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Thread: How Do You Define "RPG"?

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    Bolivar's Avatar
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    Default How Do You Define "RPG"?

    This thread was partly inspired by a GDC Roundtable (between Sakaguchi, Ray Muzyka, and Peter Molyneux) in which they discussed the changing nature of RPGs, some incorporating aspects from action games, and other gaming genres adopting techniques typically definitive of RPGs. 10 years ago it was very clear what kind of games they were, but now it may be becoming harder to discern between what is and what isn't.

    Another inspiration came when Dragonsoul (seemingly M.I.A. at the moment) kept referring to Zelda as an RPG. Each and everytime he did this, there was always someone quick to correct him. But then I really thought about it - what really separates Zelda from traditional RPGs other than the fact that it doesn't utilize turn-based combat and menu-input commands?

    At the same time, you have some strict followers of Western RPGs making a rather strong assertion:

    Final Fantasy IV, for example, is not an RPG. The player does not roleplay. He/she has no impact on the characters' choices or the possibility to have different events or dialogue scenes depending on his or her choice. There isn't even any system for character development, as each party member is set on a linear track as they level up. Instead, the player is placed into a predetermined story, in which he or she can only witness as it follows a path and comes to a conclusion already set by the developers. Ironically, the term "interactive movie" almost fits the description (although anyone seriously using the term for RPGs or FF's has clearly not played the "choose-and-watch" "games" of the Sega CD).

    Furthermore, because of voice acting, and the limits which creators who implement it use, FFVII, VIII, and IX (again, for example, since this is an FF site) may now be the only entries in the series to include sparse moments of role playing (and VI to some extent, but that's a stretch). Subsequently, it may be even further removed from Japanese RPG's as the implementation of voice acting seems to be becoming the standard.

    So, how do you define what really is an RPG? For example, why is it that Zelda is out of bounds, yet Final Fantasy IV is firmly entrenched in the genre? Do you see genres overlapping, with games that are commonly classified in other genres incorporating RPG elements? It's a tough question, and the way in which the title gets restrictively used by gamers, it may be a good one for us to try to come up with some kind of answer to.

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    A Big Deal? Big D's Avatar
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    In Metal Gear Solid 2, it's suggested that the events transpiring are 'a type of role-playing game', the idea being that the player has taken on the role of this soldier, and is controlling that character's actions and choices.

    That's taking a pretty broad definition of 'role-playing game', though.

    I'm not going to quibble over the exact definition of RPG, because there'll always be disagreement. Hardcore tabletop RPers will insist that it's not a real RP unless the story is directly controlled by a human participant; a hardcore MMORPGer would say that none of the Final Fantasies (except XI) are real RPGs because they don't involve other people.

    To me, an RP video game is more than a platform game, or simply a third-person adventure. Every Final Fantasy, including IV, counts. However, I can't formulate a simple explanation for why I consider Vagrant Story an RPG but not Syphon Filter or Metal Gear Solid.

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    Nerf This~ Laddy's Avatar
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    CRPG's and JRPG's may be totally different, but they both share several things.

    1. Statistics and Attributes
    2. Strategic Combat To Some Degree with menus and attributal effects.
    3. Increasing and improving each character.

    Those three things are important to an RPG.



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    KentaRawr!'s Avatar
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    To me, an RPG has always meant a long game which has the ability to equip different weapons and accessories, and in some games, a battle screen. But what it really seems to boil down to is if it looks Japanese with some kind of stat-altering. But, of course, you can't base a genre on that, because it doesn't represent play style.

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    Oh go on then Cz's Avatar
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    I've always thought that the defining feature of an RPG that separates it from an "adventure" game is that the game world, and in particular the battle system, is governed by numbers and statistics visible to the player, and that the manipulation or enhancement of these stats is an important part of the title's gameplay. Obviously this isn't a very comprehensive definition, and I'm sure that those of you who are bigger RPG fans than I am will be able to pick out numerous exceptions to this rule. But that's how I've always identified the genre, and it's the argument I've used against calling the Zelda games an RPG series in the past. By this definition, FFIV is still an RPG, since the battle system still revolves around visible hit points and character attributes. While the player might not have much say in the progression of their characters, those characters' stats still progress, and the player must make efforts to gain experience or equipment in order to improve them. This might just be me conveniently providing a definition of RPG that allows FFIV to fit, but it always seemed like fair reasoning to me.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kentarou View Post
    To me, an RPG has always meant a long game which has the ability to equip different weapons and accessories, and in some games, a battle screen. But what it really seems to boil down to is if it looks Japanese with some kind of stat-altering. But, of course, you can't base a genre on that, because it doesn't represent play style.
    RPGs to me are huge massive worlds were you are dropped onto from a boat left to find your own way int eh world. There have to be at least 9 guilds to join and there are politics war, and other issues. There is a main quest that is optional, but there is a lot of other content to do. You can simply explore, or you can join a guild and get involved in politics and build your way to the top. You can be any job heck even a merchant if you want to be. Leveling up isn't solely dependent on rather or not you can kill some mob. It depends on your job and what skills you have. If you are a traveling merchant. Then you level up by using your speech craft, and your mercantile, and other skills.
    Sure its optional if you want to be the strongest warrior, or you can be a monk and fight hand to hand.
    If you haven't figured out what game I based this one. Well its Morrowind. Yes all RPGs must be like Morrowind, and shouldn't be any shorter, and the world should be bigger with massive battles in them for those who want to join the imperial legion etc etc.

    The gameplay must be sand box style.

    JRPGs are too linear for me.

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    One note I like to point out with an RPG, is everytime you play it, your characters will not be identical at the end of it... unless you cap everything of course.

    But try playing through FFIV, get your characters to level 50, then play through again. Their stats will not be identical. Similar yes, but not identical. If you play Zelda, you'll be the same everytime. I guess the idea behind an RPG is there are hidden RNG's in the game. Zelda doesn't really have that. Everytime you do something in an RPG, it's like a dice being rolled. Stat gains, enemy drops etc. In Zelda, everything is predetermined.

    So I suppose the difference is, RPG's determine as you go, while non RPG's everything is pre-determined.

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    Markusdot Markus. D's Avatar
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    I'd say anything where you roleplay something is an RPG.

    Thus, 95% of games are RPGs~ ... ._.?

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    It depends on your view, I guess. In some ways, you could say an RPG is where you are the character, as opposed to the character being the person the designer wanted them to be. Gordon Freeman, Link, and Crono never spoke in their games as an attempt to make the player feel more like they're inside the character's head, witnessing the events as the character would, as opposed to just controlling their movements until a scripted sequence.

    On the other hand, there's the statistical part of RPGs. People like to feel in control of their characters and being able to modify them to a good extent.

    The thing is, this is how it was even back before video game RPGs, in the table top games. There's always been a division between the two aspects of the genre: Do you prefer an immersive story and world, or being able to customize your character to the nth degree? And while there's games out that definitely do both (Western CRPGs) and do it well, they're relatively limited in amount. Which leads us to internet debates over the classification of games as to whether or not they're RPGs.



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    Memento Mori Site Contributor Wolf Kanno's Avatar
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    This is a difficult question and sadly I don't have the time to do a complete breakdown analysis but basically I would say Tabletop is the original form of RPG and a RPG is any game that has heavy elements attributed to it. Zelda is an RPG but its an "Action RPG" with a stronger emphasis on platforming and wild combat than stats (see Cz post for my reasoning) IV is a "JRPG" with heavy emphasis on story and use of predetermined characters. DQI and FFI are perfect examples of "Traditional RPGs" as they are designed closely to be like table top RPGs with heavy use of stats to determine factors in the games.

    Western RPGs focus on choice and freedom while Eastern focus on stories. Both deal with empowering the character and making them, feel like someone else its just done in both cultures respective philosophies.Both have their faults, I feel western RPGs have a lack of immersion due to too much freedom and I quickly lose interest cause I see no point in doing the myriad of choices. They lack incentive to me cause even the main story is treated like an optional side quest. JRPGS have story and characters to act as an incentive but lack freedom of choice making the player feel more like observers rather than part of the experience. Not too mention that side quests have nothing more than statistical relevence most of the time and rarely impact the main story.

    Bluntly, RPGs are games that allow the player to assume a role and feature a major influence of the source material (Table Top RPGS) within them. After that it breaks down into splintered niches.

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