Question What decides an RPG?

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Colif

Moderator
This thread just shows that we really need new names for the video game genres.
I have seen Mario 64 defined as an RPG. YouTube sure does in searches.

Someone already stated it, to me the key is it should be a character you make, not one you are given to play. Do you make character yourself or are you given a role? If you make it yourself, its an rpg. Anything else is something else. Fallout 3 might fit that category but F4 didn't.

I generally play a dying breed of RPG, the ARPG, And those are all about making all the choices yourself. I don't play story driven games, too much dialogue, not enough action.
 
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I have seen Mario 64 defined as an RPG. YouTube sure does in searches.

Someone already stated it, to me the key is it should be a character you make, not one you are given to play. Do you make character yourself or are you given a role? If you make it yourself, its an rpg. Anything else is something else. Fallout 3 might fit that category but F4 didn't.

I generally play a dying breed of RPG, the ARPG, And those are all about making all the choices yourself. I don't play story driven games, too much dialogue, not enough action.
What does it mean for you to "make a character"? Is it just aesthetics, or does it have to include choosing skills? What about being able to influence the story?
 
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Colif

Moderator
i normally play games like Diablo 2, Torchlight, Sacred series, where you pick appearance of character, its skills and how attributes are spent. The story in those games is really just a means to get you into new areas. You can happily play game and not know what story is about, its only in a current play through of Torchlight 2 that I decided to listen to what quest givers are saying.

There is probably no right answer. Its been diluted over time to make deciding what really is an RPG now difficult.
 

Brian Boru

Moderator
there are plenty of shooters that have a level-up system for unlocking stuff, would you consider those RPGs?
Far Crys for example. New Dawn has leveling up for opponents and weapons—you won't last long taking on a Level 3 opponent, soldier or wildlife, with Level 1 weapons.
Earlier ones have skill trees to level up player abilities, plus crafting to level up gear, plus side quests & collectibles.

I guess they're RPG-lite shooters?
 
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RPGs fans love when game’s world had been thought through, and even small details are taken into account. Well-crafted side characters will also add your game a depth. Such things as: history, geography, races, cultures, religions, technology, traditions, factions, lore and legends, inspire the player and make them want to get involved.
 
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Far Crys for example. New Dawn has leveling up for opponents and weapons—you won't last long taking on a Level 3 opponent, soldier or wildlife, with Level 1 weapons.
Earlier ones have skill trees to level up player abilities, plus crafting to level up gear, plus side quests & collectibles.

I guess they're RPG-lite shooters?
Far Cry 3 had an entire skill tree, which I would say would be an RPG element. However, I was more thinking of games like Call of Duty, Battlefield or Rainbow Six, where you unlock weapons and/or skins as you level up. In this case, the level itself doesn't actually change the way your character performs, it's just there to track the next reward you're getting.
 

Colif

Moderator
Yeah, levelling systems like old games that gave you skill points (wonder if D2 remake will include that aspect) to put into specific areas (Str, Dex, Int, etc) to actually make a difference in game. Not just giving you pretty skins for weapons. Want to use that weapon, you need X skills 1st. Not just a perk to use X weapon.

Torchlight 2 did that, TL 3 has dumbed it down. Sigh. Why are a lot of part 3's bad? TL3, D3, Sacred 3 (the worst of them all)

Fallout used to but Bethesda have made that almost useless in their games now. F:NV was better than F4 when it came to what skill points meant in game.

RPG elements are in a lot of games but its all dumbed down as a carrot/stick situation to make people keep paying to hopefully get that pretty thing
 
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Zloth

Community Contributor
RPGs have some sort of levelling system (maybe classic, D&D levels, maybe individual skill levels, maybe levels in various items), some sort of quest system that lets you pick whether or not to do at least some of the quests, and a story for you to act out your role. I don't think you have to have choices in that role to be an RPG. After all, how many actors get to pick whether their character in a movie will be good or evil?

RPG elements are in a lot of games but its all dumbed down as a carrot/stick situation to make people keep paying to hopefully get that pretty thing
Deus Ex? Troubleshooter: Abandoned Children? Prey? Some games will pull something like having shallow levelling systems but giving you many characters to level, like BattleTech and XCom.
 
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I know this is an older post, but thought I'd register my thoughts, since "RPGs" are the types of games I play the most, going back to the 1980s.

Yeah, I'm an old-school gamer (well, just old too). Game definitions used to be more clearly defined years ago, and as DXCHASE said, those lines have become blurred. If someone wants to call RD2 or any of the AC games RPGs, I won't say they're wrong. It really comes down to personal opinion and feelings. Those games aren't RPGs to me, but that's only my opinion, it doesn't make it fact.

I remember playing the Half Life games, and totally consumed in my role as Gordon Freeman. Those games changed how we looked at Shooters, giving us a real story to drive the games forward. There were no "Stats" to level up, no choices to make, and the HL games were pretty much on rails, going from act to act. But I assumed my persona of Gordon Freeman. Does that make it an RPG? Not in my opinion, even though I played a role as the main character.

Then there are Action RPGs (ARPGs), games like Diablo 1 & 2, Sacred 1 & 2, Dungeon Siege, Grim Dawn, ect. Those games had stats, leveling up, loot galore, but minimal story and very few choices that mattered or changed the outcome. Combat, leveling, and loot were the focus. Does that make them RPGs? Yes & No to me, ARPG (as opposed to RPG) is a pretty good classification.

My personal definition of an RPG is a game with a story. Could be single character, or party based. The game has some type of "leveling up" system, where you can improve your stats and/or abilities, preferably with the options of building a character in multiple directions. The story should be the main focus, and the choices (there should always be multiple choices) you make should affect different outcomes in the game; either in the world itself, or in peoples lives, as well as the end game.

Again, all these lines of definition are blurred nowadays, so it comes down to your own perspective. In essence, there is no "true" definition of an RPG today.

Okay... then level-up system AND turn-based.
What about Real Time with Pause? Many games considered RPGs use that mechanic.

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.
What about Fallout 1 & 2?

I think what makes a game an RPG is so blurred nowadays.

And you hit the issue exactly, saying that the definition of an RPG is blurred, maybe more so than other genres.
 
Like others have said, I think a lot of genres over the years have borrowed heavily from "traditional" RPG's, which has not only blurred the genre lines but also rendered previous criteria for what makes an RPG largely useless.

That being said, the one definition for RPG I really disagree with is "Any game where you play a role." Because frankly that is most games, including Super Mario Bros., since you're "playing the role" of Mario (or Luigi.) I saw someone claim that "The Walking Dead" was an RPG because you played the role of Lee (or later Clem) and got to make "choices" in the world, but I would say that is what Adventure games are/were. And if one's counterargument is "Adventure games are also RPG's," then... the term is pointless.

I'm not a fan of genre gate-keeping. However, on the other side of the spectrum, if we broaden the scope of a category or categories to include literally anything that could possibly be construed by someone as... whatever, then it ultimately defeats the purpose of having categories and makes searching for what you want a logistical nightmare.

That said, I don't know what the solution is, other than sticking to very hybridized terms, like Action RPG, Open World RPG, "immersive sim", JRPG, and whatever else people have come up with to differentiate games, not to be exclusionary or anything, but to facilitate sorting, searching, etc.

So to circle back to the original question, "What makes an RPG?" The answer is "It depends." It depends on what sort of RPG you're looking for, what you like, etc. Ideally we would reach some general agreement, but as the genres continue to blend, that becomes harder.

For me personally, an RPG needs to have at least three things:

1. Meaningful choices. (To me if everyone experiences the exact same story no matter what they do, that's not an RPG, it's an adventure. And yes, some adventure games have meaningful choices, too, but I'm just saying, I personally need them in my RPG's, even if it's just pertaining to side quests/NPC's.)

2. Leveling, either in general or skill-wise. (Again, many of these exist in other genres, but this combination is what I look for in most RPG's.) In a pinch this could even just take the form of better weapons and armor, where applicable, but something at least.

3. Some control over my character's state/progress. Much like point 1, if everyone's character is the same at the end of the game no matter what, then I don't feel like any roleplaying happened, really. Whether it's something minor like looks, haircut, outfit, or drastic like whether I'm smart/stupid, strong/weak, good/evil, etc. If there's zero point in asking another player what their [protagonist] was like at the end, then it's just an adventure/strategy/action/other non-RPG. I don't care what "role" I was in during that time, if I had no say in how that role played out.

I'm trying to think of an example of a game I've played/enjoy as an RPG that doesn't have these three things, and so far I'm drawing a blank. So for me at least, the criteria holds up. But I know not everyone wants the same things, so... *shrug*
 

Zloth

Community Contributor
Meaningful choice is pretty flexible:
  • Doom will play very differently if you choose not to use any gun other than the pistol. So that's a pretty meaningful choice, but I bet that's not what you folks mean.
  • What about games where there's lots of choice but the game always bends it around to end up at the same place? Maybe that happens in the very same dialog, maybe it happens 20 minutes later, but it keeps the story from branching.
  • Older (and some newer) JRPGs often have very little story-choice, meaning that the role you play is pre-determined. You may control how the characters move around and fight, you can discover some optional characters and fight some optional bosses, but the main story is completely fixed. No matter how you play Final Fantasy 7, it isn't going to be Vincent that kills Sepheroth in the end.
 
Meaningful choice is pretty flexible:
  • Doom will play very differently if you choose not to use any gun other than the pistol. So that's a pretty meaningful choice, but I bet that's not what you folks mean.
  • What about games where there's lots of choice but the game always bends it around to end up at the same place? Maybe that happens in the very same dialog, maybe it happens 20 minutes later, but it keeps the story from branching.
  • Older (and some newer) JRPGs often have very little story-choice, meaning that the role you play is pre-determined. You may control how the characters move around and fight, you can discover some optional characters and fight some optional bosses, but the main story is completely fixed. No matter how you play Final Fantasy 7, it isn't going to be Vincent that kills Sepheroth in the end.
I think having choices that don't impact the storyline are fine, as they still allow you to define the personality of your character during the story.

I think the JRPGs that give you no or very few choices are more a type of story-based Turn Based Strategy than a type of RPG.
Final Fantasy 8 comes to mind as an example, as it gives you (almost?) no choices in how to respond, hardly any choice in party members for a lot of the game and hardly any choice in equipment and/or skills. And that seems pretty typical for a lot of JRPGs I've seen (though it's one of my least favourite genres, so I don't have that much experience with them).
 
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Meaningful choice is pretty flexible:
  • What about games where there's lots of choice but the game always bends it around to end up at the same place? Maybe that happens in the very same dialog, maybe it happens 20 minutes later, but it keeps the story from branching.
I've always disliked when RPGs (or any game, really) did that. It makes the "choices" you made very superficial, those conversations and choice had no real meaning or difference in how the game played out. Can't remember any game off the top of my head, but I know I've run into that issue.
 
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I've always disliked when RPGs (or any game, really) did that. It makes the "choices" you made very superficial, those conversations and choice had no real meaning or difference in how the game played out. Can't remember any game off the top of my head, but I know I've run into that issue.
Every Telltale game. A lot of hype about Choice & Consequence, but they were basically cosmetic, meaningless.
Not RPGs thought, but I had to say it!
 
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I always considered RPG's as games that requires a bit of deep character development of some sort, maybe even some party management on top of that where you can assign specific characters to specific roles, and maybe having a few story arcs that all build to a larger story. The deep writing of a multi-layered story with deep character progression tying in together is what makes it key, for me at least

So games like Final Fantasy, Parasite Eve, and Chrono Trigger are some obvious examples. You spend a lot of time strengthening your characters, comparing stats, assigning armor/weapons, etc.

But saying that, I also consider games such as The Outer Worlds and Deus Ex as RPG's, you're more or less doing the same thing, just....differently. In The Outer Worlds, you're leveling up, gaining passive abilities, delegating weapons and armor to yourself and party members, and doing quests that all tie into a larger story. Deus Ex has you doing the same thing, only that armor and party members aren't really an option, but you're still increasing the stats of your character (and it also give you that openess of how you play, do you want to play as a Tank, a black ops type agent, or a mix of both?).


Though, I wouldn't really put games like Call of Duty or Battlefield in that group, even though there's a level progression there. Yeah, the higher ranks you get you get more weapons, but you're not really doing anything beyond the standard "you've earned a new rank, now you've earned yourself a GUN!! Now go makes things go BOOOMMM AND EXPLODE!!!!!" Yeah, that's not an RPG.
 
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