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Role Playing (Games)

Why Computer RPGs Waste Your Time 476

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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  • spidweb? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Kemeno ( 984780 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @05:40PM (#18030292)
    Spiderweb Software is the name of Jeff's company (and links to his website), and I believe spidweb is his nickname on his forums. Did he submit his own article?
  • Re:spidweb? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Taimat ( 944976 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:01PM (#18030650)
    It looks like he posted his own story. His name links to his website, and the article deff. points out that he is from spiderweb software. Did he just make an account here? http://slashdot.org/~spiderweb/ [slashdot.org] There isn't anything in his profile.

    Maybe I'll write an article about why I hate my IT job, and then, post it on slashdot.
  • Re:spidweb? (Score:2, Informative)

    by antialias02 ( 997199 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:12PM (#18030854)
    Try http://slashdot.org/~spidweb/ [slashdot.org]. Actually, it looks like he has submitted three of his own articles.
  • Re:ADHD? (Score:3, Informative)

    by CDarklock ( 869868 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @07:00PM (#18031560) Homepage Journal
    I like to have a game I can play IN ten hours, but FOR hundreds.

    I'm back playing GTA: Vice City at the moment, because it was fun. It takes approximately FOUR HOURS to go from start to fully unlocked. Then I can spend days, weeks, months playing my own little games. Sure, I could be done in another few hours by doing the missions - but there are hidden packages, rampages, stunt jumps, taxi driver, vigilante, paramedic, not to mention using the road outside Leaf Links as a half-pipe with a PCJ-600. Once my taxicabs get hydraulics, that particular brand of fun literally occupies me for days.

    GTA: San Andreas, I've actually never completed. I got sidetracked riding bikes around Mount Chilead, and I've sort of lost interest in the storyline. I keep starting it over, and I get to the part with the remote control planes and crap, and right around there I end up just riding bikes around the countryside again.

    Oblivion? I've logged about three hundred hours in it since starting my last run, and I've yet to do any of the main quest. It amused me to be nearly a year of game time into it, and wander back into the Imperial prison to find Baurus still standing over the Emperor's corpse. (Then I did the Dark Brotherhood quests, which changed this. Pout.)

    I like having the choice. Do I want to hammer through it in two or three days, or do I want to geek out on it for a year and a half? If I only get one of those choices, the game sucks.
  • by Saxerman ( 253676 ) * on Thursday February 15, 2007 @07:32PM (#18032040) Homepage
    We all play RPGs for different reasons. Some of us like the tactical aspects of using the skills of your party to best effect. Some enjoy the interactive story elements. Some like the progressive feeling of accomplishment as their players grow more powerful. Some actually enjoy role-playing! (I put on my wizard robe and hat....)

    Of course, there are also those who think they enjoy the Quest for Numerical Superiority. So they grind their gamer nubbins to reach an unattainable goal. In most cases the 'grind' IS the game and the concept that you need to suffer though the newbie levels to get to the good stuff makes Jack a dull boy. Before we had tubes, such 'gamers' would shuffle about for awhile, whine until they found the cheat codes, enjoyed their 15 minutes of fun, and then moved on. Yet now that they can unlock their super powers in an online world, they would rather we be the mouse to their cat games. An attempt to try and milk more than a mere 15 minutes of fun by basically shouting "I am GOD here!" to anyone who will listen.

    Fun is where you find it. Accomplishment is a subjective and personal quest. Etc, etc.
  • About the author .. (Score:2, Informative)

    by LionsFate ( 513762 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @07:37PM (#18032144)
    A lot of people seem to think the guy who wrote the article is an idiot.

    He makes his living off of writing RPG games [spiderwebsoftware.com].

    I won't argue on the look of his games. They have very obviously dated graphics.
    But his games are not about graphics.

    I've personally purchased 9 of his games over the years.
    They have good story lines, long play times, multiple endings and have a bit of replay value.

    He does make good games for those looking for a game with depth and story to them.

    Hes also very sarcastic.
    Take a look at what he wrote about his daughter [ironycentral.com].

    As is site is aptly named - Irony Central - The irony is hes an RPG writer who happens to make a decent living off RPGs, and can write off every game he plays as research.

    Seeing what he wrote though, I'm more curious what his next game is going to look like.

    As he wrote about starting you off as a loser, thats exactly how his games start you as well.
  • Wizardry 8 (Score:5, Informative)

    by thedoe ( 1064772 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @07:44PM (#18032218)
    Try giving Wizardry 8 a shot. Excellent phased combat system. I, like you, truly enjoy the phased aspect of an RPG. It allows for much more strategy and a lot less "I luckily clicked my hot button just before you did" style play.

    Wizardry 8 also uses a party system, so your 4+ character requirement is happily satisfied. Characters start off fairly weak, allowing you to build them up. Another nice element is the ability to change professions, similar to FF Tactics. While you won't be superb at your new class immediately, you still have much improved base statistics to build off of. Obviously, this allows you to change a party member's class without requiring you to go back to the beginning area simply to have them live.

    Wizardry has been an excellent RPG series, and 8 built upon that to create the modernized old-school RPG you are searching for. Here [gamespot.com] is a link to an overall review and summary for the game.

    One thing to note though is that this is a 1-player game. I don't think you can really expect phased combat to ever enter the MMORPG arena. Most people don't have the patience to wait for others to setup turns continuously. This is the same problem Civilization has had with multiplayer.
  • Re:Guild Wars (Score:5, Informative)

    by bhsx ( 458600 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @08:08PM (#18032506)
    To be fair to Nightfall, you can gain all the "Sunspear" points just by remembering to talk to the priests etc whenever you do a quest and keep talking to them as you see new ones on the map. If you forget to do that, or didn't realize you should have been doing that than it can be a pain to go back and farm those points.
    Guild Wars in general offers a lot of ways out of the grind, most noteworthy would be the PvP packs they sell for each campaign, for the same cost as the campaign. These unlock all skills from that campaign, including all elites and gives you PvP character slots. You can skip the PvE altogether if it's not your thing, and just get going in the many, many versions of PvP play Guild Wars offers.
    For those who may not know, Guild Wars is a rather huge MMORPG with no monthly fees. It has a fairly low learning curve and, comes recomended by me. :)
    They (ArenaNet, the devs) release a new campaign every so often and add new and interesting professions(all GW chars are human-based, there's no choosing "race") and game-play styles. They just added "Heroes" with the last campaign. They're like henchies you have greater control over, including choosing secondary profession and skills.
    Go try it! There's a free demo that lets you play like 14 hours or something like that!
  • by Keiseth ( 1064792 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @08:35PM (#18032840)
    In the case of NWN and Baldur's Gate II, this could be avoided. Fan made modules in NWN could start you at any level (for instance, start at 20 which is near god-like and aim to end near 40 which IS god-like.) and Baldur's Gate II started you off at a pretty high level for D around seven to nine I believe, depending on class. I think what games need is to push the scope of the game forward; I've nothing against advancement but when a hulking warrior is slain by a rat, I get angry. Especially when that warrior has a thirty pound axe with him. This can be avoided by just making the enemies more... interesting. A rat should never be a challenge, but a zombie might be more fitting, or a bandit. Instead of clearing the inn of rats, I'd rather clear the nearby forest of thieves, even if in both cases I'm "level one." It's a matter of entertainment.
  • by amuro98 ( 461673 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @08:54PM (#18033102)
    What you want is a strategy game, not a straight up RPG.

    Honestly, get a PS2 and track down a copy of Disgaea 1 or 2, perhaps the best strategy RPGs out there. You control Laharl, a demon prince whose father has just passed away. Now Laharl has to prove that he has what it takes to be the King of the underworld. Along with him is his childhood friend and servant, Etna, who controls an army of Prinnies - psychotic plushie penguins which will explode if you throw them (D00d!), and Flonne, an angel sent to the underworld to find out what happend to the demon king.

    You have a couple of special characters, such as Laharl around which the story revolves, but you'll have to also create an army from wizards, clerics, fighters, etc. You can even capture enemy monsters, and later add them to your army! Each class has its own skills or spells that it can learn. Additional classes will become available as your characters progress. You can change classes as well, so if you want your lvl.10 fighter to start learning to be a cleric, so be it. He'll start off at lvl.1 but retain any skills he may have already learned. You can have something like 200 characters in your army, though you'll only be able to put 10-15 on the field at any time (memory's a bit fuzzy on the numbers.)

    Combat is your standard square grid, with different types of terrain influencing attack/defense. You dispatch your army through a portal on the field where the various enemies are scattered. There's a lot of factors to be considered, and when you throw in the puzzle-like color-grid system, it can get pretty complicated.

    In addition to the campaign scenarios you will need to win in order to move the story forward, you can venture inside any item or weapon in a series of random battlefields. Clearing these battles will increase the power of that item.
  • by evgen88 ( 800150 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @09:19PM (#18033340)
    Wow, first time I haven't found someone else with a close enough opinion to mine that I feel I need to post.
    I think too many people aren't reading the article, or are just skimming. I know exactly what he is talking about. It seems he likes playing through and advancing, it's the method he dislikes. The first few hours of most RPGs, online and multiplayer or otherwise start you off so weak, do such menial tasks. Does these phrases sound familiar? "You are not strong enough yet to use the big stick" "Bring me back the spleen from 50 sewer rats" "Your small blunt stick is broken"
    I personally love RPG, a long time player of various PnP versions. D&D is the pattern almost everyone follows, but it is the most archaic. In Shadowrun you start with either a lot of skill, a lot of tech, a lot of magic power, or a lot of raw talent, and you still advance from there.
    I play City of Heroes and City of Villains, and there is still a lot of repetitive "grinding" going on, but from the very start of the game you are doing something interesting, even the tutorial! Retrieving data on a psycho drug that has infected mobs of people in the area, it's up to YOU! Or escaping from your cell in the City of Heroes to restart your life of crime under the watch of a criminal overlord interested to see if YOU are the ONE future mega criminal.
    I have tried WoW and after CoH the first couple levels of most of the races are a chore. That kind of stuff should have been in a tutorial once. Undead actually are OK, I guess because the whole "Hunt animal X for food" thing doesn't work, so you actually fight other remotely imposing monsters who actually drop decent goodies right away.
    I could definitely do with out all of that, and I have heard many others who fell the same.
  • by CharonX ( 522492 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:52PM (#18034132) Journal
    Well, most people seem assume that Jeff Vogel is just another "I'm president of a software company, so I know what I'm talking about" guy. Wrong. This guy is also the main programmer of the Spiderwebsoftware. The company only has four people or so (do pet-taranulas count?). In any case, Jeff writes some excellent games - the Exile series (and the facelifted re-write the Avernum series) and the Geneforge series (to some extent) is pure crack for any old-school RPG addict.
    If you have anything important to do, don't go download their trial versions - even the 1/3 of the game you can play before you have to register for the full version will cost you many, many, many, many hours. Personally, if you are not picky in the graphics sector, I'd reccommend you go for the Exile series first.
  • by Fred_A ( 10934 ) <fred@freds[ ]e.org ['hom' in gap]> on Friday February 16, 2007 @04:58AM (#18036102) Homepage

    Next exhibit: Half-Life.
    Deux Ex was much more of an RPG than Half Life was. Not as pretty but at least as fun.
  • by Targon ( 17348 ) on Friday February 16, 2007 @09:45AM (#18037424)
    DDO is a very different game than the "EQ clones". Most of the things that force you to waste your time have been removed, and true adventures are available from the time you create your character. Now, it must be noted that DDO being a different sort of game means that many of the things that waste your time in other games are also "missing". There is no crafting system, and at the moment there are fairly few areas designed just for exploration, though this number is growing.

    As with just about any MMO out there, a free trial is available for you to try. The game also has updates just about every month that really have expanded the game and unlike many games, the new content tends to be even higher in quality than the adventures that were released when the game first launched.

    Since DDO launched, the level cap has been raised once(from 10 to 12), an in-game mail system added, the patron system was implemented(which is similar to a faction system but with rewards), over 40 new adventures, and more, all which came as a part of the regular subscription fee. No paid expansion was required for players to get these extras, and more is in the works.

    On Feb 28th, an overhaul of the enhancement system is set to launch, with module 4 planned for mid March(exact details on what will come with module 4 have not been released yet, but there have been hints).

    If you have played but quit due to a lack of content after only a few months, the game really has grown a LOT, so you may want to take a look at the changes.

    If you never checked out the game because you dislike the design of the other games out there, you should check it out, because it really IS different. The gameplay is not the sort where you just turn on an attack button and walk away from the keyboard until what you are fighting is dead, it's more involved than that. Sitting in one "camp" while mobs respawn is NOT a part of DDO, which really helps.
  • by virg_mattes ( 230616 ) on Friday February 16, 2007 @10:43AM (#18038026)
    Although it requires you to go back to the darker days of early Windows, the Might and Magic series is great for this. For example, M&M 9 was played in first person, in real time...until you press enter. Then it switches to turn-based movement and action, even if you're not in combat. It's a great interface, since you can "fall into the world" by moving around in real time for exploring and interacting with NPCs, but at the same time, when you're ready to jump out of the bushes and tackle that orc or a skeleton gets the jump on you, a quick smack on Enter and you've got the time you need to formulate your combat strategy. It's one of the best interfaces I've used for a CRPG. Add to that the idea that you start the game by winning a castle, only to find that it's a deserted dump occupied by all sorts of riffraff and you need to clean it up yourself. Also, you start as one character, but you can find, hire or rescue others (even getting a dragon to join you if you're good!) so you can build a party to suit your style. You get to choose between being good and evil, with all of the benefits and detriments that entails. You can affect the world around you (for example, building your castle up makes it a town for buying/selling and healing, but if you do a quest to steal something from another nearby monarch his army will show up while you're gone and destroy your castle for revenge).

    All in all, quite a fun series. Give it a shot.

  • Re:Oblivion (Score:3, Informative)

    by Overly Critical Guy ( 663429 ) on Friday February 16, 2007 @01:21PM (#18040272)
    I love Oblivion apologists.

    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.

    No, because it's true. Just because there's a small percentage chance that rats still appear doesn't mean anything. You purposely didn't mention that all bandits level up to you, so that around level 15, they all have ebony, glass, and daedric armor. You didn't mention that Arena combatants are leveled to you, so you can become the Arena Champion (supposedly the greatest fighter in Tamriel) at level 1. The demons invading Kvatch are total wimps if you happen to go up there at level 1. You can beat the whole game below level 3, and it's a piece of cake.

    You also don't mention that loot is leveled as well, so if you're a level 1 thief, it's useless to bother looking in chests or breaking into houses because you'll get nothing but crap.

    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.

    Oblivion does NOT use the same mechanism as Daggerfall. Daggerfall uses some enemy leveling, but not the system that Oblivion uses. MMO games have absolutely nothing at all to do with this.

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