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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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  • by PFI_Optix ( 936301 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @05:29PM (#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.
    • by servognome ( 738846 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @05:41PM (#18030308)

      They both were engrossing from the start
      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.
      • by PFI_Optix ( 936301 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @05:49PM (#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.
        • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Thursday February 15, 2007 @08:55PM (#18033110) Homepage Journal
          "Blame DnD for that"
          I blame people who poorley implement RPGs. PnP DnD is different. Even so, most people I know did away with whatever they considered cruft.

          I new SWG was going to suck because it was built by the same people who think killing a rat for experience, and level work well for all systems.

          What he wants is to start off as an Epic hero, and do epic non -grind events right at the begining. There is nothing wrong with that, and that is exactly how SWG should have been.

          Using Star Wars as an example, I should ahve been able to say "hmm I want to play a Jedi" and imediatly started off as someone just finishing there Jedi training and could take 4 blaster toating Stormtrooper right away. OR be the Smugler and start with contacts and a ship. and so on.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward
            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).
          • by scgops ( 598104 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @11:01PM (#18034194)

            I spent lots of time playing DnD in the 80's. Most of the time, we continued on with existing mid- or high-level characters. On the rare occurrence we wanted to start off new, we still started in the level 7 to 11 range. No one wanted to play a total noob and get killed when a weak enemy made one good roll.

            Besides, whoever was being Dungeon Master knew they couldn't get away with killing off a bunch of player characters quickly, no matter what the dice said, or they would quickly find themselves very much alone.

            DnD isn't responsible for gaming systems that require people to start from scratch and grind through low levels. Unimaginative people who never had friends to play with are the ones to blame for such things.
            • by feepness ( 543479 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @11:41PM (#18034480) Homepage
              Besides, whoever was being Dungeon Master knew they couldn't get away with killing off a bunch of player characters quickly, no matter what the dice said, or they would quickly find themselves very much alone.

              One of my favorite campaigns I ever made up had me killing all the players one by one so they could be recruited by a demon in hell -- and of course "earn" their lives back with an appropriate task. I didn't even have anything written out for it. I just nailed them all for no good reason within the first fifteen minutes. ;)

              God that was fun.
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by Machtyn ( 759119 )
              I quote I see on occasion in some poster's sig line (on another board):

              Congratulations, young mage. You have been killed by a rat wielding a stick of butter.
            • Besides, whoever was being Dungeon Master knew they couldn't get away with killing off a bunch of player characters quickly, no matter what the dice said, or they would quickly find themselves very much alone.
              Every DM knows that the dice are only there to make noises. You pick numbers that make the game interesting, not numbers that are random. That's why there's a DM. Otherwise you might as well pick one of those multiple choice books.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by PFI_Optix ( 936301 )
              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. I
          • by Saint Fnordius ( 456567 ) on Friday February 16, 2007 @04:07AM (#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!).
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Fred_A ( 10934 )

          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.

          Not only do I fail to see what D&D has to do with it, but back when I still managed to sync my free time with others to play it, I DM-ed an awful lot of games and the consensus was that low-level players were much more fun to play th

        • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Friday February 16, 2007 @08:36AM (#18037008) Journal
          Nah, D&D isn't the culprit. Look, it's not about starting with a nuke spell and a vorpal sword, it's about starting doing boring, stupid, mundane, unimporting things like catching flies for your sister's collection or returning books to the library. There's nothing in D&D to enforce that. You could start a level 1 with a kitchen knife in D&D and still be right in the middle of something extremely important, if your GM had imagination.

          The real culprit is the thrice-accursed Monomyth [] a.k.a. The Hero's Journey [] script that we got in video games via Hollywood. (Yes, if you thought 90% of what Hollywood produces is the exact same script with different props and details, you'd be right: it _is_ the same rehashed script.)

          That script requires certain steps. You must start with an everyman character (Joe Average, basically) doing mundane things, that the viewer can empathise with. You don't even give him his goal until the middle of the story. Etc.

          Now that by itself gets boring when I have seen the exact same script 100 times before in a movie, or in a game. But in a game the problems are just starting:

          1. Who's doing it? In a movie I'm leaning back and just watching the hero do those mundane things for a while, and that's ok. In a game I'm required to actually do them. It's a bigger turn off. Sorry, that's not what I bought a game for. If I wanted to experience my barbarian's life as a peasant before the big life-changing events, I'd go back to playing Harvest Moon.

          Now I'm not saying there should be only combat, far from it, but spare me the meaningless "see, as you start as an average joe" chores. Make it important. If it's just the "you started as a peasant" intro, then make it the FMV intro to the game and let me at the controls when I have something finally important to achieve. I'm not saying it should be the final goal from the start either. Just _something_ important.

          FF7 for example got this right: you start as a mercenary in the middle of a mission to blow up a power plant. It's not the final goal, so it doesnt spoil story progression. But it's not boring, mundane and uninteresting either. You're someone, you're (supposedly) the trained professional these guys hired, and you're doing something fitting your (supposed) qualification and worth your fee. That's the kind of thing I'm talking about.

          2. Time involved? In a 90 minute movie, the mundane intro parts are maybe 15 minutes. In an 18 hour game that would proportionally be 3 hours. Thankfully nowadays most game designers do drastically shorten it too, but there _are_ clueless attempts at applying the monomyth to the letter. Even if it means 3 hours worth of running around returning library books and lost puppies. Frankly, if 15 minutes are enough to introduce the characters in a movie, they're enough in a game too. There's no need to scale everything equally.

          3. Does it even serve the same purpose? A movie is watched mostly in one go. A game isn't. Even _if_ that intro part served some purpose in a movie, for the transition between mundane and the movie world, that is lost in a game as soon as I save now and reload the next day. The next day I start directly in the middle of it without any such transition.

          And frankly, by now we have plenty of evidence that it actually works perfectly without such transitions. There is no massive problem suspending disbelief when you reload directly in the middle of the plot. So why do we need it in the beginning anyway?

          4. Scaling and time again. The monomyth taken literally is ok for a 3 hour story, but not for a 30 hour game. Building up linearly to the climax in 20 hours and coming down in 10 is boring. Even novels use multiple interwoven plots to keep it interesting over long periods of time.

          There was this unsavoury comparing a good video game plot to multiple female orgasms, with plateaus and peaks all over the plac
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Hoi Polloi ( 522990 )
          I always wondered in RPGs why the king/guild master/etc would put the fate of the kingdom/tribe/etc in the hands of a complete noob at the start of the game instead of finding a tank or arch mage. No wonder they are reduced to recruiting any lv1 adventures who happen to wander by.

          "Mr President, we've located the terrorist's HQ."
          "Great! Send in the Boy Scouts!"
      • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:11PM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 15, 2007 @07:08PM (#18031686)
          I think the point is that the end game might be about puzzles or role playing or story or character interaction instead of hack and slash. "Progression" doesn't have to mean "better weapons and spells".
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            It's a shame you posted AC, you are so very right. Part of the problem of progression being manifest in constant increases in power, is the rediculous difference between a noob and an experienced character. When damage and HP can be 100X you're starting stats, well that's just dumb.
        • by JimDaGeek ( 983925 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @07:09PM (#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.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Talchas ( 954795 )
            While I wouldn't put it quite that way, I will say that I do tend to push the "no ai" and the "pause every round" buttons and play it like pen-and-paper. Much more fun that way.
          • 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 [] 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.
          • by patiodragon ( 920102 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @08:09PM (#18032510) Homepage
            "I personally hate how many RPG games have morphed into an action game to keep the kiddies happy."

            I'm no gamer, but what on earth would you expect from a Rocket Propelled Grenade game, anyways?
          • by SQLGuru ( 980662 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @08:22PM (#18032682) Journal
            /me is also 34 /me also prefers "pause action" RPG's /me understands the need for levelling.

            The main reason that I want to go through the levelling process is because I may not want to take Magic Missle as my first combat spell. Consider it self challenging. If you automatically get the best available weapon/spell each time, it's just as bad as if you started as uber-dude. Sure it can seem pointless to work up from peons, but ever game does it.

            In Half-Life (the original), wasn't your first wave pretty much head crabs? You start with single-pop enemies and work your way up to the harder ones. Same for weapons. They start you with the pistol. You don't get the BFG9000 until much later in the game.

            RPG's just tend to do it slower and throughout the entire game (once you get a rocket launcher, does it really get any harder). But you get Magic Missle. Then you level up and you get fireball. And you level up and get lightning. And you level up and get Finger of Death.


          • 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 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.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by virg_mattes ( 230616 )
            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
        • Alright, they aren't really traditional RPGs, but I think I'll mention a few here. SPOILER WARNING if you care.

          First, Zelda: Ocarina of Time. This is actually the weakest example: You start out as a weakling, learn the controls, and gain skills and heart pieces and such. However, when you first draw the Master Sword, you're completely thrown off guard. Alright, Link is bigger and stronger, but he also has lost a few abilities. No more slingshot, no more boomerang, and no more hiding under the Hylian Shield

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Fred_A ( 10934 )

            Next exhibit: Half-Life.
            Deux Ex was much more of an RPG than Half Life was. Not as pretty but at least as fun.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by wcbarksdale ( 621327 )
          Ideally a story and progression would be expressed in some way other than just replacing your +2 sword with a +10 sword. If you look at the narrative structure of something like Lord of the Rings, the events at the beginning of the story seem minor by the climax, but they didn't seem minor at the time. I believe GP's complaint is that things at the beginning of the game seem trivial and stupid as you are doing them.
        • by joeljkp ( 254783 ) <> on Thursday February 15, 2007 @08:24PM (#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 LighterShadeOfBlack ( 1011407 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:17PM (#18030940) Homepage

        Most RPGs start you off unimaginatively at the absolute lowest level, so you get a sense of progression.
        Isn't that kind of the point though? Much of the fun of an RPG is the progression and the ability to choose how you progress. If you started off as a level 100 uber-arch-mage with a +50 staff of insta-death and just spent most of the game trampling on underlings and occasionally fighting a main enemy who puts up a fight it wouldn't really be appealing to what most people want from an RPG. Sure, it could be an OK game if done right, but it would lack much of what people want from an RPG. A lot of the fun comes from building up from nothing into a self-made super-powerful being of your design and improving your inventory as you go. While the start of the game might not have the fun of being able to put up a good fight you instead get a decent storyline (hopefully) that keeps things interesting and makes you want to keep going. That's why BG and games like it work - you might be a piss-ant at the start but you get a good story from beginning to end.
        • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Friday February 16, 2007 @09:10AM (#18037214) Journal
          Well, see, the funny thing is that _the_ most successful MMORPG (it has RPG in the name at least) is exactly what you describe as "non-fun". And funnily it has over 90% of the MMO market. So most people actually find that fun, eh?

          The thing is, in WoW, you may be level 1, but you start massively "uber" compared to similar level enemies. The wolves and kobolds in Northshire do 1 hp per attack, ffs. Not 1d6 or anything. Just 1 to 1. You have massive hp for your level, you hit several _times_ harder than any enemy, your hp regens right back in no time (which is why so few people appreciate a Paladin or Priest early), travel times are short, your equipment is perfectly adequate without any grinding or farming, etc. The only way to die even if you wanted to is to herd a small army of enemies or jump off Teldrassil if you're an elf. _Totally_ uber.

          You'll even get your first non-soloable boss at all at level 10 or so. (Hogger, if you're a human, different ones for the others.) Until then, you're _the_ uber-soldier that can mow down NPCs left and right with impunity.

          You're in some ways more uber than you'll be at level 70. You'll need damn good equipment to be uber at level 70, while at level 1 you're uber even naked. In some ways your whole progression through WoW is struggling to hold onto that level 1 god-like power as the enemies grow faster than your base stats do. You even end up letting go of some of that power in some domains, to better hang on to it in other domains. (The choice of talent trees, for example.)

          Guess what? It's fun if done right.

          Look, level and equipment progressions are good and motivating, but there's no reason to be dumb about it. Which is what a lot of game designers are.

          Yes, you grow up in levels/spells/equipment, but so do the enemies. _That_ is the motivator in gaining levels. But against equal level enemies you can do well from day 1 and it _will_ be fun. Starting level 1 does _not_ mean you have to start an unsurvivable peasant against level 1 enemies. It just means you won't kill any level 20s for now, but against level 1 enemies you can still be as powerful as you want to.

          I'm not saying I should start level 100 with a nuke. But my level 1 mage should still be perfectly able to kill a level 1 rat or kobold or whatever your game is all about. My level 1 modern soldier should be able to draw that pistol or M-16 he's been trained to use, and actually shoot a level 1 enemy. My level 1 padawan in a SW setting should be perfectly able to kill a level 1 Greedo, if he picks on me instead of Han. Etc. There is simply no bloody reason why, at _any_ point in the game, I shouldn't be able to put up a good fight against an _equal_ level enemy.

          It also doesn't mean you have to start doing boring mundane stuff like rescuing kittens from trees and picking apples in the garden.
      • by emj ( 15659 )
        Extra extra read all about it The Noob explains, RPGs are meaningess []
      • by krotkruton ( 967718 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @07:07PM (#18031666)
        I can see how a lot of people might not like that, but I think that is exactly why people who enjoy RPGs play them. That's why I play them at least. If I find a flash game online that lets me build levels and get stronger (remember Odell Down Under? where you're a fish that grows bigger?), I'll play for a couple hours. I enjoy that kind of thing. I think that they put franchise mode in sports games for people like me. We like the progression. I think the more important points of the article were the ones talking about the tedium of how to progress. His FFXII example was right on the mark. I played FFXII for 127 hours before I finally gave up trying to complete it and just beat it. I bet that the majority of that time was spent walking. A little bit of walking is fine, but when it takes 30 minutes to get somewhere (because it just takes that long to move, not because it's a challenge), that's pretty damn frustrating. I do agree with you about the "getting lost books" part, because it seems like so many quests in games, especially MMORPGs, are just "go here, kill this, pick up item, return".

        As for the "Most RPGs start you off unimaginatively at the absolute lowest level" statement, that's really not fair, and I don't think it's true. One reason, assuming that a game involves gaining levels, you have to start at some level. Regardless of what that level is, it's the absolute lowest level. I mean, you can't start at a higher level or else that would be the new absolute lowest level. Another reason looks at it from a different perspective in that if you take any game, its reasonable to say that the character could have started off weaker. By that I mean that given any first character with some starting abilities and statistics, you can always make those abilities weaker, even if you have to go into negative values, so you never start at the absolute lowest level. From those reasons, I think that either every game must start at the absolute lowest level, so the absolute lowest level is meaningless, or you can always start at a lower level, so there is no absolute lowest level.
        • by nuzak ( 959558 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @07:42PM (#18032196) Journal
          > it seems like so many quests in games, especially MMORPGs, are just "go here, kill this, pick up item, return".

          Beowulf: Kill the end-boss.

          The Iliad: Fetch Helen. Kill lots of Trojans first. Lots of long speech cutscenes.

          The Labors of Hercules: Lots and lots of fetch quests.

          The Ring Cycle: Fedex quest, total Lotr ripoff.

          • by MS-06FZ ( 832329 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @08:06PM (#18032486) Homepage Journal

            > it seems like so many quests in games, especially MMORPGs, are just "go here, kill this, pick up item, return".

            Beowulf: Kill the end-boss.

            The Iliad: Fetch Helen. Kill lots of Trojans first. Lots of long speech cutscenes.

            The Labors of Hercules: Lots and lots of fetch quests.

            The Ring Cycle: Fedex quest, total Lotr ripoff.
            The Hobbit: Go there and back again.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by krotkruton ( 967718 )
            Good question. I totally understand your relation, and you probably realize the differences I'm about to state, but I'm gonna say them anyway.
            The Labors of Hercules: 12 labors, most of them pretty direct (as in, he goes and gets the object instead of needing a dozen things before he can get the object)
            Auto Assault: I couldn't find an exact number of quests, but I found one site that listed 120 quests. Of the 120, 111 were levels 1-9, 8 were 10-20, and one was 20+. From playing the game up to about leve
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Alioth ( 221270 )
            From /usr/games/fortune:

            A Tale of Two Cities LITE(tm)
            -- by Charles Dickens

            A lawyer who looks like a French Nobleman is executed in his place.

            The Metamorphosis LITE(tm)
            -- by Franz Kafka

            A man turns into a bug and his family gets annoyed.

            Lord of the Rings LITE(tm)
      • by StarvingSE ( 875139 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @07:11PM (#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.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )
      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
  • Oh, I'd say a few of us wasted quite a lot of time on Oblivion as much as any other RPG. Perhaps we just enjoyed it a little more.
    • Re:Oblivion (Score:5, Insightful)

      by beavis88 ( 25983 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:17PM (#18030946)
      Or enjoyed it a little less, as the case may be. What's the point of advancement if everything else advances at the exact same rate?
      • Re:Oblivion (Score:5, Interesting)

        by WiPEOUT ( 20036 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @07:00PM (#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.
  • Whiner (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mandelbr0t ( 1015855 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @05:31PM (#18030124) Journal
    If you don't like it don't play. As I'm sure you're aware, there's plenty of other ways to spend your free time. Don't try and foist your problems with RPG onto me. TFA lacked anything more than anecdotal "I played for too long and didn't have any fun".
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by SurturZ ( 54334 )
      Computer games are a leisure activity and therefore are a "waste of time" more or less by definition. Whether a particular CRPG is fun or not is a different issue, and to a large extent dependent on the player. For example, I quite like grinding in CoH because I often play late at night just before going to bed and I just want to switch off my brain for a bit.

      That said, a CRPG where you start off all powerful and then gradually lose power as the game progresses might be interesting. I doubt anyone would lik
    • Re:Whiner (Score:5, Insightful)

      by merreborn ( 853723 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:09PM (#18030796) Journal
      More or less my sentiments.

      CRPGs have the leveling treadmill/grind, because people *like it*. I loved that shit from age 8 to 18. You're constantly rewarded, and it can give you a sense of accomplishment.

      Now, that game mechanic bores me. So I don't play those games anymore.

      I guess the real point to be made here is that there are really two subgenres of CRPGs:

      Those that focus on the leveling grind, and those that actually focus on "role playing". Some people like one, some like the other. That's pretty much all there is to it.
    • Uh, Jeff has done you one better. He makes his own CRPGs []. He's hardly a "whiner" any more than those who write about game design in Gamasutra are.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SetupWeasel ( 54062 )
      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, r
  • by Sciros ( 986030 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @05:32PM (#18030128) Journal
    What sweeping statements he's making! None of what he said would even sound vaguely familiar to me if not for the PVP aspects of MMORPGs, where people expect you to be at some sort of "honor level" or "rank" or whatever in order to play with you, which becomes a vicious circle. (Can't play to gain rank because your rank isn't high enough.)

    But "computer RPGs" in general? And what would those be? Oblivion? Baldur's Gate? Dungeon Siege? Neverwinter Nights? KOTOR? I mean give me a break, those games do NOT treat you like a moron who has to grind in order to do anything fun. Those games give you ongoing, increasingly challenging excitement. There's no sense of "I played long enough so now I get to have fun" at all! I'm really confused by the sentiment.

    Though I admit to not having read the article (blocked here).
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jimbogun ( 869443 )
      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
      • by Sciros ( 986030 )
        Oh, yeah I don't do that "easy level" stuff. I tend to really "RP" my way through Elder Scrolls games. Every session of playing feels like a Hercules: The Legendary Journeys episode that way, haha
    • by FangVT ( 144970 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @07:00PM (#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.
  • ADHD? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eviloverlordx ( 99809 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @05:35PM (#18030196)
    The author sounds like he's got attention span issues. If an RPG only took 10 hours to play, I'd feel ripped off. For games in general, I usually deem one hour per dollar spent a 'break-even' point in terms of ROI. 10 hours would be a total loss, unless it was a bargain bin game. Some of my favorites (Guild Wars, Half-Life 2, etc.) are well past the one hour per dollar level.
    • by oc255 ( 218044 )
      I thought he brought up some good points comparing tetris and a typical rpg. I think it's a false comparison but still enjoyed the insanity-exposing step-back. This is good pre-reading for my IGDA meeting tonight. :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by CDarklock ( 869868 )
      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 t
  • Guild Wars (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LoverOfJoy ( 820058 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @05:35PM (#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.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Jezzerr ( 414452 )
      To an extent i agree, however once again this "grinding for points" isn't really vital to finish the game. Yes i agree that the sunspear points are useful because they allow you to gain an extra 30 attrib points but they are easy to get and getting them can be combined with most quests on the beginners island

      Lightbringer points, although handy with the extras you gain with them are not vital to fight the final areas or bosses if you have a group which knows what it's doing :)
    • 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 Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @05:36PM (#18030216)
    , 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.

    Call me old-fashioned, but isn't this the point of most computer games, not just RPGs ? If you want to defeat the boss, you have to play all the levels before it. Or use the cheat code. In CRPGs, the story is often a key point of the game. And in Japanese RPGs, you often start out doing exciting things - Final Fantasy 7/8/.., anyone.

    And that's not just in computer games. If you read a novel, you'll have to start at the beginning and read all the pages until the end. If you want to climb a mountain and brag about it, you're not going to take the lift.

    Geez, what is it about this young generation that feels entitled to instant gratification ?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RichPowers ( 998637 )
      Agreed, but the meat of the game still has to be fun.

      A game could have the most amazing boss fight of all time and an awesome ending, but if everything before that point is terribly dull, then I'm not interested in playing.

      The challenge is creating a game that's fun throughout - even if you're just killing rats or dumb-dumb orcs at the beginning. And let's face it: many game studios simply lack the talent and insight to make such tasks fun. I think anyone can create a good boss fight, but it takes real tale
    • Fun from the start.

      That's the problem, poor gameplay value. It's not an instant gratification thing. It's that WoW is boring as hell to grind because it's all randomized BS with no value or significance that respawns regularly.
      • Re:Ultima Underworld (Score:5, Interesting)

        by twistedsymphony ( 956982 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:04PM (#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.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 )
      I'm not sure if you understand what he meant.

      If the fun is in a challenge, and the game turns out to be just a bunch of pizza errands, what is the point? If one wanted to do pizza errands, I'm sure Domino's is hiring. The amount of time it takes to level-up to be able to have a chance against the next boss is what turns me off of RPGs, MMOs and such.
    • by Bastian ( 66383 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:13PM (#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 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.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by StikyPad ( 445176 )
      If you read a novel, you'll have to start at the beginning and read all the pages until the end. If you want to climb a mountain and brag about it, you're not going to take the lift.

      I think you're missing the point. He's not saying he wants to skip to the end, he's saying he's already read from the beginning. He's already climbed the mountain. He's already worked his way up from the mail room to middle management. He's saying, "let's move on."

      Now it's possible -- perhaps even likely -- that he's simply
  • by nsanders ( 208050 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @05:40PM (#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!
    • Some Japanese RPG's do have elements of leveling, in that to enter some new section you really do go back through some things a few times to level up enough to the point you can take on new sections.

      Here one game I am thinking of is Disgea.
    • by Tim C ( 15259 )
      He says he wants an RPG that can be finished in 10-12 hours instead of the 40+ most of them are..

      If I'm spending £35 (about $65, give or take) on a game, I want it to last. I do not want it to be over quite possibly in a day (or certainly a weekend).
    • by Canthros ( 5769 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @07:03PM (#18031608)
      He's talking about CRPGs, not just the MMO sort. You may have noticed that he specifically bitched about FFXII?

      Incidentally, if you read to the end of the article, he pretty much cme to the conclusion you just noted: no more games that take more than 10-12 hours.

      Someone else already hit on the other thing you missed: it doesn't sound like he's upset about character levels, per se. He was aggravated about having to do piddly little bullshit for hours on end so he could move on to the bits of the game that mattered. It took this guy 47 hours to get through FFXII. Hell, it took me 120+ and I didn't do every quest or collect every Esper--or very many of either, actually. (I generally liked FFXII, but mostly because the grinding was less tedious than it had been for some time.)

      I guess the question he's trying to get at is this: why isn't the game made such that you gain whatever levels you need by the time you get to where you need them?
  • 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?
  • by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @05:45PM (#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.
  • Scaling Rewards (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Applekid ( 993327 )
    The problem with MMORPGs is the reward for the effort. This isn't just a few players in a D&D campaign: you've got huge populations. In order to reward people who do well in the game you HAVE to provide cool and unique places to play with cool and unique opponents that drop cool and unique items.

    If you step back you notice all the novel and interesting things in these games happen at the top levels because, frankly, that's where they HAVE to be. If the game peaks midway through the level grind, why woul
  • It had enjoyable missions from start to finish. I appreciate his point: I'm no gamer, but I remember when playing Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the N64, traipsing around huge landscapes was astounding - the first time. Several years on, I still don't want to play it again (although the completing a game like the does feel relieving).
  • First, let me say I can partially understand where he is coming from. Usually I run into this when I want to replay an RPG over again. As you go through the game you find bigger and better items (weapons, armor, magic, etc.) and when you start over again, you think, "If I could just get the *Light Sword* found at the end of the game, I could kick butt in the beginning of the game and get to the end that much quicker." I know some people who like to hack the game just to give their characters the coveted ite

  • by Anonymous Coward
    What RPGs often do wrong is make the main XP source from killing targets, so a char that goes out and kills 500 wolves is innately better than one which killed only 5. When the game system rewards tediousness, many players will get tired and angry.

    There are a few examples that I recall that alter the formula a bit. The Elder Scroll series do not derive leveling purely from killing, so your character can enjoy doing whatever he/she needs to. Chrono Cross levels all your characters when you beat the next b
  • by ShawnMcCool42 ( 557138 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:12PM (#18030848)
    I'm a long time gamer and i've been known to get sucked into FF11 and then the far superior WoW.

    I had so much fun with WoW, but I ended up quitting and eventually feeling disdain towards the MMO genre as it currently exists.

    I honestly can't find a nugget of story or novelesque quality at all in either of the MMOs I've mentioned. On top of that, the entire game structure is set around rewarding you for spending your time playing. I find that beyond superficial familiarity of your abilities and being observant in-general there's no real skill to be had in these titles. I can't believe I worked so hard to get a stupid mount in WoW...

    In the time it took me to grow to level 45 with two seperate characters I could have beaten a number of games that had a MUCH higher engagement level than WoW. WoW is drawn out and slow, you have to play for an hour to complete a quest (you know what I'm talking about, don't nitpick me here). I've come to realize that I'd rather have a much more condensed gaming experience. I feel that for every 1 part of WoW i expended 3 parts time. Why bother when there's SO many great titles out with closer to 1:1 ratio?

    I don't really have anything at all against the people who play the games.. But, for me (at least personally) I find them to be an extremely inefficient use of time.
  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:14PM (#18030908) Journal

    I am talking about the RPG effect were the end or even the mid-level game is just one long hack&slash. Offcourse you might have a different opinion, maybe the descende into one long slaughter session is what you call the exitiing bit and you are glad to have gotten that boring talkie stuff.

    Not even NWN2 succeeds here. Part of the problem is that the game gets too big. You go from a having a small party whose members are constantly in each others hair providing color, to a HUGE party who members you can barely get to know, whose interaction is extremely random because you have ZERO change of hitting the right combo of party members at the right moment/location.

    But an ever worse game was a RPG set in our own medeival times but were magic was real. It started out as a good RPG but soon became nothing more then one long dungeon crawl with zero Rpg elements.

    But back to bashing NWN2. If you have played it, you will have seen a loading screen message that tells you that you can interact with your party members enough to change them. What they don't say is that you can change ONE of them. The dwarf can become a monk. About half way through too and then that is it. Zero reaction from him.

    Whoopee. Then again, the entire game is not to fleshed out. Only one romance option per gender. No same sex romance. If only they hadn't gone for a every single class as a party member approach and concentraded on a smaller group they could have avoided all that.

    BUT I never really came across the need to 'grind' in a PC RPG. Yeah, in a way perhaps the whole bit in NWN2 were you got to do quest after quest to get access to the next area in your quest. Espcially since the "part of Neverwinter blocked of by the guards" bit is getting pretty old by now. Is that city ever not under lockdown?

    Yet that is part of the gameplay, sure it is not the best story telling to do all these quests when you feel you should be rushing to get inside but that is the way bad stories work. It is like that eternal sex scene in action movies were the leads suddenly get naked for no reason when they really should be trying to solve the case.

    As for ALWAYS playing a newbie. Well yeah, that can get old. Again NWN2 fails here a bit. Since you can create your own character you get the effect of being treated like a kid when your character is a 200 year old elf. Sure, they mature slower but still. Wel at least they were bright enough to make your forster father an elf as well.

    As for starting at level 1. Okay, just try to imagine a game where you start at level 20. Problem? Well, if it is D&D beyond that you start to come close to godhood. Monk's are near invulnerable. Fighters slice and dice through anything, magic users don't have a single spell available anymore that does NOT wipe out the entire party (by accident, I SWEAR!) and healers can pull people back from death before they were born.

    Sure a TRUE RPG could probably pull it off. In fact there is an other genre of games that already does. It is called an adventure. RPG without the combat. Because what does the combat mean if you are so fucking powerfull that nobody can stand against you. It would have to be an RPG with extreme story telling.

    I want one, but in todays world were not a single RPG designer can resist skipping corners by just adding a few extra levels of nothing but boring nasties you already defeated dozen of times, I am not holding my breath.

    Even the legendary Planescape Torment had them.

    But as for needing to grind up, he is playing the wrong games.

  • by wuie ( 884711 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:20PM (#18030980)
    The concept of 'wasted time' is completely dependent on the person who is doing the activity. For some people, it's a fun and rewarding experience to start a character in a different world/time/setting and build that character up through experiences and quests. However, for some people, this is akin to pulling teeth: an agonizing trial that they believe separates them from the action at the endgame. In the latter category, I'd place the author.

    I'm one of those people that likes the build a character from scratch and have them grow as I see fit. For this reasons, CRPGs are perfect for me, and don't feel like a waste of time at all. The fact that the author complains about 90 minutes of doing a quest when he could have used that time for something more 'exciting', like watching a movie, tells me one thing: he should definately get his entertainment elsewhere. He wants spontaneous action, he doesn't want to build the character but have it handed to him on a silver platter. There's nothing wrong about that, since there are plenty of games that do this, but CRPGs are not one of them.

    It's not a matter of the CRPGs being at fault, it's just the author looking in the wrong place for his entertainment.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GamblerZG ( 866389 )

      The concept of 'wasted time' is completely dependent on the person who is doing the activity.

      This is a common relativist argument that can be (and frequently is) used to justify anything. You just make a claim that all concepts are subjective, and you're done. No logic necessary.

      I'm one of those people that likes the build a character from scratch and have them grow as I see fit.

      It's not about character development. The point is, games can be meaningful and thought-provoking, but they often are not. Ins

  • I've never played a MMORPG and hadn't bought an RPG since the Ultima Underworld series except for ES4:O. I enjoyed Ultima IV, V, VI, etc. and Underworld, maybe because I was a kid and the fantasy stuff was fun. I don't seem to recall, however, having to "grind" or "level-up". I do remember that if you killed someone who had better equipment, you could take it and get more powerful. However, I tried the RPGs again with ES4:O and it was fun for several quests, but then got repetitive - go into this dungeo
  • Perhaps a majority of the problem is the ridiculously unrealistic gap between an experienced warrior and one with relatively less experience.

    I think the entire problem would resolve itself if the difference between a level 1 character's fighting ability and a level 90 character's fighting ability was significantly less.

    In an MMORPG environment, if 3 level 1 characters could gang up and take down someone who has reached the highest point you can reach, then I think the entire concept of the grind would take
  • 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 w

  • by alisson ( 1040324 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:57PM (#18031524)
    That isn't why RPGS/MMOs waste our time. That's simply how they do it. So why do they?

    Because you love them, darnit >:(
  • by Tiger Smile ( 78220 ) <james@dorn[ ]com ['an.' in gap]> on Thursday February 15, 2007 @07:03PM (#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.
  • My pet peeve (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Megane ( 129182 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @07:21PM (#18031876) Homepage

    It isn't the grind. Sure, the grinding wastes time to turn five hours of content (much of which these days is cut-scenes) into 50 hours of game. My pet peeve is the forced grind caused by random encounters that come out of nowhere. Walk 30 seconds, fight five minutes, repeat. That gets really annoying when you're just wandering around trying to figure out where the hell you are.

    Now I admit that back in the old days ('80s) it was simply easier to write the code to work that way. Having random monsters show on the map might not even be feasible depending on the sprite limitations of the video hardware.

    But that was two decades ago, and you'd think that by now that the "walk 30 seconds, fight five minutes, repeat" paradigm would be as dead as a hobgoblin killed by a 60th level GrindMaster.

    And even some of the new metaphors aren't all that great. A friend of mine figured how to set up FFXII to quite literally play itself. He rigged up the auto-combat so that a particular battle would esentially last forever (with a monster that kept spawning minions), started the battle, then walked away. When he got back, he just had to interrupt the auto-combat and kill the main monster manually.

  • by Stevecrox ( 962208 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @07:34PM (#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 sheldon ( 2322 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @07:38PM (#18032156)
    I play shooters, and have for a long time. netrek was my first online multiplayer internet game. I never got into the whole MUD thing, for the same reason I don't like RPGs today. The game isn't about skill, but rather how much shit you collect.

    I've played Doom, RTCW, Call of Duty, BF2, etc. The reason I like the shooter games is because you get better not because of the shit you've collected, but because of your skill moving the mouse and whacknig the keyboard, learning the map. Along with your ability to work together as a team, to predict what might happen and counter it, etc.

    So I can understand that point. When i switch from one shooter to another, it doesn't take me months to get good. I need to learn the interface, and maybe some new rules. But I already know how to work as a team, to communicate, and all that stuff. So I have a chance, to be competitive against the guy who has been playing for months in just a matter of weeks... I don't have to run around collecting shit to become a 49th level super ninja with dynamite punch.

    What is disappointing is that this difference has become lost on many of the shooter game makers. BF2 tried to make it so as you played you got access to more weapons. War Rock appears to be something similar. And so on. I guess they do this to try to drag you and keep you playing the game longer. But what it does is make the game more frustrating up front, and as such one is less likely to switch to playing the new game from something old.

    But because of this changing the game to a form of collecting shit... while you can take the skills to another game, you can't take the shit.

    It's essentially a form of vendor lock-in.

    And that's why they do it.
  • by spidweb ( 134146 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @07:39PM (#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 LarsWestergren ( 9033 ) on Friday February 16, 2007 @03:21AM (#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 Zork the Almighty ( 599344 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @08:09PM (#18032522) Journal
    I think the problem started when time became a selling point. RPGs started advertising "50+ hours of gameplay", and short games were criticized for being a bad value. Total nonsense. The first Final Fantasy can be thoroughly beaten in less than 20 hours. That's a good amount of time. The Lunar games, which are arguably worth the extended time, take 30-40 hours. Grandia, which is a beast, basically takes 50 hours, however a lot of that extra time is spent in dungeons, specifically one massive optional dungeon.

    Not every game is good enough to justify 50 hours of my time. In fact, very few are, and I would prefer to choose whether to spend that time or not (for example, by getting Medusa swords and pink tails) for a game I happen to like. Long games have less replay value, not more.

    I regretfully stopped playing Final Fantasy games after FF8, which I couldn't be bothered to finish. The optional side quests in FF7-9 were mostly absurd and stupid affairs. I do not want to breed chocobos for a few hours just to get to some damn island and get a summon. Nor do I want to jump rope, or master some other idiotic game in every town just to get a unique item. It makes me think there should be an option to massacre those idiot NPCs and take their items, which is one of the features I like in Bethesda's games.

    The optional feature that seems to be most lacking is opportunities for simple exploration. In most games there were times where you could veer off and find neat things, or get to a later town and talk to people before events happen and maybe buy a more powerful weapon or piece of armor. Simple things that are interesting and take 5-20 minutes to do, and have a simple reward or even no reward that you won't miss if you forget or if you decide not to do it. Later games seemed to forget this mechanic, and for every optional thing there had to be some sort of unique item or benefit just to justify doing it. This made the games feel tedious, especially when you did not have the option to go back and get the items later.

    Finally, I think the jump to 3D hurt the genre. Hey you kids - get off my lawn! It took me a long time to realize why I prefer 2D games (except for FPS games, obviously). Two dimensional representations are inherently artistic. You have to draw something, and that takes skill. Having a computer animate a 3 dimensional model lowers the bar dramatically. It becomes harder to appreciate artistic skill, and making a more detailed model and adding lighting effects obscure the artwork, for better or for worse. I want to see art, not technical effects. It is interesting that the opposite happens with 2D graphics, higher resolution makes bad artwork all the more apparent.
  • Zelda (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DeadboltX ( 751907 ) on Friday February 16, 2007 @02:51AM (#18035602)
    Zelda is a good example about how an RPG should be, especially the most recent one "Twilight Princess"

    In Zelda you don't have any "experience" nor "levels" to gain.
    There are no strength, dexterity, or wisdom attributes for which you can boost with equipment.
    You don't have to loot corpses for marginal equipment upgrades and you don't have time-sink kill quests to kill the same monsters over and over and over again.
    You don't have 10 slots for armor and magical jewelery and it doesn't take 2 minutes to kill a group of monsters.

    You do start out weak in Zelda but it has the same kind of progression as a first person shooter, weapons. You get new weapons and as soon as you do, *gasp*, you can use them! In traditional RPGs you pick up a sword and then you have to "learn" how to use it, slowly raising your skill; or you find weapons that you can't even use for one reason or another.

    The "fun" of traditional RPGs is had by way of achievements. You look at how far you have come and how much gear and attribute points you have to show for it.

    The fun of Zelda is figuring out the puzzles.
  • 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.

All laws are simulations of reality. -- John C. Lilly