So what makes an rpg an rpg?

Discussion in 'General Gaming and Hardware Forum' started by TheHouseAlwaysWins, Sep 9, 2018.

  1. TheHouseAlwaysWins

    TheHouseAlwaysWins Look, Ma! Two Heads!

    Nov 28, 2015
    I was thinking about it and it seems the two criteria are the ability to play a character and have reactivity.

    However, there are tons of games that have both of these traits like Civ IV that aren't rpg's as you think it.

    So what kind of game would you describe as an RPG if you had to do it?
  2. Muttie

    Muttie It Wandered In From the Wastes

    Oct 9, 2017
    To me RPG is a learning instrument that puts one in a situation, and then one has to find a solution (i.e. “play a role”). Each possible solution chosen has consequences.

    So to me RPG is
    1. Scenario.
    2. Choice.
    3. Consequence.
    However, nowadays RPG seems to mean mostly “character-creation and development”, which removes almost all choice and consequence as it's “limiting and punishing“. I think nowadays RPG is mostly a form of daydreaming used to relax.
  3. TheHouseAlwaysWins

    TheHouseAlwaysWins Look, Ma! Two Heads!

    Nov 28, 2015
    As I had said previously, there are lots of games that don't label themselves as RPG's that do everything you talked about currently.
  4. Ayelander

    Ayelander Big Man

    Jun 30, 2018
    There are a lot of folks out there who associate RPG elements like leveling up and stat changes/character builds as something synonymous with the RPG experience. You can forgive this kind of ignorance usually, but it can be overwhelming. The casual player tends to see the RPG as a sandwich. You're free to open it up and see the meat, greens and condements that make up the meal. No surprises. What you is what you get. I like to imagine the RPG as a broth. You can't just take a glance through the murky surface. You have to dig in there and identify each ingredient by yourself. Now, say the sandwich and the broth both have carrots. The carrots are the RPG elements. Both dishes share the carrot but the sandwich is not broth and vice versa.
  5. Mr Fish

    Mr Fish ...I Remember...

    Sep 11, 2010
    A roleplaying game to me is a game in which it gives you the tools to define a character of your choosing, or give you a character that is established but you get to decide what that character is, and then have the game react to those definitions you set up for it.

    What are my characters morals? Can they be defined?
    What is my characters personality? Can it be defined?
    What are the strengths and shortcomings of my character? Can they be define?
    What is my characters relationship with the world around him/her/it? Can it be defined?

    And of course, will the world, quests, dialogue, characters and events react to those definitions.

    Branching dialogue where your character get to say more than just asking questions.
    Skills that offer varied and noticeably different playstyles and will actively lock you out of content if you do not meet the criteria.
    Primary stats that determine just how successful your character are at using the skills and have an impact outside of the skills as well.
    Quests with multiple solutions to give you as much of a choice in how to define the characters moral compass as possible.
    Morality, personality, strengths and weaknesses and relations with the world around you.

    Those are key ingredients for a roleplaying experience to me.

    Any roleplaying game where the definitions of your character has to be solely in your headcanon and make believe playstyle is not an RPG to me.
    Skyrim being a good example of this.

    And just cause a game offers choices and branches in its narrative does not mean it is an RPG to me.
    Witcher 3 being a good example of this, as well as any Telltale Game.

    What is roleplaying?
    To me it is to step into the shoes of a role different than yours and being able to step into another pair of shoes for someone completely different the 2nd time around.
    To go from a cocky gangbanger who's looking for the next big score just to feed a drug habit to a meek wandering unlicensed doctor that can't help but butt his nose into things in a desperate attempt to get hired full time. That's important in an RPG.
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  6. 0wing

    0wing Все умрут, а я волномут

    Mar 23, 2015
    In a few sentences? An excel sheet. And if it's integrated into gameplay and becomes an important part of it at all. CQC or cool story fluff that lets you decide what to do next is fluff. A still cool and necessary modern trend but still a trend.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2018
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  7. Muttie

    Muttie It Wandered In From the Wastes

    Oct 9, 2017
    I can't change that. I can only try to define RPG as I understand it. And to me that is most of all "consequence".
  8. naossano

    naossano So Old I'm Losing Radiation Signs

    Oct 19, 2006
    RPG being written on the box (or the Steam page now)

    That word had so many uses.

    If you look into the first computer RPG, most were dungeon crawlers and rogue-like.
    In the Interplay era, it meant something storywise. You are part of the story and your choices provide changes in the plots.
    In AAA game industry, having a couple of stats is enough to be called an RPG. Hell, a lot of people consider Borderlands or Diablo to be RPG.

    There a website called RPG Codex, that provide awesome reviews and are a goldmine of informations. The RPG purist gather there... And they never agree about what is an RPG.

    I would say that we still do have a metric, being the board table rpg. Those game usually have quite some emphasis on the interaction between the players and the gamemaster. The agency is kind of going back and forth between the gamemaster plans and the players wims. A good gamemaster knows how to include players input while making a plot that everyone find enjoyable. If the gamemaster is too controlling, the players might feel like they are not involved. If the gamemaster leave the players do everything they want, the overall experience might end up being less cohesive and memorable. And some board table RPG don't even have stats.

    So i guess Interplay is close, but we shall not forget decades of dungeon crawlers and roguelike being labelled as RPG.

    Also, being geographically open-ended isn't necessary mandatory. Imo, the shadowrun games fit, for instance. There are a lot of RPG cessions in which you don'T have a choice about which dungeon to explore or which mission to take. It is how you handle them that matters.
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  9. TheHouseAlwaysWins

    TheHouseAlwaysWins Look, Ma! Two Heads!

    Nov 28, 2015

    So the thing I'm getting at is that some games I've played can be classified as role playing games but aren't going for it.

    Civilization IV is a game where you can play as any historical leader you want of it. All of them have traits that shape the gameplay and you have multiple ways to complete a game of it. The game also responds to your actions with the AI leaders growing to hate or like you. You actually have random events where you can approach random situations in multiple ways and have a system of XP for units of it.

    However it just labels itself overall as an RTS.
  10. Muttie

    Muttie It Wandered In From the Wastes

    Oct 9, 2017
    I think you could call CIV a RPG, it is basically role-playing a leader or nation.

    Just because the game doesn't call that itself may be irrelevant, at least, as far as definition goes.

    The one thing that keeps coming to my mind is that „scenario“ is more important than „character“. And a character is defined by its actions. But most importantly is consequence. How much they shape the character, and the follow up scenarios, or how much influence they have. I think the impact or weight of "consequence" is significant.

    An area in which CIV may be lacking is that there is not enough consequence for the player other than win/lose.

    Another aspect of role playing that shouldn't be overlooked is that it's also used by organizations like fireworkers or the military. You can create a scenario like „house on fire, three people inside, what are you going to do?“ then the pupils make their choices, and the instructor informs them that „the people died, they died, or the people are save“. And that is role-playing.

    If going very far, every game is technically role-playing, aka a simulation of something without running a risk. Two children playing shopping is role-playing.

    I think it is just important to remember that "role" is not so much "character" as it is "scenario".

    However, each point can be detailed and evolved, asking which element (scenario, choice, consequence) is the most important one, and in which way.

    Is chess a RPG? It's two armies, they make moves and the consequence is losing pieces and eventually victory/defeat. Is that role-playing an army/general? Or is it missing something, like having not enough scenario and/or not enough consequence?
  11. tgawt

    tgawt ye ass

    Jul 9, 2018
    what i would define as an "rpg" is a game which allows you to fill in (play) a role. usually a rpg is defined by the player-able character then the plot itself. even an rpg with a 'defined main character' (like witcher) has the player fill in that characters role with their own. rpgs are about what the player can do 2 affect the world the player inhabits rather then what the game world would do to the character (this is my dumbass opinion)
  12. Risewild

    Risewild Venerable Relic of the Wastes
    Modder Orderite

    Jun 14, 2014
    Time for the yearly thread of "what makes a rpg a rpg"? :nod:

    This is wrong. The game labels itself a Strategy game, not a Real Time Strategy game. And it is obvious a 4x Strategy game (it's not even real time, it is a turn game).

    Now, what I usually see people doing when saying what a gaming genre is (in particular RPGs), is that they make the mistake of taking elements from genres and start spreading them around. A genre (and this goes for everything, from literature, music, cinema, painting, sculpture, architecture, games, etc), is defined by the full "package" that wraps the final product. Not by individual elements.

    It is possible to have individual elements from one genre (or more) in a product, and then the final product is not of that same genre. For example, why is a song considered Hard Rock instead of Heavy Metal even if they use many of the same instruments? Why isn't a Horror movie a Comedy, even if there is a character in that movie that cracks a few jokes? Why isn't a Fauvist painting, Expressionism instead? And the examples can go on and on.

    Since I wrote so many times what makes a RPG a RPG in the past, I will just do what I usually do these days and copy most of the stuff I already said...

    Disclaimer: Do not open this spoiler tag unless you have a lot of time and patience to read the wall of text contained in "Quote blocks". You've been warned.

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  13. Beardy Unixer

    Beardy Unixer First time out of the vault

    Apr 24, 2018
    If it's Fallout, Fallout 2, Planescape: Torment, Arcanum, or Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines, it's an RPG.

    If it's something else, it's not an RPG.
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  14. Atomkilla

    Atomkilla Hazel Hegemon oTO Orderite

    Dec 26, 2010
    RPG is a shit genre, hopefully it will die out soon.
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  15. ironmask

    ironmask Look, Ma! Two Heads!

    Mar 10, 2018
    That's why fallout 4 is the best game. It's doing exectly what you said.
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  16. Paladin Hank

    Paladin Hank It Wandered In From the Wastes

    May 6, 2018
    You forgot new vegas punk
  17. Atomkilla

    Atomkilla Hazel Hegemon oTO Orderite

    Dec 26, 2010
    NV is an FPS-RPG hybrid.
    Then again, his list is severely lacking in titles.
  18. Beardy Unixer

    Beardy Unixer First time out of the vault

    Apr 24, 2018
    I like New Vegas, but it's not an RPG - it's the second best spinoff of an RPG.

    Fallout 4 isn't a game, it's a virus transmitted by big pharma to increase sales of chemotherapy drugs by inducing brain cancer.
  19. Paladin Hank

    Paladin Hank It Wandered In From the Wastes

    May 6, 2018
    yeah new vegas is certainly a weird beast; it has a lot of gameplay features not prominent in good old fashion crgps like walking forever and shooting stuff; however you can't ignore the amount of roleplaying it provides, especially in terms of shaping your character morally and affecting the outcome of the game. There are so many different endings to the game its still blows my mind how Obsidian achieved that much complexity in only a year. So I think it deserves to be regarded as a successful rpg and it certainly holds up to the old games (although I still prefer F1&2).

    Ahhh it still sickens me to this day to think that it was thanks to that "thing" that I was introduced to rpgs.