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Making Another RPG

September 5, 2010

There’s a regular conversation I have with one of two people. This is almost always how it ends:

Eventually, I will make another RPG, I suppose. I don’t know when.

I say this comment or one a lot like it after being asked if I’m going to make another Wizardry or another RPG in the same vein. Typically, I am asked at a conference when I am speaking on a completely unrelated matter. The answer  to the Wizardry question is “no”. I don’t have the license or even access to it. Besides, it’s alive, well and doing its own thing in Japan. The answer to the latter question about making another RPG is more nebulous and is what starts the conversation with either my partner or my long-time co-designer. In that conversation, I talk about the initiating circumstance (talking to a Wizardry fan/RPG designer/playing a particular RPG), what type of RPG might be interesting to make and when, if ever, I’d consider starting one. The answer, as noted above, is nebulous.

For a long time, I had little desire to work on another RPG. Bear in mind that I worked on them for over 20 years, from 1982 until 2003. During that time, I saw the rise and fall of the hard-core RPG (Wizardry), the advent of the light and loved RPG (Diablo), the MMORPG (Ultima Online), the short-lived adventure RPG (Nemesis: A Wizardry Adventure) and RPG-ish spin offs that weren’t really RPG, but felt that way to me anyway (Magic: The Gathering). I recall being at Sir-tech in the 1990’s and being thrilled to work on the Jagged Alliance series because it had guns and modern settings, and the creative side of me wanted to work on something which contained no swords, or swords only in the form of daggers which one would use in the event that their primary, bullet-packing weapons ran out of bullets.

I recall interviewing with a company back in 2006. I was a contender for a lead design gig on [giant game 1] or [giant game 2], RPGs both. I ended up stopping the interviews in the 6th round and accepting a gig that let me teach and work on some independent and contract projects for a while. My new students, in hearing about the interviews, thought I was insane, but tried to understand my motivation. In their eyes, I had left the industry and turned my back on a company that they’d kill to work for. I didn’t so much turn my back on that company – in fact, I love their games – as I did accept my need to explore other genres.

Over the last couple of months, however, and in the absence of questions or comments, I’ve thought a ridiculous amount about RPG design. It’s probably because I am designing the leveling curves for a couple games, determining drop rates for things, and creating specs that could be RPG-ish if I wanted them to be. I am also setting up my game room at present and the first game on tap when it’s done will be the legendary Chrono Trigger. And so, though no one asked me about making another RPG, I decided that I would, and one night while lying in bed, I actually found myself playing with a full-on RPG spreadsheet in my head. Had I an idea of which direction I wanted to go in, I think I may have gotten up and actually started it right there.

RPGs have changed a lot over the last decade. The time for me to make another RPG is here, though. As I explore the space, I am curious what some of your required features might be and thank you in advance for sharing them with me.

60 Comments leave one →
  1. ron permalink
    September 5, 2010 9:48 pm

    sounds exciting! could you describe what a ‘full-on RPG spreadsheet’ looks like?

    i like demons souls – the game is not repetitive – it seems to generate more game and can keep you engaged forever.

    • September 6, 2010 12:46 am

      A full-on RPG spreadsheet is a monster (or a series of them) that controls everything in the game, from how much stuff is dropped, where and when, to the odds of a particular monster choosing an attack and your likelihood of missing it.

  2. Skip permalink
    September 5, 2010 9:58 pm

    It’s hard to say, really. The very first RPG I played through was the Bard’s Tale, and I finished it. I’ve played it through completely three times, the last time probably about a decade ago. I can remember playing, for example, Wizardry 7 for probably something close to 200 hours and not finishing it though.

    The last RPG that I finished? Oblivion, or perhaps Dead Rising if you consider that an RPG. I’ve played a few since then, but finished none fo them, though I do plan to get back to Fallout 3 at some point.

    At 40+, I simply don’t have the time to play through the 100+ hour RPG any more, so what I want is something that’s digestible in smaller chunks. For comparison, the Sam and Max seasons have absolutely saved point and click adventures for me – a new episode comes out and I can play through it easily on a weekend, or a couple of weekday nights, and get some closure. I would absolutely love an episodic RPG that let me play through a campaign in 3-4 hour chunks, for $5-10 a chunk, or $40 for the complete arc. Are there enough folks like me to make it worth pursuing? I have no idea.

    • September 6, 2010 12:50 am

      Great point. I don’t have the time for a 20-hour game let alone the big 70+ hour productions that were Wizardry. It astounds me to think of the work that went into Wizardry 8’s story, quests and NPCs.

      Love the episodic idea. It fits well with an iPhone, iPad model, too. It does pose some fun design considerations that make it interesting for me, too.

    • September 8, 2010 10:05 pm

      I totally agree with you, Skip. Episodic games rule.

  3. September 5, 2010 10:32 pm

    As an RPG lover and game designer starting off his career, it’s always awesome to hear about the start of a new project from people who have already developed and created games BEFORE they became as popular and widespread as they are today. (And that’s where my drooling will stop, promise, maybe)

    I’m going to skip over the staples of great RPGs and move onto what I think is required now.

    1. Single player vs. Multiplayer. It’s really not enough to come out with just one game anymore for an RPG, it needs to be broken down into two separate systems. You can run through a game completely alone if need be, or you should be able to team up with the appropriate number of other players to beat the game. I think the success of Borderlands demonstrates this nicely, while being a hybrid RPG, they still seamlessly integrated the gameplay so that as a single player the game was fun, but it could also be enjoyed with friends. Plus in terms of storytelling, having that one friend really into RPGs can influence a few casual RPG followers to buy the game to play along, which never hurts sales.

    2. Mini-games need not apply. Maybe this is more a personal preference, but having mini-games in any RPG seems like a huge waste of time. They only get used by hardcore gamers who want to accomplish everything in the game and are mostly gimmicky. If you were to put in a mini-game or quest for that matter, I feel like it needs to count for something. FFVII had a handful of those games that were required once and then you could revisit them later, not many RPGs to memory have recreated that same success.

    3. Customizable attributes. One of the things that has happened (or that I’ve noted) is that with the advent of networking, being able to customize your character is even more essential at times than gameplay. More so than actual character looks is that usually an RPG has four types of characters to choose from that then have your next four leveling up options, so at most you’re really only playing with 4 different characters in 16-32 slightly different ways. The most excellent attribute of MW2 is the fact that on any given battlefield, you’re never seeing the same combatant twice. With all the weapons, and skills to be chosen and played through, there are probably 10,000 different ways to play the exact same character, and if that wasn’t enough, they use hundreds of titles and emblems to distinguish people. I feel every RPG using a MMORPG format or even just multiplayer should have those options.

    4. Fun. Fun. Fun. That’s a staple, but it’s never said enough.

    P.S. Great article by the way, hope to hear more.

    • September 6, 2010 12:57 am

      Hi Robert,

      The customizable characters is a necessity for sure. I loved the old customization where characters had true weaknesses and needed other characters to survive. In today’s multiplayer games, characters seem less exciting to me because they can’t make them as weak/strong to survive all kinds of situations. For instance, a thief in Wizardry would never have made it far on his own.

      I’ve also found that games which allow for incredible customization aren’t as customizable as they really seem to be. In WoW, for instance, I am not spending time really thinking through my character and developing her as well as I could. Instead, I am following an optimized spec for the particular class/race. I gave the decision away, but it felt that the decision I made was the right one. Otherwise, I knew I’d likely be developing a suboptimum character. I wonder if there’s a way to marry the two so that you have customization with mystery.

      Your other points are good, too. Thanks.

      • Skydaemon permalink
        September 6, 2010 11:38 am

        I think I agree with most of Corwyn Kalenda’s points, except for setting. I’ve tried a few games that opted for other settings. Either with technology (guns etc) or non-suitable settings. They were mostly terrible, and I don’t think it was the fault of the game. The settings themselves just didn’t work and dragged the game down. I’ve never seen a game made better by tech, and the novelty factor just didn’t exist – it’s inherently boring and assembling parts or whatever resembles work a bit too closely.

        If your game is going to use a turn-based system (even if you don’t always pause, a la baulder’s gate 2), it needs some sort of meaningful battle tactics to distinguish it from a free-for-all.

        It’s a good point about the character customization. With half of these games choosing a development path or skill tree for generic character 004 feels less like choosing a defining role, and more like selecting the brand of headlights on a tank. Hey look, it’s a “magic user” who can beat the boss to death with a staff if you bring enough healing potions.

        It’s an idea to pay attention to solo skillsets for team members as a customization tool as well. If you think about D&D and look at what most RPGs usually leave out, there are a lot of skillsets that don’t often make it into the game. When was the last time you left a treasure chest behind because you don’t have a thief that could open it. Howabout all the other skillsets that D&D characters have which don’t get used in combat? Anyway, you don’t have to use D&D skills, but something that distinguishes the characters outside of combat is nice flavor. When characters have no unique traits outside of combat, the whole game seems more one-dimensional.

        Also, make town a fun place to visit, where interesting things happen and stores are convenient. Nobody enjoys being lost in a labyrinthy maze of generic streets trying to remember whether townsfolk npc clone #65 with the last quest was hiding under a bridge, somewhere out in the shrubbery, or across town in the attic of the belltower.

        Final suggestion – have more than two sides. We’re always good, the bad guys are always evil. Where’s the room for intrigue or grey areas, or choices regarding plot development? I’m thinking of baulder’s gate 2 again (one of my favorite games). There are categories of bad guys significant enough to flesh out. Do you side with the thieves guild or the vampires? Both are opposed to the town’s authorities. How do you deal with the Githyanki? Too many RPG’s have only good, bad, and townsfolk (in the sense of grazing pasture animals).

  4. September 5, 2010 10:49 pm

    RPGs are my favorite genre, so naturally I’m very interested in seeing more of them! I’m trying to write a book (or something, the form is eluding me somewhat) on video game history in the 1990’s, and I started with console RPGs and am moving directly on to PC RPGs.

    The more I look at what happened in the 90’s with the big PC RPG “collapse” around 1995, the more I see that there are some structural issues with RPGs that make them very difficult to do as so-called AAA games like they once were – unless you’re Bioware, Blizzard, or Bethesda (the killer b’s? – I presume it’s one of those that you interviewed with).

    All the accoutrements of modern games, like full voice and gorgeous 3D graphics interact with the RPG trends of epic storytelling and open worlds to create much longer design times. But if you start removing parts of these things and turn it into a double-A or even single-A title, it starts to become something that I think is manageable.

    Take out full voice – RPG players know how to read!
    Take out state-of-the-art 3D graphics – they’re great and all, but there are many RPG fans who prefer 2D graphics or have older computers
    Take out epic storytelling – smaller games for smaller prices? It’s working for RPG’s cousins adventure games these days.
    Take out open worlds – hey, why not a dungeon crawl? Whatever happened to those?
    and so on – simplifying certain parts may lead to interesting places. “Social” and “casual” games may also provide interesting ideas as well.

    One of the things I read recently which gave me the most hope for RPGs wasn’t even about them specifically. It was an article on Gamasutra, I think, about how Double Fine after their AAA title Brutal Legend was something of a sales disappointment reloaded not by trying to go bigger and badder, but going smaller and less centralized, creating four games instead of one (and also basing this process on that of Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai, one my absolute favorites). Going smaller like this I think allows for more creativity and more now-niche genres like RPGs. I hope much good comes from it. – link here:

    I think it would also be useful for a franchiseable engine that allows you to get under the hood and alter the core mechanics with some ability could be very useful, but it might be more trouble than it’s worth to make.

    • September 6, 2010 1:11 am

      Awesome points, Rowan. In particular, I recall the trend to record all speech, and it forced dialogue, and hence story, to be baked way sooner. Great ideas were left sitting on the bench because the time to record them (or render graphics) wasn’t available. I was literally changing Wizardry 8 right up until release.

  5. September 5, 2010 11:38 pm

    Storyline is fine and all, but the old-school flavour of earlier Wizardry games is hard to find. Having a list of like 20 different character classes available is awesome. Having a story that can weave around all of those different things, maybe having some reasons to try the game with more difficult classes (like, optional quests, or equipment – I’m looking at you, Cane of Corpus) are doubly awesome.

  6. September 5, 2010 11:46 pm

    Is this gonna be a social game?

    I’m kind of tentative to enter that space (Put me in the same category as Ian Bogost: curious and/or frightened).

    One feature that I’ve started to really like is the ability to turn the crap that fills my inventory into useful items (poison mushroom+Dagger=Poison Dagger). Game examples would be Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (Where you collected monster souls and fused them with weapons) and Dragon Quest IX (Where you could find these scarce items out in environments or grind a certain monster for an item drop). One thing that I liked in DQ IX was that certain items were cursed but powerful. You could dump it for cash or hold onto it until you got certain items to fuse it into something even better.

    In a social game, this would encourage players to get together and trade items, making the gifting feature worthwhile.

    • September 6, 2010 1:12 am

      I don’t know if it will be a “social game” as in “made for facebook.” In fact, I think that’s likely a no. I do think it’s important that players be allowed to play with one another, though.

  7. September 6, 2010 12:42 am

    Hi Brenda!

    I can understand how you can have RPG fatigue after working on them for years, but I would be thrilled if you made another one. Really there are only three things I need to make an RPG great for me:

    1) Fun gameplay. Common sense, but I said fun, not fancy. I don’t need anything too complex. As long as the control scheme is sensical and the game doesn’t stall or lag or load slowly I’m set.

    2) Story. RPGs are about role-playing, and I think sometimes a super good story gets lost in all the technology that devs have access to now. Final Fantasy XIII is a good example of a game with great gameplay but no story. For some games little story is needed. But for RPGs it’s so crucial.

    3) Characters. Much like story I need characters to be interesting and fresh. What motivates them? What’s their conflict/goal/etc.

    These three elements in an RPG decide whether or not I a) finish the game and b) recommend it to other people. I know there’s hardly any news here, but I hope it’s a good reminder on what sells a game like Chrono Trigger even to this day. 🙂

    * PS: Oh! I meant to say that I’m one of the girls on IGN Girlfight and was sorry I didn’t get to meet you when you came in for an interview. I hope you’ll come back to the show!

  8. September 6, 2010 1:15 am

    Hi Meghan,

    I’d love to come on the show anytime. I’m just down the street, so give me a holler anytime.

    Your points echo the others here, and interestingly, seem to point toward a desire for something more retro where story beat tech. Even RPGs with a lot of story and a lot of tech probably have less compelling storyplay than their designers actually wanted in there, particularly if story moments are art- or audio-heavy.

  9. September 6, 2010 1:32 am

    Brenda – Sounds like you made an excellent decision back in 2006.

    @Meghan and some of the others: I want more than Fun, Strong Story and Decent Characters…

    I want originality (I want to play something new!).
    I want it to be intelligent and have serious complexity.
    I want it to be easy to learn to play.
    And, I want “convenience of play” – being able to fit it into the time I have available in my life. (Rather than me having to adapt to it.)

  10. Helen C permalink
    September 6, 2010 1:45 am

    – No mandatory grinding. RPGs seem unnecessarily long to me. I’ve played a few that were ~10-20 hours of new content but took a 50+ hour slog to get through, and by the time you get to the end credits you hate the game you loved the first half of.

    – More situational awareness for enemies. Imagine you’re a level 50 character, and you have to go back through a level 1 area to talk to a particular NPC or whatever. It doesn’t make any sense for the level 1 enemies to come hopping up to you to pick a fight when you are going to mop the floor with them, and it makes backtracking more annoying.

    – More options for dealing with enemies than just violence. I totally acknowledge that combat is by far the most popular mechanic in videogames, and that making games about talking or anything like that can be incredibly difficult. But I think it is something developers should be aiming for.

    As an example of a missed opportunity in this department, I played Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey recently. It has this mechanic of having conversations with demons for recruiting them to your party, getting items etc, as well as regular combat. The demons have real character, and the game makes a big deal about how you will need to work together to succeed. This would all be great, except that you get no experience from peacefully resolving encounters, or from quests, or anything other than killing stuff. So the game is pretty much telling you to make friends with the first few demons you meet, and then murder all the rest. If they had just made the conversation system a bit deeper and allowed you to progress by using it, it would have been a much better game.

    I guess this turned into more of a rant than a ‘required features’ list. Sorry 🙂

    Anyway, the game I recommend to you as ‘required playing’ is The World Ends With You. It’s a DS rpg from Square Enix that fixes a lot of the tired conventions plaguing the genre lately. It’s set in modern Tokyo and almost everything about it just feels really fresh. It’s criminal that it has never had a sequel while Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest etc rack up the titles.

  11. September 6, 2010 1:48 am

    I’m with you on the setting. I’ve had enough of RPGs set *either* in the distant past or distant future. No swords or sorcery, no lasers or “force” powers. I really like the idea behind Lila Dreams, and I reckon something like that would be an interesting setting for an RPG. It could also yield nice game systems.

  12. Mark Nelson permalink
    September 6, 2010 2:00 am

    Oh. Wow.

    I read the comments here, and the old-school RPG gamer inside me grows two sizes too big. I smile wistfully, visions of gold boxes dancing in the dungeons of my mind.

    Then I remember that actually saying aloud most any of the things suggested in these comments will cause publishers to remove their shoes and throw them at your head. 🙂

    • September 6, 2010 3:21 am

      AAA publishers, perhaps, but they’re just one possible path to release.

  13. September 6, 2010 2:27 am

    Hey Brenda!
    Bout’ time you got back to the RPG routes like back in the Sir-Tech days.
    I am sure you will do a bang up job of it as well.

    Maybe you should take a look at some “rogue” like gameplay?
    This would lighten the 100 hour gameplay scenario.
    The only downside would be the lack of compassion a player may have with their character.
    The plus side would be just focusing on the fun of dungeon crawling.. grabbing loot, etc…


  14. September 6, 2010 3:28 am

    Riffing off of what Steve mentioned, I feel the need to name drop Demon’s Souls.

    It has basically, single handedly brought back true retro RPG video game design, if you are looking back into this genre, make sure to check this out before the online component is no longer accessible.

  15. Stan permalink
    September 6, 2010 4:03 am

    I don’t really understand the comments of people who say that “they dont have time for a 100h game”. I cant remember a game that forces (and I am not counting addiction here) to play 100h in one sitting with pauses given only for sleep or food.

    Most games are playable in an episodic fashion; “I will just do this one quest here and the log out”. Playing sessions are episodic even in old school PnP games such as D&D where the duration of a campaign is limited by the imagination of the Dungeon Master.

    What I would like to see is an isometric RPG with the D&D ruleset with a Forgotten Realms setting that plays on an iPad. Content would then be released on modular basis….so basically I would like to see an accessible Baldurs Gate/Neverwinter Nights hybrid.

    • September 6, 2010 1:26 pm

      The iPad seems like it might be a good device to try and re-invent the PC-style RPG with. I don’t know its exact technical specs, but I suspect it might be able to do something analogous to what the Nintendo GBA/DS did for 16-bit-style console RPGs. I think it would help with most of the technical/business issues that I mentioned in my post above.

    • Skip permalink
      September 6, 2010 2:18 pm

      Well, as one of the first folks in this thread to bring up the 100 hour games issue, maybe I can explain it to you. The problem isn’t that the 100 hour game can’t be broken up into smaller chunks, it’s that when you have maybe one night every week or two, to play for a few hours, that 100 hour game now takes a year and a half to finish, and unless you keep notes, several times you’re likely to completely lose track of where you were.

      And during that year and a half a dozen games that I would like to experience will come out, so if I stick to the long game I’ll miss out.

  16. Pascal Ogil permalink
    September 6, 2010 4:32 am

    What I search on a good game, it is not really the good story, but a world very coherent, with lot of stuff to discover (new monsters, new background, new spell,…), and with a good game system (evolution system, learning, and not only I hit a monster, I gain 10XP).

    I am trying to design game system, and one of my support was coming from the roleplaying game Rolemaster (from Crown/Ice). The designer had tried to have rules on everything, and there are lot of extension for everything (like treasures & Monsters, which specify the drop for every monster, …).

  17. Wyatt permalink
    September 6, 2010 7:23 am

    While I have have opinions on system, theme, and other “soft” features, I would instead like to talk a bit about form factor for a bit.

    With RPGs, especially of the family that hearkens back to a decade or two ago, it seems that portability may be the single most important concept to embrace. Enix recognised this and released Dragon Quest IX on the DS while the Square half has released updates of…what, the first six Final Fantasies (and Chrono Trigger) for some combination of GBA, DS, and PSP? The portable experience lends itself well to using small chunks of time to chip away at a long game; I’ve seen many complaints that the traditional RPG takes too much time and this seems like it will increasingly be the way around that limitation. Additionally, it lends itself to interesting design considerations such as saving (phone calls and catastrophic power failure happen), encounter length, and wayfinding/storytelling (I’m thinking specifically of the Tales-style hint system where you get a character talking about the current objective and its location).

    The other part of this is what platform to target. I know well that you love your iPhone. So do many others. But I feel strongly that overcoming platform-specific biases is imperative. Rather, I’d like to see as many games as possible on as many devices as possible. This is a somewhat idealistic view, but I maintain that in the long-term it’s better for the health of games to do so.

    On a somewhat related note, the mobile space lends itself well to pixel-efficiency tricks and two dimensions with text instead of voice.

  18. September 6, 2010 8:46 am

    Hmm. RPGs of late have been a strange subject for me, because I still want to love them, but so often lately, they feel like they’re falling short. The emphasis these days seems to be on game length, and so many companies boast about 50+ hours of gameplay that ends up filled with dull side quests and obtuse mini-games and a grand epic story just like every other grand epic story of the last ten years.

    There are a few things, though, that I find compelling in the RPG space that manage to elevate specific games up where I can get invested in the time it take to get through them.

    1. A really good core mechanic will always work. If whatever i spend my time doing is head-blastingly fun, as with any other game I’ll ignore all the flaws. I suppose this one goes without saying to an extent, though.

    2. Customization. this is so endemic to the concept of RPGs (in my opinion) that I don’t really understand how it gets ignored so often. Not just customization of character, though visual and ability customization is terribly important, but also in terms of experience customization. At the least, some handy branching conversation or narrative paths like Bioware favors are plusses, but I find myself yearning for even more opportunity to co-author a personal story and game world, which is probably why I’m researching the topic so much lately.

    3. Setting. Setting’s really a big deal to me these days. I’m sick to death of Generic Fantasy Setting #34928. I’m looking for a twist, I’m looking for something interesting. Either something of interest in the setting itself (juxtaposing a fantasy game with technology, for instance, or a genre that hasn’t been trod to death quite so much) or by simply making sure it’s visually interesting. Recettear is my current eastern RPG-like game of choice for this reason and the mechanics of running an item shop in a stereotypical RPG town, for example.

    4. Characters need to be interesting and engaging, even the small ones. They really do. There’s so much bland or nonsensical dialogue running around these days that it gets difficult to trudge through a story. A good writer that does witty, engaging, well-characterized dialogue is important, because I want to be invested into the experience, and that’s difficult if the characters I encounter lack anything I can empathize with.

    5. This is sort of a final thought: It should always e easy to tell what you were doing and where you’re going next when you turn on the game. Because of the time investment involved, I find myself more and more frequently having to set RPGs aside for weeks at a time, and by the time I get back, I’ve forgotten where I left off. If it is too confusing to figure out what I was up to, I may just skip playing indefinitely. It’s kind of true of any game these days as they get more and more integrated into busy adult lives, but RPGs, given the length usually at work, are particularly susceptible to this.

    I’m sure I could come up with a bunch more things, but I think I’ve typed enough for one morning.

    • benshelmars permalink
      September 6, 2010 12:31 pm

      Ok, this is a Micheal Moorecock approach – all genres can be encompassed from swords to blasters, similar to the attempt of GURPS,

      The blank-slate environment.
      Players enter the game world (universe) as creators, the may choose to create their characters or create their plane (domain), become a denizen of an already established domain or combination thereof. Their initial resources allow for such creation and customization. The different planes could be accessed through either portals, travel, death or some alternative methods. For example a player could established a hellish domain, as the creator of the domain this player is (at this time) its sovereign. The creation of the plane has a set of rules that allow what can exist, and how things function and how the plane can be accessed and of course what is required in order to maintain it. If say this plane tended more toward magic, then tech toys would have limited functionality and vis versa.

      The stories are generated by the players own interactions, a denizen from a present day like plane may find they have been summoned or traveled to another players creation, and that they would like to be the ruler of said plane or just a visitor. Each plane created will lack some element that others could possibly trade, steal or what have you.

      The more attractive the plane the more visitors, citizens or power-seekers. In a sense the players are creating themselves and their environment retroactively, and evolving at the same time. The dynamics will of course be slow to begin with, but as it grows, so will its opportunity.

      It is a cross between a simulation and an rpg, with Game Masters or DMs if you prefer as the sovereign of their domains for those who choose so. Some will hold their ground and some will surrender their domains through natural selection.

      Just a concept.

  19. September 6, 2010 8:47 am

    Hi Brenda,

    For me an RPG just isn’t an RPG if it doesn’t actually give me a role. If I was being pedantic I would argue that many rogue-likes just aren’t RPGs at all, since I’m given an avatar but no real character to inhabit. Perhaps this is what Steve refers to as a “lack of compassion?” It can be in the Japanese tradition of a well-defined main character whose story I experience, or the more Western model of allowing me to define my character through appearance, choice, play style, and so on, but either way I want to feel like I’m doing more than generating input for the system (as in a shooter or shmup).

    The other essential ingredient I think is a coherent, consistent worldspace. Like others here I loved Demon’s Souls, and not only for its brilliant system design but for the completeness of the world. From Ultima to Final Fantasy to Elder Scrolls to Mass Effect my favourite RPGs have presented a believable space to inhabit, a real sense of time and place. It lends weight to the role I’m meant to be playing, and a really good one will keep me coming back to explore the world and see What’s Out There, not just grinding for loot (though loot is good).

    Also: AUTOSAVE!

  20. September 6, 2010 8:58 am

    An RPG, well since the advent of technology this genre, has lost and gained many elements. The primary element lost is the GM or (DM) if you like, I show preference to the Human element. Some of the elements gained are graphical, mathematical and accessibility. Of course there are other elements in both categories, evolution just works out that way.

    What is my point? The Human element, the ability to have the pc’s create the stories through their own actions and imaginations, supplemented by a logical environment to explore (logical here simply refers to a consistent “persistent” rule base). Game balance, a goal of some, is not always a prerequisite, the world is not truly balanced otherwise change would not exist. Now the challenge is how does one accomplish this?

    If I knew the answers I would be on top of the world, however I might have have a suggestion or two that could evolve into an approximation of this goal.

    The blank slate environment, players enter an environment that is empty and begin to create new lands (domains) and their characters with a limited amount of resources or opt to be a denizen in a domain of another player, these new lands connect to other player’s lands via options set by their creators. For example, a player could create a hellish domain, characters who wish to reside there would have to meet certain prerequisites , visitors also would be bound by the governing (environmental) rules, such as what kind of physics work and or tech or magic. Players that create their own lands (domains) are not necessarily all powerful nor are players that choose to be a denizen necessarily weak, ownership of said domains could change hands many times.

    The concept is very Moorecock which allows the players a form of freewill and self-story creating, the genres could include environments from present day to the past, magical and futuristic and other environments as yet unseen.

    Again just some food for thought.

  21. September 6, 2010 12:22 pm

    @Skydaemonn who said, “Also, make town a fun place to visit, where interesting things happen and stores are convenient. Nobody enjoys being lost in a labyrinthy maze of generic streets trying to remember…” – Amen, brother! This is just dicking you around.

    Who also said, “Final suggestion – have more than two sides. We’re always good, the bad guys are always evil. Where’s the room for intrigue or grey areas, or choices regarding plot development?”

    …wait, abandon one-dimensional, oh-so-simple, linear plots? Such radical thinking!

  22. Yenni Brusco permalink
    September 6, 2010 7:08 pm

    One of the things I’ve seen people take either side of in the comments so far is on story. I think that it entirely depends on what type of RPG you’d like to make, and what ends up evolving as you make it, but the story needs to be important either way. The best RPG’s I’ve played have all had stories that cause me to have an emotional investment in what happens to the Player Character, as well as the NPC’s or, in the case of MMORPG’s, the other players.

    Also, I’d love to see a serious episodic RPG, most of what I’ve seen is more of a light hearted joking atmosphere. Being able to tackle serious discussions that are deep and meaningful in some way is important to whether I’d stick with a game, and having it be told in an episodic manner. I would be much more likely to continue playing, as well as ready to purchase further episodes.

    I also have seen a few mentions of iOS devices and I definitely would love to see any developer putting Android up as a choice in the same way.

  23. September 6, 2010 7:20 pm

    I’ve been reading Moebius’s “Airtight Garage”, and if it’s fantasy it’s gotta be epic space-fantasy.

    No more elves and dragons, please. Bioware might have hard science fiction locked down, but a Boris Vallejo painting come to life would be pretty sweet. Think more “Heavy Metal” and less “Dungeons and Drudgery”. Chrono Cross is a pretty good example of this, hey?

    Also, a player character that can grow, develop, and carry their choices forward is an absolute must. This part of the code base has to be transferable whatever permutations the game engine goes through. I liked the concept of what Bioware wanted to do with Dragon Age Origins, too bad the execution left a lot to be desired.

    Richard Garriott got it mostly right with Ultimas 4 through 6, even it was only stat-based importing I still felt like the work I’d done in the previous games was not for nothing, and I was continuing an epic saga. Same with Baldur’s Gate 1 to 2.

    Oh, and no difficulty-to-level scaling, a la Bethesda’s Oblivion/Fallout 3. Make areas that the player simply can’t pass through, monsters they just can’t kill, unless they’ve increased their power levels high enough. Without that tension the game world isn’t a very exciting place to explore at all.

  24. September 6, 2010 8:51 pm

    It definitely sounds like a great idea. My view of the Game design industry is that one of the many benefits is that with so many different genres, you have the ability to pick and choose (as you describe above) whether or not you really want to work on a certain genre, so that when you’re tapped out on ideas, you can keep moving in a different direction. Of course you can always return to your original genre, but you’re not always chained to the same genre. So while I’m sure those companies you had interviews for were killer, I can understand the passion that drove you to work on different projects.

    As to RPGs, being a child of 1990, I grew up playing mostly JRPGs on the PS1. my favorite of which is a fairly cult classic called Grandia. The combat system was engaging, the artwork was GORGEOUS for it’s time, and the story was solid. It serves as one of the sole contributors of my dream to be a game developer. The world is crisp and unexplored, the characters develop quite a bit over the adventure, and you get to save the world?

    I mean, it also has one of the most romantic scenes I’ve seen in a game to date.

    If you ask me? The story is the most important part of an RPG. It’s why most JRPGs fail nowadays. Most of them have nonsensical stories that have already been explored a dozen times before, or that make absolutely NO sense.
    TLDR: While Chrono Trigger is awesome, Grandia is better (jk!!!).

    Personally, if you feel like its time to jump back into the RPG game, then you’ll have at least one person looking forward to that next project.

  25. September 6, 2010 9:19 pm

    Some interesting and useful comments already and I’ll do my best not to recover ground.

    First off I’d like to see more branching choice. Not just in dialogue (al-la Mass effect) but in plot (different win/lose conditions and maybe even completely different overarching plots (or one plot, but able to play either side)) and puzzles (several methods to solve a puzzle al-la Metal Gear Solid – but more so as a spell caster would solve it different than a warrior different than a thief different than a negotiator).

    For me a role is more personality than skills. This has caught me many times in the past when I’ve built a personality but was then forced to make choices against the role I’m playing. One potential solution is similar to fable – as you introduce the gameplay, you also introduce the character and their choices.

    Make it easy/hard as the player wants. This is not just in terms of opponents, but also things like getting from one place to another, quest logging, finding a quest location, mapping a dungeon etc. I like to explore, but I don’t like to re-explore because the game didn’t map where I’ve already been. Quest-helper in WOW is a good example of making questing easy. Fallout3 is a good example of mapping and travel.

    Extendable. Neverwinters nights did so many things right. Not just for user created content, but also allowing GM interactions with players.

    And finally have the world revolve on it’s own, not just around the PC’s.

  26. September 6, 2010 9:26 pm

    I’ll echo some of the sentiments here about length. It feels like RPGs have evolved to a point where length and sheer quantity of content, measured in gameplay hours have become a substitute for depth.

    I’d love an RPG that lets me play more casually (drop-in multiplayer, levels and encounters chunked for quick play sessions with autosave) but also gives me more of a feeling of depth and persistence (heavily customized and personalized characters that I can identify with over time instead of just geardolls or cookie cutter archetypes, a world that feel dynamic and lived-in and that I feel like i have some impact on rather than a series of puzzle piece dungeons randomly generated and strung together). So I can play for a quick break and still have enough depth to keep it interesting for longer sessions or across playthroughs.

    As weird as it sounds, I’d love an RPG that works like Rock Band. Here’s my character that I’ve either just made or one that I’ve perfected and played with over time. Here’s 4 slots for a party, I can pick a role and load in my character. I’ve chosen certain skills, so maybe one of my characters is better suited for certain roles, but I can try whatever I want. I can play by myself with random AI heroes, or I can join up with one other person or a whole party and play through together. I can play one-off quests and adventures, or I can play through a whole campaign with the same group. No matter what, it all persists in my profile, and between games I can buy and sell items or trade with other players or respec, etc.

    • Paul permalink
      September 7, 2010 4:36 am

      If this is going to be influenced by the old school JRPG type game I’d consider a few things:

      Make the combat system unique/interesting especially if your going to have the random encounters. In chrono trigger the combat was really quite brilliant in that it made you feel like it was happening in real time which led to quick decision making that sort of gives you the satisfaction of surviving a fight. They also represented most encounters on the screen so you can avoid them, but there were some that you can’t. I’d say allow for avoiding encounters because random ones can be really annoying if your just looking to get past a part or if it’s an area you cleared before, but need to go through again. You can also take a look at Secret of Mana too especially if your looking at co-op.

      Ahhh narrative…. I’m sort of cynical on this subject because most JRPG’s never get narrative at all. It’s always the same forgettable stuff. Honestly, I’m more on board of less narrative/reading text and more showing or allowing the player to experience it. And please, no exposition through dialogue or monologue. I just got done watching Ponyo for the first time and Miyazaki’s genius is shown in many ways during that movie, but one of them is allowing the story to unfold on its own naturally. He just throws you in his world and you just go with it. A bad example would be M. Night’s last movie The Last Airbender. Literally all dialogue is exposition in that movie. “I’m sorry you lost your son in that horrible fire.” Show it…maybe in flashback scenes. You could improve that scene just by removing everything from that piece of dialogue except for “I’m sorry” (or just remove the whole thing) and then cut to a flashback scene showing him losing his son. The example is rudimentary and still sounds a little cheesy, but its improved a little just by showing and not telling. Also, it doesn’t have to be about saving the world or a hero that finds out that he’s really a prince/princess and he/she has super powers… It could be about saving a family…or something as simple as finding one’s self. You could start off with something small in the first game which could allow for something bigger to tie in later maybe. Example is the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. What was cool is that in the Hobbit no one knew that retrieving that ring along that adventure would trigger the chain of events in Lord of the Rings.

      On character creation: Do you allow for someone to create the hero? I personally think that doing this sort of messes with a set story. If this is a story that gives a lot of control to the player then by all means. Any Bethesda game is a good example for that. Also, if this is strictly just hack and slash like Diablo then story really isn’t something I pay attention to, so character creation is a must. I couldn’t tell you what Diablo 1 or 2 is about other than you have to kill the final boss called Diablo and I played Diablo a ton of times :).
      Character customization is awesome. Everyone will agree that showing what you just equipped your character through game art on the avatar is fricken sweet.

      I’d say don’t worry about cut scenes or voice acting either. Anything that literally takes you out of the game to show you non in-game art will take you out of the experience. Voice acting is usually bad…unless your getting top named actors.

  27. September 7, 2010 4:13 am

    Hi again.

    Have to say I love reading this, I am kind of locked away from the gaming community here in Cape Town and this really gives me inspiration. I sometimes chat about leveling and skill tree progression with the local Baboons… but it is just not the same.
    I like what Wilson, Corwyn and Yeni had to say.

    Just thought I would quickly mention why I brought up “Rogue” like gameplay.
    It was mentioned that time was an issue for gameplay.
    The trade offs (based on nothing except my gut feeling…), Is shorter gameplay = less player compassion for their character.
    The only cure would be episodic additions so the player can grow with the character.
    I am sure that some rogue like play could be included with a simple story path.
    What ever happened to the D&D days when the GM just said… “You wake up in a cave…”?
    I can say from an iPad point of view that the platform is sweet for the development of an RPG or an RTS, but from a financial point of view a full on RPG is not fiscally viable. (100 hours of play.)
    These games need to be completed in 3-6 months (-1 month testing), on iOS any more than that and the studio would run a risk of not being able to make a return on investment. Apple grabs 30% right off the top and players still like a bargain deal… so for a small game $4 USD for a AAA $14 USD before Apples cut. Marketing is also expensive so take a % off right there as well, testing, publishers cut, engine cost or development of, etc…
    All of this and I forgot to mention a relatively small slice of the gaming genre marketplace on iOS.

    I love my long titles from Realms of Arkainia, Baldurs, right up to Torch Light (Played 2 years of FFX11 online and to this day I still miss my character.)
    This said, Brenda is right.
    The times are a changin’. If you want to bring in the new RPG player or old even on a portable device you have to start thinking about quality of game play time as apposed to quantity.



    • September 7, 2010 8:41 am

      Welcome back, Steve; glad you saw something worthwhile in my ramblings.

      I don’t disagree with your assessment here, though I think there’s more to the story than short game = less character investment, and there are alternative avenues to produce the desired effect in that case (not that I have anything against episodic games or lengthy ones in particular!).

      Take Portal, for instance, which is both a short game (perhaps two hours for an experienced gamer?) and frequently demonstrates a deep amount of player character investment from those that play it (in my experience, anyway). It seems to achieve this primarily through atmosphere and excellent characterization in the story, coupled with presenting a player that is treated as if they *are* the character. My observation has been that players tend to really empathize with Chell, trapped as she is in a strange facility with an increasingly psychotic computer as her only company.

      Another good example might be Loved, an indie flash game I played a couple months ago, which manages to invest the player with a bit of clever mechanic, but primarily by again, speaking directly to the player as a character and providing a well-written “companion”.

      I think that ultimately, the player’s ability to emphasize with the characters comes down to writing. this frequently requires or is helped by length, but I also think there’s plenty of examples of a good character writer being able to do it much faster. Perhaps even moreso in the cases where a good voice actor comes into it. GLaDOS gets much of her impact from Ellen McLain’s performance, and while the dialogue writing in, say, Mass Effect 2 is some of the best Bioware’s done, Jennifer Hale’s delivery makes it really shine as a character piece.

      Of course, we’re not really talking about fully-voiced RPGs here, I think, so we have to stick to writing characters well, but that’s certainly doable. Final Fantasy 6 and ChronoTrigger are (appropriately) still held up as pinnacles of the genre, and I think a lot of that is due primarily to the character writing(Given how often Square recycles overall story structure, I don’t think the lengthy over-arcing stories are what’s doing it). CT’s absolutely full of great characters, some of which only grace the screen for minutes or seconds (Masa and Mune have all of what, 5 quick lines? Yet I hear “I’m the wind! Woosh!” quoted to this day) And Kefka’s almost always a chart-topper on any “Greatest Villains” list, largely because they’re just so well-written for whatever time they appear.

      So I think that we’ve got lots of avenues available for achieving player compassion for the game world and characters; it just requires stepping up our game in areas games have rarely been well-known for in comparison with other media.

  28. September 7, 2010 9:32 am

    I couldn’t agree with you more Corwyn! 😉
    Story is important and gets the player to empathize with the character but I guess I am looking into more as character development. (Stats, skills, choosing a name for yourself, etc… )
    On that note here is a link for something I think you are talking about.
    Which by the way is awesome in my small world.
    I think these guys are on the right track.

    • September 7, 2010 11:45 am

      It took me a minute to see it, but yeah, that’s another good example. Though it’s important to note that a disembodied voice of narration or whathaveyou isn’t strictly necessary– there are lots of ways to do it. The key is some really good character writing closely tied to the player in some fashion. Bastion does it via the narrator, Portal does it via GLaDOS, ChronoTrigger does it via the party members, Mass Effect does it by giving Shepard a really good voice under the player’s control (to an extent). They’re all viable ways to achieve character investment in a short (or even a long) period of time.

      Really, all I was trying to get across, is that it’s not strictly necessary to indulge in length to get character compassion– any length of time can be sufficient when the circumstances are right. Most commonly it’s writing/acting that carries the show, but there’s some games that pull it off mostly via environment (though i can’t think of an example right now).

      • September 24, 2010 2:31 am

        Hi Corwyn,

        I think Sanitarium is a good example of how environment can draw you into the character as well as establish the mood of the game. Admittedly, it’s not a rpg. Maybe Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura comes close to it.

        I do agree that it’s writing that carries the game.

  29. Steve permalink
    September 7, 2010 10:20 am

    As a 30+ gamer with a family and full-time job, my gaming needs have changed considerably from my days playing Wizardry 1-3, Bard’s Tale, the SSI Gold Box, and Guild of Thieves on my Commodore 128(!). Like @Skip, something playable in smaller chunks is what works for me. 10-15 minute play sessions with the occasional 30-60 minute jaunt. Keep me engaged with the story, the grind, and the loot.

    I would dearly love to see an RPG on the iPad. Tap-to-move, simple menus, rich story. I’d like to build my party and set off to destroy the evil wizard. Being on the iPad, new episodes could be purchased as DLC. A game like Wizardry, Bard’s Tale, Eye of the Beholder would be a great game on iOS.

  30. September 9, 2010 1:25 am

    Jeebus that’s a lot of replies.

    For me, although I’ve loved plenty of fantasy games in the past, I’d love a new setting. I was a big fan of Gamma World in the past, but I think the post-apocalyptic stuff is played out now. I’m looking forward to playing one of the Persona or The World Ends With You, as they’re (at least partially) set in modern day, a lesser used RPG setting. What about a Wild West RPG? I know Red Dead Redemption’s halfway there, but there’s still plenty of room for a cowboy (or cowgirl) RPG.

    I think there’s a vast gulf between these massive open world RPG-ish action games and MMORPGs. The whole time I was playing Oblivion, I kept feeling like I didn’t want it to be like WoW, but I didn’t want to be alone, either? What about a multiplayer RPG that’s not massive? Something on the scale of MAG, perhaps, supporting up to at most 128 players or something? The promises Molyneaux made for Fable II’s multiplayer sounded promising, but didn’t really pay off. I imagine an RPG in a massive open world that functions like Burnout Paradise in that I can just tap down on the controller and now I’ll start to see other players popping up. Perhaps the adventure can dynamically drive us towards one another or create quests on the fly that encourage us to cooperate. Yeah, I know, easier said than done…
    You want some help making an RPG, you just let me know.

  31. David Dobson permalink
    September 13, 2010 2:45 pm

    I have been subscribed to this blog for a little while, but this article has particularly grabbed my attention.

    I have been a PnP RPG player and GM for more than 25 years (I am 37) and enjoy this hobby, it’s variations, systems, genres, etc. I also enjoy the social nature of F2F gaming and building and sharing the experience with others.

    So far, whilst I agree with a number of the comments above, I have to say that a lot of them are surely must-haves for many computer games. I particularly agree with and reiterate Thomas’ comment about the human element.

    I have yet to find any single computer game that calls itself an RPG (single, two or MMO) lives up to the title. Maybe my expectations are too high, but there should be more to them than button-fests, or linear-plots, and the list goes on. I accept that to fully be an RPG (GM aside for a moment) there has never been the tech that could handle what that would entail. Surely we must have past that point by now.

    It is nice to have great graphics, sound, PvP (for those that want it). I would sacrifice some of this if the AI was better, if a reputation with NPCs and the rest of the world mattered other than just a number or a fixed discount, if the game-world worked like the world (sometimes you have to wait for a shop to open, or an NPC to come home), good deeds are rewarded, most wanted lists, why do we need levels? If we need levels why so many?, NPCs (and the world-elements) should learn, new ‘quests’ should be created because others have been completed/farmed (the goodies don’t like to be farmed for a resource, so they put a bounty on the baddies), a full conversation AI should be available, if you keep selling ‘tat’ it looses value (afterall how many normal shortswords could one merchant want/used/dispose of for a profit – why buy something that fails to give a ROI?), etc…

    I could continue my comments, rant, soapboxing – call it what you will. I like computers, and games, and RPGs – when they are, what they say they are, on the tin; I would love for a proper RPG to be available on a computer/console.
    I don’t believe it is impossible. Difficult, time-consuming, resource-hungry, but not impossible. I would love to create it… as I have many worlds/campaigns as a GM in PnP games – but I do not have the industry experience or computer/developer skills.

    In summary I think that, putting the human element (Gm & players) back in the equation, to be an RPG the ‘program/software’ needs to be able to be both player and GM. It will need to have great AI – get that right and the rest will likely follow.

    Alternatively actual ‘humans’ as GMs – maybe there shouldn’t be any computer-controlled characters in game?

  32. September 19, 2010 6:58 pm

    Agree with most of the points listed above. One point I would like to mention is that a rpg needs to make you feel the consequences of your actions as an rpg is all about making choices.

    I would love to see the butterfly effect reflected in a game, where something you might think of inconsequential actually has far-reaching effects in the game e.g. that merchant you did not help against the bandits was actually ferrying the king’s daughter in secret. War breaks out, the kingdom burns in flames. Heh. Dramatic.

    Character interactions are also important to me. Fallout 1 and 2, Arcanum, Mass Effect and Alpha Protocol all are populated with characters with their own quirks. Taking Alpha Protocol, how you react to a character effects their reactions to you. And it takes a long time to change a negative reaction to a positive one.

    I have been thinking about a wild west style rpg for sometime now and I feel that it is one area of the genre that hasn’t been explored fully.

    Just adding in my 2 cents.

  33. September 24, 2010 1:53 am

    I agree with Suzzane…
    The project we are on now is less RPG and more action but is the base engine and world we will be expanding on in the new year for the more RPG driven sequel. I will make sure to throw in a butterfly effect. It actually will work well with my current design and will add to replayability. 😉

    • September 24, 2010 2:34 am

      Hi Steven,

      That’s great to hear! I was disappointed about the so-called consequences in Dragon Age: Origins so it would be awesome to have a game that really delves into it.

      Oh, if you ever need any writing done, feel free to give me a holler 😉 I haven’t had any experience before but it is one area I am keen to get into.

  34. gbmerkley permalink
    October 1, 2010 8:43 am

    Finally another RPG! If you need help let me know!

    Pokemon Wii

  35. October 4, 2010 2:21 pm

    “I would absolutely love an episodic RPG that let me play through a campaign in 3-4 hour chunks, for $5-10 a chunk…” – Skip

    *raises hand* I would really enjoy RPGs where I could pick up stories that can be completed in reasonable chunks of time. I’m surprised developers haven’t done this much, as NWN, Titan Quest and (dare I mention) most FPSs have enjoyed extensive replay value through the availability of mods. Being able to go to a site to browse new scenario and mods to install kept me playing that game for almost a year beyond the life of the game. Same goes for Wizardry 8 campaigns and NWN campaigns that I have downloaded over time.

  36. October 8, 2010 3:17 pm

    I highly recommend checking out Devil Survivor, for the nintendo DS. There are some vital innovations to be found in the way it combines JRPG battles with turn-based tactics, squad ability management, and numerous smaller mechanics. I played it immediately after my first time playing Chrono Trigger, and it made that RPG’s mechanics seem downright crude.

  37. Mark Carroll permalink
    December 10, 2010 4:51 pm

    Hi, Brenda – you likely don’t remember me, but I was the chubby guy that asked you to sign the DMG 2 at GDC a couple of years ago.

    I really think, especially in the light of your lecture on offline gaming (which, if I wasn’t clear, *blew my mind*), that game designers need to start looking at some of the innovations in tabletop RPG design and theory that have gone down since the hobby almost died in the 1990s.

    Since then, there have been some amazing designs to come out – Fred Hick’s Spirit of the Century, Elizabeth Sampat’s Blowback, the crossover party game/rpg Fiasco…there’s just so much out there, not even counting the current iterations of more mainstream games like D&D 4th edition or Gamma World.

    A lot of thought’s gone into not only the mechanics of play, but applying ideas you’ve touched on and explored in terms of why and how we play games. It’s pretty incredible stuff, groundbreaking in some ways, and I think it’s well and truly applicable when it comes to console/computer game design.

  38. May 21, 2011 1:56 pm

    Congratulations on deciding to create a new RPG.
    Reading through the comments, I have to admit, I particularly enjoy Jagged Alliance and Wizardry 8. I still wplay W8 today, and JA2 except the disk became corrupted. I will admit it, I am old school in my games, and actually found the Wii and assorted games really lacking in depth.

    Wish List
    – Balance! W8 and JA2 had a really good balance between character level and game difficulty. Oblivion and Fallout 3 were boring by comparison, because you could either kill something easily, or were completely outgunned.

    – Computer not console. Final Fantasy, Fallout3, and many other games have such a reduced command set, that the game seems limited. I enjoy manipulating my characters and seeing what I can do. The Gadgeteer in W8 is by far my favourite class. I’ve also run the game with a all fairy ninja party just to see how it would work out.

    – Storyline and interesting drops. One thing that really impressed me about W8 is how good it was, given the project got killed. There are a few loose ends I’ve learned to ignore.

    – Not a life killer. I’ve watched friends and family get sucked into network gaming and online games at the expense of their careers and family. I need to be able to walk away and see my kids grow up. For me, a single player, 1 hour/night 80 hour + game would be great.

    – Interactions. Reading the above posts, JA2, Fallout 1, 2, Arcanum, and a few others really shone in my eyes because the npc’s had some quirks and personality. Fallout 3, oblivion, and final fantasy all fell short for exactly this reason. Baulders Gate, Neverwinter, and oblivion had lots of quests, but seemed to lack the development of a story line and interaction with the characters.

    – Hooks1 I have friends who are min max gamers. And we sit around figuring out how skills rise, what points are critical. But for myself, I try and play a concept team. (W8 All fairy’s ninjas, lizardman mages…) . The more unique a character, the more I enjoy testing it out.

  39. oldskoolrpg permalink
    October 7, 2011 8:22 am

    IMO the perfect RPG would have:
    -turn based tactical combat in isometric view (Temple of Elemental Evil, Jagged Alliance 2); town/dungeon exploration would be real time until enemies sighted and then it goes to turn based
    -overland exploration of an unknown continent/land (Ultima 3/4); I think they both may have come with cloth maps but you did not know where any towns/dungeons where – I loved this – just wandering around Sosaria/Britannia looking for stuff
    -class based character system with deep customization (D&D 3ed feats; WOW/MMO style talent trees); for fantasy I think class based works best; for sci-fi/post-apoc skill based is probably best
    -party based/player creates most party memebers with a few slots for mercs, summons and npcs (Bard’s Tale, Wasteland, Wiz 8)
    -diversified magic system (Bard’s Tale, Wiz 6-8)
    -funny voice acted pc comments (Jagged Alliance 2, Wiz 8)
    -paper doll type inventory with player avatars reflecting gear used
    -graphics at least on the level of Fallout/Arcanum; TOEE quality would be awesome; OK I could probably live with C64 Ultima 4 level graphics if the aesthetic is right (most indie RPGs IMO look terrible – I think its the colors/aesthetic rather than any technical issue)

  40. iloveoldrpgs permalink
    January 13, 2012 10:00 am

    The only thing I need (or I miss) is turn based combat like it was in Wizardry series. Ah, and the game should be incredibly long like Wizardry 7 was.


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