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Obsidian: "Choice" Determines A "True Role-Playing Game"

We may never settle on an exact definition of "role-playing" that satisfies all interested parties, but Obsidian Entertainment boss Feargus Urquhart believes the one primary element is "choice."

In speaking to IncGamers, Urquhart says choice separates a "true RPG" from a game that simply has RPG elements. These days, he says role-playing can be confused with other genres and it can be difficult to spot the "real RPG," which must offer freedom and decision-making to the player. In other words, without consequences; if your actions have no real impact on the game, it's just not an RPG. Said Urquhart:

"This is what I think matters and this is what I love about making role-playing games is that choice. If you don't offer different endings, you don't offer ramifications then you don't have consequences. The consequences mean that if I chose to do 'this', then 'this' is going to happen and not 'this.'

That kind of changes the game and I think it also really does, which I think is more unique to role-playing games, is deployability."

It's true that role-playing elements can be found in many other genres. Straight-up action slashfests often utilize such traits, like leveling up, customizable characters, buying weapons and equipment; even towns to explore. The lines really are getting very, very blurry. But we do have one thing we can say definitively: Obsidian, if Dungeon Siege III turns out to be as technically broken as Alpha Protocol, we really won't care about "choice." You actually have to make a good game, too.

Tags: rpg, role-playing, choice, freedom

6/25/2010 10:27:31 AM Ben Dutka

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Comments (40 posts)

Deleted User []
Friday, June 25, 2010 @ 10:46:21 AM
Reply

I well be keeping on there new game. I played only 2 RPG In my gaming life
Fallout 3 and Dragon Age Origins and all i have to say is i enjoyed both of them now i am looking for more any suggestions?

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ro kurorai
Friday, June 25, 2010 @ 11:23:42 AM

Yea, Dragon age: Origins is awesome. If you have a decent PC I'd suggest Mass Effect (1+2).
ME2 is more shooter than RPG but it's still awesome. Top notch voice acting, witty writing and a good story (ME1's story was better imo, though).
I suggested PC over 360 because it's a better overall experience on PC ;)

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Proxy
Friday, June 25, 2010 @ 11:57:36 AM

Wanna play good RPGs? Fallout 1, Fallout 2, Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, Baldur's Gate 1, Baldur's Gate 2, Final Fantasy 7, Final Fantasy 8, Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2.

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kraygen
Friday, June 25, 2010 @ 3:59:29 PM

if you're playing on a ps3, get white knight chronicles and demon's souls. 2 very different experiences, but amazingly fun in their own way.

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Akuma07
Friday, June 25, 2010 @ 10:46:27 AM
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How come whenever you talk about Obsidian, you never mention Fallout New Vegas? =]

If they screw THAT up, then i agree, the only 'choice' that will mean anything to me, is which way my money swings.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, June 25, 2010 @ 3:21:39 PM

If they screw up New Vegas I will personally raid their offices in Talon Company armor with a Ripper and a Railway Rifle.

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Akuma07
Saturday, June 26, 2010 @ 6:23:13 PM

Why dont we just rock up in our T-51b's with MIRVs in hand?

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Akuma07
Saturday, June 26, 2010 @ 6:23:27 PM

Why dont we just rock up in our T-51b's with MIRVs in hand?

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maxpontiac
Friday, June 25, 2010 @ 11:01:58 AM
Reply

I know I am probably alone here, but I have really enjoyed Alpha Protocol.

After completing the game twice (yes, it's short for a RPG), Obsidian has the choice mechanic down.

I did several things different in my 2nd playthrough and there were some amazing differences.

Hopefully their next two game have all the quirks ironed out.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, June 25, 2010 @ 3:22:49 PM

I'm trying to find it dirt cheap, sometimes I gravitate toward crappy games that I can get for cheap.

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kraygen
Friday, June 25, 2010 @ 4:02:35 PM

@ world

I do that too, heck no matter how crappy a game is, if its cheap enough and gives me a few hours of laughs, it can be interesting to say the least.

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maxpontiac
Friday, June 25, 2010 @ 4:28:38 PM

It's not as crappy as you might think. Is it great? Not all. But it is a fun game that has a few strong points. If you find it cheap, pick it up.

For me, I love the espionage genre and the RPG elements as a whole in the game. The weapon customization is top flight as well. Perhaps the best I have seen.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, June 25, 2010 @ 5:56:33 PM

Strangely enough, it's still like $40 at the least.

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Victor321
Friday, June 25, 2010 @ 11:35:19 AM
Reply

"Choice" is practically evdient in every single game. Some are really obvious, like Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age: Origins (your responses ijn conversations), and some are subtle, but there (in Call of Duty, would you go with an M4 with a silencer, or an FA-MAS with a grenade launcher?).

That's how I look at it, because it makes a lot of sense to me ^.^

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Kr3sn1k
Friday, June 25, 2010 @ 4:33:12 PM

i think he meant a choice that effects the story line not gameplay

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Highlander
Friday, June 25, 2010 @ 11:41:35 AM
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This sounds suspiciously like what another western game producer tried to say while simultaneously slamming games with strong narratives. Choice is important, but an RPG is Role playing game, you play a role in a game, it's a role playing game. Traditional RPGs had strong narratives. I'm tired of pompous little men trying to redefine the genre so that their title fits it better than anyone else's. Why don't these people stop trying to move the goal posts and simply deliver bloody good games?

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Proxy
Friday, June 25, 2010 @ 12:01:12 PM

It's a role playing game where you make choices. Urquhart is saying that RPGs should give you real choices instead of just multiple lines of dialog that all end in the same result.

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Highlander
Friday, June 25, 2010 @ 12:26:09 PM

Sorry, I think that is a very narrow definition. RPGs with strong narratives (might as well simply say JRPGs) generally have a standard story outcome. The point of the game, much like the point of a novel, is to play through the story to experience it and find out what happens in the end. Injecting consequences into that makes completing the story difficult if you - for example - lose a character too early, or resolve an even at the wrong time leading to consequences that invalidate other aspects of the story.

In a traditional RPG with a strong narrative the decisions you make are about your characters and party and how they are made up and develop. The story is the setting, it's like the matte painting upon which your group plays.

When you're reading through a long and immersive novel, Shogun for example. If the reader had choice, what would have happened if Blackthorn had managed to go through with his attempted seppuku? What if he had not decided to act like a crazy man when escaping from Ochiba's forces in Osaka? If the reader makes the wrong choice, the rest of the book is moot.

To me this is the falsehood that lurks behind this call for choice and consequence. RPGs that have that strong narrative are interactive novels where you can interact with the fictional world, but follow the story that has been written. Like a novel you want to find out how it finishes.

Choice is fine, but needs to be very carefully handled. In a more open game style, perhaps it can work, but even then, somehow someone has to have written every possible outcome and so the number of outcomes and paths through the story is still limited. Heavy Rain does a fantastic job of that. but to say that games that don't follow that style of story presentation without the multiple paths and endings are not true RPGs is to dismiss an entire genre of game.

Last edited by Highlander on 6/25/2010 12:27:53 PM

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Fane1024
Saturday, June 26, 2010 @ 5:37:55 PM

I still say that the games you are describing are adventure games and not RPGs.

Just because Square (et al.) called them RPGs does not make it so.

By your loose definition, all games with a story are RPGs and the term becomes meaningless.

It's not being dismissive; it's being precise.

p.s. Heavy Rain IS more of an RPG than, say, FFXII (which if you have read my comments, you know I love).

Last edited by Fane1024 on 6/26/2010 5:48:23 PM

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Mavfan321
Sunday, June 27, 2010 @ 7:48:06 PM

Square called them RPG's because that's is what they are. This is a pretty new argument nobody was accusing Chrono Trigger of mislabeling, and it shouldn't be occurring now because Western developers are deciding they are going to change the standard for what the definition is. Also I would say Heavy Rain is basically a complete upgrade of the old Lucasarts adventure game type, without all the items and random puzzles. Yes it's a great game but to say it's more RPG than any FF is missing the point that what makes an RPG is the fact that you're not just playing the game you're basically living the experience of a journey, choosing how your character grows, what abilities mean most to your play style. Choice is an aspect of RPG's now yes, but so are the above aspects, the term RPG comes from the old D&D games which I'm sure have more in common with FF, than Mass Effect, or Alpha Protocol.

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DjEezzy
Friday, June 25, 2010 @ 1:40:36 PM
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If this were 100% true then Heavy Rain would be a true RPG wouldn't it? Oops, Highlander beat me to it.

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just2skillf00l
Friday, June 25, 2010 @ 3:00:38 PM
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So we're back at this what is a true RPG question again huh...well until the contents of an RPG are thoroughly defined as necessities to a game's RPG-ish nature, there is no way to distinguish between an RPG and a game heavily imbued with RPG elements.

Now from my experience with gaming specifically the RPG styled games, their are reoccurring elements that pattern the so-called RPG genre. Not all these elements are present in all RPGs but usually most of these elements tend to show up in games boasting their RPG essence.

Exploration, towns, shops, character customization (ranging from stat building and leveling up to attire customizations), party members, heavily focused narrative, possibility of side-quests, NPC's, weapon upgrades, and memorable soundtracks, etc.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, June 25, 2010 @ 3:28:11 PM
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Can't we all just get along? I enjoy both types of RPGs. And hey, jrpgs were here first (pen and paper people aside) and have epic stories. That's what I grew up on. Now that our systems can handle vast worlds with tons of choices and such, that's totally cool for a wanderlust experience but the story is always thin.

Not sure why this guy would want to piss off jrpg fans or even squeeze that genre out of the mix, it's just unprofessional.

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Fane1024
Saturday, June 26, 2010 @ 5:51:43 PM

There were PC RPGs before console JRPGs.

And you can hardly disregard the pen-and-paper RPGs, since they are the source and inspiration of ALL of these games.

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Akuma07
Saturday, June 26, 2010 @ 6:35:10 PM

Ummmmmm. excuuuuuuuuuuse me?!

You DO realise how far back console jrpgs go?

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djduke316
Friday, June 25, 2010 @ 4:02:42 PM
Reply

Guess I'm Role-Playing in life since I chose not to buy their latest game. Ha!

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Scarecrow
Friday, June 25, 2010 @ 6:23:32 PM

lol I'll do the same

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kraygen
Friday, June 25, 2010 @ 4:11:41 PM
Reply

As some journalists write flamebait, some people make flamebait type comments just to get attention in the media.

Someone tell obsidian to get back to work on new vegas so that it is a good game, instead of making stupid comments just to get attention.

I'd just tell him to get off his mommies boy complex and make a good game.

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Kr3sn1k
Friday, June 25, 2010 @ 4:40:07 PM
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I never knew choice makes a game an rpg no wonder evryone hates these so called "rpg's" with great storys because they lack choices

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A2K78
Friday, June 25, 2010 @ 9:40:08 PM
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In regards to Alpha Protocol, I already knew this game was crap long befor it was release.

As for Feargus Urquhart opinion of what an "true rpg" is, first of all the ONLY TRUE RPG in the world is the D&D table top games. Secondly his opinion only reflect the closed-minded opinions of western game developers and this where I say to Urquhart, go **** yourself. When it come to video games RPG's come in many types and they clearly don't revovle his fantasy world.

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A2K78
Friday, June 25, 2010 @ 9:43:16 PM
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"I never knew choice makes a game an rpg no wonder evryone hates these so called "rpg's" with great storys because they lack choices"

Does the the lack of space aliens make the Spider-Man or Iron Man movies less of a sci-fi film? As I have said,Urquhart's opinion merely repersent the closeminded nature of western developers.

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SmokeyPSD
Friday, June 25, 2010 @ 10:21:47 PM
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Maybe Obsidian, but good, polished programming work also makes a great game... When has this come out of your house again? When your not cancelling projects?

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Lawless SXE
Friday, June 25, 2010 @ 11:04:01 PM
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My first reaction upon reading this was 'so Heavy Rain is an RPG while Fallout 3 is not?' I don't see how the choices you made in FO3 affect the story in any way, except the brief intervals where what you do matters.

Here's what I want to see from Obsidian. New Vegas. Different potential outcomes from each of the main story missions, each one resulting in a different string of missions from that point forwards. Can you do that Mr Urquhart? Or can you just run your mouth like the dozens of other idiots who think they know what they're talking about?

Peace.

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Lawless SXE
Friday, June 25, 2010 @ 11:04:20 PM
Reply

My first reaction upon reading this was 'so Heavy Rain is an RPG while Fallout 3 is not?' I don't see how the choices you made in FO3 affect the story in any way, except the brief intervals where what you do matters.

Here's what I want to see from Obsidian. New Vegas. Different potential outcomes from each of the main story missions, each one resulting in a different string of missions from that point forwards. Can you do that Mr Urquhart? Or can you just run your mouth like the dozens of other idiots who think they know what they're talking about?

Peace.

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Lawless SXE
Friday, June 25, 2010 @ 11:04:21 PM
Reply

My first reaction upon reading this was 'so Heavy Rain is an RPG while Fallout 3 is not?' I don't see how the choices you made in FO3 affect the story in any way, except the brief intervals where what you do matters.

Here's what I want to see from Obsidian. New Vegas. Different potential outcomes from each of the main story missions, each one resulting in a different string of missions from that point forwards. Can you do that Mr Urquhart? Or can you just run your mouth like the dozens of other idiots who think they know what they're talking about?

Peace.

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Lawless SXE
Friday, June 25, 2010 @ 11:07:27 PM
Reply

Sorry, my net decided to play up... again.

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___________
Saturday, June 26, 2010 @ 5:03:06 AM
Reply

hes right!
well he should not be, choice should not be exclusive to RPGs but for some reason it is.
choices and consequences should be in every game, be it shooter, survival horror, puzzle, action adventure whatever.
thats what made alpha protocol so interesting, that and the story.
its allot of fun making decisions playing on than watching your decisions change the face of the game.
they make it really hard in alpha protocol too, some times if your a complete di** to people you will suffer for it.
but sometimes it will be a good thing, because those people were going to back stab you but since they already hate you they did not get the chance.
they really made it hard to judge who you should trust and who you cant.

i have to admit though it is boring and repetitive as F*CK!

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Akuma07
Saturday, June 26, 2010 @ 6:24:41 PM

Were you in M1-10 on friday?

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___________
Sunday, June 27, 2010 @ 8:46:39 AM

huh?
nope i was in the city on friday catching up with a old school friend, then got new HDD for my laptop and went home.

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nilos95
Sunday, June 27, 2010 @ 12:32:49 PM
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So, JRPGs are few and far between like Persona. Then, FFs and KHs are adventure, right?

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