What's essential for an RPG-Lite?

Nenen

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I'm in the concept stage of developing and designing my current project (one map challenge) and I was thinking of making it not quite fit the RPG genre; for example, having minimal combat; which got me thinking. What elements really make an RPG? And so what would essential elements for an RPG-lite be?
(BTW I don't really like the various definitions of RPG-Lite out on the internet that I've found. I just define it as something that somewhat fits the definition of RPG. but isn't trying to be one.)

Obviously, there’s a lot of different sub-genres that fit into the term RPG (and many genres have adopted RPG elements nowadays), but I ask people to mostly IGNORE the differences between all the sub-genres, and FOCUS on the similarities. (though if you want, go ahead and point out differences.)

forums.rpgmakerweb.com/index.php?threads/solved-lets-talk-true-rpg-game-mechanics-design.109054/#post-969528

And @Wavelength had a great list for what makes an RPG
...
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.

I really would like to know what people find is essential for RPGs and, in turn, what should be in an RPG-Lite.

So I’m now turning this question over to the forum, which I think has the possibility of some interesting conversations, and certainly hope to be enlightened by everyone’s thoughts.

I’ll probably add my own later.
 

Cootadude

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A RPG requires LVL progression, stats that affect how battles are played, and a inventory.
Now you don't need all of these for a RPG just one of them will count as a RPG, now I'm not very good at explaining but here's a link to a good article on this subject.
 

Snarkyfork

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A RPG requires LVL progression, stats that affect how battles are played, and a inventory.
Now you don't need all of these for a RPG just one of them will count as a RPG, now I'm not very good at explaining but here's a link to a good article on this subject.

Heh, Legend of Zelda had... an inventory and its one of the most famous RPG's of all time. Unless you consider heart containers "stats."
 

Celestrium

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I would argue that a game could be an RPG without combat. Something with skills, levels, and stats where you use abilities to do different things. You could make a fishing rpg where a mini fishing game replaced combat entirely, you equipped rods and gained stats. You went into the town and had relationships with the townsfolk and had to defeat the evil fishing corporation at the local tournament with an engaging storyline...
 

TheoAllen

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Personally, I would ask "If a game is labeled RPG, what would you expect?".
It is not about twisting the terms so you could argue "in that case, this game should be labeled RPG".

If a game is labeled RPG, I would expect
- Customization of the character equipment.
- Personalized stat for the character.
- Probably a progression system, either level, skill point, or similar
- Limited character to control. Either one actor or a few party members.
 

EpicFILE

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I think the most distinct element of RPG is that the player's progression (via level, equipment, skills, etc) can significantly alter the game's difficulty.

Other genres' game difficulty is defined by the player's skill.
Devil May Cry has progression to some extent (you can obtain stronger weapons and upgrade skills).
But that doesn't make Devil May Cry an RPG, because the game's difficulty is still dependent on player's skill.

On RPG, with overleveled characters and legendary weapons, you can pretty much breeze through the game.

Edit:
It's also worth to mention that RPG has a rather simplified controls.
Even in action rpg basic combos can be done with one button, and the more complex moves are stored in skills (which can be accessed by one button too).
Other games have specific controls for attacking, blocking, dodging, aiming, etc.
To do advanced moves require certain skill on the player's part.
 
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Celestrium

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I just wanted to say that my thoughts of what an RPG might be heavily influenced by the tabletop games, also referred to as RPGs. I have played non-combat style games, and the role playing really came from adapting a role and acting out the character. I feel the original terminology meant that the developers were trying to as closely as they could adapt a role playing system similar to GURPS, DnD, or something similiar. I was trying to say my expectation is a way to personify a character that has abilities different from your own, the character needs to be able to progress (usually leveling systems) and demonstrate their abilities and growth in a meaningful way (Combat in most rpgs) where you as the player have direct control over that character's actions and growth.
@TheoAllen Exactly what you said!
 

Milennin

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General definition would be a game in which you progress by raising levels, unlocking abilities and collecting gear. A game in which numbers matter more than player skill.
 

Cootadude

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Heh, Legend of Zelda had... an inventory and its one of the most famous RPG's of all time. Unless you consider heart containers "stats."
In many RPG's they do call HP a stat, and I have played the original Legends of Zelda and you did have special items that you can find across the world that increase damage or damage resistance permanently by a small amount or large amount, so you did have Stats that progress by obtaining the correct items.
 

Jennavieve

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I'm going to diverge from the crowd here and say that, going by extreme basic characteristics, all a game needs to be considered an RPG is a rich world and story where the player takes on a role of a character who interacts with the game world and shapes the outcome of the story. I don't think a game needs combat, leveling, equipment, or stats to be considered an RPG, although it does add more depth to the game if it does have those things.
 
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