Definition of an RPG
Written By: AJ
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
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.
a linear/zigzag field topology
with the necessities, there are some standout features that USUALLY
signify an RPG, which are:
turn based battle system
magic system used in battle
HP and/or MP counter that controls the battle
in depth description of the main elements follow:
are 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.
Legend 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
plot 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 fully
game 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 are:
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 has no end. There are no right or wrong ways to get
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 game.
the game starts in a center area, which branches off to other
areas, which do not have any connection with each other.
Only one area can be accessed at a time, which leads to the
next, which leads to the next, and so on. No backtracking!
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
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 invisible barriers.
cannot enter Viridian Gym until you gather all of the other badges.
EXAMPLE: Donkey Kong Country
a linear path game, events are not needed to progress.
Is _____ 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,
Sonic Adventure 2: Battle
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.
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 unique today.