Wednesday, August 5, 2009

EXP Podcast #37: Guns & Wizard Hats

Peanut-Butter & Jelly, Chicken & Waffles, both ingenious combinations! So why not Guns & Wizard Hats? Well I might have a few reasons. This week, Scott and I gnaw on an interesting article by Wired's Chris Kohler regarding Ray Muzyka's and Cliff Bleszinski's RPG/Shooter portents. We touch on such topics as big-ass swords, stat tracking, and the troublesome word that is "genre." As always, you'll find the original article in the show notes. Also, your thought are always fascinating; you should leave them in the comments section below.

Some discussion starters:

- What risks do developers running adding genre elements from RPGs into Shooters?
- Are their some genre elements that are incompatible?
- What RPG elements would you add to existing genres, if any?

To listen to the podcast:
- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes here. Additionally, here is the stand-alone feed.
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Show notes:

- Run time: 29 min 57 sec
- "BioWare's Muzyka: Line RPGs, Shooters Blurring" by Chris Kohler, via Wired
- Music provided by Brad Sucks


  1. I don't think genre is disintegrating entirely, but maybe it's changing into something more accurate. There are certain design decisions where opposite ends of the spectrum are epitomized in and form the core of certain genres. RPGs rely on statistics and chance to determine the precise outcome of your high-level decisions. Action games prioritize a fine level of detail in responding to your precise movements in predictable ways, making the unpredictability come from broader systemic areas. You can mix these a bit, such as TF2 and its critical hit system adding a bit of luck to an action-based game, or so-called action-RPGs that respond to your precise movements while dice rolls reign supreme behind the scenes. But even if they become less useful in predicting suite of peripheral decision, they could simultaneously become more granular and useful in zeroing in on specific design philosophies.

    Maybe as we start thinking about genre in this way, the types of things we talk about as genre will change as well. Is shooting in first-person really that different from brawling in first-person? What happens when a game features both melee weapons and projectile weapons that are equally useful and plentiful? I see that genre collapsing into something like first-person combat, which is still useful for differentiating itself from first-person adventure games (eg. Penumbra, the recent Sherlock Holmes games, etc), or first-person platformers or puzzle games (Mirror's Edge, Portal). You can already see this happening with some of the nascent genre tags like "sandox" games and it unfortunately pejorative opposite "linear," or "pre-scripted." Possibly these are more something of genre MODIFIERS, but I think we'll eventually come to a point where we recognize that it's better to classify games in a post-genre system of traits that identified key design decisions (like the way linguists classify sounds in language).

  2. @Julian

    I really like that you used the word "tag" as it brings to mind the way that programs like Gmail and delicious handle catagories. Tagging is much more versatile than pinning something within a certain catagory, and it also allows for things to be more easily crossed-referenced.

    As you point out, Mirror's Edge, Portal, and Penumbra might all share the same "first-person" tag, but they can also be organized differently based on a number of other filters.

  3. It's really funny how we come to associate numbers and statistics with Role-Playing. From what I understand, the initial idea of Role-Playing was getting into a character. The numbers were only there to provide some kind of way to record your character's status and introduce elements that are outside of the player's control. I thought there were always more of a necessary evil.

    But the fascinations with those aspects got out of hand so nowadays, they are considered the defining part of RPG.

    I would agree with you guys. RPGs nowadays means a whole array of different mechanics and characteristics. There is a trend of enriching FPS games by adding mechanics from other genres. RPGs are an obvious choice.

    I would rather even go the other way around: we have a lot of RPGs nowadays that control like an FPS: Mass Effect, Oblivion, Fallout 3.

    I would question if the future of genre is really the resolution of genre. Genre is a flexible thing and constantly in the process of re-defining it's status. I think you could have made that statement an any time during the development of video games and it would be always neither wrong nor really true. Genre will never be the same but it will never go away.

    But as always, it was a pleasure listening to you guys. You did a great job there! ^-^

  4. @Krystian

    Interesting point about the origin of RPGs. I should read up on the development of pen and paper RPGs to see exactly why those folks wanted to do that in the first place. Maybe you're right about the fantasy being the driving force.