell real life has that much Bloom).

    While these may sound like nitpicks to people who actually, well, like Oblivion, the uncanny valley of immersion made me appreciate games like Fallout, which, despite being level-based and stat-based in system managed to impress its players with a sincere wealth of possibilities, a great many things in terms of story, open-ended roleplaying, details, and simple charm that helped make it a much more immersive experience.

    When a top-down, isometric game can spark someone’s imagination more effectively than a shiny new 3D game, then it most certainly has an appeal that runs deeper than the surface–something I can’t honestly say about Oblivion.

    Ironically, Bethesda seems to actually understand this much about Fallout, and their efforts for Fallout 3 seem to be going in the right direction.

    Though, honestly, I’d prefer for my headshots to have some effect in real-time play–I don’t want to have to rely on VATS to pop a supermutant’s head off. The press I’d been reading didn’t seem to elaborate on that.

    The option to kick giant rats in the crotch, sadly, will also be missed.

  27. Phil H says:

    Holy Balls that Piracy commentary was shredded to pieces, glad I read it all before the purge. And it amuses me that he left in a comment that explicitly referenced four comment #s that were removed.

  28. Matt says:

    I’m English, but I rap about transexuals, not tea.

    Tea is for drinking, not rapping.

    Rapping is about transexuals.

  29. Alex says:

    If a DMs spent a couple of weeks mapping out a nice campaign for you to play through, and a whole host of detailed NPCs, they don’t tend to take to kindly to it, if you don’t follow it through and play it to a degree as it’s intended.

    I see your point but what you’re saying is basically what a cRPG does too – it doesn’t like it when you try to do stuff that wasn’t intended, in fact, if you do stuff that wasn’t intended chances are it plainly can’t steer you into the right direction without doing ugly things like throwing up invisible walls and pop-up messages that say “you can’t go there”. In other instances, the game will simply break.

    I still maintain that if you have a good DM (they’re few and far between, certainly, but they do exist) he or she can obviously deal much more freely with players, this goes for the macro level as you mention (not following the intended story), but more importantly for the micro level – all the different ways a PC can solve a problem (the Shamus Young blog I linked to is all about that).

    Sorry, P&P will royally beat cRPGs at that, for now at least.

    cRPGs might not match human DMs for imagination, but they don’t take personal affront if you don’t play entirely by the rules.

    Because it’s completely impossible, yes. Not a strong argument, therefore. You need to find a good DM! ;)

  30. devlocke says:

    Two things I mean to comment on in other threads, and now I have one that’s vaguely relevant to do so in:

    The PSP – it seemed like half of that Bruce fellow’s arguments in the piracy thread hinged on the fact that the PSP would have been as popular as the PS2 if only it hadn’t been so easy to pirate. Disregarding whether or not it’s easy to pirate, as there seems to be some dissent about that, I didn’t think anyone actually bought the damn things. People don’t develop for the PSP because it has a really small install base, doesn’t it?

    I’ve never met a living person that owned a PSP. I know they exist, but I half believe that the only people who bought PSPs were game reviewers that didn’t have a big enough audience for Sony to send them one for free. The reason the PSP’s audience is more hardcore than the DS is that it has much less appeal. Blaming that on piracy just seemed totally silly.

    And the other thing: RPGs. There seems to be a large contingent of RPS reader-people that think that real-time skill-based gaming should be considered part of the RPG genre if there’s swords n’ elves, or something. Bitch n’ moan about the dice all you want, but they’re there because in an RPG, your character is capable of performing only as well as your character can perform. In a real-time skill-based game, your character performs as well as you can perform.

    The invisible mechanism of the dice is there to make sure that you stay in character, sort of. No matter how great you may be at FPSs, the likelihood of your scoring a critical hit in an RPG is determined by your character’s stats. Not your own skills. I’m totally fine with that.

    Probably because I suck at video games. But honestly, the whole point to an RPG is that what seperates players is how well (or at least how) they think, rather than how well they press buttons/click buttons/pull triggers/ensorcel demons. Claiming that “RPGs” should abandon that ideal, and make all gaming dependent to some extent on twitch is missing the point entirely as to what an RPG is. You ‘play a role’ to some extent in virtually every video-game, but they’re not all RPGs.

    For the record, I enjoyed Diablo, and my favorite game of all time is the first No One Lives Forever. I’m not opposed to real-time games at all. But the first games I fell in love with were RPGs, and the fact that no one wants to make an RPG anymore, but instead insists on making these weird hybrids, is why I end up playing action games more than anything else these days.

    Blech. I could go on for hours about the subject, which is why I refrained from posting the first, second, or thousandth time it came up. But the urge was too strong tonight. :)

    Lastly, the video for this week was my favorite so far, I think. But I’m an American who drinks tea, so I’m probably strange.

  31. Kadayi says:

    Because it’s completely impossible, yes. Not a strong argument, therefore. You need to find a good DM!

    That’s a comment that seems to be straying into the snide a bit there. The DMs I’ve known have always been good and reasonable, it’s when the players themselves become unreasonable that they’ve tended to run into problems (and there are plenty of unreasonable P&P players out there, much like the rules lawyer you mentioned earlier on). P&P RPG is always played with a degree of understanding and respect. I don’t dispute that you’re given more imaginative lee way in P&P vs cRPG, especially with how you play your character and their personal motivations when interacting with others. I’m just a little wary of putting it head and shoulders above cRPGs. P&P triumphs in imagination, but loses out to personal immersion and often (not always)depth of storytelling against cRPGs. It’s a selfless DM indeed who writes a campaign as epic and deep as say Baldurs gate, Planescape torment and Fallout in terms of narrative and structure.

  32. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    Oh! I’m a bit ashamed I didn’t say this earlier, when it was more appropriate, but…

    Lapsang Souchong? Wow, now that is hardcore.

  33. Kadayi says:

    It’s good stuff when you get into it, but certainly not to everyones tastes. Out of 140 people in the office only 2 of us drink it, which does guarantee there is always a supply. ;)

  34. Kadayi says:

    Damn it not in before the edit….

    And the other thing: RPGs. There seems to be a large contingent of RPS reader-people that think that real-time skill-based gaming should be considered part of the RPG genre if there’s swords n’ elves, or something. Bitch n’ moan about the dice all you want, but they’re there because in an RPG, your character is capable of performing only as well as your character can perform. In a real-time skill-based game, your character performs as well as you can perform.

    The invisible mechanism of the dice is there to make sure that you stay in character, sort of. No matter how great you may be at FPSs, the likelihood of your scoring a critical hit in an RPG is determined by your character’s stats. Not your own skills. I’m totally fine with that.

    I take it you’ve never played any freeform P&P RPGs? Ones where dice rarely and often don’t even come into it? You’re mistaking the mechanics of dice based systems for the medium itself. RP as an act extends far beyond that. If a game presents you as a player with dilemmas that go beyond linear choices of ‘kill this beastie or die and the game ends’ then there is more than a fair argument there that it’s an RPG (albeit you personally might not acknowledge it as such). In GTA IV you as Niko make choices throughout the game that determine whether certain characters live or die which have later consequences (mild spoiler I guess), no different that the kind of choices you make as Geralt in The Witcher. It’s a fallacy to argue one is an RPG and the other not, simply because of the underlying game mechanics alone. Mechanics don’t make something an RPG, the interactivity of the games storyline does. Determination as to the outcome of events, whether it be dice role, twitch skills or player ingenuity are secondary concerns.

  35. Crispy says:

    Interesting discussion here.

    I have to say that although a single DM cannot hope to throw up a campaign on the scale of Fallout. The simple fact that it is far more freeform makes P&P a . Your (Kadayi’s) comment about geeks and goths round a table hints at the fact that you find something shameful or under par about that. While I kinda understand that on the surface this sort of activity is not ‘norma’ and would probably be shunned by mere normal individuals, it’s not actually that different from playing Snakes and Ladders with your parents when you’re a kid, or Monopoly, Risk or Trivial Pursuit as an adult. In fact, in addition to a lot of these games, from a pre-teen played Hero Quest with my brother and mother on summer afternoons through both the original campaign and the addon. Hero Quest was probably the first time I designed a ‘level’ for a game.

    Furthermore, and getting back to the ‘geek/goth outcast/shunworthy’ thing, a group of people actually socialising -in person, no less- and using their imagination to solve problems together is surely a more edifying experience because you are working as a group and sharing eachother’s company.

    I would never class P&P and cRPGs as vaguely comparable things because the way they are played, structured and interacted with is completely different for each.

    Oh, and for a cRPG, the graphical interface should really be treated as an extension of the roleplaying. It’s there primarily as an interface and to build immersion. It does absolutely nothing more than window dressing if the baser RPG elements are sub-par and underworked.

  36. Kadayi says:

    Crispy

    I don’t particularly want to get sidetracked into defending myself but your accusations don’t leave me much choice. I wasn’t passing comment on P&P RPGers as general with my comments, I was actually referencing the very people I’ve met from who attend my friends gaming club. Trust me I’m as geeky as anyone of them if not more so (I’m older for starters, way much more saved in the geek bank). Although I was brought up with P&P, nowadays it just doesn’t press my buttons anymore. Tastes and interests change.

    Sure on the surface you can argue that P&P is more sociable, but there are plenty of games online that are co-operative and use chat. Much of the success of MMOs is down to the social interaction as much as the games themselves. Face to face is clearly preferable to teamspeak, but it does open up opportunities for interacting with people from different cultures, you wouldn’t ordinarily encounter. I’ve gaming friends from Iceland, The Faroe Islands, Ireland (North & south) Germany, Finland, Cyprus and throughout the UK.

    Gaming is any form is generally viewed with disdain by non gamers, I don’t think any particular sub-category comes off better or worse in that respect.

  37. MOST AMUSING says:

    “Tom Chick takes a break from memorising hotkeys to”

    Har!
    I registered my thought on ROL in the same thread KG mentioned. But, in short; ROL suffered from the same thing all “new fantasy” games do:

    “What do the green glass cloud kill again?”
    “and this flying beetle, what are they good against? OH, they are? But I would have thought….”

    pity :( I liked a lot of the “improvements” over RON. The way it handeled squads of men was nice. But they didn’t have a navy, did they? I always like navies in games, me

  38. Crispy says:

    @Kadayi:

    I wasn’t aiming to accuse you of anything, but I didn’t understand exactly why you decided to specifically point to the fact that your friends are geeks ‘n’ goths as opposed to, just, friends. I didn’t see the relevance in that elaboration if not for the conclusion I jumped to.

    It’s the freedom of using imagination to problem-solve that sets P&P apart from cRPGs of this era. MMORPGs really don’t involve that much imaginative-collaborative thinking, they are more heavily invested in contorting to virtual dice-rolls than P&P.

    In P&P the DM’s imagination and flexibility plays a big part in the adventure, as does how the players set up their characters initially and how they make decisions together to overcome obstacles. Don’t get me wrong, cRPGs are improving magnificently, but I don’t think they will ever be able to do what P&P does best unless they simply provide a shell interface for P&P.

    You comment about MMOs being more sociable on a wider scope is perfectly valid (and I agree entirely), but I wasn’t making a point about how sociable P&Ps are, more about in what way they are sociable. Direct interaction, sharing of ideas, seeing first-hand the reaction of a player when they fall into your trap, or of a DM when you totally sidestep one. Etc.

  39. Kadayi says:

    I was being down on myself more than anything else Crispus ;)

    My position isn’t that P&P and cRPGs are competing though. MMOs ape P&P in the most basic manner because they rely very much upon structure and rules, but generally to the detriment of the virtual game space. Personally I’m not big on MMOs as a result, because they presently tend to offer up a lot less than P&P save the visual glamour, based upon my experiences with them and my observations (lack of persistence being the biggest issue for most, Eve being the exception). However SP and co-operative games offer up very different and alternative routes, that aren’t necessarily dependent upon those same strict rule structures anymore. Consider the work that Lionhead are carrying out with Fable 2 developing co-op play within a complex RPG environment, or the freeform multiplayer available in GTA IV. These are small stepping stones onto bigger things with 3D game space.

  40. devlocke says:

    Kadayi:

    To a point you’re right – replace every time I said ‘RPG’ with ‘classic CRPG’ and it says what I meant it to, I think. But it’s not really valid to compare a freeform P&P RPG, which I would assume is mostly an act of imagination on the part of both the player and the person running it, and the classic RPG on the computer. My kinda-point towards the end was that the mechanics have defined the genre on the PC, and almost have to, in order for the label to even have any meaning. When I talk about an RPG on my computer, I don’t mean a game where I play a role – if I want to, I can play Space Invaders in character, but that doesn’t make it an RPG – I mean a game that uses a specific type of rules to create a world.

    I like lots of other types of games too, but I keep seeing people argue that the old-school-style RPG is outdated and needs to be retired/abandoned. It’s not, and won’t be, because all these hybrids don’t provide the same experience that the classic computer RPG did/does. GTA IV is not an evolution of the grand tradition of video-game RPGs, it’s a different creature entirely from those classic games, no matter how immersive the environment.

    Playing GTA IV is nothing at all like playing classic RPGs on the computer. It may greatly resemble playing P&P RPGs with your friends, I don’t know anything about that because I’ve never really played any P&P RPGs. But if it does, that just means that old-school RPGs on the PC never resembled your RPing experience anyway, and they were still a valid genre that lots of people liked, so I don’t see the relevance.

    Egads, I’m hung over and I’m thinking this was just longwinded nonsense. But I’ve edited it for clarity twice and it seems like it says what I wanted it to, so I’m just going to opinion away.

  41. Kadayi says:

    Unfortunately Devlocke I’m not seeing anything in what you say that refutes my position. To see what you consider ‘classic’ cRPGs as anything but a transitional phase in the ongoing evolution of computer gaming as a whole seems rather desperate. It’s wholly unrealistic to freeze frame time and attempt to draw and a line in the sand declaring ‘here be dragons’ over anything that doesn’t conform to a very narrow set of criteria as to what makes a cRPG, or continues to be. The very term itself ‘Role’ ‘Play’ ‘Game’ pretty much outlines the core elements necessary to complete the ensemble. Adding the word ‘Computer’ before it doesn’t alter the meaning of the other 3 substantially. That you can’t or rather won’t view a title like GTA IV as a cRPG has nothing to do with it being a ‘Role’ ‘Playing’ ‘Game’ and everything to do with it’s simple lack of adherence to gaming protocols from 10 years ago. If John Carmack had come up with the quake 3D engine back in 1987 instead of 1996 do you think Fallout and Baldurs gate would of still have turned out the way they did? Technological constraints impact game design every step of the way.

  42. James G says:

    I don’t think devlock is suggesting that one should ‘freeze time’ but that the turn based mechanic behind games like Fallout, or the pseudo-turn based mechanic of Baldurs’ Gate, NWN, KOTOR and the like, is fundamentally different from the real-time, direct action, of Oblivion. Its also not quite right to consider the latter a progression from the former, after all, Baldurs’ gate was released in 1998, five years after Doom.

    To suggest that a turn based mechanic is transitory, and thus dated, seems comparable to suggesting that the bike was a transitory phase in the development of the car. Some people like the occasional cycle ride, and a car journey just isn’t the same thing.

  43. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    Yes, I concur with James. There’s nothing wrong with using different means to achieve different ends.

    Turn-based, or slower-paced real time, action tends to give one more time to think and react. Not all games, or roleplaying games, require complete visual immersion. Indeed, the effect of emotional immersion can be just as strong, or stronger, when imagination fills in blanks left by lack of visual or audible information.

    It’s good that one can read Planescape at one’s leisure, as quickly or as slowly as one wishes.

    To put it this way: GTA IV is a fine game to play, and an excellent example of a role-playing game in its own, unmarketed right. But some people still want to play Baldur’s Gate as it is, not “Baldur’s Gate as reimagined through modern technology.” Even people who didn’t grow up with top-down RPGs can find the charm of them–it’s not all nostalgia, you know.

    (It’s helpful to be able to see all around your avatar, and not rely entirely on the character’s own limited field of vision, when carrying out a battle plan, after all. There’s also art design and perspective aesthetic appeal to it, too.)

    If all modern roleplaying games were first-person, it’d be a very boring genre, honestly. It’s not as though the genre has to be played in only one perspective. That’s something both pro-first-person and pro-top-down-isometric videogame roleplayers should take to heart.

  44. Kadayi says:

    James, Dorian

    I was merely pointing out the flaws in Devlocks assertion that particular mechanical game aspects are integral in deciding what is, or isn’t an RPG. I don’t believe any of us are in disagreement in that respect, its clear both of you acknowledge that RPGs are not tied solely to turn based play.

    I think there’s some misunderstanding going on, so I’ll try and clarify as best I can where I’m coming from (though I’m rather tired). It’s fair to say that the technological canvas of the modern game space (what you see, that is not interface) is far broader than it was 10 years ago. Back then 3D gaming was in its infancy (Doom was 2.5D rather than true 3D) and complex RPG games like Fallout & Baldurs gate took their lead (the genetic code as such) from the game mechanics of the Pen & Paper games, as a means to make determinations as to event resolution. What you saw on the game screen had very little to do with what occurred under the hood in terms of that resolution. You’d click on your attack button on the Orc in the game space, and receive a nice animation, meanwhile under the hood the computer looked at you characters statistics, weapons etc compared them to the Orcs, then threw in a bit of randomness to determine whether you hit or missed, just as if you were sat around a friends house with your character sheet and some dice. Statistics determined what you could carry, what you could see, how fast you could run, and very little of it ever had anything to do with the visual game space itself.

    With the advent of true 3D with the Quake Engine the canvas of game space was irrevocably altered. Suddenly it became possible to embed game mechanics directly into the game space. Initially this was pretty rudimentary stuff, but with the advent of advanced physics engines such as Havok and more recently Euphoria, and AI advances it’s become possible to put more and more mechanics into the game space without compromising game depth. The greater the degree you reduce the necessity on an interface, the greater the degree of player immersion you can generate, which is one of PC gamings strengths.

    Now we have cars, should we no longer walk or take the bike? Of course not, it would make for a very boring life if we all chose to do that. All that is important is that pedestrians, cyclists and car drivers recognize each other and acknowledge each is a means from getting from A to B. Ultimately it’s not the method that matters, but the destination.

    Personally I’m an enthusiast for ‘whats next’ when it comes to gaming advances. GTA IV is a great game, but already I’m excited for what comes next in terms of technology, gameplay, storyline. Which developers going to raise the bar higher, and how are they going to do it? I acknowledge the legacy of what’s happened before, and often revisit it in order to reframe my views on current advances critically, but ultimately I’m a progressive, rather than someone trying to celebrate the past. I leave that to others.