Definition of an RPG
What is an
RPG? The question plagues gamers of all shapes and sizes.
"Role playing game" is never enough, and many have
starting giving the name out only to games that have a battle
system and HP. However, after extensive research (which means
playing) of my favorite genre, I believe Iíve come to a
final conclusion of what an RPG really is. Itís an extensive
definition, but what can I say? The RPG is that involved of a
genre. Take notes!
Role Playing Game; A game in which the player takes the role
of a character in it by choosing their every action. More
specifically, a game that MUST meet the following standards:
force is the story
game is a playable story
are vital to the story progression
- A large
world that appears to be fully accessible from the start,
but is not
world can only be navigated through correctly by events,
including getting new items, meeting new characters, etc.
- Has a
linear/zigzag field topology
the necessities, there are some standout features that USUALLY
signify an RPG, which are:
- A turn
based battle system
- A magic
system used in battle
- An HP
and/or MP counter that controls the battle
depth description of the main elements follow:
all about the action. Puzzles rely on difficulty. Adventure
games and RPGs, though RPGs more so, depend on a story. One
goes into a Final Fantasy expecting a good storyline. Usually,
if an RPG has a bad plot, the game is frowned upon and given a
bad rating. An RPGs story starts the player out with little
info. Throughout the game, more and more variables come into
play, making the story develop and the plot become more
involved. Plot twists are therefore expected. Also included in
the story are the characters. RPG characters normally have
some sort of background and history that make them seem
realistic. Characters tend to be developed to some extent as
the story progresses, making them either liked or hated by the
player. An RPGs plot could easily be turned into a novel by
just sticking to the gameís story.
of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
starts his adventure by being called to save the Great Deku
Tree. The simple beginning sprouts into Linkís quest go save
all of the Spiritual Stones in order to prevent Ganondorf from
getting them. THEN, the story progresses even further by
Ganondorf breaking into the Sacred Realm, causing Link to wait
seven years in order to defeat him. Now, Link must awaken the
sages in order to defeat the King of Evil. The missing Zelda,
the mysterious Shiek, the destroyed Hyrule, and other elements
further complicate the plot.
EXAMPLE: Super Mario 64
of the game is presented to you from the beginning- Mario must
save Peach who has been kidnapped by Bowser. The plot does not
gain more elements as the game progresses. Characters are not
topology is how a game is set up. There are two parts: the
navigation and the presentation.
is how a player gets through the game. The ways of navigating
there is only one right way to progress through.
similar to linear. There is only one right way overall,
but there are slightly different ways to reach each major
point in the game.
the game has no end. There are no right or wrong ways to
is how the world is presented in order to navigate through.
the world appears to be all yours to explore. More or
less, it is presented in full from the beginning of the
the game starts in a center area, which branches off to
other areas, which do not have any connection with each
Only one area can be accessed at a time, which leads to
the next, which leads to the next, and so on. No
- Path- a
cross between a star and tube. One level must be beaten in
order to get to the next, but you CAN go back. With all
levels open, the world map serves as the center.
the player can do whatever whenever
An RPG has
a linear or zigzag field topology. There is only one main way
to go, but you have to navigate yourself through what seems
like a huge area. Events are your only guidance.
field- Final Fantasy VII
free- The Sims
tube- Sonic the Hedgehog
star- Donkey Kong 64
path- Super Mario World
path- Donkey Kong Country
closely with the story and the topology of an RPG are the
vital events. How do you make a game run like a story? How do
you carve a linear path out of a huge field? The answers are
events. In an RPG, certain things must be done in order to get
through the game. For example, in Chrono Trigger, Marleís
pendant must be powered by the Mammon Machine in order to open
the sealed door, which continues the game. You cannot progress
without doing this. In general, the world cannot be fully
accessed without setting off certain event chains, and failure
to follow them will result in getting stuck. In a world that
seems like itís all yours to explore, the events make the
enter Viridian Gym until you gather all of the other badges.
EXAMPLE: Donkey Kong Country
linear path game, events are not needed to progress.
_____ an RPG?
has zigzag field topology, and events could be considered
getting new weapons and items. However, it lacks the strong
plot development and any character development. Even Metroid
Prime is not up to par with true RPGs such as Golden
Sun. Itís very close, but no.
Adventure 2: Battle
It has the
characters, and it has the story, but doesnít have the
topology and playable events. SA2Bís story mode is a linear
tube. The player does not bring upon the events, but the game
gives them to you in nice little story sequences. Close again,
but no cigar.
one of the questions that people kill over. YES, Zelda IS an
RPG, and in the truest sense. It clearly has a zigzag field
topology. You are guided through the world by event chains,
and you will get stuck if you steer away. The story progresses
from the start and new characters are met along the way. And
how do you know the story is a dominating force? Plot elements
can be debated like crazy; something that rarely happens with
normal adventure games. Also, again, the plot of a Zelda game
(especially the newer installments) could be made into a book
or movie without adding too many things.
Miscellaneous controversy surrounding the definition:
turn-based battle system IS NOT required for a game to be an
RPG. It just so happens that Squaresoft, the leader of the
genre, tends to use the battle system, so that is what
mainstream gamers associate RPGs with. Dispel the idea today.
A turned based battle system means an RPG, but and RPG does
not mean a turn based battle system.
An RPG is
an adventure. Therefore, the whole concept of
"Adventure/RPG" is redundant. Majoraís Mask is
no less of an RPG than Chrono Cross, and Chrono
Cross is no less of an adventure. However, donít get
confused. All Adventure games ARE NOT RPGs. The pure Adventure
genre contains those games that would have been called
platformers back in the days of 2D. To summarize, the RPG is
an enhanced subset of the Adventure.
Playing Game" is indeed an awful simple definition, but
the origin of the RPG dates back to before videogames. The
first RPGs were pen and pencil games, such as Dungeons and
Dragons. You actually were a character in this game. Even the
first computer RPGs were text only and played in similar ways.
When the genre hit the consoles, it still was a little easy to
distinguish an RPG from a platformer. Think about it- you
couldnít make too many choices as Mario. You went to the
next level and that was that. As Link, however, you could
control EVERYWHERE that he went, even if it was the wrong
place. It was truly taking the role of the character. As games
became more detailed and platformers evolved into adventures
as well, the RPG definition had to become a little more
specific. And itís that specificity that keeps the genre