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A short history of PC RPGs

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If a game like Diablo 2 still 'rules' over anything, is only above its mirror-like clones.

But please don't insult evolved, complex action RPGs like Mass Effect with such a comparison, geeze. Don't compare a zeppelin with a starship.

And for the lovers of PC RPGs history:

1996: Diablo 1 revives the RPG as a serious game genre (not much in terms of story and characters, but in terms of game mechanics and concept) and brings multiplayer into footlights. It really has this merit and nobody contests it.

2001: Not Diablo 2 (which only clones its predecessor), but Gothic 1 is the first complete 3D RPG (full 3D being a superior genre above 2D ) that has it all: full voice acting, reflex based combat system, beautiful, immersive graphics etc. And thus, it paves the way for the next coming titans, such as: Gothic 2, Star Wars KOTOR series, Jade Empire, Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines, Mass Effect series...

2003: Star Wars KOTOR is the first RPG which, beside complex dialogue system, moral and romance choices, takes the main character even further, not just a hero, but a galactic legend!

2007: The start of Mass Effect series proves what the RPG really could be: a complex world, full of very interesting, deep and diversely motivated characters, a strong main character enlivened by personality and special charisma, gorgeous graphics, cinematics and dialogues, moral choices that shape the course of the world...

The video game has the potential to be a complex art

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Any good company knows how important customer feedback is. But I like to think beyond that. Game companies can be much more than just "commercial companies", in fact they should be more. And here's why.

Game is a form of art. For some people at least. There are gamers and gamers. Some will probably ever remain the immature, tough language haters with unsolved real life frustrations (by 'frustrations' I don't mean injustice, that is a radically different concept). These are more casual gamers, that probably, with time, will even exchange games for real world politics :)

But there is another category of gamers. They see the video game as art, a very complex art which gathers together: literature, graphic design, (voice) acting, musical composition etc. And above all, as any form of authentic art, the cathartic (ethical) value. What does the work of art transmit, what message, what life philosophy? How it is conveyed? Such questions these gamers ask and, hence, they start paying more attention to social interaction and character personality than to graphics detail or amount of game combat situations.

(Speaking of combat, this is probably a matter of taste. However, what works well for some, may be a huge hindrance for others. Game companies should pay significant attention here. A game may become unplayable for some, due to combat difficulty or clumsiness. Some people prefer a more tactical approach, pausing the game and issuing commands to party, while others – me included – like the real time, with dodging, blocking and swinging, as in real life. For me, if Dragon Age Origins would have had the combat Kingdoms of Amalur has, it would have scored much higher in my book...

Couldn't games implement alternative combat systems? A thing to ponder upon.)

I consider the latter category of gamers artists in themselves. Their important feedback (which may take the form of an article, a blog, a comment, a mod etc.) co-creates, in a manner of speaking, the game itself.

Masterpiece games are games meant for humans with feelings and emotions, not for brutal killing machines. I certainly won't play a game that has very few to none dialogues and moral choices (romances included) and which, instead, insists on gory difficult combat.

Skyrim: a game that delivers little, but has plenty of advertising

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*sigh* We never get tired to be thrown at with 'honors' and 'awards', while they could use all those energies and resources to help produce better games...

Skyrim here, Skyrim there. Only politics, publicity and bought supporters could propel such a lame game to the top.

Many praise Skyrim for its open world. Understandable, but if a game world, no matter how open, doesn't contain live, memorable characters and situations, deep a story, then it's all for nothing. Exploration in itself gets tiresome after a while, and many a gamer would prefer not-so-open worlds, filled instead with more truly epic situations.

I will simply state a few reasons why Skyrim is inferior to Fable 3 and Dragon Age 2, both similar RPGs of the same year 2011:

1. Skyrim lacks good voice acting in general, main character included;
2. Cinematics/cutscenes (crucial means of advancing a modern story) are nowhere to be found in Skyrim;
3. Lame main story: the dragons never cease attacking, even when one completes the main plot, reducing all efforts to stupid uselessness; one never gets at least one castle for all the war effort support etc.
4. Unnerving and contradictory NPCs: they don't know the difference between a guild leader and a janitor, nor have any past memory of their perpetuum mobile speeches;
5. Marriage system is plainly dull; all you have to do is wear an amulet and suddenly you receive lots of proposals; you don't have to court, nor talk to know each other, nor save the damsel, nothing, no personality input whatsoever; unrealistic and boring;
6. Bugs are all over the place, some of them impeding even the main quest;
7. Gory, gloomy, morbid graphics, for the most part;
8. Broken pixels, distorted textures, some surfaces are too shining, others too dark;
9. Unsatisfying, lame combat;
10. Debilitating level up system: in order to achieve the highest level, one must undergo every possible skill, the player must cast tons of spell if they choose warrior, they must smith and block if they are mages; that knocks out both replayability and respect for people's time.

.....

Those are just the main reasons why Skyrim is over-hyped and broken. Such a shame of a game shouldn't even be mentioned for any awards beyond the worst category.

The Elder Scrolls: broken series, brilliant ideas

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The Elder Scrolls is one nice constructed universe, a very inspired 3D virtual reality. As an idea only. But it allows freedom of exploration to the point it gets annoying… :)

Total freedom of exploration? That's good and bad. In the end, I still think it's more bad than good.

It's good because you feel the liberty to explore every aspect of the game and do anything you want, interact with the environment (beds, hearths, forges, mills etc.). You can jump from anywhere to… virtually anywhere… :) It is good that you can move unrestricted.

It's bad because somehow it breaks the feeling of progression and achievement (for example, you feel nice when you unlock a new area as a result of completing some quest…), it may lead to senseless roaming, rushingly exhausting all travel possibilities, which could turn into more frustration than benefit…

The best would be to limit the world to only certain areas until certain levels are met. For example, nobody will buy the story of a newly escaped hungered, wounded prisoner that just slaps trolls for fun, come on :)

The beautiful universe that still tends to be, Skyrim makes it for the downfall of the series.

Morrowind showed great promise, but lack of dialogues and cinematics, broken leveling system ruined lots of the fun. It could be forgiven, it was still the year 2002 for game making….

Oblivion introduced voices and nice polished graphics on a larger scale, however the main character was still mute and lacking personality expression. The main story was weaker than Morrowind's and unconvincingly imposed upon. Helping Martin? Sure, why not, but let me choose some dark side (beside assassin's guild) and help Dagon, too, in my next replay :)

So, in Oblivion, it only looked like you have freedom of choice, but, more than freedom of exploration there was little to do with moral alternatives… very little in fact. Oblivion can still be forgiven (with difficulty, forgiven :) ) though, because it was still a great game for that period of time, 2006….

No, Skyrim, you are not to be forgiven, nor ignored to be frown and blogged upon :)

Starting the story with such an ugly execution and a lame excuse for evading the main char's head flying? Continuing by dealing with manners twisted, personality missing, common sense lacking Skyrim inhabitants that never tire uttering same things over and over and over and over and… again… ?…

Eliminating dragons that never get eliminated for good? What kind of hero that makes you feel? Big letdown for me, in any case.

Speaking of dragons, why not sit back and watch the population, the horses even (!!!) engaging them in martial arts, weaponless combat?… Truly epopeiac moments…

Being the main factor that made an entire faction prevail over titanic ordeals, and the gratitude they show you after? It's more like you are the freshly hired janitor, so much for "bows, half the kingdom and kisses"…

Such nerve, such resistance, such spiritual detachment from worldly trivials when you hit the Greybeards whenever you please and they barely budge. You can hit your companions, too and they never cease to follow you. Such noble acts, worthy of a champion!…

Speaking of companions, their map orienting skills are extraordinary. a pity you can't be taught Orientation (as an outstanding hidden easter egg insolite skill ) by them!…

Speaking of Greybeards… the… grey feeling when all the dealing with them leave you with… something that just doesn't match in the whole…

Some proper cinematics (even imported from early 2000-s in gaming) and more logical introductions could have maybe saved the day here…

Actually, the above is just the tip of the iceberg. The worst part, the big, huge immense broken part is the mechanics, the leveling system that is just stupidly concepted. That is exactly what made the prequels guilty and concluded into sharply banishing Skyrim into oblivion :) )

The system of "level by skills" is so bad and idiotic, it's the main reason players get bored so easily and rush to finish the main story quickly, then move on to another game. Why? Because it would take literally ages to get to the highest character level, and similar to get some very important skills to max too, such as: Blade, Light&Heavy Armor, Alchemy etc.

A better approach would be the already proven competent "level by experience per mob eliminated/quest done". You could add a skill improvement by using that particular skill in order to unlock special moves or bonuses, but only for that, and making it relatively easy to achieve.

Now, about the moral choices. Considering we are in a modern era of game making, the graphics are good in most of the games that hit the shelves, the music is pleasant, the cinematics inspired…

If the above conditions are met, what do you think people will look towards? What will separate the good game from the lame one?

It's the MORAL CHOICES… The real feeling of freedom, not the trick of exploration. Almost any designer could build a solid beautiful 3D universe, but very few will give birth to a masterpiece story-atmosphere, where you can choose your path, either as a light sided, benevolent hero, or the opposite, or somewhere in between.

Again, let's just think about Oblivion's reception if they actually could have allowed you to side with Mehrunes and have a different ending…

Which comes exactly where the game shines most. To the gods concept. Aedra and Daedra. Good and subject to interpretation "good", evil and subject to interpretation "evil"… That is the beacon of splendidness that could save the series, here's a few tips how:

1. First of all, it's so unconvincing doing only one quest for a god and bye-bye that's it. The gods could intend to fight one another for a… let's say 100 years supremacy, and you, the player, arrive exactly at the point where you have to choose a side in this war. Imagine the different stories, different endings!

2. Make a logical and gratifying level progression of the main character, such as:

Freely explore and mingle in some common rabble stuff till you get level 10.

Then be obliged to choose one god as your patron (you could try to avoid this main path and create your own godhood, a much tougher, challenging course of action, where every inch of your survival skills would be put to the test)

Then do some quests for the city that god is patron to (or for the isolated fort in case of daedra) and conquer a few other forts and cities until you become a Lord of your faction, with an administratable fief of your own, at level 20. Fighting for this in a similar Mount&Blade mounted combat in some decisive battles would be most welcome.

From there on to level 30, where you get to become king/queen by conquering all the human factions for your god.

At that level, 30, you could directly get in touch with your patron god and move towards the big league: achieving a demi-god status which would allow you to take the crushing to the enemy gods and battle their legions until level 40, where the game would end with another choice: Either remain loyal to your patron god (optional hidden romance, with renouncements and consequences included), or betray him/her for a more promising offer…

3. Each ten levels you get a nice set of armor and weapon of your choice as a reward. Similar with Gothic series, adding the sense of reward. Once that obtained, you could also craft your own different designs (more or less revealing… :) ) for an extra aesthetic freedom.

4. Every choice you make should be realistic and very, very tempting. You cannot have all. Leave room for replay value.

Good luck with playing and developing. Hope you get some inspiration out of this.

And for those who wanna do a small quizz/test "What Daedric God Are You?", here's the link:

http://www.helloquizzy.com/tests/what-daedric-god-are-you/

….

Enjoy!