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Key elements of interesting Roleplaying-Game

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

While focus turns more and more to graphics these day and game content in some areas is simplified - be the blame on multi-platform releases or something else - there's some things many RPG fans including me wish for from the game. I've compiled the list about key elements in my opinion that make a Role-Playing game interesting - the major factors.

One - In-Depth Character Creation and Development

This is probably heart and soul of any real Role Playing game. Character Creation is what sets the tone to the game and "who you are". Feeling like you are creating certain type of a character(s) to play the game certain way. You get to decide your strenghts to aid you in your adventure and affect your way of playing as well as your weaknesses. Character Creation is one of the most exciting parts of RPG - even more when you're creating a whole party where you need to see the big picture to make balanced party. This is the players "identity". Good RPG has wide variety of skills and attributes of different kind to allow you play widely different type of character - which not only increases replay value of the game - but makes the whole adventure much more interesting.

Wide range of selectable skills should not be forced though if gameworld does not support actions you can use skills to. Lets take example from Daggerfall: You have several languange skills whereas you can learn languange of creatures like Imps ("impish") - now it doesn't do really anything useful and player who just used his skill points to that regrets later because it was complete waste. Useless in game world. Even games like one of the best ones ever Fallout 1 and 2 have a few skills quite useless: you have Doctor and First Aid skills which makes it 2 healing skills - yet you can pretty much do without either one just using stimpaks to heal. Wide set of skills is soul of RPG but they need to be useful in actual game world - good for executing some action in game world that gives player feeling his living through that skill - and the world should reach to players usage of all skills some way.

Character development is just as important part. It's the thing keeps you rewarded when you level-up and are granted upgraded skills and new abilities. One of the most important reward systems in RPG. Now it might be just the fun of adding level-up points to your character skills and realize in action that you actually perform better in skill you raised. There are other ways to reward when leveling up too. In Fallout series you are granted perks every 3rd level-up that give you new abilities for example - of which some of them are special abilities not reachable just raising a existing skill. For example mysterious stranger perk gives a chance that random mysterious guy appears out of nowhere time to time to aid you in your battle. If skill system is skill-tree based then you're usually granted new special attacks and such when leveling up. That is another good way of rewarding and is used for example in World Of Warcraft.

Last but not least when you've picked your skill set and set your attributes right it's always nice touch to be able to choose how your character looks. Some way to make your character personal looking. But I don't think complicated face editor is a must in good RPG.

Two - Interesting Story, Quests and Dynamic Interaction

Another major factor here setting tone of "where you are". Good story hooks player to the game from beginning 'till end and includes several different paths and choices at some point which may affect outcome of current situation, another path may grant you special rewards or more experience. In good RPG the whole advancement in game doesn't revolve around following main questline linearly but there are also main quests you may discover and accomplish when you have a break from main quest. This makes world feel like more alive and to have various different stories to be told rather than just to be involved around one topic - main quest. Good flowing dialogue with various questions / answers to ask and many end results to reach depending of your common sense and character type you play supports good story and makes game world more alive. It gives player "sense of being there and being able to affect events going on". Fallout 1 and 2 had multiple choise questions/answers style dialogue with various topics, paths of conversation and end results and it worked fantastically. Dialogue was also affected by your skills regarding of charisma and intelligence. You should react to the world and world should react to your actions - all with several possible ways. That's what I call dynamic interaction.

Three - Large World to Explore with Innovative Art Themes

What would good RPG be without well designed world and levels. "What you see and where you can go" is equally important to the above. Fine game world is quite large enough to give sense of exploring the unknown and granting joy of discovering new places. Large doesn't always mean good though if made wrong. Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall may well still have largest game world area of all games untill today. While it was one of the games fascinations it failed to deliver fully because the enermous game world including major amount of towns and dungeons was random generated with rather poor random generator - making areas really repetitive and without actual "quality content" and things to do. Other than large game world, also world split into several themed interesting areas is much better than having all look the same. Game world with several types of areas like desert, forest, ice peaks, lava and so on with unique style of art and dungeons is certainly much more memorable than bland themes and just a little bit variation between themes. Oblivion in my opinion failed to deliver in world area themes as in dungeons. Dungeons weren't just interesting and had only few different types of them which all lacked the "unique" content. Therefore also level design is very important to make dungeons stand out and have something "unique" in them and their art style.

Other than looks and themes of the world, it's also nice touch if you can sense that the world "lives and breaths". I mean there should be many things to do outside the main quest, solve other problems and see people and world react to what you do and accomplish. See other computer characters to react and even interact with each other. The world should interact - not be static where you see no response to your actions and deeds.

Four - Loot, loot and more loot.

Every Roleplayer almost certainly loves all kinds of loot you can acquire. Wide range of different loot like weapons and armor should last all the way untill the final boss - and even more - be needed to be up to final challenge. There should be weapons to be discovered and needed at the end game too without feeling you have tons of money and nothing to spend it anymore or it gets boring fast. You definetely don't want to find that game's best armor 10th time at where you've completed only 3/4 of the game. Enchanting belongs to any fantasy role-playing game too to give you a chance to make your favorite weapon more unique and for you to have more freedom of choice to decide what kind of weapon you swing.

Five - Large Roster of Cool Monsters

I for one do get kick out of facing all kinds of nasty creatures in Role Playing game I never faced before even at end-game. The more the better. Different kind of monsters with different abilities and styles to fight give you different kind of challenges. Also monster-specific loot gives you a reason to hunt some specific creature. And what's better than that? I want to play my RPG 'till the end facing a new challenging monsters every level - not just facing bigger masses of goblins and then more goblins. You don't want to have seen all the monsters already at halfway of the main quest! Many games suffer from having uninteresting small roster of monsters which gives no challenge in end-game.

And there you have major elements I look in for a great Role-Playing game. Graphics and sound are always nice but in my opinion there are more important things.

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