Just what makes an RPG...An RPG?

Clangeddin

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The factors you come across in pretty much every RPG:


1) Stats. With a big emphasis on stats as the core element of gameplay.


2) Character progression (that is, stats are bound to increase at some point)


3) A Storyline with protagonists, antagonists, actors, locations, goals, background info (lore) ecc.
 
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Titanhex

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I would like to dispel the suggestion behind Point 3 of that list.


A narrative isn't necessary in any game genre to make it a game.


A narrative isn't necessary in a series of recorded frames to make it a movie.


Narrative isn't necessary on a stage to create a performance.


Often times the audience will create their own narrative; And that is a powerful phenomenon for people working in motion-based mediums to utilize.


Narratives only exist in this form of media to create a greater impact.


A dot moving around a white maze with different colored walls, running into other dots and fighting them through a menu to gain EXP and increase their stats is something I would still classify as an RPG, even if that was all there was to the narrative.
 

ksart

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Everytime this kind of question comes up it reminds me of when I worked at gamestop and a young woman came in looking for an "rpg", an avid rpg gamer myself i started making suggestions at which point she said no she was looking for something like the sims.


It made me internally facepalm at the time but it does raise an interesting point about the perspective of the audience. Someone can look at a game like the sims and consider it an RPG because in their minds they are role playing as this character they've made.


In my mind, the sims will always be just what the name suggests, a simulation game with which you can tell your own story(if you so choose, or you can just set the house on fire, remove the doors and watch them burn), and an rpg will always have a story to tell you. A beginning, middle and end with you as the hero (or not), of course there is also the case of open ended rpgs where you finish the main story but there is just SO MUCH to do. (elder scrolls)


anyway.. thats my two cents. 
 

Dr. Delibird

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Wait so an RPG requires an element of a dice role? A calculation that you cannot 100% predict everytime? Wouldn't it be more accurate to say that an RPG involves a lot of numbers numbers math math math that is calculated and processed in the background to determine outcomes, rather than saying it involves dice rolls? All RPGs involves mathematical calculations, dice rolls are can be apart of that but they do not have to be apart of the calculation for it to be considered an RPG. Variance is a nice tool, it can make for a good mechanic in an RPG BUT variance is not required for it to be an RPG. Variance can actually RUIN certain games due to it not fitting properly with other mechanics, sometimes the player will feel cheater or disrespected by the game when the variance doesn't fit. It is up to the individual designer to decide when variance is good and when it is bad and when they need to rebalance the variance that does otherwise work if not for the fact that the negative/positive effect is happening too often/not enough respecitvely.
 

Titanhex

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Yes and no.

"A dice roll" is a poor way to state that the stats in an RPG should result in a variable outcome. But a variable outcome is important in an RPG, and that variable outcome should be the result of stats.
When I said variable outcome, I don't mean a range, as per random numbers, but something else.
If I have 100 hp, and do 5 damage, and my enemy has 120 HP and does 5 damage, and we take turns, I will always lose to that enemy.
But if my stats go up, and the next level I have 150 hp and do 10 damage, I will win.
The outcome is variable, and changes as a result of the stats.
Even if the numbers are flat [5] or a range [3-7] it doesn't matter, so long as the outcome is varied by a determination based off the stats.
That's what makes an RPG.


The statement "...processed and calculated in the background..." implies that D&D is not a Role Playing Game. But we all know that's ludicrous.

The trick with determining what is and isn't a member of a genre is asking yourself if the conclusion you come to is inclusive of ALL RPGs but is exclusionary of things that are not RPGs.
 

Dr. Delibird

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Sorry, I must have misunderstood what you meant at first xD


I don't really think a variable outcome is the best way to describe a genre though. I mean like in a shoot 'em up style of game, there is of course the vairiable of skill but there is also another variable that is the upgrades or power ups that you may or may not accrue. I think that since variables exist in all forms of interactive media it makes it hard to define a portion of that medium as one thing or another simply because it has variable outcomes. Like a.i in a shooter that reacts to player input, you move right and they shoot an instant kill missile, you move left and they throw a grenade. Unless I am misinterpreting what you are saying.


Also what I meant by processed in the background was that the game does calculations that may or may not be viewed/influenced by the players but will never be shown in the game. Taking D&D as an example, the player rolls dice to determine outcomes however the player character doesnt throw the dice they just succeed or fail with possible outcomes strewn between.
 

Titanhex

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Variable outcome is the bridge that turns what would just be stats into an RPG.


If it wasn't for the variable outcome tied to the stats, an RPG would not be an RPG. Variable outcome derived from stats is the most accurate representation.
If the game only used stats, it would not be an RPG. An outcome of success or failure must be tied to the stats in order for it to be an RPG.
 

Kyuukon

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It has to be RPGish..
 

jwideman

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Variable outcome is the bridge that turns what would just be stats into an RPG.


If it wasn't for the variable outcome tied to the stats, an RPG would not be an RPG. Variable outcome derived from stats is the most accurate representation.
If the game only used stats, it would not be an RPG. An outcome of success or failure must be tied to the stats in order for it to be an RPG.



I have to agree. Without the randomness, you have a strategy game like Risk.
 

LightningLord2

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I have to agree. Without the randomness, you have a strategy game like Risk.

>Risk


>Without randomness


Do you even have the slightest idea what kind of game Risk is? Chess is more like what you're looking for.


Also, @Titanhex: There are RPGs whose outcomes are not tied to the stats. Pretty much every Mario RPG has timing/speed-based actions that determine if your attack/defense was successful, stats only influence the effect of success/failure.
 

jwideman

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>Risk


>Without randomness


Do you even have the slightest idea what kind of game Risk is? Chess is more like what you're looking for.


Also, @Titanhex: There are RPGs whose outcomes are not tied to the stats. Pretty much every Mario RPG has timing/speed-based actions that determine if your attack/defense was successful, stats only influence the effect of success/failure.



Actually, I think I confused Risk with an entirely different game. Maybe Stratego?
 

Titanhex

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stats only influence the effect of success/failure.

I rest my case.


I've played both Super Mario RPG and Paper Mario. The gameplay relies heavily on the stats of your party. The speed and timing based mechanics are not CORE mechanics. But they do enhance battles and gameplay. You'd still have a functioning game without them, albeit far less interesting.



Think of it like this, if I removed the stats from the game, would it still play the same? What if I removed any variable outcome based off of those stats?


Two pivotal genre cross-overs of note are Zelda II and Faxanadu, both for the NES.


They are classified as RPGs, albeit Action RPGs.


They both rely on stats, and those stats affect the gameplay down to it's core element. 
 

trouble time

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Yes and no.

"A dice roll" is a poor way to state that the stats in an RPG should result in a variable outcome. But a variable outcome is important in an RPG, and that variable outcome should be the result of stats.
When I said variable outcome, I don't mean a range, as per random numbers, but something else.
If I have 100 hp, and do 5 damage, and my enemy has 120 HP and does 5 damage, and we take turns, I will always lose to that enemy.
But if my stats go up, and the next level I have 150 hp and do 10 damage, I will win.
The outcome is variable, and changes as a result of the stats.
Even if the numbers are flat [5] or a range [3-7] it doesn't matter, so long as the outcome is varied by a determination based off the stats.
That's what makes an RPG.


The statement "...processed and calculated in the background..." implies that D&D is not a Role Playing Game. But we all know that's ludicrous.

The trick with determining what is and isn't a member of a genre is asking yourself if the conclusion you come to is inclusive of ALL RPGs but is exclusionary of things that are not RPGs.

Unless I'm misunderstanding, this is inclusionary of ANY game with stats that can be raised because it basically says, to be an RPG having better stats must make the game easier. This definition doesn't even exlucde power ups since it doesn't mention permenant stats.  Heck, the outcome in FPS's is varied based on the stats even though you can't see them, in this case the stats of the guns as while they may not be linearly better than one another they have different strong points, if I have the RPG (pun intended) I can finish this portion of a level in 10 minutes, but with a SMG it'd take 15. This definition is entirely too broad.
 

Titanhex

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The trick is that stats have to be a part of the Core Game Mechanic.

The definition is too broad not because of the definition itself, but because of the definition and role of the stat.

So how about PC Stat. That is, stats connected to Playable Characters, and not to the equipment itself.
This suits the definition of an RPG by both the traditional sense, and the Action RPG genre as well, which have also contained powerups.
 
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trouble time

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The trick is that stats have to be a part of the Core Game Mechanic.

The definition is too broad not because of the definition itself, but because of the definition and role of the stat.

So how about PC Stat. That is, stats connected to Playable Characters, and not to the equipment itself.
 


Could you define core mechanic for me? Because it's a bit of a buzzword which people throw around with many different meanings like "immersion". For me I'd call it the foundational mechanic all other parts of a game seek to enhance, in that sense, I would not call the idea that better stats preform better a core mechanic. I should also mention that I beleive core mechanics are compartmentalized in that in a typical JRPG there are core combat mechanics, and core map mechanics. I also think that there can be more than one core mechanic and usually there Specifically the core mechanics of progression and the core mechanics of multi-form combat (as in having a variety of ways to approach combat) are the reasoning I see for better stats leading to better outcomes, one is linear the other is situational, because of this I don't think better stats having better outcomes is even a core mechanic to anything but a result of other mechanics. Furthermore, even when restricted to playable characters this is too broad, we've still got the massive difference between 1 and 2 hitpoints in mario platformers even though the most important core mechanic is movement. 


Also that middle line literally doesn't make sense, the definition isn't too broad because it's too broad it's too broad because the key word of that definition is too broad.
 

Pine Towers

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IMHO an RPG is as it says, a Role-Playing Game: You must assume the role of someone in something (there's need for a history, else we're not playing a role but merely a costume). I can further divide this by:


1. Tabletop RPG (TTRPG): You control a character in a non-electronic game.


2. Computer RPG (cRPG): You control a character in an electronic game. This can be further divided:


2.1 Japanese(-Style) RPG (jRPG): The character (development) is the focus.


2.2 Western(-Style) RPG (wRPG): The history (development) is the focus.


But, since we're playing a role, we're not ourselves while on the game and thus, we need ways to differentiate the Me from the Character. This is done through the Stats that must have the higher impact on the outcome of decisions. Those Stats can be dynamic or static.


Another way is how we interact with the (hostile) environment:


1. Turn-Based


2. Real Time (and this can cover the Action-RPG type)
 

Titanhex

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Core mechanic is the definition you described. The mechanic on which the entire game is built upon, and other mechanics enhance.


Stats are the most integral part of an RPG, and all RPGs use Player Stats in them. Alteration to those stats, and the stats being linked to gameplay, are the core mechanic that make an RPG an RPG.


If you want to get more specific about genre, like jRPG, then you can add things like "World Map Mechanics" but not every RPG has a world map, so it is not contributing to the discussion.


Combat itself doesn't make an RPG an RPG either. Many games do not use combat. Infact, you could make an entire D&D session out of non-combat encounters.


So combat isn't a core of an RPG either.


The middle line, to make it more clear since it wasn't worded well, is that the entire sentence wasn't the issue, but rather the word stat wasn't specific enough.



Stats in an RPG must influence a dynamic outcome in some capacity.


The stats must be a part of the PC, or protagonist. 


The stats should be tied to the gameplay as a core mechanic of play.


These simple mechanics should be enough for all games.

@Pine Towers The reason why I do not include "Playing a Role" or anything of the sort in this definition is because that characteristic can be inherent in all video games of all genres, and does not define the RPG genre itself.


Rather, it's a common misconception due to the naming of the genre.
 
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Pine Towers

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@Titanhex Yeah, a role isn't enough to define a RPG, but must be there, else we're must tag games like World of Tanks were we control a statistical block of numbers as RPG. Role + Stats.


I agree with the rest of your post.
 

trouble time

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Core mechanic is the definition you described. The mechanic on which the entire game is built upon, and other mechanics enhance.


Stats are the most integral part of an RPG, and all RPGs use Player Stats in them. Alteration to those stats, and the stats being linked to gameplay, are the core mechanic that make an RPG an RPG.


If you want to get more specific about genre, like jRPG, then you can add things like "World Map Mechanics" but not every RPG has a world map, so it is not contributing to the discussion.


Combat itself doesn't make an RPG an RPG either. Many games do not use combat. Infact, you could make an entire D&D session out of non-combat encounters.


So combat isn't a core of an RPG either.


The middle line, to make it more clear since it wasn't worded well, is that the entire sentence wasn't the issue, but rather the word stat wasn't specific enough.



Stats in an RPG must influence a dynamic outcome in some capacity.


The stats must be a part of the PC, or protagonist. 


The stats should be tied to the gameplay as a core mechanic of play.


These simple mechanics should be enough for all games.

@Pine Towers The reason why I do not include "Playing a Role" or anything of the sort in this definition is because that characteristic can be inherent in all video games of all genres, and does not define the RPG genre itself.


Rather, it's a common misconception due to the naming of the genre.

I do apologize, I used the word combat when I should have used conflict, because that includes non-combat encounters, and it still doesn't change anything else I had said. Also, I didn't mean world map, I meant map in general, any map as in the portion of a game . A string of battles back to back to back to back, like say Sakura Clicker would be an RPG under your definition, in fact it would allow all clicker games I know of to be RPGs as increasing stats changes the outcome of your actions by making you gain more resources per click or even when you leave them alone. This definition has the same problems that "playing a role" does. Stats and stat progression are a part of many, many different games and genres. 


Stats + Role playing does bring us a little closer by excluding games without characters, but I'd say there's still more to what makes an RPG and RPG than that.
 
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Titanhex

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I think you're broadening the word stats to mean simply numbers.
 


Stats are different from resources. Resources can be spent. Stats cannot.


Further, resources are not tied directly to the Player Character. Again, another important part of the genre.


This goes directly in line with my point that the stats must be part of the Playable Character and is in line with making Sakura Clicker not fall into the definition I provided.
 
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