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Role Playing (Games)

Why Computer RPGs Waste Your Time 476

Posted by Zonk
from the argh-my-life-she-has-been-wasted dept.
spidweb writes "RPGVault has an editorial about two particularly noxious qualities of computer role-playing games. Spiderweb Software's Jeff Vogel goes off on a tear, discussing how you work forever to earn the right to do anything exciting, and must 'prove yourself' by expending tons of your time. From the article: 'So now, thinking about playing an RPG just makes me tired. I'm tired of starting a new game and being a loser. I'm tired of running the same errands to prove myself. The next time I enter my fantasy world, I want it to not assume that I'm a jackass.'" I think Oblivion handled this well, scaling the world as you went and giving you really interesting things to do from the get-go. What other games dodge this bullet? Do you see this timesink as an inevitable part of the RPG genre?
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Why Computer RPGs Waste Your Time

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  • by PFI_Optix (936301) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:29PM (#18030080) Journal
    They both were engrossing from the start. I'm going to venture a guess (without reading tfa) that the author is speaking more in terms of MMOs, which as I understand it put you through a lot of tedious crap before you get to the good parts of the game.
  • Guild Wars (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LoverOfJoy (820058) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:35PM (#18030198) Homepage
    Guild Wars was able to avoid the grind to some extent. You max out at level 20 and it doesn't take terribly long to get to that point. There's also not a whole lot of expensive and essential equipment. You can fairly quickly pick up what you need as monster drops along the way.

    There's still specialty stuff that might cost a pretty penny or take a lot of random fighting until you get the drop you want, but that's totally unnecessary to being successful at the game. Unfortunately, they may have taken a step back in that regard. In their latest chapter, Nightfall, you have to earn points to gain in rank for certain quests. It's not too much of a grind but it's not quite as open as their original chapter was in that regard.
  • by nsanders (208050) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:40PM (#18030288) Homepage
    What he is complaining about sounds more like an MMO then an RPG. I don't recall being given quests to kill 500 wolves in an RPG. In a lot of RPGs you just level with out noticing. It's not something you have to go and "do".

    Also, this guy apparently established his own Game Design company making... RPGs! So why doesn't he just shut up and go make one the way he wants? He says he wants an RPG that can be finished in 10-12 hours instead of the 40+ most of them are.. Dude, that's what makes an RPG an RPG. It's long very detailed story!

    For a guy who designs RPGs he seems like he doesn't understand what makes them great. If I'm not mistaken, he could just go play some of the new FPS's which have detailed story lines that only take about 10 hours to beat. They don't involve leveling and don't require you to quest..

    So stop making RPGs and start playing FPS's!
  • by Gr8Apes (679165) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:45PM (#18030370)
    Good parts? I cycled through 40+ levels in EQ, never got to what I'd call a "good part". Even raiding groups weren't all that different from soloing, other than it went a lot faster and more consistently. Basically SSDD type stuff.

    Most MMOs suffer from farming issues, whether by soloists or "parties" in any area that's "interesting". Why is it interesting? Because once in a blue moon, the mob that pops there will drop something considered valuable. It does this randomly, and regardless of who's there, thus encouraging farming.

    What kills me is that this is easily solvable on both ends, and would end farming. This would, of course, kill the MMO's as they exist today's cash flows, since they would then have to provide real content to keep people's interest.
  • by Red Flayer (890720) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:45PM (#18030372) Journal

    I'm tired of starting a new game and being a loser.

    Well, first off, define "loser". Do you mean a character who is challenged by lesser encounters? Or do you mean a loser in the eyes of your peers (other players in an MMORPG)?

    Seems to me a question of what you're looking to get out of an RPG. If you want to have uber-equipment and incredible spells/skills/whatever, sure, there's a grind. It's kind of like life -- it's rare to be rewarded for doing nothing.

    For me, RPGs are all about the challenge. Since I don't have the time to play games for countless hours, what this leaves me with are games that are difficult in the early game (like Bard's Tale was). This still holds true for me -- once my character is powerful, I'll start a new character and handicap him. I'm one of those idiots who plays a vegetarian knight in Nethack, or an archer in Baldur's Gate (console) who refuses to use a bow.

    Fundamentally, it's about what you want out of an RPG -- and if you want all the gravy, you should be prepared to work for it. (Or pay for it -- there are plenty of services out there that will do so for you). What's the point of all the cool stuff if you never have to work for it?

    One other note -- if you define your character by how others perceive it, and identify with the character to the point that you're upset that others are more powerful, or have access to "cooler stuff", maybe you should be thinking about how much you have emotionally invested in a videogame.
  • by PFI_Optix (936301) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:49PM (#18030448) Journal
    Blame DnD for that. They're trying to compress into a single gameplay experience what DnD players may see across several campaigns. They follow the pattern of creating a character and pushing through the early levels so that the character has a more "natural" development. Rather than choosing all your high-end abilities right away, you start with less and discover new ones, integrating them into your gameplay.

    Titan Quest used the storyline to facilitate this quite well. You kind of stumble into the action, and in doing a few small things to help people out you find yourself more and more involved in the plot. And that's just a Diablo clone ARPG.

    I don't think starting from the bottom is a bad thing. It forces a player to learn to use all the aspects of a character than that just powering through with high-level abilities.

    A good way to adjust for this is to allow the player to modify their character somewhat during the creation process. Put a "level up" button right there, and every time it's clicked have them select abilities and attributes like they normally would. Want to start as a level 10? Just click through nine levels and start.
  • Re:Ultima Underworld (Score:5, Interesting)

    by twistedsymphony (956982) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @05:04PM (#18030700) Homepage
    I don't think it would be beyond the realm of possibility to have an RPG start your off with some complex task requiring some familiarity, if you succeed you can proceed from there, if you fail you get knocked into some scenario where you have to build yourself up from the dumb dumb status.

    Think of Oblivion... maybe you were half way through the ranks in the thieves guild when you start and you get a decent mission, if you fail (get caught) you're thrown in jail and the game starts with you killing rats (training). But if you succeed you keep playing from that point on... and the main quest would kick off in some other scenario. I'm sure you could apply the same thing to any number of other games.
  • by Kjella (173770) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @05:11PM (#18030834) Homepage
    But they both still started you off as a loser. You spend hours fighting rats, getting lost books, and trying not to off noober. What the author points to is the KOTOR "dude where's my lightsaber" problem. Most RPGs start you off unimaginatively at the absolute lowest level, so you get a sense of progression.

    Well, if you start out killing übermonsters, what's the end game like? Oh yeah, another zombie... except now it's a SUPERzombie. Besides if you take a game like NWN, how long is it until you shoot missiles of magic, shoot flames from your hand and such? What do you expect, some kind of doomsday spell at lvl1? It's an RPG, it's not supposed to be a FPS skill game so you're "supposed to" win the battles. That means you need story and progression. If I'm swinging the same damn sword just like I did when the game started, that's boring as all hell.
  • by Bastian (66383) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @05:13PM (#18030874)
    I don't think that's exactly what the author is talking about. I think the point he was trying (and, admittedly, not really succeeding) to get across is the way pacing is done in most RPGs. It's the same system that has been happening on console RPGs since Dragon Warrior came out 20 years ago - the level grind.

    The problem isn't the leveling, it's the grinding. In most CRPGs, the game play (as I see it) goes like so:
    Walk into a maze whose primary purpose is to force you to do a lot of exploring (read: walking around aimlessly) so that you have to fight a whole lot of random encounters with puny little enemies. Fighting in these random encounters is more or less mindless, because they're puny and their real purpose isn't to present a challenge so much as to level your party up. This makes you powerful enough to go on to the next maze. . .

    The problem with this mechanic is that it's tedious, repetetive, and boring; and that it isn't necessary. In most any CRPG, you could easily cut out all the random encounters, get rid of the mazes (which serve no purpose without the random encounters), and make the difficulty jump between bosses smaller (since we're not level grinding anymore) and have the exact same game except that it really does only take a few hours to complete instead of weeks of your life. The story (the core of an RPG like this) would be the same.

    FFVII, which I spent months working through, could probably be cut down to a weekend's worth of playing with all the fluff cut out.

    Contrast this with Fallout, which manages to change the whole feel of the game with only a little tweaking to the basic idea of the game. The mazes aren't nearly so large (barely even worth calling mazes, really), random encounters only happen on the map and there aren't nearly as many of them, battles are harder, and the whole battle system is more interesting since it takes actual thought rather than being something you handle by hitting the X button repeatedly while chugging a Mountain Dew and staring out the window. Yeah, you still have to level to get through the game, but leveling doesn't require grinding.

    Personally, I'd like to see an RPG that trims the fat even more than Fallout did, but at least it's a start.
  • by jimbogun (869443) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @05:40PM (#18031290)
    Thoughts on Oblivion:

    How many times have you hit spacebar just to level up your jumping?
    How many spells that cost 1 mana do you have in your spellbook? So you can cast it over and over and over.
    A friend of mine would pick up armor and weapons just to repair it and toss it on the ground.

    Now, do you have to do this? No, but if you want the best character possible, yes. It all depends on your definition of fun. Some people like the process of getting better. I think Thomas Paine stated well, a reason why game developers include tedious steps in RPGs.

    "What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value."
    Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, No. 1, December 19, 1776

    I actually found the game was funner when I didn't go for the perfect character. I first played Oblivion trying to get the best character possible. It wasn't fun and I didn't even finish it. I played it months later and stuck with "class" skills and had much more fun, actually finishing the game. (Sneaking while Chameleoned and killing with bows was just fun.)
  • by rocket rancher (447670) <themovingfinger@gmail.com> on Thursday February 15, 2007 @05:55PM (#18031490)

    I think Oblivion handled this well, scaling the world as you went and giving you really interesting things to do from the get-go. What other games dodge this bullet? Do you see this timesink as an inevitable part of the RPG genre?

    Granted, Oblivion is a game where instant immersion is truly possible, where you can literally choose how you want to explore the world. The quests in the game provide some structure, but you really can just pick a direction and start walking when you begin the game.

    But the world scaling backfired, I think. Leveling your character a dozen times and then going back and pummelling that boss is a major part of the fun in an RPG. Getting trounced by the same adversary whether you are level 1 or level 12 is not very fun at all. But that is only part of the reason why I think Oblivion does not address the grind issue very well.

    Ironically, the main reason that Oblivion doesn't address the grind is because the developers did too good of a job implementing magic in this world. Without putting out too many spoilers for people who haven't already figured it out, even level 1 characters can create spells that completely unbalance the game, no cheats, no console commands, no mods required. (If you are curious about these spells, checkout http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Oblivion:Useful_Spells [uesp.net]) And I don't mean for just spellcasting classes -- magic in Oblivion is so open and customizable that it takes only a little bit of thought to create unstoppable characters of any class. Grinding your way battle after battle through adversaries to level up is boring, but so is blowing right through them.

  • Re:Oblivion (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WiPEOUT (20036) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:00PM (#18031556)
    People enjoyed it so much less that the most popular mods for the game are those like Oscuro's Oblivion Overhaul, which at it's core is about making it so the Level 1 newbie can't realistically expect to face off against the mightiest beings in the world and expect to live for longer than a second. It brings back the sense of awe and underlying fear that make the world seem more alive, as well as the sense of accomplishment when you finally do gain enough experience for your hero to hand that boss it's arse on a platter.
  • by FangVT (144970) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:00PM (#18031572) Homepage

    [...] which becomes a vicious circle. (Can't play to gain rank because your rank isn't high enough.)
    Just to be pedantic, that's not a vicious circle, that's a catch-22. A vicious circle would be if playing caused both the requirements to raise and your rank to raise but it raised the requirements faster. Now, because of the catch-22 you can't have that happen, but if the requirements started low enough that you could play, the vicious circle would eventually cause that to change. So in that sense, a vicious circle can lead to a catch-22.
  • by Tiger Smile (78220) <james AT dornan DOT com> on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:03PM (#18031600) Homepage
    I don't normally play computer games. Before I tried COH/COV the last game I played was on the Apple ][. So, you see, this was a bit of a leap. I love RPG games, running mainly. I specific like superhero games, like Champions. I spent some 20 years playing with a large group of people and other gatherings like Dundracon. I also very much enjoyed the game V&V for it's simple system that allow people to get into the game quickly. With pen and paper RPGs it was important to make sure people had a good time. Most game system got-it. Some did not. And, before you go pointing out the problem with these systems, I and everyone else knows there is not perfect system. They all have flaws, but most are fun.

    When I started COH/COV is was interesting for it's newness, to me. But after playing a while I found it's shortcomings quickly. You start as a complete idiot. You are basically a normal person who can't drive a car, motorcycle, or ride a buss. Your "powers" can only be described as a few lousy tricks, at the start. You only get real powers at around level 38. It's only then that you even start to have power that you might start with in the pen and paper system. So if you want to imagine yourself as a homeless person, unable to use normal human transportation, who can preform little tricks, then you gotta love this game.

    There is little imagination to it also. All characters complete the exact same "missions" and they are never in public. The mission take place in an isolated bubble. The missions always come down to these simple goals or a combination.

    1) Defeat everyone
    2) Defeat so-and-so
    3) Kidnap somebody
    4) Click on glowing or translucent things
    5) Beat up an object(s) and escape(like bank vault)

    The only goal is to "level-up" and beyond that there is little going on. The only place where user content utilized, besides characters, is in base construction.

    One day someone will tap into the imagination of the people who love these games, and create a system where people can contribute. This generic system will play host to a number of different genre. People will be able to create their own "mission" and "missions" for others.

    Maybe I don't get it. But on COV I have a "mastermind" character. As a Mastermind I only end up taking orders from others.

    Never mind. I've just thought of my next project.
     
  • by JimDaGeek (983925) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:09PM (#18031706)
    AMEN brother! I am a little older (34) than the typical gamer. However, I love me some good RPG. I personally hate how many RPG games have morphed into an action game to keep the kiddies happy.

    I want a turn-based or phased combat RPG where I can plan my battles. I want at least 4 characters that I can build up from wimps to uber-fighters/mages/clerics/etc. I want to find and fight for tons of magical items and abilities. The last thing I want in an RPG is a click-feast. There is nothing worse in an RPG (IMO) than having to click like a freak to win a fight. I WANT TO PLAN MY COMBAT.

    Sadly, I have not seen a good, modernized, old-school RPG in some time.
  • by StarvingSE (875139) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:11PM (#18031746)
    I think guild wars does a good job of focusing on skill rather than pure character level. Sure you gain more skills as you progress, but thats expected since you are learning your profession. What I like the most is that you can always find uses for those beginning, basic skills combined with your new ones.

    I think this is the one thing that crpgs lack: the use of beginning skills in the late game. I hate it how a dagger is usually seen as a "starting weapon" and later on you upgrade to longswords and battle axes. I think modern crpgs should adopt a more complex character and combat system, where different weapons/skills are used based on the situation, not their base power. If you are going into war, choose the longsword. If you want to slice someone's throat, use the dagger.
  • by Stevecrox (962208) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:34PM (#18032084) Journal
    Myst Online : Uru Live

    Its a role playing game that is unlike any other I have played. There is no levelling, the bad guys are archaeologists and there's a fantastic community behind it. The premise of the game is simple, you felt called to a underground cavern where a group of archaeologists are working to restore a ancient civilisation they've discovered, you take the time to explore really quite beautiful ages, you get rewards for completing ages (but can choose to ignore them if you wish), there are puzzles aplenty (which if you get stuck on come and ask someone in the community) and we can actually effect the storyline. I like it, everyone starts out the same (Uru stands for You Are You) the only difference is if you have completed one age or anouther and what side you have allied yourself with. Its not a grinding style of game, I've completed all the ages and gained all the current Relto pages but I only have 7 on because they are the seven which make my starting point look best to me. If your tired of leveling then give it a go it launched today and the first month is only 99 cents.

    I only mention it because there are alternative to level grinding RPG and this is one of them
  • by spidweb (134146) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:39PM (#18032164) Homepage
    I read peoples' comments on my article with great interest. Though they didn't, by and large, seem very useful.

    My main point is that most RPGs are unnecessarily long. They pad out their length with busywork. They start you as a nobody instead of a hero, and force you to earn the right to do interesting things with menial and repetetive tasks. And you know something? It's still a valid point.

    I'm not being a whiner. Sheesh. If computer games are worth playing, they're worth examining, breaking down, criticizing (if necessary), and improving.

    People repeatedly told me to play other types of games. Guess what? I do. But I think it's worthwhile to say why.

    There have been a few RPGs that trimmed the fat and the busywork and gave experiences with constant variety and excitement. KOTOR I-II. Baldur's Gate I-II. Planescape: Torment. Fallout 1-2. (So, what? Ten in 10 years?) These should be held up and applauded. But there are a lot of games beyond the top tier that padded out their length with filler and the constant chopping up of trash monsters. Heck, practically all MMORPGs are nothing but this.

    Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is an interesting case. It's very popular and a lot of people like it. But I spent most of my time wandering down interchangable corridors killing interchangable monsters. I don't think this game refutes my point.

    When I look for a game now, I look for a game that wows me with 10-15 hours of kick ass A-list material and then lets me go. (God of War and Shadows of the COlossus are great examples). But the RPG genre seems to have grinding and filler in its DNA, so I'm staying away. Seems reasonable.
  • by CynicalTyler (986549) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @07:03PM (#18032454)
    Believe it or not, games can combine the excitement of real-time play with the careful strategy of turn based. I'm thinking specifically of the not widely popular Fallout: Tactics which I had a great time playing. You had the option to play combat in turn-based mode as well as real time. Thus, if you are a jittery click freak you can play in real time and if you're the plodding super general you can pick and choose every shot. You get a wider variety of players that way because your interface is customizable.
     
    I guess my point is two fold: Fallout is awesome and we need more games like it. And game designers need to put more thought into how the player is interacting with the world. A little choice goes a long way.
  • by joeljkp (254783) <joeljkparker@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Thursday February 15, 2007 @07:24PM (#18032706)
    Games usually start out easy and get harder as they progress, right?

    What about starting you out as an uber-warlock who can destroy everything, but with some strange illness that makes you weaker and weaker as the game goes on. At the end, you finish as a feeble level-1 equivalent who needs to use some wit to get by.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 15, 2007 @08:31PM (#18033454)
    That sounds an AWFUL LOT like that star wars shooter (i can't quite remember the name though). Perhaps instead of making you sink your time into each and every game, they should make a unified mmo "currency" so that once you'd sunk your time into one MMO, you could just sell it for an equally good character in another MMO. And make skills infinitely scalable (as per shooters - some people are freaks at them but yet they still could improve).
  • Re:Oblivion (Score:2, Interesting)

    by samweber (71605) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @08:33PM (#18033476)
    Except, of course, in Oblivion everything doesn't advance along with you.

    Here's how it works: in Oblivion, when you are level 1, you find usually monsters like rats, mudcrabs, and things like that. As you gain levels, you start finding harder monsters: boars and such-like. But you still find rats, and rats are no more powerful than they were before. The first time I saw a boar, it was terrifying! Later, when I got more powerful, I was able to kill them with ease, which was quite satisfying. They were no more powerful than they were back then, and I kept encountering them now and then, even when I was much more powerful. There are, indeed, a few enemies that do gain levels as you do, but there are very few of them. And they hardly advance at the same rate as you do, either.

    So, why do people keep believing that "everything else advances at the exact same rate"? Because they hear statements like this in forums, and don't think to check it out themselves, usually. Because it takes longer to explain what Oblivion really does. And, more that that, I think it is because MMO games have led people to expect a certain kind of gameplay. After all,
    Oblivion uses pretty much the same mechanism as Daggerfall (an earlier game in the series) did. It used to be that this wasn't at all uncommon for RPGs. But, the MMO games have trained people to play games a certain way, and now Oblivion is a shock to them.
  • Re:Whiner (Score:2, Interesting)

    by agenthitt (985618) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @08:35PM (#18033484)
    Its not the fault of the games, its the players. I don't know that most *like* the grind, but to many people think you have to be at the highest level of play to have any fun at all.

    Unfortunately this trend isn't just with computer rpg's. Stopped by a local fantasy/rpg supply shop. Even just watching from the side any random D&D game (or any RPG for that matter) the two groups thats the most fun to listen to are either a group of newbies that haven't gotten on this "uber" mentality yet, and the older gamers (if you can find them).

    When people go out of the way to bypass the journey, the end result might be somewhat fun, but its not nearly as fun as it could have been...
  • Re:Whiner (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SetupWeasel (54062) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:11PM (#18034264) Homepage
    Yeah, you're right. RPGs are perfect. They have something for everyone.

    RPGs have too much tedium for most players. Leveling up is Boring for most, and often gives little in return to the player.

    From the article:

    The first horrible thing. Fantasy role-playing games are unique among computer games in one thing: they are fundamentally about starting out weak and learning to be strong. And that learning process generally involves a lot of tedium.

    Most RPGs force people to spend time fighting and killing random, relatively weak enemies simply to progress. The battles aren't interesting on a battle to battle basis. They are simply designed to make your quest x hours longer. Battle needs to be more interesting, and rewards need to be immediate. The best RPGs I have played make battle interesting. Grandia for example. I finished it, because I enjoyed playing it.

    I played FFXI for a few months. I leveled to 20 and stopped. I leveled myself that high so I could move about in the game more easily. That's it. That is all I got. If I wanted to level anymore, I had to have at least 2 consecutive hours free to find a party of douchebags who expected me to know and care about every little intricacy of the game. This was something I was not willing to offer. I would rather level on my own, but that could not be done.

    That is the point. These games could be fixed so easily with thoughtful battle sequences, engaging minigames, and real goal alternatives. If Star Wars Galaxies was not so broken, I might have stuck with it, because I could reasonably mine and manufacture items for sale without camping a mining point for a week. I enjoyed that. I did not enjoy being killed by high powered enemies immediately outside peaceful cities on peaceful planets. No matter what, battle had to be a focus. What about a game with a path that allowed you to be a pro sports player in the world?

    So much could be done to engage people, but developers fear the loss of the purists who, frankly, fuck up a good idea for the rest of us.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:48PM (#18034528)
    One of the main problems I have with level grind is that it focuses the game very heavily on fighting - stealth characters like theives, for example, still end up spending a lot of time fighting monsters they ought to be able to sneak past because they need the XP. Etc etc. In short, everybody is just a different type of warrior, regardless of which character class they chose. NWN is a good example of this, despite being a good game.

    Another big problem is that you can't transfer XP. Suppose you've played for hours and built up a cool character. You decide you'd like to try a new character class, but you just can't be bothered to re-play the game from scratch to level up your new character. Or perhaps a friend joins the game, but is a lower level than yourself - it can be difficult to play together, because any creature that won't instantly kill him is no threat to you, so you both get bored quickly. Sometimes you can "drag him up a few levels", but many games distribute XP points within a party in such a way as to prevent this (eg. if you do most of the hits you get most of the XP, or the XP you get is relative to your current level, or whatever). NWN and Diablo are both bad for this. You can be play with friends, but if your character misses just one session, or one of your friends plays by himself for an hour or two, then your characters quickly get "out of sync" and one or more are far enough behind / ahead that it's no fun to play together.

    So, here we go - my solution to both:

    Abolish XP. Tie the strength of a character purely to the items he/she has. Think about it for a minute...

    If a new character joins, you have simply to give them a few of your spare items and they're strong enough to fight alongside you right away. Hands up all those who carry around more than one decent weapon? Thought so :) Just give your spare one to your friend and you're ready to rock. Or if you really can't spare any, you can venture into a difficult area appropriate for your level, find a few items, and then return and give them to your friend.

    And think now about other character classes. Our theif, for instance. He could be a real Bilbo Baggins, wouldn't have to fight at all. He'd be a good theif due to owning good theiving items - think cloaks, rings, etc. He could then sneak past that really huge monster that his warrior friend just can't kill in order to steal items from the treasure room somewhere behind said monster. Because it's items that are important, not XP, he gets just as much benefit from that as his warrior friend would have from killing the monster in order to get there. You see?

    Certain areas/dungeons/caves/etc could be well known for having items lying around that are particularly useful to certain classes. An area with impossibly strong monsters but lots of nice hiding places might have lots of cool theif items lying around. An area with tough-but-killable monsters, but bright lighting and almost no good hiding places, might have lots of handy warrior items to be discovered.

    Starting a new character / changing your class could even be as simple as changing your items (you'd have to change all of them of course - have some rule about items conflicting / working in combination with each other - no mix 'n' matching). When you play the game as a new character you'll be interested in exploring different areas (which will all have their own play style - use your imagination), so you won't be re-playing the same game again.

    And if you have a really strong character of one class, you'd be strong/skilled enough to get at least some distance inside the areas suited to the other classes (a really strong warrior might fight his way into the first few levels of the theif area, a really good theif might manage to sneak his way through the first few levels of the brightly lit warrior area, etc)... that's where some creativity comes in. By using your skills in ways / areas not originally intended you can give yourself a leg-up in a new area. If your theif can
  • by LarsWestergren (9033) on Friday February 16, 2007 @02:21AM (#18035718) Homepage Journal
    There have been a few RPGs that trimmed the fat and the busywork and gave experiences with constant variety and excitement. KOTOR I-II. Baldur's Gate I-II. Planescape: Torment. Fallout 1-2. (So, what? Ten in 10 years?)

    We seem to like the same type of games. For all those who liked those, I'd ask them to check out Deus Ex (the first one), System Shock 2, Vampire: Bloodlines, and Psychonauts. All of them share a really good story, levelling up and gaining new powers, and an interesting world and characters to explore. That is the important parts of an RPG to me.

    We also have the upcoming Jade Empire special edition for the PC, Neverwinter Nights 2 with modules, and the KOTOR 2 restoration project. Ohh, and Bioshock. Am I ever looking forward to that one. =)
  • by Saint Fnordius (456567) on Friday February 16, 2007 @03:07AM (#18035924) Homepage Journal
    That is why I don't enjoy many computer RPG's: they don't have any way to skip over or to simply claim GM fiat. I would play GURPS, and often the players would agree from the beginning of a campaign what point levels the characters should have. We also were story-driven, so earning character points (GURPS' analogue to D&D's XP) wasn't as important as learning more about the world and the plot.

    I think the arcade game mentality plays just as much of a role, where you collect bigger guns and special effects to beef up your wimpy little ship. Game designers are too focused on rewards and "earning the good stuff" so that when the story line hits, you're already bored. I would welcome a game where the players start off powerful but ignorant of the world, and as their weapons slowly degrade and run out of ammo the player is forced to use more cunning, where characters don't advance from young neophyte to master warrior in the space of days (or even hours!).
  • by Blikkie (569039) <blikkieNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday February 16, 2007 @03:53AM (#18036076) Homepage

    Actually, the writer of one of the most cliché fantasy stories ever, David Eddings [wikipedia.org] has written a fantasy story that starts out with a weary knight, the Elenium. Eddings being eddings it takes 6 books to finish the story, but it is quite fun.

    Unfortunately old and experienced people are rare in fantasy, and it has probably to do with the fact that fantasy is usually about the projection of personal development on the world, while Science Fiction usually tells about how a world influences personal development (Stephen R. Donaldson has written an excellent essay on the topic, if only I could find it).

  • by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Friday February 16, 2007 @04:28AM (#18036224) Homepage
    Much modern heroic fantasy acts as a compensatory adolescent power fantasy - particularly in video games. From dweeb to badass in 50 short hours of play is the payoff. That's fine and well for adolescents (whether chronologically or developmentally) but there are those of us who want something else - protagonists who have desires and goals within limitations. You'll notice how mature literature is really about typical, flawed limited people, not about prodigies and the super-powered.

    The fact that there is so little real tragedy left in art of any kind - especially in games - is another problem. Shadow of the Colossus gets pretty close, but the tragic sense of life is generally dwindling, at least in American culture.
  • by ifrag (984323) on Friday February 16, 2007 @07:53AM (#18037108)
    Of course in the case of a shooter most of those 'skills' are on the player end not the avatar end so they naturally transfer to almost any other shooter immediately.

    I think the real problem is trying to base character progression more directly on player skill than simple avatar grind. I don't think players necessarily need to start exactly where they left off in another game (relatively anyway). I do think there needs to be some way to quickly reward those who skillfully play such games so they can progress at an accelerated rate.
  • by PFI_Optix (936301) on Friday February 16, 2007 @10:32AM (#18038512) Journal
    For most DND players...their first one.

    My whole point is that with DnD, your character goes through multiple campaigns. You might finish your first at lvl 10, your second at 16, your third at 25, and so on. There's no pressure to push the player through the entire range of character growth in a single campaign, which is what they do with current RPGs.

    Titan Quest is somewhere in the middle; you have to finish the same campaign three times, each time increasingly difficult to max out your character's stats. It wouldn't be a big leap from that to change it to three unique campaigns.

    I think the recent explosion in episodic content may change this. If you could take a character through a variety of campaigns in no particular order with no (or few) prerequisites, I think you'd have a killer RPG. There could be massive campaigns that take hundreds of hours for single play and short campaigns that will finish in six hours for LAN parties. They've successfully marketed such a system with DnD for years, it's just a matter of translating it to the computer.
  • by pNutz (45478) on Friday February 16, 2007 @12:34PM (#18040502)
    You're leaving out a quite a few titles. There are some great mods in the works as well.

    The Black Hound [googlepages.com] - Originally was in production at Black Isle as Baldur's Gate 3 (though it has nothing to do with BG1 or BG2) but was canned when it was nearly complete. Josh Sawyer, the original game's Lead Designer who's now working at Obsidian, is recreating the game as a mod for NWN2.

    The Planescape Trilogy [roguedao.com] - Three large campaigns for NWN2 in the Planescape setting that look promising, despite the obvious titles (from the Divine Comedy, CLEVER!). The first part, Purgatorio, is almost done.

    Dragon Age [bioware.com] - Bioware's mystary PC RPG base on original IP is, well, a mystery. All previous work and screenshots have been scrapped and the project started anew, but some hints by Dave Gaider lend some hope to this possibly turning out decent. Unlike Mass Effect.

    The Broken Hourglass [planewalkergames.com] - An infinity engine RPG by the best infinity engine modders out there. Whether that means that they will be making a great RPG with the engine remains to be seen. Based on original, non-DnD setting and rules.

    Age of Decadence [irontowerstudio.com] - An "isometric, turn-based, single-player 3D role-playing game set in a low magic, post-apocalyptic fantasy world, inspired by the fall of the Roman Empire." Currently under development by an asshole [rpgcodex.com]. He's also a purist, though, so it may turn out respectably, if it ever turns out.

    And of course...

    Fallout 3 [bethsoft.com] - Bethesda has it. They say it won't be "Oblivion with guns", but they lie frequently. I still have a sliver of hope, though. We'll see if it's still there when they release some concrete info/screenshots.

    Lastly, The Witcher looks interesting as well. A lot of actual "Role Playing" for an Action RPG, which can only help.

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