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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Building a better RPG: How Persona 3 will save us all

Building a better RPG: How Persona 3 will save us all:
"I concurred with a lot of the community’s expression of preference for the “silent protagonist”—a nameless, voiceless construct on whom we could suggest our own selves, our own impulses and wishes."
I disagree with this notion. I think American gamers and PC-based RPG players love this sort of thing - look how many people ate up Oblivion. I haven't played Fable or Knights of the Old Republic, but I get the impression they're the same kind of game. You get to define your own character by the actions you take in-game, and the story evolves from there.

Only, in my opinion, it usually doesn't. When I played Morrowind, I didn't get into the story at all. Same with Baldur's Gate and most other PC-based RPG's I've played. The story, when allowed to 'evolve' from your character's growth, becomes unimportant. It's all about grinding through levels at that point, becoming more powerful.

In my experience, when you cut out the main character, you lose the ability to tell a compelling story. And the silent protagonist generally does exactly that - Oblivion had no main character. You got to define it down to the wire. I find it very difficult to be drawn into a story when there is nothing there to attract me - when I have to do all the work of creating the story.

RPG's have typically been split into two genres - PC RPG's, which prize nonlinearity, have highly advanced stat management systems, and typically more content in explorable areas than in the main storyline. Oblivion, Fable, KOTOR fit these to a T. The other genre, the Japanese RPG, typically has one linear storyline, simpler (though still complex) stat management, and very long core playtime. There are more subgenres - tactics RPG's, pet collector quests, and others, but generally it boils down to one of those two. In this article, Leigh seems to ignore this split, and talks only about the stagnation of THE RPG genre.

Now I agree that RPG's are facing stagnation, and I'm probably not involved enough in the argument to understand the reasons behind that. Game companies want to play it safe and make a profit, there are too many games released each year for all of them to be innovative, indy game producers are shut out in the cold by the big companies... There are lots of potential explanations.

I too would like to see more innovation, and I'm perfectly happy to see games like Persona 3 and Bioshock come out - I plan on picking up the latter myself on release day. But I don't want to lost the joys brought by wonderful linear games like Chrono Trigger, FF7, and Kingdom Hearts. Even with their emo moments.


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