In this episode we talk about one of my great problems as an RPG fan, which is that the game style I like doesn’t actually exist, and so everything is a compromise. I’m picky about gameplay, and this genre really doesn’t have a lot of room for people who are picky about gameplay.
The preferred paradigm is the “turn-based realtime”, where you pause, issue orders to the whole party, then un-pause for a second, then pause and repeat. For me it’s like trying to play chess but stopping to watch five seconds of a movie fight scene after every move. It ruins both experiences. The action distracts me from concentrating on the strategy, and the pausing breaks the flow of the action.
My ideal games commit to either one or the other. Give me full-on turn-based like Fallout 1 / XCom, or embrace the action gameplay of (say) the Witcher 3 or the later Mass Effects. And whatever you do, don’t ask me to control a party. I’m here because I want to play a character, not manage a murder committee.
Which… fine. So go play action games, right?
Except, action games are usually dedicated to full-on voice acting. They don’t have time for text and they’re pretty crap at worldbuilding.
My ideal game would play like a proper action game (Tomb Raider, Batman Arkham Whatever, Bulletstorm) but would be an RPG at heart. It would have cool characters, flavor text, long branching exploratory dialogs, lots of player agency, and an open world. Ideally I’d like the dialog to work like the Planescape: Torment system where people introduce themselves with a voice clip but then speak entirely in text.
And it’s easy to see why that doesn’t exist. Rich text-based gameplay is problematic on consoles, where people are sitting far back from a television and aren’t going to want to do a lot of reading. Which means the game is going to be PC exclusive. Which means the audience isn’t big enough for a AAA budget. Which pretty much precludes third / first person action-based gameplay.
The closest thing I can find are Bethesda-style games. And I enjoy the hell out of those. But writing is not their strong suit.
So Shamus, what you’re saying is that you want incredible writing, but AAA production values, but you also want all that focused on PC-based design and a super-niche focus on worldbuilding. And you want to design your own protagonist instead of playing as a fixed, marketable lead? Did you ever think maybe there’s a REASON you’ve never seen your perfect game?!
Yeah, I know.
Which is why I was hoping that the tools will keep making game development cheaper. I keep hoping that sometime in the next decade, we’ll reach a point where I can get something that does Pillars of Eternity style worldbuilding and roleplaying, but with AAA action gameplay / camera views. I want my story immersion and my visual immersion in the same package.
Still, things are strange. I don’t know where this new world of crowdfunded, semi-indie games are going. In the meantime the best I can do is play Bethesda games and bitch about their faults in excruciating detail.
Related: Fallout 4 launches in 2 weeks, 4 days and 9 hours.
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Dear Hollywood: Do a Mash Reboot
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A video Let's Play series I collaborated on from 2009 to 2017.
WAY back in 2005, I wrote about a D&D campaign I was running. The campaign is still there, in the bottom-most strata of the archives.