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A Universal Definition of RPGs

Discussion in 'News & Content Feedback' started by VentilatorOfDoom, Mar 10, 2011.

  1. VentilatorOfDoom RPG Codex Staff

    VentilatorOfDoom
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    An Universal Definition of RPGs

    <p>What is an RPG? The eternal question. Sinister design, makers of this Telepath RPG thingie, tackle the question and try to come up with a univeral definition. <a href="http://sinisterdesign.net/?p=785" target="_blank">A really good read</a>.</p>
    <blockquote>
    <p><strong>Choices With Consequences</strong>

    RPGs are also about making consequential choices. This dovetails with our conclusion above, though this may not be entirely apparent at first. There are some choices that obviously affect a character&rsquo;s development in all RPGs, whether those be exploring, making tactical decisions to win battles, selectively upgrading gear, collecting loot, or distributing stat points.

    But upgrading, winning fights, and collecting new items to gain power over the course of the game are features of many games that are absolutely not RPGs. Half Life (along with just about every FPS before and since) features a story arc in which the player grows more powerful through the collection of new weapons (and, consequently, abilities). That isn&rsquo;t enough.

    What makes these events significant in an RPG is that they come about through consequential choices made by the player. In turn, the choices themselves are made consequential largely through scarcity and the need for specialization. Want to pump all your character points into strength? You&rsquo;re going to have to forego the benefits of putting those points elsewhere. Want to create a wizard character? You&rsquo;re going to have to make significant trade-offs to make that happen.

    Those aren&rsquo;t choices you see in Half Life. You&rsquo;re never asked to give up your MP5 to get the Gauss Gun. You&rsquo;ll never face a choice like deciding whether to take a permanent hit point loss in order to learn new offensive abilities. The player is never required to specialize his character in any respect. Everything the player character finds, he instantly masters.

    These same limitations hold true for party-based RPGs as well. Characters in the party are created with different strengths and weaknesses. Though the party may be well balanced, it will be well balanced because the different attributes of the party complement one another, not because the party members are all Gordon Freeman do-everything behemoths.

    Even RPGs with rigid character progressions still enforce scarcity and specialization throughout the game by forcing the player to manage limited resources. Most strategy RPGs, for instance, only give experience points on a character-by-character basis, thereby forcing the player to make constant trade-offs between risking the safety of weaker characters and allowing them to fall behind relative to the development of the other characters.

    Consequential choices can go well beyond these sorts of pedestrian considerations, of course, and that&rsquo;s where the RPG genre really shines. Even in areas where choices seemingly have no measurable impact on the development of your character&rsquo;s stats and capabilities, a hard decision that other in-game characters remember can influence how you&rsquo;re viewed by others in that world, affect the state of your party, and even change your character&rsquo;s story.

    Sadly, I can&rsquo;t include this last point in the definition of the RPG. Player-driven character development in a qualitative, non-stat-based way is far from universal in the genre. And this article is descriptive, not normative: it seeks to see RPGs as they are, not as they should be. That second, perhaps greater, task will have to wait for another day.</p>
    </blockquote>
    <p><em><strong>A game is a computer RPG if it features player-driven development of a persistent character or characters via the making of consequential choices.</strong></em></p>
    <p> </p>
    <p>That doesn't sound too bad. Thoughts?<strong>
    </strong></p>
    <p> </p>
    <p>Spotted at: <a href="http://www.gamebanshee.com/news/101899-a-universal-definition-of-rpgs.html">Gamebanshee</a></p>
     
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  2. alkeides Arcane Patron

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    A Universal, not an.
     
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  3. Baddygoal Educated

    Baddygoal
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    Interesting article, but I'll stick to the definition of

    If
    player skill =/= character skill
    then
    RPG!
     
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  4. maverick Cipher Patron

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    Really? Geez, I gotta go back to english classes...

    By the way, RPG need stats. IMHO.
     
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  5. Dr. Doom Educated

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  6. VentilatorOfDoom RPG Codex Staff

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    Go fuck yourselves. I'm german and I say universal, not yuniversal. So in the future I will write "an universal" whenever the fuck I like.
     
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  7. Black Bart Charley Scholar

    Black Bart Charley
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    Decent effort.
    Breaks down under the broad definition and the attempted quantization. Makes everything RPG.

    You dont define RPG by one statement but by multiple fleeting scales (or at least some form of rating like bad,ok,good) of the minimal fundamental components. Of course the included components would wary from dude to dude and the rating becomes subjective but it always is.

    Start with an agent running down a straight line from start to finish. You have 1 stat, speed, and the game grants you points for running faster or slower. Minimal RPG.

    Three fundamental scales:
    Stats (character skill is actually a better term, less confusing)
    CnC (points for being fast)
    Complexity (this rates not only the actually quantity but also quality, eg if the stats actually interlocks with cnc ingame)

    From here on, you break down those three in subcategories, especially CnC needs that because you have to describe what is good CnC and what is not. For example the ending slides in Fallout are bad CnC.

    Is Linerunner an RPG? Dunno, but here is how it scales:

    Stats - good, because you do nothing but press 1 button, everything else is defined by stats
    CnC - bad, because CnC is a psychologically perceived characteristic, in reality its just variables changing, if-then, just giving points is not good enough for me
    Complexity - bad, there is not much stats to speak of even while they always fully interact with CnC

    Is Fallout an RPG? Well, I would have to make a full analysis of the game to rate it but here is a preview:

    Chara skill - good, of course there is that loophole with chara intelligence and its utilization in-game but otherwise most of the interaction is not reliant on your physical skills
    CnC - ok, i rate it ok and not bad, because of the overall usage of CnC in the gaming history which is meager, true CnC would be different locations, different story, different everything
    Complexity - bad, while it has lots of numbers, skills and so on, the implementation is often broken balance- and utilization-wise

    See, Fallout is meh.
     
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  8. Radisshu Prophet

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    Even though I'm a storyfag I think the best and least fuzzy definition of what an RPG is pretty mondblutian
     
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  9. Dorf Novice

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    I still like my idea of having a sliding scale. Where 10 is "EPIC RGP!" and 1 is "NOT RGP!". I then think most people would be able to agree where most games fall on this scale.
     
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  10. Jaesun Fabulous Moderator

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    Hopefully we can use this new criteria as to what games are covered here on the prestigious RPG Codex. :obviously:
     
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  11. DragoFireheart all caps, rainbow colors, SOMETHING.

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    Should be called "Choice and Sacrifice" instead of "choice and consequence".

    You make a choice and you sacrifice something else in it's stead.

    EX: You save the village, but not have less resources to fight the demon spawn that were attacking it. You could let the village die to save resources, but now the demon spawn just slaughters dozens of innocents due to your choice.

    Choice and Sacrifice.
     
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  12. Yeesh Magister

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    The last part (via the making of consequential choices) is redundant and misleading. If there is meaningful "player-driven development of a persistent character", then obviously the player's choices in developing the character are consequential; if they weren't, you couldn't call the process "player-driven". Nor could you if there were no choices for the player to make. So how is that sentence different from the one below?

    It seems to me that the first definition is just trying to shoehorn in the words "choice" and "consequence", without ascribing to them their usual definitions in the context of an RPG discussion (aka C&C).
     
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  13. easychord Scholar

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    Close, but RPGs are all about Choices with Concubines.
     
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  14. torpid Liturgist

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    I agree with Yeesh: this definition's emphasis on consequential choices seems forced. Using an FPS counterexample is a poor choice, too, since I could point to another FPS, Halo, and use the same logic to say that it also forces you to make consequential choices, as you can't carry every weapon.

    To me, it's pretty simple. An RPG is about personalizing a character, or a mostly fixed number of characters -- contrary to strategy games, where you're adding units, or using different units with little to no personalized attributes between missions -- by developing attributes, skills or other stats that function independently of the player's skill.
     
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  15. Animeadam Novice

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    Wouldn't a better defination be any game that have a leveling up and experence system that determines a characters statical growth. Besides we should stop thinking of computer RPG in the same vein as real table top RPGs. Because computers have limits so saying that a computer RPGs needs to have choices (which BTW they really can't because how does list of options = free choice?). RPGs have change so much over the years from just simple dungeon crawlers to complex open world interaction experences to shitty linear fanfic written BULLSHIT (FUCK YOU BIOWARE) that we forget that really we just all playing stripped down DnD.
     
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  16. Davaris Australian Game Developers Developer

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    I liked where he was going with scarcity in game mechanics, but I was expecting him to link scarcity in with moral dilemmas and the player's desire for certain plot outcomes.

    Good article though. Its given me something to think about - managing scarcity, puts the game in games? Hmmm...
     
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  17. Yeesh Magister

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    In case anyone's curious, I've come up with the actual definition:

    A game is an RPG to the extent that its focus lies in increasing characters' capabilities through gameplay.

    Everything else is optional. Even greatly prized other features that make some games great are still not inherent to RPG-ness.
     
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  18. Shemar Educated

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    Interesting read. However the author begins by stating that a bloated definition that includes too much leads to the term losing its meaning/value and then proceeds to define RPGs with such an all encompassing definition as to include pretty much every "RPG elements" game ever created. Which leads to my own similar conclusion that the term "computer RPG" has almost no meaning whatsoever on its own, both in attempting to describe a game and as an indicator of whether a person (even a person that plays RPGs and no other games!) would be interested in such a game. For example saying "I like RPGs" is a false statement as most RPGs out there are games I would not even play for free, let alone buy.
     
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  19. potemkin Novice

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    Tamagochi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamagochi) is an RPG by this definition.

    If you don't consider the context in which the character is (story), then you're just playing The Sims or something like that. Having the context, now we can give the player an objective which is required for any game, in case of RPGs it's playing a role which can be achieved by making choices that make sense in any given situation. The character's capabilities now come into play limiting or empowering the player to make his choices. Now, we have a complete definition of RPG IMHO.
     
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  20. Topher Cipher

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    That definition immediately made me think of Zelda.
     
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  21. mondblut Arcane

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    In other words, the author believes Warhammer: Dark Omen is an RPG, whereas Megatraveller is not. Bravo, Einstein :roll:

    That's where it went all wrong. Not like JPRG developers know any better :smug:
     
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  22. Yeesh Magister

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    First, I don't know from Tamagochi. But to the extent that Tamagochi's focus is on increasing characters' capabilities through gameplay, it has RPG elements, as they say. I'm sorry if that's distatesful to you.

    Second, be a little more disciplined in your thinking. In declaring "context" to be essential so you could rule out The Sims, you've just decided that there can't be a sandbox RPG. Is that so? If you think a roguelike isn't an RPG, is that because a roguelike has nothing but a one-sentence story and no C&C? If you're not hearing me, can you give an example of a game that is not an RPG but would be an RPG if it had a story, or a better story?

    To the extent that you powered up your character, Zelda had very, very light RPG elements. I'm sorry if this is distateful to you. Powering up your character certainly wasn't the focus of the game, but that aspect of it does set Zelda apart from a game in which your character doesn't grow in power.
     
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  23. Metro Arcane Beg Auditor

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    I'm glad they mentioned scarcity. That's a mechanic that has been overlooked in even the most 'worthy' of candidates to be called RPGs.
     
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  24. ~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸-AIN'T Arcane Patron

    ~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸-AIN'T
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    Fix
     
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  25. Topher Cipher

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    As far as Zelda goes, sure Link powered up through gameplay when he acquired more hearts/weapons but then almost anything can touted as having RPG-lite mechanics. Heck even doom guy powers up as he collects new weapons.

    You'd be hard pressed to find any action/adventure games that don't increase the characters' capabilities through gameplay. Heck you might as well take the "gameplay" part out since quite frankly where else could it happen and let your definition be "any game that focuses on increasing characters' capabilities"... and that's just way too broad to be of any real use. Without something placing actual character skill above player skill I don't think the definition has any value.
     
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