WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR A GAME TO BE AN RPG?

Posts

I think finding the exact definition of RPG is completely useless, as in everything, most new games that appear now are some sort of hybrid between different genres, So even if we define what a "pure" RPG is, most games considered RPG wouldn't fit in that category now.
You can find elements that are commonly used in RPG's but that doesn't mean they're completely needed for the game to be considered RPG.
To me, common elements in RPG include:
-levelling up
-use of some currency
-playing with more than one character
-a more intriguing and in depth story than a regular platform game
-while in 2d they use a top down view instead of side view.
As I said none of these elements is completely necesary but they're very common in RPG's.
I don't include medieval setting, because to me that's just a setting, doesn't define the genre.
Of course Cray, none of those are relevant at all to whether a game is an RPG or not. A game can have every single one of those elements and not be close to an RPG. And a game can have none of those elements and still be an RPG.


NewBlack is a lot closer but I still say that the "choice and consequence" is needed (in addition to player skill vs character skill) to make a game truly an RPG. Otherwise a game like GTA: San Andreas would be an RPG (though some might argue it is), since you get better at things like shooting, running and driving through a kind of skill system in that game.


I've found one hole in my definition of RPG system though. A game genre that has both massive amounts of "choice & consequence" and "player skill vs character skill" and that's sports management games like Football Manager. In that game you're completely dependent on the skills of your players on your team. And the whole game is filled with choice you have to make as you play through seasons (and each choice has a very real consequence).

But Football Manager games aren't RPGs are they?
Thiamor
I assure you I'm no where NEAR as STUPID as one might think.
63
author=prexus
author=Thiamor
An RPG is solely any game that gives you some sort of Role to play out.
I couldn't read the rest of your post, this blew my mind. This is the most ignorant statement anyone could make about an RPG. -Any- game forces you to take control of a role. Mario in Super Mario Brothers, God in Black&White, The guy stacking the tetrads in Tetris. This is not the defining feature of the genre.


Call it ignorant all you want, but I don't lack in knowledge when it comes to games as I've probably played more than most of the members here.

An RPG isn't just 1 thing that defines it. As I stated, and it is obviously correct as there are MANY things that can define the genre. It is like saying there is only 1 defining feature, word or whatever that explains the genre of music known as Metal. When in reality, it is thousands of things that define it. This whole argument as to what it is, is so pointless. Like that one person talking about stats and skills. That is one common factor most people use, but it isn't the major thing about it.

Again, call me ignorant, but I'm right in this sense. There is no winning when talking about what an RPG really is, and no one is right or wrong.

Well I've said over and over again that there actually ARE two right answers when it comes to RPGs. And no one's disputed it in any meaningful fashion yet.

So here it is for your knowledge:
1) Character Skill over Player Skill
2) Choice & Consequence.


and btw
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There are tons of RPG games where you don't have choice and consequence, the early final fantasy games didn't offer you any kind of important choices to make.
LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
6138
I guess "choice and consequence" is a good definition of... Bioware RPGs. Of most non-linear western RPGs in general, perhaps. But non-linearity is certainly not a prerequisite for the genre. In fact, I typically actively avoid RPGs that include choice and consequence, as I dislike most of the common ways of adding nonlinearity in games.

Where's the choice and consequence in FF4? In Etrian Odyssey? In Pokemon? Chrono Trigger only gives you a single plot-related choice in the entire game - to kill Magus or not. Every other choice in the game only affects the gameplay. Story and dialogue themselves aren't requirements for RPGs, so how could nonlinear story and dialogue be requirements? Unless you mean that pure gameplay choices count also, in which case "choice and consequence" applies to every single game ever conceived of any genre. Because then you are just saying the player interacts with the game in some way.
RPG's I have came to find out include, by looking at needs and necessities rather than personal opinion:

- A currency of some kind.
- At least one playable character with stats that must evolve (even if its one stat).
- An inventory of some kind or form.
- Battles of some kind or form.
- Interactive NPC's (not like the kind in shooters, these guys need A-button initialization).
- Some form of exploration.
- Some form of quests, missions, goals, objectives. (Read: Not necessarily "story").

Anything else?

Not needed, though some games have them (not crucial to RPG's in other words):

World map - nope, not all RPG's *need* one (but it would be considered bad to not have one in most RPG's). Torchlight I think has dungeon maps but doesn't *need* a "world map".
2D overhead view - nope.
the idea of a "limit break" - not really, unless you tack on a "J".
An intriguing story - not really. I mean it! (Monster Hunter, Rune Factory, Torchlight). Some games demand more of a story than others.

Calling a game an RPG must also feel right. There are many reasons why you might not call a game an RPG even if it has some of the above points.

Harvest Moon is not an RPG in my book but a simulation game, while its sister game Rune Factory is because it has many core RPG elements like stats and battles.

By my definition Assassins Creed would be considered an RPG. It has stats (of some form, namely health and weapon upgrades) currency, exploration, missions, an inventory, interactive NPC's (like DaVinci), and battles.

Same is true for Zelda series (health/mana upgrades) an inventory, exploration, interactive NPC's, goals, battles, etc.

We should not deride RPG's down into two categories:
1. That its some form of Dungeons and Dragons.
2. That its some form of Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest.

My points include those types of games, and much, much more. But notice they won't work for shooters, or for Sports games or arcade games.
author=Cray
There are tons of RPG games where you don't have choice and consequence, the early final fantasy games didn't offer you any kind of important choices to make.
I am a purist in that Choice and Consequence is completely vital to the RPG experience. I will take C&C over character skill any day for my "RPG elements". (see games like STALKER) And also I always look at the tabletop if I'm lost and in those I see that the RPG genre is built on the fundamentals of C&C. Then that most "RPGs" are linear dungeon crawls that sully the very name RPG... Well it annoys me a bit. And I think it is the very source of all the confusion about what an RPG is. It's a bit like if you took a driving game and claimed it was an action game. Now when suddenly driving games are action games it becomes harder to define the genre in any hard terms, because there's a genre of games in the genre of games that quite obviously don't fit in in any meaningful way.


also
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LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
6138
So it occurs to me that it might be helpful to have a list of what it means for a game to be other genres besides RPGs. Here are the widest genres, as listed on GameFAQs, and some extremely straightforward definitions of them:

Action - Fight enemies in real-time combat.
Adventure - Explore an area to uncover secrets.
Driving - Control the movement of a vehicle.
RPG - (???)
Simulation - Create and manage some sort of structure, infrastructure or experience.
Sports - Representation of a real-world sport.
Strategy - Defeat an opponent via tactics and planning.

I did not include Action-Adventure in the list even though GameFAQs does, since Action-Adventure is clearly just any game which contains both Action and Adventure gameplay as defined above (and is thus inherently a hybrid genre).

GameFAQs also includes a "Miscellaneous" genre, which I left out for obvious reasons. Genres which clearly exist as distinct genres but which GameFAQs tosses under Misc. include the following:

Gambling - Success is based primarily on luck rather than player interaction.
Puzzle - Utilize logic to solve problems and puzzles.
Rhythm - Time and coordinate input according to music.
Probably others - I'm too lazy to research right now.


Note that are none of these exclusive with one-another - you might never have seen an action-driving game or a rhythm-puzzle game, but if you have an ounce of game designer's blood in you, you can probably imagine what one would play like. Also note that most of these have multiple subgenres - fighting, first-person shooter, beat-em-up, and space-shooter games are all subtypes of action games. Also-also note that while most of these other genres are named after key elements of their gameplay, not all are: adventure games are named because the first adventure game ever made was called Adventure, and simulation games are named because they were made popular by Maxis's Sim-Whatever series. Also-also-also note that all these definitions are extremely simple aspects of gameplay, not aesthetics or story - no core genre is defined by anything except how it is played.

With all the aforementioned points in mind, role-playing is not part of the definition, since it does has nothing to do with the gameplay. Exploration is not part of the definition, since exploration is the definition of the adventure genre. Strategic battles are not part of the definition, since strategic battles are the definition of the strategy genre. And any definition that contains two or more points is not the definition of any base genre, since you can split it up into those seperate points and get two or more base genres.

Thus, to my dismay, and actually in direct contradiction to my own first post, it appears the only definition anyone has mentioned that actually works is "Character skill increases independently of player skill". Which is roughly the definition that the industry uses.
author=LockeZ
With all the aforementioned points in mind, role-playing is not part of the definition, since it does has nothing to do with the gameplay.

This is where we disagree. In a "proper" RPG roleplaying is VERY MUCH part of the gameplay. It is basically what I mean about the choice & consequence. Roleplaying is the choices you make and consequences are the very real consequences that happen through those choices. Very much a gameplay mechanic. Choosing one faction over another will shut off questlines. Choosing to kill or let live a character will open up opportunities.

These are fairly clear gameplay things. Even though they only affect the "story" they are still part of the gameplay in a "choose your own adventure"-style. However they're not always part of the gameplay since the choices have to have consequences (and consequences other than Pass/Fail) so games where you make a lot of choice but those choices ultimately have no meaning (such as sandbox games or tactical situations in shooters. Those are all choices but there are no real consequences to them. The game will progress just as it would have if you had made another choice.) do not pass the C&C test for an RPG (since you can only play a role if the world reacts to what you're roleplaying).

So roleplaying is very much part of the gameplay in an RPG.


also
LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
6138
Hmm. If you want to consider "The player directs and alters the story" as a base genre, I suppose I will allow it. If there is player interaction that can cause multiple results, then it is technically gameplay. While it's true none of the other genres involve story in their definitions, it can be argued that that's because the involvement of story is its own unique genre.

However, as purely a matter of nomenclature, you now have two unrelated base genres, only one of which can be called an RPG. (Many typical RPGs are of course a hybrid of these two, but they are seperate ideas.)

Genre A - "The player directs and alters the story"
Genre B - "Character skill increases independently of player skill"

At this point it's purely a matter of nomenclature. Personally I would name Genre A Visual Novel and name Genre B Role-Playing, which is also the modern industry standard naming convention. But if you want to disregard the modern industry standard naming convention, then I guess you could just as easily name Genre A Role-Playing and name Genre B something else. I'm not sure what, though.
Grade A is actually more often called "Adventure game" (but not the console adventure game where you fight and explore, but the one that is mostly associated with "point'n click").

Of course those games are often very linear with a single correct path. (thus no "consequence")

I've long been in the belief that both the early Adventure games and the early RPGs (dungeon crawls) were inspired by tabletop RPGs. One wanted to tell the epic stories of the tabletop experience (King's Quest) and the other wanted to capture the killing-and-adventuring of the tabletop experience (Ultima).

Over time they've merged and diverged multiple times.

I guess the main problem is that common ancestry between the two genres. So any game even remotely in one of the genres can be called an RPG by a certain group of people. I will hovewer firmly stand in the conservative group where a game has to have stuff from both in order to truly be an RPG worthy of its name.

My bias of course is toward the more story-based stuff. I am a lot more excited about a game with divergent paths than I am about a game with a character skill-based system. (though neither of those would be RPGs. Obviously.)

also
author=LockeZ
With all the aforementioned points in mind, role-playing is not part of the definition, since it does has nothing to do with the gameplay. Exploration is not part of the definition, since exploration is the definition of the adventure genre. Strategic battles are not part of the definition, since strategic battles are the definition of the strategy genre. And any definition that contains two or more points is not the definition of any base genre, since you can split it up into those seperate points and get two or more base genres.


I disagree here. RPG's share many things in common with other types of game genres such as adventure games because, lets face it: They are the largest most expansive games in the market (besides MMO's which are derived from RPG's).

Let's put it this way: Name one RPG game that doesn't have exploration of some kind.

RPG's in the industry have always classically been "the odd one out", because they share many genres, have the most sub-genres, are so large, and have a fairly general definition.

My only honest answer to this is: An RPG is how you make it. Just know that if what you call an RPG another doesn't, then you don't have an RPG. I don't think anybody can get further than this explanation in terms of "philosophy".
LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
6138
Well. Of course most "RPGs" include aspects from several of the genres I listed. Almost every game, RPG or not, from the SNES onward is a hybrid of multiple genres; and a lot of the ones before the SNES were hybrids too. The fact that most RPGs include exploration doesn't make anything I said any less true. It just means that Final Fantasy 1 is an RPG-adventure game.

So I guess really you are arguing that a "traditional RPG" is inherently a hybrid genre, in which case I totally agree. However, if it's a hybrid, then it has to be composed of several base genre concepts. One of those base genre concepts is, of course, experience-style progression. This isn't up for debate: something can't be composed of multiple parts unless each of those parts exists. And so you have to name that base genre concept defined as experience-style progression. And the only name I know of for it is RPG.

By my definition, I guess the only games that are "only" this base RPG genre are games like Epic Battle Fantasy, where you simply fight wave after wave of monsters. Everything else is a melding of xp-style progression and another base genre.
author=Thiamor
Again, call me ignorant, but I'm right in this sense. There is no winning when talking about what an RPG really is, and no one is right or wrong.

In everything that can be defined, there is a right and wrong. I am right, see my post below:

author=Prexus
RPG is a flavor, not a genre. The primary elements of an RPG can be seen in any genre. The classic console 'RPG', such as Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy had two or three key areas of gameplay.

Combat, which was a form of Turn Based Strategy (and later to become Real Time Strategy or Action Style.)

Out of Combat, which in the earliest genres were highly based on exploration and puzzles, and later added dialogue simulation and mini-games.

and Character Management, which is the defining feature of an RPG because it wasn't something really seen in video gaming yet. Inventory management, party management, character advancement, etc. The Menu Stuff.

RPG has never really been a genre, but a hybrid of genres. Yet the common element, which was drawn from Table Top RPGs (the purest form of RPG) was consistent enough to be able to label games that were hard to label.

The reason the discussion of "What is an RPG?" comes up so often in recent years, as opposed to "What is an adventure game?" or "What is a simulation game?" is because of this. Developers realized that the element of RPGs that was common throughout, was easily applied to any genre. Racing games with car improvement and customization. Shooters with leveling up and customizable load-outs. It is a flavor, much like Ketchup or Maple Syrup. It's not really a meal on its own (unless you are Canadian) but can be added to almost any meal to make it even more delicious.

The other key feature that RPGs had that not many other games did when it was first released was a Story. But that doesn't make it a defining feature. Story itself is a flavor, and not related to game-play except in dialogue related situations. Mario had a story, not a good one, but a story. Pac-man didn't. Mario isn't any more an RPG than Pac-man is (that is to say, neither of them are) but one had a story and one didn't. It is a common element through-out most RPGs, but not an element of RPGs.
author=Shinan
author=Cray
There are tons of RPG games where you don't have choice and consequence, the early final fantasy games didn't offer you any kind of important choices to make.
I am a purist in that Choice and Consequence is completely vital to the RPG experience. I will take C&C over character skill any day for my "RPG elements". (see games like STALKER) And also I always look at the tabletop if I'm lost and in those I see that the RPG genre is built on the fundamentals of C&C. Then that most "RPGs" are linear dungeon crawls that sully the very name RPG... Well it annoys me a bit. And I think it is the very source of all the confusion about what an RPG is. It's a bit like if you took a driving game and claimed it was an action game. Now when suddenly driving games are action games it becomes harder to define the genre in any hard terms, because there's a genre of games in the genre of games that quite obviously don't fit in in any meaningful way.

So to you The early Dragon Quests and final fantasy games weren't RPG's? Because I doubt many people will agree with you on that. The idea of finding a definition is to get to a common concept that we can all (or at least most of us) agree on, you can be a purist but if no one agrees with your definition, then it's no good. :/
@LockeZ: Yeah, kinda like Alternative Rock music. It's still called Rock, but since the early days it has really changed itself up.
author=Thiamor
Call it ignorant all you want, but I don't lack in knowledge when it comes to games as I've probably played more than most of the members here.


I just wanted to preserve this. I haven't seen a quote this hilarious in awhile. Nuh-uh! I've played more games! No way!
Thiamor
I assure you I'm no where NEAR as STUPID as one might think.
63
I noticed how that sounded way after the fact. I'm just using that as an example of what I've seen in most games that I've played.

All games branched off from 1 single genre. So I will feel that an RPG can be any game. This is a reason they use differing genres on other games, to market it to others, and to organize the RPG genre and the other one's as well. Now after they did that, they started using ideas for RPG games, so that would be the most common known factor in those games; or so how I see it as.
This really is more of a 'one's own perspective/ opinion' discussion than anything, really. As their are many different definitions for this type of thing.
LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
6138
I think you can obviously define it different ways, but it's important that your set of genre definitions has internal consistency. You can't define oranges as "the seed-bearing structure of an organism with this particular cellular structure" and then define apples as "a naturally sweet fruit with red or green skin and a core in the middle, the juice of which is mild and popular with children". That's what I mean by consistency. I wonder how many people would agree that each core genre is defined by a single gameplay trait?

As an aside, something that's "common" or even "extremely common" in a genre is absolutely not part of the definition. By definition of the word definition, for something to be part of the definition of an RPG, it has to be in every RPG. This whole thread is a semantic argument, so at least get your semantics right, guys.