Question What decides an RPG?

Jul 8, 2020
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A Facebook group I am in has some very toxic members who believe that the title RPG should be exclusively reserved for titles like Wizardry 7-8, Chrono Cross, Baldur's Gate style titles, and very vocally cast shade on games like Red Dead Redemption 2 or the Assassin's Creed series. I think this is far too elitist.

What makes an RPG?

I like the definition that an RPG is any game where you assume the role of a character in a fictional setting, however that is perhaps too umbrella.

What do you think PCGamer community?
 
Jan 22, 2020
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I think the term is broad for sure, but I also have to agree with whoever was saying that AC and RDR are most definitely not RPGs. Some of the staples like skill trees, dialogue branches and side quests are just found in a lot of genres lately. Also your definition would exclude RDR 2 as it's set in a real place and time.

Defining or delineating genres is always tough. It's like taxonomy, most things exist on a gradient and don't readily fit into neat categories.

I'm going to hedge my bets by saying: I don't know what an RPG is, but I know one when I see it.
 
Jul 8, 2020
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Thank you @Mazer for your input, however I would counter your point that RDR2 is set in a real place and time, "The world of Red Dead Redemption 2 spans five fictitious U.S. states. The states of New Hanover, Ambarino and Lemoyne are new to the series, and are located to the immediate north and east of Red Dead Redemption's world, whilst the states of New Austin and West Elizabeth return from Red Dead Redemption. " All fictitious.

What I don't appreciate is gamers who like to make their niche exclusive out of fear of losing their crafted identity. This is especially true of older gamers who like to consider classics as the only true this or that, and completely discount recent efforts to enter a genre. I have also seen this same attitude among operating systems, with the XP generation generally discounting everything that came afterward as a garbage fire. Fortunately these folks are a strong minority of the gaming community at large, with most people content to argue over the device, rather than the game.

I enjoyed Icewind Dale, Dragon Age: Origins, and Morrowind, and consider them fantastic RPGs overall. The taxonomy of games has slowly begun to blur into irrelevance. Perhaps these groups and communities would be better suited to clarifying they are only considering legacy rpgs, or classic titles? Inifinity engine releases and games like that could have a better, more specific name that is more relevant to them .
 

Zloth

Community Contributor
Those westerns are as fantastic as Middle Earth or Mass Effect. Even if they used real city names and real gangster names, the stories written that were told about them are highly fanciful.

And yeah, I'm afraid we made a mess when the genres were first defined. 1st Person Shooter (aka Doom-like) is determined by how the combat is done. RPGs are defined by character growth and quests. Make an RPG that uses 1st person shooting and what are you supposed to call it? (Deus Ex and System Shock 2 were like that so we called them hybrids.)

I would like to see genres defined by the kind of fun you can have with them. However, there's a lot of ways to have fun. Even if we group them into eight different categories of fun and just rate a game as "high" or "low" in each, you end up with 256 genres. Ouch.

But anyway, I would call Assassin's Creed: Odyssey an RPG for sure. There's a good number of skills to learn, a lot of quests to find, and a great, big story.
 
A Facebook group I am in has some very toxic members who believe that the title RPG should be exclusively reserved for titles like Wizardry 7-8, Chrono Cross, Baldur's Gate style titles, and very vocally cast shade on games like Red Dead Redemption 2 or the Assassin's Creed series. I think this is far too elitist.

What makes an RPG?

I like the definition that an RPG is any game where you assume the role of a character in a fictional setting, however that is perhaps too umbrella.

What do you think PCGamer community?
I don't think RPG should be any game where you assume the role of a character in a fictional setting. Personally, I'd prefer redefining RPG to any game where you can make meaningful choices regarding the personality of your character.

For example, Assassin's Creed gives you no choices on how your character behaves and interacts with other characters, whereas Mass Effect allows you to choose the personality of your character through the choices you make during dialogues.

However, the current definition for RPG seems mostly about the mechanics around gaining XP and increasing stats for one or a small group of characters.
 
Jan 15, 2020
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It seems most people define an RPG on how fantasy related the game is. If it doesn't have wizards or orcs or dwarfs, its not an RPG.

I think what makes a game an RPG is so blurred nowadays. Most games, even if they are linear shooters or a typical sports game, add elements of an RPG like a skills system, open worlds, hidden chests, hidden areas, even the use of developing character relationships. Those were all elements that were staples to RPG.

Personally i would say AC and RDR2 are RPGs, they might not get the title for it, but i do the same things in those games like i would in classic RPG games, spend too much time on very small trivial stuff that doesn't affect the main game lol.
 

OsaX Nymloth

Community Contributor
Jan 29, 2020
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RPG doesn't need to be fantasy. Look at Kingdom Come: Deliverance. No magic, no dragons and no dungeons. And yet it's 100% RPG with meaningful character progression, role playing, skill-based gameplay, branching quests and dialogues.

Lots of games have light cRPG elements, but a true blood cRPG is a thing you "know". RDR2/AC are not cRPG's, they just borrow some things from the genre. IMHO.
 

Sarafan

Community Contributor
Jan 14, 2020
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I've seen a lot of definitions of RPG genre. I think that a true RPG needs to have a rich character creation and development system, dialogue options, inventory system, quests and maybe a decent plot. It's even better if it's based on some table-top RPG. Setting is not important here. It can be fantasy, sci-fi or historical. All of these can fulfill the RPG conditions.
 
Jun 26, 2020
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I think, to me, what separates the RPG from most genres is narrative-driven consequence and choices impacting the story, world, progression, and/or character. The thing about genres is they tend to lend defining characteristics from each other. What separates an adventure game from an RPG, for example? Adventure games often have similar mechanics and gameplay methodologies applied to them. Both can be focused on story, as well as contain character progression mechanics that are pretty similar. I think most adventure games tend to stray from providing options that impact the story or character, though. AC and RDR2 are pretty good examples of that. Sure, RDR2 you can make choices that impact the overall end game arc and how the world responds to you in pretty artificial ways, but nothing that makes a real impact outside of the end story. There are aspects of these present, though, such as one of the last missions in chapter 5. But they aren't much of a focus.

Things like this aren't as clear as some other genres, but even then you see people mixing up the meanings or definitions. An MMO is a great example. People calling Destiny or Fallout 76 an MMO really seems to miss the "massive" aspect of the genre, but it's still becoming more and more acceptable to lump those games together because they share some core mechanic or design similarities.

Ultimately genre definitions are something I've always had a bit of a hard time with, because different people see different things that speak to them. It's especially prevalent in music genres, such as punk rock, that have so many sub-genres that people frequently argue over. It's way more abstract in music, though. A lot of people use it as a way to gatekeep which I think we can see in the example OP experienced where people narrowly define an RPG to be a very specific set of games that came out in a very specific generation. As technology gets better and the limits of games gets pushed further, I think the lines between some genres will become more and more blurred.
 

Zloth

Community Contributor
I think, to me, what separates the RPG from most genres is narrative-driven consequence and choices impacting the story, world, progression, and/or character.
That leaves out a heck of a lot of JRPGs where you have little to no choice in how the story is going to play out. I'm afraid it's too late to call them Japanese Action Adventures. ;)

But yeah, any time I despair about game genres, I just look over at the music industry and feel better. I think they are to the point now where a lead singer can put on a different shirt and suddenly be counted as changing genres!
 

OsaX Nymloth

Community Contributor
Jan 29, 2020
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But yeah, any time I despair about game genres, I just look over at the music industry and feel better. I think they are to the point now where a lead singer can put on a different shirt and suddenly be counted as changing genres!
I wish there was forum for music. I would be spamming the hell outta it with progressive death metal acts from Singapore and brutal technical death metal infused with slam monstrosities from Florida only to add a bit of blues in there to mix things up.

Sorry for a bit of off-topic :p
 
I think, to me, what separates the RPG from most genres is narrative-driven consequence and choices impacting the story, world, progression, and/or character. The thing about genres is they tend to lend defining characteristics from each other. What separates an adventure game from an RPG, for example? Adventure games often have similar mechanics and gameplay methodologies applied to them. Both can be focused on story, as well as contain character progression mechanics that are pretty similar. I think most adventure games tend to stray from providing options that impact the story or character, though. AC and RDR2 are pretty good examples of that. Sure, RDR2 you can make choices that impact the overall end game arc and how the world responds to you in pretty artificial ways, but nothing that makes a real impact outside of the end story. There are aspects of these present, though, such as one of the last missions in chapter 5. But they aren't much of a focus.

Things like this aren't as clear as some other genres, but even then you see people mixing up the meanings or definitions. An MMO is a great example. People calling Destiny or Fallout 76 an MMO really seems to miss the "massive" aspect of the genre, but it's still becoming more and more acceptable to lump those games together because they share some core mechanic or design similarities.
The Wikipedia article for each game seems to be pretty accurate. Assassin's Creed is an Action-Adventure. Assassin's Creed: Odyssey is an Action-RPG. Red Dead Redemption 2 is an Action-Adventure. Fallout 76 and Destiny are Multiplayer RPGs.

Note that Adventure and Action-Adventure are two separate genres. Adventure games are Point and Click games and games like Telltale's The Walking Dead. They focus on story and puzzles without combat.
 

Zloth

Community Contributor
...I would be spamming the hell outta it with progressive death metal acts from Singapore...
Singaporean progressive death metal? Hmmm, maybe 256 genres isn't as impossible as I thought?

Note that Adventure and Action-Adventure are two separate genres. Adventure games are Point and Click games and games like Telltale's The Walking Dead. They focus on story and puzzles without combat.
Which means that the Atari 2600 "Adventure" game is not in the Adventure genre. ;)
 
May 3, 2020
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A Facebook group I am in has some very toxic members who believe that the title RPG should be exclusively reserved for titles like Wizardry 7-8, Chrono Cross, Baldur's Gate style titles, and very vocally cast shade on games like Red Dead Redemption 2 or the Assassin's Creed series. I think this is far too elitist.

What makes an RPG?

I like the definition that an RPG is any game where you assume the role of a character in a fictional setting, however that is perhaps too umbrella.

What do you think PCGamer community?
IMHO, the secret is on the meaning of RPG: ROLE-PLAYING-GAME.

There are, as the diversity of games quoted on your post shows, many ways of making the gamer role-play - some styles you may like, some not. Some include different types of camera, or other genres (shooter, puzzle, online, whatever), but essencially, if you role play in a game...

Oh, and btw: definition is something you should do for yourself. It's best to avoid people that deem their definition is the right one ;)
 
Apr 28, 2020
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The term role playing game is extremely open to interpretation, but since you asked:

I would exclude all those games where you play God, or general, or commander, or simply player 1.
Yes those are roles and they can even develop over time but lack the level of character development and customization normally associated with role playing games.

For me a role playing game is decided by the freedom it gives the player to develop a character and alter the gaming experience through the selection of alternate choices. If you can choose your clothing, or your name but not make choices that result in different outcomes - it is not much of a role playing game. If you are compelled to do x until outcome y is produced in order to proceed - it is not much of a role playing game.

Good role playing games allow different choices, different outcomes, different experiences, and nearly infinite replayability.
 
Feb 17, 2020
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I wasn't overly fussed about genre labels, including RPG, taking the "I know one when I see one" attitude expressed above.

But recently I went to The Division 2 Reddit which calls the game

"...an online RPG from Ubisoft and Massive Entertainment."

If you've not played The Division 2, here's a summary of the RPG elements as I see them. Your character never says a word, has no name, no backstory in the game, and exists purely to shoot things. There is no choice in mission objectives or outcomes. Your only real choices are which order to do some of the activities, and who to start shooting first in each room-by-room firefight. And which gadgets to kill people with.
 
Aug 24, 2020
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Wow yeah, in my opinion, gatekeeping genres like that 100% takes AWAY from what it means to even be a gamer.

Think about it.. a game is all what the player makes it. Doom could be an RPG if you played it that way. Let's say you decide to play Doom but the player decides "I am a holy Cleric that has refused to use explosive weapons. Bullets only. I'm a Bullet Cleric" and he plays the game playing the role of this character that only uses certain weapons and acts a certain way based on who he is. I mean is he not then playing some form of an RPG? and who am I to tell him what his experience can and should be anyway? so yeah for me an RPG experience is one where I play a game and pretend i'm some character, or a group of characters, and try and create this cool story that unfolds by acting the way I think that character would act. minecraft could be that, it just depends.
 

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