News Gamer Interest Role Playing

Explore the magic that is role-playing games.

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 decades.

We take a step by step look at the game mechanics that ensure an unforgettable RPG experience.

Race and class

  Spoonjpg.jpg

“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 you. 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.

CS: “This 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.”

Game lore

  spectralassassin.jpg

“Spectral Assassin” from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim by Dead End Thrills

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."

CS: “This 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 more exhaustive.

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

  trainingday.jpg

“Training Day” from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim by Dead End Thrills

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.

CS: “The 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

  whereverimayroam.jpg

“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 world. 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.”

CS: “What’s 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 item.”

Character development

  unbreakable.jpg

“Unbreakable” from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim by Dead End Thrills

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 well. 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 entirely different.”

CS: “Once 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.

Interface and gameplay

  smokeonthewater.jpg

“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.”

CS: “Not really much to say about this. It should just be effective. A cumbersome interface can really ruin the game.”

Combat

  theonlywayoutisthrough.jpg

“The only way out is through” from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim by Dead End Thrills

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.

CS: “As 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 fun.” 

Art and music

  ethereal.jpg

“Ethereal” from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim by Dead End Thrills

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 journey.”

CS: “This 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.”

Choice: What elements in an RPG game do you want control/choice over?

  sacrifice.jpg

“Sacrifice” from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim by Dead End Thrills

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.

CS: “Plancescape: 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 character is.

CS: “Choices 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 game.

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.

CS: “I 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-game :P”

CS: “Yes, in almost all instances, my choices will be in line with the way I will respond in real life.”

Closing thoughts

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 role-playing games.

Han's Twitter | Blog

Other news from around the NET:

Recent Comments

Community on Disqus

Latest Reviews

comments powered by Disqus

Survey

Vote for your favourite March 2017 releases:





Submit Survey  View Results