Quick Quotes: Rolston on how some RPGs are “slow-paced, abstract, and awkward”

Friday, 20 January 2012 21:25 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

“Despite the fact that RPGs have made such deep and passionate inroads into the mainstream market, I still feel they are slow-paced, abstract, and awkward. Reckoning reflects my hunger for a faster pace of action and combat drama, and a desire for simpler, easier-to-use interfaces. RPGs are naturally the deepest, longest, and most complicated kinds of videogame entertainment… that’s what makes them great. But making them just a tiny bit less clumsy in the interface, and just a big, fat, huge amount more physical and exciting in combat, gives them more fun-per-unit-time. Me? I want All-Fun, All-the-Time, Right-Now, thank-you-very-much.” – Ken Rolston to GameFront on how the current state of RPGS affected the design of Kindoms of Amalur: Reckoning.


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  1. fearmonkey

    Ken’s the man!! – He is a very enthusiastic person on his games.

    #1 3 years ago
  2. Moonwalker1982

    Well i never thought i was gonna say this, but the RPG he worked on doesn’t impress that much neither, in the demo that is.

    #2 3 years ago
  3. GwynbleiddiuM

    I like it when people get desperate when going into hype mode. I also like Fast-paced RPGs. That’s why I’m madly waiting for Diablo 3 and Torchlight 2. That’s why I absolutely LOVED Divine Divinity, Beyond Divinity, Diablo II, I, and of course Titan Quest, etc. But if you’re trying to say that Icewind Dales, Baldur’s Gates, Neverwinter Night, Temple of the Elemental Evil, Fallout and Fallout 2, … were “slow-paced, abstract, and awkward” (AWKWARD?!) IMMA PUNCH U IN DA FACE!!!

    We get it you like to lean to casual crowd and appeal to them, we get it. We get it that you like to have rather an action/adventure game in a bigger space than a robust RPG, we get it, at least I get it. But don’t try to insult my intelligent by telling me all the games I enjoyed in the past were bullshit, because they weren’t and my generation lives to tell the world they did not suck, they were bloody awesome.

    Go make more Fable, Mass Effect, Dragon Age (II), Skyrim, Deus Ex: Human Revolution and boast how you people revolutionized RPG, by just taking the RPG out of the game, I play it and I still might enjoy it, like I did with Skyrim that has no balance whatsoever, like I love to play Mass Effect because of the story and how that story interacts with me and plus it has a tremendous scifi setting that I just LOVE, I still count Fable (first one obviously) one of my most entertaining experiences, but I just can’t accept them as RPGs.

    it’s just like when you’re planning on making a cake then you decide to replace the sugar with salt and thinking to yourself “oh, wow, I revolutionized how the cake is made. I completely took it to the next level.” yeah, it’s a different level, it ain’t cake though.

    #3 3 years ago
  4. DSB

    Fair enough if that’s his preference, but it’s not like nobody ever made an action RPG. There are quite a few of those, especially the dungeon crawlers.

    As for action, I reckon a lot of people like to chill out with an RPG after playing a bunch of balls-to-the-wall action. For me it’s like a novel as opposed to a comic book.

    #4 3 years ago
  5. Moonwalker1982


    Fable 3 entertaining too? Didn’t that become a chore? Cause really….so much stuff simply didn’t work in that game. The ‘new’ features sounded really cool, but the execution was just….meh!!!!

    #5 3 years ago
  6. CycloneFox

    has anyone here really played the Demo? i totally agree with anyone saying, rolston is a bit over-enthusiastic about his game being something totally new. also it’s just Not that breathtaking and doesn’t even play in the same league with skyrim when it comes to production-value.
    but for what it does, it is really unique. and from the little play time i had with it, i found it alot more enjoyable than most west-rpgs because of the things quoted above.

    it really feels like god of war with an Open world and a vast rpg System behind it. i hope it will be successfull and gets a tripple-a successor.

    #6 3 years ago
  7. TheWulf

    It sounds like he’s desperate to differentiate his game from the other RPGs out there and in the effort attempting to make it superior by lessening their competitors, and yet the effort is all for naught as it’s not really convincing, is it?

    Slow pacing can give the player time for thinking, it can also allow properly handled conversation and romance instead of the process being rushed along. A fine example of this is the completely lovely and wholly unique To the Moon. (I urge you to play that, if you haven’t.) It’s in the slow moments between combat that an RPG can really grow, it’s when you listen and learn, it’s those moments of immersion when you lose yourself in exploration.

    In fact, if you look at the Myst games by Cyan Worlds (which I did enjoy) then those were all about those slow moments. And unless he has some mad desire to say that his games are superior to the Myst series, then I think it’s just a lot of hot air. I realise that Myst moves a bit too slowly for some players and that’s fine, but a slow portion of a game does a lot to let its world breathe.

    Without the chance to breathe, a world dies.

    A world needs to captivate you in some way. It’s rarely in those fast moments of combat that it does so, but those are fun. However, to make a truly great RPG you must have a mix of both and you must balance it properly. This is why New Vegas was such a success, because it had its fast moments, and it had its slow ones where you’d just chill and have a nice chat with Arcade Gannon or Raul.

    The world lives through those moments, and a transference occurs from the medium to your mind, and your own imagination takes charge as you begin to wonder what that world is like. And those slow moments continue to fill in the gaps. If a roleplaying game is all about speedy combat, then ultimately it’s going to be incredibly shallow. It’s going to be just a top-down action game. Those are fun, but they’re not RPGs.

    From the sounds of it, Bastion is more of an RPG than their game is.

    You see, there are moments in Bastion when it’s just you, the narrator, and your situation. And the world of Bastion flourishes through those moments. It seems that this man would have the narrator and those moments removed from Bastion, leaving only the combat. But what would you left? Well, you’d have Bastion’s beautifully colourful and abstract world.

    Oh, you can’t be abstract, either.

    All right then. When you strip away those moments of slow narration and the abstract world of Bastion, what do you have left? You have some fun game mechanics but ultimately you’d have a completely forgettable game. And this is what I think Amalur is going to be: A completely forgettable game. That’s what they’re afraid of, so they’re openly decrying the very things they need their RPG to have.

    Let’s look at something like Morrowind. Do you remember Morrowind fondly? The first time you looked up and saw a silt-strider, the first time you saw a group of netches, your first time in a Dwemer ruin, the first time you wandered through a Telvanni mushroom… ? All of these are abstract concepts, be they creatures or locations. And it’s the very thing that made Morrowind so intoxicating.

    But you can’t be abstract according to this man. But if you’re not a little bit abstract then what are you? Well… boring, frankly. It sounds like if Amalur were a person, it would be a sheltered, xenophobic person who’s never experienced anything outside of their own doorstep.

    This just sounds desperate to me.

    Slow moments make RPGs incredible. Abstract elements make RPGs beautiful. This man… is really quite the fool.

    Summed up for those who may misread: This guy is essentially saying that Bastion is shit. I’m saying that Bastion was an incredible experience, and that Amalur looks a bit trite.

    And by doing this he’s alienating the very demographic he hopes to attract.

    #7 3 years ago
  8. GwynbleiddiuM

    @5 I said the first one and by 1st one I meant the one came for PC, never mentioned 3 though. :P

    @TheWulf, couldn’t agree more. Well done mate.

    #8 3 years ago
  9. fearmonkey

    @TheWulf – I love that you used Morrowind as an example and then call Him a fool. Ken was the defacto LEAD designer of Morrowind, his decisions made that game what it was. He was also one of the leads for Oblivion.
    Ever been to the cheat room in Morrowind, Ken has his avatar there.
    The man has his opinions and then made a game with what he likes, if you don’t like it then thats great for you, but simply calling him a fool when he disagrees with you is just stupid.
    I played through the demo multiple and I really enjoyed it. I see alot of potential the demo barely scratched, but the jaded gamers here just trash the game. I’m glad you liked Bastion, it was “ok” to me…
    Seriously….your post seemed intelligent until you call the man a fool and use one of his games in your examples.
    As Cyclone asked, did you even play the demo????

    #9 3 years ago
  10. GwynbleiddiuM

    someone remove this please, accidentally double posted.

    #10 3 years ago
  11. GwynbleiddiuM

    @9 I think he brought up Morrowind for the exact same reason. The man had a hand in it, it’s kind of is ironic to be honest. He helped creating Morrowind that by far was better than anything Bethesda did so far and now is desperate to sell his idea about how an RPG should be to the fans of the genre. You see, those that are not hardcore RPG fans would never sit to play games like Morrowind or Neverwinter and play through it satisfied. And the reason is simple, it’s not what they like or expect to play. In order to lean toward them they have to bend over backwards to satisfy the majority of gamers who love fast paced, action packed titles, sacrifices need to be made. Like, removal of the mechanics that used to define role-playing games.

    Kingdom of Amalur certainly is not a masterpiece, and from the looks of what I played it’s not the worst game someone could play this year. It can be enjoyable, but that doesn’t mean it’s an RPG.

    We all played the demo, and we all played enough RPGs in our gaming life to spot and expose the fact when someone is full of it and tries desperately to sell his crap as facts and how things should be.

    Again, there has been many action-RPGs in the past, Kingdom of Amalur has not brought something fresh to the table. It’s just a bit more serious Fable with some talent trees. Skill upgrades and ability choices are not something we have only seen in RPG titles, if you have ever played God of War, Devil May Cry, Onimusha, etc, they used similar mechanics and never called it RPG.

    #11 3 years ago
  12. OrbitMonkey

    Sounds like a lot of little dweebs want to keep their sacred little hobby from the casual masses.

    You guys are not playing a proper RPG, they bleat… Yeah sure, whatever ladies. Go have your circle jerk over how clued up you are.

    #12 3 years ago
  13. Erthazus

    @GwynbleiddiuM, I agree with everything you said, i just want to say that Torchlight 2 and Diablo III are not exactly RPG’s. They are hack and slash games with RPG elements. I’m looking forward to try these two, but for the different reasons. I want my loot and i want to kill everything that can move out there :D

    Also, huge respect for you that you like oldschool RPG games… Or huge respect for anything you said here. Cheers.

    PS: also, that guy made Oblivion, so i will never agree to his opinion. His fast paced material made Oblivion such a casual experience. He is the one who created bad dialogue options for Oblivion and made stupid decisions with skill tree system and UI.
    but at the same time he worked with Morrowind.

    #13 3 years ago
  14. GwynbleiddiuM

    @12 You are missing the whole point Monkey. It’s not about us wanting an entire genre to ourselves, it’s about companies and devs trying to tell us what we like about RPG genre is bullshit.

    I also believe not everything should be for everyone, that’s my personal opinion and in no way am trying to tell you this is how you should be thinking as well.

    It’s like saying golf doesn’t have enough players in comparison to other sports, in order to mainsteamizing it we need to dig more holes in the ground. It’s like saying that in order to make golf action packed and exciting for everyone we should let in a few rabid dogs chasing the players throughout the golf course, that oughta draw a crowd. And if you don’t like how the new Golf is played “You guys are not playing a proper Golf, they bleat… Yeah sure, whatever ladies. Go have your circle jerk over how clued up you are.”

    Well for the love of God hybridization is not the best thing you can do to make something more accessible and exciting.

    What is the next step? Making sport genre more fun like when you score a goal in FIFA, twelve storied buildings collapse with a big explosion to make it more fun? Or when you slide tackle someone their legs break in half and fall off?

    No, every genre has it’s own crowd. This is just leeching more money by making it appeal to everyone, and it actually takes less efforts because there’s no fun in something well thought out and well balanced, especially since it’s designed to play single player.

    Football has its own crowd, American Football has its own crowd, Basketball has its own crowd, golf, pool, and other shits has their own crowd, Live action movies has their own crowd, drama, comedy, horror, whatever whatever has their own crowd, hip-hop, rap, techno, electronic, rock, metal, black metal, doom metal has their own crowd.

    So stop being stupid and try to think before you come out here and accuse people to be some sort of elitist or exclusivist.

    @13 Thanks Erth, ‘ppretiated mate.

    #14 3 years ago
  15. absolutezero

    Its not like the Amalur interface is just as clumsy or anything. Having to go through multiple menus in order to change up anything. Oh no that would never happen. waaaaaaaaaaaaaait

    #15 3 years ago
  16. Mace

    Some RPGs like Kindoms of Amalur: Reckoning are also cheesy, clichéd, uninspired, shallow, clumsy, ugly and death to creativity in the industry. Nothing against a little “smoothness” in RPG design though. What that means is extremely open for interpretation. The problem is that every designer seems to assume it needs to make the game a stupid casual game (in both gameplay and story design) and that it has already been the norm for years. Time to get a little more original and ambitious.
    He makes it sound like he has done something different, whereas it’s so ordinary it might be taken for a minor, derivative indie project (“not great but entertaining for a while”), that are constantly spamming the Steam store.

    #16 3 years ago
  17. OrbitMonkey

    I’m not accusing anyone of being elitist Gwen… Reactionary, judgemental and presumptuous sure… But not elitist.

    #17 3 years ago
  18. Stephany Nunneley

    @14 “It’s like saying that in order to make golf action packed and exciting for everyone we should let in a few rabid dogs chasing the players throughout the golf course, that oughta draw a crowd.”

    I might actually watch golf if that ever occurs. :P /runs away

    #18 3 years ago
  19. freedoms_stain

    Rabid Dog Golf would be awesome.

    You have to get your ball in the hole without being torn to shreds or having your ball stolen by a dog :p

    #19 3 years ago
  20. Old MacDonald

    17: You didn’t really get his point, though, did you? Either that or you were and still are trolling. I think that’s the most likely explanation.

    #20 3 years ago
  21. Stephany Nunneley

    God – sorry for the novel. I apologize. I pulled the comment. It was all bullshit and waxing philosophical on Morrowind anyway.

    #21 3 years ago
  22. OrbitMonkey

    @20 Who’s point? Rolston? Sure I do. He likes his rpg’s a certain way and has tried to make one that reflects his tastes.

    The idea that this constitutes a attack on *traditional* rpg’s is something I find presumptuous, judgemental and reactionary.

    #22 3 years ago
  23. TheWulf


    I’m sorry but you didn’t understand my post, despite my best efforts to help. I know I’m long-winded, and this is why I actually included the section at the bottom.

    The man is essentially saying that RPGs that have slow paced sections or abstract elements are bad, and this makes Bastion shit, because Bastion’s best elements are in its abstract art and slow moments with just the Kid presented with a choice and the narrator explaining it.

    It doesn’t matter what position a person is in, they can still be a fool. Attacking a game for being slow paced and/or abstract is folly. Even modern RPGs like New Vegas pride themselves on their slow-paced moments and their abstract concepts.

    And you can’t call New Vegas an old fashioned RPG.

    By the way – I know what he’s bee involved in. Why do you think I cited Morrowind? Do you think my citation of Morrowind was a coincidence? I know full well what he’s worked on. It’s like he’s calling his past works shit just so he can peddle more generic fare. I won’t stand for it.

    If he had any pride at all, he’d be praising Morrowind. Instead, he’s insulting all the people he worked with on that project.

    At the end of the day I still have my doubts that you’ll understand what I’m saying, but his words are intended to offend not only games like Bastion, but the co-workers of a game that he helped to create. I find the man insidious.




    You mad, bro? Seriously. My words weren’t intended to make you mad but apparently they are. Why do you take kindly to him calling his past works and works like Bastion lesser? Why do you think that’s okay?

    The thing is is that you’re cooking up ridiculous, knee-jerk responses which have nothing to do with what I said, at least. You’re doing this to defend a man who’s attacked one of the best games of 2011.

    Why do you think that’s okay?


    This is exactly what I have against Amalur. It’s a creatively bankrupt game, it’s just the same generic stuff I’ve seen a million times before. But when you look at fantasy games which really stand out as being different, such as Bastion, Guild Wars 2, the Dragon Knight Saga (and upcoming Dragon Commander), you realise that this man is…

    Well, he’s a flim-flam artist. He’s trying to sell you every substandard action RPG since the dawn of time, and there have been a lot of those. But there are also GOOD action RPGs – Bastion was a bloody great example of how you can put together a riveting, compelling action RPG without losing sight of the story.

    I wish he’d put this much effort into actually doing something imaginative with his game. So I completely agree with you – that’s the problem here. He’s being a hypocrite. He’s attacking imaginative games and telling us that his game is ‘different.’


    I don’t think you’re in a position to accuse anyone of being reactionary considering your kneejerk response.

    Not to mention that I’m not sure how they even apply. Reactionary? No, my post was a well measured critical response to a very vain, self-absorbed, and egotistical man slamming one of the best games of 2011. Judgemental? No, I’m not the one judging Bastion and it’s like, I’m defending them.

    And I’d dare say that the only one being presumptuous here is you.



    I’m sorry, but you need to think about what you’re saying before you say it.

    There’s this little thing called one-upmanship and you’re doing it too, you’re attacking people to make yourself look good, you’re not just defending people, you’re attempting to lessen people with the use of what could best be described as buzzwords (post 17) to make yourself look superior.

    But the funny thing is is that’s what Rolston is doing, too. He’s using the best buzzwords he’s able to to make other games like Bastion look bad so that he can make his own game look good, it’s just base one-upmanship. You two would doubtless get on like a house on fire.

    #23 3 years ago
  24. TheWulf

    I’m going on to a new post for this one.

    Okay, hopefully by now everyone understands that what I have against Rolson is one-upmanship. If he’d simply said that he prefers faster-paced games and extolled their virtues, then I could have supported that. The likes of Bastion and Torchlight have a lot going for them.

    However, he attacked the designs of other games in order to prop up his own, this makes him sound like a snake-oil salesman and it’s not something that should go unchallenged. This isn’t saying that he has a preference for games, he’s clearly not doing that, he’s saying that anyone who doesn’t happen to follow the design rules of Amalur is responsible for substandard games. He’s making the claim that these games are awkward.

    These aren’t my words, these are his.

    You can praise something without feeling the need to take something else down a ‘peg or two.’ You could specifically aim these words at a game like Bastion, or prior games that he’s worked on, like Morrowind (which is ironic). Can you imagine how it feels to be someone who worked on Morrowind with him, to hear this guy like just some regular corporate slimeball come up and say that Morrowind was substandard just because it isn’t the game he’s developing now?

    What a vain, egotistical, sanctimonious butthole.

    Again: You can say that you like something without attacking things which are contrary to what you feel your game is about. There are developers and designers who’ve been doing this since the dawn of time. You have people whom, when you talk to them, you discover that they’re just really nice people who’re passionate about their projects, but they also understand that other developers are passionate about their projects, too.

    Then you have people who are, quite frankly, insidious jerkfaces. Like Rolston. Who’s unable to tell us what makes his game so great without attacking other development houses.

    And no, I won’t let this go unchallenged.

    This is the sort of thing that I’m not ready to bend over and accept like a good little boy. It doesn’t matter whether it’s coming from a mainstream publisher or an independent developer, this kind of think is just rank and repugnant. It’s meant to be insulting. If you want to praise your game, fine, praise your game. That’s fine.

    But don’t attack the development styles of other games just to do so.

    For the record, I attacked Bioware for exactly this nonsense not so long ago. When one of Bioware’s co-founders said something along the lines of: If you don’t follow WoW’s design rules when you’re developing an MMORPG then you’re going to end up making a terrible game, it’s as simple as that.

    That was also one-upmanship, propping up WoW and TOR at the expense of other games. He was clearly taking a crack at the likes of Guild Wars 2, which was trying to be different. I mean, even when ArenaNet stress how different their game is from traditional MMORPGs, they never attack the styles and methods of other developers.

    That’s exactly what Bioware did, that’s what Rolston is doing.

    Why is that okay?

    #24 3 years ago
  25. DrDamn

    Are you basing all this off the quote above or is there more to it? For me he’s stating a personal preference – quite clearly in fact. He’s not even said slow paced and abstact are bad – simply not what he prefers. It’s also not clear what he even means by abstract from the quote. It could mean quite a lot of different things.

    Personally I found the demo enjoyable. What stood out was how immediate things were in approach. From responsive controls and combat to the interface. So they’ve gone some way to achieving what they set out to do for me. It’s a nice game which I intend to pick up. What also struck me when playing it was how great it was that we have the variety and diversity of approaches to the action rpg genre in recent months. From Dark Souls to Skyrim and Amalur. This is something we should be pointing out as a very good thing.

    As an aside awkward is an interesting one to throw into the mix, and given his history I’d guess that might have been a jab at Skyrim, which for all it’s merits has an awkward bugger of an interface. That’s probably just me making a few too many assumptions though :).

    #25 3 years ago
  26. DrDamn

    Strange – had an error on posting the last comment and it isn’t appearing in the latest comments section, comment count at the top is one down too.

    #26 3 years ago
  27. OrbitMonkey

    @TheWulf. Nice essay.

    “I don’t like the fact Rolston critiques other rpg styles to promote his own”.

    Oh wow a whole sentence sums it up. Whowouldofthunkit.

    #27 3 years ago
  28. DSB

    @25 He is stating personal preference, and that’s obviously fair enough.

    I think what makes at least some of us cry foul is the fact that his game is guilty of quite a few design flaws, just going on the demo.

    He’s talking about streamlining traditionally laborious RPG mainstays, and that somehow involves an Elder Scrolls-style inventory? Really guy? That’s one of the most discouraging timewasters in action RPGs today, from Fable through Skyrim and The Witcher 2.

    I just think his aim is off. You’ve already had a pretty succesful series that played on the same things gameplay wise, in Fable, so it’s hardly a revolution.

    And I state yet again: Until you manage to make a non-obstructive camera in your game, you don’t get to talk about the bad habits of others. There’s really no excuse for something like that in 2012. If you were working on the very first Tomb Raider, fair enough, you’re a trailblazer, mistakes will be made. Today you’re just far behind the pack.

    I think Amalur looks good, but so far there’s nothing that really knocks me out beyond the lovely colours. He has a right to his opinion, just as we have a right to put it into context, when it contrasts with what he actually does.

    #28 3 years ago
  29. DrDamn

    Oh sure it’s not the perfect article but it does do a lot of stuff which should be standard for these sort of games. Example: open a chest and find a new piece of kit, from that screen you can compare to what you have equipped already and replace it if you want. No need to even go into the inventory.

    Still think some are reading far too much into this single quote. Other interviews have been the opposite of how some are portraying him here …

    Regarding the genre in general “There are so many different products and they’re all so good … you cannot complain about the variety and quality of stuff.”. He even specifically mentions quality available in the lower budget titles.

    #29 3 years ago
  30. DSB

    @29 Yeah, I hear ya. I didn’t feel threatened by it either, just like he was reaching a bit too far right there.

    #30 3 years ago
  31. OrbitMonkey

    Still think some are reading far too much into this single quote +1

    #31 3 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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