Computer games reviews and ramblings on games and gaming, from a gamer, roleplayer and LARPer.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

What is a CRPG? Part 1 of what will probably be an extended meander through my subjective views.

So, in a computer game context, what is roleplay?

I've been pacing around this subject for a while, and rather than blurge all over my personal blog, I thought that it would make a good starting point for the gaming blog I've been thinking of doing for a while now anyway. The main thrust of the argument  is essenially my opinion directly opposed that of the denizens of the RPGcodex forum, or at least those I could glean before the smug aggressive tone of that place made it impossible for me to continue reading.

You see, the prevailing theory there seems to be that stats make a game, that there hasn't been a good CRPG since Baldur's Gate and that the option to engage in activities that entail no systemic benefit or major plot advancement is 'LARPing', and that this is for some reason a bad thing.

Needless to say I could not disagree more strongly.

Here's an example: Mass Effect 2 came under fire for having lots of flashy graphics, and a very limited set of stats and weapons available. Now I like chatacter advancement, I have that impulse, and I love the lewts as much as the next geek, but I found this approach liberating, and much more like roleplay as I've come to understand it.

I wasn't obsessively comparing the stats of twelve different pistols, I wasn't waiting for my next level to see if I could get 4% stronger, I was focussing on my missions, on my people, on my interactions with my colleagues and  the ramifications of my decisions.

In other words, I was much more immersed in the character than the character sheet. And the very strong graphics just made everything more immediate and visceral. Even being forced to play in third rather than first person (first always being my preference) wasn't enough to diminish the emotional impact of events that occurred around me, events which - even mid-cinematic - I felt my actions had a genuine impact on, even if the majority of my choices were binary.


  1. Currently I'm most of the way through Mass Effect - having ignored many of the sidequests (which my completist brain would normally make me play) due to my character strongly believing that the main quest is more important. Which is a rather nice change! My main bugbear is the number of weapons, armours, mods, skills and stats available, which just give me massive amounts of choice that I don't want.

    I'm looking forward to Mass Effect 2..

  2. Nuthin' good since Baldur's Gate? Surely Deus Ex (still best game ever) and Planescape: Torment (admittedly a BG spin-off).

  3. I think recently I've found Alpha Protocol's approach to story and roleplaying one of the most fresh and enjoyable ones.

    A crucial aspect of it is that you never really find out whether any of your choices were right or wrong and many consequences are more subtle than not. Which is an aspect of ME and DA I've not enjoyed so much - everything is a little too clear. True, there's slightly more Lighter grey/Darker grey going on there, but many outcomes are presented too obviously.

    Likewise, the Witcher (and now Witcher 2) treats the player in a more mature fashion. The player is asked to decide and then make up their mind whether they did it right or wrong, or if they had no choice. Some decisions other will comment on, others you'll just see what happens. It feels so much more... roleplay-ey.

    And yeah, I reckon those things matter far far far more than stats. But the two don't have to be mutually exclusive. But you chose one? Work at the story, interaction, characters.

  4. @Chaosdeathfish
    I was writing a big long reply, but the subject of it is enough for a whole new post...

    I may have been using a touch of Hyperbole, but not much, it's the one they hark back to as the pinnacle of the art when denigrating anything that does things differently.

    rest assured that all of the games you mention (except Witcher2, I don't have that) will be getting full reviews as this blog goes on.