[SOLVED] Lets Talk True RPG Game Mechanics Design

Emanzi

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I've come across the term True RPG before and I'm a little confused as to what it actually means and if its not just another name for Computer RPG (CRPG). My interpretation might be wrong but I would say that a True RPG is different from a Western RPG (WRPG) and a Japanese RPG (JRPG) in that it does not have a combat/battle system. Emphasis is on story, plot and character development and the narrative is driven by puzzles and exploration. My stereotype True RPG would be Yume Nikki dream diary where you simply collect "effects" or items in a large and open game world. It's still an RPG because you are playing a role as Madotsuki in her dream world.

yumenikki1.jpg
https://www.pcgamer.com/the-horrifying-legacy-of-yume-nikki-the-homebrew-game-that-became-a-phenomenon/

I am planning on making a True RPG and decided to start this thread to discuss:
1.What exactly is a "True RPG" in your opinion?
2.What do you consider essential or "True RPG" game mechanics?
3.How does one design a True RPG in RPG Maker?


EDIT: Here is what I am using to "define" true rpg. (https://love2d.org/wiki/Roleplaying_Game)

"True" RPGs
These games are about playing a character in a story - combat may not even be present. They generally have branching storylines, multiple endings, and lots of choices with later consequences. This is the least-common form of RPG.
 
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The Stranger

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Never heard the term used in any serious manner. Usually used by gatekeepers trying to put other games down, and dictate what is or isn't allowed in their genre or community. It's similar to how people claim TellTale and Quantic Dreams games aren't games.

Besides, a 'true' RPG would be about choice of approach, what to do, etc; computer RPGs were inspired by tabletop RPGs after all. Games focusing on puzzles and exploration sound like adventures or point and click games rather than RPGs, in my opinion.
 

Diretooth

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A 'true' RPG is literally a game that allows you to play a role. That's it. It does not matter if you are a Dragonborn trying to stop the end of the world, or a young ace sports player fighting a giant space whale, or you're a young woman discovering her family history in a strangely built house. You are playing a role in a game.
The quantifiers of WRPG or JRPG usually indicate the location of games, or the style of games from that location. Something inspired by JRPGs or WRPGs is still an RPG regardless.
As far as how to make a True RPG, literally create a game and give the player the ability to play it. Whether it comes with a predetermined role or one they create as they go along, it will count as an RPG.
 

Emanzi

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Besides, a 'true' RPG would be about choice of approach, what to do, etc; computer RPGs were inspired by tabletop RPGs after all. Games focusing on puzzles and exploration sound like adventures or point and click games rather than RPGs, in my opinion.
There is a thin line when it comes to RPG and Adventure Game. What is it exactly? Choice? Exploration? Character Development? Turn Based Combat/ Battle System?

Would I be safe to assume combat is not an essential "RPG" game mechanic? my argue is that combat is just a robust and detailed "critical decision moment" or "choice of approach" / "what to do".
 
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The Stranger

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I believe there needs to be some standards else the term RPG is largely pointless. If an RPG is merely the act of playing a role, then all games are RPGs. Not saying that combat needs to be the main focus of an RPG, just that player input and choice be taken into consideration. Even in more linear RPGs, players are usually able to make choices in some form.
 

Emanzi

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Yes. "Role Playing" could mean anything. I could play a typical shooter or sports game and still play a "Role" as a character e.g a soldier or footballer e.t.c making choices along the way e.g pass the ball to the next footballer or take cover and reload. I think by choice we mean role-centric choice or story-driven choice, the difference is that in a shooter I can take cover and reload as a choice but that choice is obvious. If I don't reload and take cover, I get shot at and die. Simple. In an RPG I would say the choice needs to have some form of an ethical dilemma or no obvious choice but rather a choice of two or more things that could both be right.
 

The Stranger

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Many modern shooters are filled with story. I agree with you regarding impactful decisions, though. If we boil RPGs down to just 'a game in which you play a role', then the category becomes useless because all games become RPGs. So, then it becomes a discussion about what other elements define an RPG. Older RPGs were inspired by tabletop RPGs, but I don't think I'd classify any game an RPG just because it had dice rolls and levels.

Is the term RPG a subjective one like art? I mean, I know what I value in an RPG (player choice) and that's what I'd classify as a 'true' RPG.
 

Darkanine

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I think it's pretty subjective what is and isn't considered RPGs. To me, an RPG is a game with great focus on character improvement, such as gaining EXP or currency from certain events that can be used to upgrade your stats. However, with how most games nowadays have RPG elements, from FPS' to educational games, the line is getting harder to draw.

I fully admit that my own definition of the term is inconsistent at best. I don't consider Legend of Zelda to be an RPG, but I do consider stuff like River City Ransom and even Rambo II on the NES to all be RPGs despite only having lite "RPG mechanics". Would River City Ransom be considered less of an RPG than Final Fantasy even though they fundamentally involve the same system of fighting enemies to get stronger, but go about it in completely different ways? Probably, but who knows.

So, I dunno. My sister (half) jokingly said the only true Role-Playing Game would be LARP sessions since you're physically playing out the role. To me, the most "true" form of role-playing would be tabletop, LARP or even some PBM games, since you're far less restricted by hard-coded mechanics.
 

Soryuju

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There is a thin line when it comes to RPG and Adventure Game. What is it exactly? Choice? Exploration? Character Development? Turn Based Combat/ Battle System?

Would I be safe to assume combat is not an essential "RPG" game mechanic? my argue is that combat is just a robust and detailed "critical decision moment" or "choice of approach" / "what to do".
I can’t find the particular thread I’m thinking of right now, but the question of RPGs without combat has come up in the past, and most people on this board felt that RPG-esque games without combat generally fit better into the “Adventure” or “Simulator” categories.

I think this is an opinion that’s likely to vary depending on who you’re asking. I remember times when people described the older Harvest Moon games as RPGs before the “Simulator” genre had come into its own, so there’s definitely overlap between the different classifications.

However, I think I’d argue that one of the major components of an RPG is that many of the decisions you make have an impact beyond the game’s narrative, and directly influence how you interface with your character. RPGs allow the player to express themselves through their characters throughout the core type of gameplay they feature (whatever that may be). We’ve seen this core trait bleed into more and more games over time (and to varying degrees), but I think it’s a huge part of what has always defined RPGs.

I’d also speculate that combat has always been associated with RPGs because it often provides such an extensive framework for this type of player-character interfacing. I think the rise of the Simulator genre has reinforced this association in more recent years. If you think about it, the terms “Simulator” and “Role Playing Game” are already very similar, but “Simulator” comes with the connotations of more mundane, realistic, and/or detailed roles. With many non-combat RPGs meeting these descriptions (more or less), I think people have become more inclined to use the term “RPG” more exclusively with games that feature combat.

I might not call a regular shooter an RPG, but I might change my mind if my character’s performance in battle was governed by a stat or skill system. I also wouldn’t call a game that just forces you to make a series of ethical decisions an RPG. However, if those decisions directly shaped my character’s gameplay options (for instance, making immoral decisions improving my character’s stealth and lockpicking capabilities), then I might consider it an RPG even if it didn’t actually feature combat. You sometimes see the phrase “features RPG elements” to describe such games, but to me, that basically just means the game is some type of hybrid RPG.

I can’t say I really like the term “true” RPG either, because besides having a pretentious feel to it (a criticism of the term, not you, OP) it just isn’t descriptive at all. It’s not a useful way to refer to whatever type of game it’s trying to describe, so I feel like it’s just a poor label all around.

But that said, it’s all just semantics if you’ve already decided that your game won’t feature combat. And if you want to talk about non-combat mechanics, I feel like we need to narrow the scope of the discussion first, because there’s just a huge range of directions such games can take.
 
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Switz

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It would be good if there was or is in fact a term for what you describe as True RPG. However, would Tell Tale Games: Walking Dead be considered a RPG?

You see the tag "Story Driven", but I think that applies also to old school linear style JRPG's or especially like Final Fantasy X that skipped a overworld map altogether and the story literally drove you ever forward through the game.

Story Rich though....that one seems most fitting. But again, that can still apply to many games. Look at Mass Effect series'.


Crap, good question!
 

Emanzi

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@Switz I edited the first post with the definition I'm working with of "True RPG". Its from the love2d community. Incase you don't want to scroll up, here it is.

"True" RPGs
These games are about playing a character in a story - combat may not even be present. They generally have branching storylines, multiple endings, and lots of choices with later consequences. This is the least-common form of RPG.
"Story driven"/"Story rich" could be a key RPG feature but for example Visual Novels are also story rich. Does that make them a hybrid of RPG or a sub-genre?

@Soryuju So combat is in fact a defining game mechanic that differentiates RPG from Simulation and Visual Novel. I thought not to include combat because of the definition I'm working with, "combat may not even be present".
 
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The Stranger

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That definition sounds nothing like what you originally described. Sounds more like PlanescapeTorment and other such games - WRPGs.
 

Emanzi

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That definition sounds nothing like what you originally described. Sounds more like PlanescapeTorment and other such games - WRPGs.
I agree, hence my confusion. the love2d community is not RPG focused so it might be complete nonsense but It did say something about combat being optional which inspired my definition. Like you said though, I might be confusing this with adventure game mechanics or loose hybrids of RPG.
 
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The Stranger

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Yeah. In those RPGs, combat existed, but could be avoided. I prefer games that let you talk your way through situations or sneak by them.
 

Soryuju

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@Emanzi If I’m reading you correctly, I wouldn’t let a particular definition someone else came up with influence your decision to include combat or not. You should ask yourself what purpose combat would serve in your game. Does combat fit with your game thematically? Do you have ideas for unique combat mechanics which make sense in the context of your game’s setting and narrative? If you skip combat, do you have other systems which will engage the player and generate interest in your gameplay?

Some games can present their narrative in such a compelling way that they don’t need much actual gameplay to keep players hooked, but this requires you to really push the game’s writing and/or atmosphere to its absolute best. You walk a fine line between “artistic” and “boring” without some substantive core mechanic to hook players.

Tossing in combat as filler content is an even more questionable decision, however. At worst, an underdeveloped combat system will bore, distract, and frustrate players while destroying your game’s atmosphere and pacing. Combat isn’t mandatory, but if you’re going to include it, its design should be just as deliberate and thoughtful as the structure of your game’s narrative.
 

Emanzi

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Yume Nikki doesn’t feature dialogue or plot, it only offers scarce menus and simple instructions. Go to bed, dream, wake up. Dream again.
Would you call Yume Nikki a Simulation or Adventure Game though? One could argue and say that the lack of having a combat system actually helps in the immersion of the game and in playing the "Role" of Madotsuki. There is very minimal story and almost no plot at all. There is no meaningful choice either. Its more like an "item-hunt" game.

@Soryuju My game's narrative is about...

A socially awkward girl that was bullied as a child. She can talk to ghosts and supernatural entities but is the only one that can see them and because of this the doctor says she is schizophrenic. You then help her to stand up for herself and build her social skills like talking to boys.

I wanted to focus more on character choices, branching narratives and item-hunting puzzles without monotonous level grinding, i.e what love2d defines as "True RPG".
 
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Wavelength

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love2d.org seems to have gotten its definition of a "True RPG" from a single sentence in the Wikipedia article which simply quoted an opinionated and obscure article from GameSpy. The GameSpy article wasn't even trying to separate Western and Japanese RPGs from "true RPGs"; it was noting that JRPGs feel that they evolved less like Pen & Paper roleplaying than WRPGs did. That article, in fact, never even used the term "true RPG"; that was a construction of the Wikipedia editor. Wikipedia did a poor job capturing the context of a single article (out of hundreds of sources that it used) and love2d.org did an even worse job by fixating on tiny bits of the Wikipedia article to create definitions.

In other words, trying to define this "True RPG" as something distinct from WRPGs or JRPGs is a completely fruitless task. Any game that is truly a Western RPG (like Fallout), a Japanese RPG (like Final Fantasy), or a Pen-and-Paper RPG (like Dungeons & Dragons) is a true RPG.

The only "RPGs" that aren't true RPGs are ones that merely have a few RPG elements, but have a completely different type of experience at the core. For example, Super Smash Bros.' story modes have a storyline and upgradeable character stats, but they are clearly not a true RPG. Yume Nikki, ironically, might not truly be an RPG at all - full disclosure in that I haven't played it, but what I've seen from it seems to have more in common with the Adventure or Horror genres than RPGs.

"Playing a role" isn't enough. You play a role in Mario Kart (Racing), Theme Park (Simulation), Hitman (Action), and Banjo-Kazooie (3D Platformer).

So, what is an RPG, then? I'll paste part of my post from this thread on whether a game can even be called an RPG without combat (I believe this is the thread @Soryuju mentioned) where I list probably the best set of criteria for identifying an RPG that I've ever come up with:

"I think that classifying a game as an RPG, more than most genres, is a collection of aspects and features that have to be weighted and judged in context. Here's a "Top Ten" list of aspects that I think are useful when judging whether something should be viewed as an RPG. The more points it hits, the more justifiable it is to call it an RPG:
  1. Use of visible, changeable, STATS to define a character's power level and style
  2. Inclusion of a PARTY of multiple playable characters who fight (or otherwise act) alongside each other, as opposed to picking one character at a time who does everything
  3. Use of a separate BATTLE SCREEN, separate from the main map the player uses to travel around, where combat or a similar activity takes place - extra weight for turn-based, menu-driven combat, but this isn't essential
  4. Emphasis on NARRATIVE and storytelling as a core aesthetic of play
  5. A COHERENT WORLD, as opposed to a series of stages or unconnected places, which can be physically explored and backtracked through at the player's leisure
  6. Inclusion of an INVENTORY of usable and collectible items
  7. Use of a LARGE CAST of human or anthropomorphic characters, including NPCs, with extra weight toward well-developed characters
  8. Emphasis on CHOICES over physical skills to determine either the player's success, the direction the storytelling unfolds in, or both
  9. Inclusion of DOWNTIME activities which feel separate from the game's main draws - these may be optional (minigames, sidequests) or they may happen in the course of mandatory play (shopping for armor, talking to NPCs in a town to trigger plot points), but they should feel 'separate' from what might be considered the 'main' gameplay
  10. Having NO TRUE FAILURE STATE - the player might see a Game Over, but is intended to go back and re-do things they did wrong, rather than interpreting it as having 'lost the game' to a competitive opponent or needing to start a new game
Few RPGs hit every single one of these, but most will hit at least half, whereas most games that we don't consider RPGs will only hit one or two."

In other words, if something called an RPG can hit at least half of the above properties, you should have no problem calling it a "true" RPG.
 
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Engr. Adiktuzmiko

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"True" RPGs
These games are about playing a character in a story - combat may not even be present. They generally have branching storylines, multiple endings, and lots of choices with later consequences. This is the least-common form of RPG.
That sounds more like Visual Novels...
 

kairi_key

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............hmmm

Personally, I think the term "RPG" actually got its meaning narrower as new genres of game emerges. At first it was used to describe games that we think of as the idealistic prototypical RPG, but as times goes on, more genres of games got coined up to differentiate themselves from other genres, causing the term "RPG" that might originally meant a game where you role-play became narrower and narrower to fit in the feels those prototypical "RPG."

For the reason above, I don't think we can define RPG by the literal meaning of "Role-Playing Game" anymore.

Think of it this way... What do you definitely think of when people say RPG? Like, the example that everyone and most agree on on being RPG. And then try to think of more games that are variance or become closer and closer in many directions to other genres but still regarded as RPG. In time, those games on the edge will take on a genre of its own. That's how language evolves. Some of the words we use today doesn't contain the original meaning anymore. Only after we try to put a fence around such ideas to form a boundary of meaning can that definition take shape.



Anyway, back to the topic at hand.... I haven't even heard of that term before. And I really don't care much. I don't even know what the intent behind coining up a term like "True RPG" is, but I don't like it much and when used out of context, it doesn't sounds much like what it is and doesn't sound like a healthy term.... Unless it catches on and got widespread in the community.



EDITED:
So.... despite what I've said... if I were to accept the definition of that term as is, I think the closest thing that came to my mind is a game where you can control your character avatar to a certain amount to interact with the world and people around them in some way. Without certain amount of agency, the game become more into the realm of VN with more illustrative and narrative paragraphs describing many things unseen.
 
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Emanzi

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@Wavelength Thanks for that epic top 10 list, ill use it as my guide as to what is RPG and try hit the 10 mark.

@Engr. Adiktuzmiko funny, I thought so too. I wonder what came first, the VN or JRPG but that's another topic for another thread.

@kairi_key Thankfully the community here is a lot more knowledgeable on the RPG genre and the term "True RPG" is not "True" at all. It doesn't exist, only in theory.
In other words I think the intention of coining up the term "True RPG" is to imply other "versions" or sub-genres of role playing games as being "False RPG's". The term is completely made up to sort of boost the reputation of certain games as being "True" to the genre.

Thanks guys for all your help. I think I've got all this loose terminology cleared up. (^_^)
 

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