Tobold's Blog
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Blog of War on RPG definition

The term "role-playing" suffers from meaning very different things to different people. On the one side very simple hack'n'slash games like Torchlight (only €4 on Steam this weekend) are generally called role-playing games, on the other side some people insist that only by speaking fake Elizabethean English in character can you really roleplay. That there is a clash of definitions can be seen in the fact that MMORPGs have RP servers, which implies that on the other servers no role-playing happens although we are in a role-playing game.

That old discussion flared up again this year when Mass Effect 2 came out, and did away with some staples of RPGs, for example the inventory. So people discussed whether ME2 was still a RPG or not. Reader Phantasmagoria sent me an interesting link to Blog of War, where GarethF reduces the definition to: "‘RPG’ is a communication shorthand term for a game which shares common features with the other games classified as ‘RPGs’.", but then presents his case very sensibly. Worth reading.
The only reason you have RP servers is because "verily forsoothing" is a minority sport - if the majority indulged in it we have ordinary servers, and OOC servers.

Having said that, any game that I can pretend to be a female in is RP in my opinion.
"some people insist that only by speaking fake Elizabethean English in character can you really roleplay"

Name one.

No role-players think speaking in fake Elizabethan English is role-playing. This is a myth perpetuated by people who don't rp to poke fun at rpers.
This is a myth perpetuated by people who don't rp to poke fun at rpers

Well, I personally met roleplayers who did. But of course the description was a rather short and necessarily inaccurate one. Roleplaying spans a huge width from bad pulp fantasy to cybersex to just trying to live "in character", which is hard to capture in any short description.
Oh well fair enough.

I've been RPing and LARPing since 1978 and I've never met anyone who plays who thinks that.

But I'm perfectly happy to accept they're out there somewhere being idiots.
Funny, all the times people here have insisted that MMORPG meant that you shouldn't be able to solo, I wonder if those people also think you should eliminate all non-RP servers for the same reason?
What i got from the article is that the RP in RPG is just not distinctive enough. In most games you assume a role, so you could argue that Panzer General was a RP game in which you were a German general, figthing your way through Europe. It even had a story, told by an actor with a cheesy (but very likeable) German accent. As pointed out in the article lots of gamers classify a game on the presence of certain game mechanics. For RPGs these were pretty much set in stone, but with all the hybrid games around, the picture is becoming confusing.

I played ME2 and it felt much less like an RPG (as i see them...) then ME1. I liked the endless fiddling with the inventory (although the items werent very imaginative) and the credibly brought illusion of a huge galaxy for you to explore. That sense of freedom was further augmented by the Mako (which most seemed to hate). For me that perceived freedom plus solid loot mechanics and lots of ways to mold your character are probably more important than nice cutscenes, days of voice acting and a story (which are mostly pretty cliche anyway).
I haven't played Mass Effect 2, so I don't know if I would call it an RPG.

Mass Effect is an RPG with strong FPS elements. That's one thing I've noted recently, the core of RPGs doesn't change that much, but the combat resolution systems do change. From pure turn-based DnD style combat over pausable real-time (as in Neverwinter Nights) to a variety of combat resolution systems like in Jade Empire or Mass Effect or Fallout 3.

Each of those are RPGs. Diablo and clones on the other hand are not.

RPGs to me are defined by the combination of a system of character progression (which Diablo has actually) and a storyline furthered by interaction with NPCs.

As such, Wow is an RPG, but just barely (due to lack of a coherent storyline). Diablo is not. It still has the character progression, but there is not enough of the story through environment interaction.

So whether ME2 is or not? Simple to me...

Are there dialogues with NPCs that further a story, with preferably choices to be made in said story?
Is there a system of character progression?

If the answer is yes twice, then it is.

Note, The Witcher is also an RPG, even if character creation is very limited.
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