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Extra Credits: Season 4, Ep. 3 - Western & Japanese RPGs (part 1)

TubeTube Working As IntendedAdministrator, ClubPA admin
edited March 2012 in The Penny Arcade Hub

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  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Super Moderator, Moderator mod
    I'm pretty excited about this one. I think a lot of dramas in the game community - like some of the current carrying-on about ME3 - could be avoided if we had a better and more robust sense of genre labels and what things like "role-playing" actually mean.

  • Zachary AmaranthZachary Amaranth Registered User regular
    Yeah, that's great, except the examples given kind of break down. I mean, Mass Effect was hyped as a shooter and action game as well as an RPG, and leveling has never been the sole definition of an RPG even by standards of video games, so simply having leveling in CoD doesn't create this dilemma.

    There are a lot of underlying similarities between JRPGs and WRPGs. I think the "which is better" concept tends to fall down to the superficial quite a bit, but the core elements of genre aren't really all that much different.

  • TofystedethTofystedeth veni, veneri, vamoosi Registered User regular
    Not to be a grump but could you edit the thread title to add that this is Extra Credits? It's mostly apparent you remember what show is in what season and does what kind of story, but still.

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  • TubeTube Working As Intended Administrator, ClubPA admin
    sweep the floors Tube, wash the dishes Tube...

  • Iron WeaselIron Weasel Dillon! You son of a bitch!Registered User regular
    Don't despair, Tube - one day you'll be a princess!

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  • HenroidHenroid Nobody Nowhere fastRegistered User regular
    sweep the floors Tube, wash the dishes Tube...

    "Stop infracting me for not liking your favorite video games, Tube!"

    So this episode is pretty much my most favorite one in a while. Over the last few years in the industry thread in G&T, we occasionally bring up the topic of the misuse of "genre" to describe video games and such. I think at the end of the day it's just as the video said - we stick to terms and phrases because it's all we know for the moment. The problem is, to instill a change in replacing those terms and phrases it's going to take a lot of work and time. And it's not getting any easier, in some ironic way, with video games being more acceptable throughout multiple layers of society / age groups. So, hey, we may be fucking stuck with these terms.

    As for the "JRPG" vs. "western RPG" specifics, they tapped onto the idea pretty much of why we know they're different. Though, there's been varying articles over the years about Japanese design differing from North American design differing from Eastern European design (they all have their own hitches).

    I'm actually tempted at the moment to write an email to the EC crew to ask them if there's a possibility of an episode (or running mini-series) on Eastern European game design and how it stands out from the other two regions above.

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  • bluejay573bluejay573 Registered User new member
    While I recognize and enjoy the unique aesthetics that many Easter European RPG's have, I think by the very premise discussed in this episode (that of core user experience) Eastern European RPG's and 'Western' RPG's are similar.

    ...loved "The Witcher" games by the way.

  • HenroidHenroid Nobody Nowhere fastRegistered User regular
    Oh, I just meant video games as a whole, not just RPGs.

    "Ultima Online Pre-Trammel is the perfect example of why libertarians are full of shit."
    - @Ludious
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  • AurichAurich Registered User regular
    As soon as he started talking about the way we categorize games into their genres, I remembered how frustrated I got when everyone would talk about Bioshock and call it an FPS. It seems so obvious to me that it's a survival horror game, but the conversation was always pretty short: "Uh, let's see, it's played in the first person and you shoot." We don't call those first few Resident Evil games Third-Person Shooters, amirite?

  • TubeTube Working As Intended Administrator, ClubPA admin
    I think the problem is that Bioshock is manifestly not a survival horror game.

  • RMS OceanicRMS Oceanic Registered User regular
    I think the problem is that Bioshock is manifestly not a survival horror game.

    At least, it ceases to be by the time you leave Neptune's Bounty.

  • hadokenhadoken Registered User regular
    edited March 2012
    I think the major problem with classifying complex games is that you can never capture the full complexity of the game with genre identification. I consider some games to be sort of like people in that it is difficult to depict them with a simple label. So yeah, genres are lame.

    hadoken on
  • AurichAurich Registered User regular
    I think the problem is that Bioshock is manifestly not a survival horror game.

    Sure it is! You've got a constant scarcity of resources. You've got these Big Daddies stomping around full of things you need, and the only thing stopping you from taking them is the fact that you may not even survive the fight. You've got ultra dramatic lighting and sound everywhere you go, clearly designed to creep you out and give you pause. Everyone you meet is either a screaming mutated madman or a mutated girl monster. And there's ghosts!
    The survival and the horror elements go away if you're playing the game on a difficulty that is not challenging, but.. why would you do that?

  • OptyOpty Registered User regular
    The vitachambers or whatever they were completely kill any survival/horror aspect the game could have. I can't remember if you could turn those off or not but if you could then doing so (and being on a higher difficulty) would be the only way I could see you putting the game in that category.

  • piLpiL Registered User regular
    hadoken wrote: »
    I think the major problem with classifying complex games is that you can never capture the full complexity of the game with genre identification. I consider some games to be sort of like people in that it is difficult to depict them with a simple label. So yeah, genres are lame.

    The entire reason genres exist is because humans make lump general categories as part of the way we think about the world. Genre exists precisely to avoid trying to "capture the full complexity".

    Dogs and Cats are similar in ways that lump them into a category called mammals, while lizards turtles get lumped into reptiles. Of course early birds and dinosaurs muddy this water.

    Similarly, a Lamborghini and a Corolla are similar enough to each other to be called a car, as opposed to a Kawasaki Ninja or a Honda XR650L, which are motorcycles.

    This is how we classify things in our brain, but despite the similarities, we know that dogs and turtles are very unlike dandelions and cars and motorcycles are certainly unlike cottages.

  • RoyceSraphimRoyceSraphim Registered User regular
    edited March 2012
    I was so happy with this when they walked about why we play games as the basis for the genre. I replayed the first combat level of Human Revolution several times over after I beat it, I did not do that with MW3, they bring out different emotions and take me to different places.

    If game were marketed more on the itch they scratched rather than these vauge terms, they would be easier to buy. Far Cry 2 and GTA games scratch a similar itch for me; an itch to explore an open world sandbox and piece together my money and ammo to take down a target. Now, both these games have flaws that make them a bother to play in the long term but because I have that itch for that specific type gameplay, those flaws become bonuses.

    Relic's Dawn of War 2 series and Company of heroes scratch a different type of itch compared to Starcraft and Supreme commander, to the point that I would call them different genres.

    RoyceSraphim on
  • AurichAurich Registered User regular
    Opty wrote: »
    The vitachambers or whatever they were completely kill any survival/horror aspect the game could have. I can't remember if you could turn those off or not but if you could then doing so (and being on a higher difficulty) would be the only way I could see you putting the game in that category.

    The vitachambers were a late addition to the game, because it's really easy to get killed and someone made the call that it was so frustrating and oppressive that people weren't having fun. It is still assumed when you're playing that you don't want to die, so I don't think that can really stop the game from being survival/horror. Ammunition and healing items are still deliberately scarce, the player is certainly vulnerable, and sometimes being successful means avoiding combat. Don't forget the screaming mutant madmen and the ghosts!

  • RMS OceanicRMS Oceanic Registered User regular
    Aurich wrote: »
    Opty wrote: »
    The vitachambers or whatever they were completely kill any survival/horror aspect the game could have. I can't remember if you could turn those off or not but if you could then doing so (and being on a higher difficulty) would be the only way I could see you putting the game in that category.

    The vitachambers were a late addition to the game, because it's really easy to get killed and someone made the call that it was so frustrating and oppressive that people weren't having fun. It is still assumed when you're playing that you don't want to die, so I don't think that can really stop the game from being survival/horror. Ammunition and healing items are still deliberately scarce, the player is certainly vulnerable, and sometimes being successful means avoiding combat. Don't forget the screaming mutant madmen and the ghosts!

    Are you sure they were a late addition? Because Bioshock is a Spiritual Successor to System Shock 2, and it had respawn points. Although aboard the Von Braun you actually had to pay to use them, so if you had no money then you died.

  • OptyOpty Registered User regular
    The vitachambers made dying not matter. You could melee down a Big Daddy because hey, if you die you just pop out of a chamber and then you can run and keep beating on the already wounded enemy.

  • DedwrekkaDedwrekka What Would Nyarlathotep Do? Registered User regular
    Yeah, that's great, except the examples given kind of break down. I mean, Mass Effect was hyped as a shooter and action game as well as an RPG, and leveling has never been the sole definition of an RPG even by standards of video games, so simply having leveling in CoD doesn't create this dilemma.
    The point is that our concept of labels and categories for games is borked. A lot of our RPGs have shooter elements (Mass Effect), our shooters have RPG elements (Bioshock), and our Puzzle Games tend to be all over the map. Our labels for what things are don't really work because mechanics that define those categories bleed into one another. So, yes, on the topic they're talking about, the leveling, rewards and advancement most common in RPGs being featured in CoD is an excellent example. And Halo/Gears/CoD type FPS mechanics showing up in Bioshock and Mass Effect are very much relevant.

    The music industry has the same problem, but their "solution" is to add a whole ton of qualifiers in front of the genre. So you have Punk Rock, Indie Rock, Heavy Metal, Speed Metal, Death Metal, Pop, Pop Rock, ect. If the games industry goes this way we might be calling Bioshock a FPS RPG Puzzle Game.
    There are a lot of underlying similarities between JRPGs and WRPGs. I think the "which is better" concept tends to fall down to the superficial quite a bit, but the core elements of genre aren't really all that much different.
    Any side by side comparison between a western and JRPG is going to show you that both the mechanics and style of play are very different, but similar with other games within their own region.

  • AurichAurich Registered User regular
    I read an interview in an EGM where one of the questions was basically "Vitachambers: WTF?" and he said that one of the big devs panic'd and added it near release. No matter what genre you call it, everyone agrees that the vitachambers were BS.

  • IvarIvar Registered User regular
    Is calling Bioshock an FPS/RPG/Puzzle a bad thing? It seems more descriptive of the gameplay than just FPS.

  • DedwrekkaDedwrekka What Would Nyarlathotep Do? Registered User regular
    Ivar wrote: »
    Is calling Bioshock an FPS/RPG/Puzzle a bad thing? It seems more descriptive of the gameplay than just FPS.

    Once the category descriptions become longer than the title of the thing you're categorizing, you start to realize that the category system just doesn't work.

    I will say though that regionalizing RPGs does make some sense, but it's just more of the same really bad system of categorizing.

  • Twenty SidedTwenty Sided Registered User regular
    edited March 2012
    Aurich wrote: »
    Opty wrote: »
    The vitachambers or whatever they were completely kill any survival/horror aspect the game could have. I can't remember if you could turn those off or not but if you could then doing so (and being on a higher difficulty) would be the only way I could see you putting the game in that category.

    The vitachambers were a late addition to the game, because it's really easy to get killed and someone made the call that it was so frustrating and oppressive that people weren't having fun. It is still assumed when you're playing that you don't want to die, so I don't think that can really stop the game from being survival/horror. Ammunition and healing items are still deliberately scarce, the player is certainly vulnerable, and sometimes being successful means avoiding combat. Don't forget the screaming mutant madmen and the ghosts!

    Are you sure they were a late addition? Because Bioshock is a Spiritual Successor to System Shock 2, and it had respawn points. Although aboard the Von Braun you actually had to pay to use them, so if you had no money then you died.

    The cost of those respawn points is 5 nanites, which is a slap-on-the-wrist. You get way more than that from looting and just killing randomly spawned zombies. It's not like SS2 was any better about the respawning, but people like to selectively forget that. (Congratulations, you found a cache of a 100 nanites in the early game, death is now no longer an issue.)

    And it's not like the lack of respawn points keep you from just reloading. So the threat-of-death thing is illusory anyway.

    The other thing that about Bioshock is that killing Big Daddies wasn't hard. If you played a good guy, you got the plasmid for controlling them fairly early in the game. You then pitted your Big Daddy against one escorting a Little Sister. You got to loot two Daddies and a Little Sister after the fight.

    Why would you allow the players to control the monster they're supposed to be afraid of? This is a bigger derp decision than the Vita Chambers ever were.

    Twenty Sided on
  • IvarIvar Registered User regular
    Dedwrekka wrote: »
    Ivar wrote: »
    Is calling Bioshock an FPS/RPG/Puzzle a bad thing? It seems more descriptive of the gameplay than just FPS.

    Once the category descriptions become longer than the title of the thing you're categorizing, you start to realize that the category system just doesn't work.

    I will say though that regionalizing RPGs does make some sense, but it's just more of the same really bad system of categorizing.

    I agree with you on the categories. I was thinking more of a short description of the game than what shelf to put it on.

  • RoyceSraphimRoyceSraphim Registered User regular
    Ivar wrote: »
    Dedwrekka wrote: »
    Ivar wrote: »
    Is calling Bioshock an FPS/RPG/Puzzle a bad thing? It seems more descriptive of the gameplay than just FPS.

    Once the category descriptions become longer than the title of the thing you're categorizing, you start to realize that the category system just doesn't work.

    I will say though that regionalizing RPGs does make some sense, but it's just more of the same really bad system of categorizing.

    I agree with you on the categories. I was thinking more of a short description of the game than what shelf to put it on.

    Categories are also a problem when you have games like Nethack, Spacer Rangers, or Star Traders where the gameplay is made up of creating a new character and seeing how long you can go before you are totally borked. This concept is really fun but is hard to solidify into a genre.

  • IvarIvar Registered User regular
    Ivar wrote: »
    Dedwrekka wrote: »
    Ivar wrote: »
    Is calling Bioshock an FPS/RPG/Puzzle a bad thing? It seems more descriptive of the gameplay than just FPS.

    Once the category descriptions become longer than the title of the thing you're categorizing, you start to realize that the category system just doesn't work.

    I will say though that regionalizing RPGs does make some sense, but it's just more of the same really bad system of categorizing.

    I agree with you on the categories. I was thinking more of a short description of the game than what shelf to put it on.

    Categories are also a problem when you have games like Nethack, Spacer Rangers, or Star Traders where the gameplay is made up of creating a new character and seeing how long you can go before you are totally borked. This concept is really fun but is hard to solidify into a genre.

    I haven't played Space Rangers or Star Traders, but in the case of Nethack, the category is "roguelike".

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