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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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  • by Joehonkie ( 665142 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @03:36PM (#15028704) Homepage
    What's this crap about Western RPGs being on the brink of nonexistance? I guess all those games by Bethesda, Bioware, etc. don't exist?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 30, 2006 @03:39PM (#15028743)
    Eastern RPGs are just a book written as a video game.... a story is told, with no major twists to what the end is...

    Western RPGs is where YOU make the story, and how you want to do it.
  • hrm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jurrasic ( 940901 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @03:47PM (#15028838)
    I would honestly change 'Eastern' to 'Console' and 'Western' to 'Computer'. After all, the great 'eastern' RPG series' are all primarily developed for consoles, and sometimes the best of the best ported to PC. the 'western' RPG of character development and creating your role originated with and continues to be the domain of the personal computer, from the early Ultimas, Questrons, Phantasies and Alternate Reality: the City and The Dungeon on the Apple and Atari 8-bits and Commodore 64 to the more modern Elder Scrolls, NWN, Fallouts etc all on modern PCs with some portage to consoles. Its only with the simultanious launches of TES III and IV to the Xbox as well as the PC that the 'western' RPG has been developed at all with consoles in mind. SO I say it's Console RPG vs Computer RPG, and many an arguement about which is best will be waged, but in the end, it all comes down to taste. When I want to be fed a good story i'll play the latest Final Fantasy. When I want to MAKE the story, i'll play Oblivion.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 30, 2006 @03:48PM (#15028855)
    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.

    "Western RPGs" are the only real role-playing games. If you don't play a role in the story, it's not a role-playing game. Battle systems do not a role-playing game make.

    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...
  • by EXTomar ( 78739 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @04:12PM (#15029104)
    I guess all those games by Bethesda, Bioware, etc. don't exist?

    Okay list them. :) Asking this question doesn't automatically make the argument invalid.

    In case you haven't noticed, the "single slayer, PC RPG" genre has been all but dead for years. They morphed into something that is found mostly in its current MMOG form (think World of Warcraft) or something more "hybrid" (for instance RTS games with RPG elements).

    So here is an excirse: go to the store to pick up a brand new copy of Oblivion but also look around to see what other single player RPGs are current on the self. Chances are there is Morrowind. There will also probably be Knights of the Old Republic 2 which is a pale shadow of its predicessor and not to mention a very shollow RPG. If you want to count things like Grand Theft Auto I suppose these could be RPGs and even closer to "a sandbox" that is found in Oblivion but again it is a very shallow if not an outright adventure game (Zelda is an action/adventure game even thought it has many themes common to RPGs).

    So where are all of these Bethesda and Bioware games? Compared to the stuff online, compared to the sports games, compared to the movie franchise games, the fact that producers buckled down for Oblivion is a miracle. Just like Myst style "hot spot adventure games" went out of style so is the "single player RPG". On the console, there may still be refuge there for the "single player RPG" but who knows how long that will last as consoles gravitate to look more like PCs....

    For the near future, I see Neverwinter Nights 2 and Gothic 3 and I suspect one of them wants to desperately have some sort of online play feature....
  • Re:WoW (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zoomba ( 227393 ) <mfc131 AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday March 30, 2006 @04:17PM (#15029161) Homepage
    WoW is *not* an RPG. MMORPGs have only the barest of elements in common with traditional RPGs. In MMORPGs, you're not really a hero, just another person. You don't impact the world in a meaningful way. There is no real progressing story that you contribute to. There almost no real sense of immersion when you have people running around spamming "WTB [Wang] x3!"

    MMORPGs are a completely different genre and can't be placed in the same category as games like Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale, Fallout, Neverwinter Nights, Morrorwind or Oblivion.

    When people talk about CRPGs, they're generally not talking WoW or EQ or anything like those, they mean the singleplayer games that are closer to pen and paper RPGs.
  • by Jaysyn ( 203771 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @04:28PM (#15029244) Homepage Journal
    Morrowind & Oblivion aren't this already?

  • by masklinn ( 823351 ) < .at.> on Thursday March 30, 2006 @04:48PM (#15029420)
    Oblivion still has cut-scenes
    spans of dialogue
    empty walking periods from time to time

    yes and no, the world is full of riches, and if you're an alchemist walking through the woods transforms into a game of "find the material" as you run from bush to bush trying to harvest some plan or a shroom while being coursed by a troll that found you before you found him.

    There are also quite a lot of stuff hidden in any area (caves, houses, shrines, bandit outposts, ...), so there isn't much truly empty space. Much less than in Morrowind. Even if you don't use Fast Travel.

    On the other hand, the last 2 items are part of an RPG experience, an RPG can't be action-packed without dialogs or exploration, that's not an RPG anymore.

    I was thinking something with the same speed of gameplay as Heretic, only with the grind that appeals so much to fans of eastern RPGs

    What you're suggesting is a 3D Diablo.

    Repeat after me: Diablo is NOT an RPG

  • by sgant ( 178166 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @04:54PM (#15029482) Homepage Journal
    Wow, we really are polar opposites on this issue. Everything you say can almost be flipped around. I consider Baldur's Gate one of the best computer games ever made, along with NWN and the Elder Scrolls. I mean, these are real RPG's and not just movies where you hit a button here or there. If I wanted a story to watch, I'd rent a movie. If I wanted to be immersed into and become part of the story, then I play an RPG. A real RPG.

    Have you played Oblivion? If not, then how can you say what it has or doesn't have? If you bought it, why? Why buy the sequel to something you hated? Or did you play 5 minutes of a friends copy and get confused because you actually had to do something other than hit "auto-play" to let the "movie" unfold? Bah...this is too easy.

    I've yet to see an Eastern RPG. Not sure one exists. Sure, you can call them an RPG, but that doesn't make them an RPG. They're movies with a lame "what should we do next?!?!" button on it. That's it. There, I've broken down all Eastern style "RPG's" for anyone that's interested. If that's your thing, then go to it!
  • TES is a great example for that- what the hell is the story in Daggerfall? Or Morrowind? I couldn't find one.

    Maybe you should've looked for one in the first place...

    Granted, stories in TES aren't handed to you (more like forced down your throat, really) as it is in Eastern style "RPGs". The point is that you make the story. A main quest is given to you (well not in morrowind, you had to look for it. It is in Oblivion though) and from there onwards you're the one who decides what the story is, which includes the ability to not do the main quest in the first place if you don't want to.

    You seem like you want to play RPGs as you'd read books, being guided linearly at each steps, never being able to make mistakes, never having to look for anything and never actually creating the story, just hopping along a heavily scripted timeline. 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.

  • Re:WoW (Score:2, Insightful)

    by moexu ( 555075 ) <> on Thursday March 30, 2006 @05:11PM (#15029653)
    This was probably the biggest disappointment for me about WoW. I love traditional RPGs. I started WoW as a paladin. I prefer to play a character that's bound to do the right thing, and even more so if the right thing is valued higher than the lawful thing (something like Hero's Quest as opposed to NWN where they're the same). When I started doing quests as a paladin I quickly realized that there was only one way to finish the quest. There was no right way, or evil way, or clever way, or any other way. Just get the thing and bring it back, or some variation thereof, over and over and over again.

    There are plenty of things to like about WoW but roleplaying isn't one of them.
  • by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @05:22PM (#15029731)
    If I wanted to be immersed into and become part of the story, then I play an RPG. A real RPG.

    So do I- I get together and play PnP. Or get on IRC and roleplay. A western RPG would be the absolute last choice I'd take- a poorer plot than an eastern RPG, and none of the interaction of PnP gaming. Western RPGs are not roleplaying games by any stretch of the imagination. Play a real roleplaying game for 5 minutes and you can tell how utterly lacking computer games are.

    Have you played Oblivion? If not, then how can you say what it has or doesn't have? If you bought it, why? Why buy the sequel to something you hated? Or did you play 5 minutes of a friends copy and get confused because you actually had to do something other than hit "auto-play" to let the "movie" unfold? Bah...this is too easy.

    No, I didn't buy Obblivion. I did buy Daggerfall, I did play but did not buy Morrowind (A friend gave me his copy for a week or 2 to try out). I have no plans to buy or play Oblivion, I know what the past games in the series were like and it has no interest to me.

    I've yet to see an Eastern RPG. Not sure one exists. Sure, you can call them an RPG, but that doesn't make them an RPG. They're movies with a lame "what should we do next?!?!" button on it. That's it. There, I've broken down all Eastern style "RPG's" for anyone that's interested. If that's your thing, then go to it!

    I'd like to play a Western RPG. But one doesn't exist yet. One can't exist, AI currently doesn't and most likely mever will pass a Turing test. They're just lame sandboxes with no point to them. I don't play games to figure out things to do, I play to be entertained. At least Eastern styles have a point in the game (to advance the story). I've yet to find a western RPG that had any motivation for my character to leave the first town.
  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @06:15PM (#15030129) Journal
    The sad thing is that we, the human race, always try to pigeon hole everything. What is worse is that we often get it wrong.

    Hands up if you ever seen a game claimed to have "rpg" elements when the only thing the game has is that units can gain "level up"?

    For some reason some people have come to believe that levelling up == RPG. It of course does not. Many games level up. Being allowed to fly bigger aircraft in an aircraft sim is a form of levelling up. Getting a bigger gun in Doom is.

    Take away the levelling up from games like FF and you will see that they play very much like the adventure games of old. In fact the old "Indiana Jones: Fate of Atlantis" also had fights in it.

    Adventures however are not RPG's most notably because you do not choose a role to play but rather follow the lead character through a pre-determined story. Adventures are as much about roleplaying as a FPS. Sure, you can roleplay in Doom. Just as long as you roleplay a guntoting silent marine who shoots everything on sight.

    FF does not give you a role to play.

    So where does this leave oblivion? Well in limbo. The thing that is missing from the elder scrolls is choices. You can join any guild you want even if they seem mutually exclusive. Only a hand full of quests even have a choice in them as to how you complete them. Usually either giving an item to the cops or the criminals. You can very easily however complete both quests for the dark brotherhood (evil assasins) as for some noble band of knights.

    The old taking a side in a quest is not part of the Elder Scrolls and I miss it.

    Oblivion ain't a bad game, just that it is RPG light compared to the real stuff like baldur gate, KOTOR, planescape torment etc.

    Oblivion is free as those games but the individual quests are pretty much on rails. I would have loved to have been able to choose a side in the whole dark brotherhood deal. Not in this game.

    To some this makes Obilion a union of the worst elements of eastern and western RPG's. The "feeling lost" of western RPG's and the "on rails" of eastern adventure+levellingup games.

    It almost reminds me of Doom3. Nice engine. Now can a real game company make a proper game with it? For me Oblivion is only acceptable because there the lovers of western RPG are not exactly swamped with choice. When is the next company going to revive the genre like Baldur's gate did?

  • by svip ( 678490 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @06:22PM (#15030186)
    I've played RPGs all my life. Pen & paper, computer RPGs back since the old SSI/Ultima and the early Final Fantasies games. I like 'both genres'. And I see so many closed minds when people discuss them.

    Face it, there's not such a huge difference between Oblivion, Baldur's Gate and Final Fantasy. There's a big focus on character development and their stories in the Final Fantasy games. So was there in Ultima 7. But the core of the gameplay is the same. You have a quest that takes you from A to B. Along the way you can take time of to do sidequests X, Y and Z.

    There's more sidequests in Oblivion, that is true. They're also tightly scripted and though you have some leeway in what you do it's far from the free choice people pretend is there.

    You can assault people, empty their pockets and rob their stores. That is freedom. But what do you gain from it? Either you pay the guards/thieves' guild to erase the record and it's as if it never happened, or you keep running from the law who somehow know your face on sight - unable to continue with the main story that is there.

    It's not really an opportuniy to change the story, it's just a pastime. It's far from anything revolutionary either, and it has about as much ultimate effect as if you set your characters in FF to attack eachother.

    They're just games. And the AI in Oblivion sucks immensely. It's still a good game. Overhyped, which was fuelled a lot by Bethesda's bullshit (they're good at propaganda, I'll grant them that) but still a good game. Mind you, I enjoyed BG2 more and I will definitely remember BG2 longer.

    Did you know Torment, one of the most critically acclaimed western made RPGs ever and using BioWare's famous engine, included a thank you note to Squaresoft for Final Fantasy in the credits?

    Oblivion is not all that special and definitely not very innovative - and in places horribly designed. It's a good fun RPG though. And so are Final Fantasy, Fallout, Pools of Radiance, World of Warcraft and countless others.
  • by crossmr ( 957846 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @06:22PM (#15030187) Journal
    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."

    I've played this a total of about 25 hours now, and I must say the answer is NO, it has not. The AI is horrible makes amateurish mistakes and isn't a stride towards anything good. I've seen countless enemies stand there and do nothing while I spend 2 minutes shooting fireballs at them. I've seen them ignore comrades being attacked from range, and get caught on crazy terrain features like stairs.

    Xbox360 AI developer comments []

    read up on this and you can see how the xbox360 gimped the AI, and since this game is a port with no real improvements being made on the PC its quite telling about how the game was put together. The AI isn't even the worse part of the game. The level-scaling is attrocious and completely removes the feeling of immersion since every enemy you face is either leveled or replaced with a more powerful version. You only get ahead of meta-gaming and power-leveling.

    Is the game enjoyable? Yes it is.

    Is the game everything it was reported to be and should be? No, not by a long shot.

    Thief had better AI awareness 8 or so years ago. Enemies reacted appropriately to things happening around them. They only react now if you're in range. You can stand there outside their response range, which is not outside your sight range and rain holy fire down around them. Unless you hit them, they don't care. You can do the same thing in a town.

  • by 7Prime ( 871679 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @06:23PM (#15030197) Homepage Journal

    No, you're just being as elitest and oblivious as the next guy, and well, it looks like I'm the next guy, so I'm definitely not excluded from this catagory.

    You do realize that one of the defining characteristics of sheep is that they think that everyone else is a sheep except them. The international coorperate machine has made millions off of making people feel like they're being individuals.

    Me? I'm a total sheep, I realize that there's really no way of escaping it, and get on with my life. The more you try to fight back, the worse it gets, really. You just end up playing into the hands of a different coorperately manufactured demographic. I love my iPod because it makes me feel like I'm supporting a movement of aesthetics and innovation, I drive a Toyota because it makes me happy to give a big "fuck you" to the redneck american auto industry. I'm sophisticated and elitest, and I'm playing right into the hands of a lot of major companies. And ya know what? The best I can do, most of the time, is acknowledge that I'm doing it, and move on. And yes, I'm feeling quite "holier than thow" right now for having said this, but whatever.

    So don't go around spouting about shills like you aren't one yourself. It's fairly obvious, from your list of examples, that you're trying to use your arguement to put down those things you don't like (namely console gamers), which is petty and shortsighted. Both sides are equally at fault for deluding themselves into following whatever the latest trend is. Unbelievable.

  • Its a game. The point of a game is to complete the story.

    Let me think about that for a second...


    For heck's sake, thousands of games don't even have a story in the first place (story in Tetris? or in Every Extend? or in Train Simulator? or in Railroad Tycoon? or in a Multiplayer TA game? Hell, even TA's single player story was weak anyway). Making a story or reading a story is just a different take on gaming. You like reading stories, other people prefer creating them. You like seeing events unfold before your eyes, other people prefer creating the events. That's all there is to it. The point of a game is playing, having fun, that's all there is to it. Whether you have fun by playing Diablo, Starcraft, Metal Slug, Age of Empires, Civilization, SimCity, The Sims, World of Warcraft, or posting self-starred horse porn on the internet doesn't matter, do what rock your socks, just respect what other people want to rock their socks with... (well, maybe not the self-starring horse porn one, that's disgusting)

  • by DeadboltX ( 751907 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @06:54PM (#15030422)
    Being able to do what you're "not supposed to do". Ever since the first TES game, Arena, I've loved this aspect and looked for it in other games.. If I wanted to, I could kill a guard and the game actually planned for that sort of thing.. I didn't instantly lose, the guard didn't kill me by looking at him, I was able to loot his body and the towns affection for me dropped... If I talked to a quest giver and realized that the quest was a sham (he was a guilty thief and was trying to frame someone else get me to kill them or something like that) I could kill him on the spot and achieve the goal without having to go through the story.. likewise I could kill a legitimate quest giver and never be able to recieve the award. I've often looked for that kind of aspect in all the games I play. I'll go to do something "I'm not supposed to" just because it seems like it would be fun, only to find that the developers had taken the extra step and planned for that sort of reaction and gave you a result you wern't expecting. Eastern RPGS don't have any room for that sort of open gameplay... you follow the story and if you don't then you're staring at a brick wall.
  • by hclyff ( 925743 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @06:56PM (#15030434)
    I love it too. And it's not possible to foretell every scenario the crazy too-much-time-on-his-hands player could come with when he's experimenting with the AI. At least not in a game with this degree of freedom.

    Anyway I'm happy there is a game once for a while in which I can be a thief and not be chopped to pieces by the guards when someone catches me pickpocketing.
  • by Mordaximus ( 566304 ) on Friday March 31, 2006 @12:25AM (#15031878)
    That's when the rather brilliant original "Deus Ex"

    Not many years after System Shock II!

  • ... who's hackles rear up everytime they try to call these things rpgs? It is not a roleplaying game when you are handed some character to play that isn't yours, it's not a roleplaying game when you don't get to chose what comes out of your mouth, or it's part of a canned set of lines. How do you define who your character is, when you're restricted in what you can do?

    Of course, one could also argue that there's as much point in roleplaying by yourself with a computer as performing a play in an empty room.

    CRPGs are storyline based adventure (and sometimes puzzle) games.

"Conversion, fastidious Goddess, loves blood better than brick, and feasts most subtly on the human will." -- Virginia Woolf, "Mrs. Dalloway"