Sunday, January 22, 2012

Determining a CRPG

I'm new to blogging, and reading blogs. No research, no deep thought on blogs, no clear path for this project, it's no wonder why I never gained any followers and quickly lost interest last year. I recently had the urge to start this up again, this time with a plan. While researching RPGs, I discovered the CRPG Addict's blog, and it opened my eyes to what blogs could achieve. If you haven't read it, I strongly suggest you do; I can't speak highly enough about it (although he's on indefinite hiatus at the moment). From his example I believe I need a list of games, a way to determine if a game is a CRPG, rules to follow, a rating system, and great writing skills. I'm hoping the last will improve over the course of this project.

I have a list of US released CRPGs compiled from Wikipedia, MobyGames, and RPGamer. Looking it over I discovered something. There is a lot of confusion about what a CRPG is and how to define one. A simple definition eludes me along with every other site I've looked to, most requiring a list of attritbutes a CRPG could contain. If a majority of those qualities exists, then we can call it a CRPG. Everyone expects and takes something different from the genre, so there will never be a simple definition. Some will like the story, while others enjoy the combat, the treasure, the exploration, or the characters to varying degrees.
With all the talk of computer RPGs, I feel like I'm missing out sticking to console games.
The first book I came across that discussed CRPGs in detail was Swords & Circuitry. It discusses a group of personalities it terms 'the usual suspects': Fragmaster, Problem Solver, Treasure Hound, Story Chaser, Navel Gazer, and Tourist. These types largely influenced my rating system (next post I swear). The author(s) suggest that these six personalities encompass different aspects that players of CRPGs seek out in these games. So, I'll use these same persona's as a starting place to define CRPGs.

Based on the roles above and CRPG Addict's definition, GIMLET (his rating system), and evaluation method here's my list of characteristics that make up a CRPG in order of importance:

1) Character advancement based on repeated (practiced) action. This is accomplished most often through experience points or stat increases based on use. This is to separate stat and level increase solely based on the collection of items.

2) Combat based on character stats. The other end of the spectrum is combat based completely on equipment and player skill. Relatedly, turn-based combat will outweigh real-time combat.

3) Exploring an open environment. By open I mean previous areas aren't cut off by arbitrary invisible barriers. Also, if the game allows open exploration forward that's even better.

4) Engaging narrative and NPCs. A fleshed out world with interactive elements and activities aside from the main quest all contribute to this. In opposition to this is a story that only exists in the beginning and end of the game.

5) Spoils of war. Weapons, armor, potions, random useless trinkets, trophies, and anything else discovered from treasure chests, quests, or loot from fallen enemies. The more the better, and places to store it if character/party inventory is limited.

6) Quests, riddles, and puzzles. In addition to a main quest, side quests exist to enhance immersion in the game world. Obstacles and challenges exist outside combat, and use the game world as a reference instead of the real world.

There are of course other aspects that enhance the experience, but this list should allow me to focus on games the majority would not dispute as a CRPG. This is in order of importance, so if a game is missing #1 it'll be hard pressed to make my play list. The weight of each can vary, but an approximation for max score is 4, 3, 3, 2, 2, 2 respectively. At a guess, I'd say a score of 10 should mean it's a CRPG. We'll see how this holds up over the first few games.
OK, ready to judge!
I'm only going to add to the game list, never remove anything, marking what I consider not a CRPG. Consistency is the goal here, and I hope it will encourage people to defend a favorite CRPG that I've dismissed. If enough convincing arguments are made, I'll play through the game and give a more detailed review. So, if you can't find a game, please suggest it as I've obviously missed it; especially if it's an older game.

Later this week I'll make a post to address the few I've already ruled out, including Deadly Towers (released before Phantasy Star). These posts will cover yearly groups of games.

Other Resources:
Armchair Arcade


  1. It sounds like you have a pretty sound system here. :)

  2. I'm happy to have had CRPG Addict lay down a good foundation. I think the only things I don't cover that he did is a game economy and gameplay. The latter is wrapped up between categories, and game economy is partially covered in 5, but console games are probably the worst offenders to making money count throughout the game. I'll make mention of it when I come across a good one since CRPG Addict has shown me there's at least one person that feels strongly about it, but it won't affect the scoring much at all.

    Thank you for the continued encouragement.

  3. I think this is stupid!

    Actually, I just wanted to be the first troll on your blog Zenic so you feel like you've made it. ;)

    I look forward to seeing where you go with this and how the system works out.

  4. Wow! I have a troll before a spammer! ;)

    I've been testing it on some games; I actually found a game that doesn't have any character advancement by gaining experience or practicing skills, and it may actually still be a CRPG (feels like one). We'll see how it measures up though.

  5. Seeing as all of us crazy louts have to comment on this post.... I'm looking forward to reading this blog. Onwards!