Please, first read Part One HERE
So how would a casual gamer be convinced to pick up Dragon Age or any other adventure game? It's fine if you're a hardcore gamer. You know you don't have a date on Saturday and you'll be in your dungeon hacking away at the Darkspawn, possibly taking a break to pwn n00bs on some online game. But someone with friends, hobbies and essentially a life can't really afford to stow themselves away with their console to play out some fantasy with magical creatures. If nothing more than the lack of time, you'd quickly get stigmatized as some sort of nerd. Or a brand I usually get: a no-lifer.
That's right; enjoying video games means you lack the skills to go out and live your own life. Funny how that applies to only certain games and it doesn't apply to other things like films and books. Even more odd to me, as I think books and films can only direct you to one scripted ending in one track. Whereas in games, you'll have to work your way towards it and in cases like Dragon Age: Origins you'll have multiple outcomes based on your decisions during your experiences. That means that every action will affect the outcome and have different consequences based on those prior actions. Kind of like real life?
Surely, sir, you must jest? No, I do not jest! Get your head out of the prejudice box that generations before you have placed gamers in! Think for yourself! Is that so hard? Video games have advanced exponentially since PONG and we have, at the very least, added a few more lines to the screen...Excuse me for the rant, it needed saying.
I'll grant you the fact that if you're going to play a role-playing game, you're going to have to put some serious effort in it. And yes, that will diminish the time you'll have left for other things, if you are interested in the game enough. But is that so bad to have a heartfelt interest in something? Why is it necessary to berate gaming? I don't see society scolding people who passionately read "The Catcher In The Rye" and I'm quite sure that book takes a while to finish as well. Although, in all fairness, people might have protested it in the fifties, but certainly not to such great lengths. I'll kindly leave the whole "games make people to bad things" argument aside (for now).
But the moment someone picks up an adventure game of any sort that takes place in some fantasy world and takes more than 5 hours to complete, people have the sudden notion you have no life. Because you have no interest in "normal" things. I don't recall being asked if I did have other interests though.
I think that is why racing, sports and other games are so much more popular and RPG/Adventure games are shoved into the nerd corner. They're just a lot more accessible to a large crowd. No real thinking or effort is required to enjoy a good racing game. You can pick it up for 5 hours or 10 minutes, whichever works best for you. Whether you're playing a quick match against Barcelona or trying to win the championship, you can play as long as you want, blow off a little steam and then go on with your natural life. Also, there's no need to read up on a lot of background and story or adapt to anything; you know all there is to know already. You know Henri and all his mates and what they do best; just put on the game and go!
It's that accessibility and recognizability that appeals to the masses. But it's also the factor that makes it acceptable to do as a pass time. You can do it, because everyone does it, that's normal. Nothing cooler than tuning cars or beating the living crap out of someone in a quick bout of Tekken.
Although I largely disagree with that statement myself, I don't think role-playing games as we know them now will change that opinion. Even if you raise the recognition towards it and make everyone participate in a more modern form of RPG, you'll still need some sort of knowledge of the background before playing. More traditional stories, like in a faraway, Middle Ages setting however, will need more work to be able to include everyone. Because, even with all other factors taken care of, you'll still need to put in the hours and putting hours on games equal nerd, we've established that by now.
I, however, enjoy the frequent time I spend whisked away in Ferelden fighting for either good or bad, but mostly good. That's just the kind of person I am. I can always come back another time and do a thoroughly evil playthrough a second time around, for giggles. Usually though, I'll try to make the right decision or the one I find best at the moment. Surprisingly, in Dragon Age: Origins, that might not always be the best way to go. A nice twist I might add, it makes you think outside the box a little. Good choices aren't necessarily good and vice versa. It made me think of a mission in Grand Theft Auto where they'd lead you to doing something the mission did not call for and still have a positive outcome. That made me think people should implement that a lot more in games and have people do things their own way.
It's yet another argument I have for keeping me locked in the game for a long time, because it feels lifelike and it's an epic adventure. What more could I ask for?
Who wouldn't want to live out an adventure like that?
And maybe that's how companies would appeal to a large audience. Focusing on how awesome your adventure will be and how it's so real, you'll think yourself there. Without mentioning the time needed to the larger audience, you'll have more people wanting to experience the trip. At least, that's how I think they could market it, because that's what it's all about: the experience. Only, that brings back one of the original problems, that is the time needed. Like mentioned, you might trick people once or twice, but if they don't put in the time, they'll stop coming back at some point. Also, you'll again revert to the stigma of a dungeon dweller, playing hours on end instead of boozing it up with mates. Or trying to pick up chicks, whilst trying not to vomit in their cleavage you're immersed in. You know, the simple things in life.
Perhaps it might fancy a few by mentioning it's worth your time investment to see it through. Seeing your efforts come to fruition and all that. Or by appealing to it's customized ending or perhaps enticing people to save the world, doing the right thing. Marvelous graphics, lots of flash; all seem plausible solutions, but can't really deadlock me into believing a casual gamer might want to pick it up. If someone has the answer to this question, I'd sure like to look into it.
Until I've figured that out, I've come up with a possible solution to make role-playing games accessible and acceptable by the masses:
Instead of making elaborate epic adventures, which are really compelling and use all their space in storytelling and durability, you make them short and fast. Doesn't sound like much on the first sentence, does it? Hear me out.
Normally you have one set world, with many regions, creatures, etc. Instead of doing that, you save all the disc space on creating a completely random world each time. And in addition you try and randomize as much you can concerning equipment etc. Let's say you make 3 tiers that way, so more traditional players can still pick up on it. But you don't want to stretch it out too much, you want as much room for creating a unique and thrilling experience each and every time. A problem with some games is that they want to be too much of all possible options and end up being poor in all areas.
Let's say 1 playthrough could be done in less than 10 hours and is filled with action constantly. Of course you'd need to keep some short cut scenes for each playthrough and preferably as many endings as you possibly can. Even if they differ in only one area or so each time. That way you're certain you have a large array of endings to keep the player coming back. If you don't focus on having realistic graphics, you could do a lot this way.
One more problem you'd have to take care of is the traditional level system. In a game that takes less than 10 hours, it'd be ridiculous to have your character level 30 times or so. So I propose having a simple upgrade system you can use. Perhaps even so simple you can activate it while playing and don't need to go to a character screen, but not necessarily. It would however keep you in the action screen.
The action on itself will more than probably work best in hack and slash method, but I don't see why you can't implicate as much skills and spells in there, if they're all custom to a wide array of characters anyway. Don't forget, each playthrough is completely different in area and story, so taking a different character each time won't become boring. It will feel like a completely different game each time.
In short I'd make it an experience that resembles a few existing games. You'd take the random levels such as in Diablo or in much lesser extent the Disgaia series, if you're familiar with them. You'd take the unique experience of such as Gran Turismo for your character, customizing it a different way every time with loads of possible characters to choose from. A battle system that resembles that of Final fantasy 12 and action packed like a mass zombie game. Cell shaded or more cartoon-**** graphics to keep the framerate up and the disc space low. It might not work in a medieval setting, but I think games like Odin Sphere and such look amazing, even in 2D and they probably take a lot less room to create.
Customized cut scenes and endings as many as you can muster; at least 300 cut scenes, each about 10 seconds or so and at the very least 30 endings. Depending on the length possibly a lot more. You don't need an ending of 5 minutes and a credit reel of 30 minutes. That can all be done quickly, if you want.
Voice acting? Why not; Dragon Age: Origins seems to have a massive amount of voice overs and still has room for a giant world. Just think of what that could mean for my idea! I think the voice acting will be much more efficient to keep the action flowing, instead of having to read a boring text box.
If anyone has heard of such similar games in existence, feel free to pass me a line, though I doubt it would be done in the extent I'm envisioning it, as I have such a large view on this game. It felt a bit lengthy to jot it all down though.I think these types of games would open the door for the casual gamer to gradually get cracking on an epic adventure and join us in our nerd world. It would be awesome to puke in a woman's cleavage at a bar, while you were discussing how you tried to free Morrowind from it's evil burden.
Until then, this boy with a leg tattoo of Dungeons and Dragons will bid you good day.