Tuesday, 17 January 2012

What's an RPG?

Sure, this subject has been covered a couple of times - look here and here for starters. But there's often a magical 'look and feel' element that leads people to decide that one game is an RPG and another game isn't.

So. Is Long Live The Queen an RPG?

My initial reaction was to say no. After all, while Princess Maker 2 is generally considered "part RPG", the later games in the PM series are classed as pure raising sims.

But by almost any sufficiently general description of RPGs, a raising sim is going to fall quite close to being accepted. After all, you are guiding the development of a character. You are making consequential choices. Your success in the game is determined by the character's stats, not the player's twitch skills. There's even that little element of dice-rolling in most of them, where you MIGHT succeed in raising your stats or you might fail (usually based on stress). The only spot where it falls out is that in a classic raising sim you are not supposed to identify with the avatar so much as to be 'guiding' it. Your daughter in Princess Maker can decide to be a brat and run off and do things without your input. She's not "you", she's your CHILD.

And that's the element that I'm always throwing out and going straight for "you are the character".

Another suspicious wait-maybe-this-is-an-RPG-after-all moment: If the ongoing plot of LLTQ were written in gamebook format, you would need a character sheet to play it. Your character skills are absolutely crucial at all times to what text you see, what options you have, how your choices turn out. You even have, to some extent, an inventory of items that boost your stats. And if you're playing through an adventure with a character sheet and inventory, it becomes harder to argue that this isn't, in fact, some kind of RPG.

Why did I initially say it wasn't? Or at least, that it doesn't fall into the standard CRPG genre? Because there's no blow-by-blow combat. There is combat, under some circumstances. You have skills in weapons and magic, and they will get used. But it happens in a narrative way, quickly resolved, without dice-rolling. (There is no randomness at any point in LLTQ. Skills are compared as flat values. Under some definitions this may disqualify it as an RPG.)

I suspect people who are looking for CRPGs probably have certain things in their mind that are important, and I expect that lack of crunchy combat to be a big turnoff for them. Therefore, I don't want to advertise the game as an RPG - even though it may be - because I don't want to deal with that conflict of expectations.

On the other hand if I decided to IGF this at the end of the year, I think I could describe it as "experimental RPG" and make a decent argument... What do you think?

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