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  The Golden Age of CRPGS  (Read 3255 times)
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Offline zingbat

Senior Member




Java games rock!


« Posted 2006-03-03 17:19:28 »

I had an interesting discussion in another forum about the golden age of crpgs and how they compare to today crpgs.

Someone mentioned that role-playing is about immersion and then mentioned the complexity of modern crpgs. Immersion and char system alone don't make a game a crpg and i explained my point of view.

We can consider crpgs in their periods of time which i will call pre-crpgs (before 1990), classic crpgs (1990 - 2000) and modern crpgs (> 2000).

But first the basics, the mother of all rping or pnps:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D%26D
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gurps
http://www.sjgames.com/gurps/

In a pnp you have the world or the setting that is usually described in pnp books and you have the char system to help you role-play whovever you want. The quality of a pnp depends on the imagination of the game master who is controling the game and it's participants who may also sugest events. It's not possible to have this freedom in a crpg.

I think with a little observation you will reognize d&d and gurps as the main systems used by classics like Darklands (1992), Daggerfall (1996), Fallout (1997), Baldurs Gate (1998), Planescape (1999) just to mention a few. I would say this was the golden age of crpgs. From planescape afterwards it followed the slow fall of Interplay. Bethesda was also reaquired and the original Daggerfall team completely replaced. With only a few exceptions like Gothic and a few others most crpgs done since that time follow a new crpg model where there is more focus on visuals, mixing of rpg little features with proeminent action gameplay and storytelling that is easy to follow.

Theres plenty of references for the classics here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darklands
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daggerfall
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallout_%28computer_game%29
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baldur%27s_Gate_series
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planescape:_Torment

In a crpg the computer replaces the game master and tries to provide a wide variety of gameplay and life experiences for the major adventuring classes that are part of the world. The world itself and the npcs that populate it must also behave and react in a realistic and adequate way for the rpg world they are playing in. The Immersion metaphor must also apply to npc behaviors, social structure, factions, organizations, city layouts, map layouts, etc...

I don't consider a game a classic crpg if it's linear and provides only one type of gameplay. It should at least provide unique gameplay for the basic adventure types: thief/assassin, warrior/soldier, wizard/scholar, tech/mechanist/dwarf to be able to role-play. That is the world should be able to supply each type with the apropriate quests for him to be able to level up (have a career) using only his skills of choice. The world should provide a credible background and npc reactions for this char type way of life.

Let's see how this works with the games above.

Darklands: German games allways have something bold and crazy and completely innovative about them. In this game the players objective is to become famous in whatever the players career he chooses. Theres no main quest. It's a game of pure exploration and discovery.

Daggerfall: The game is much like Darklands but with a complex and well writen main quest graph. Again in Daggerfall we can specialize in a carrer and trough guilds and merchant quests one can continualy role-play and keep developing his character of choice. I admit that Daggerfall had too many bugs and was mostly an incomplete game. But it already shows what was in plane for it, with a generated world and the possibility to allocate chars and quest items dynamicaly. Daggerfall path was to proceduraly generate quests and locations from templates to make the rping experience much more interesting. The world was also suposed to be much more dynamic with towns ocasionaly being under siege or afected by plagues.

Fallout: This is the classic of the classics for me. It's an example of how it's possible to create a great rpg without geting stuck on fantasy cliches. The world is brilliant and very imaginative. The quest and character dialogs are of excellent quality. Quests are not just simple quest for bonus items. They tell the human story of the Fallout world. In each town there are usualy factions in conflict and quests invite the player to take part in one the sides or play for yourself doing quests for both sides. Your actions will change the outcome of each place when you finish the main quest. You can finish Fallout as a stupid char (int <4 or something), by not shoting anybody, by dialog only, by sneaking all your way around, by using your science and repair skills. Fallout skills are those we know from common crpgs but they are focused on tech, doctor, stealth, diplomatic/dialog, survival, and combat groups adequate for a post-apocaliptic and slightly sci-fi world.

Baldurs Gate: This game comes after Fallout and is a bit more streamlinedin terms of role-playing. Most quests will resolve in combat but you have an opurtunity to play a specialist char by playing in a team. You usually compose a team with at least a thief, a warrior, a priest, a mage, a warrior. What makes BG different is the personality of npcs that can join your team later. They will engage in conversations, discussions and comflicts by their own during your travels. They will also question the player about is actions and complain if it doesn't please them. Dialog is great and requires you to think before answering. Each npc has his own story and motivations and it's wise to know them well.

Planescape: Planescape it's a bit like Baldurs Gate. Except multiply the story originality by 10 and multiply the deep of npc interactions by 10 again and you have Planescape. Planesacpe story would be worth a book. Combat wasn't as good as BG in my opinion and the game was a bit more streamlined in this area. It's said that the amount of text in Planescape feets in an encyclopedia book (around 1000 pages).

After this Interplay starts going down and a new age of modern crpgs starts following a path that was already been taken with games like DeusEx and Diablo. The process of streamlining and simplifying crpgs commences.

Discuss.
Offline Jeff

JGO Coder




Got any cats?


« Reply #1 - Posted 2006-03-04 01:15:04 »

Nothign beat the experiecne of Playing Wizardry I

But that was just as much innoncence of the players as it was the prorgam.  I suspect today it wouldnt seem nearly as engaging.

Got a question about Java and game programming?  Just new to the Java Game Development Community?  Try my FAQ.  Its likely you'll learn something!

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Offline Breakfast

Senior Member




for great justice!


« Reply #2 - Posted 2006-03-05 22:12:45 »

I'm not sure of the accuracy of your comments about Bethesda- as far as I can tell a fair few of the people who worked on Daggerfall and Arena are working on Oblivion now. I would certainly say that Morrowind was entirely a continuation of the tradition of Daggerfall even if it did lack the huge amount of randomly generated terrain and quests. Those didn't make that much difference to Daggerfall in the long run on account of all the random dungeons being such a nightmare that you would start saving before asking for a quest and then reloading if it involved a dungeon...

I'm sincerely hoping Oblivion continues the same pattern.

Interesting question- would the X series count as an  RPG? In terms of your set of conditions I think it maybe would.

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Offline zingbat

Senior Member




Java games rock!


« Reply #3 - Posted 2006-03-05 22:55:52 »

Quote from: Breakfast
I'm not sure of the accuracy of your comments about Bethesda- as far as I can tell a fair few of the people who worked on Daggerfall and Arena are working on Oblivion now.

None of the lead Daggerfall designers/programers are working in Oblivion. Don't know if you know but Bethesda was aquired by someone who changed the team years ago.

Quote from: Breakfast
I would certainly say that Morrowind was entirely a continuation of the tradition of Daggerfall even if it did lack the huge amount of randomly generated terrain and quests.

Oblivion is much more streamlined. They have removed everything that could cause problems to players new to crpgs like advantages/disadvanges, attribute rolling and biography generation and at the same time removed much of the system flexibility. The game holds the player hand much more this time which new players will enjoy.  Daggerfall players who were interested in role-playing never liked Daggerfall main-quest because it forced the player to endless combat and dungeon-crawling. Guilds on the other side could supply the quests required for rp different classes. It seams that Oblivion may preserve this classic rp ability and provide different experiences for different classes.  What we must see is how much combat dependent  will Oblivion be.
Offline nonnus29

Senior Member




Giving Java a second chance after ludumdare fiasco


« Reply #4 - Posted 2006-03-06 01:30:49 »

I'm with Jeff, your 'golden age' is not so golden, more like Silver Age.  To me the Golden Age of crpgs was Wizardry, Ultima, the Bard's Tale, plus those SSI rpgs that I can't remember the names of.

But regardless of definitions there is a dearth of quality 'role playing' games out today.  Wow and action rpgs have squeezed them out.  Now the only quality rpgs I know of are from spiderwebsoftware.
Offline Breakfast

Senior Member




for great justice!


« Reply #5 - Posted 2006-03-06 15:49:47 »

Man, The Bards Tale and Elite were the cornerstones of my early gaming years. They showed you could do something with more depth than just jumping over stuff even on an 8 bit computer...
Offline zingbat

Senior Member




Java games rock!


« Reply #6 - Posted 2006-03-06 16:28:28 »

I assume you are talking about gameplay only and not comparing graphical and audio content. Bards Tale to me is more like pre-history of crpgs. Theres about one page of plot in that game. The gameplay is amazingly addictive but the game doesn't provide much than tactical combat. If you want to see true evolution then compare Baldurs Gate to one of those SSI crpgs you mention. They have expanded on everything and added an extra level to crpgs. Fallout has proven that a good and original crpg can be made without having to rehash tolkiens world over and over again.
Offline nonnus29

Senior Member




Giving Java a second chance after ludumdare fiasco


« Reply #7 - Posted 2006-03-06 18:32:53 »

I assume you are talking about gameplay only and not comparing graphical and audio content. Bards Tale to me is more like pre-history of crpgs. Theres about one page of plot in that game. The gameplay is amazingly addictive but the game doesn't provide much than tactical combat. If you want to see true evolution then compare Baldurs Gate to one of those SSI crpgs you mention. They have expanded on everything and added an extra level to crpgs. Fallout has proven that a good and original crpg can be made without having to rehash tolkiens world over and over again.


I never said Fallout or BG weren't great games.  I just think you're wrong to ignore the 'prehistory'.  That's just my .02.
Offline zingbat

Senior Member




Java games rock!


« Reply #8 - Posted 2006-03-06 22:01:06 »

I never said Fallout or BG weren't great games.  I just think you're wrong to ignore the 'prehistory'.

People may disagree in classifying crpgs into pre-crpgs, classic and modern but there are huge differences between a crpg like dungeon master, fallout and modern crpgs like dungeon siege to put everything into the same bag. Crpgs have changed a lot when the CD media was made available to everyone for example. I think this contributed to make crpgs better. With the success of quake crpgs started to focus more in graphics and crpgs suffered with this. Thats my opinion.

Offline kaffiene
« Reply #9 - Posted 2006-03-06 22:17:45 »

I'd also rate the SSI games and Bard's Tale as the real start of the story.  Prior to that, you had text adventure games, but SSI games like "Pool of Radiance" and the Bard's Tale set up the basic framework (graphical representation of more-or-less D&D rules) that continued to evolve through those other games you mentioned.  Certainly Pool of Radiance has both plot and tactical combat.
Games published by our own members! Check 'em out!
Legends of Yore - The Casual Retro Roguelike
Offline Jeff

JGO Coder




Got any cats?


« Reply #10 - Posted 2006-03-07 00:43:16 »

Hmm. Id disagree with your conclusion about Bards Tale.  At the time it was a "best of breed" certainly.  But the elements you describe were all there in a graphically simpler form in Wizardry many years before.

And the top down 2D Ultima series at abotu the same tiem as Wizardry brought most of the other "world elements" into play.

Got a question about Java and game programming?  Just new to the Java Game Development Community?  Try my FAQ.  Its likely you'll learn something!

http://wiki.java.net/bin/view/Games/JeffFAQ
Offline swpalmer

JGO Coder




Where's the Kaboom?


« Reply #11 - Posted 2006-03-07 01:30:29 »

Ah.. playing Ultima III & IV on the old C64... those were the days...

Offline blahblahblahh

JGO Coder


Medals: 1


http://t-machine.org


« Reply #12 - Posted 2006-03-08 18:20:53 »

I'm with Jeff, your 'golden age' is not so golden, more like Silver Age.  To me the Golden Age of crpgs was Wizardry, Ultima, the Bard's Tale, plus those SSI rpgs that I can't remember the names of.

EOTB and COTAB...

Anyway, the main problem is that nowadays RPG's aren't as attractive to make because you no longer are so desperate to find a game that:
 - works on the PC
 - has a small download
 - doesn't use much CPU for graphics
 - isn't Quake

Those things drove RPG development.

malloc will be first against the wall when the revolution comes...
Offline nonnus29

Senior Member




Giving Java a second chance after ludumdare fiasco


« Reply #13 - Posted 2006-03-09 00:46:39 »

Actually I was thinkig a bit older and more rustic:

http://www.the-underdogs.org/game.php?name=Wizard%27s+Crown

http://www.the-underdogs.org/game.php?name=Shard+of+Spring%2C+The
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