213: Roleplaying: Evolved

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This is the dumbest thing I have read in a good long while. It sounds like it was written by one of those Whitewolf LARPers that even all the other D&D nerds think is a dork.

Saying you need an RPG without stats and levels is like asking for an FPS that does away with the shooting or a Madden game without all that "annoying football." Take that stuff out and the game ceases to be an RPG and becomes something different. It may well be a fine game, but it won't be a RPG.

We can accept that RPG in the videogame sense doesn't exactly mean what it means in other contexts. RPG videogames are about stats and levels and numbers; some part of the game has to be hidden beneath an abstract layer. Take out the numbers in Fallout 3 and you have a lousy shooter. Ditto with Mass Effect. Take the numbers out of Neverwinter Nights or Baldur's Gate and you have an RTS with very few units. Take levels out of a final fantasy game and you have a marginally interactive adventure with pointless combat.

Basically, RPGs are a kind of meta-genre which can be applied to any other style of game (see RPG golf games which are currently out). So asking for a stat-less RPG is to just ask for a different genre of game entirely.

Grampy_bone:
We can accept that RPG in the videogame sense doesn't exactly mean what it means in other contexts. RPG videogames are about stats and levels and numbers; some part of the game has to be hidden beneath an abstract layer.

The RPG genre also has a near-monopoly on in-depth dialogue, though.

I don't care what you call the genre that results, but it's time to free that kind of game from the vice-like grip of Charisma and Hit Points.

-- Alex

I completely disagree with this. RPG's are entirely about the stats. It's half the fun of them! It's what I enjoy about them. I love the stats. I love balancing a character I love designing a character. Hell, the metagaming usual beats the gaming in some cases. Depends on the game and story. Numbers are an unavoidable thing; COD4 is full of numbers, you just don't get to really change them outside of MP via perks. This is okay, because COD4 is a FPS and is about run and gunning your way to victory. COD4 is not a RPG. A RPG is based on numbers. Numbers you can influence. Heavily. It's the core of the game. In good RPGs, you get to make the character as you want, within the realm of possibility. You get to choose your focus of how you want to interact in the world, and then you get to interact with it that way. You get to pick your focuses in the world, and you get to see just how good you are at that stuff. It's a critical aspect of the RPG: "Knowing Your Character".

Alex_P:

Grampy_bone:
We can accept that RPG in the videogame sense doesn't exactly mean what it means in other contexts. RPG videogames are about stats and levels and numbers; some part of the game has to be hidden beneath an abstract layer.

The RPG genre also has a near-monopoly on in-depth dialogue, though.

I don't care what you call the genre that results, but it's time to free that kind of game from the vice-like grip of Charisma and Hit Points.

-- Alex

You're talking about the adventure game genre, which died a horrible death and is now lurching around like a zombie.

Face it, take away the stats, numbers, levels, and combat and the result isn't much fun except to a tiny niche.

After reading this article, my problem is that I don't see what the problem is. Three pages, and no clear definition of why stats and levels are such a bad thing. I may be a bit biased as an old time AD&D player (1979 until today), but I think that levels and stats work quite well. You have to define the character somehow. If it's not levels and stats, you have to use something else. For example, in the game Over The Edge, you defined your character by using descriptive traits rather than stats. No levels, and it worked, but you couldn't use a system like that for a CRPG. You need a guiding intelligence in the game master, and no computer can provide that yet.

Personally, I prefer systems that don't use levels as such, but I've never seem an RPG without stats of some kind that worked. Even most of the diceless RPG's (Amber, for example) have stats or traits of some kind. Your character has to be defined in relation to other characters and the world in some fashion or another. How are you going to do that without defining such basics as how strong or how fast he/she is? You have to have something to work with, or it's just narrating a story with friends. Not really an RPG then, that's becoming something else, in my opinion.

What I see as a problem isn't that some games have statistics as much as they have a kitchen sink design ethic. Everything goes into the model and the model is poorly adjusted so that it can do everything. I don't like this as I see it as a sort of unthinking way of designing that has an answer for everything but doesn't care if the design is a good fit for purpose.

In the Neverwinter Nights mod scene there was a design discussion about how riddle solving should be implemented in a game. One solution in the D&D world is to say that the player character has a lore stat so they should get a hint to solve the riddle based on how high their lore stat is. Most NWN players don't like riddles so this is the best solution for all. My argument is that, firstly, if most of your players don't like riddles and you care about their wishes then don't have any. Secondly, solving a riddle by your character just knowing the answer isn't that satisfying and does not communicate the riddle solving process well at all. If most parties have a character with high lore there is also not much challenge in configuring a party.

If you have a good riddle to put in your game then put it in and let the players try to enjoy it as well as they can. If you need a game mechanic that re-creates the triumph of solving a complex riddle without demanding that the player is actually able to solve complex riddles then make something yourself that actually works. Don't just think that the character sheet has a stat that fits so all I need to do is to check that. Let the player do something other than sit back and let the game play itself.

Going to the concept of health points, these are used in a large number of computer games from Super Mario Galaxy to Call of Duty. Their use is constantly evolving and being reinterpreted in increasingly stylised and unrealistic ways to keep the genre interesting. Regenerating health like in Call of Duty 4 could be done in a table top game but it would be harder to manage but it is very much a video game solution to the problem that would be absurd in reality. The fact that in practice it seems more natural than having a health meter that you can refill by using medical kits is pretty surprising.

There must be other solutions out there that would be even better in some ways but other conventions like the player being a one man army who takes hundreds of direct hits in the course of a game will hold back innovation.

Alex_P:

The Random One:
I haven't looked at the Dogs in the Vineyard resources, but do you think a computer could be programmed to run it smoothly?

I think this is the wrong question to ask.

D&D-derived RPG video games (the vast majority of all RPG video games) aren't replicating the exact same play experience as D&D, after all. They're using part of the formula and modifying some things to suit the medium.

The thing is, pretty much all of these D&D-derived video games tend to rehash the same kind of D&D-like story: a zero-to-hero fantasy bildungsroman full of combat, treasure, and black-and-white morality. That's... getting really old.

-- Alex

What do you suggest as an alternative?

Your need stats and levels in games. They are absolutly required.

If you start your days battling rats or something like that and hope to end them doing anyhting else then your character needs to grow not just as a person but also as a being within the computers number based brain. Thus you have levels. It tells the computer (and you) how far your character has come so he can leave the basement and stop killing rats.

Stats are less important but more enjoyable. You dont need them. RPGs could become like Halo where the only differance between your hero and the next guys is the weapon he has in his hand at the time. That would do away with tweaking your Str and Cha stats around. And also make character creation pointless. Why write an involving backstory for your DnD character if all his time spent in the Slave Pits hasnt made him tougher or stronger or less/more emotionaly vulnerable than that halfling guy who spends all his time fishing?

Removing these (both of them) would reduce each character to just a name, a backstory, and a weapon. If that wepaon is magical you can fight dragons. If its not you fight rats. The game could only make your character grow in power and prestige by giving him a better sword. The story would be the same every time you played it because you would have no differances in stats to give you alternate conversation options or anyhting like that.

Grampy_bone:
You're talking about the adventure game genre, which died a horrible death and is now lurching around like a zombie.

Face it, take away the stats, numbers, levels, and combat and the result isn't much fun except to a tiny niche.

I'd say that's because their approach to "gameplay" was nonsense puzzles and pixelbitching.

-- Alex

Alex_P:

Grampy_bone:
You're talking about the adventure game genre, which died a horrible death and is now lurching around like a zombie.

Face it, take away the stats, numbers, levels, and combat and the result isn't much fun except to a tiny niche.

I'd say that's because their approach to "gameplay" was nonsense puzzles and pixelbitching.

-- Alex

I still can't accept explanations like that for adventure games not being as popular. If murder mystery novels stopped being popular could I get away with saying that it was because the same person committed the crime no matter how you read it and it is only a mystery because of some bullshit that is only revealed at the end of the book?

I'd rather look to the economics of production and changes in technology for an explanation. A large factor in the trends in game design is what seems interesting or fashionable to the creators anyway.

Muphin_Mann:
If you start your days battling rats or something like that and hope to end them doing anyhting else then your character needs to grow not just as a person but also as a being within the computers number based brain. Thus you have levels. It tells the computer (and you) how far your character has come so he can leave the basement and stop killing rats.

That's exactly the thing: constant massive "character growth" through level-ups only fits a particular kind of story: the kind that starts with some teenage loser crushing rats and ends with a gold-draped champion fighting dragons with his Vorpal Flametongue Holy Avenger. That's not actually a very versatile story structure, and, thanks to decades of tabletop and video-game RPGs, it's horribly freakin' overplayed.

Look at Mass Effect. Do levels represent anything within the narrative of the game? Why is an elite commando who already has a long and storied career behind him/her quadrupling his/her abilities over the course of the story? Why the hell is the universe filled with rifles that look and work the same way but hit ten times as hard as other rifles?

Look at how everything in the game levels with you because that's the only way the designers could think to maintain some semblance of interesting gameplay while telling the story they were trying to tell. The whole game, you're fighting the same stupid robots but now they're level 40 instead of level 3. That tells me the story really wasn't written for "levels"; they're just an RPG sacred cow that had to be shoehorned in, either because it's what the fans want or because Bioware couldn't come up with anything else.

-- Alex

Alex_P:

Well. You definitely answered the questions I had. Thank you! I actually do better understand the reference now.

More Fun To Compute:
I'd rather look to the economics of production and changes in technology for an explanation.

It wasn't an explanation. It was a counter to the claim that adventure games died because they didn't have enough game mechanics yoinked from D&D.

-- Alex

Oolinthu:
What do you suggest as an alternative?

I'd like to see "hybrid" games that don't force RPG mechanics on you just because they have an RPG-like approach to character dialogue. Mass Effect didn't need levels and it definitely needn't need the constant shuffle of incrementally-improving loot. Deus Ex didn't really gain a lot from having a skill system that mostly served to make you use more multitools and handicap your aim.

I'd like to see games that don't take ever-increasing stats for granted. It's not always appropriate to the theme and genre of the story.

I'd like to see games that better relate character growth, even if it is just the usual "you get more powerful" kind of thing, to fictional events within the game. Going out and learning new martial arts and magic in Jade Empire was a lot more interesting than incrementally buffing them up with points from level-ups.

I'd like to see games avoid the use of RPG-style items and levels as a design cop-out, too, a trick to dangle a shiny future in front of the players so you can distract them from how humdrum and clumsy the moment-to-moment gameplay actually is. (This is something that I think Fallout 3 and Mass Effect are deeply guilty of, for example.)

-- Alex

Alex_P:

Muphin_Mann:
If you start your days battling rats or something like that and hope to end them doing anyhting else then your character needs to grow not just as a person but also as a being within the computers number based brain. Thus you have levels. It tells the computer (and you) how far your character has come so he can leave the basement and stop killing rats.

That's exactly the thing: constant massive "character growth" through level-ups only fits a particular kind of story: the kind that starts with some teenage loser crushing rats and ends with a gold-draped champion fighting dragons with his Vorpal Flametongue Holy Avenger. That's not actually a very versatile story structure, and, thanks to decades of tabletop and video-game RPGs, it's horribly freakin' overplayed.

Look at Mass Effect. Do levels represent anything within the narrative of the game? Why is an elite commando who already has a long and storied career behind him/her quadrupling his/her abilities over the course of the story? Why the hell is the universe filled with rifles that look and work the same way but hit ten times as hard as other rifles?

Look at how everything in the game levels with you because that's the only way the designers could think to maintain some semblance of interesting gameplay while telling the story they were trying to tell. The whole game, you're fighting the same stupid robots but now they're level 40 instead of level 3. That tells me the story really wasn't written for "levels"; they're just an RPG sacred cow that had to be shoehorned in, either because it's what the fans want or because Bioware couldn't come up with anything else.

-- Alex

Thats just one game. What about something like Oblivion where as you advance you fight bigger more interesting more varied opponents.

And while i suppose you could tell a story without the character growing more personaly powerful you would have to be a very very good story teller to keep someone interested until the end (since every bit that isnt pure story will be the exact same cookie cutter sequences).

Heck, even books often have characters grow in power as the story goes on. Look at Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman.

Muphin_Mann:
What about something like Oblivion where as you advance you fight bigger more interesting more varied opponents.

Oblivion is full of D&D-isms through and through. Of course it's going to have a D&D-like zero-to-hero bildungsroman plot.

(Also, I don't really know how to describe Oblivion's approach to skills and levels as anything other than "botched".)

-- Alex

Ah, the beauties of the English language, and the human mind's need for labels. Honestly, I think what Alex is suggesting (taking out the "numbers" [levels and stats and such]) would fail miserably if it was labeled as an RPG. Consider

Alex_P:

Muphin_Mann:
What about something like Oblivion where as you advance you fight bigger more interesting more varied opponents.

Oblivion is full of D&D-isms through and through. Of course it's going to have a D&D-like zero-to-hero bildungsroman plot.

(Also, I don't really know how to describe Oblivion's approach to skills and levels as anything other than "botched".)

-- Alex

In his own words, an RPG that tried something different was "botched." Once you take out the stats from an RPG, what do you end up with? A first person shooter. Now, the FPS might have layered dialogued and choices, like Jedi Knight and JK2, where you chose new Force Powers after each mission, but in the end, it is still considered a FPS.

Why is that? Because of human expectations. We label something, and then people expect certain things from that game. JRPG, Western RPG, those words evoke certain things, to the point that people will dispute that certain games even belong in those categories. Why? Because it doesn't live up to their expectations.

In the end, the "blame" lies both with the designers, and with the audience, because the audience expects something when a label is applied, and the designers try to live up to those expectations (and make money doing it; never forget the money at stake.) If you want something different, just ignore the label and make what you want.

brenatevi:
In his own words, an RPG that tried something different was "botched."

A "level" system which directly penalizes you for advancing your class' central skills is a design mistake. It really is that simple.

-- Alex

It's not that "taking out the stats" wouldn't work, although anyone saying that video games can work without any numbers is either naive or trolling. Most video games are heavily influenced by D&D without sticking to many of it's conventions.

Take somebody like Sandy Petersen who went from being a D&D fan to working on Call of Cthulu before ending up in the video games industry. He worked on games like Darklands, Pirates and Quake. Darklands is a "proper RPG" as purists would have it but then his career takes more interesting turns. In Sid Meier's Pirates, concepts like health point and levels are not so important and are exchanged for concepts like wealth and fame. Instead of resolving situations with stat checks there are mini games. He then goes on to work on level design in Quake which does have health points but character levels are exchanged for player skill and weapons. The level design and combat in Quake was a richer experience for the player than the typical RPG. Quake didn't have the same scope as an RPG but what it did, it did well.

I'm not saying that Sandy Peterson is the main man on all of this but his career does have an interesting path.

The fact is that video games have already gone through the process of abandoning D&D conventions just for the sake of sticking with the conventions. Games like Oblivion and Mass Effect are stylised throwbacks that use the old conventions to play on peoples expectations, as said above.

Alex_P:

brenatevi:
In his own words, an RPG that tried something different was "botched."

A "level" system which directly penalizes you for advancing your class' central skills is a design mistake. It really is that simple.

-- Alex

I stand corrected. :)

But still my point stands that the reason game designers don't "throw out" the D&D style systems is because we the player expect them.

Alex_P:

brenatevi:
In his own words, an RPG that tried something different was "botched."

A "level" system which directly penalizes you for advancing your class' central skills is a design mistake. It really is that simple.

-- Alex

Making something more challenging and penalizing are two very different things, my friend.

And even if it was a failed attempted the issue wasnt with the core concept (you practice somehting, you get better at it) so much as how quickly it scaled and how useful some things where versus others.

Also, you ignored my point about other mediums, such as books or movies.

Has there ever been an RPG with no stats at all? WOuldnt that just be people telling a story together. Its impossible to make a game like that (i think) because you cant program enough depths and possible story paths to simulate every possible story a group of people could make. Or even a tiny fraction of those.

brenatevi:
But still my point stands that the reason game designers don't "throw out" the D&D style systems is because we the player expect them.

There's significant room for innovation even in stuff that players think of as genre-defining.

There was a time when FPSes had to have med kits strewn around. It wasn't until recently that we've seen games offer an alternative. Before you scoff and say that's trivial, remember that gaining and losing health basically defines the shooter' cycle of play; changing that changes everything.

"Tower defense" has considerably broadened what form "micromanagement" can take in an RTS.

MMORPGs used to be all about "camping" the same monster spawn. Instancing and other gameplay innovations have altered that radically. This is an absolutely monumental change in how these games are actually played.

-- Alex

Alex_P:

brenatevi:
But still my point stands that the reason game designers don't "throw out" the D&D style systems is because we the player expect them.

There's significant room for innovation even in stuff that players think of as genre-defining.

There was a time when FPSes had to have med kits strewn around. It wasn't until recently that we've seen games offer an alternative. Before you scoff and say that's trivial, remember that gaining and losing health basically defines the shooter' cycle of play; changing that changes everything.

"Tower defense" has considerably broadened what form "micromanagement" can take in an RTS.

MMORPGs used to be all about "camping" the same monster spawn. Instancing and other gameplay innovations have altered that radically. This is an absolutely monumental change in how these games are actually played.

-- Alex

Valid points, but you just can't overthrow human expectations overnight. It takes a lot of time and effort (which in a lot of cases equals a lot of money) to get players to think differently, and often there is great risks in trying something differently.

Yet, with the Internet and browser games, there is still the opportunity to try different paths like you suggest, the tower games you brought up is the perfect example. They cost little to produce, therefor little risk of loss. Too bad their image among "real gamers" is so bad, because maybe the next revolution in RPGs is happening there.

Alex_P:

Muphin_Mann:
If you start your days battling rats or something like that and hope to end them doing anyhting else then your character needs to grow not just as a person but also as a being within the computers number based brain. Thus you have levels. It tells the computer (and you) how far your character has come so he can leave the basement and stop killing rats.

That's exactly the thing: constant massive "character growth" through level-ups only fits a particular kind of story: the kind that starts with some teenage loser crushing rats and ends with a gold-draped champion fighting dragons with his Vorpal Flametongue Holy Avenger. That's not actually a very versatile story structure, and, thanks to decades of tabletop and video-game RPGs, it's horribly freakin' overplayed.

Look at Mass Effect. Do levels represent anything within the narrative of the game? Why is an elite commando who already has a long and storied career behind him/her quadrupling his/her abilities over the course of the story? Why the hell is the universe filled with rifles that look and work the same way but hit ten times as hard as other rifles?

Look at how everything in the game levels with you because that's the only way the designers could think to maintain some semblance of interesting gameplay while telling the story they were trying to tell. The whole game, you're fighting the same stupid robots but now they're level 40 instead of level 3. That tells me the story really wasn't written for "levels"; they're just an RPG sacred cow that had to be shoehorned in, either because it's what the fans want or because Bioware couldn't come up with anything else.

-- Alex

The important part is in bold. I like how you said that; you implied that making a game for the fans tastes was somehow a bad thing.

Face it, the experience of going from weak to powerful is one of the most compelling mechanics in all of gaming (just look at the success of MMOs). I'm sorry that you have suffer all this annoying gameplay to get in the way of your beloved narratives and dialogues, but some of us expect our interactive entertainment to be, well, interactive. You want something 100% focused on story? Don't play videogames for it.

Grampy_bone:
The important part is in bold. I like how you said that; you implied that making a game for the fans tastes was somehow a bad thing.

Sometimes, fans are stuck in a rut.

MMORPGs are a great example. When the recent generations of games first came out, fans bitched up and down about certain mechanics that they were used to being absent from WoW and its contemporaries. One of those mechanics was sitting (to rest, not just an emote), which was a very poor attempt to translate D&D's resting mechanics that only served to bog down play in MMOGs. Then, very quickly, they forgot about it. Because it really was useless and irrelevant even though they had come to expect it.

I don't think levels are as useless as sitting. They're more like medkits. Every FPS used to have medkits. A lot of them still do. But, well, you don't need medkits to create compelling gameplay in an FPS.

Giving up conventions stats and levels doesn't mean giving up "gameplay" any more than stepping away from Armor Classes and Spell Slots means making it "freeform". But, jeez, I can see the games themselves struggling confusedly to shoehorn levels in where they don't fit. That means it's time to actually think about another path.

-- Alex

Levels and stats are awesome, and you can take them away from me when you pry them from my cold, dead hands. Without any form of progression, no matter where your character ostensibly starts out, what you have is a plateau. That can be fine in certain game types, but you can find "gradual increase in player power" in just about every genre of gaming, even if explicit statistics are omitted.

Meta-gaming for life!

"Bang, you're dead!"
"Nu uhh, I dodged it"
"Did not!"
"Did to!"
-Cops and Robbers, early childhood.

Stats are there for a reason. Primarily tied to combat. The only deviation I can see is jump to Boolean type stats "Can climb, can't climb". But then you get to the unstoppable force vs. Immovable object paradox when two characters with the appropriate skills try to oppose each other.

Nice article, and I would like to attempt to answer this question in it:

"But why do they continue to thrust numerical values for Strength and Levels in our faces?"

I think because the message was lost in the translation.

Somewhere along the line in the process of porting the RPG from one medium to another, someone misunderstood the purpose of the numbers and why these are there, establishing a trend that many players now can;t live without and it is inconceivable for some that a game, and RPG, could exist in the computer without Strength and Levels.

But lets ask ourselves something here - and specially those that have played Pen and Paper games - when you gather with your friends every now and then to play a pen & paper RPG game, do you do it because you are looking forward to the next Adventure or because you want to Level your Characters?

In my experience, it is the prospect of the Adventure itself that intices people to gather and have fun.

I never heard any of my Pen & Paper gaming friends say "Hey guys lets please play this Saturday afternoon, because I want to level my character"...

On the other hand, I often hear my Computer game friends say "We need to gather up and play together tonight because I am very close to leveling".

Hence, this is why, I believe somewhere along the line, the message got lost, and Computer RPG's, even mainstream MMORPG's, are nothing more than a single minded quest that revolves around leveling one's character (be it it through Character Levels, Its Gold or its Gear)...as the actual fun of Adventuring with others in a fantastic world, got left out of the design.

Pinstar:
"Bang, you're dead!"
"Nu uhh, I dodged it"
"Did not!"
"Did to!"
-Cops and Robbers, early childhood.

Stats are there for a reason. Primarily tied to combat.

All game mechanics should be there for a reason, yes. In a tabletop RPG, "I shot you!"/"No you didn't!" isn't the real reason to have stats, though.

Pinstar:
The only deviation I can see is jump to Boolean type stats "Can climb, can't climb". But then you get to the unstoppable force vs. Immovable object paradox when two characters with the appropriate skills try to oppose each other.

In a video game, you've got a pretty rich ability to involve the player in real-time decision-making. Do you need to know who's the strongest when you can actually let the player dodge and parry and attack for his character in real time? (Or in a lightweight turn-based structure with rock-paper-scissors-style simultaneous actions, if you prefer.)

Putting a lot of decision-making into character creation and "level-up" time tends to detract from the variety of tactical decision-making in play. Some games even abuse these kinds of long-term reward system to distract their players from how tedious or shallow the moment-to-moment gameplay can be. (And we're seeing that kind of grindsome stuff expand into other genres, so I'd really love to see someone really, really challenge the idea that it's necessary for an RPG.)

-- Alex

The real problem isn't stats in RPGs, it's people that think they can make a better game of a certain genre by making it a different genre. F- off. You're not talking about improving RPGs, you're talking about making RPGs something completely different. Zelda is NOT an RPG, it has always been labeled what it is: an adventure game. Note that there is a difference between point-and-click adventure and just adventure. These days EVERY damn game has some kind of "rpg element" in it. It's getting out of hand. Technically EVERY game is an RPG because RPG means role playing game and you're always playing some kind of role.

It's simple, RPGs aren't defined by the fact they have stories, or parties, they're defined like every other game genre ever: by how they play. RPGs have stats, end of story. jRPGs have a lot of menus in battles, wRPGs typically have top-down views and open-ended gameplay, though the view can be changed, like Bethesda's turds-in-a-box games. Bioware makes wRPGs, Bethesda makes turds and calls them RPGs. Games like Zelda are adventure games, like Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, Jak & Daxter, or the old Banjo-Kazooie games, because they're less linear than aRPGs, and have less stats. Some would argue Banjo-Kazooie is a platformer, but platformers focus more on actual platforming, like the recent 'Splosion Man, or Mirror's Edge. Back to RPGs, you also have aRPGs, action RPGs like the Seiken Densetsu (Mana) series and Kingdom Hearts. And finally there's sRPGs, strategy RPGs like Front Mission, FFTactics, and Disgaea and all NIS's many other games. And that's just RPGs and RPG-like genres, there's way, way more genres than that, people just need to pay more attention to their language and stop being so vague. And people also need to stop trying to make a game something it isn't. As soon as you get your RPG without stats it'll no longer be an RPG. In fact we already have tons of those, you just need to get out of your hole.

Dreyfuss:
Bioware makes wRPGs, Bethesda makes turds and calls them RPGs. Games like Zelda are adventure games, like Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, Jak & Daxter, or the old Banjo-Kazooie games, because they're less linear than aRPGs, and have less stats.

Bioware's latest offerings have:
Jade Empire -- no classes, three stats that just set how much health/mana/bullet-time you have, and a bunch of skills that you boost as you gain levels, no real equipment beyond bonus-granting jewel thingies
Mass Effect -- classes, no stats, a bunch of skills that you boost as you gain levels, a monster-leveling system that negates the weapon-leveling system
But they're still Real True Honest RPGs because...?

-- Alex

Don't get rid of statistics in RPG's it is what makes an RPG an RPG, the statistics provide choice if you're not some idiot who thinks only of gaining levels to become "the best in the game" that's not the point to leveling, with the stats you choose how you fit into the game's world and how successful you become while experiencing that choice. Now I have a feeling people will probably tell me duh or something like that but I found it kind of hard to follow along with the article it was a little well windbagged which really dragged me away from whatever he was saying... so this is basically just my best interpretation of what he was trying to say... or providing a good arguement why RPG's should keep statistics.

Thats great and all and ill admit that character strength doesnt have to be measured in numbers, but this article doesnt give any kind of alternative idea. It just says numbers arent the best and leaves it at that. If they arent the best, whats a better system? And personally, I would love not to have numbers because numbers are relative to the game that youre playing. the main reason i love rpgs is that they really give you a sense of investment in your character. The more time you put in trying to make them the best they can be, the more you see that they are becoming stronger. If a game can show growth without numbers, that would be a much better rpg system. Although its barely a rpg, i think crackdown started to go a little bit into what im talking about. It did show what level your at, but every time you upgraded your agility skill you could feel it in gameplay. After upgrading it became obvious that you were running faster and jumping higher, and a system like that really draws you in because you see that your improving, not just being told that. At least thats my opinion and please feel free to disagree with/poke holes in my explanation=]

Dear god, this is a poorly written article.

First off, chimps didn't become people. We share a common ancestor. L2TheTheoryofEvolution.

Second off, stats are an important part of the game. They're not a distraction, they're a puzzle to be optimized. If anything, developers need to pay more attention to stats. They're also a way customize your character, which is a cornerstone of RPGs.

Stats change the way we experience a game. A Fallout 3 character with high speech will experience different things than one with no speech. Mass Effect plays very differently if you pick biotics rather than being a soldier.

I don't really see how this article is calling for anything more than the dumbing down of RPGs. Maybe if you had an actual idea on what to replace them with, this article would be less of a joke.

Alex_P:
Bioware's latest offerings have:
Jade Empire -- no classes, three stats that just set how much health/mana/bullet-time you have, and a bunch of skills that you boost as you gain levels, no real equipment beyond bonus-granting jewel thingies
Mass Effect -- classes, no stats, a bunch of skills that you boost as you gain levels, a monster-leveling system that negates the weapon-leveling system
But they're still Real True Honest RPGs because...?

-- Alex

Actually I was talking about NWN and KotOR. JE and ME are more like aRPGs. JE is very light on the RPG elements but ME is definitely an RPG with aiming. The weapons aren't static, they're based on stats and skills tied to your character in a way that's deeper than selecting a few perks in a game like CoD4. I'd say it's right on the border of RPG territory and is a hybrid game. Anyway, what I really meant by that though was that Bioware is typically considered a wRPG developer, and they make good games, and meanwhile Bethesda makes tripe with boring combat and cardboard characters. Sandboxes aren't fun when all the toys are broken.

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