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View Full Version : RPG Classifications or "What the hell is an RPG?"



Wolf Kanno
05-16-2017, 02:00 AM
I still get Game Informer and their newest issue had them rank the 100 Greatest RPGs of all time, spoiler alert, it's not a Final Fantasy. Yet going through the issue, there were a few nagging entries that I just can't bring myself to classify as an RPG that magically showed up on the list. The three that rang alarm bells in my mind were Horizon Zero Dawn (I feel it's more of an Open World sandbox game like Far Cry), Bloodborne (An Action game with RPG mechanics, but easily an action game first, more so than the Dark Souls series) and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (Action Adventure game with an RPG gimmick attached).

Granted, perhaps I'm just making a mess out of nothing and simply whining because these three games don't exactly adhere to my own interpretation of the genre but I had a similar issue when I was looking up RPG games on Steam to find their suggestions littered with titles that I feel are firmly classified as a very distinct genre like classic Adventure game, visual novel, and straight up action games.

So my question for this thread is simple: Are there any games you've seen classified as RPG you don't feel deserve it or vice versa games that should be called RPGs but are not? Secondly, what makes a game classified as an RPG for you?

FFNut
05-16-2017, 02:19 AM
I have a small collection of strategy games I love to play that have an RPG element to them, yet when people tell me it's an RPG I look at them funny. They are not an RapG, they are a stragity game that just happens to add an element from the RPG into it.

Next they hey will say that sports games are RPG with modes like Be A Pro, or FIFA 17 where you play as Alex Hunter in his bid to make and stay in the Premier. They are not, they are sports games that added a RPG element to it.

Jinx
05-16-2017, 02:43 AM
Technically all video games are role-playing games, because all video games are not your real life.

KleinerKiller
05-16-2017, 03:47 AM
I always knee-jerk about this kind of discussion, because trying to be stringent about genres and "what is a real X" inevitably leads to to the obnoxious "X ISN'T A REAL VIDEO GAME" whiners that populate much of the internet. So I've no great opinion on this.

Other than to say that Horizon: Zero Dawn is absolutely not an RPG. That's the only allowance I'll make of those three quibbles. That's it.

Mister Adequate
05-16-2017, 05:13 AM
I think I'd agree with excluding the games you mention WK (Though I can see it with Bloodborne I guess, as the Souls games are generally considered RPGs and it's closely related). Still, in the modern era RPG mechanics of one kind or another have been snagged by everything from FPS games to open-world racers. Honestly for me it's a little like that old saw about porn; I can't really define it, but I know it when I see it. I mean, you could say it's about dialog and character interaction - does that make the Telltale games like The Walking Dead RPGs? There's no levels to gain or stats to grind or dungeons to explore, but they're some of the purest "play a role" games around, to the point where how you react to unavoidable events is pretty much the whole thing.

Elly
05-16-2017, 01:12 PM
i read that issue too, it sux that they included so many games that were not RPGs that they weren't able to include more RPGs that should have been on there... basically they added a bunch of adventure and survival games with slight RPG elements in them like calling Zelda RPG when it's adventure, and Horizon when it's survival... but this is Game Informer, you can't expect them to get everything right, it's more of a propaganda machine and not really informative and rarely accurate...

Sephiroth
05-16-2017, 01:46 PM
i read that issue too, it sux that they included so many games that were not RPGs that they weren't able to include more RPGs that should have been on there... basically they added a bunch of adventure and survival games with slight RPG elements in them like calling Zelda RPG when it's adventure, and Horizon when it's survival... but this is Game Informer, you can't expect them to get everything right, it's more of a propaganda machine and not really informative and rarely accurate...

Most people do insist that Zelda is an Adventure. I on the other hand cannot see anything that just pins it down to an adventure alone. For me it is an RPG/Adventure combo. And Breath of the Wild in particular.

Vyk
05-16-2017, 05:07 PM
i read that issue too, it sux that they included so many games that were not RPGs that they weren't able to include more RPGs that should have been on there... basically they added a bunch of adventure and survival games with slight RPG elements in them like calling Zelda RPG when it's adventure, and Horizon when it's survival... but this is Game Informer, you can't expect them to get everything right, it's more of a propaganda machine and not really informative and rarely accurate...
Most people do insist that Zelda is an Adventure. I on the other hand cannot see anything that just pins it down to an adventure alone. For me it is an RPG/Adventure combo. And Breath of the Wild in particular.
I think it more defines an area of gray where people tend to draw the line. Otherwise you have trains of thought that lead like: If Zelda is an RPG then so is Darksiders. If Darksiders is an RPG, then so is God of War. If God of War is an RPG then so is Asura's Wrath. If Asura's Wrath is an RPG then so is Heavy Rain. And if Heavy Rain is an RPG then so is Family Guy

People are okay with making exceptions here and there for games like Zelda and Dark Souls. But people are also opposed, because they find the idea of opening the flood gates for everything to be defined by everything as too ridiculous. We need our labels and categories

Sephiroth
05-16-2017, 05:35 PM
i read that issue too, it sux that they included so many games that were not RPGs that they weren't able to include more RPGs that should have been on there... basically they added a bunch of adventure and survival games with slight RPG elements in them like calling Zelda RPG when it's adventure, and Horizon when it's survival... but this is Game Informer, you can't expect them to get everything right, it's more of a propaganda machine and not really informative and rarely accurate...
Most people do insist that Zelda is an Adventure. I on the other hand cannot see anything that just pins it down to an adventure alone. For me it is an RPG/Adventure combo. And Breath of the Wild in particular.
I think it more defines an area of gray where people tend to draw the line. Otherwise you have trains of thought that lead like: If Zelda is an RPG then so is Darksiders. If Darksiders is an RPG, then so is God of War. If God of War is an RPG then so is Asura's Wrath. If Asura's Wrath is an RPG then so is Heavy Rain. And if Heavy Rain is an RPG then so is Family Guy

People are okay with making exceptions here and there for games like Zelda and Dark Souls. But people are also opposed, because they find the idea of opening the flood gates for everything to be defined by everything as too ridiculous. We need our labels and categories

Darksiders is considered by many people as "mature Zelda" and RPG-ish.

Wolf Kanno
05-16-2017, 05:51 PM
I think I'd agree with excluding the games you mention WK (Though I can see it with Bloodborne I guess, as the Souls games are generally considered RPGs and it's closely related). Still, in the modern era RPG mechanics of one kind or another have been snagged by everything from FPS games to open-world racers. Honestly for me it's a little like that old saw about porn; I can't really define it, but I know it when I see it. I mean, you could say it's about dialog and character interaction - does that make the Telltale games like The Walking Dead RPGs? There's no levels to gain or stats to grind or dungeons to explore, but they're some of the purest "play a role" games around, to the point where how you react to unavoidable events is pretty much the whole thing.

Bloodborne is a much more streamlined affair than Dark Souls. They certainly removed some of the deeper mechanics from Dark Souls to make the game a more fast paced action experience. Course I have a hard time saying Dark Souls is an RPG, but I'll give them that. Bloodborne pretty much feels like Devil May Cry with stats.

As for Telltale games, I still consider them adventure/visual novels. You certainly play "a role" but as Jinx pointed out, that's gaming in general. The idea your choices matter and affect the story certainly gives it more merit than some JRPGs who usually just have you watch a pre-made story, but if we adhere back to the genres roots of D&D, making choices is only half the experience of what the genre was meant to do. I'm probably more strict on mechanics in my own definition of the genre though.

Other than that, I agree with the porn analogy.
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i read that issue too, it sux that they included so many games that were not RPGs that they weren't able to include more RPGs that should have been on there... basically they added a bunch of adventure and survival games with slight RPG elements in them like calling Zelda RPG when it's adventure, and Horizon when it's survival... but this is Game Informer, you can't expect them to get everything right, it's more of a propaganda machine and not really informative and rarely accurate...
Most people do insist that Zelda is an Adventure. I on the other hand cannot see anything that just pins it down to an adventure alone. For me it is an RPG/Adventure combo. And Breath of the Wild in particular.
I think it more defines an area of gray where people tend to draw the line. Otherwise you have trains of thought that lead like: If Zelda is an RPG then so is Darksiders. If Darksiders is an RPG, then so is God of War. If God of War is an RPG then so is Asura's Wrath. If Asura's Wrath is an RPG then so is Heavy Rain. And if Heavy Rain is an RPG then so is Family Guy

People are okay with making exceptions here and there for games like Zelda and Dark Souls. But people are also opposed, because they find the idea of opening the flood gates for everything to be defined by everything as too ridiculous. We need our labels and categories

^This is partly where I'm getting at. The term RPG has become as loose as the term "Action-Adventure" so just about anything is getting labeled as so. It's getting weird is all I'm saying, and I'm curious to see how other people define the ever elusive "RPG".

Vyk
05-16-2017, 06:10 PM
Darksiders is considered by many people as "mature Zelda" and RPG-ish.
That's why I used it to segue to the rest of the argument :P It's also very God of War in combat, so it helps blur the line for people either leery or eager to open the flood gates and categorize "everything" an RPG

Del Murder
05-16-2017, 06:20 PM
I read the issue, and they did mention that the line defining an RPG has become blurred. I think they included those games on purpose to make a point. Though it is odd they include games like Horizon and Destiny and not, say, Borderlands.

I think the definition of RPG is definitely not what it used to be. Instead of categorizing every game into a single genre, they are more like labels where a game could have one or several. Any game with some kind of stat progression could qualify for the RPG label these days.

The biggest atrocity of their list is putting Skyrim at number 1. Honestly, their list is kind of weird, but every list like this is going to have some odd elements. I liked IGN's RPG list better.

Sephiroth
05-16-2017, 06:42 PM
Darksiders is considered by many people as "mature Zelda" and RPG-ish.
That's why I used it to segue to the rest of the argument :P It's also very God of War in combat, so it helps blur the line for people either leery or eager to open the flood gates and categorize "everything" an RPG

Eh, you very much exaggerate with your conclusions though because the more transitions you make the more aspects are lost. It does not make much sense to disregard Game 2 after transition 1 as RPG just because Game 11 after transition 10 is not an RPG. You check if there are still criteria for it to be considered an RPG and then say "okay after that transition it has lost all of the possible characteristics" but you do not say "this one doesn't have it so the other one also" if "this one" possibly still has a lot of things that "the other one" might have lost already. I for example see one game that is considered RPG as no RPG at all because I see it as "its very own genre that adopts from RPGs" and that is Pokémon. If anything I can accept is as its own new subclass of the superclass RPG but that's really it. As long as it is clear that it kind of has its own niche and is not comparable to the standard. And for Zelda I see that very similiar. I consider Zelda an RPG way easier than Pokémon because while Zelda "has no HP and EXP and blabla" there are still fundamental aspects of it that I see as necessary for an RPG. And that something has puzzles and no EXP is not really an RPG-No-Go for me. As said, for me Zelda is a mix. And Action-Adventure-RPG. And Darksiders is pretty much the same thing then. I cannot say too much about God of War because I have never played it. Your transitional thinking of "Chain Member 1 is an RPG so Chain Member 10 is also" is incomplete as long as you do not define how many criteria are still fulfilled BUT for your specific examples we actually can see where the chain should stop because certain aspects are lost at one point.,

Elly
05-16-2017, 11:08 PM
to be clear the only reason i call Zelda an Adventure game even if it's exceptionally close to being an RPG is because it said "Adventure" on the original boxes for the NES... back in the 80's NES days the boxes had the games categories printed on them, as well as with their descriptions in Nintendo Power also being labeled with a specific category... the Nintendo Power Strategy guides were also seperated by these categories... in all these instances it was categorized as Adventure, so i figure Miyamoto decided it was Adventure, and so i go with that...
this is as i recall it from the 80's, i was a teenager then so there's a chance i could be misremembering something...

Wolf Kanno
05-16-2017, 11:17 PM
to be clear the only reason i call Zelda an Adventure game even if it's exceptionally close to being an RPG is because it said "Adventure" on the original boxes for the NES... back in the 80's NES days the boxes had the games categories printed on them, as well as with their descriptions in Nintendo Power also being labeled with a specific category... the Nintendo Power Strategy guides were also seperated by these categories... in all these instances it was categorized as Adventure, so i figure Miyamoto decided it was Adventure, and so i go with that...
this is as i recall it from the 80's, i was a teenager then so there's a chance i could be misremembering something...

If you go by Nintendo's eShop categorization, only a few of Zelda games count as RPGs. Usually it begins with the 3D entries and the top down titles are still action-adventure. I still consider Zelda to sort of be it's own thing. I don't mind calling it an RPG or simply Action-Adventure, but frankly it's unique enough to be just in a category of it's own. I feel the same way about Vagrant Story.

For my own reasoning, I usually start with "what is the primary gameplay function/component?" and use that to determine the genre of a title that utilizes multiple components by ranking the elements from most important to least. I also do a fail safe check to see if it falls into another category. For instance, TellTale games have the role-play element pretty upfront for their titles, so you could argue it's an RPG, but it's also a visual novel, which I consider a separate genre due to different goals and lack of some major RPG components. For RPGs specifically, my criteria for an RPG is usually "how close is it to D&D?" and I go from there.

Sephiroth
05-17-2017, 12:27 AM
to be clear the only reason i call Zelda an Adventure game even if it's exceptionally close to being an RPG is because it said "Adventure" on the original boxes for the NES... back in the 80's NES days the boxes had the games categories printed on them, as well as with their descriptions in Nintendo Power also being labeled with a specific category... the Nintendo Power Strategy guides were also seperated by these categories... in all these instances it was categorized as Adventure, so i figure Miyamoto decided it was Adventure, and so i go with that...
this is as i recall it from the 80's, i was a teenager then so there's a chance i could be misremembering something...

Now the Master Question: How many RPGs did exist when Zelda 1 came out? I am not saying they did not exist but they were just born at that time. And i am still absolutely convinced that it was either Miyamoto-san or Aonuma-san who once called Zelda an RPG. Not that it would mean I or you have to as they decide Zelda and not the definition of an RPG but I still want to mention it from time to time.



For me a Role-Playing Game has to put you into a situation that at least vaguely looks like a plot; therefore stuff like Final Fantasy I and even Zelda with their marginal stories at time (except for stuff like e.g. Twilight Princess and Breath of the Wild) still count. And even if you have an avatar that you can project yourself into, then at least some other characters should be able to give you the feeling you are in a living world. Pokémon has this weird phenomenon that it fulfills a lot of other criteria in RPGs for me but it magically succeeds in having a side plot (evil organization) without having a main plot. The main plot is supposed to be the "awesome adventure and bond you share with your Pokémon" but it simply lacks being written down and that "it plays itself as such" is just not enough for me. I somehow need to be immersed and feel that what I am playing is really a thing that has some relevance (that does not need to be a world saving plot or anything but I want it to at least have some "the character does this as an important part in his life" focus). Sadly I don't feel this for Pokémon, one of my most favourite franchises at all. What happens is a part of his life. But it just does not feel like plot. I mean, I am glad that at least the evil organization stuff is in there. I just wish the main goal woud not be stuff like "leave home to become a Pokémo trainer ... yeah ... okay, now you have reached the Pokémon league, cool". If the evil organization plot would just be more present. BUT if I remember correctly they mixed it a bit better in newer Pokémon games. Sadly it just feels like such a barebones concept manifested as exactly that - except for a few situations. This is were even the shadow of a plot is still more for me than such a thing and why Pokémon will always be either its own thing with RPG elements adopted for me or at least "its own kind of RPG" but that is me being very generous because of the entire plot thing. I actually think Pokémon as its own thing is an even nicer way of viewing it.



There still needs to be a significant amount of Gameplay. Cinematic Movie Games barely have any Gameplay; they merely qualify as games because you can do the least amount of things possible to still call it a "game".
It has to feature major gameplay elements that reappear in the game all the time, such as e.g.: Combat in various forms, Crafting in various forms, Exploration in various forms. It does not need to fulfill all of it necessarily and also not always in the same form. Same goes for the possibility of your avatar to grow. Whether it is a Level Up System with EXP, HP, MP, whether it is Equipment, whether it is collecting Heart Containers and various weapons, et cetera - all of that does not have the same form as mentioned. And as said, depending on what the game looks like, I might even be able to look over the lack or complete non-existance of some of these things as long as some of the more relevant factors still exist such as the immersion of your avatar combined with the story. That alone without too much Gameplay ends up being a cinematic movie game but at least the attempt to do some gameplay in form of the above mentioned examples is a great difference already. BUT these things can be presented in a very very different way than the ways that I normally see used in RPGs. The new Tomb Raiders for example have EXP, combating, exploration, blablabla. And they have a story. Somewhat. But the presentation of them makes the difference for me again, it just makes it "feel" so different and that is always an important factor for me. Does it feel like an RPG to me? Now I thought Horizon Zero Dawn - I have not played it yet - might be another RPG but if it is really a lot like Tomb Raider, and I know that a lot of it is like it; then I might change my view about it.
The rest becomes more and more optional.


EDIT: Now after having Horizon Zero Dawn I can definitely say it is an Action RPG and not just a normal survival game.

Spuuky
05-17-2017, 01:46 AM
Now the Master Question: How many RPGs did exist when Zelda 1 came out? I am not saying they did not exist but they were just born at that time.Ultima was already up to game #4 before the Legend of Zelda came out.