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The Oblivion of Western RPGs 304

1up has a piece looking at how Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion may just be what the western RPG genre needs to spring back from the brink of nonexistence. From the article: "Western RPGs focus on the characters, and the world around them is a tool to let the player-as-character do and see more. Eastern RPGs focus on the events unfolding around the characters, and how the characters affect the world around them. Western RPGs are based on the experience of tabletop role-playing games, limited only by the imaginations of the players and the game master, where Eastern RPGs are more re-creations of traditional storytelling. Oblivion has taken huge strides toward meeting fans of MMOs halfway by building A.I. that really lives alongside the player and ensuring that the actual missions are easily pursued."
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The Oblivion of Western RPGs

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  • nice link (Score:5, Informative)

    by The Other White Boy ( 626206 ) <theotherwhiteboy ... m ['il.' in gap]> on Thursday March 30, 2006 @03:28PM (#15028623)
    i was kinda confused when i started out reading the second page of the article.

    try this [].
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 30, 2006 @03:40PM (#15028760)
    This guy already posted this comment yesterday and got modded up for it. 21393 []
  • by urbanriot ( 924981 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @03:50PM (#15028877)

    He must be one of those guys Penny Arcade was speaking about a few months back. A shill, I believe they're called.

    People paid by the game producers to spin a game to the internet community through web sites, newsgroups, etc.

    Mind you, the game actually is pretty good so I'm not sure if that's necessary.

  • by Soul-Burn666 ( 574119 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @04:53PM (#15029464) Journal
    I've randomly stumbled into info about a game in production which sounds close to what you describe. It's called Hellgate: London [].
    It's pretty much a diablo-like FPS set in a demon filled london. It has levels and equipment, but the controls are like FPSes. Also the levels, monster placement and items are randomly generated (like Diablo). The weapons include guns and melee weapons, which can then be upgraded with items. Also there are stats and skill trees.

    Dunno about the plot or anything more tho it seems pretty interesting.
  • by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @05:25PM (#15029759)
    The point is that you make the story.

    Its a game. The point of a game is to complete the story. If I wanted to make a story, I'd write a novel or short story. When I play a game, I want there to be a defined game.

    That's fine, really, but that's not the goal of PC RPGs, that's not how a TES or a Fallout works, and it's no reason for you to diss them the way you do.

    Sure there is- to throw it back in the face of the guy I replied to. He said Eastern RPGs should die out. I disagree- I find them highly entertaining, and find the very concept of western RPGs to be flawed. I'm pointing out my point of view.
  • heh. Oh, please... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @05:47PM (#15029922) Journal
    "No kidding. There IS no such thing as an "Eastern RPG" - they're NOT RPGs! The best description of them I heard was "rail-playing game". They're cliched stories which are viewed by repeatedly hitting the "Action" button."

    Let me remind you what table-top role-playing used to mean, at least with a good group and GM. It used to mean just that: playing a role, as in a theatre play. The whole point was taking part in an interactive fiction exercise, sorta like being co-autor in a theatre play. The stats were _not_ the whole point of the game, and in fact they were just props in that interactive fiction. What made one a fun guy to play with was _not_ accumulating the most loot or levels ("woot! my char is level 60 and PvP rank 14 before yours!"), but coming up with interesting lines for your character and/or interesting ways to solve a situation. Even if that character was level 1.

    So making a game that's all about the props (stats, levels, whatever) is _not_ an RPG. And that pretty much sums up most of the Western games that some marketroid called "RPG" in the last years: some action game (be it arcade-like, action/adventure, or FPS) with some stats strapped on. You'd be surprised what got called an RPG. Let's just say even Daikatana claimed to have "RPG elements.

    And turning it all into a fast-paced action game where all you ever have time for is mashing the attack button, and occasionally blocking, is _not_ what makes an RPG. _The_ thing that made table-top RP fun was having the time to come up with some smart and innovative solution. Having just enough time to reload and aim for a headshot before the enemy finishes charging you in real time is not exactly making that possible, even if the game actually gave you the possibilities. Most don't.

    So basically there never was much RP in either Eastern or Western games. All they could offer was a good story, with some (different) ways of pretending that you're a part of it. Actually, in the Western most games didn't even offer that, as they focused mainly on having an action game with some stats thrown in. (You can feel free to point at Bethesda and Bioware games, but they're not the majority by any kind of counting.) So basically if you want to define RPG as "If you don't play a role in the story, it's not a role-playing game", then most western games didn't even _have_ much of a story to play a role in.

    And even those exercises in storytelling, on both the eastern and the western sides of the map, are on a path to extinction, as more and more companies turn their games into MMOs (even Bioware announced one) and the afore-mentioned action-games-with stats. Presumably to catter to the large mass of CS kids who don't actually have the attention span for a story ("Auugh! It says 'press START to continue'! If I wanted to read that much text, I'd get a book!") or the interest for anything that doesn't involve willy-waving ("I managed to head-shot you, so you suck and are gay too! Oh, and your mom is a fat whore!") Though the western ones seem to have a head-start there.

    "If anything, Eastern "RPGs" are going out of favor. Japan may love FFXII, but other than that recent fan-boy "defence of FFXII" article on Slashdot, I've yet to hear ANYONE in the US who's at all interested in that game. Oblivion, on the other hand, had/has people saving up money to purchase. Can't wait until I can afford a new computer..."

    It might also be worth noting, that the western RPG that you so seem to cherish also is a pretty recent invention. Having much of a story in a RPG didn't even exist in the West until the mid or late 90's. Before Bethesda's "TES: Arena" and Interplay's acquiring the rights to D&D, there was no such thing as a western RPG with enough of a story to play a part in, or any freedom in playing that part. E.g., SSI's D&D exercises swung between being some kind of squad-based tactics game with D&D rules in the beginning, and some kind of dumb square-based proto-FPS in later games like the "Eye Of The Behold
  • by c_forq ( 924234 ) <> on Thursday March 30, 2006 @06:43PM (#15030358)
    I have to say I was awed by Morrowind - the first time I saw a Telivani tower and a Dwemer ruin. And Morrowind did do a little with the side-quests; most would effect your reputation and favor levels. I didn't think the main story was very weak, but I was not impressed - at all (but then again I haven't been impressed by an RPG storyline since Square on the Super Nintendo [Chrono Trigger and FF VI]). I thought the weakest parts of Morrowind were the story and the combat - but it is still one of my favorite games.
  • by Phil Urich ( 841393 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @07:05PM (#15030505) Journal
    An FPS with oldschool-style RPG plot, levelling, and equipment would be quite interesting.

    Not to sound snide, but what rock have you been hiding under since about 2000? That's when the rather brilliant original "Deus Ex" came out for PC (it has since been released for the Mac and for the PS2). It's generally considered an RPG, and has a tremendous emphasis on both character development and story (the story of which is branching in many ways; for example, if you know later that you're going to have to kill what is now a friendly character, you can often kill that character beforehand. Not that your allies won't freak out about this...)

    Okay, so it isn't "oldskool RPG plot" in that I suppose traditionally RPG plot is set in a world of sword and sorcery, but hey, many of the best games are exceptions (Fallout, anyone?). I have met many people who have played Deus Ex, and introduced many more to it personally, and none of them failed to be tremendously enthusiastic about the game afterwards. And eventually the devs even released an SDK, and as UnrealEd is one of the easiest-but-powerful game editors out the IMHO, there's a lot of rather good third-party content out there (they even held an official contest, and you can be sure that the winners are worth checking out). Hell, last LAN party I was at we even took advantage of the later-released (about the time of the SDK) multiplayer part and just hacked up some of the single player levels to deathmatch in; it was a lot of fun, due in no small part to the fact that even to this day the level of detail and interactivity of the levels and the game in general have precious few competitors in the realm of FPS games.

    The Wikipedia article [] has more info if you're curious. Really, if you're looking for a FPS with RPG style plot (and the ability to interact and converse with NPCs in Deus Ex beats out even most other RPGs), levelling and equipment, then honestly, try out Deus Ex! You won't be disappointed!

    (A word of caution, though . . . please don't mistake this game for the sequel, "Deus Ex: Invisible War". Opinion on the quality of that one is a bit more . . . shall we say . . . divided?)
  • Re:Elder Scrolls (Score:4, Informative)

    by PepeGSay ( 847429 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @07:23PM (#15030622)
    So far I have found the random quests to be really entertaining. Most of the ones I have encountered have been fairly self contained (not taking you all over creation) and can be completed fairly quickly. Also, there seems to be alot of them. I have all kinds of rumors to follow up on that should lead to another quest. All in all, 4 horus or so into Oblivion I am enjoying the hell out of it. I am really enjoying the complete lack of chat, tells, and having to deal with anything that anyone other than me wants to do (like I do all the time in WoW).
  • by Jesus_666 ( 702802 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @07:42PM (#15030748)
    TES is a great example for that- what the hell is the story in [...] Morrowind?

    Long ago on the island of Vvardenfell: The Dwemer (TES' equivalent to dwarves) gained access to tools of incredible might, which their lead scientist Kagrenac used to do evil, as lead scientists are wont to do. This resulted in a war between the Dwemer and the Chimer, at the end of which the Dwemer vanished without a trace. Yes, the tools were involved into that, as well. Dagoth Ur was sent to destroy the tools, but his friend and ally Nerevar Indoril stopped him (the fact that Nerevar was the Chimers' war chief might have been a factor, too). However, Dagoth Ur soon was corrupted by the tools and turned into some sort of mad god. Nerevar recognized the danger that the tools posed and defeated Dagoth Ur and his minions, but unbeknownst to him they survived, merely "sleeping". After the battle Nerevar was killed by his three advisors Vivex, Almalexia and Sotha Sil, who then proceeded to use the tools to turn themselves into gods and forcefully establish a cult centered around themselves ("the Tribunal") as the dominant religion on Vvardenfell. Azura (a real goddess and somewhat on Nerevar's side) was quite pissed and cursed the Chimer (turning them into the black-skinned Dunmer). She also announced that Nerevar would return and reestablish the old ways.

    Fast forward to Morrowind (the game, not the region): The emperor Uriel Septim VII (having limited prophetic abilities) has sent a prisoner matching the Nerevarine's description to Vvardenfell where he should establish that he was in fact the reborn Nerevar (the "Nerevarine") while really being a member of the Blades, the Empire's elite spies, as an act of religious manipulation in order to further his influence in Vvardenfell. As it turns out this man is the Nerevarine and with a tiny bit of support from Azura he swiftly proceeds to defeat Dagoth Ur and the Tribunal.

    (I do know that some details are missing.)

    Yes, it's not easy to find out everything about the story, but it's certainly there and it's not quite bad. In fact, Morrowind has a pretty immersive world - just take the time and read the books you encounter. You learn a lot about the game's world, the people and their culture. I think it's quite impressive to which lengths the developers have gone creating their world.
  • by Frogbert ( 589961 ) <> on Thursday March 30, 2006 @08:55PM (#15031154)
    Actually I think the horse problem you are talking about is because you got on the wrong horse. You have to get on the white horse behind the black one. Otherwise you are just nicking Martin's horse.
  • by gnud ( 934243 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @09:08PM (#15031207)
    Have you ever played NWN:HOtU? It's a world where your actions may change peoples attitude towards you, and where you can choose many ways to accomplish the same goal. Quite unlike Diablo, where the only choises is how you kill the bad guys (sword or magic?).
  • by Slithe ( 894946 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @09:38PM (#15031345) Homepage Journal
    >>Having much of a story in a RPG didn't even exist in the West until the mid or late 90's. Before Bethesda's "TES: Arena" and Interplay's acquiring the rights to D&D, there was no such thing as a western RPG with enough of a story to play a part in, or any freedom in playing that part.

    Apparently, you have never played Ultima IV, which was released in 1985. The first CRPGS were created in the West. The afforementioned Ultima series was the inspiration to the Final Fantasy games.

  • by MilenCent ( 219397 ) * <> on Friday March 31, 2006 @03:21AM (#15032303) Homepage
    Repeat after me: Diablo is NOT an RPG

    No, that statement isn't true. RPG stands for Role Playing Game, and in Diablo you do, indeed, play a role. It doesn't have much character development, but you can be an RPG without that.
  • I loved morrowind, and got many many hours of gameplay out of it, but it *is* too easy, the combat *is* too bland and it needed *alot* of re-working. Still, its a great game for anyone who wants to have it for a first time and has 5 or 10 bucks to spend on it.

    Ive also played oblivion, maybve for 5 or 6 hours at most right now, and it has given ALOT of the improvements morrowind needed. The combat is much more interesting and intense, and nowhere near as simple and easy and boring as it was in morrowind.

    You can now filter, in alchemy, ingredients by their effects, the lack of which made alchemy a pure pain in the ass in morrowind.

    You can fast travel now, which is nice at times when youre in a hurry and dont wish to explore (sans magic or magic items in morrowind, there were many places you HAD to go to, for side and main quests that were mind-numbingly boring to get to, AND BACK)

    The magic system doesnt suck. In morrowind, being a pure-mage was difficult because decent spells took too much mana to cast, which then had to be replenished with potions or LOTS of rest, which means killing more than one or two strong enemies at once HAD to be done with a weapon. It works now, and damn well.

    Its harder to get great equipment and money too quickly, its harder to steal things and sell them, its not too hard to level up, but its very expensive to TRAIN a level up (in morrowind, training was cheap, and if you knew your way around the game, you could be level 15 or 20 with just a few hours work, and no combat)

    Oblivion fixed alot of what was wrong with morrowind, i havent played it enough to see what flaws it has, and what will bother me about it, i expect something, as nothing is ever perfect

    I never was big on RPGs, i loved FF7 and FF9, 8 i skipped, and when i played FFX i was severely disappointed. I can recall going into an interactive cutscene, saving just prior to it, then saving almost AN HOUR LATER when it was done, having done nothing but push buttons to make people talk. It was insane, and i never played it again.

To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. -- Elbert Hubbard