Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Computer role-playing game
Computer role-playing games (CRPGs), often shortened to simply role-playing games (RPGs), are a type of video or computer game that traditionally use gameplay elements found in paper-and-pencil role-playing games. Modern RPG games encompass a wide range of styles and types of engines and have significantly branched out.
RPG gameplay elements can be found in real-time strategy games, first-person shooters, third-person shooters, and some other types such as massively multiplayer online games. However, games that are actually called just 'RPG' are usually limited to top-down perspective point-and-click and some third-person perspective types.
CRPGs, in general, are derivative of paper-and-pencil based role-playing games (RPGs) such as Dungeons & Dragons. For example, the vast majority of video-game RPGs assign various attributes to the characters, such as hit points (HP), magic points (MP), and levels. These games also tend to borrow the narrative structure of many paper-and-pencil RPGs; usually a group of heroes (a party) is sent on some sort of quest. Along the way, the adventurers face an endless barrage of enemies and monsters (often inspired by real-world mythology). An example is illustrated here, a 'status screen' taken from Final Fantasy IX. It includes the character's name, portrait, level (LV), current/total hitpoints (HP), and current/total mana (or magic) points. Other information includes basic 'stats' and what sort of weapon, armor, and accessories the character is equipped with.
Video-game RPGs sometimes involve intricate plots and character development as characters advance through a large number of statistics, items and abilities. Players must usually choose which of several possible combinations of these things to acquire for their character in order to advance, and if possible, win the game.
CRPGs are sometimes frowned upon by PnP (pen-and-paper) players. There are several reasons for this, such as CRPGs tend to emphasise simply building a powerful character over the character's history and motivations. PnP players consider this powergaming as opposed to actually "role-playing."
Role-playing video games began as an offshoot of early roguelike Unix games, themselves obviously inspired by paper-and-pencil role-playing games. Multiple-User Dungeons (MUDs) also fed many concepts and ideas into the role-playing genre. Text RPGs evolved from text adventures, the roguelikes and MUDs. Among the first were Akalabeth (1980), which gave rise to the well-known Ultima series and dnd, developed on the PLATO System.
The early Ultima and Wizardry games are perhaps the largest influence on the later console RPG games that are now popular. Many innovations of Ultima III: Exodus eventually became standards of almost all RPGs in both the console market (if somewhat simplified to fit the joystick) and the PC market.
The earliest console RPG was the Intellivision title AD&D Treasure of Tarmin (1982). Much later, in 1986, Enix made the NES title Dragon Quest (called Dragon Warrior in North America). This was followed shortly by ports of the computer RPGs Wizardry and Ultima III, and by Final Fantasy (1987) by Squaresoft. Both of these games proved popular and spawned a series of sequels. Both game series remain extremely popular today, Final Fantasy more so in North America, and Dragon Quest in Japan.
Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy both borrowed heavily from Ultima. For example, leveling up and saving must be done by speaking to the king in Dragon Quest, and in order to rest and get healed, the characters must visit the king (Dragon Quest) or stay the night at an inn (both games). The games are played in a top-down perspective , much like the Ultima games, as well. The combat style in Dragon Quest was borrowed from another PC-based series, the Wizardry games.
Fairly recently, more and more multiplayer CRPGs have appeared. For instance, Diablo (1996) features a system by which different players can enter the same world and cooperate against the enemies, trade equipment, or, should they wish, kill one another. Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), huge open-ended worlds with hundreds of interacting characters, have also appeared, pioneered by games like Ragnarok Online,Ultima Online, EverQuest, and Asheron's Call.
An interesting entry into the CRPG world is Pokémon (a.k.a. Pocket Monsters), a fairly simplistic set of games whose main innovation is the replacement of the party by creatures that can be captured, collected, and trained for beetle fighting . Its success has been phenomenal, leading to a huge industry with many spin-off products, including other games, cartoons, and endless merchandise.
In 1997, a new Internet fad began. Influenced by console RPGs, a large group of young programmers and aficionados began creating independent CRPG games, based mostly on the gameplay and style of the older SNES and Sega Genesis games. The majority of such games owe to simplistic game development kits such as the Japanese RPG Maker series. This started the independent RPG video games movement.
More recently, with the advent of games like Deus Ex and Warcraft III, the idea of what it means to be a RPG has become blurred. Many non-RPG games are increasingly featuring aspects traditionally seen in RPGs, such as a skill system, experience, and dilemmas. Meanwhile, many self-declared RPGs, such as the more recent Zelda games, dispense altogether with traditional RPG aspects. The expansion of traditional RPG elements into 3D game engines is creating a myriad of hybrid game categories, crowding successors to earlier representations of CRPGs.
The representation of RPG elements in first- and third-person shooters is indistinguishable from the game simply incorporating a story with cut-scenes and traditional FPS problem solving, and developments to the incorporation of the genre's usual character building (such as getting better weapons). As FPS develop and increase in these characteristics it remains to be seen whether the games will simply be called FPS (or TPS), break off into a new category of FPS/RPG, or just adopt the RPG name.
Due to cultural differences between developing companies based on their country of origin, there are now two certain "families" of graphical RPGs. The differences are primarily focussed on the graphics and storyline, but also on statistics systems, magic systems and the like. At the basic level, though, both are pretty much the same, with attributes, statistics and levels dominating gameplay and characters and personalities dominating the storyline.
One of the families is the Japanese family of graphical RPGs with the Final Fantasy, Phantasy Star, Grandia and the Lunar series as clear examples. These games are often more colorful and bright than their western counterparts and include the eastern inclination to mix fantasy with spirituality. The characters in these games are usually anime-style with personalities ranging from both extremes of the spectrum. The storyline often involves an epic and final battle between the forces of good and evil, with the player nearly always fighting for the forces of good. The character-races in these kind of games are usually limited to a selection of humans, beastmen/women, espers (somewhat like elementals from the Dungeons & Dragons universe), elves and androids. D&D-based systems among these games are very rare, at best. These games frequently use a level-based advancement with little customization involved, with level 1 as the basic level of power in the game and level 99 as the top.
The other family of graphical RPGs is the western one, with Baldur's Gate, Diablo and Neverwinter Nights as good examples. These games are often more dark, almost like horror in design and art, and the characters featuring in these games are rendered or drawn in a more realistic way according to western styles. The personalities of the characters are more varied than those of their Japanese counterparts, without any real absolutes in morality. The storyline too is often darker, with the main theme being usually an ongoing struggle, almost never ending with a total victory over whatever enemy is given. The character-races are diverse and usually inspired by the books written by J. R. R. Tolkien. These graphical RPGs usually base their statistics systems on the D&D d20 system, as well, though it is not uncommon for something completely different to be used.
Chronology of CRPGs
Note: These are not complete lists of all computer or console RPGs, but a list of some of the most significant, influential or well-regarded CRPGs of all time. A number of titles which were initially released for Windows were later ported to the Macintosh or to console platforms. Likewise, a number of console-specific RPGs were later ported to other consoles or to the PC.
Chronology of computer RPGs
- 1976: Dungeon (PDP-11)
- 1970s: dnd (PLATO System)
- 1980: Akalabeth
- 1981: The Ultima series debuts (Apple II)
- Wizardry (Apple II)
- 1982: Tunnels of Doom (TI99/4A)
- 1983: Ultima III is released, pioneering many innovations that would become standard on many CRPGs that followed (DOS, Apple II, Atari ST, Amiga, Commodore 64)
- 1985: Bard's Tale (Apple II, later Commodore 64, Amiga, Apple IIgs, Atari 8-bit family, DOS)
- 1987: Might and Magic series debuts (DOS, Commodore 64)
- 1988: Pool of Radiance, first game in the Gold Box series
- 1990: Angband
- 1991: Ultima Underworld (DOS, a PlayStation version was released in 1997) Possibly the first ever first person 3D RPG.
- 1992: Ultima Underworld II (DOS)
- 1993: Forgotten Realms Unlimited Adventures (DOS, Macintosh)
- 1994: The Elder Scrolls: Arena series debuts (DOS)
- 1996: The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall (DOS)
- Diablo series debuts (Windows, Macintosh)
- 1997: Fallout series debuts (Windows, Macintosh)
- Ultima Online (Windows)
- 1998: Baldur's Gate series debuts (Windows, Macintosh)
- 1999: Planescape: Torment (Windows)
- 2001: Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magic Obscura (Windows)
- 2002: Neverwinter Nights (Windows, Macintosh, Linux version in 2003)
- The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (Windows)
- 2003: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Windows)
- Freedom Force (Windows)
- 2004: City of Heroes (Windows)
- World of Warcraft (Macintosh, Windows)
Chronology of console RPGs
- See Chronology of console role-playing games for a comprehensive list.
- 1982: AD&D Treasure of Tarmin (Intellivision (INT))
- 1986: Dragon Quest (Dragon Warrior) series debuts (Nintendo Entertainment System (NES))
- 1987: Final Fantasy series debuts (NES), Phantasy Star (Sega Master System (SMS))
- 1988: Ys (SMS)
- 1989: River City Ransom (NES), Mother (NES)
- 1990: Crystalis (NES),
- 1991: Lagrange Point (NES)
- 1993: Secret Of Mana (Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES))
- 1994: Mother 2 (Earthbound) (SNES)
- 1995: Suikoden (PlayStation (PSX)), Terranigma (SNES), Chrono Trigger (SNES), Tales of Phantasia (SNES)
- 1996: Super Mario RPG (SNES), Rudora no Hihou (SNES)
- 1997: Grandia (Sega Saturn (SAT))
- 1998: Xenogears (PSX), Parasite Eve, Brave Fencer Musashi (PSX)
- 1999: Chrono Cross (PSX)
- 2000: Eternal Arcadia (Skies Of Arcadia) (Sega Dreamcast (DC)), Dragon Quest VII (PSX), Vagrant Story (PSX)
- 2002: Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht (PlayStation 2 (PS2)), Kingdom Hearts (PS2), Lost Kingdoms (GCN)
- 2003: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox (XBOX))
- 2004: Tales of Symphonia (Nintendo GameCube (GCN))
- 2005: Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Böse (PlayStation 2 (PS2))
List of companies
Below is a list of game developers who specialize in or have created notable digital role-playing games.
- Bethesda Softworks
- Black Isle Studios
- Blizzard North
- Game Arts
- Origin Systems
- Piranha Bytes
- Spiderweb Software
- Square Enix (a result of the business merger of Enix and Square)
- Strategic Simulations, Inc.
- Troika Games
Independent CRPG websites
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