[PODCAST Episode 277] Video Game RPGs Should Start Borrowing From Tabletop's Creative Renaissance

For as long as both existed, tabletop RPGs and computer RPGs have been in a cycle of borrowing from each other. From early games like Wizardy, to the more recent Pillars of Eternity, computer RPGs have followed a design ethos that closely followed the systems of Dungeons and Dragons. This ethos is simple: the more choices, and as such more systems, you give a player, the more immersed they will be. Even now, games with RPG elements like the Fallout series and The Outer Worlds still fall into this design, even if they're much simpler when compared to some of the foundational games in the genre.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/bjwkd8/video-games-rpgs-should-start-borrowing-from-tabletops-creative-renaissance
1 Like

I really appreciated the whole long discussion that Cado made the episode clip from, it really gets at one of the core problems that CRPGs (and arguably open world non-RPGs as well?) are having these days. There’s a lot of “popular game X had system Y so that’s just integral to the genre now” and a not a lot of introspection about why system Y worked so well in the context of game X, let alone any serious consideration of, like, starting with an idea for a game and then either picking or creating systems that fit with the fantasy for that game.

I think this also resolves the contradiction where Austin was talking about how much he hates the inventory management in Outer Worlds even though he’s totally an “encumberance guy”. Because the fantasy that Outer Worlds wants to sell is not that, unlike in Fallout or Elder Scrolls that have that surviving-in-a-harsh-lonely-world feel. I would say that the fantasy of Outer Worlds is more akin to something like Mass Effect, where you’re the person from outside the system who gets to be the catalyst for breaking a bunch of stalemates and making these life-and-death decisions. Bolting the inventory and crafting of a survival-themed RPG onto one of those just feels off. (See also: Dragon Age Inquisition.)

4 Likes

It was funny hearing Austin talking about going left and missing the settlement in Rosewater, because I’m exactly the same. Given the opportunity, I’ll always go in the direction I think I’m being guided away from, as opposed to the more obvious one. I think that’s one of the reasons BOTW appealed to me so strongly; it’s basically an entire game of “going left” and you’re constantly rewarded for it.

8 Likes

It’s so frustrating to again hear the Waypoint crew glee over just how shitty things are in an eastern european game.
Edit:to be perfectly honest at this point every time I hear the Waypoint crew talk about anything or anyone from eastern europe I get severe anxiety.

What did they say? I just started.

1 Like

Shoutouts to Torchbearer. I don’t have much to add, I just like that game. (And Dread, for that matter.)

  • As always, I’m loving the regular FFXIV updates. I think the 2.x summary Austin read is a good and accurate take, and captures why I’ve suspected Austin might take better to the 2.x content (grind aside) than average. I’d also add that this is where Alphinaud gets a lot of his comeuppance, as most of the Bad Decisions that lead to the fallout at the end of the patches were his decisions, a fact he is all too aware of. And my wife and I were grinning throughout the “B = belly” story, in a “we can see exactly where this is going and it is delightful” way.

  • A fun dot connect to Cado’s playthrough that almost happened, but didn’t: Austin very nearly mentioned the name of the 24-person raid. The particular one he did was World of Darkness, but the trio as a whole is called… the Crystal Tower, a name that might ring a bell for Cado.

  • I think the expansion+patches structure of FFXIV’s story inadvertently contributes to how its writing improved over time. Because each set of patches has to continue the story without adding new world zones, it’s much harder for the writers to leave the land you just saved behind and move on to newer, shinier things; you’re all stuck there for a good year or two, so you might as well explore the “what now?” questions.

  • If Austin makes it to Stormblood, I have a hunch that he might end up liking that a bit better than the fandom average, too; it’s less concerned with ancient grudges and cosmic scales than the two other expansions, but it is very concerned with things like how the imperialist conquerors ensconce their power by adopting and corrupting local customs, and find ways to goad the locals into blaming and fighting each other for the problems the empire itself causes. There’s a cutscene early on with a song that confused me for a good minute or two before I realized what was going on:

    • The lyrics were an “America the Beautiful”-style paean to the Garlean Empire, played over a large Imperial parade… but the melody was unmistakably the same as the music that played in the local Ala Mhigo-aligned rebel city. Why would that city have the Garlean anthem as its background music? Did the game’s composers just not care about motifs? A minute later, I realized - this is supposed to be a local Ala Mhigan theme, one that the Garleans rolled in and stamped their name all over. And sure enough, you eventually get to hear the “original” version of the song. It’s not a plot point, I’m not even sure it’s acknowledged in any dialogue, but the implicit backstory was clear.
4 Likes

It’s a comment to the effect of “isn’t it great how trash the guns are”. I’m not sure if it is that exactly but it’s the last in a line of comments by rob and Austin that red to me like a celebration of the “eastern Europe is full of trash and in rubbles” trope.

For me personally the peak of this through line was when Rob was angry at the developers of the newest Metro game with a content to the effect of “who the hell do they think they are? Ubisoft?” And I had a hard time reading that as anything else than a variation or the statement “who the hell do they think they are? Civilized?” And a comment by Austin to the effect of “its only worth covering Eastern Europe if someone takes a swing and misses.”

All this is highly subjective and I may be overly sensitive to this topic. Also important: I have decompressed about this in discord In the past in a manner that lead to me no longer being welcome there. To take my frustration with a grain of salt.

Also2: my grandma in Ukraine just died and I’m unable to attend her funeral because I’m in Germany and traveling to Ukraine is dangerous for me atm so yeah, fuck everything.

2 Likes

As someone who loves when FF12 was all the way up its ass with the politicking and machinations, Stormblood was catnip for me. As much as I enjoyed Shadowbringers, I miss the bomb throwing revolutions of Stormblood.

2 Likes

Same. I was very surprised to learn that Stormblood wasn’t well received by FFXIV fans and is considered the worst of the expansions. I absolutely loved it from start to finish and was genuinely surprised at the amount nuance they brought to a story about revolution and anti-imperialism.

3 Likes

Since Patrick mentioned Vigo the Carpathian my weird brain immediately jumped to the Ghostbusters II game for DOS which is permanently imprinted on my brain. I mean just listen to Vigo’s compressed voice and watch him vomit pixels for no reason. Hear Higher and Higher rendered with the glorious Adlib sound synthesizer. I love this terrible game from my childhood.

Don’t feel that bad, I too am no longer welcome on the Waypoint Discord. :stuck_out_tongue:

I’m more tolerable in forum comment form, I suppose.

Same!

I think I got banned for talking about Tim Buckley’s weird rumors in the feisty politics channel.

I don’t remember exactly.

This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.

Yeah the Discord is…different. It feels to me a lot less welcoming than the forums.

6 Likes

Hey! Just wanted to clarify that I think the connection Rob was making (but used short hand for) was that the guns in STALKER are shitty in the sense that the guns in Far Cry 2 are shitty–they break often and instead of being perfect CoD style power fantasy death machines, they’re a necessary and imperfect tool for doing your job. In the future I’ll be mindful of making sure we explain context like that, esp. given the way something like this could be understood differently!

12 Likes

Hey everyone, this conversation has veered off-topic. Please refrain from discussing personal conflicts on our Discord in the forums.

Remember that the same Rules & Goals of the Discord apply here as well.

This is kinda frustrating because I feel there are parallels here as in how the two games you mention depict the conditions of things such as the tools available to you as it relates to being set in non western countries. Then again I won’t pretend that I can tell you anything about stalker or far cry 2 that you don’t already know.

Edit: thanks for commenting anyway.

As someone who considers Stormblood to be the worst of the expansions I wanna clarify this stance. What I find to be a common explanation of why Stormblood is the “worst” expansion is that while it’s got a great story (with some pacing issues), game-play wise it could have been better. It wasn’t bad, it’s still a good mmo expansion relative to the genre. FFXIV just has such a high bar for expansions that the game-play issues that existed in Stormblood drag it down to third place.

The balance could have been better, Paladin was Broken on release and monk kept up it’s streak of being very mediocre. Bosses had a habit of repeating mechanics too much. Eureka existed.

But again, that doesn’t mean it’s bad, some of the game’s high-points across all expansions are in Stormblood. The 24 man raids for example were great! I’d go so far to say that Thunder God from Orbonne Monastery is in the top 10 best bosses of FFXIV.

Yeah, to be clear, I think the consensus has mostly been “Stormblood is the worst of 3 great expansions”, which is a good place to be.

2 Likes

I was always kinda confused why people ranked Stormblood lower, since I honestly enjoyed my time with Stormblood a lot more than Heavensward, but maybe that’s because I transitioned to being a more casual player between those expansions. The stuff I played was great, and I like the story more, but I guess I never delved that deep into the more hardcore fights where the nitty-gritty of the mechanics and balance might be an issue.

It makes me wonder how it would rank among new players like Austin who will only play it just enough to get to the next expansion.