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RPG Convergence. “Convergence?”  Asked to speak on the topic of “convergence between tabletop RPGs and video games, mobile games, etc.  Somewhat problematic,

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Presentation on theme: "RPG Convergence. “Convergence?”  Asked to speak on the topic of “convergence between tabletop RPGs and video games, mobile games, etc.  Somewhat problematic,"— Presentation transcript:

1 RPG Convergence

2 “Convergence?”  Asked to speak on the topic of “convergence between tabletop RPGs and video games, mobile games, etc.  Somewhat problematic, as you can make the case for divergence as easily  But I have to find something to say for the next hour.

3 What do we even mean by “roleplaying game?”  What first hit us about D&D? Each of us plays a single character Open-ended world, defined by the GM, not a closed system as in a boardgame. Really lousy rules and lack of setting demands GM creativity. Clearly points you to hack-and-slash, but other possibilities quickly arise.

4 “RPG?” Innumerable games in many media since, but: You always play a single character (at any given time) Almost always, characters gain in power (primary motivation for play). Almost always, characters can group (if only with NPCs). Imaginary setting: even if of real world, player characters are portrayed as extraordinary: Heroic, superhero, spies, possessors of secret knowledge, etc.

5 Why do we play these games?  Glen Blacow’s player types: Power gamer, wargamer, story-teller, roleplayer  Ron Edward’s GNS Theory: Gamist, narritivist, simulationist  The Bartle Player-types: Achievers, explorers, socializers, killers.  Nick Yee’s research: desire relationships, immersion, grief play, achievement, and leadership.

6 We do we play (con’t)  Fullerton et al: competitors, explorers, collectors, achievers, jokers, artists, directors, storytellers, performers, and craftsmen.  Marc LeBlanc’s categories of pleasure: Sensation, fantasy, narrative, challenge, fellowship, discussion, masochism  Beyond a certain point, hard to really say anything other than “diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks.”

7 But….  Strong emotion bond to “your” character.  Immersion in an imaginary world.  Sense of empowerment.  Social interaction?

8 Evolution of Tabletop  “Better than D&D”: Chivalry & Sorcery, RuneQuest, Warhammer RPG, et al.  “A different genre”: Traveller, Champions, et al.  “More realism”: C&S, Morrow Project, Aftermath  The licensed RPG: Trek, Wars, LOTR, Marvel, ad nauseum  The setting is all: Shadowrun, Vampire, etc.

9 Evolution of Tabletop  Play with the paradigm: Paranoia, Over the Edge, Everway  Generic systems: shared rules, multiple worlds—GURPS, D20. (but…)  The rise of narrativism: Ron Edwards’s Sorceror, My Life with Master, et al: story telling and/or roleplaying, minimalist rules

10 The Computer RPG  Akalabeth/Ultima, Wizardry directly inspired by D&D  Multiple character classes, inventories, character advancement.  NPC interaction for quests.  Character skill based (sometimes in combination with player skill—Diablo)

11 Computer RPGs  Still a thriving genre: Neverwinter Nights, Morrowind, Freedom Force  See a sort of merger with the action/adventure category: e.g., Deus Ex involves inventory, story, NPC interaction, but little character customization

12 Console RPGs  Atari Adventure generally termed “the first” (but derives from Colossal Cave, which pre- dates D&D)  DragonQuest, Final Fantasy from NES days: little to no character customization, but inventory, NPC interaction, hack-and-slash.  One of the dominant categories on all platforms: FF/PS2, Zelda/GC, Fable/Xbox

13 Console RPGs con’t  Split between character-skill games (Final Fantasy) and playerr-skill games (Zelda).

14 “Tabletop is Better”  “There’s no real roleplaying in computer/console RPGs”.  BUT—these games are actually BETTER at story than most tabletop RPGs.  Each game is a narrative arc, and at best a highly effective story: FF VII, Deus Ex

15 “Console is better”  Single-user nature does make actual roleplaying impossible—who wants to show off for a machine?  Almost always highly linear, because asset development is expensive, and true branching narratives quickly become prohibitive.

16 The MUD  Bartle/Trubshaw original MUD more an Adventure derivative than anything.  However, multiple players quickly produces roleplaying.  Technology easily adaptable to hack-and-slash (dikuMUD)  Some emphasize storytelling and RPG with GMs/wizards and minimal rules (the Pern MUSH)

17 MMOs  Hack-and-slash the mainstay.  Experimentation with economic systems.  “Roleplaying” utterly divorced from game outcomes, thus considered a somewhat perverse proclivity of people who like saying “thou” a lot.

18 MMOs  The game never ends, thus story is basically impossible.  Sometimes a “story of the game,” but this is meaningless to players except that an update may change aspects of the world.  Minor story lacunae in the form of quests.  “Players make their own stories?” Sorta…

19 MMOs  Can be viewed in one sense as a way of commercializing tabletop by replacing live GMs (high salary cost) with automated systems.  But automated systems suck.  Still, it’s always there, and you can play on your schedule.

20 MMOs  Asian games: Guild wars  Western games: soloing, with chat.  Possible future development: Story only possible with games that end (A Tale in the Desert) Roleplaying only vital if game outcomes are influenced by social status. Economic experimentation.

21 “Mobile RPGs”  Console/computer RPGs “lite” (Gameloft’s Might & Magic)  MMOs “lite” (TibiaME, Era of Eidolon)  Future possibilities: MMO integration Location-based interaction Habbo Hotel + Mobi?

22 “Convergence?”  Is tabletop moving toward styles that digital media cannot do well (narritivist games)?  Digital game designers are very aware of tabletop (though not necessarily recent games—they played D&D as kids).  For soloplay games, a desire for greater variability of path, player style, and outcome (Fable, Deus Ex: Invisible Wars)

23 “Convergence?”  For MMOs, an interest on the part of designers in experimenting with better support for roleplaying, and ways to integrate story, but given the huge cost of production, it’s hard to do anything other than marginal improvements on proven styles.

24 Not really  No convergence.  Different genres will continue to develop, looking for ways to do what they do well better.  But cross-fertilization between tabletop and other “RPGs” will continue.

25 References  Blacow Player Types: /blacow.html  Bartle Player Types:  Yee Player types:  Game Design Workshop, Fullerton et al: /

26 References (con’t)  Mark LeBlanc’s Rants:  Ron Edwards on GNS Theory:


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