: Hey, Remember When JRPGs Used To Be Good?

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Hey, Remember When JRPGs Used To Be Good?

Maybe it's a harsh thing to say. And I know there have been several quality JRPGs this generation, so don't jump down my throat for "bashing JRPGs."

Those who know me understand my love for the struggling sub-genre, so when I create such a title as the one you see here, that love is the reason why. Maybe it can help remind developers and gamers alike that in fact, there was a time when a lot of Japanese RPGs were of the highest caliber and consistently delivered unique and even memorable experiences.

Some JRPGs this generation, such as the White Knight Chronicles and Atelier franchises, have not received their just due from critics or the gaming public, in my honest opinion. And there's every chance that the upcoming Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch will be fantastic. But let's face it: When compared to the PS1 or PS2 eras, the JRPG not only hit the skids this generation, it basically dropped off the map. Perhaps the demise of Final Fantasy as a true "RPG" (or what we always called a true "RPG," at any rate) contributed most to that decline, as we could always turn to that series in the past. Always, absolutely without fail.

But with what appears to be an action game on the horizon - the thing they call Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII - and a slew of under-performing and generally underwhelming JRPGs over the past five or six years, one quickly notices such a depressing drop-off. The quality of the games has simply fallen way off and there's no denying that; the production values overall are way behind that of other games. And while JRPGs never set the graphics bar (unless your name was Final Fantasy), a lot of JRPG franchises in the past still looked great. And beyond that, they were obviously made with a lot of talent and effort.

But it just seems as if they got stuck. They never moved forward with the rest of the industry. And that's just...sad.

12/14/2012 Ben Dutka

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Comments (49 posts)

WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, December 14, 2012 @ 11:22:47 PM
Reply

I keep waiting for SE to put out a press release that says "We think Final Fantasy may have gotten off track and we promise that FFXV will be a return to what we used to do best."

But that seems more unlikely with every passing year. Ni No Kuni will deliver, I can feel it in the demo.

The JRPG is, after all is said and done, a feeling. It's a feeling of high adventure and grandiose achievement from small beginnings in a large imaginative world, it was never meant to be a concentrated burst of activity wherein characters and plots were afterthoughts to the action. It is the highest failing of this generation that it couldn't deliver what WAS with the technology that IS.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 12:09:36 PM

"I keep waiting for SE to put out a press release that says 'We think Final Fantasy may have gotten off track and we promise that FFXV will be a return to what we used to do best.'"

I wouldn't hold your breath. 'sobs'

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Lawless SXE
Friday, December 14, 2012 @ 11:24:52 PM
Reply

Sadly, I don't remember. I wasn't around in those days. But I think that what you say in that last paragraph is right, though. They didn't progress with everything else. Whereas other developers adopted the ideas of grit and realism and seriousness, JRPGs, for the most part, are stuck in a rut that is almost juvenile, filled with pandering fan service. Strictly speaking, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but the consumer base, as a whole, has moved on from all of that.

I think another problem is that their traditional developers have no real clue of how to evolve their genres into the current generation, and really take a forward step.

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homura
Friday, December 14, 2012 @ 11:25:21 PM
Reply

Just wait for Tales of Xillia. And if you have a Nintendo DS, there's Bravely Default and Project X-Zone. And Square Enix did moved forward with FFXIII in terms of the battle system, they just didn't perfected it, but it has potential. But they do failed in XIII-2. But yeah! JRPG of the past is still much better for now.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, December 14, 2012 @ 11:28:06 PM

I respectfully disagree about the battle system, it was a clever idea but anything that takes control away from the player is a step back in my book. And that battle system took a lot away.

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homura
Friday, December 14, 2012 @ 11:36:25 PM

That's why I said that they didn't perfected it. But imagine if you can edit the spells of your party not just yours in the ATB and not specific to the role. Ex: attack, fire then ruinga and if your party can summon all at once. They didn't perfected it but I can see what they want to achieve, a seamless battle.

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MrAnonymity
Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 12:53:10 AM
Reply

Suikoden V picture win!

I can honestly say I am indifferent about the future of JRPGs only because of the mountain of classics that already exist. IF developers can manage a return to form then I would be overjoyed. However, I am more than content with what we have available.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 3:51:26 AM

But you can only play those games so many times, even if you never do get sick of playing them you already know the outcome so there's nothing new to experience.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 12:10:15 PM

Cookie for the Suikoden V recognition. :)

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Wrote
Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 1:43:14 AM
Reply

Xenoblade Chronicles

Best JRPG this gen

~Wrote

Last edited by Wrote on 12/15/2012 1:43:49 AM

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ValentinoGB
Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 1:56:39 AM
Reply

Just one more month......................................(Ni No Kuni)

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Nas Is Like
Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 2:35:33 AM
Reply

No, do you?

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Underdog15
Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 10:03:59 AM

Oh yes.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 3:53:26 AM
Reply

See that girl to the right of the Prince in that Suikoden V picture? That's Lyon, his personal bodyguard.

Maybe I'm a weirdo, but I prefer having interesting and unlikely characters at my side over some dull faceless bloke in armor.

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Warrior Poet
Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 6:02:44 PM

I think a character can be fascinating even if they -do- have the sense to wear armor when going into battle or guarding a monarch. It does bother me that so few heroes wear armor. Just...what's up with that?

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Vivi_Gamer
Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 4:17:41 AM
Reply

One cannot deny that it is not just the quantity that has weakened this gen, it really is the quality too. Mind you, even looking at the PS2 generation of Final Fantasy... I only enjoyed X... but the PS2 unleashed such a wide variety of franchises Kingdom Hearts, Dragon Quest, Star Ocean, Wild Arms, Rogue Galaxy, Dark Cloud, Persona and plenty more. While this gen on the PS3 we have barely had anything that matches the that quality.

I did enjoy Final Fantasy XIII, not as much as the peak between VI - X. But certainly more than X-2 & XII. However, it should not have become a franchise, XIII-2 takes an ambiguous plot and makes it convoluted. I enjoyed the game and parts of the story but as a whole I did not like the direction it took the series. As for Lightning Returns... I still cannot make up my mind.

This gen has had a few J-RPG's like Lost Odyssey, Nier & The Last Story but the PS3 as a whole just doesn't seem to be a console that welcomes them. Which is strange due to how dominated the PS2 was with J-RPG. I bought a PS3 in confidence that I would receive a similar selection of J-RPG's but Final Fantasy XIII was the first one.. 4 years after the consoles launch. I really hope Ni No Kuni is successful! We really need to have these developers see that not everyone just want's CoD or Fifa.

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Underdog15
Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 10:06:18 AM

Should have gone in the ff12 direction. That gameplay should have been the future of turn based. It would have worked.

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Vivi_Gamer
Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 10:24:52 AM

I have to disagree, If you liked XII's gameplay and setting there is Dragon Age - which is a good game as is XII but it did not feel like a Final Fantasy at all.

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Underdog15
Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 11:16:15 PM

I think I'm misunderstanding your post. How is Dragon Age's gameplay at all similar to FFXII? Or their styles?

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Ludakriss
Monday, December 17, 2012 @ 10:56:31 AM

Underdog,

YOU'RE THE MAN!!! ...or THE WOMAN!!! You're among a rare selection of people who liked XII.

I cannot express how mush I agree with the idea of "evolution" of the battle system. Not only did it not restrict but you had a choice of Real Time Turn-Based or Paused Turn-Based.

Damn. Everything, the world was so dynamic and alive and the Rare Hunt...oh myyy...*drool*

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Underdog15
Monday, December 17, 2012 @ 10:15:04 PM

Thanks Luda. I won't pretend I thought it was the best FF, but I did think it was a stellar game. I definitely think the direction that battle system took, as you say, was the start of something beautiful that could have been elaborated on (and eventually made to be multiplayer online if necessary). It should have been the start. But no one built on it. FFXIII started to, but it was more of a dumbing down by the end of it...

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Ludakriss
Tuesday, December 18, 2012 @ 7:44:02 AM

I think, what you said now, was exactly what a lot of the displeased fans wanted to say about XIII but just could not express it in words.

I truly think this was the best summary so far, describing the XIII "incident" xDDD

Damn, I appreciate people like you.

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Beamboom
Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 6:48:33 AM
Reply

What I've asked myself during all these articles about how jrpgs used to be king, is if I would have gotten into this genre as much as you guys do had I played them back then.

And even more so, if I did experience and love those games back then, would I then more understand the claims that the jrpgs of this gen are underrated amongst the reviewers? Cause I don't see that at all.

That's what I wonder about. And never will find out, of course. :)

Last edited by Beamboom on 12/15/2012 6:49:54 AM

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Underdog15
Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 10:08:51 AM

I believe there are some good storyline condensed videos on YouTube. If I find a good one that's bearable to watch, I'll share it with you. Story was a huge selling feature for me

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 12:11:32 PM

Yeah, it's just so hard to explain to people who didn't experience it. And I don't doubt that you wouldn't get the appeal now, because I sure as hell wouldn't, either. I mean, in terms of the JRPGs we have today.

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Underdog15
Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 11:21:37 PM

mm hmm, and I admit to having a hard time going back to old graphics, too. I can replay a game I played back when it was new, no problem, but I have a hard time going back to appreciate a classic I missed.

EDIT: Beamboom, I'm having a hard time finding a good compilation of something from FF7. Anything I've found is made by people who obviously love it, but because of that, they really assume you know the story. lol So it isn't very helpful ,imo.

EDIT2: Actually, if you've got time, this is part 1 of 3 parts that do a fairly decent job.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUNt-ZM1H0w

At the very least, you'll be able to see the epicness.

Last edited by Underdog15 on 12/15/2012 11:35:55 PM

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RICHIECOQUI
Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 10:12:28 AM
Reply

Ben, what happen with Hironobu Sakaguchi? I know he is working on a new game!

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duomaxwell007
Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 10:22:56 AM
Reply

theyre still good, ppl just dont like them/theyre not popular anymore

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Underdog15
Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 11:20:30 PM

They're good. But they're average. And I kinda don't buy into the "it's everyone else's fault jrpg's are popular" idea anymore. True, one or two this gen have been awesome. But as a whole, they really haven't done much new. And when they do, other areas suffer. WKC, in my opinion, had the potential to be the perfect step in the right direction. But when you combine dev support, the horrendous direction the story took in the second game, and the repetitive nature it embodied (I'm referring to the second half literally being just going backwards through all the maps)... it wasn't exactly AAA. And in my opinion, with it's template, it SHOULD have been. The dev dropped the ball.

But yeah... they can be good, but there is definitely little innovation and VERY little attempt to make it seem next gen.

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duomaxwell007
Sunday, December 16, 2012 @ 11:26:03 AM

well thats the thing Im not saying theyre GREAT... my arguement is that theyre not TERRIBLE like everyone this gen seems to say/think.. I can only name maybe 2-3 JRPGs this gen that are truly TERRIBLE out of how many that have been released?

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Underdog15
Sunday, December 16, 2012 @ 5:36:46 PM

Yeah... but if you have a choice between a multitude of "ok" jrpg's, and a whole bunch of good to awesome games in other genres... you aren't exactly going to do well keeping the genre alive. While they aren't terrible, they don't compete with other genres.

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PoopsMcGee
Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 11:26:07 AM
Reply

Two words: TURN-BASED

(Well, more specifically, a hyphenated word)

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 12:10:44 PM

Exactly.

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JohnnyGold
Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 3:53:07 PM
Reply

Ben let me ask you:

What was it, specifically, about JRPGs that you loved so much?

The gameplay mechanics?

The art direction?

Clearly this genre had a great impact on you--it inspired you to start a website, and make a career out of video game journalism.

I ask because I think you may be missing out on some amazing experiences this generation. As someone who grew up playing JRPGs, and spent what felt like an entire year counting down the hours until ff8 was released and i could hold that sweet, sweet cloth map in my hands, I can say with confidence that similar experiences have been available this generation. Specifically, in games I've heard you mention you don't care for (bethesda open world rpgs) or haven't played (the walking dead.)

So what is it you're looking to recapture?

And don't say "everything."

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 7:01:29 PM

Firstly, just to clarify, I did not start this website. And I'm not the owner, either. :)

Secondly, I believe it was mostly the combination of the turn-based combat and epic storylines. I don't see that same sort of epic plot goodness in JRPGs today and turn-based is dead (except in the portable realm, which I'm sadly not interested in). I really just want turn-based back more than anything.

And it's not like I don't like Skyrim or RPGs of that nature; in fact, I can get really hooked on them. I just don't like the complete lack of direction. I'm more into Dishonored, for instance, even though that isn't exactly an RPG in my book. I also want to play The Walking Dead; I only missed it.

I'll make this simple, if I can- Has there been a game made this generation that is remotely close to Final Fantasy VII? And I don't mean in terms of quality; I mean in terms of structure, style, mechanics, etc. The answer is no.

Last edited by Ben Dutka PSXE on 12/15/2012 7:03:38 PM

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gungrave
Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 5:56:17 PM
Reply

I disagree 100%. The genre progressed or should I say tried to progress. Look at Valkyria Chronicles, best game I've played in years. Too bad no one bought it. no one is buying these games anymore outside of japan. Square knows this and is trying to progress. They are a business and if jrpg's are no longer making money, they need to adapt. They are trying new things with the brand and the genre. It's unfortunate you give bad press on a game before it's even released. If they kept everything the same, I wouldn't be surprised if we would be reading articles on "why final fantasy needs to change".

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 7:03:05 PM

Valkyria Chronicles isn't an RPG. It's a strategy/RPG and there's a world of difference.

And no, JRPGs haven't progressed in the slightest. The only thing that has changed is the abandonment of what was a fantastic turn-based mechanic for the sake of faster, flashier systems that I don't like at all.

As I posted above, has there been an RPG made in the past five or six years that is ANYTHING like FFVII? No. And that's the problem.

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gungrave
Sunday, December 16, 2012 @ 4:12:01 AM

Time to let go Ben. We all know you don't like the rpg's of today, but a faster, flashier system is the progress. You don't like it, but that's the evolution of the genre. Buy a PSP or any other portable to get your turn based fix, end of story.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Sunday, December 16, 2012 @ 3:24:32 PM

No, that's not "progress." That's regression. Faster and flashy taking the place of substance is never "progression."

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Underdog15
Sunday, December 16, 2012 @ 5:37:49 PM

There's no excuse to not have both. Other genres do.

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Warrior Poet
Sunday, December 16, 2012 @ 8:55:25 PM

I just don't understand, Ben. You say you want JRPGs to progress, but you're measuring that progress by how similar it is to a game from 1997.

There are plenty of portable games that fit the bill but you're excluding them because you want to play them on the big screen. Get over it! Dragon Quest IX is waiting for you.

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Underdog15
Monday, December 17, 2012 @ 9:25:27 AM

That's not true warrior poet. Just look at fans like ffxii that has progressed the genre past that point which Ben adored. Ff7 is a good choice to hail from because at the time it was near perfection. They should be building from that point as an elementary template. That's the point. I'm not sure why that isn't clear.

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Warrior Poet
Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 6:12:37 PM
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Or, remember when everyone played the JRPGs that are good?

Starting in 2004 and continuing today we've seen wild, wild experimentation in the genre. It's moved forward and changed in ways no other genre has, because each title has to stand out.

It hasn't always been successful. Grim Grimoire turned out bad, but it definitely tried something new. Other games like Valkyrie Profile 2, Persona 4, Trails In The Sky, Valkyria Chronicles, Resonance of Fate, Xenoblade, Oath In Felghana, have all been really solid games bringing more to the table. They are summarily ignored.

There is no lack of great JRPGs this generation, and I think you're idealizing old games a little too much. Yes, I love the SNES and PS1 Final Fantasy titles, but would it be a terrible thing if Xenoblade was a better game than FFVII? Go play it, because it is.

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JLB1
Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 8:21:52 PM
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I ordered the PS Vita Assassins Creed Bundle with 3 months PS Plus and PS All Stars today online and got Persona 4 Golden as well. I've never played a Persona game but heard great things about it. So I can't wait.

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Nestore
Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 9:36:27 PM
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For me it's the opposite: Back in the PS1/PS3 era, I tried to get into the popular JRPGS like Final Fantasy VII and Dark Cloud and I just couldn't get into them, while the post-2007 JRPG or Japanese hybrid RPG games have me hooked.

One of my favorite games of all time has to be Demon's Souls followed by Dark Souls. I've also had a ton of fun with the Yakuza series. On Vita I love Persona 4: Golden and Disgaea 3.

I can hear people disqualifying all of these. The Souls games and Yakuza are action RPGs, Disgaea is an SRPG, and Persona is technically originally a PS2 game (although Persona 4 is late 2008, which is chronologically current-gen and the Vita remaster feels completely current).

However, if you are disqualifying all these quality titles, I'd say your criteria have just gotten stale and the JRPG genre has expanded and moved forward.

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SmokeyPSD
Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 10:55:02 PM
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Seriously, I must be living in an alternate universe where Atlus, Level 5 and even NIS are still developing games. It's great to be living my deluded existence.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Sunday, December 16, 2012 @ 3:25:34 PM

Let me know when any of them makes a game with a true turn-based mechanic and a traditional world map.

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richfiles
Sunday, December 16, 2012 @ 8:10:36 PM
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I'm gonna come out and say it... The best console for RPGs this generation is the 3DS/DS. A wide variety of classic RPGs (such as the old Final Fantasy titles and Chrono Trigger) were re-released on it, and it had a wide variety of original titles.

It's sad that some of the best this generation could offer, were nostalgic re-releases and throwbacks to the SNES era (the GREATEST RPG era). Dragon Quest 9 was my favorite new title on the DS.

If Square would look to what fans were trying to do on their own and invite such creativity into the fold, rather than drop C&D letters left and right, maybe they could actually get some talent under their roof that actually knows what fans are interested in.

I'm looking forward to Ni No Kuni, and I hope it lives up to the hype. I have seen a few good titles, but yeah. Most modern stuff has fallen flat. I think the temptation is to try to use ALL the CPU cycles... What I mean, is the developers focus on pretty graphics or realtime action... They forget that maybe the thing we want is deep, massive, immersive worlds, compelling story lines, and engaging characters. They get to focused on how those characters move and look and battle, and... You know what... I'd still be happy with a damn SPRITE, as long as the game were actually good!

I'm NOT afraid of turn based battles, or action timer bars. I'm not afraid of my characters and the enemy lining up on the battlefield... Focus on getting it right first, THEN pretty it up...

That's what I say.

I just want some good classic style gaming.

Last edited by richfiles on 12/16/2012 8:11:06 PM

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Ludakriss
Monday, December 17, 2012 @ 10:41:02 AM
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Man. Hey, Ben.

I'm gonna go ahead, put down my thoughts in here and I hope all is understood the way I intended it to be.

So, I see "this type" of an article quite a lot in your site. While I absolutely love it and I understand you may add to your ongoing train of through about the subject, by way of same subject posts.

I also notice there are...enough of really intelligent people visiting and commenting on the site.

Be they tech-savvy, passionate, genre(RPG)aware or otherwise...wise(no pun intended) about the RPG essence.

So with all this in mind, would it be possible for all of you to collectively arrange, make, develop an RPG of any quality (indie, AAA etc)?

It's a serious question by the way.

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