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What is an RPG?

MaydayMayday Cutting edge goblin techRegistered User regular
edited December 2008 in Games and Technology
Here are my thoughts after the first wave of comments. You can read the original OP below.

The name of a genre should describe the gameplay as accurately as possible and convenient. The core gameplay element.
Allow me to repeat:

In strategy games you have to employ strategic thinking skills to win.
In racing games you need to race to win.
In shooters you have to shoot things to win.
In platformers you have to maneuver platforms to win.
In beat'em'ups you have to beat them up to win.

Simple and elegant. I agree that there are misnomers, like the adventure genre mentioned by Couscous, but I wanted to focus on RPG.

Then why is RPG such a difficult term? The name implies, after all, that you simply have to role-play to win.

What is role playing in general?
Basing on the simple example of an actor playing a role, we can easily say that playing a role means acting according to your character.
Khavall suggests that we have to employ a definition specific to the discussed subject, however.

I agree. After all you play a role of Master Chief in Halo, yet it is a shooter. You play a role of Garret the Master Thief in Thief, yet it is a sneaker. In Race Driver: GRID you play the role of a race driver, yet it is a racing game. Why? Because the CORE GAMEPLAY element in those games is, respectively, shooting, sneaking and racing.

Why isn't Diablo a role-playing game? Because the only role you can assume in this game is that of a fighter (no matter the tools he employs to fight, be it melee, bows or magic), the only thing you can do in this game is fight (traditionally, we call such games hack'n'slash). You have to FIGHT to win the game.

Why isn't Oblivion a role-playing game? Because -despite the fact that you can assume various roles in it, you can be a diplomat or a thief- the vast majority of the gameplay is still combat (even the thieves' guild quest involve mainly combat, especially in the latter part of the questline). You have to FIGHT to win the game. There probably are situations where combat is possible but not necessary- but it's the majority of the gameplay that describes the game, not separate situations.

Why aren't JRPGs role-playing games? Because, despite the fact that you take part in a story (and it can be a very good story), the only part of the game that actually requires player input is COMBAT- therefore COMBAT is the core gameplay element. You have to FIGHT to win the game.

Why is Fallout a role-playing game? Hmmmm...
Is it a shooter? No. A vast majority of situations can be handled without combat. Is it a diplomacy game? No- despite many possible diplomatic options, you can solve most situations through properly applied violence. Is it a sneaker? No, there are a few sneaky missions but they're neither prominent nor required to win.
So what do you have to do to win Fallout? You have to PLAY YOUR ROLE. YOU HAVE TO ACT ACCORDING TO THE NATURE OF YOUR CHARACTER(S). Same for Arcanum. Same for Planescape:Torment.

If there were a more specific way to describe the gameplay, it would define the genre. Of course, you could call it a fighting/sneaking/diplomacy game, but that would only be true if ALL of those elements AT ONCE were required to win.



If you are forced into a role and you don't get to change it (Halo, Thief), it's the role that defines the genre of the game. If you get choice- it is a role-playing game. If you get multiple choices but only one possile outcome- then it is a very poorly done role-playing game.


Somebody mentioned RPGs without stats. I gave it some thought and yes- it is possible. If role-playing means "acting accordingly to the nature of your character(s) we should take a closer look at what can define that nature.
-Physical attributes
-Personality
-Likes and dislikes
-Moral values
-Skills
-Past deeds

As you can see, at least one of them (past deeds) can be defined without stats. My dream RPG would employ all those elements for both the PC and NPCs (in fact, I'm preparing a detailed devplan for such a game and I'm planning to make it).



ORIGINAL OP:

I have no good way of starting this thread, so let's get to business immediately.
I wanted to discuss the notorious "what is an RPG?" question. I'll start by posting some elements of MY definition and some things I consider common misconceptions and then I'd like to hear your opinions.
I only have one request.
If you think some gameplay element is a core RPG element or you are sure that a certain game IS an RPG, please explain and post arguments. We don't need posts like "what, Xxxzzyzx is surely and RPG, gtfo!".

Before we get to the "G" part, let's define ROLE-PLAYING, as even this seems to be a misunderstood topic.
Some people think roleplaying is simply acting according to a certain theme, behaving consistently (even if it is consistency in inconsistency) or realistically, no matter what. Well, no. Let's take a look at what it looks like: UESP wiki on "roleplaying". That, my friends, is what we call cLARPING. Running around a house and breaking furniture in a cRPG isn't role-playing an asshole unless the NPC is programmed to react negatively to such behaviour. Stealing a guard armour and walking around the town isn't role-playing a guard unless you actually get to join a guard faction and patrol according to game mechanics. Otherwise you might as well turn off the PC and imagine those things yourself. (alternatively, you could be cLARPING in other games! Hey, I'm playing Need for Speed but I'm "role-playing" a kid who got the car from his dad and so I can't so much as scratch it!)

So, in order for a game to be a cRPG, the game mechanics must support the role-playing. How is that done? Well, in traditional RPGs, it is handled by the game-master with help from the game ruleset. In a cRPG, it's all about the rules. Sure, some games might have RPG elements but we can recognize an RPG game by the fact that the main focus is on designing and executing those rules.
What rules can they be?

CHOICE: yes.
While it's not necessary, a good game should give you a choice on how you want to handle the problem before you. Usually that means combat (be it melle, ranged or magical), stealth (be it assasination or sneaking) and diplomacy (persuasion, intimidation and bribing). If we are playing an adventure game, there is usually just one solution. In an RPG, you are presented with choices, and your task as the player is to choose the one option that best fits your character.

CONSEQUENCES: yes.
Well, what meaning has a choice without consequences? We all know Bioware's tricks, where you are presented with multiple dialogue options that (almost)always boil down to the same result. There's also fake choice (you can join the Fighter's guild or you can ignore it! Choice!) of course, but that's much easier to spot. If your choices (be it the choice of the PC you've built at the start or the choice of your behaviour and actions) triggers an appropriate response from the game world, you know you're on the right track to a good RPG.

STATS: yes.
One of the most important elements is basing on the PC (player character) skills and attributes to determine your options and success chance. Sure, the player skill can also be involved but if it's all there is to it, we're dealing with an action game (like Quake), a stealth game (like Thief) or a diplomacy game (haven't played one, sadly). So if you've invested character points in combat, you won't go sneaking around the castle because your lack of skill and loud chainmail will quickly have you spotted. If you've treated INT and CHA as dump stats, you will have few dialogue options and even those you get will have a lesser chance of success (ever played Fallout with INT=3?).

EXPERIENCE: no.
While character development and gaining new experiences MIGHT be an interesting gameplay element, it is by no means necessary. The jRPG crowd used to monotonous grinding will probably be shattered by this realization but let's face it- you can very well play a role based simply on the stats you've chosen at the beginning of the game. IF, however, you start with a pre-defined character (and have no option of modifying it initially), there'd better be some character development, otherwise it's not much different from games like Quake and Thief- those DID have stats after all (albeit hidden from the player).

STORY-DRIVEN: no.
Quite the opposite: the way the story develops should also be based on the role you've chosen and how well are you playing it. If there is only one path to follow, which consists of anavoidable plot points, we're dealing with a story-driven game- something like reading a book in which YOU get to choose the words used, but the story stays the same. While a good story is always welcome, in an RPG it will only be a background for what is going on. Some counterexamples are Oblivion (where every quest has just one solution), the Witcher (at the end of Chapter 1 you're thrown into prison no matter what). Again, the games coming to mind might feature RPG elements, but the main focus of the game is what counts.

VISUAL CHARACTER CUSTOMIZATION: just... no. What the hell, where did you get this idea!?

So, what to do with all those games that don't fall into the RPG category? Well, when I was a kid we used to call them by various names.
Dungeon crawler (Might and Magic, Dungeon Master)
Action-adventure (Ultima, Witcher?)
Hack and Slash (Diablo, Oblivion, Nethack (I do believe roguelike is a term regarding presentation rather than gameplay)

I'm interested in your opinion. Just please try to look at this subject with a bit of reserve and scepticism. I know some are prone to getting carried away when discussing it. OP prone to revisions.

TL;DR - some people have weird ideas about what a cRPG is.

Mayday on
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Posts

  • KorlashKorlash Registered User
    edited November 2008
    As far as I'm concerned, if it's got stats, it's an RPG.

    You can try to push the analysis of RPG very far if you want, but common usage of the label RPG now refers to all games where statistics define your performance.

    Now you've got action RPGs, turn-based RPGs, isometric RPGs... ect. But these are all still RPGs.

    Korlash on
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  • FaffelFaffel Registered User
    edited November 2008
    A miserable little pile of experience and dialogue.

    Faffel on
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  • IncenjucarIncenjucar Audio Game Developer Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    "RPG" means different things in different mediums and contexts, much like the word "fly." They are essentially different words. Don't confuse them just because they look the same.

    Incenjucar on
  • UltrachristUltrachrist Registered User
    edited November 2008
    An RPG is a game with an emphasis on character building.

    Ultrachrist on
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  • KorlashKorlash Registered User
    edited November 2008
    I love how the OP posted a long analysis and we're all replying with a few sentences.

    But I think there's a good consensus on what an RPG is right now.

    Korlash on
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  • LewiePLewieP Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    I think it is a little more than just stats and character building,although that is one of the biggest components of what makes an RPG.

    I think you also need some world rules. Stuff like economics/markets, elements, class, species, levelling. Some sort of governing rules that are the framework that the stats and character building are based on. Everything from Earthbound to Fallout 3 have this kind of thing.

    LewieP on
  • MaydayMayday Cutting edge goblin tech Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Korlash wrote: »
    As far as I'm concerned, if it's got stats, it's an RPG.
    Civilization games have stats. Need for Speed games have stats.
    Korlash wrote: »
    Now you've got action RPGs, turn-based RPGs, isometric RPGs... ect. But these are all still RPGs.
    I really thought we're beyond the point where the employed camera view defines the genre (like the good old days of calling Tomb Rider a TPP game).

    Mayday on
  • SchideSchide Yeoh! Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    I was going to mention my personal definition of an RPG being a game that has characters that level up via experience in some manner, but then I noticed you were pretty much only talking about SRPGs in the OP so I stopped caring.

    Not enough to not post, but enough to stop thinking about it.

    Schide on
  • LurkLurk Registered User
    edited November 2008
    The issue with creating proper cRPGs is that they took too much money and work for a niche audience. Back in the golden era of RPGs where you had baldur's gate and planescape - it was nearly all text (with voice acting for important bits) and the graphics were simple. Now-a-days, the standards have risen so much that the only game I think that's coming out in this manner is Dragon Age and it oozes generic.

    Lurk on
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  • MaydayMayday Cutting edge goblin tech Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Yep. Focusing on presentation instead of gameplay is a common sin among developers, but in no other case has it backfired as strong as in the RPG genre.

    Mayday on
  • Evil MultifariousEvil Multifarious Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Faffel wrote: »
    A miserable little pile of experience and dialogue.

    hahahaha.

    Evil Multifarious on
    Inquisitor wrote: »
    I fucking hate you Canadians.
  • PeewiPeewi Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Korlash wrote: »
    As far as I'm concerned, if it's got stats, it's an RPG.

    You can try to push the analysis of RPG very far if you want, but common usage of the label RPG now refers to all games where statistics define your performance.

    Now you've got action RPGs, turn-based RPGs, isometric RPGs... ect. But these are all still RPGs.

    That's how I see it, too. I think that D&D is a big part of the reason why I think RPG=stats.

    Peewi on
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  • MaydayMayday Cutting edge goblin tech Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Like I've said, Civ has stats, NFS has stats, hell, even pure action games have stats that define the power of a weapon.

    Mayday on
  • MumblyfishMumblyfish Registered User
    edited November 2008
    I'd love to play an RPG without stats. It's almost the year 2009; surely we have the means to move away from character sheets and magically imbued swords of Focus: Decreased recast timer on one of your hundred identical skills (set bonus).

    Mumblyfish on
  • Dr SnofeldDr Snofeld Registered User
    edited November 2008
    Faffel wrote: »
    A miserable little pile of experience and dialogue.

    hahahaha.

    Damn, he beat me to it.

    Dr Snofeld on
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  • lowlylowlycooklowlylowlycook Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Mayday wrote: »
    (I do believe roguelike is a term regarding presentation rather than gameplay)


    TL;DR - some people have weird ideas about what a cRPG is.

    I'm pretty sure that this part is wrong.

    As for the rest I think you are closer to defining RPGs that you like than an honest definition of an RPG.

    lowlylowlycook on
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  • KiithKiith Registered User
    edited November 2008
    RPG, or rocket-propelled grenade, is any hand-held, shoulder-launched anti-tank weapons capable of firing an unguided rocket equipped with an explosive warhead.

    Kiith on
    The very existense of flame throwers proves that at sometime, somewhere, someone said to themselves "I want to set those people over there on fire, but i'm just not close enough to get the job done."
  • CouscousCouscous Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Kiith wrote: »
    RPG, or rocket-propelled grenade, is any hand-held, shoulder-launched anti-tank weapons capable of firing an unguided rocket equipped with an explosive warhead.

    Super Mario RPG, of course, is an RPG that shoots Mario.

    Couscous on
  • PeewiPeewi Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Kiith wrote: »
    RPG, or rocket-propelled grenade, is any hand-held, shoulder-launched anti-tank weapons capable of firing an unguided rocket equipped with an explosive warhead.

    I was considering making that joke, but decided not to, because it'd just look stupid.

    Peewi on
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  • Mortal SkyMortal Sky queer punk hedge witchRegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Kiith wrote: »
    RPG, or rocket-propelled grenade, is any hand-held, shoulder-launched anti-tank weapons capable of firing an unguided rocket equipped with an explosive warhead.

    Funny fact: RPG does not, and never has, officially stood for rocket propelled grenade. From Wikipedia: Ручной, Ručnoj [Hand-held] Противотанковый, Protivotankovyi [Anti-Tank] Гранатомёт, Granatomjët [Grenade Launcher].

    And I may have to consider sigging Couscous for that.

    Mortal Sky on
  • KiithKiith Registered User
    edited November 2008
    Stupid like a fox!

    Kiith on
    The very existense of flame throwers proves that at sometime, somewhere, someone said to themselves "I want to set those people over there on fire, but i'm just not close enough to get the job done."
  • CouscousCouscous Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Mortal Sky wrote: »
    Kiith wrote: »
    RPG, or rocket-propelled grenade, is any hand-held, shoulder-launched anti-tank weapons capable of firing an unguided rocket equipped with an explosive warhead.

    Funny fact: RPG does not, and never has, officially stood for rocket propelled grenade. From Wikipedia: Ручной, Ručnoj [Hand-held] Противотанковый, Protivotankovyi [Anti-Tank] Гранатомёт, Granatomjët [Grenade Launcher].

    And I may have to consider sigging Couscous for that.

    I only posted that so someone else would post the photoshop of Super Mario being shot out of an RPG.

    Couscous on
  • randombattlerandombattle Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    An RPG is a game with an emphasis on character building.
    I think this is probably the best definition put out so far.

    randombattle on
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    I never asked for this!
  • Shorn Scrotum ManShorn Scrotum Man Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Kiith wrote: »
    RPG, or rocket-propelled grenade, is any hand-held, shoulder-launched anti-tank weapons capable of firing an unguided rocket equipped with an explosive warhead.

    I came into the thread for this.

    Super Mario RPG only made it better

    Shorn Scrotum Man on
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  • AroducAroduc regular
    edited November 2008
    Pigeon hole getto!

    Aroduc on
  • LoveIsUnityLoveIsUnity Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Peewi wrote: »
    Kiith wrote: »
    RPG, or rocket-propelled grenade, is any hand-held, shoulder-launched anti-tank weapons capable of firing an unguided rocket equipped with an explosive warhead.

    I was considering making that joke, but decided not to, because it'd just look stupid.

    You were right not to; it does look stupid.

    Also, like someone else pointed out above, the criteria the OP sets out heavily implies that JRPGs are not, in fact, RPGs. I'm not sure if this is an intended bias or if it just slipped through, but it's pretty fucked up to marginalize a large portion of the RPG market by creating a definition that excludes it.

    LoveIsUnity on
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  • minigunwielderminigunwielder __BANNED USERS
    edited November 2008
    So, you basically copypasta'd an arguement from your native RPGCodex in order to see how the people here would react?

    Is this going into the "Trolling other forums" thread(Also known as THE BEST THREAD EVER(PART 3))

    An RPG must have a narrative you can effect TO A MEANINGFUL DEGREE and some abstraction of player skill into character skill, this can be done with stats that are numbered, although stats that you have no fucking clue about other than "I'm pretty good with this here gun" would be best because numbers make things quantifiable quite easily, which ruins the fun quickly.

    and "I'm pretty good with this here gun" can be changed by your character's stats and established personality into, "I am awesome", "I am okay" "I am the god of revolvers" and various other things without the skill itself having been modified, which creates an unFAQable game, which is good, it helps replay value so much.

    minigunwielder on
    Your sig was too tall. -Thanatos
    delroland wrote: »
    Gumpy wrote: »
    Gumpy and Friends versus The Interesting 8

    The first post of the thread.

    That was an edited in. It originally read "Gumpy & Friends vs the Generic Bad People"
  • jothkijothki Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Are sports games where you take a player or a team through multiple seasons RPGs? I'm tempted to say yes.

    jothki on
  • minigunwielderminigunwielder __BANNED USERS
    edited November 2008
    Quiet you!

    Also, he actually did link this thread on RPGCodex.

    Wow. Laaame.

    minigunwielder on
    Your sig was too tall. -Thanatos
    delroland wrote: »
    Gumpy wrote: »
    Gumpy and Friends versus The Interesting 8

    The first post of the thread.

    That was an edited in. It originally read "Gumpy & Friends vs the Generic Bad People"
  • tbloxhamtbloxham Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    The 'RPG' is a wide church including elements without choice (JRPG) and elements where choice is king but without classic RPG gameplay (Bioshock, Deus Ex), to games where character power development is the primary tool (Diablo 2), to classic genre stereotypes like Baldurs Gate 2. Your definition simply excludes things you don't like for no reason, and is no more accurate than if I said...

    If its set in a universe where there is some kind of "western in space" them, then it's not an RPG.

    tbloxham on
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  • CouscousCouscous Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Some people think roleplaying is simply acting according to a certain theme, behaving consistently (even if it is consistency in inconsistency) or realistically, no matter what. Well, no. Let's take a look at what it looks like: UESP wiki on "roleplaying". That, my friends, is what we call cLARPING. Running around a house and breaking furniture in a cRPG isn't role-playing an asshole unless the NPC is programmed to react negatively to such behaviour. Stealing a guard armour and walking around the town isn't role-playing a guard unless you actually get to join a guard faction and patrol according to game mechanics. Otherwise you might as well turn off the PC and imagine those things yourself. (alternatively, you could be cLARPING in other games! Hey, I'm playing Need for Speed but I'm "role-playing" a kid who got the car from his dad and so I can't so much as scratch it!)
    You don't back this up with anything. You just claim that isn't roleplaying without explaining why it isn't roleplaying.

    Couscous on
  • AkimboEGAkimboEG Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    RPGs are those things nerds play on weekends. They involve papers, dice and excessive virginity.

    CRPGs are attempts to recreate some aspect of tabletop RPGs in a computer game. Examples vary - some focus on the character building aspects, others on freedom of choice, etc'...

    JRPGs are all about groups of teenagers with crazy hairdos saving the world from giant mecha-dragon-monster-botsuo.

    That is all.

    AkimboEG on
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  • AroducAroduc regular
    edited November 2008
    Roll playing game:

    808011gslfqv3.jpg

    Aroduc on
  • minigunwielderminigunwielder __BANNED USERS
    edited November 2008
    Couscous wrote: »
    Hey, I'm playing Need for Speed but I'm "role-playing" a kid who got the car from his dad and so I can't so much as scratch it!)
    You don't back this up with anything. You just claim that isn't roleplaying without explaining why it isn't roleplaying.

    Because it changes absofuckinglutely nothing within the plotline.

    minigunwielder on
    Your sig was too tall. -Thanatos
    delroland wrote: »
    Gumpy wrote: »
    Gumpy and Friends versus The Interesting 8

    The first post of the thread.

    That was an edited in. It originally read "Gumpy & Friends vs the Generic Bad People"
  • SageinaRageSageinaRage Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    AkimboEG wrote: »
    RPGs are those things nerds play on weekends. They involve papers, dice and excessive virginity.

    CRPGs are attempts to recreate some aspect of tabletop RPGs in a computer game. Examples vary - some focus on the character building aspects, others on freedom of choice, etc'...

    JRPGs are all about groups of teenagers with crazy hairdos saving the world from giant mecha-dragon-monster-botsuo.

    That is all.

    This right here. Beat me to it.

    SageinaRage on
  • FaffelFaffel Registered User
    edited November 2008
    An RPG is a game with an emphasis on character building.
    I think this is probably the best definition put out so far.

    Statiscal or physical?

    Start.

    Faffel on
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
  • minigunwielderminigunwielder __BANNED USERS
    edited November 2008
    Faffel wrote: »
    An RPG is a game with an emphasis on character building.
    I think this is probably the best definition put out so far.

    Statiscal or physical?

    Start.

    Psychological.

    minigunwielder on
    Your sig was too tall. -Thanatos
    delroland wrote: »
    Gumpy wrote: »
    Gumpy and Friends versus The Interesting 8

    The first post of the thread.

    That was an edited in. It originally read "Gumpy & Friends vs the Generic Bad People"
  • FaffelFaffel Registered User
    edited November 2008
    Peewi wrote: »
    Kiith wrote: »
    RPG, or rocket-propelled grenade, is any hand-held, shoulder-launched anti-tank weapons capable of firing an unguided rocket equipped with an explosive warhead.

    I was considering making that joke, but decided not to, because it'd just look stupid.

    You were right not to; it does look stupid.

    Also, like someone else pointed out above, the criteria the OP sets out heavily implies that JRPGs are not, in fact, RPGs. I'm not sure if this is an intended bias or if it just slipped through, but it's pretty fucked up to marginalize a large portion of the RPG market by creating a definition that excludes it.

    That's because they really aren't. They have RPG mechanics, but nothing else is roleplaying at all. You can't roleplay in JRPG's.

    Faffel on
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
  • CouscousCouscous Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Couscous wrote: »
    Hey, I'm playing Need for Speed but I'm "role-playing" a kid who got the car from his dad and so I can't so much as scratch it!)
    You don't back this up with anything. You just claim that isn't roleplaying without explaining why it isn't roleplaying.

    Because it changes absofuckinglutely nothing within the plotline.

    Why is that required for it to be roleplaying?

    Couscous on
  • CouscousCouscous Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Faffel wrote: »
    Peewi wrote: »
    Kiith wrote: »
    RPG, or rocket-propelled grenade, is any hand-held, shoulder-launched anti-tank weapons capable of firing an unguided rocket equipped with an explosive warhead.

    I was considering making that joke, but decided not to, because it'd just look stupid.

    You were right not to; it does look stupid.

    Also, like someone else pointed out above, the criteria the OP sets out heavily implies that JRPGs are not, in fact, RPGs. I'm not sure if this is an intended bias or if it just slipped through, but it's pretty fucked up to marginalize a large portion of the RPG market by creating a definition that excludes it.

    That's because they really aren't. They have RPG mechanics, but nothing else is roleplaying at all. You can't roleplay in JRPG's.
    Why is Ultima 1 considered an RPG but not Dragon Quest 1?

    Couscous on
This discussion has been closed.