Join me again as I sit down with Yolanda “Lolita” Green and Chris “Turkish” Smithard for an in depth discussion about the
elements that make up the magical world of the role-playing game (RPG). I urge you to
take the time to read through the whole article. Both of these RPG lovers show
remarkable insight into why this genre has been able to captivate gamers for
We take a step by step look at the game mechanics that ensure an unforgettable RPG experience.
Race and class
“Yesterday I did
a Tier 2 dungeon and got an awesome staff for my Mage in Rift. It's a spoon ...
even games tell chicks to get back in the kitchen.” Yolanda Green
YG: “Race and class brings a level of technicality to some games that I
rather prefer. Having only random races with no actual use to their racial
passives is a huge waste. World of Warcraft has shown that there can be a
balance to strategically choosing your race in relation to the class you’d like
to play and versatility to choosing a race you like with a class that interests
For example, choosing an alliance Human can either be the
optimal race for a Paladin or a Priest class as the racial passives will
benefit both to the fullest, meaning it will boost your class and give you a
race that you like instead of only having one option to optimise your class or
losing out on stats or efficiency because you’d rather go for the look of a
race than benefit the class you choose to play.
In many MMORPG’s like Rift the importance of choosing the
right class for the race or vice versa is not really present, although this
gives you greater freedom in creating the avatar you like, it robs a certain
type of gamer of playing more strategically.
is perhaps the first and most significant choice that the genre presents to the
player. I think it’s important to have classes that play differently, but that
are equally balanced and effective. I feel this is where MMO’s fall short. Yes
most do present you with a wide variety of classes to play, but I find that
they tend to force you to construct your character in a very linear fashion.
You have to either tank, dps, or heal. There is always an optimal character
configuration, and if you don’t follow that you will have a hard time. Single
player RPGs are more forgiving in this sense. You can generally go any route
with your character (within reason) without really hindering your progress.”
“Spectral Assassin” from The
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim by Dead End
YG: “Lore is one of the most exceptional things to an RPG. The greater the lore, the more I like the game. It always astonishes me how people can come up with something so elaborate and wondrous.Hats off to the thinkers that dream it up."
is a very important aspect to me personally. Lore is what gives the game world
life. It makes the player feel like he or she is a part of a real and plausible
world. A game with rich lore is a sign that the developers went to a lot of
extra effort – it shows that they really care about the game they made.
The inclusion of different races
should add to the lore. They need to be there for a reason, they need to make
the world more diverse, more interesting. Dragon Age is a good example. All the
races had really deep, well thought out back stories. It helps to make the game
The Dungeons and Dragons lore is
a large part of why I enjoyed Baldur’s Gate so much. I’ve read a lot of books
set in that universe. Decades have gone into its creation. It’s literally the
sum total of thousands of writers and contributors. Meeting characters that you
spent hours reading about and visiting locations that only existed in your head
is a real kick.”
Story and setting
“Training Day” from The
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim by Dead End
YG: “Many RPG’s success is based on where the game is set and how good
the story is. I guess it’s hard to define exactly what an RPG is these days. I
find that games like Deus Ex and Mass Effect, although heavily shooter based,
are some of the best role-players out there. The stories and settings are so
elaborate and incredible that it’s hard to imagine that any game can reach
success without suc h depth and detail.
The ability developers have to create worlds and stories
and lives and civilizations that are so vast and exceptional is something that
RPG’s should never be without. Many of these games have richer and greater
stories than any movie we’ve ever seen or any book we’ve ever read.
Then there’s the flipside, the believability of a setting
and story, a touch of reality. In games like Homefront, again, although a
shooter, I could play the role of my character and feel like I was really there.
This reality based setting and story is equally as strong as a fantasy or
sci-fi world if executed correctly.
story doesn’t have to be that original. I think it comes down to how it’s told.
The game has to draw you in. It has to make you feel like you are being swept
up in the story, and not merely a witness to it.”
Exploration and quests
“Wherever I may roam” from The
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim by Dead End Thrills
YG: “Exploration is in fantasy RPG’s a huge portion of the magic gamers
can experience. Exploring a new world, or place that has been dreamed up by
some one else helps immerse a player into the story. Many gamers for good
reason prefer free-roaming games. I guess in a way it contributes to
believability and making a player feel like they really are a part of a fantasy
Questing needs to be very balanced. Tera probably showcases
the most fun questing I’ve experienced in any MMORPG.
It’s hard to explain why
it’s different from other games, because yes, you do need to either collect a
certain amount of items, kill some monsters or bosses, but it has a level of
immersion that I’ve never experienced while questing before. Some how the game
has succeeded in creating a process of questing that is addictive and easy. You
are not required to do anything complicated or to read through any quest logs,
you just know what to do and enjoy doing it. Group quests feel like
mini-instances even though you don’t have to go into any dungeon to do them. A
game with tedious and boring questing will lead to less exploration.”
the point of having a living and breathing world, but not being able to explore
it. Exploration is a tricky thing to deal with though. A fine balance needs to
be struck. The game world shouldn’t be so massive that it draws the player away
from the main story or quest. Then again, it shouldn’t be so shallow that the
game feels like a roller-coaster ride. Skyrim is a good example of what I’m
talking about. The main quest took less than 10 hours to complete, but you
could spend over 100 hours doing various side quests. The problem is that these
side quests tend to be very repetitive. They feel pointless to me since they
don’t really impact on the main story in any way. Side-quests should be exactly
what the name suggests – something extra on the side. Exploration and side quests
shouldn’t take up the majority of the games content. Furthermore, questing
should be a bit more varied than killing something, or brining an NPC a certain
“Unbreakable” from The
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim by Dead End
YG: “In almost every RPG, gamers will experience elaborate character development.
Growing with the character whose role you play is of absolute importance. Going
from zero to hero or even villain to hero takes gamers on a journey that
immerses them into the game more deeply. Character development is usually a
process of self discovery not only for the character but for the role player as
RPG’s that lack rich character development, lack the
ability to pull gamers completely into their story. Character development from a
title to its sequel or throughout a trilogy is just as important. Players don’t
want to feel that the role they embodied in the previous game is now someone
again, a very important factor in any RPG. As I mentioned in the first bullet,
the game should allow you to create the character you want, and not merely
present you with a few linear routes to choose from. To me, Diablo 3 is a good
example. There are about 40 or so different skills sets to choose from and
combine. Skills that you unlock as you level up are not necessarily better than
lower level ones. They are just different. The game allows you to combine
skills as you choose. You can form multiple different combinations, but none
are more effective than the other.
“I was hoping it would be amazing, till I found out
that I wasn't the only Dovakin and not special at all. Everyone else kicks the
dragon's ass and I am left standing with my axe in my hand like a dude that
just got dissed by some chick.” Yolanda Green on her Skyrim let down
YG: “Having a user friendly and neat interface should be an easy thing
for developers to tick off the list. Having a customizable interface should be
part of every MMORPG.
Most of the time, video games succeed in this, however,
there’s been one instance that I’ve actually been completely put off a game
because of a bad user interface. Most gamers know Skyrim. Most gamers that are
familiar with the series know the interface, and most die hard fans of the
series will never admit how frikkin horrible it is!
The reason why a bad interface is so completely
unacceptable is that it greatly affects the gameplay. Interface and gameplay
are for obvious reasons very dependant on each other and therefore, in short, a
bad interface equals uncomfortable or bad gameplay.”
really much to say about this. It should just be effective. A cumbersome
interface can really ruin the game.”
“The only way out is through” from The
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim by Dead End
YG: “Combat can often make or break a game. Tera has a unique combat
system that sets the game apart from all other MMORPG’s and takes the genre to
a new level. Kingdoms of Amalur also had some incredible combat which largely
contributed to the fun factor of the game. In gaming, you don’t reinvent the
wheel when it comes to combat, you come up with an innovative design that makes
for smoother, better more kick ass gameplay.
with the interface, combat shouldn’t be cumbersome, it needs to be fun. Combat
can be handled in a variety of ways. I enjoyed the turn based system that
Fallout 1 and 2 employed. A battle could last more than an hour. It was slow,
yet fun. There was a massive strategic element to it, like a game of chess.
Mass Effect’s combat, on the other hand, was more akin to a First Person
Shooter. Both systems are vastly different, yet both worked for me. Both were
Art and music
“Ethereal” from The Elder Scrolls V:
Skyrim by Dead End
YG: “Art and music are predominantly the things that capture my
attention in any game. It’s not always the graphics that visually entices me
but the art in environments and the music that accompanies me through my
is really the cherry on top. The art has to match the rest of the game. I don’t
really care about photo-realistic graphics; it’s more about the art direction.
It has to be in touch with the rest of the game. The same goes for the music.
Both have to enhance and help convey the intended experience.”
elements in an RPG game do you want control/choice
“Sacrifice” from The Elder Scrolls V:
Skyrim by Dead End
YG: “When playing a heavily story driven RPG with in depth character
development, it’s really important for me to have some kind of control in
choices that define who I am or aspire to be. I don’t always like being forced
into a persona unless it contributes to the overall outcome of the game.”
CS: “I want
the ability to influence the outcome of any quest I accept. That outcome should
be good, bad, or something in between, something more ambiguous. One party
should always stand to benefit from your choice, while another party loses out.
I’ll make reference to Skyrim again. I felt the only choice I had was to accept
a particular quest or not. Generally there was no room to influence the outcome
of the quest.”
Choice: RPG use storytelling to
direct the player's attention to consider moral choices more
carefully. Give us an example of where you've experienced this in an RPG
YG: “Mass Effect executed this perfectly and probably the best I’ve
ever seen in any game. I recently wrote a piece of Mass Effect expressing how the
game plunges gamers into moral dilemma. This is a snippet of the piece:
“Following the life story of Commander
Shepard, this game has delivered a plethora of moral dilemma and simulation of
the ultimate decision making process of any individual catapulted into situated
chaos. The great question of life and death, right or wrong and compromise for
the greater good of the existence of not only humans but extra terrestrial life
both organic and synthetic weighs incalculably heavy on the shoulder of the gamer
behind the screen.” Read the full article here.
Torment is a very good example. The game would frequently present you with
choices that have a huge impact on certain parties or groups within the game.
Whatever choice you made, someone lost out and someone gained. The kicker is
that in many cases both the parties in question didn’t really deserve anything
bad, or they didn’t do anything wrong.”
Choice: What type of choices
in an RPG engages you more deeply?
YG: “Choices that showcase character traits and the type of person the
that open one door and close many others. The choices should never completely
satisfy you, they should always leave you with a small feeling of regret.”
Choice: Describe your
thinking processes when you are presented with choices that will influence the
YG: “I haven’t pinned down a process of thinking when it comes to
making them in game, more so than not, they just come naturally.
always go for the choice that will have the most positive impact, or the one
that seems like it’s the right thing to do. As I mentioned, I will always play
a hero archetype, so my choices will usually be in line with that."
Choice: Do you tend to make the
choices in an RPG that resemble how you would respond in real life?
YG: “I always try to make choices that I would have made or at least
hope I would have made IRL. They may or may not resemble how I respond in life,
I don’t find that I’m often required to make similar decisions IRL than I am
in almost all instances, my choices will be in line with the way I will respond
in real life.”
When I contemplate the RPG journey we’ve taken with Green
and Smithard over the last few weeks, this seems to stand out. The magic of the
RPG lies in how well the game succeeds in allowing the player to reflect parts
of him or herself in a world of fantasy. The more the game allows the player to
do this, the deeper the immersion. What are your thoughts on this?
Join us next week for the final instalment in our series on
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