There's Not Much Role-Playing in Role-Playing Games These Days

Yahtzee Croshaw

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There's Not Much Role-Playing in Role-Playing Games These Days

I want to talk about role playing. And why it seems to be such a very small part of what are termed "role-playing games" these days.

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Weresquirrel

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I seem to recall in Dragon Age 2 that if you favoured a particular style of response then the non-chosen dialogue Hawke had would start to tilt that way as well.

But going back to Mass Effect, you could possibly go the route of having detriments rather than rewards for behaving a certain way. So rather than working towards a goal like missions, rewards or romance, you could have kind of a reverse reputation. For example, picking too many emotional response makes it harder for you to intimidate someone. If you're too casual then you invite the ire of the people in command who place restrictions on you. Too serious and people may not confide in you about personal matters.

Not to any significant degree, obviously, but it could lead to interesting vignettes with story or world building.
 

MoltenSilver

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I think part of the problem with figuring out a way to untangle dialogue from major effects on the game (such as gating content, even if it doesn't affect stats directly) without making it seem hollow and unimportant is because in real life what you say and how you say it matters so much. Even the most honest person in the world will phrase things more favourably. The only way I could really seeing it work is if you had the option to somehow indicate to the game you're lying to get what you want, then maybe some npcs are smart enough to call your bs, or point out inconsistent behavior, and some other times it just works either cause you've got great reputation, the npc is gullible, or you are good at lying and manipulating.

Ultimately though I think this might be a crossroads that can't be bridged: either you punish a player for not roleplaying (which feels like you're being cheated out of part of the game, or like you're doing something wrong, or making the game harder than you want it to be; in any case it doesn't feel good as an entertainment experience), or you don't have the roleplaying have any effect, and it feels hollow.
 

Imre Csete

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Damn, Alpha Protocol is 7 years old, time flies. Still the best 4 dialogue tone options game out there, that came out before it became the norm (thanks Fallout 4).

It has almost everything; backstories which come up in dialogue options and give perks/skills, complex relations with NPCs to a mind-boggling degree, perks and skills to influence dialogues/choices.

But it has no custom character so I guess it's not a true RPG.
 

IridRadiant

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I see two trends that have trimmed true role playing from RPGs. One is the design philosophy that the entire game must be able to be accessed (the reason why so many modern games have an easy mode). It's a tug of war between the ability to repeat the game and 100% the game. It was declared ridiculous that there would be well crafted parts of the game the player would never see unless they were particularly skilled or repeated it for each variation (something along the lines that "no other art form does this"). It also makes it a lot easier to keep track of variables like what various NPCs are doing if the overall path of the game is a line with a small batch of paths inbetween major points.

The other is the reliance on voice acting and motion capture animations for dialog making any branching choices during talking (even without having attached side quests) take much more resources to produce. Take Guild Wars 2 as an example - vanilla dialog scenes let you choose between Ferocious, Charming, and Dignified responses and that would occasionally pop up as a bonus response option for some NPCs - especially if the response was in a text box. Some of the charr mouth animations were very well done on those close ups (particularly glaring when compared to the jaw flaps of the kodan) In the later Living Story releases that had less development time and resources, it has been dialed back and removed in favor of voice acted dialog with few if any choices and more generic jaw flaps, as they moved away from the face to face close ups to the more 'immersive' running the dialog as you continue to play (thus more likely to be zoomed out and less noticeable). I can also see that multilingual releases would complicate matters beyond simple translation issues.
 

Trunkage

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Personally, after replaying Baulders Gate and Morrowind, there wasn't much role playing back in the olden days either.

If you've played Wasteland 2 or Pillars of Eternity (as they are more recent) you can see they same thing. There are many conversations where the NPC slightly changes the dialogue to acknowledge your response but the overall meaning of the dialogue stays the same.

Let's take the pivotal council meeting in Pillars. Your choices do make an impact at the end but your dialogue does not really impact the NPCs dialogue.
Playing these games make me realise they are all just like a telltale game.
 

Canadamus Prime

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I don't know if I have the answer, but removing the role playing elements completely is certainly not it. The main reason I refused to play Fallout 4 is because apparently the role playing aspect is non-existent.
 

bkd69

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SMH.

If you look over the top of your article, you'll see a bar with several categories, and a couple of steps over from Video Games, you'll see a tab with the word 'Tabletop.' There you'll find the role playing you're looking for.

I suggest Soth:
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/163649/Soth-a-game-of-cultists-vs-investigators?term=soth&test_epoch=0
 

fractal_butterfly

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I think the main problem are the rigid multiple choice dialogue systems themselves. You can't have a natural conversation with that. Also in all RPGs, NPCs do not have anything like emotions or relationships. They should have something, that reflects their attitude towards the player character(s), and maybe each other. They could love or hate the player, could be loyal or treacherous towards him, could fear him or not take him seriously. The right conversation options would then shift these values. A little bit like in the Sims or Stardew Valley. You could then unlock new dialogue options, but you would close up others.
 

Fulbert

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Yahtzee Croshaw said:
Maybe there could be some conversations where we aren't prompted for a choice and our character automatically voices the lines reflective of the kinds of options the player had been taking up to then.
Bioware games already employ dialogue systems where player characters say things only vaguely corresponding to what you actually choose them to say. Taking control out of the player's hands completely would be a logical next step for them. That would hurt the replayability though so maybe let the RNG decide what lines are chosen?
 

HumanShale

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In a dream future of hover cars and quantum computers I'd like to get away from the whole idea of a conversation tree.

I'd like conversation to be something put through our modern techniques of syntax analysis and semantics and then sentences could be translated into weighted effects on NPCs such as an increase/decrease in whatever stats are considered necessary for determining their behaviour. A sentence would become the same thing as an action in the world such as hitting someone with a stick.

In effect a mapping of all English sentences to whatever range of effects is considered the consequence of talking.

AND

I'd like NPC's to all be attempting the Turing test and have no pre written lines, rather some kind of dynamic response.

AND


I'd like their to be machine learning so the NPC's pick up on your way of speaking so they might then emulate some aspects of it as well as there being a means so that the mapping function isn't constant so you can't just learn some magic phrases that always generate the effects you require and say them endlessly.


MY DREAM

A world where you could control people through your ability with words, have the voice of Saruman, basically.


That is role playing through language.

It might be impossible now but surely with all the technology we have we can come up with systems more advanced than what is basically the same thing as those role playing books I read as a child - turn to page 13 if you turn left, page 183 if you turn right.
 

kimiyoribaka

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HumanShale said:
A sentence would become the same thing as an action in the world such as hitting someone with a stick.
Yeah....there's a reason text parsers stopped being a common game interface. It's not just player annoyance either. It may seem like a nice idea to just process everything dynamically, but the narrative effects are usually disastrous.

bkd69 said:
There you'll find the role playing you're looking for.
I don't know about that. In my experience, table-top games tend to be split between the players who want to role-play and the ones that would rather just win. They're also inherently multiplayer and tend not to have good match-making or efficient netcode.


Responding to the actual article, I think the reason RPGs don't seem to have much role-playing nowadays is because walking simulators and other types of adventure games have gotten good enough at actually immersive experiences that they now serve to highlight what other genres aren't doing as well. I'll admit that I never played the original DnD, but even the influential table-top RPGs such as DnD 3.x and Shadowrun have had the issue that the characters are primarily battle machines that need to survive whatever the game master comes up with before worrying about what they're character feels about the current situation. This isn't just due to the games themselves, either. It's very common for players to primarily want to murder things and do little else. When translated into video games, these elements have then become even more of a focus due to being the easiest parts to translate.

As for how do get around that issue, the best solution probably has to do with making smaller adventures that can be hand-crafted to include more involved elements -- the complete opposite of what Bioware does. Other than that, "do it your way" batches of mechanics help, if only to make the ways to murder things more varied (see, Dishonored), but that comes with the cost of every mechanic being less polished.
 

bkd69

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bkd69 said:
There you'll find the role playing you're looking for.
I don't know about that. In my experience, table-top games tend to be split between the players who want to role-play and the ones that would rather just win. They're also inherently multiplayer and tend not to have good match-making or efficient netcode.


Responding to the actual article, I think the reason RPGs don't seem to have much role-playing nowadays is because walking simulators and other types of adventure games have gotten good enough at actually immersive experiences that they now serve to highlight what other genres aren't doing as well. I'll admit that I never played the original DnD, but even the influential table-top RPGs such as DnD 3.x and Shadowrun have had the issue that the characters are primarily battle machines that need to survive whatever the game master comes up with before worrying about what they're character feels about the current situation. This isn't just due to the games themselves, either. It's very common for players to primarily want to murder things and do little else.
That's why I recommended Soth, where the game exists more as conversation between the GM and players. Fiasco is another good alternative, as there's GM, no actual combat, and the events are determined solely by dice roll, but narrated and expanded by the players. Inspectres takes a more traditional relationship between GM and players, but who drives narrative and storyline is determined by whether the players make their rolls, at which point they build on the story, or if they fail, at which point the GM drives the story.
 

Cowabungaa

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Getting into tabletop RPGs made me realise this as well, even the classics suffer from it as someone else rightly says. Few games make an attempt to really open up like a traditional RPG does. At this point though I'm okay with that. I'll get my actual roleplaying experiences at the table.
kimiyoribaka said:
It's very common for players to primarily want to murder things and do little else.
That's because of the players though, not the game. I run 4 groups in total, 3 D&D 5th and one Shadowrun 5th group, and none of them are of the murder-hobo variety. The groups I'm a player in aren't of that variety either, except perhaps the Warhammer 40K: Only War one but then again you're a military grunt in that one.
 

thenewguy512739

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I'm gonna focus on Mass Effect's romance because I think it's the most vestigial system in the series.

1) Have the characters judge me on my character sheet. If someone doesn't want to be in a relationship because I poured all my points into, say, strength or because I'm male, I'd respect that, blue balls and all.

2) Have all eligible NPCs be aware of each other's relationship meters. Think "The Witcher 3"'s Yen/Triss sex scene but across the entire game.

3) Initiate the relationship at any point in the game. I get it's playing with the "if we don't come back alive" trope, but having the relationship be official at the end of the game means is we only experience the honeymoon phase.

4) HAVE THE RELATIONSHIP IMPACT THE GAMEPLAY AND VICE VERSA. Maybe protecting your squad mate will add relationship points or being in a relationship means that squad mate will provide more cover fire for you.

EC) Match-making. Seriously, the only reason I choose the Synthesis ending was because of the Joker/EDI conversations.
 
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I think people tend to get too focused on dialogue. By far-and-away the greatest role-playing game I have ever played is Morrowind, and Morrowind has no character dialogue. It has NPC dialogue, which is crafted to be neutral enough so that the player can envisage their request/demand/question being delivered in whatever way makes sense for how they see their character. It has a disposition system, in which the faction affiliations, fame, and charisma of a character alter the hostility/friendliness of an NPC reply, and this meter can be further affected by bribery, threats or the like. But it has no actual character dialogue. If you want to build immersion into a role-playing game, have the game react to what the character actually does, not to what some writer thinks a character might say.
 

Synigma

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An aspect to old Bioware games I'm sorry they moved away from: You used to be able to lose characters if you pissed them off or just acted against their interests too many times.

fractal_butterfly said:
I think the main problem are the rigid multiple choice dialogue systems themselves. You can't have a natural conversation with that. Also in all RPGs, NPCs do not have anything like emotions or relationships. They should have something, that reflects their attitude towards the player character(s), and maybe each other. They could love or hate the player, could be loyal or treacherous towards him, could fear him or not take him seriously. The right conversation options would then shift these values. A little bit like in the Sims or Stardew Valley. You could then unlock new dialogue options, but you would close up others.
This reminded me of one of the reasons I loved Dragon Age Origins. Each character had a like/dislike bar that showed you how they felt towards you. You could alter how they felt depending on the actions you took and the conversations you had with them. It gave the conversations a tangible feel; You felt closer to the characters because you had to figure out their interests and sense of humour in order to max out the bar. You would even make some decisions based on how it made some party members feel. There were a few in game buffs to the characters for winning their loyalty but frankly I didn't even notice the difference.

My main problem was with the attached gifting system; finding special 'gift' items that ended up just being a matching game since they were all basically created for specific characters. And by late game you could just buy all the gifts for everyone and effectively buy everyone's love if you wanted to.

I think they should bring back something like that though: Maybe remove the visible bar and instead just alter how the character greets you when you talk to them, especially since they can now (arguably) have facial cues to help express how they feel toward you.

Also I hope they get away from defining answers as specific things ie: 1) the lovey-dovey answer, 2) the hard-as-nails answer, 3) quirky-sarcastic answer. This just takes you out of the RP and reminds you that you're just ticking a box. It should be less about your 'personality' and more about how the characters react to your individual choices.
 

J.McMillen

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Synigma said:
Also:

Do you want AI? Because this is how you get AI!
Exactly. Until CRPG's can be programed with AI to allow unscripted interactions with NPC's, there will always be limitations with the "Role" part role playing games on computers and consoles.
 

Darth_Payn

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Didn't the Deus Ex games do this? In the first one, I heard JC Denton could talk his way out of what would otherwise be boss fights. I also remember from Human Revolution, which conversations choices Adam makes determines how side quests end and who lives or dies.