283: Introducing The Escapist's Genre Wheel

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Conflict vs exploration and action vs strategy are good dimensions for comparing games.

When you put them on a circle however, only pure action or strategy games appear to allow a blend of conflict and exploration.
I reckon it would have worked better on a 2 dimensional chart.

Finally, when a game clearly belongs to an established genre like a shooter or diablo clone, then it's still more informative to call it a shooter or tpl, than an A-C.

econael:

Nojh:

So I need to disagree with some of your placements. I can't see how Plants vs Zombies has any real exploration elements. I could see how someone might consider the zombies to be "surviving the environment" but is that really exploration or is it simply just conflict?

PvZ should be even more to the left of the chart!
You're seldom actively in conflict with the zombies, mostly you're focusing on placing the plants, battling with lack of space, fog, barren terrain and the *type* of zombies, but rarely single zombies. They're mostly stacked up on each other and you don't pay much attention to them, except if it's a giant and you have to place bombs to kill him, that would be a direct conflict part.

Nojh:

Also I contest your placement of Diablo 2. We call it an action-RPG because back in the day, it was one of the first RPGs to let you walk around and hit things in real time but if you analyze the gameplay, It is mostly all your stats. You move and you click a lot, occasionally hitting other buttons to fire off different more complicated abilities. In otherwirds you have a mostly indirect influence on what is happening on the screen. Diablo is also all about looking around enviroments and finding loot. Classic exploration. Conflict is where things are a little iffy in my opinion. For the most part all the creatures you find in diablo aren't really in anyway similar to you. They're all "trash" mobs that are pretty much apart of the background and environment. Only a few of the bosses, Diablo in particular, stand out as something that you go toe to toe against, which is why I say it straddles the SE/SCE line. Which would ironically place it more as Adventure or RPG than the ususal "Action-RPG" we call it.

Are you kidding/trolling me? :D

Not having enough real conflict is what most of the Diablo2 clones do wrong.
In D2, you can escape the trajectory of missiles, so can the enemies. Position is imperative. Flash-like reflexes are also.

Trash mobs... Have you been in hell? Hardcore + hell?
Of course when you're 99 and all geared up, most mobs are trash, but on the way to there, there are enough things which can easily kill you in a second or two if you're not paying attention.

Btw, since when do enemies need to be as strong as you? Then you wouldn't be able to kill hordes of them, now where's the fun in that =)

Bosses being toe-to-toe with you? Wtf? They are insanely imba (Duriel) or can 2 hit you (Mephisto, Diablo) if you're not careful and cheese them.

Don't take it personal if it's not true, but you sound like you haven't played much of D2.

Do you know what an Adventure is? Monkey Island. That's an Adventure. Not D2.

Hmm. Fair enough. I think when I wrote this, I wasn't working off how they defined exploration in the article but the more literal definition of exploration, where you explore, rather than being the opposite of direct conflict. I suppose massive clicking to kill enemies is direct conflict, even if it is a simple control, and the difficulty of surviving what is attacking you shouldn't have any bearing on if it is or isn't direct conflict. So environment is actually anything you can't actually "deal with" by directly conflicting with it.

So are traps that you can disable direct conflict, or environment?

Thats really clever, hope it becomes accepted as default here on the escapist if not wider spread.

It got me thinking, where would you place action RTS? (or whatever the accepted name for the genre is) games like DotA, HoN, LoL and demigod. They incorporate elements of RTS (beeing based on RTS mods) but instead of controlling the army and base buiilding, you controll only one hero, RPG style where you level up, buy gear and while small compared to real RPGs you still have a skill tree. While you only controll a single unit, it's still highly strategic, and youhave to work as a team.

Exploration/conflict is easy to determine, theres just about as little exlporation as you can get, and you have 2 teams with an equal number highly balanced (hopefully) heroes competing on a symetrical map with even bases and creeps, it's almost pure conflict.

As for teh action/strategy part, it requires split second decisions nd good reaction in order to play well, but at the same time, you the team need to have a plan from the start, many games are more or less won before the actual game starts based on heroes picked by the teams, and how they chose to lane them. IMO it takes a spot between action and strategy.
I just had to ask because i got currious as to where on the chart you'd put it.

I think copycatalyst has a good point, and his five point maps do a better descriptive job for gameplay genres.

They also account better for Grand Strategy (and to a lesser extent RTS and TBS, as they tend to have smaller environments), which I don't think you've placed very well. GS games tend to have a significant exploratory component, because they tend to be games of imperfect information (games of imperfect information are ones where any individual player doesn't know everything about the game at once. Poker, for instance, is imperfect information, you know what you have in your hand, you don't know what your opponents have in theirs. Chess is a game of perfect information by contrast, both players can see all of the pieces all of the time.)

Because the player has imperfect information, they need to explore the gameworld in order to fill the gaps in the information they possess, and that's generally an ongoing process because you're exploring a fundamentally dynamic world (your opponents are moving as well as you).

Grand Strategy, and to a lesser extent RTS and TBS have much greater exploratory content than your wheel indicates. And I'd suggest that fighting games have a lot less. They're almost the most "pure" expressions of conflict in a videogame, they're games of perfect information, with nothing left to explore.

So where does Diablo3 - being an Action RPG - fit that scale?

Sports under conflict? Thre's a (mostly large) difference between conflict and competition.

Seems good, but I have so many games that would equally qualify for two opposite parts of the wheel from each other.

dastardly:

Steve Butts:
...
[quote]For me, RPGs are primarily about: 1) stat-based character advancement, 2) rules-oriented combat, and 3) story consequences driven by player choice.

1) Yep, that's the "character-based strategy" element I'm thinking about. You're planning out and executing something according to a sequentially-oriented set of options, most often along a branching chain. It's just that the "something" is a character/party instead of a city or base full of dudes.

2) Isn't this one really just the logical extension of #1--I mean, you've got all these fancy stats, so it only makes sense that combat would be based around the manipulation of those stats. (You could also argue it works in the opposite direction, and that the stats are based on the type of combat rules you plan to have. Either way, I think these two can be collapsed into a single concept.)

...

Solely directed at "2)"

Those two things doesn't have to be extensions of each other.
In typical (i know by now you hate the term, but bear with me) RPGs you have both, but it's quite possible to have 1 without having 2, while i can't come up with any good examples of existing games (maybe robot arena?), i'll try to explain it as best as i can.

Imagine a fighter game, tekken street figther whatever. Only, you, or more accurately, your character, get experience points and levels up. Theres tons of stuff that could be tweaked to build your own personal ass-kicking avatar, heres a few examples of some things that could be done
You could unlock more moves
Character movement (back and forth) speed increase
Attack speed (the tiem it takes from you pressing the appropriate buttons, till the character lands teh hit)
Attack damage
Attack recovery (the time from the impact on your attack till your character "regains balance" and allows you to do new moves)
Hit recovery (like above, but when you're the one who got hit)
Attack range
Characters HP
effectiveness of a block move (say when you block you still take a little damage, this would determien how much)
If it's a game like soul calibour, you could use different weapons etc wchich would prolly encompass most of the above.

Many of these stats could easily be seperate for each different move, you could have stats that traded advantages for disadvantages (stronger, but slower attacks for insatnce)

All this could potentially work in as deep a level of stat based character advancement as in typical RPG's, yet the combat isn't any more rule-based than teh fighters we know today, it's still twitchy actiony combat, focusing on a players split second deccisions, and proper execution of combos, usually by a correctly timed sequence of button pressing.

I'm using fighters as an example because they're one of the genres furthes away from rules-oriented combat, you could prolly do mre or less teh same thing for a brawler (Dantes inferno does it to a lesser extend with its relic slots and skill-trees for insatnce)

Shooters can also enter this argument, Borderlands for instance have skill trees and weapon stats, but combat is still determined by how good you (the player not the character) shoots, your level and stuff are tools, which you can put to use through your own skills.

It would still be possible for a player of greater skill to beat a player with a higher level character, in many fighters you can set handicap which afefcts the health of teh characters, when i play tekken VS a friend of mine he can often beat me even if i set my health up significantly and he sets his down, so even though i have the stronger character (assuming the characters are balanced, the player who sets his health higher than his opponents has the stronger character, especially if we picked the same one)
This is unlike lots of RPG's, where the combat is more or less decided before it even starts, just by comparing character lvls (stat/rules-based combat), WoW is very guilty of this for instance, good luck standing a chance against a character 20 levels above your own, regasrdless of whether or not you're the better player by miles, unless ofc he's so retarded he runs into lava snd stays there till he's dead.

Nojh:

econael:

Nojh:

Also I contest your placement of Diablo 2. We call it an action-RPG because back in the day, it was one of the first RPGs to let you walk around and hit things in real time but if you analyze the gameplay, It is mostly all your stats. You move and you click a lot, occasionally hitting other buttons to fire off different more complicated abilities. In otherwirds you have a mostly indirect influence on what is happening on the screen. Diablo is also all about looking around enviroments and finding loot. Classic exploration. Conflict is where things are a little iffy in my opinion. For the most part all the creatures you find in diablo aren't really in anyway similar to you. They're all "trash" mobs that are pretty much apart of the background and environment. Only a few of the bosses, Diablo in particular, stand out as something that you go toe to toe against, which is why I say it straddles the SE/SCE line. Which would ironically place it more as Adventure or RPG than the ususal "Action-RPG" we call it.

Are you kidding/trolling me? :D

Not having enough real conflict is what most of the Diablo2 clones do wrong.
In D2, you can escape the trajectory of missiles, so can the enemies. Position is imperative. Flash-like reflexes are also.

Trash mobs... Have you been in hell? Hardcore + hell?
Of course when you're 99 and all geared up, most mobs are trash, but on the way to there, there are enough things which can easily kill you in a second or two if you're not paying attention.

Btw, since when do enemies need to be as strong as you? Then you wouldn't be able to kill hordes of them, now where's the fun in that =)

Bosses being toe-to-toe with you? Wtf? They are insanely imba (Duriel) or can 2 hit you (Mephisto, Diablo) if you're not careful and cheese them.

Don't take it personal if it's not true, but you sound like you haven't played much of D2.

Do you know what an Adventure is? Monkey Island. That's an Adventure. Not D2.

Hmm. Fair enough. I think when I wrote this, I wasn't working off how they defined exploration in the article but the more literal definition of exploration, where you explore, rather than being the opposite of direct conflict. I suppose massive clicking to kill enemies is direct conflict, even if it is a simple control, and the difficulty of surviving what is attacking you shouldn't have any bearing on if it is or isn't direct conflict. So environment is actually anything you can't actually "deal with" by directly conflicting with it.

So are traps that you can disable direct conflict, or environment?

First of all, sorry for double post, but seem better to quote different posts in different posts.

I'd say that diablo has lots of conflict AND exploration.
The combat is obviously conflict IMO, but the loot is where the exploraiton shines through.
How many meph-runs (or whatever runs where used for loot when you played) have you done, not because killing mephisto for the 900'th time is a challenge, but because you where "exploring" or searching for the loot.
When you play through wanting to beat the game, you're focusing on the conflict part, and the loot is there to make you strong enough to do so, therefore loot is a mean to the end which is conflict.
But when i played i (and countless other people) continued after beating Baal on hell, we kept making runs and trades to find and obtain new loot, even though you didn't really need it to win the conflict, and this way, the conflict became means to the end which was loot.

As far as i understand the article, exploration is in no way limited to exploring areas, even though the word might imply that. try looking at diablos heavy loot based gameplay as an exploration element, where you constantly discover new items, new sets, new runewords etc.
And as explained above, exploration and conflict can in the case of D2 both be either the means to an end or the end itself.

TL:DR (or just really simply explained)
Kill monsters to obtain new loot = exploration
Obtain new loot to kill monsters = conflict.

First off, I'd like to say, I really like this classification system, clever and it hits the spot. Haha, good job.

Secondly, first post ever! Yay me. Ahah.

Nojh:

Hmm. Fair enough. I think when I wrote this, I wasn't working off how they defined exploration in the article but the more literal definition of exploration, where you explore, rather than being the opposite of direct conflict. I suppose massive clicking to kill enemies is direct conflict, even if it is a simple control, and the difficulty of surviving what is attacking you shouldn't have any bearing on if it is or isn't direct conflict. So environment is actually anything you can't actually "deal with" by directly conflicting with it.

So are traps that you can disable direct conflict, or environment?

That's a good question. I'd say disabling traps is indirect conflict, since they don't pursue you.
Indirect conflict is moving crates around to traverse a chasm and I don't see much difference to disarming a trap.

Serious Sam/ Painkiller is mostly direct conflict, whereas Half-Life 1+2 have a big portion of indirect conflict.

I'd say the big difference is reaction vs. thinking.
When you're playing Unreal Tournament Instagib/ Quake 3, you're better off if you can shut down your thinking and just react, whereas in Prey / Dark Messiah of Might and Magic you have to stop and think about how you have to interact with your static environment (recursive motion is deemed static for the matter of this conversation) in order to proceed.
In Panumbra / Amnesia, that's all you do since there is no direct conflict.

Finally someone takes a sensical approach to genre classifications in something.

This is the reason I love the Escapist. I tip my hat to you guys!

I think post number 93 has a better "chart" in this thread. As someone else said, if it takes this much text to explain the thing, than it isn't really all that practical.

Adventure = Strategy/Exploration you say... Hmmmmmmmm... Excuse me, but I fail to acknowledge ANY strategy in adventure games. Where's strategy in any of Sam & Max, or Secret of Monkey Island episode ?

Veeerry interesting. We'll see how this plays out

I can't say wether this can accurately define likes and dislikes, since I for, example, like fighting games and brawlers, but hate shooters. Even weirder is, that majority of my games are shades of blue.

It's not exactly mindblowing to make a chart with two axis. I understand the intention, but the whole thing is so simple, so wide and unfocused that it doesn't really mean much of anything. Yes, some games are more focused on exploration, others on conflicts. I can accept that. But where does that eave us? I really don't think the whole "if you like action-combats games you will also like Madden" thing really means anything, and a few genres seem to have been shoehorned into the wheel even if their core gameplay is something else entirely.

Where do point-and-click/visual novel games like Ace Attorney or Hotel Dusk fit in? Action-Exploration?

There seems to still be a little confusion about the CE axis. To answer this question about conflict, it is defined primary as direct competition with other agents similar to your own. So other football players, space marines, world leaders, or tycoons who are playing by the same rules as you, often in a zero-sum situation (i.e. The more I win, the more you lose) are considered forms of conflict.

Exploration is a catch-all term for when the challenge of the game doesn't come from other agents similar to your own. So Tetris blocks, Boeing 747s, and mystery stories represent an indirect challenge to the player.

I will definitely hold onto this chart, however I kind of wonder if the chart can really tell the difference between things that are almost too similar. For instance, vehicle simulation sounds unique enough, but to me there's not enough difference between Grand Turismo and Need for Speed to really consider either one to be simulation vs driving . . . they're both BOTH. But according to the chart they are far from each other.

Very interesting read. I really like how you break it down, basically all of my favorite genres all tend to fall into the Action Axes, and I have a particular fondness for the AE segment of the graph.

Looked at it, thought wtf, then read on and it really makes a load of sense and works pretty well. Good going.

RPG should be near the canter of the circle, as some rpgs include copious amounts of sword fights and such, take oblivion for example

Micah Heller:
RPG should be near the canter of the circle, as some rpgs include copious amounts of sword fights and such, take oblivion for example

Nope. The player's reflexes are definitely secondary to the character's reflexes in Oblivion. The difference between an action game and a strategy game is the difference between what you can do and what your character can do. Yes, you are controlling your character in Oblivion, and, yes, you are swinging the sword and shooting the arrows and spells, but whether they hit or not and how much damage they do is controlled by your stats.

This distinction is not meant to merely reflect the outer form of a game. It's what's going on under the hood that we're looking at with this chart. While a strategy game may have a lot of cinematic action in it, that doesn't make it an action game.

Splendid!

I found myself bit everywhere except in ASE and ASC sectors but the base idea is interesting. This must have been a long process to reinvent the genres. Glad you did this as the genres as they are seem a bit too vague to describe the variety of games there are.

Hopefully this Wheel of genres will catch and be aknowledged by people working in the industry, Since it could potentially help think out of box as long as they leave the outer rims old genres and associations what they should contain.

That IS a very interesting wheel. Me likes it :)

I have some questions though.
1. Half-Life. Is it Action/Conflict, or Action/Conflict/Exploration? I think the latter, because exploring and fighting the environment of Black Mesa is one of the key aspects to get through the game, even though it is commonly referred to as Shooter.
2. Action/RPGs like, let's say, Gothic. The combat there depends as much on the stats (Strategy) as on player's own skills (Action). However, the player's direct control has more meaning, since if you're skilled enough, you can beat the crap out of a troll with a first-level character. Does it put it in the ACE spectrum?
3. Action/RPGs like Diablo, Titan Quest, Sacred. The stats and equipment (Strategy) is much more important in defeating enemies there than the player's reflexes. But still, is it Strategy/Conflict/Exploration or Action/Strategy/Conflict?
4. FPS like Portal. I gather it would fit to the Action/Exploration genre?
5. For example, Chime. It's Strategy alright, I guess, but there isn't a second element that would really fit. I mean, you do battle with time in the Time mode, but... does it make Chime belonging to Strategy/Exploration genre?
6. Platformers (which are considered AE) like Prince of Persia (the first old one). Environment is a great deal to survive and traverse through there, but battles with guards who behave like our avatar are also one of the important (and, well, crucial) elements in the game. So Prince of Persia is A/C/E?
7. If Half-Life and Prince of Persia are both A/C/E, where the similarities in them lie? Different perspective, different controls, different type of conflict (swordfight vs. gunfight), different kind of exploration. Though the principles underneath ARE similar, I guess, and I suppose that is the purpose of the wheel. But I doubt every person who would enjoy Half-Life would also enjoy Prince of Persia (I enjoy both of them, but, well, that doesn't mean everyone will).

how is racing considered exploration?

It is very pretty, though you mentioned that the whole point of the genre wheel is to improve straight foward communication. I think the wheel chart does the opposite, seeing as how it takes all that extra effort to identify the labels, shape, graph and position. Wouldn't it be far better to simply describe a game as "an RPG with first person shooter elements"? This chart actually makes genre definition more cumbersome to anyone not familiar with how it works.

Mass effect 2 is a shooter

The wheel has spoken!

I'm sorry to say this classification has failed to show any patterns to my likes/dislikes. The only genres I won't touch no matter what are Sports, Music (which are on rather distant sides of the spectrum there) and games that are mere skinner boxes, like MMORPGs/"social" games/etc.

The only thing I see in common between them is a general lack of complexity. At their core, Music games are a glorified version of "Simon Says", Sports have relatively simple rules and allow no room for innovation (it's not like you can reinvent football) and skinner boxes are... skinner boxes.

Wow. Defining genres is not an easy thing to do, and I was expecting this wheel to be a huge failure by the time it hit the RPG point of the wheel. But this is actually a pretty good way of going about it.

Do you explore, is there conflict, is there strategy, and is there action? Though there isn't a section for all four to be together yet, it's pretty obvious that would be called ECSA. And the titles match the game play and not the gaming history.

It closely fits most attempts I have seen to define games. I have my five A's of gaming genres: Action, Annihilation, Arcade, Adventure, and Armada. On the 5 goals a game can have: move to a goal, annihilate things, get a high score, quest exploration, and winning a battle you're overseeing. But I can pretty much put these groups around the circle without any trouble.

Action=Exploration/Action.
Annihilation=Action.
Arcade=Conflict.
Armada=Strategy.
Adventure=Exploration/Strategy.

There's a few sub-genre's people might still argue over. Driving and Puzzle games tend to have Zero exploration, and should be way over on the conflict section along with Sport and Fighting games. Still, I think if players start defining games by the amount of exploration to the game, they would find a place on the wheel. And isn't that better than naming a game on whether it has Driving or a Puzzle in it?

A lot of the posts with complaints seem to be about people seeing a game of their favorite genre be on the "wrong" side of an axis. However, those don't seem to realize that the genre's on the outer edge seem to be used more as a reference as to where a typical game of such genre would end up.

Also, as soon as people start claiming certain genres should be at a certain point in between, I start thinking people are forgetting the concept is meant as a way of defining where a game comes out, as the current genres are all labels put on them by players and game-makers.

Not the best article (as your months of discussion can't properly be summed up in 3 pages). But a great idea!

Farlander:
That IS a very interesting wheel. Me likes it :)

I have some questions though.
1. Half-Life. Is it Action/Conflict, or Action/Conflict/Exploration? I think the latter, because exploring and fighting the environment of Black Mesa is one of the key aspects to get through the game, even though it is commonly referred to as Shooter.

Eh? Half Life is a linear game. A corridor crawl. Whether those corridors are actual hallways or floating rocks or a river with high walls with your boat to drive down. There is no exploration.

Brilliant. You put a lot of thought into this and the result is very precise. This wheel will help me try new games, as I am now aware of what elements to look at when I buy a game. Do I want more Action? Feel like getting puzzled over Strategy games? It's a great tool to discover new games.
Several comments mention the difficulty of classifying this or that game according to the chart. To me, it is only normal. As the article mentioned, games are art. Art is by definition hard to classify because it strives to create something new and different. Designers will always come up with something new we'll have a hard time to define at first. That's the beauty of it. Personally, I love new stuff and surprises. ^_^

Anybody who knows how fighting games work, knows that fighters should be in the ASC category. Every reason from zoning, footies, yomi and whatever else that you use your brain for when playing.

econael:
What's the difference between a Brawler and a Fighter?

Easy. A fighting game is a competitive genre where you one player faces off against another to defeat them usually by depleting their health with attacks (punches, kicks, throws, fireballs etc) or by having more health when the game timer runs out. Games like Street fighter 2, Tekken, Soul Calibur, Guilty Gear XX, Blazblue are fighting games.

A brawler (also known as the 'Beat-em-up') is where you or a human controlled ally attack waves of AI controlled foes and beat a boss to achieve a goal. Things like Final Fight, Devil May Cry, and God of War fall under this category.

"One is contemplative, the other reactionary."

I don't think 'reactionary' was the right word to use when trying to clarify the key distinction between Action and Strategy.

Reactionary is defined as follows:

-adjective
1.
of, pertaining to, marked by, or favoring reaction, esp. extreme conservatism or rightism in politics; opposing political or social change.
-noun
2.
a reactionary person.

Even though most people will understand what the writer intended to say due to the context it would have been better to write 'reactive'.

MegaRichards

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