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Rolston: RPGs reaching a boon period, still a market for structurally sound high fantasy epics

Saturday, 3 December 2011 22:59 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

Ken Rolston, lead game designer at Big Huge Games, has said he feels RPGs are reaching “a boon period”, but because there’s still plenty of variety on the market at the moment, the genre isn’t tired just yet.

Speaking in and interview with IndustryGamers, Rolston said in the future, we may look back on this period differently and feel it needed “some revolutions” and “changes”.

“There are so many different products and they’re all so good, that I have a feeling that sometime in the not too distant future people will be able to look back and say, that was the time when we realized we needed some revolutions and we needed some changes and then maybe the genre will reconceive itself again. But right now, you cannot complain about the variety and quality of stuff.

“Even in the second and third tier stuff – which I will not be foolish enough to try to characterize things by first, second, and third tier – I’m seeing a lot of quality in things that would’ve been considered B movies in another world. And I don’t know that there are that many RPG fans who are suffering daily because they’re not getting enough games released. I think there are still plenty of fans who would buy a lot more games if they could. They would like us to make more and make them faster than on a three-year cycle, but I think nonetheless, that they’re getting good quality games on a pretty regular basis.”

Rolston also doesn’t feel RPG fans are tired of high fantasy fare, because there are “structural reasons for it,” as wrappers put around science fiction and shooters “are less forgiving.”

“It’s because one of the conventions of fantasy, high fantasy, is that you can heal and that you have a very durable character,” he explained. “And that makes for good software and a good software experience. And it turns out that the narrative wrappers that you put around science fiction games or shooter games are less forgiving in that sense. So it turns out that epic fantasy just is the right narrative wrapper for the kind of experience that we have.

“And there’s the fact that Tolkien’s party, that Fellowship of The Ring model, we’re all comfortable with that. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think [it's] right to say that a lot of the treatments can be shop worn and generic and tiresome, but I think at times, like the Western genre, it tended to wear out its welcome by lacking novelty. There would be a period of time when the genre of the Western would turn out something that had some variety. [The animated movie] Rango, for example – a great Western. A profoundly gifted homage to Westerns. So you may see mashups.

“I still think they have real power. I think it’s partly because the archetypes have great power. So I have not personally felt any pressure to abandon high fantasy as a open world role playing game narrative and I don’t foresee one in the future and I certainly am not seeing any outside the genre that I found likely to create new genres of the same scale as fantasy genre. And I think there’s plenty of room for what we call boutique games, boutique role playing games, but they will not have the same kind of mass market.”

Rolston, who previous worked as lead on both Morrowind and Oblivion, is currently working on Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and it’s MMO for 38 Studios. The former is slated for a February release on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360, while the later still hasn’t been given a date.

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15 Comments

  1. burrsalem

    Quick correction: Big HUGE Games, not Big HEAD Games.

    #1 3 years ago
  2. Stephany Nunneley

    I would make a joke about where my mind was at the time….. but sadly, it’s not that way at all. Thanks for the head’s up. I thought it sounded wrong. /facepalm

    #2 3 years ago
  3. DarkElfa

    Yeah baby, bring on all the RPG’s that can be brought!

    #3 3 years ago
  4. GwynbleiddiuM

    But, there are actually not many truly RPG titles anymore. Striped out, Adventure/Action games with a mild choice of dialogues and side quests are hardly RPG IMO. Still, I’m not totally ungrateful, at least I have some games to play. Where are thou O’Divine Divinities, Neverwinter Nights, Baldur’s Gates and Icewind Dales, where are thou. Miss those days greatly.

    #4 3 years ago
  5. Erthazus

    @4, agree with everything you just said.
    this year you can look forward to Witcher II which is really something oldschool and special and next year if everything will be alright we can all look forward for RISEN 2: Dark Waters by Pyranha bytes.

    Cheers.

    #5 3 years ago
  6. Phoenixblight

    @4

    I find your term of what a RPG is funny. Its not about micromanaging your character’s stats, abilities or all your players. Those games were built with a different mindset which was keeping their fanbase not so much about broadening it.
    Now that video games are very much integrated into our society the philosophy for these developers is to broaden the audience in order to make up the cost of development. If you want those type of games you will have to get with a group of friends and play table top RPGs or just stick with playing those games.
    I very much enjoy most of modern RPGs especially since they are aimed at someone like me who only has so much time to play a week because of life and I don’t have time to play a games for 8 hours a day and grind for 5 hours in order to get to the good parts. Thats not what a game should be about. I already work why would I work in a game?

    #6 3 years ago
  7. DSB

    I remember reading about this before. You can add RPG elements to pretty much anything, from a mundane action game, over an RTS, to a text adventure. It doesn’t make it an RPG, ultimately it risks spelling the end of actual roleplaying games, which were always about a lot more than simply just moving points around, gameplay be damned.

    Fair enough if that’s what the people want, but sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken. It takes a bit more than that.

    I don’t see adding RPG elements to any game as a bad thing, it’s a great mechanic, but it’s not rarely that it’s used simply so it can be put on the back of the box. The whole value of that system is in letting people define their own playing style.

    I don’t think it would be a good trade if the RPG “features” somehow ended up killing the genre that made them in the first place.

    #7 3 years ago
  8. OrbitMonkey

    ^ Agreed. Stat management does not a RPG make. You could argue that the multiplayer in BF3 multiplayer is RPG lite. 3 roles to play, stuff to unlock… But is it?

    #8 3 years ago
  9. Phoenixblight

    @8 Same can be said about COD and its multiplayer with how you level up weapons and you have to grind in order to get the best upgrade, weapons or perks.

    #9 3 years ago
  10. OrbitMonkey

    @9 I was actually thinking of CoD when I started the post, but then I remembered the class system in BF3, which seems to blur the boundaries a bit more…

    #10 3 years ago
  11. GwynbleiddiuM

    @7 Exactly, I wont deny that I had so much fun with so-called RPG games that only are RPG in name not the mechanics, but as you said it wont change the fact that they’re not as RPG in the core as they have the claim in the title.

    @6 I pretty much enjoyed most of them too (aside from obvious screw jobs like Dragon Age II) but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re not RPG. I enjoyed Mass Effect games, the first one actually could be called RPG, the same I can’t say about the 2nd one, I’m not saying doing these things are bad or great, I’m saying Role-Playing Game used to mean something else not what we have today. But since every genre expanding to something more than lets just say, an adventure, or a FPS game or whatever and borrow features that was commonly used for RPG games a few years back, that doesn’t make them RPG.

    Weathering down elements like stats and stat management or standings and all sort of other shits is something, the complete removal of them is just kills it pretty much in my book. It’s a hybrid genre that you can find a bit of something from every popular genres.

    These sort of moves leads to games like Skyrim and Dues Ex: HR and so on, highly enjoyable, great fun, but also there is so much imba and OP developments, which defies the standards of RPG genre. I decided to stop calling them RPG games a long time ago but I didn’t stop enjoying them as well.

    #11 3 years ago
  12. Phoenixblight

    @11

    I actually don’t even classify games anymore because like you said the lines are beginning to blur and each game is taking elements from other genres and games. For example Bioshock it plays like a FPS but it uses some mechanics that would be considered RPG and also uses adventure game mechanics. I can understand why people used to use these terms to find what game they like but now a days I don’t see them as useful. If I read a games back and it interests me, I will buy or at the very least rent but I don’t look to see what genre it is.

    #12 3 years ago
  13. Ireland Michael

    > Want to indulge for hundreds of hours in a hardcore RPG
    > Buy Disgaea 4
    > ???
    > Profit!

    #13 3 years ago
  14. Phoenixblight

    @13

    That or any of the Shin Megami Tensei games will about do it.

    #14 3 years ago
  15. GwynbleiddiuM

    @13 never was a jRPG fan, never liked how those games plays, never liked the music and absolutely hated the artistic angles in character and lore design as well as their stories. :P

    In fact I have no idea why people love them so much, I played some FF games, also some of Shin Megami Tensei’s and couple of others around the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 ear. Not my thing. :D

    #15 3 years ago

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    Shelter 2 is a game in which you are a mother lynx and must protect a den of kittens. Yes, it’s delightful. Shelter 2 is coming to Mac and PC on March 9. Pre-orders are now available on Steam at 10% off or on GOG.com with a free skin and soundtrack, or 20% off if […]

  • That Batman: Arkham Knight trailer is full of codes

    Batman: Arkham Knight’s trailer is like a Transformer – there’s more than meets the eye. The new Batman: Arkham Knight trailer contains a number of codes. Eagle-eyed users have spotted four so far, and work on cracking their meaning is progressing. According to an /r/games thread rounding up results so far, the codes pertain to […]

  • Assassin’s Creed haystacks won’t save you from a fall

    Assassin’s Creed fans, don’t try this at home. Assassin’s Creed characters can survive falls of almost any distance as long as they aim for the haystacks scattered handily throughout the environment. As you probably deduced from your familiarity with common sense, this isn’t a real thing: falling from heights kills you, the same way a […]

  • Why are people buying PS4 and not Xbox One?

    PS4 is outselling Xbox One – but why? A new report may have the answer. Last month, the PS4 outsold the Xbox One in the US again, returning it to the top of the charts after just two months away. Why? What has caused this reversal in fortunes in Microsoft’s home territory? According to a […]

  • Toejam and Earl are back with a new Kickstarter

    The early 90′s are alive and well in a new bid to bring back Toejam and Earl. Toejam and Earl released for Mega Drive (Genesis, Americans) in 1991, and the eponymous characters went on to count among Sega’s best-known characters. They appeared in a platformer, a light gun shooter and finally a 2002 Xbox game […]

  • New Wander trailer shows off Azertash form

    Wander is a collaborative, non-combat MMO in which you can take on a number of unique forms. Wander players begin as an ambulant tree called an Oren and can progress through several different bodies as they explore the environment, learning its secrets. One of these, which we’d not seen before this trailer, is the amphibious […]

  • SOMA approaching beta phase on PC and PS4

    SOMA, the new horror game from the Amnesia: The Dark Descent crew, is getting close to playable. Frictional Games has apologised for its recent silence over the project, but said it’s focused on reaching beta. Sorry all for the silence! We're closing in on Beta and everyone's working hard to get there. Once that's done, […]

  • Square Enix does not condone Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest HD Remaster

    Square Enix has said it’s not involved with a fan remake of Final Fantasy spin-off Mystic Quest. 1992 SNES game Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest is being remade by Dark Design as Mystic Quest HD Remaster. The developer is even taking pre-orders for the project. Unfortunately, it looks like it is in no position to be […]

  • New Hunger teaser released by LittleBigPlanet Vita co-developers

    LittleBigPlanet Vita co-developers Tarsier Studios have released a teaser trailer for Hunger, which was announced in May 2014 at the Nordic Game Conference. The game has been rumored to be the firm’s unannounced Sony project since 2010. Platforms are still to be announced, but the studio became a first-party SCE developer a few years back, […]

  • Here’s two Mario Party 10 overview videos, one featuring amiibo

    Overview videos for Mario Party 10 and the amiibo which work with the title have been released by Nintendo Japan. Obviously each one is in Japanese, but you get the gist all the same. Mario Party 10 releases on Wii U March 20 in North America and Europe. Thanks, AGB.

  • Clan Raids announced for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Companion App

    Activision has announced a new Clan Raids mode will be made available through the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Companion App. According to the CoD community blog, raids are time-based challenges where success earns you a spot on the Clan Raids leaderboards and new Clan Raid-exclusive in-game gear like the Equilibrium set. Clan members will […]

  • Play Battlefield Hardline starting March 12 through EA Access

    Xbox One users with an EA Access subscription will be able to play 10 hours worth of Battlefield Hardline starting March 12. EA Access members will are being granted access to the game five days before the street date, with full multiplayer and all saves transferring over into the main game. It was announced yesterday […]

  • This video summarizes the contents of Destiny patch 1.1.1

    With Destiny patch 1.1.1 now available, here’s a video summary of what to expect. In the video above, Arekkz Gaming gives you a rundown of the important bits in the update. Subscribe to Arekkz Gaming for more Destiny tips and trick through the link.

  • Destiny 1.1.1 patch notes out, update is live

    Destiny’s 1.1.1 patch arrives today, so if you have been kicked from activities, it means you will need to download the patch now that it’s live. We will be pushing the 1.1.1 patch for Destiny shortly. Players will be kicked from activities and required to download the patch. — Bungie Help (@BungieHelp) February 25, 2015 […]

  • Payday 2 packs based on Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number coming

    Starbreeze has announced another collaboration with Dennaton Games which will see masks based on Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number appear in Payday 2. The collaboration consists of two free updates when you acquire Hotline Miami 2 or its deluxe version on Steam from February 25. The two updates, called Hotline Miami Mask Pack and Jacket […]

  • Velocity 2X making its way onto Linux, Mac, PC and Xbox One

    Velocity 2X will be released on Linux, Mac, PC and Xbox One Futurlab has announced. The developer is in charge of the port, which will be published by Sierra. According to Futurlab, the deal with Sierra came about when self-publishing proved to be difficult due to spending “more time doing PR and marketing on Velocity […]

  • Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number finally has a release date

    A release date for Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number has been announced, finally. The game will arrive on Linux, Mac, PC, PlayStation 3, PS4 and Vita March 10. It is now available for pre-order on GOG, Humble and Steam for 10% off for $13.49/£10.99. There’s also a Digital Special Edition available which includes tracks from […]

  • Warhammer 40,000: Dark Nexus Arena is a twin stick shooter MOBA for PC

    Warhammer 40,000: Dark Nexus Arena has been announced as a twin stick shooter MOBA blend from Whitebox Interactive. Set for a 2016 release on PC, the game’s beta will be on show at PAX East next month. An Early Access release is slated for Q2 2015 and you can already purchase early access for a […]

  • More information, videos for cancelled Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun surface

    A trailer for the cancelled Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun title from Climax which was reportedly set for an E3 2012 reveal, has surfaced. Along with the above video is another which is described as a pre-boss battle cutscene. It’s below. According to a source of NeoGAF’s Mama Robotnik, the game was being developed under […]

  • Three additional games added to Square Enix Humble Bundle

    Kane & Lynch Collection, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light and Startopia have been added to the Square Enix Humble Bundle. All three are made available when paying the average price of $7.69. Those who have already purchased the bundle will automatically be granted the titles. All three are available for PC only. The […]

  • Forza Horizon 2 gets Fast & Furious with standalone expansion

    A Fast & Furious tie-in and standalone expansion to Forza Horizon 2 will arrive for Xbox consoles next month. Titled Forza Horizon 2 Presents Fast & Furious, the downloadable title does not require the base game to play. “We’ve been talking with the folks at Turn 10 for a number of years and have always […]

  • The Evil Within: The Assignment has a release date, new trailer

    The Evil Within: The Assignment will be released on March 10 in North America and March 11 in Europe, it was announced today. Along with an exact release date was a trailer detailing more information about the first set of DLC. The Assignment is the first of two DLCs centering on Detective Castellanos’ mysterious partner, […]

  • Steam and GOG cross-platform multiplayer added to AvP Classic 2000

    Steam and GOG have announced Aliens vs Predator Classic 2000 owners will be able play multiplayer with each other across both platforms. With the recent online multiplayer update for for AVP Classic 2000, Rebellion CEO Jason Kingsley has made good on his promise from June to offer cross-platform play between the Steam and GOG platforms. […]

  • OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood arrives on PS4, Vita next week

    Roll7 has announced it will release OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood next week. The developer announced the dates on Twitter this morning alongside the launch trailer. You will be able to download the game for PlayStation 4 and Vita March 3 in North America and March 4 in Europe.

  • Week 7: Play GTA Online with VG247 tonight at 8pm UK time!

    Heists got a date! Come play GTA Online with us to celebrate. We’re playing GTA Online on PS4 tonight with whoever else fancies it. That means you. This week’s playlist is Happy for Heists, because we kind of are. The six jobs involved will last about 45 minutes. Anyone can turn up. Here’s how. We’ll […]

  • Batman: Arkham Knight – first look into the story

    Batman: Arkham Knight has a new trailer available that gives us a peek into Scarecrow’s plan to unite all villains against Batman. The trailer below has a different tone to the ones showing Arkham Knight. Instead, we get a look at Scarecrow’s team of super-villains including new footage of Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn. There […]

  • Vita knocks New 3DS LL out of top slot on Media Create charts

    Thanks to four new titles, one of which was God Eater 2: Rage Burst, PlayStation Vita has knocked New 3DS LL out of the top slot on the Media Create charts in Japan. The handheld, which came in thrid place last week, moved 35,203 units for the February 16-22 period, compared to 10,901 units the […]

  • Dragon Quest Heroes coming west in 2015, PS4 only

    Dragon Quest Heroes will be making its way to west this year. Square Enix has announced that it’s bringing Dragon Quest Heroes to the west this year. The press release mentioned only PAL territories (Europe & Australia). Though it’s unlikely it will miss the US. The game will release on PlayStation 4, both digitally and […]

  • Destiny: how to make sure Crota stays down for longer

    If you’re familiar with the final encounter of the Crota’s End raid, then you know every second Crota is immobilised counts. Arekkz Gaming has a handy tip for anyone who’s played Crota’s End or anyone attempting it. The trick is simple to execute and will ensure Crota stays on his knees for longer, making for […]

  • NBA Live 15 added to EA Access just four months after release

    EA has added NBA Live 15 to the list of games available instantly to anyone with an EA Access subscription. NBA Live 15 has been added to EA Access’ Vault, EA has announced. As of today, anyone with an EA Access subscription on Xbox One can play it alongside other available games. NBA Live 15 […]

  • Deal: get Advanced Warfare Limited Edition Xbox One bundle + extra game for £299

    UK retailer GAME is offering a good deal on the Advanced Warfare Limited Edition 1TB Xbox One bundle and is throwing in an extra game. The retailer has reduced the price of the bundle to £299, which is the usual price for the standalone console. The bundle is of course Advanced Warfare-themed. The console and […]