: Defining "Role-Playing" Gets Harder And Harder

Members Login: Register | Why sign up? | Forgot Password?

Defining "Role-Playing" Gets Harder And Harder

You know, there was a time when all this genre-labeling was a lot easier.

Even if the terminology has changed, and even though we have far more diversity than at any other time in the industry's history (let's not forget the dawn of gaming), everything is starting to blend together. I always used to look at a shelf and go, "That's an RPG and that isn't." It was just so obvious.

I mean, action games didn't have levels or experience. You could rarely equip things besides some weapons you might pick up. There was no big ol' world to explore. Now you look at something like Assassin's Creed and the role-playing elements are everywhere. Just about the only thing missing is an experience/level-up system; include that, and how is it not an RPG? But it's not even that easy; there are levels in all sorts of games now, including shooters. Furthermore, with the death of "old-fashioned" mechanics unique to RPGs (like original turn-based systems such as The Judgment Ring in Shadow Hearts or the Arts in Legaia), just about everything is in real-time.

So you get something like the upcoming Bioshock Infinite, which is definitely a blend of role-playing and FPS, as was last year's Deus Ex: Human Revolution. But even games that have no business being even close to the RPG genre, such as something like The Last Of Us, does have role-playing aspects we thought we'd never see in action-oriented adventures. The bottom line is that with all this blending and mixing, the lines are blurred and precisely labeling any given game is getting tougher and tougher. So many are simply trying to do living, breathing worlds better than the next, so elements from all genres are often easily found.

Maybe the last easy-to-label genres are the Fighting and Sports/Racing categories. But after that...things get awfully muddy.

10/19/2012 Ben Dutka

Put this on your webpage or blog:
Email this to a friend
Follow PSX Extreme on Twitter

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Google Share on MySpace Share on Delicious Share on Digg Share on Google Buzz Share via E-Mail Share via Tumblr Share via Posterous

Comments (16 posts)

Lawless SXE
Friday, October 19, 2012 @ 10:23:51 PM
Reply

I don't really see the issues. I've never much been a fan of classifying things so broadly anyway. I mean, and RPG is still an RPG and there are definitely hybrids. Those are pretty easily nailed down methinks. And it is with them that I think the line should be drawn. Many games do incorporate RPG elements, like weapon options and levelling, but they're only elements, they don't necessarily form an integral part of the overall experience. For the most part, they can be almost ignored to no great deficit to the game in general. That being said, those RPG elements do usually make a game better :)

Oh, and I wouldn't call Bioshock Infinite as an RPG in any sense, though I would to Borderlands and Deus Ex. It should be a focal point, not an additional gameplay perk. Maybe. Ah, what do I know?

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, October 19, 2012 @ 11:19:26 PM

If it plays like the other Bioshocks where you carefully select what powers to embrace and upgrade then it's still going to feel like it has a leveling system that determines the direction of your experience, which is very RPG.

Agree with this comment 3 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Lawless SXE
Friday, October 19, 2012 @ 11:34:09 PM

But I never got that feeling in the first two BioShocks either. As you mentioned, there was the need to monitor the Plasmids that you're using to provide yourself with the gameplay experience most suited to your purposes, but it didn't feel like such a crucially vital part of the game. It certainly wasn't a hollow or wasted mechanic, but it felt undercooked and marginalised in the grander scheme of the game as a whole that it isn't deserving to be labelled with that moniker of an RPG.

The same goes for the weapon upgrade systems and ammo choices. They're solidly implemented, but not enough to elevate the production to an RPG, in my opinion. Perhaps I view it that way because I'm incapable of reconciling RPG with the almost ultralinear environments of Rapture. I don't know. It just doesn't feel right to call it one.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

WorldEndsWithMe
Saturday, October 20, 2012 @ 1:51:36 AM

You have a point. There are similar aspects to Dishonored that craft what kind of assassin (or merciful stealth bringer of justice) you are, but in truth you can get by without most of them. Though the game wouldn't be as fun.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, October 19, 2012 @ 11:21:11 PM
Reply

It confounds my old-fashioned brain sometimes. And I think it is the basis for my general disdain for taking RPGs so far into the real-time action realm. They lose what made them RPGs to begin with and instead of getting a good RPG or a good action game we wind up with a hybrid that is both at once and neither at all.

However, elevating action games with RPG elements always makes them better.

Agree with this comment 1 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

homura
Friday, October 19, 2012 @ 11:24:24 PM
Reply

Funny thing is, even sports game has RPG elements now. Freestyle is an MMO basketball game. It has a leveling system, skills that you can buy depending on your class, sort of a job system that you can choose(PG,SG,SF,PF,C), and it has items, costumes and accessories that can add attributes in your stats. I think it can be labeled as a sports/rpg game. Hehe.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

homura
Friday, October 19, 2012 @ 11:30:01 PM

I checked, it's already been labeled as a MMORPG game. Haha.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Vitron
Saturday, October 20, 2012 @ 1:09:02 AM
Reply

Mass Effect = tps
Deus Ex = fps
FFXIII = action adventure

Funny that this is how I regard these games even though they definitely have RPG elements or hybrid. Thing is, I just see them as fps or tps with added RPG elements. Maybe its just my stubbornness that JRPGs are the only pure RPGs I should know. :)

Last edited by Vitron on 10/20/2012 1:09:31 AM

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

daus26
Saturday, October 20, 2012 @ 2:28:03 AM

Hmm, you may be right. Now that I think about, there was little rpg elements in FFXIII, which is odd because that's what the franchise is known for. :/

Other than the crystarium (or whatever it was), there wasn't much else. It definitely seem like an action game with rpg elements rather than an RPG game itself... which it's suppose to be.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Temjin001
Saturday, October 20, 2012 @ 1:12:40 AM
Reply

I think when game play starts focusing on detailed stat tracking of attributes that can be leveled up through experience we get the most defining characteristic of RPG design. Everything else, whether it be story, combat, action, world maps, or whatever, can always be tinkered around with and or incorporated into other genres without them feeling RPG, but as soon the attribute sheets and detailed equipment menus pop up, we got RPG baby!

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Temjin001
Saturday, October 20, 2012 @ 1:37:30 AM

oh, and an RPG makes leveled up attributes requisite for progress.
No amount of action, even for the sake of probability alone, can allow you to make much progress without having augmented your attributes. Assassin's Creed, Castlevania LoS, or God of War, you name it, can allow, even though improbable, for a player to finish the game via actions alone. There's no two ways about it an RPG will never let you even come close to fighting or having any prayer to finish a boss without first having progressed your core attributes.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

frylock25
Saturday, October 20, 2012 @ 1:33:34 AM
Reply

sorry to be off topic but sony says they are NOT going to the new store on tuesday the 23rd. after the problems they had they are going to wait and do more testing.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Temjin001
Saturday, October 20, 2012 @ 1:40:54 AM

was it because of 2000 angry ex-employers attacking server farms?

=p

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Jed
Saturday, October 20, 2012 @ 3:26:05 AM

Damn, I knew this was gonna happen.

Last edited by Jed on 10/20/2012 3:27:13 AM

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Vivi_Gamer
Saturday, October 20, 2012 @ 5:47:06 AM
Reply

Come on people, we all know what a real J-RPG is don't we. It is a game which you take control of a party who go out on a quest. Characters which go through a lot of strain and have a personal attachment to the quest. The game should allow vast exploration within areas or even a world map - Something which has began to vanish. The battle system has to assigned through menus and not face buttons - so judging by this I wouldn't even class Fable or Nier as an RPG - at a stretch action RPG's.... There should be a number of sidequests/minigames which play very different from the main game - so I am not just talking about fetch quests or monster hunts - think of Gold Saucer and I am sure you can picture what I mean. A memorable score - if you are going to be playing a game for a great length, a beautiful score is always appreciated.

There are more features I could mention but I hope you're starting to get the picture. The next game which seems it will fill the RPG fromula is 'Ni No Kuni' from Level 5. I played it at the Eurogamer Expo and I can definitely vouch for it.

And let's just clear this up now, game which have upgrades are not RPG's...

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

maxpontiac
Saturday, October 20, 2012 @ 7:08:54 PM
Reply

Whatever the explanation is, I sure love the Shooter-RPG hybrids. It's about all I play nowadays.

With these old-school turn based RPG's, I wonder how much different they would have turned out if today's technology existed back then. Something to think about, that's for sure.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Leave a Comment

Please login or register to leave a comment.

Our Poll

What do you think of the Destiny beta?
It's awesome! Can't wait for September!
It's only good, but I'm having fun.
Eh, it's okay, but I expected more.
It sucks, period.

Previous Poll Results