Archived Discussion

This is discussion archived from a time before the current discussion method was installed.

Cidolfas: I've created three new pages: Eastern RPG, Western RPG, and Action RPG, in an effort to split up this giant page into more useful categories. Everyone is invited to argue about what belongs where, as I haven't played a whole whack of the games on the list and so had to guess.
The reason for the change is that Dungeons and Dragons was very much not the first - even the 'creator' admits that he took most of everything from an RPG campaign that his friend was running. — (who said this?)

Susan Davis: Final Fantasy did not invent turn-based combat. Wizardry, Ultima, and, heck, Colossal Cave had it well before Final Fantasy I came along.

Ununnilium: Unless that first person can provide a cite on an earlier RPG system than D&D, I'm changing it back. ...later: After talking it over with him, I'll edit accordingly.

Red Shoe: I think "it depends". D&D is generally considered the first "roleplaying game", but it might not be unreasonable to count some of the earlier examples, which are usually termed "wargames". D&D itself directly evolved from an attempt to write a wargame using Tolkienesque settings. (I have this mental image of wargamers shaking their heads at poor Gary Gygax, unable to imagine how you could do a proper wargame when there's no published specifications for the firing arc of a dragon.)

HeartBurn Kid: The "role-playing game" that Gygax and Arneson were running was actually a proto-D&D; basically, it was played using the rules from the Chainmail wargame that Gygax had previously made and published, with a big fat pile of house rules to account for the fact that this wasn't army combat, but individual combat. The big fat pile of house rules was eventually adapted into D&D. So, yes, D&D was the first known role-playing game.
Eric DVH: There's a lot of things you can say about Zelda, and I absolutely love the games to death (as well as their clones, whither BG&E?), but they are most certainly NOT RPGS. You have no stats, no real inventory, and no mechanical similiarity to other entities in the game, plus there's no randomness at all. It's really no more an RPG then Metroid. Zelda aside, including Freedom Force is also a tad dodgy, as then stuff like X-Com, Commandos and SWAT might squeak in too.
Sotanaht: The page says that western RPGs tend to resemble tabletop games, and that they suffer from "weaker narratives and characterization". The problem is, several of the best known tabletop game based western RPGs, Baldur's Gate Planescape: Torment and Neverwinter Nights are all known for their stories. Generally, I would accept this as an exception to the rule, but, these games are the very epitome of the first half, and contradict the second. I think the free roaming bit should stay, as well as the lack of story, but the general resemblance to tabletop games should go, I almost think cRPGs based on tabletop games should have their own mention separatly.

Miko Squiz: It's patently ludicrous to claim Eastern RPGs are more character- and plot-oriented. Not only are most Western RPGs heavily plot-oriented, the average JRPG has a plot consisting of a bundle of overused tropes, through which a handful of one-dimensional archetypes stumble. The main differences that I'd accept as actually existing are realistic vs. anime-style graphics, more complex tactical combat in WRPGs vs. more complex equipment/ability setup in JRPGs, and an inclination in JRPGs towards metaphysical/apocalyptic plot elements. Oh, and freeroaming being more common (although hardly omnipresent) in Western RPGs.

Eric DVH: Gee, it's not as if all three games Sotanaht mentioned are based directly off the exact same tabletop system :p. While the best western [=RPGs=] have far more interesting stories than J[=RPGs=] do IMHO (except NWN's campaign, yarf) and lots of interesting characters, western [=RPGs=] don't have enough directionality to plot much noticable narrative.

Similarly, all the characters that make up your party are either completely flat, or have lots of personality which nonetheless fails to affect their actions in the game at all since they're utterly dominated by the player's orders. This is especially true for the Player Character, which (to allow roleplaying) is often a total blank slate throughout the game. These limitations are not necessarily bad things, and are part of what makes the games what they are. When people try to defy them, you end up with linear, confining games like KoTOR.

The two western games which spring to mind as illustrating what I wrote are Fallout and ToEE. Fallout has practically no characterization for the protagonist (and companion characters that are plotwise nonentities once they join your party) and no narrative to speak of outside two or three chokepoints per game, but it's still got a tremendous story to discover and tons of unforgettable characters. ToEE has basically no narrative, story, character personality or other fluff, but the meaty goodness of its dungeon crawl experience and miles deep combat system create an incredible game that's pretty much the polar opposite of any JRPG.

The Nifty: Gotta disagree with your second point - party members in good western RPGs aren't "blank slates" or "utterly dominated by the player's orders" Look at any Bioware RPG for counter-examples for both - characters are well developed and memorable (Minsc, HK 47, Fall-From-Grace come to mind) while still capable of betraying you or plotting against you (Yoshimo, Kreia, Bastilla). The only example of increased player freedom wreaking havoc on characters is with the absence of memorable player characters in WRPGs - deliberately done, as it's supposed to allow the player to assume the identity easier. The only really memorable player character I can think of in WRPGs is The Nameless One from Planescape: Torment.

Also; "weaker narratives and characterization"? The storylines of most JRPGs are crap. Derivative crap at that. Judging an entire genre by a few outliers with excellent stories is just as bad as judging an entire genre by a few outliers with awful stories. I'll put the plot of any Bioware RPG up against any JRPG.
Really wish people would quit calling this kind of game a ROLE playing game... it's an adventure game where you can modify your characters. It's not in any way playing a role, it's just a really complicated version of 'choose your own adventure'. This is an RPG in the same sense that the last one of something is the penultimate. — Azaram

Eric DVH: It's called an RPG because it forces you into a role. An RPG lets you get into the role of a powerful street brawler that can hardly aim a gun, or a talented acrobat who's terrified of combat. In other genres, you can't make your avatar do something you (the player) are incompetent at, and if your avatar is allowed to do something you're good at, your real-world skill acts as a massive spoiler on your avatar's talent.

Azaram: That's like saying that an engineer is getting into the role of a train. A role playing game is where you actually play a role, react as you feel necessary or desirable, rather than being handed a fixed set of things you can do. In a real role playing game, you can do something like shoot the king in the face while he's asking you to do something. (Whether or not this is a wise action is not in discussion.) In an adventure game, you can't. You're railroaded into a certain set of actions, and can't do anything that the programmers didn't think of. As an example, in World of Warcraft, one quest has you go find a mountain where the middle-bad guys are spraying poison into the air. In a role playing game, you could go ask the locals "Hey, where is this mountain?" and get an answer. In an adventure game, if you can talk to NP Cs at all, they just repeat the same useless things. So you have to wander around randomly in this mountain range until you happen across the right one.

In a real RPG, you CAN do things that you are not necessarily good at. That's what skill points and rolls are for. You don't necessarily need to know how to machine the parts to build a gun, your character just has the skills to do so. If you have real knowledge of how to do it, then you might think of something the GM would not, but a good GM will go with it. In an adventure game, you have no choice. If it wasn't programmed, you can't do it, period. Even when it would make sense. In a Ringworld computer game, you were stuck at one point because you hadn't found something that would allow you to walk through an area of poison gas...even though you were carrying a space suit. The space suit was later used as a diving suit, if I remember correctly. That is the major difference. If you come up with an idea that is reasonable and plausible in a role playing game, you can do it given some convincing and possibly research on the part of the GM. In an adventure game you are stuck on the rails, even if there's an obvious solution, unless you get the one that was programmed in, you're boned.

Ninjacrat: No true roleplaying game puts sugar on its porridge!

Eric DVH: Yeah, he is getting into the role of a train: He can move much faster and can't leave the tracks, the whole point of an RPG is to let you become someone else (possibly someone you've created, possibly not) through statistical abstraction. Also, you're confusing Railroading and The Devteam Thinks Of Everything with adventure games and [=RPGs=]. Look at Interactive Fiction for examples of adventure games with choice.

Azaram: No, I'm not. It's a choose your own adventure. You're given an extremely limited set of options. You choose one of those, then you get another set of options. You aren't playing a role, you're following a line. A role playing game is one where you become the character, not one where you choose an option every so often. A role playing game can be railroaded, but the example I was using, that happened to be a railroad, is not a role playing game. time=1230888048

Fulcon : Hey, I was playing a Dn D game earlier this week, and we got a new player. The guy's character was maxed out to perfection just like any Munchkin (which is fine, because because the rest of us, save The Role Player and The Real Man are also Munchkin but when we started playing he was ROLE PLAYING. His character was a Lawful Evil greedy dude, who didn't do anything unless there was a percieved benefit (he did not count experience). The only hint of munchkinism was when he went Rules Lawyer on the DM to defend a sudden stat increase as permanent.

Has anyone seen anything like this? Is he real? Are the rest of us hallucinating due to excess of crack? Help me out here!

s5555: I'm going to put up a long argument as to why these genrefied concepts of "Eastern RPG" and "Western RPG" are ultimately a flawed fallacy.

First is the concept that role playing game types must by tied to region of origin. I don't see linearity, customizability, or even thematics having any corellation to any "Eastern" or "Western" specifics whatsoever. Heck, even narrative quality has no bearing on their point of origin. Let me give you two examples that prove this by citing the Australian made Shadowrun, which has more semblance to most console RP Gs of its era, and is similarly linear in nature, and Sorcerian, the Nihon Falcom action-RPG that focused on customization, not to mention had real-time (side scrolling) combat. (Heck, let me just throw Final Fantasy VI in when it comes to open-world and story.)

The concept of a video "RPG" itself was nebulous and wasn't exactly a nailed genre until much later (a recent Retronauts interview with the BioWare guys proves that in the beginning, there was no set "design" of what an RPG should be, and that most of them were directly influenced by Dn D and thus retained as many concepts as possible). And even then, the ever popular descriptions between "JRP Gs" and "Western RP Gs" never really had any distiction; it was more "Computer (PC) RPGS" and "Console RP Gs". Now this latter distinction does make sense in certain context for a time, since menus and action had to be streamlined to utilized the consoles limited input functions (when compared to a QWERTY keyboard), not to mention there was far less space in cartridges than in hard disks. But even today, that distintion is blurring as technology on both frontiers improve. Even RP Gs on the PC today are starting to pic up the more streamline interfaces of their console breatheren, and consoles likewise integrating more of the depth that the PC breatheren have.

Second is that when people mention "Western RP Gs", they fail to make mention of space trading simulation games like Freelancer, Privateer, and the second Independence War game: When you think about the aspects behind thes games, the semblance of a typical "Eastern RPG" takes shape, onlythe character is your craft, random battles are encounters which interrupt your subspace travel or whatnot, and the illusion of open-world design when in fact the plot progresses by triggering the key main missions you take, which is no different from "Quests".

I'd go on in quoting Spoony with the whole "Final Fantasy VII changed everything" by attracting the whole generation of anime freaks into the realm of role-playing-and-video-games, with it's cinematic FM Vs and melodrama, and before you know it archetypes like Cloud Strife became popularized. Ultimately, everybody wanted to cash-in on Square's success, so most Japanese developeres inevitably tried to pick so, if not many of its elements and integrate it into their own games (hence spoin-offs like the Persona series were born) and people from sites like 4chan and GAF ultimately ended up creating generalized and contrived definitions of the now apparent style that has risen from the surge of Tetsuya Nomura/Akihabara-influenced RP Gs and the perpetuation of emo-protagonists in their teens in familiar high-school-esq settings.

I'd like to add that finally, with games like Etrian Odyssey and the revival of traditional dungeon crawlers, not to mention Roguelikes like Shiren, there's very little reason to keep the distinction of "East" and "West" to define the kind of RPG a game plays (lets not even forget the number of Wizardry games made in Japan!). Better descriptors would be, for example, Soma Bringer being a "Diablo-like", SMT being a Dungeon Crawler, etc.