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RPG Codex - Articles On Video Game Design 309

Posted by chrisd
from the writing-about-games dept.
chadeo writes "Ok all you arm chair game developers, listen up. Over at RPG Codex there are currently 4 articles, written by professionals in the industry, on RPG design. There is A Christmas lesson in CRPG design by Timothy Cain, Thoughts on RPG development by Leon Boyarsky, Hand of Gosh Darn Good Design by Chris Taylor, and Treatise on Combat to Pink Floyd by Gareth Davies. All of them are a great read, and you can join in the discussion with the authors and see how your ideas stack up. What do you think is the key to a great RPG?"
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RPG Codex - Articles On Video Game Design

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    • . . . and don't forget the Big Breasted Protagonist (preferably female).
    • Interplay. Fallout, Fallout II. Those pansies at Square couldn't even hold a candle to the makers of Fallout.
      • Ah, I guess I am.

        Yes, Fallout was a neat game, but it's bordering on sacrilege to compare it to classics that Square has produced. Is anyone going to notice Fallout's impact on the gaming scene five years from now? Are they even noticing it now?

        • Yeah, I bet they'll really remember all that spaghetti confusion-driven time-traveling bonanza on half-hour long scroll and click random-encounter combat. And the next 10 sequels. The cutscenes are starting to become less and less worth it.
  • Common sense (Score:3, Insightful)

    by anarchima (585853) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @04:23PM (#4865091) Homepage
    Most of the things these authors wrote about is common sense. Anyone who has played a few RPGs over the years will know this stuff. Not worth the read. Sorry to sound like such a pessimist/cynic/whatever...
  • Lots of blood, babes with big tits wearing skimpy leather outfits, and lot of stuff stolen from Tolkien. Just the thing for the adolescent male with no imagination and even less knowledge of world literature.
  • solid engine (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mao che minh (611166) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @04:27PM (#4865139) Journal
    I don't think that visual offerings mean much in a RPG. You also don't have to rely on truly open ended gameplay if the story line is strong and the basic gameplay offers a variety of styles and characters. Just look at Black Isle's "Baldur's Gate" game engine. Ice Wind Dale 2, which uses this engine, is about as linear as they come and looks like it came from 1997, yet, you are able to play an extremely wide variety of characters in numerous combinations successfully. You don't have to rely on the classic "fighter, cleric, thief, wizard" team.

    And of course, multiplayer options immediately add a needed dimension in today's broadband world.

    • You don't have to rely on the classic "fighter, cleric, thief, wizard" team.

      I always thought it would be cool to play the guy who runs the inn. Or the guy who sells weapons and armor, he makes a good living.
      • by gowen (141411)
        Or the guy who sells weapons and armor, he makes a good living.
        Fuck that, I wanna be the undertaker...
      • Or the guy who sells weapons and armor, he makes a good living.


        Dragon Warrior IV lets you be a merchant and set up a shop. Breath of Fire 2 did this as well, I believe. And of course, the MMORPGs mostly have this option too...
  • Its called the Universe, its propeirty (but currently being reverse engineered), 6.3 billion people playing, and things are bought with real money! The winner is the person who manages to solve teh final puzzle (why are we here?)
  • MMORPG (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Nevermore-Spoon (610798) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @04:27PM (#4865149)
    Since I am a long time die hard RPGer (Ultima series, Drangon warrior series, Elder Scrolls, kings quest) I've found that standard play-by-yourself RPG's no longer hold my interest the way MMORPG. Adding the element oe experiences and relationships with other people make RPG's Incredible
    • tried morrowind(i guess, since you say elderscrolls))?

      imho it's the best rpg'ish computer game, but it's still just rpg'ish, a real rpg needs that true dungeon master making things up.

      mmmorpg's don't hold my intrest because of the rat law. (everyone is in sewer/dungeon/forest/whatever killing rats for money/exp, this has been happening ever since legend of the red dragon on bbs's, to a point. i know it's a bit simpllified to say so and yadda yadda). i'm addicted in another online game though, with leagues and stuff, but there it's just skills, not who can kill most rats in the sewer quick.

      tried neocron the other month though.. cool looking and all, but, everyone killing rats in the sewer.

      the never winter nights singleplayer mode shouldn't even be mentioned when talking about rpg's :\
    • Re:MMORPG (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ashultz (141393)

      Having tried a couple of MMORPGs, I can't see where this comes from. They're like normal RPGs but with the story mostly removed and replaced with an endless stream of asking people how to complete your quests to go to the next level and get more skill points.

      They're more like Diablo than like Arcanum.
  • A "good" RPG needs a serious storyline. Of course, there needs to be blod and guts, the attractive women, a love story (if it's Final Fantasy), a cool beastiary, and sweet weapons, but the most significant aspect that can make-or-break an RPG is the storyline!
    • by rmadmin (532701) <rmalek@NoSPAM.homecode.org> on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @04:43PM (#4865307) Homepage
      Indeed! I've enjoyed the latest Final Fantasy games sooo much. I never could figure out why I was so drawn to them untill I went back to play the original FF on my nintendo (Yes, I still have them, yes they work). The thing I noticed was that the newer ones didn't per se have a better story line (which they do, heh), but the story line is more convincing due to all the nice graphics and such. You get a much warmer fuzzy when CGI Rinoa and Squall are hooking up than when some little 8 bit blocky guy is like 'Message box: Your hot'. Just my two cents ;-)
      • Personally I love them all, old console rpg's (replaying Chrono Trigger now) and the new stuff. I view them all as equals, though I will admit that the storyliens and dialogue are becoming more sophisticated over time.
    • I play D&D with a good DM, who
      - makes us think
      - does not litter his landscape with magical trinkets
      - awards XPs on puzzle solving and battle avoidance
      - gives us well drawn maps, diagrams, and pictures to enhance the experience.
      - is funny.
      Above all, the quests are engaging. It's like I'm writing and living a book.
  • The KEY! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by russianspy (523929) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @04:28PM (#4865154)
    How about a detailed world that is actually interesting? A story that allows you to explore that world. And massive amounts of background info for people who enjoy that stuff.
    • One word: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Wraithlyn (133796)
      Morrowind
  • Hmmm (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    What do you think is the key to a great RPG?

    Umm, one that I can beat?

  • The word fantasy. Final Fantasy, Phantasy Star, Phantasy Star Online.
  • by wondafucka (621502) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @04:31PM (#4865186) Homepage Journal
    RPG's need something that has very rarely been done: Role Playing. Less focus should be spent on combat, aquiring weapons and armor, and hit point management. Recent developments in user moded rpgs should start to let the plot, dialog, and interactivity of games shine over the same old same old. Big game houses are currently focu$ed on making a product ship with success. Small, part-time mod creators just want to make someone happy. www.mygeekdom.com [mygeekdom.com] A little corner of the net I call home.
  • by DrJAKing (94556) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @04:32PM (#4865199)
    72hr rental on a 14th century scottish castle
    24 crates beer
    3 day's worth of pizza and junk food
    7 guys who should know better
    no mobiles
    plenty coffee

    (oh, and some dice, books, figures, mats and shit).

    My point being, it's all about the people, the social dynamics,the fact that you're out-of-time. The system, and the way it's played are secondary, and arguing about that is part of the fun.

  • WHat make's an RPG for me is a large variety of cool weapons and a good leveling and advancement system.


    A variety of weapons doesn't mean 12 different types of swords (a la Neverwinter), but different weapons with different ranges and specialities (more like Fallout).


    As for leveling... after I hit level 20 in Neverwinter I quit playing. It wasn't the story that drove me to play, but the possibility of becoming more powerful and getting new spells.


    Anyway, both NWN and Fallout were great games in their own respects.

    • It's kinda both isn't it. Different things for different people. And the ability for different styles of play to focus on the aspects of the game that they enjoy most. I've been thinking a lot about this lately, for all games, not just rpg's. There's obviously no formula. Personally, it's the combination story and leveling up that drives me. The story a little more, but there is a tremendous amount of satisfaction is seeing your character(s) get to be bad asses along the way.
  • Plot (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Apreche (239272) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @04:34PM (#4865211) Homepage Journal
    An RPG is just like a movie, only there is player interaction. A lot of people play RPGs to level up, get the best items, big spells, etc. I just play to advance the plot.

    Basically RPGs don't have to do much to be good, they just have to have an interesting involving story that keeps me interested. However, there are a lot of things an RPG has to NOT do in order to not suck.

    First it has to not every make it incredibly difficult and stupidly annoying to advance the plot. Imagine watching a movie and halfway through you have to jump through hoops to see the rest. That's torture, not fun. Not to say that the whole game has to be a piece of cake. But if it is difficult to the point of frustration something is wrong.

    Second, it can't be incredibly short. I mean longer doesn't necessarily equal better. But on average RPGs that you can beat in a couple days often suck and RPGs that take a while are often much better.

    Probably the most important thing to an RPG is direction. I want to be told where the next plot is. Sure making decisions is good, and multiple endings a la chrono trigger is even better. But I don't ever want to be in a situation where I don't know where to go or what to do in order to advance the plot.

    The most important thing for an RPG to have (this is a pet peeve of mine) is short sweet and rare combat. I can't stand those games where you walk two steps and then are forced to fight horrible monsters in a 10 minute battle. And then repeat the process 100 times before getting to the next town. Combat should be rare and quick. It doesn't have to be easy, but I want to either win or lose in about 30-45 seconds tops.

    Candidates for best RPG ever?

    Chrono Trigger
    FF6
    Golden Sun
    Dragon Quest (Warrior)
    Secret of Mana
    Any Zelda Game
    Ack! Too many to name!
    • Re:Plot (Combat) (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Kintanon (65528) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @04:50PM (#4865369) Homepage Journal
      One annoying and disturbing trend I noticed recently is the "actionifying" of RPG combat. It started with FF7 in my opinion, where you had to hit the button at the right time for Cloud's sword to fire. IT was worse with Legend of Legaia (Which I liked, and I enjoyed the combat, but my wife HATED It because she plays for the storyline) and then I've seen recent games where you have to hit multiple buttons in a row during combat as dials and boxes move around and occasionally sync up. It means that instead of pressing one button a few dozen times per combat you have to dedicated a lot of though to the combat itself. This is REALLY annoying when you like to just level up and go to the next story. If you want to make a fighting game, make a fighting game. If you want to make an RPG make an RPG. There should never be a human reflex based combat portion. I'm playing the role of my character, not myself. If I have only one hand, and that hand only has one finger, I should still be able to play the game.

      Kintanon
      • One annoying and disturbing trend I noticed recently is the "actionifying" of RPG combat.

        Adding action to the game just changes it slightly. It makes it RTS + RPG instead of plain RPG. Nothing wrong with that in and of itself.

        Of course, if the story is strong enough there's no reason not to allow players to turn off the rts (or at least the rt) part of the combat, like some square games do.

        If I have only one hand, and that hand only has one finger, I should still be able to play the game.

        But surely you still could play the game..?
        Oh, you mean the computer game... sorry.
      • Shenmue

        'nuff said.
        • Shenmue is an entirely different story. I bought it, played through it, and loved it. But the story was only so-so, the pacing was terrible (HOW many hours driving a forklift?!) and it was designed to span 3 games. It's also not the same style of RPG that is being discussed here.
          It was more like Tekken, in the city, with some people you could talk to.

          Kintanon
      • It means that instead of pressing one button a few dozen times per combat you have to dedicated a lot of though to the combat itself. This is REALLY annoying when you like to just level up and go to the next story. If you want to make a fighting game, make a fighting game. If you want to make an RPG make an RPG.

        The previous poster named Zelda as a good RPG. Zelda games have _loads_ of combat, but the combat is realtime and fully integrated into the game, not breaking up the flow; it's also simple. Once you've learned the spin attack and how to use a few key weapons (hookshot, bow, boomerang) you can cope with pretty much anything. Of course, it's an advantage that Nintendo _really_ know their stuff when it comes to designing games like this. However much they pay Miyamoto, it can't be enough...

        Unfortunately, Nintendo broke this terribly when they made Super Mario RPG. They took the Mario characters and world and implemented a Final Fantasy game engine. Aargh! So Mario encounters some Koopas, and I have to go into a menu-driven turn-based combat mode to deal with them. This is MARIO. These are KOOPAS. I have a GAMEPAD in my HANDS. I know how to deal with these things, I've been playing Mario games ince 1988. Let me get on with it.

        I've been playing Baldur's Gate 2 recently, and it's starting to piss me off; I turn another corner and have to squish some more feeble monsters. Not interested. Planescape: Torment looks interesting, though, in which your own character is immortal and can restore party members by magic anyway. Freedom to get on with the story, that's the key.

    • Re:Plot (Score:4, Insightful)

      by AT (21754) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @05:00PM (#4865474)
      Advancing the plot is nice, as long as the game doesn't force you into a linear, predermined path. Open-endedness makes games so much more immersive.

      You forgot to include Ultima 7, clearly a candidate for the best ever. Or any of the Ultimas, except maybe 8 & 9.
    • Candidates for best RPG ever?

      Chrono Trigger
      FF6
      Golden Sun
      Dragon Quest (Warrior)
      Secret of Mana
      Any Zelda Game

      Your list is comprised solely of Japanese RPGs. Not that there's anything wrong with that -- I think RPG players are pretty well split between the RPG sub-genres:

      "Japanese" RPG: Very well-(and pre-)defined characters; strong, linear story; limits on free will. Examples are, well, those you listed above.

      "Western" RPG: User-defined characters; more open-ended stories; more stat-crunching; more opportunities for non-linearity. Examples include any and all of the 9 Ultima games; Neverwinter Nights; the Fallout series; the Daggerfall series.

      They're notably different styles of game design, and each sub-genre has its fans. I, personally, would like to see things move in the open-ended direction -- although not really an RPG, Grand Theft Auto 3 and Vice City both really did this right. If you could combine the depth of, say, Thief or Deus Ex with the non-linearity and persistence of GTA3, boy... you'd have one hell of a killer game.

    • The most important thing for an RPG to have (this is a pet peeve of mine) is short sweet and rare combat. I can't stand those games where you walk two steps and then are forced to fight horrible monsters in a 10 minute battle. And then repeat the process 100 times before getting to the next town. Combat should be rare and quick. It doesn't have to be easy, but I want to either win or lose in about 30-45 seconds tops


      Sounds like you're describing Suikoden. The 3rd installment just hit the PS2 a while back, but unfortunately the first two (PSX) are not easily available - #2 routinely fetches $80 on ebay.

      Alternatively, Grandia 2 (Dreamcast, PS2 version supposedly not as good) has combat that you actually look forward to because it's FUN - just like a tiny game in and of itself (really difficult to pull off). Combat is also non-random - there are only so many enemies per area entered, and you can actually see them and even try to go around them or attack them from behind to get a free hit.

      Given the normal RPG, how many of you would rather have an option to turn the battles of entirely (or get super-strong characters to make combat a 1-round hassle?)

    • Re:Plot (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Chris Carollo (251937)
      An RPG is just like a movie, only there is player interaction.

      Wow, maybe I'm just biased because I'm a developer working on a CRPG (Deus Ex 2), but I'll respectfully disagree.

      RPGs (and games in general) are the interaction. I know I don't speak for everyone in the industry, but all this striving to be like films strikes me as missing the point. We're one of the very few media at the moment that can have meaninful interaction with the player -- allow the player to develop plans, to analyse the situation and come with solutions the problem at hand, to give the player a sense of intentionality. RPGs are probably the most literate and intelligent area of gaming, and are the best suited to really delve into the power of interaction.

      If I want to be told a good plot, I'll rent a DVD or go to the theater -- they can do that better than we can. Games should be striving to challenge and involve. No sense playing to another media's strength when you've got your own.
  • As many as possible. I'm a math fiend and I don't get enough of it in my job as a software developer ;). I love lookup tables and obscure rules and love working flawed characters in a strict world.

    Which is why I loved AD&D, v2, and why with the advent of _D&D v3 I have moved on to gurps. Yes, there are cool classes. Yes, it is nice that ability scores go to 500 or whatever. But that doesn't help my gimpy thief with the 9 dexterity -- and that's his highest score. When I play D&D3, i have to mince around like a pansy as even a pinprick does 2 HP damage nowadays.

    Gurps has a chart for anything you can think of and a rule that tells exactly how to do it. There's no penalty for being a clever player (as the DM says "roll against your intelligence, dummy"), and therefore no defense for hack & slash.
  • Is the same thing that makes a good album, a good movie, a good tv series and a good book. AN INTERESTING STORY.

    I do not want to run around smacking monsters to level and collect gems.

    • No kidding. If we want to just level up, we have Progress Quest [progressquest.com] for that.

      However, because games and gamers have become more sophisticated, it's going to take an even better story to impress people nowadays. I mean, I remember when I first played Phantasy Star on the SMS years ago, I was gripped by the environment and the characters and it seemed like such a cool story at the time. But now when I fire it up in an emulator, the story seems kind of weak. Don't get me wrong, I still love the PS series, though.

      If I see another game using the tired old cliche of collecting gems/crystals/whatever and combining them to defeat some evil dude, I'm going to scream.
  • by steesefactor (563098) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @04:39PM (#4865263)
    The evolution of console rpg's would take a huge leap forward if they once and for all decided to eliminate random battles. A lot of times you just want to explore, not slog through 20 battles with same monsters every 5 steps. This is an artificial extension of game length that seriously hurts the gameplay of most console rpg's these days.
    • The other problem is that the games generally rewarded you for spending a month in the field next to your hometown killing imps, then trucking through the game at level 1 zillion.

      Final Fantasy 8 is probably my favorite in the series, as it was the first to *punish* you for doing this. The more you level up, the more the monsters around you level up. If you dawdled around killing imps for too long, it'd bite you in the ass when you run into a white dragon at the same level as you.

      You were much better off to find the thingymajoo that makes you avoid monsters altogether, and proceed through the story.
      • Except that the story was so PAINFULLY BAD that I WISHED for random battles to slow the progress! I stopped playing the game entirely when they randomly switched the bad guy for a NEW bad guy on the 4th fucking disc! It wasn't bad enough that they got lazy with the character histories, or that both the motivator (SEED founder) and the original Antagonist where also from the same place as all of the characters, they had to go and randomly swap the bad guy out for something that had NO introduction whatsoever before that point. There was no reason to believe that a larger force was behind the first bad guy at all.
        Also, you could start fighting, do nothing except store spells, flee, repeat until you had full spells, attach them to your stats and be a level 2 guy with 9999 hp and max stats of all kind. Then all of the monsters would be really weak, and you could tank through the game. It didn't remove the power leveling shortcut, it just changed the dynamics around. I give FFVIII 2 stars, both based on the fact that it had a fun subgame.

        Kintanon
    • I disagree, random combat is part of the genre for a reason. Certain games, such as Chrono Trigger pull it off without random combat, psuedo random sort of very well. But the random combat is part of the challenge. I've been just as irritated as everyone else when fighting random battles, until I realize that that's what makes the game difficult. OTOH some games go overboard, for instance Skiew of Arcadia goes too far.


      I also like the idiom of the genre where it's usually possible to find an item that stops random battles at some point in the game.


      OTOH Exploration is becoming more and more viable with the state of game graphics. Certainly you didn't have much to gain by exploring the world of Dragon Warrior.


      It all goes back to what each person likes.

    • Uhm, no. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Inoshiro (71693) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @05:39PM (#4865873) Homepage
      Your beef is not with random battles; rather, you seem to not enjoy poorly done random battles. I'm sure everyone can agree that poorly done random battles do indeed suck. You may enjoy FF Mystic-Quest style fights, where you walk up to each monster, but the drawbacks in terms of character development are rather severe.

      Random battles, when done properly, happen to allow you to go around from point A to point B without being very predictable in terms of fights, while allowing fun character leveling! If done well, you won't meet monsters too often or not often enough, and the groups of monsters will be varied.

      How do random battles give flexibitily? Since each monster need not to placed on a map, you have less forshadowing (except for boss creatures) -- this allows more time spent on map design. You also don't you have the rigid growth structure of pre-planned battles; look at the Enix RPG Illusion of Gaia -- unless you miss secrets, you will always play through the game in exactly the same way because of the battle system. Every upgrade you get has a defined ceiling, which requires you play in the same way to get them all. Boring.

      • They don't mean not random as in 'every encounter is scripted' so much as not random as in 'you can see, and avoid, random monsters on the travelling map.' For example, Lunar 1 and 2. You can avoid them if you wish. They're still randomly placed, and wandering, but you're not tooling along and suddenly BAM! You're in COMBAT!

  • A good escape... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kakos (610660) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @04:42PM (#4865301)
    The key to a good RPG is that it is a good escape. I play RPGs to escape the boring monotony of real life and get a glimpse into some other world. This is one reason why MMORPGs are so addictive. From a story point of view, they suck. You sit around and kill things all day. What is so attractive about them is that you have real people to talk with. It makes it a sort of world outside of this world. And that is what a lot of people are ultimately looking for. They are looking for a world to escape to when the real world seems too burdensome.
  • A great story (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Palshife (60519) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @04:46PM (#4865333) Homepage
    I think I enjoyed Final Fantasy VII mostly because the story was the most emphasized part. A good story offers emotional connection to the characters and the situations. In the end, it makes you more prone to play your character with actual zeal, not just go through the motions to trigger the cutscenes.

    A great RPG should have me saying "I'm gonna kill that bastard," after he offs one of the main characters. My mood should be affected by the plot.
    • I have to say, I absolutely love your sig! When I first saw it I HEY! SPIDERMAN'S ON!
    • FFVII is definitely a candidate for that, between the burning of the village and the scene with Aeris I was really worked up over killing Sephiroth. Square did an excellent job on that story. Of the new style FF's it's a toss up between VII and X for story.
      • FF7 was great. A good story, generally likable characters, the simple but flexible materia system, the minigames, etc. I had no problem blowing 8 hours at a time sitting on the couch playing that thing.

        Once I was done, I picked up FF8. I played it for about a week on and off, then forgot about it. It just wasn't the same, and didn't capture my interest nearly as much.
        • Definitely, 8 and 9 were both only "ok" 7 and 10 I put at the same level as the early ones as well as other greats like Chrono Trigger. I really like the sophistication the stories are getting now. And the simple flexible materia system was much more intuitive and entertaining than the system in 8, I really didn't like that.


          The story is really the most important part ot me, but it's followed closely by making my characters bigger and badder. Guess that's why I can still play the old games and love them even with the poor graphics (that of course looked stunning at the time ;)).

  • This [spookylibrarians.com] is what happens when you fail to make a saving throw against Tom Hanks.

    Highly recommended.

  • The greatest of the RPG's are not the ones that make the most money always. The ones that rake in the funds are the most addictive of RPG's. Especially when you talk things like EverQuest and the other mmorpg's.

    As the market becomes more flooded in the next few years, people will burn out on the addicted games and finally the demand for the better games may improve more.
  • by MORTAR_COMBAT! (589963) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @04:57PM (#4865446)
    From the article on game combat, talking about myths related to "real-time" combat systems:


    "RT is cool" - As defined by who? Don't believe the hype kiddies, and besides, as an avid RPGer, I know we have nothing to do with cool. While we're sitting in a basement rolling dice, swilling Mountain Dew and other snacks while pretending to be mighty warriors in an alternate universe, cool people are out doing lines off naked women because they can. It still puzzles me why certain RPG developers seem so intent on following trends, when their consumer base couldn't be trendy, even with a +10 Bag of Conforming to the Social Norm.


    I couldn't have put it any better with a +3 megaphone of "you are a geek".
    • Presumably the +10 bag would be to put over their heads?
    • Well, they may be geeks, but there are non-geek diehard gamers, as odd as that's going to sound. Well, perhaps geeks in denial, whatever the case may be.

      I personally LOVE real time. I'd rather have a good reflex test mixed in with a bit of strategy and a huge amount of combat variety much more so than the really shitty turn based combat that's so common in console RPGs these days.

      On the other hand, even though the interface for Neverwinter Nights appears to be real-time, it's truely not since it's just a point and click battle. And then on the far extreme other side we have Diablo II's interface which doesn't leave much for either technique or strategy, and amounts to nothing much more than being able to slam potions, level up, and equip the most powerful weapons.

      I think what it boils down to is that there isn't a perfect battle systems in ANY RPG yet, and with nobody willing to invent new ways of doing things, it may be a while yet still.
    • but there's nothing cool about doing coke.

      Fuck the hell out of the naked women, yeah, just don't do coke. Bad news.

      ok, carry on :)
  • by sckienle (588934) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @04:59PM (#4865464)

    OK, there are two. The personal interaction was always important to me. But the main aspect of any RPG which managed to keep my interests was the flexibility to allow for real freedom of action.

    For example, you run into a locked door. How about removing the hinges? Chopping the wood? Going through the transom? Digging out the mortar out around it? Way back when I was DMing the original D&D, my friends would come up with this sort of thing all the time. Of course, it meant I had to constantly be thinking. But that was the whole fun on it. It wasn't "follow the line and use the objects exactly the way we intended" play.

    Of course, that's why I didn't use the canned scenarios then, and why I don't play much RPG on the computer today.

    • Ah yes, AD&D. I once tried to play it seriously, but my friends were a bit fcked up in the head (like me usually) so it kind of involved vampires with fake teeth, immortal baby seals and naked blonde women. Hey, we were 17 back then, puberty is to blaim for that. (That ought to keep SlashChick away from me with a 45 page rant about sexism on the net. Ahem.)

      Yes well, anyways, things went like this after we gave up on one of our campaigns and started a new one:

      DM: So Seth, made a character yet?
      Me: Yeah, got her stat sheet right here.
      DM: Her? You're not another sicko playing a female character, are you?
      Two other guys playing female characters glare at DM
      DM: Anyways, stats look okay, I'll put her into my storyline.
      Friend with female char: Does his char have bigger boobs then mine?
      Only guy with male char: You people are sick in the head. Very sick.

      Of course, that was even before the game started, at which it became worse.

      DM: You slowly approach the sound of someone playing a lute, the serene sound reverbing throughout the forest...
      Friend with male char: Too quiet and I want to kill something. Do we see anyone or anything yet?
      DM: Lots of trees. Attack one of those.
      Friend with male char: Sure thing! *rolls for initiative* 20!
      DM: You headbutt the tree and knock yourself out.
      Friend with male char: I hate you.

      Or...

      DM: Okay, so you approach the sound of the lute and see a woodsman sitting on the ground, surrounded by various animals...
      Friend with cleric: I cast detect evil, do I sense anything?
      DM: The woodsman is okay, the bird on his right shoulder is more vile then Satan himself.
      Me with cleric: I attack the bird with my mace!
      DM: I was kidding you sick fuck!
      Me: Who cares, I'll attack it anyways.
      DM: Phacia (my char) is now chaotic evil. You got the element of surprise so roll for hitting the damn bird.
      Me: Er... A four?
      DM: You bloody miss the bird by 20 cm to the left.
      Friend with male char: Isn't that where the woodsman's head was at?
      DM: Er, yes, wel... Roll for damage then.
      Me: A six, max damage on the back of his head?
      DM: Damn you all to hell. You kill the woodsman!

      Ah yes, those were the times.. Wish someone around here played some truely serious AD&D. I ran away screaming in agony when they suggested DBZ AD&D crossovers, so I've been without AD&D ever since then. Anyways, to make this post seems even remotely on topic, the worst thing about most RPGs on computers I played is the "toughening" of it all. Really, if you want to make battles harder, make it harder in a realistic way, not just by flinging more grunts/monsters at the main party. Also, avoid gaping plot holes like how on earth some old nearly disabled lady manages to get from town A to town B before you while you had to cross two dungeons, a cavern with really deep pitfalls, molten lava and a name involving a homonym for "doom", "evil" or "horror", fight 30 battles without saving and a boss battle in the end. Seriously, did that old lady know of a shortcut or something?

  • What do you think is the key to a great RPG?

    The key is to not be on a computer. No computer can match the flexibility and resourcefulness of a real, live, flesh-and-blood person. CRPGs and face-to-face RPGs are 2 very different things.

  • Atmosphere (Score:2, Insightful)

    Of all the RPGs I have played there is one outstanding feature that sticks in my mind and which all good RPGs MUST have, IMHO, to be enjoyable: atmosphere.

    Obviously factors such as story, reasonable graphics, etc are all important but that is the case for any of type of game. What matters is how these elements interact with each other to product the overall atmosphere of teh game. ake the Bladerunner rpg for example and Nintendo's Zelda series - both are really immersive games due to the continuity and great sense of escapism produced by the games' ambience.
  • is a cult following.
  • by Sean-Yo Ma (51722) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @05:08PM (#4865541)
    It never ceases to amaze me how ignored multiplayer options for console RPGs are. I think most people will agree that Secret of Mana is a great game only made better by playing it with a friend. There's simply no excuse for how few since then have supported multiplayer. Keep in mind I'm referring to console RPGS. Are there any out there BESIDES Secret of Mana that let you do this? Alon D'ar for PS2 has some multiplayer elements but other than that, I can't think of a single console RPG that lets more than one person play simultaneously.
  • I'd like to see RPGs that explore more historical time periods. Has there ever been a game that explored pre-Columbus North America or even Native American societies in general? or Rome of some period? Vikings?
  • by Shamanin (561998)
    The key to a good RPG is a good acronymn.

    Case in point, NWN. A perfectly symetrical one (if you reverse the N which makes it that much cooler), an exquisite palindrome. An excellent complement for DND (yet another palindrome).

    I know that's what I look for.
  • ...to realize you were talking about Role-Playing Games and not IBM mainframe programming. I should have known better.
  • My wish list (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Cu (75342) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @05:12PM (#4865574) Homepage

    The aspect which I most crave is obscured player stats. If you hide the numbers, most people would stop obsessing over them.

    Get rid of explicit classes. Classes should be implied by action. If you don't act your class, you become something else.

    The story needs to be flexible. Certain possibilities in the game should disappear after a set period, and no one should feel bad about it. There shouldn't be a static world. Instead, you should have a room full of people working on a constantly evolving world that takes into account the actions of players.

    Allow regions to be depopulated of monsters.

    Design for characters to interact. Remember MUDs.

  • by phorm (591458) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @05:15PM (#4865599) Journal
    Really, a good RPG in many ways resembles a good book. If the storyline is well laid out, believable (not in the perspective of currently reality, but of perhaps characters actions/reactions), and flows well, then the game is good.

    Then, we throw in playability/complexity. If you're spending 20 hours just to figure out that you had to visit some village in the middle of nowhere and talk to the old man behind the in... playability gets a low grade, unless of course there's lots of hints to that objective beforehand.

    Graphics and sound count for a lot nowadays, and especially cinematics. Sometimes when the plot or gameplay has dragged, trying to get to the next cinematic has pulled me through the boredom.

    Treasures/gifts/secrets: Treasure boxes, GF's, summons, spells. All those things that RPG geeks say to friend "Hey, I've got the wings of wonder, you haven't found them yet?", or "Check out this spell of almighty flatuation, it does 3000 damage+poison effet".

    Still, if the game's story sucks, then no manner of graphics or effects will make it worth playing. RPG's often act as "books/movies you can play", which is what makes them so immersive and oftimes addicting.
  • by Zenithal (115213) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @05:16PM (#4865609) Homepage
    A few people here are posting lists of good RPG's. I thought I'd add my 'me too' to the topic. The best RPG in years HAS to be Fallout and Fallout II.

    Both games were huge, both games had good scripting and voice acting. Both games had acceptable graphics. In neither was the player left confused and directionless. The worlds had more than enough items/armor/weapons to keep the collector and rule-lawer busy. Player types could be widely diverse thanks to perks and primary skills. Virtually all problems could be solved in many different ways, usually a violent and non-violent way to take care of the slayer AND the scientist players. Karma had an actual affect and completely changed the way you had to interact with NPC's. Evil players were treated as evil characters, something missing from virtually all RPG's.

    Even the subquests weren't always all available to all player types. Higher perception characters would realize when someone was upset vs. higher intelligence characters finding obscure information in computer archives.

    I've played each literally 6 or 7 times to completion and I STILL find new subquests. And I'm anal about looking for them.

    I honestly think the best RPG you're going to find with current technology / rule systems would be a mix of the psudo-realtime combat system and art from BOS and the storyline and game style of the original Fallouts.
  • I'm sure I'm not the first to mention this, but everyone knows what the real key to making a good RPG is.

    Dwarves.
  • Berzerk! The character development is mesmerizing, the plot is complex and multi-layered, and prompts many questions, such as:

    Why do all these robots want to kill me?
    Can I fit through that space?
    I wonder what the next level will be like?
    Why can I only shoot in eight directions?

  • continuity is key. For example: I'm about 1/3 of the way through Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn, and it's awsome. At one point in the game you get whisked away to an island to rescue a party member and have to find your way back - it takes about 20-30 days in game time to return.

    Problem is, once you get back a. all the quests you had going are kinda hard to pick up again (mostly because your journal gets wiped each chapter. I can't begin to describe how annoying that is) and b. everybody treats you like you haven't left.

    It's a real downer. I almost want to start over and finish EVERYTHING in athkala before I head for that damn island. :)

    Triv
  • RPGs always have been and always will rely upon the storytelling as the most important element in the game. RPGs, unlike many other genres, have the storylines that give you the gut wrenching hatred when one of your comrades is killed, and an overwhelming feeling of success after you have conquered an RPG after 50 hours of gameplay. Don't get me wrong, I love other genres, but the RPG represents the creative genius in the world of game developement.
  • by perljon (530156) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @05:58PM (#4866067) Homepage
    Compared to Grand Theft Auto, all RPG's suck. I guess you could say that GTA isn't really an RPG but a new genre, but nonetheless all RPG's bore me now.

    The reason I play games is so that I can do things that I want to do in reality, but can't because a) they are immoral b) are illegal c) there are rammifications/risks associated that I don't want to deal with. For example, I want to run around and kill people, but that's immoral and illegal, and I don't want to take anyone's life in reality or deal with the consequences of that action. But running around and killing people is fun, in the fake world.

    So, in an RPG the environment should be as real as possible and not use tricks to 'add to the game play' but still are fake. For example, animals in almost all games just appear out of now where or are spawned from some spawn thing. I want animals to come from the breading of two other animals, and to be hunted and eaten and the related things.

    I want the characters to be where they are for a reason. For example, shops should only be open in the day, and when it is night, the shopkeeper should go have a beer or go see his girlfriend, and when he's tired he should walk back to his house and go to sleep. At night, when I go to a shop, I should find a locked door. And when I break in, I should find a shop keeper dashing for a weapon or sleeping. Not an empty bedroom. And when I see people on the street I should be seeing them because they are on their way somewhere, not because they are handing out the same mission over and over again.

    And as far as missions go, they should be based on something and never repeated. Bar owner one asks you to kill the competition bar tender 'cause you look like the kind of person that would do it. He may repeat the mission to other people, but when the competitor is dead or something else happens, that mission should go away forever. A moving story spurred by real actions and human-like motivators. I mean, this can be pre-programmed but they should be based on an emotional need and picked out of a pool of possible solutions that fall in line with the NPC's character.

    I always hear the excuse from coders that it's just not practical to code all this stuff in when it doesn't add to the game play. But it does affect the game play. The more transparent you mike the line between reality and game, the more fun I will have killing people or whatever it is I want to do. Things will start to appear that will be ultra cool that the programmers didn't even think of. For example, because animals like to drink, they will congragate around the water hole. Other patterns of reality will show themselves on accident as well that the player WILL recognize and will contribute to gameplay. (ie, the bar tenders daughter never goes out alone and is always escorted by a trusted guard, and there will be a frog plague because everyone killed off the snakes... )
    • And when I see people on the street I should be seeing them because they are on their way somewhere, not because they are handing out the same mission over and over again.

      So, that would be almost entirely unlike Grand Theft Auto, then?

      "Well, hrmm. Let's see. Assassinated the Triad's leaders. Blew up their factory. Killed...well, golly, about two thousand of them now. Yet there are still an infinite number of them waiting to chase me."

      Or, better yet, Grand Theft Auto's missions. Nothing says realism like taking on a mission, dying (or being busted), and then being given the same mission again. "Exchange", for example. Waste a couple dozen Colombians, blow up the OL Barracks, but get wasted by the helicopter...yet, Catalina's still waiting at the mission to take your money (again) and you're still foolish enough to not go in with guns blazes (again). Repeatedly.

      Don't get me wrong. I like GTA. But to hold it up as an example of realism is laughable.
    • I don't know in what sense you're talking about.

      I want animals to come from the breading of two other animals, and to be hunted and eaten and the related things.

      Do you want to wait that long for animals to do that? While hunting and eating animals is not an unreasonable request, I really don't see a practicle reason to waste time programming animal breeding cycles into a game, when it serves no practical purpose unless you become an animal breeder, or something.

      And as far as missions go, they should be based on something and never repeated.

      In a single player RPG, if you rescue the Princess from the Dragon, the king won't ask you to do it AGAIN. Events can't be repeated.

      On the other hand, in an MMORPG type setting, you have to repeat basic quests like this. There is NO WAY that you can avoid repeating quests for a game with thousands of players on a server.

      The more transparent you mike the line between reality and game, the more fun I will have killing people or whatever it is I want to do.

      No, sorry, I disagree. I don't want a computer / console RPG to become so realistic in what I have to do that it becomes a job for me. The amounts of time you have to throw into games like EQ and DAOC are crazy enough.

      If you want a multiplayer RPG to be the way you want it, you should consider grabbing a group of friends and a Dungeons and Dragons book (or other REAL RPG of your persuasion).
  • by Hubert_Shrump (256081) <cobranet@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @06:03PM (#4866114) Journal
    Needs to be shoulder mountable and (ideally) under 10lbs.

"And do you think (fop that I am) that I could be the Scarlet Pumpernickel?" -- Looney Tunes, The Scarlet Pumpernickel (1950, Chuck Jones)

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