Friday, March 9

GDC 2007: The Evolution of the RPG

What is a Role-Playing-Game? This question was asked to three highly prolific designers in the genre at a conference entitled: The Evolution of the RPG. The three said designers were Peter Molyneaux- creator of Fable, Hironobu Sakaguchi-creator of Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey, and Ray Muzyka-CEO of BioWare and contributor to Mass Effect.

So, what makes an RPG what it is? Well, Muzyka named four aspects that he believes are essential to an RPG: excellent stories and characters, the experience of exploration, characterprogression that is motivational and addictive, and emotionally charged combat.

Molyneaux agreed and also added that role-playing games are just that, players in roles. He said it is necessitous for the player to feel like a hero. RPGs should be an emotionally defining journey, to as he put it, “start off as nothing and end up being a hero?”

Finally, Sanguichi stressed these points in addition to the need for the player to feel accomplishment to be felt by the player.

Blue Dragon-Designed by Hironobu Sakaguchi of Mystwalker

The next question asked about turned-based combat, and whether it was good or bad. Molyneaux answered first, stating that real-time combat was the best choice for Fable because they felt it was more of an “immersive” gameplay experience. Muzyka however said that Mass Effect offers both real-time and turn-based, players can choose for themselves. Apparently, they don't want one gameplay type to be a barrier to the enjoyment.

Mass Effect-Designed by CEO Ray Muzyka's BioWare

Following this came character customization. Sakaguchi said it can be good but ultimately liked the RPG experience to a movie. The reasons movies can be so engrossing is because the story and characters are already defined. This moved into branching storylines and their use. Molyneaux started with a very provocative response, the problem with branching storylines is that when players choose, there is always a good possibility that they will regret their decisions and want to turn back or even lose interest.

Muzyka was more optimistic, saying that players new that their choices had consequences both good and bad, and that this would eventually lend itself to the game being more repayable.

Fable 2-Designed by Peter Molyneaux of Lionhead

The session ended with the subject of the MMORPG. Muzyka summarized all three of the panelists thoughts with this: “the story that develops between players--the social interaction--is a different kind of story, something you can't achieve in a single-player game.” He also hinted that BioWare is currently working on a game that blends the story of a single player RPG with the benefits of the multiplayer.

And that ends the roundtable.
The RPG is sometimes difficult to define, its not like the first-person-shooter, which we can easily label. But, the RPG does have a common set of characteristics that allow us to form associations. And, really, these three designers pinned it down. I'm sure everyone would agree that a true RPG features an interesting plot and good storytelling. Dynamic characters are crucial as well. As Ray Muzyka pointed out, emotional attachment is the hallmark of a successful RPG. Just look at any "Top 10 RPGs" list you can find, all will feature characters that players eventually come to appreciate, if not love.
Ico, greatest game of all time, ever.

What I like most about this roundtable though, is how Dr. Muzyka told us that combat must elicit emotion. This struck a chord with me immediately, the reason being I just finished Fumito Ueda's masterpiece, Ico. If you havent played Ico, do so as soon as humanly possible. Everytime the shadows try to take away Yorda, I found myself shouting at the screen: "Stay away from her, evil!" There is a flip-side to emotionally charged combat as well. You can feel badly about attacking or killing something. The final scene of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory (spoiler) is a fantastic example of this. The player is forced to shoot the head terrorist, and it was really effective at making me upset. At the same time, I knew it was what I needed to, both to continue the game and for the fate of the world.

The last thing I want to say is about the MMO. And its just as Muzyka said, its a different type of experience, a social one. I love the concept of fusing this player interaction with the emotional story of a single-player RPG. This is especially true if, somehow, players unanimously want to play their given roles, through use of force, incentive, what have you.

Why is an RPG an RPG?
Think about the RPGs you've played, what elements seemed strogest to you, which do you like best?
Do you think that real-time combat is more immersive than turn-based? Why or why not?

Please post any comments you may have.

Source: Gamespot

1 comment:

  1. Looking good, Finn,

    I really like the emphasis on images. Like we discussed, it really lifts the display.

    Don't forget to check Aussiejourno's Weekly Blog Awards in less than 24 hours.

    Good work. Happy blogging.