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Why Computer RPGs Waste Your Time

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the argh-my-life-she-has-been-wasted dept.

Role Playing (Games) 476

spidweb writes "RPGVault has an editorial about two particularly noxious qualities of computer role-playing games. Spiderweb Software's Jeff Vogel goes off on a tear, discussing how you work forever to earn the right to do anything exciting, and must 'prove yourself' by expending tons of your time. From the article: 'So now, thinking about playing an RPG just makes me tired. I'm tired of starting a new game and being a loser. I'm tired of running the same errands to prove myself. The next time I enter my fantasy world, I want it to not assume that I'm a jackass.'" I think Oblivion handled this well, scaling the world as you went and giving you really interesting things to do from the get-go. What other games dodge this bullet? Do you see this timesink as an inevitable part of the RPG genre?

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Baldur's Gate and NWN (3, Interesting)

PFI_Optix (936301) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030080)

They both were engrossing from the start. I'm going to venture a guess (without reading tfa) that the author is speaking more in terms of MMOs, which as I understand it put you through a lot of tedious crap before you get to the good parts of the game.

Re:Baldur's Gate and NWN (5, Insightful)

servognome (738846) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030308)

They both were engrossing from the start
But they both still started you off as a loser. You spend hours fighting rats, getting lost books, and trying not to off noober. What the author points to is the KOTOR "dude where's my lightsaber" problem. Most RPGs start you off unimaginatively at the absolute lowest level, so you get a sense of progression.

Re:Baldur's Gate and NWN (5, Interesting)

PFI_Optix (936301) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030448)

Blame DnD for that. They're trying to compress into a single gameplay experience what DnD players may see across several campaigns. They follow the pattern of creating a character and pushing through the early levels so that the character has a more "natural" development. Rather than choosing all your high-end abilities right away, you start with less and discover new ones, integrating them into your gameplay.

Titan Quest used the storyline to facilitate this quite well. You kind of stumble into the action, and in doing a few small things to help people out you find yourself more and more involved in the plot. And that's just a Diablo clone ARPG.

I don't think starting from the bottom is a bad thing. It forces a player to learn to use all the aspects of a character than that just powering through with high-level abilities.

A good way to adjust for this is to allow the player to modify their character somewhat during the creation process. Put a "level up" button right there, and every time it's clicked have them select abilities and attributes like they normally would. Want to start as a level 10? Just click through nine levels and start.

Re:Baldur's Gate and NWN (5, Interesting)

Kjella (173770) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030834)

But they both still started you off as a loser. You spend hours fighting rats, getting lost books, and trying not to off noober. What the author points to is the KOTOR "dude where's my lightsaber" problem. Most RPGs start you off unimaginatively at the absolute lowest level, so you get a sense of progression.

Well, if you start out killing übermonsters, what's the end game like? Oh yeah, another zombie... except now it's a SUPERzombie. Besides if you take a game like NWN, how long is it until you shoot missiles of magic, shoot flames from your hand and such? What do you expect, some kind of doomsday spell at lvl1? It's an RPG, it's not supposed to be a FPS skill game so you're "supposed to" win the battles. That means you need story and progression. If I'm swinging the same damn sword just like I did when the game started, that's boring as all hell.

Re:Baldur's Gate and NWN (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18031686)

I think the point is that the end game might be about puzzles or role playing or story or character interaction instead of hack and slash. "Progression" doesn't have to mean "better weapons and spells".

Re:Baldur's Gate and NWN (5, Interesting)

JimDaGeek (983925) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031706)

AMEN brother! I am a little older (34) than the typical gamer. However, I love me some good RPG. I personally hate how many RPG games have morphed into an action game to keep the kiddies happy.

I want a turn-based or phased combat RPG where I can plan my battles. I want at least 4 characters that I can build up from wimps to uber-fighters/mages/clerics/etc. I want to find and fight for tons of magical items and abilities. The last thing I want in an RPG is a click-feast. There is nothing worse in an RPG (IMO) than having to click like a freak to win a fight. I WANT TO PLAN MY COMBAT.

Sadly, I have not seen a good, modernized, old-school RPG in some time.

Re:Baldur's Gate and NWN (4, Insightful)

LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030940)

Most RPGs start you off unimaginatively at the absolute lowest level, so you get a sense of progression.
Isn't that kind of the point though? Much of the fun of an RPG is the progression and the ability to choose how you progress. If you started off as a level 100 uber-arch-mage with a +50 staff of insta-death and just spent most of the game trampling on underlings and occasionally fighting a main enemy who puts up a fight it wouldn't really be appealing to what most people want from an RPG. Sure, it could be an OK game if done right, but it would lack much of what people want from an RPG. A lot of the fun comes from building up from nothing into a self-made super-powerful being of your design and improving your inventory as you go. While the start of the game might not have the fun of being able to put up a good fight you instead get a decent storyline (hopefully) that keeps things interesting and makes you want to keep going. That's why BG and games like it work - you might be a piss-ant at the start but you get a good story from beginning to end.

What about the expansions? (1)

serodores (526546) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031528)

The expansions for Baldur's Gate and NWN start you off at higher than the 'looser' level. Granted, you can import your character from previous versions, but you can just buy the Diamond/Ultra edition of BG/NWN, and start off with the expansion, and skip the 'intro' part if you want.

Re:Baldur's Gate and NWN (4, Insightful)

krotkruton (967718) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031666)

I can see how a lot of people might not like that, but I think that is exactly why people who enjoy RPGs play them. That's why I play them at least. If I find a flash game online that lets me build levels and get stronger (remember Odell Down Under? where you're a fish that grows bigger?), I'll play for a couple hours. I enjoy that kind of thing. I think that they put franchise mode in sports games for people like me. We like the progression. I think the more important points of the article were the ones talking about the tedium of how to progress. His FFXII example was right on the mark. I played FFXII for 127 hours before I finally gave up trying to complete it and just beat it. I bet that the majority of that time was spent walking. A little bit of walking is fine, but when it takes 30 minutes to get somewhere (because it just takes that long to move, not because it's a challenge), that's pretty damn frustrating. I do agree with you about the "getting lost books" part, because it seems like so many quests in games, especially MMORPGs, are just "go here, kill this, pick up item, return".

As for the "Most RPGs start you off unimaginatively at the absolute lowest level" statement, that's really not fair, and I don't think it's true. One reason, assuming that a game involves gaining levels, you have to start at some level. Regardless of what that level is, it's the absolute lowest level. I mean, you can't start at a higher level or else that would be the new absolute lowest level. Another reason looks at it from a different perspective in that if you take any game, its reasonable to say that the character could have started off weaker. By that I mean that given any first character with some starting abilities and statistics, you can always make those abilities weaker, even if you have to go into negative values, so you never start at the absolute lowest level. From those reasons, I think that either every game must start at the absolute lowest level, so the absolute lowest level is meaningless, or you can always start at a lower level, so there is no absolute lowest level.

Re:Baldur's Gate and NWN (3, Interesting)

StarvingSE (875139) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031746)

I think guild wars does a good job of focusing on skill rather than pure character level. Sure you gain more skills as you progress, but thats expected since you are learning your profession. What I like the most is that you can always find uses for those beginning, basic skills combined with your new ones.

I think this is the one thing that crpgs lack: the use of beginning skills in the late game. I hate it how a dagger is usually seen as a "starting weapon" and later on you upgrade to longswords and battle axes. I think modern crpgs should adopt a more complex character and combat system, where different weapons/skills are used based on the situation, not their base power. If you are going into war, choose the longsword. If you want to slice someone's throat, use the dagger.

Re:Baldur's Gate and NWN (3, Interesting)

Gr8Apes (679165) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030370)

Good parts? I cycled through 40+ levels in EQ, never got to what I'd call a "good part". Even raiding groups weren't all that different from soloing, other than it went a lot faster and more consistently. Basically SSDD type stuff.

Most MMOs suffer from farming issues, whether by soloists or "parties" in any area that's "interesting". Why is it interesting? Because once in a blue moon, the mob that pops there will drop something considered valuable. It does this randomly, and regardless of who's there, thus encouraging farming.

What kills me is that this is easily solvable on both ends, and would end farming. This would, of course, kill the MMO's as they exist today's cash flows, since they would then have to provide real content to keep people's interest.

Oblivion (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030108)

Oh, I'd say a few of us wasted quite a lot of time on Oblivion as much as any other RPG. Perhaps we just enjoyed it a little more.

Re:Oblivion (5, Insightful)

beavis88 (25983) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030946)

Or enjoyed it a little less, as the case may be. What's the point of advancement if everything else advances at the exact same rate?

Re:Oblivion (1)

Bocconcini (1057516) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031482)

That is actually interesting question, but it's not like the idea hasn't been around for a while. In most CRPG:s the challenge rises when you gain levels. The difference with Oblivion is that is made it automatic and it's also quite evident.

Re:Oblivion (5, Interesting)

WiPEOUT (20036) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031556)

People enjoyed it so much less that the most popular mods for the game are those like Oscuro's Oblivion Overhaul, which at it's core is about making it so the Level 1 newbie can't realistically expect to face off against the mightiest beings in the world and expect to live for longer than a second. It brings back the sense of awe and underlying fear that make the world seem more alive, as well as the sense of accomplishment when you finally do gain enough experience for your hero to hand that boss it's arse on a platter.

Whiner (5, Insightful)

mandelbr0t (1015855) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030124)

If you don't like it don't play. As I'm sure you're aware, there's plenty of other ways to spend your free time. Don't try and foist your problems with RPG onto me. TFA lacked anything more than anecdotal "I played for too long and didn't have any fun".

Re:Whiner (2, Insightful)

SurturZ (54334) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030578)

Computer games are a leisure activity and therefore are a "waste of time" more or less by definition. Whether a particular CRPG is fun or not is a different issue, and to a large extent dependent on the player. For example, I quite like grinding in CoH because I often play late at night just before going to bed and I just want to switch off my brain for a bit.

That said, a CRPG where you start off all powerful and then gradually lose power as the game progresses might be interesting. I doubt anyone would like it though.

Re:Whiner (4, Insightful)

merreborn (853723) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030796)

More or less my sentiments.

CRPGs have the leveling treadmill/grind, because people *like it*. I loved that shit from age 8 to 18. You're constantly rewarded, and it can give you a sense of accomplishment.

Now, that game mechanic bores me. So I don't play those games anymore.

I guess the real point to be made here is that there are really two subgenres of CRPGs:

Those that focus on the leveling grind, and those that actually focus on "role playing". Some people like one, some like the other. That's pretty much all there is to it.

Re:Whiner (0)

GamblerZG (866389) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031182)

If you don't like it, don't read it. As I'm sure you're aware, there are plenty of other ways to spend your free time. Don't try and foist your problems with the article onto me. Your post lacks anything more than anecdotal "I've read it, and it didn't have anything fun".

Re:Whiner (1)

mandelbr0t (1015855) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031286)

A well-done imitation to be sure, but you misused the word "anecdotal". My post lacked anything more than opinionated "I read it and I think the quality of the article is poor", which is appropriate in this case since there's nothing objective to argue.

Mod +1 Pedant please.

Re:Whiner (1)

Nasarius (593729) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031540)

Uh, Jeff has done you one better. He makes his own CRPGs [] . He's hardly a "whiner" any more than those who write about game design in Gamasutra are.

Re:Whiner (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18031682)

I kinda agree. Which is why I (mostly) avoid RPGs.

You can spend a lot of time going over whether this or that is responsible for the beefs in questions, but the real responsibility rests in the whole concept of "leveling." Simply put, you either like leveling, or you don't. Yeah, there's a middle ground, but it's a small one. In general, I don't like leveling so I avoid the RPGs.

The problem with leveling: An ACs take

When you must get more levels to succeed, it is not your skill that triumps, but your time. This is not completely true, as skill with magic, weapon choice, etc. certainly affects the outcome, but if you can't take on the biggest baddies with a low level, and with a high level even engaging the smallest baddies is like stepping on ants, then the levels are the deciding factor.

It doesn't matter if you've been playing WoW 8 hours a day since it was released, if you start over with a level 1, you're toast in most of the juicier situations. "Aha!" you say, "but with all that skill, it will be so much easier to just level up a new character! Skill does matter!" Skill will, in fact, help you level up a new character, but this is where time becomes the major factor. Your time is what it takes to get the new levels. It might take less of it if you're already skilled, but it will definitely take time. The ability to devote this time to a task that will bring many experienced gamers little joy, becomes one of the biggest "skills" you must possess in order to succeed at the game. It might not be the only one, but without it, you will fail.

That's why I don't like leveling. I have a certain amount of skill with certain types of games. It can be increased with time spent getting used to a particular game's idiosyncrasies, but after I've mastered those skills, they belong to me, not some in-game character. Similarly, if I don't play the game for a while, my skills will get stale. I won't have a high-level character waiting in the wings to protect me. I suffer the consequences (mostly hurt pride) personally.

I've heard lots of defenses of leveling. Some people point out that player vs player violence doesn't happen on many servers, or that your high level buddies will protect you from harm in tough situations. Terrific. In the first case it means I'm force to only fight with the computer, which has never, ever been as good as the moderately talented and above humans I've played. In the second case it means I get to sit back and watch my buddies have all the fun while I take care of the crumbs they drop.

Please note that this is just a beef with leveling, not RPGs. You may think I'm a big loon, but I think it would be kind of easy and kind of fun to have RPGs without formal leveling, or a least with a very diminished form, more akin to getting a little bit better weapons in an FPS.

Why not just start out with a Wizard who already has a bunch of spells? Maybe he can be granted more for specific missions, or maybe he has to choose from a major list, but can only take a few at a time. Maybe he must combine them in interesting ways to get the best effects. Saying he needs to gain levels to get decent spells is not the only way to do it.

Why not start out with fighter who's already as strong as an ox? He might find some good amour in a particular level, or be given a special weapon he'll need to complete a task, but it would be the sort of thing that any reasonably knowledgeable gamer could jump in to.

Anyway, that's my take on it. I'll just go hop into one of my favorite games on a whim with no other character prep than getting a screen name and I'll be enjoying myself instantly going toe to toe the most challenging enemies, other talented human beings. I won't even have to worry that they have a "Staff of fucking up ACs." You're more than entitled to play the games you prefer, but at least you know why a hell of a lot of other people (or maybe just me) just aren't interested.

Sounds like he's talking about Guild Wars PVP (4, Insightful)

Sciros (986030) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030128)

What sweeping statements he's making! None of what he said would even sound vaguely familiar to me if not for the PVP aspects of MMORPGs, where people expect you to be at some sort of "honor level" or "rank" or whatever in order to play with you, which becomes a vicious circle. (Can't play to gain rank because your rank isn't high enough.)

But "computer RPGs" in general? And what would those be? Oblivion? Baldur's Gate? Dungeon Siege? Neverwinter Nights? KOTOR? I mean give me a break, those games do NOT treat you like a moron who has to grind in order to do anything fun. Those games give you ongoing, increasingly challenging excitement. There's no sense of "I played long enough so now I get to have fun" at all! I'm really confused by the sentiment.

Though I admit to not having read the article (blocked here).

Re:Sounds like he's talking about Guild Wars PVP (1)

Gr8Apes (679165) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030478)

Dungeon Seige was most certainly a grinder. You just ground and ground through opponents, because that was the only way to get more powerful, to continue grinding through the next set of opponents. I quit after beating the gnome machine mob.

Re:Sounds like he's talking about Guild Wars PVP (3, Interesting)

jimbogun (869443) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031290)

Thoughts on Oblivion:

How many times have you hit spacebar just to level up your jumping?
How many spells that cost 1 mana do you have in your spellbook? So you can cast it over and over and over.
A friend of mine would pick up armor and weapons just to repair it and toss it on the ground.

Now, do you have to do this? No, but if you want the best character possible, yes. It all depends on your definition of fun. Some people like the process of getting better. I think Thomas Paine stated well, a reason why game developers include tedious steps in RPGs.

"What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value."
Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, No. 1, December 19, 1776

I actually found the game was funner when I didn't go for the perfect character. I first played Oblivion trying to get the best character possible. It wasn't fun and I didn't even finish it. I played it months later and stuck with "class" skills and had much more fun, actually finishing the game. (Sneaking while Chameleoned and killing with bows was just fun.)

Re:Sounds like he's talking about Guild Wars PVP (1)

Sciros (986030) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031372)

Oh, yeah I don't do that "easy level" stuff. I tend to really "RP" my way through Elder Scrolls games. Every session of playing feels like a Hercules: The Legendary Journeys episode that way, haha

Re:Sounds like he's talking about Guild Wars PVP (4, Interesting)

FangVT (144970) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031572)

[...] which becomes a vicious circle. (Can't play to gain rank because your rank isn't high enough.)
Just to be pedantic, that's not a vicious circle, that's a catch-22. A vicious circle would be if playing caused both the requirements to raise and your rank to raise but it raised the requirements faster. Now, because of the catch-22 you can't have that happen, but if the requirements started low enough that you could play, the vicious circle would eventually cause that to change. So in that sense, a vicious circle can lead to a catch-22.

Article linked to page 2, not 1 (1)

nsanders (208050) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030132) []

Let's try and get people on the right page, shall we?

Re:Article linked to page 2, not 1 (1)

nsanders (208050) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030770)

never mind, apparently it has been fixed.

Agreed (1)

astapleton (324242) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030166)

Both on Oblivion neatly dodging this negative classification and on the persistance of RPG idiot-sinkholes. The majority of the ones I've ever picked up made me feel like I wasted my money until I was introduced to Elder Scrolls IV.

ADHD? (5, Insightful)

eviloverlordx (99809) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030196)

The author sounds like he's got attention span issues. If an RPG only took 10 hours to play, I'd feel ripped off. For games in general, I usually deem one hour per dollar spent a 'break-even' point in terms of ROI. 10 hours would be a total loss, unless it was a bargain bin game. Some of my favorites (Guild Wars, Half-Life 2, etc.) are well past the one hour per dollar level.

Re:ADHD? (1)

Gr8Apes (679165) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030426)

Half Life, the original. Hours and hours and hours of multi-player kill your boss goodness.

The memories....

Re:ADHD? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18030510)

There's ADHD, and there's monotony.

Re:ADHD? (1)

oc255 (218044) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030544)

I thought he brought up some good points comparing tetris and a typical rpg. I think it's a false comparison but still enjoyed the insanity-exposing step-back. This is good pre-reading for my IGDA meeting tonight. :)

Re:ADHD? (2, Informative)

CDarklock (869868) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031560)

I like to have a game I can play IN ten hours, but FOR hundreds.

I'm back playing GTA: Vice City at the moment, because it was fun. It takes approximately FOUR HOURS to go from start to fully unlocked. Then I can spend days, weeks, months playing my own little games. Sure, I could be done in another few hours by doing the missions - but there are hidden packages, rampages, stunt jumps, taxi driver, vigilante, paramedic, not to mention using the road outside Leaf Links as a half-pipe with a PCJ-600. Once my taxicabs get hydraulics, that particular brand of fun literally occupies me for days.

GTA: San Andreas, I've actually never completed. I got sidetracked riding bikes around Mount Chilead, and I've sort of lost interest in the storyline. I keep starting it over, and I get to the part with the remote control planes and crap, and right around there I end up just riding bikes around the countryside again.

Oblivion? I've logged about three hundred hours in it since starting my last run, and I've yet to do any of the main quest. It amused me to be nearly a year of game time into it, and wander back into the Imperial prison to find Baurus still standing over the Emperor's corpse. (Then I did the Dark Brotherhood quests, which changed this. Pout.)

I like having the choice. Do I want to hammer through it in two or three days, or do I want to geek out on it for a year and a half? If I only get one of those choices, the game sucks.

Guild Wars (4, Interesting)

LoverOfJoy (820058) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030198)

Guild Wars was able to avoid the grind to some extent. You max out at level 20 and it doesn't take terribly long to get to that point. There's also not a whole lot of expensive and essential equipment. You can fairly quickly pick up what you need as monster drops along the way.

There's still specialty stuff that might cost a pretty penny or take a lot of random fighting until you get the drop you want, but that's totally unnecessary to being successful at the game. Unfortunately, they may have taken a step back in that regard. In their latest chapter, Nightfall, you have to earn points to gain in rank for certain quests. It's not too much of a grind but it's not quite as open as their original chapter was in that regard.

Re:Guild Wars (2, Insightful)

Jezzerr (414452) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030986)

To an extent i agree, however once again this "grinding for points" isn't really vital to finish the game. Yes i agree that the sunspear points are useful because they allow you to gain an extra 30 attrib points but they are easy to get and getting them can be combined with most quests on the beginners island

Lightbringer points, although handy with the extras you gain with them are not vital to fight the final areas or bosses if you have a group which knows what it's doing :)

What's the point of playing then ? (4, Insightful)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030216)

, discussing how you work forever to earn the right to do anything exciting, and must 'prove yourself' by expending tons of your time. From the article: 'So now, thinking about playing an RPG just makes me tired.

Call me old-fashioned, but isn't this the point of most computer games, not just RPGs ? If you want to defeat the boss, you have to play all the levels before it. Or use the cheat code. In CRPGs, the story is often a key point of the game. And in Japanese RPGs, you often start out doing exciting things - Final Fantasy 7/8/.., anyone.

And that's not just in computer games. If you read a novel, you'll have to start at the beginning and read all the pages until the end. If you want to climb a mountain and brag about it, you're not going to take the lift.

Geez, what is it about this young generation that feels entitled to instant gratification ?

Re:What's the point of playing then ? (2, Insightful)

RichPowers (998637) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030518)

Agreed, but the meat of the game still has to be fun.

A game could have the most amazing boss fight of all time and an awesome ending, but if everything before that point is terribly dull, then I'm not interested in playing.

The challenge is creating a game that's fun throughout - even if you're just killing rats or dumb-dumb orcs at the beginning. And let's face it: many game studios simply lack the talent and insight to make such tasks fun. I think anyone can create a good boss fight, but it takes real talent to make the in between stuff (town exploration, traveling, sidequesting) fun and engaging.

Ultima Underworld (1)

HBI (604924) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030520)

Fun from the start.

That's the problem, poor gameplay value. It's not an instant gratification thing. It's that WoW is boring as hell to grind because it's all randomized BS with no value or significance that respawns regularly.

Re:Ultima Underworld (4, Interesting)

twistedsymphony (956982) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030700)

I don't think it would be beyond the realm of possibility to have an RPG start your off with some complex task requiring some familiarity, if you succeed you can proceed from there, if you fail you get knocked into some scenario where you have to build yourself up from the dumb dumb status.

Think of Oblivion... maybe you were half way through the ranks in the thieves guild when you start and you get a decent mission, if you fail (get caught) you're thrown in jail and the game starts with you killing rats (training). But if you succeed you keep playing from that point on... and the main quest would kick off in some other scenario. I'm sure you could apply the same thing to any number of other games.

Re:What's the point of playing then ? (2, Insightful)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030860)

I'm not sure if you understand what he meant.

If the fun is in a challenge, and the game turns out to be just a bunch of pizza errands, what is the point? If one wanted to do pizza errands, I'm sure Domino's is hiring. The amount of time it takes to level-up to be able to have a chance against the next boss is what turns me off of RPGs, MMOs and such.

Re:What's the point of playing then ? (5, Interesting)

Bastian (66383) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030874)

I don't think that's exactly what the author is talking about. I think the point he was trying (and, admittedly, not really succeeding) to get across is the way pacing is done in most RPGs. It's the same system that has been happening on console RPGs since Dragon Warrior came out 20 years ago - the level grind.

The problem isn't the leveling, it's the grinding. In most CRPGs, the game play (as I see it) goes like so:
Walk into a maze whose primary purpose is to force you to do a lot of exploring (read: walking around aimlessly) so that you have to fight a whole lot of random encounters with puny little enemies. Fighting in these random encounters is more or less mindless, because they're puny and their real purpose isn't to present a challenge so much as to level your party up. This makes you powerful enough to go on to the next maze. . .

The problem with this mechanic is that it's tedious, repetetive, and boring; and that it isn't necessary. In most any CRPG, you could easily cut out all the random encounters, get rid of the mazes (which serve no purpose without the random encounters), and make the difficulty jump between bosses smaller (since we're not level grinding anymore) and have the exact same game except that it really does only take a few hours to complete instead of weeks of your life. The story (the core of an RPG like this) would be the same.

FFVII, which I spent months working through, could probably be cut down to a weekend's worth of playing with all the fluff cut out.

Contrast this with Fallout, which manages to change the whole feel of the game with only a little tweaking to the basic idea of the game. The mazes aren't nearly so large (barely even worth calling mazes, really), random encounters only happen on the map and there aren't nearly as many of them, battles are harder, and the whole battle system is more interesting since it takes actual thought rather than being something you handle by hitting the X button repeatedly while chugging a Mountain Dew and staring out the window. Yeah, you still have to level to get through the game, but leveling doesn't require grinding.

Personally, I'd like to see an RPG that trims the fat even more than Fallout did, but at least it's a start.

Re:What's the point of playing then ? (1)

cowscows (103644) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031622)

I think you're Exactly right. I don't mind them making me wait until I hit level 4 before I can start killing blue slimes instead of red slimes. The progression, and the continuous revealing of new content is well and good. The issue is that it only takes me a couple of battles to figure out how a blue slime is different than a red slime, and how to defeat them. Figuring that out is fun, and a challenge(maybe), and why I'm playing the game.

But once I've figured that out, how come I need to kill 74 more blue slimes before I can graduate to level 5 and be allowed to fight black slimes? That's where it becomes monotonous and sucky. If you want me to have to fight around 200 battles to advance to the next level, then you should make sure your game is entertaining through all 200 of those battles. If your monsters are only interesting to fight one time each, and you can only come up with three of those monsters, then I'm only interested in fighting three times. Making me go through the motions a couple dozen extra times might help you reach your target of 70 hours of playtime or whatever, but it doesn't make your game any better.

Re:What's the point of playing then ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18031644)

Shadow of the Colossus : All boss fights, all the time.
No power-ups until after you beat the game (or read some online hint files)

Of course, that makes the game into a platformer, not an RPG...

Re:What's the point of playing then ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18031658)

Uhh ... I think that's the point of the pacing, to spend time playing the stupid game.

Re:What's the point of playing then ? (2, Insightful)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030950)

If you read a novel, you'll have to start at the beginning and read all the pages until the end. If you want to climb a mountain and brag about it, you're not going to take the lift.

I think you're missing the point. He's not saying he wants to skip to the end, he's saying he's already read from the beginning. He's already climbed the mountain. He's already worked his way up from the mail room to middle management. He's saying, "let's move on."

Now it's possible -- perhaps even likely -- that he's simply ahead of the curve. It could be that he's been playing longer, or gets bored more quickly, whereas most other people are just discovering RPGs and/or still on the way to the top of that mountain, if you will. The market won't move on until there are a substantial number of (potential) customers demanding something more.

Re:What's the point of playing then ? (1)

Bastian (66383) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031618)

Well, he's definitely ahead of the curve compared to most people. He's been writing RPGs since about the time I first discovered them. However, a quick look at the games published by Spiderweb suggests that, other than a switch from bird's eye to isometric perspective sometime last century, their games are all pretty much the same.

Which makes me wonder why he's writing this column about why we need to move on. He's a game developer - if he doesn't like the way things are being done now he shouldn't just sit there and spout vitriol in column on IGN, he should sit down and come up with something better.

What is he talking about (5, Interesting)

nsanders (208050) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030288)

What he is complaining about sounds more like an MMO then an RPG. I don't recall being given quests to kill 500 wolves in an RPG. In a lot of RPGs you just level with out noticing. It's not something you have to go and "do".

Also, this guy apparently established his own Game Design company making... RPGs! So why doesn't he just shut up and go make one the way he wants? He says he wants an RPG that can be finished in 10-12 hours instead of the 40+ most of them are.. Dude, that's what makes an RPG an RPG. It's long very detailed story!

For a guy who designs RPGs he seems like he doesn't understand what makes them great. If I'm not mistaken, he could just go play some of the new FPS's which have detailed story lines that only take about 10 hours to beat. They don't involve leveling and don't require you to quest..

So stop making RPGs and start playing FPS's!

Well... (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031070)

Some Japanese RPG's do have elements of leveling, in that to enter some new section you really do go back through some things a few times to level up enough to the point you can take on new sections.

Here one game I am thinking of is Disgea.

Re:What is he talking about (1)

Tim C (15259) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031296)

He says he wants an RPG that can be finished in 10-12 hours instead of the 40+ most of them are..

If I'm spending £35 (about $65, give or take) on a game, I want it to last. I do not want it to be over quite possibly in a day (or certainly a weekend).

Re:What is he talking about (3, Insightful)

Canthros (5769) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031608)

He's talking about CRPGs, not just the MMO sort. You may have noticed that he specifically bitched about FFXII?

Incidentally, if you read to the end of the article, he pretty much cme to the conclusion you just noted: no more games that take more than 10-12 hours.

Someone else already hit on the other thing you missed: it doesn't sound like he's upset about character levels, per se. He was aggravated about having to do piddly little bullshit for hours on end so he could move on to the bits of the game that mattered. It took this guy 47 hours to get through FFXII. Hell, it took me 120+ and I didn't do every quest or collect every Esper--or very many of either, actually. (I generally liked FFXII, but mostly because the grinding was less tedious than it had been for some time.)

I guess the question he's trying to get at is this: why isn't the game made such that you gain whatever levels you need by the time you get to where you need them?

Re:What is he talking about (1)

cowscows (103644) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031820)

I think what he's getting on about is that an RPG might have a very long and detailed story, but many stories take 40+ hours to tell?

If the story can be told with 12 hours of gameplay, then just take 12 hours. You can stretch it out to 40 hours by making the player do everything twice, or three times, or maybe ten times, but that's not really all that fun. If you're playing an RPG for the detailed story, then anything that keeps the story from progressing is a waste of time. Maybe a more interesting way to look at it is that the game designer has given you a series of jobs to do, and each time you finish enough of that work, the game rewards you with a little more of the story. I want to play the story, not earn it. A book doesn't make me read the last page of a chapter nine times before I can go on to the next chapter.

I guess if you've got nothing better to do with your time than sit in front of a screen and repeatedly do the same thing, then you'll like most RPG's. I play final fantasy tactics advance on my GBA whenever I'm sitting on the toilet taking a dump. I don't mind doing the same mindless task repeatedly then, because I'm just killing time while my digestive system figures things out. But beyond that, if I want to do the same thing over and over again, I'll go to work because there I at least get paid to suffer through the monotony.

spidweb? (3, Informative)

Kemeno (984780) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030292)

Spiderweb Software is the name of Jeff's company (and links to his website), and I believe spidweb is his nickname on his forums. Did he submit his own article?

Re:spidweb? (2, Informative)

Taimat (944976) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030650)

It looks like he posted his own story. His name links to his website, and the article deff. points out that he is from spiderweb software. Did he just make an account here? [] There isn't anything in his profile.

Maybe I'll write an article about why I hate my IT job, and then, post it on slashdot.

Re:spidweb? (2, Informative)

antialias02 (997199) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030854)

Try [] . Actually, it looks like he has submitted three of his own articles.

Re:spidweb? (1)

antialias02 (997199) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030670)

I was just looking at that myself; it seems so.

Re:spidweb? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18030676)

someone please refund my bandwidth and time wasted reading this garbage

btw spiderwebs games suck

Seems like a silly opinion (3, Interesting)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030372)

I'm tired of starting a new game and being a loser.

Well, first off, define "loser". Do you mean a character who is challenged by lesser encounters? Or do you mean a loser in the eyes of your peers (other players in an MMORPG)?

Seems to me a question of what you're looking to get out of an RPG. If you want to have uber-equipment and incredible spells/skills/whatever, sure, there's a grind. It's kind of like life -- it's rare to be rewarded for doing nothing.

For me, RPGs are all about the challenge. Since I don't have the time to play games for countless hours, what this leaves me with are games that are difficult in the early game (like Bard's Tale was). This still holds true for me -- once my character is powerful, I'll start a new character and handicap him. I'm one of those idiots who plays a vegetarian knight in Nethack, or an archer in Baldur's Gate (console) who refuses to use a bow.

Fundamentally, it's about what you want out of an RPG -- and if you want all the gravy, you should be prepared to work for it. (Or pay for it -- there are plenty of services out there that will do so for you). What's the point of all the cool stuff if you never have to work for it?

One other note -- if you define your character by how others perceive it, and identify with the character to the point that you're upset that others are more powerful, or have access to "cooler stuff", maybe you should be thinking about how much you have emotionally invested in a videogame.

Scaling Rewards (2, Insightful)

Applekid (993327) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030410)

The problem with MMORPGs is the reward for the effort. This isn't just a few players in a D&D campaign: you've got huge populations. In order to reward people who do well in the game you HAVE to provide cool and unique places to play with cool and unique opponents that drop cool and unique items.

If you step back you notice all the novel and interesting things in these games happen at the top levels because, frankly, that's where they HAVE to be. If the game peaks midway through the level grind, why would anyone keep enduring it?

In the meantime, the game's value gets diluted where it's only the end game that is important. Instead of treating time investment as something to be rewarded with something to ooh and ahh over, or something reserved for the selected few, it's treated as a requirement to get your fill of the game. You have people paying $X per month. You could be paying $X for dull repetitive content or really exciting unique content... it all depends on how much work you put into it.

This simply doesn't happen with older RPG games. With few players at a time you can make sure everyone's having fun as a group. Together. The world bends to them. How many DM's out there have tweaked random encounters to fix challenge levels for their players? How many DM's roll their own quests specificly to have a good time? With the "MASSIVE" in MMORPGs, there cannot possibly be good attention paid to the up-and-coming players. You focus on the bottom so they get hooked and learn how to play the game, you focus on the top so nobody gets bored and leaves, and the middle? Well, screw them. Hurry up and get beefy.

On the aside, I've liked just about everything that ever came out of Spiderweb Software. Although, perhaps they could take a lesson from Oblivion and scaling opponents with the player's progress. Reward scaling is great in their games with side quests and little things to discover if you have the patience to crawl around, but the games usually stop being fun when I become a living God in the games and can decimate just about every enemy area without a sweat.

This is silly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18030442)

If this guy doesn't have fun starting from scratch in every RPG, then he needs to look into another style of game. Maybe one where you don't have to work hard to develop skills and gain useful items, which allow you to progress in the game. Oh, wait! That's exactly what an RPG is.

Personally, I don't think they're a waste of time at all. I have fun start from the very beginning each time. If you aren't enjoying yourself, then it's time to look for another game. Don't tell me that I'm wasting my time just because you don't like the games that I play. What a jackass.

Point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18030550)

You'd think that someone who spent 23 years of playing RPGs would understand the point is not to win the game, but to immerse yourself in the role and explore the game.

That being said, Jeff needs to pick up Planescape: Torment. Not that he'll enjoy it for the story or anything, but at least he can start out as a god.

Grand Theft Auto (1)

RiotXIX (230569) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030634)

It had enjoyable missions from start to finish. I appreciate his point: I'm no gamer, but I remember when playing Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the N64, traipsing around huge landscapes was astounding - the first time. Several years on, I still don't want to play it again (although the completing a game like the does feel relieving).

Re:Grand Theft Auto (1)

^_^x (178540) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031148)

Though GTA:San Andreas starts you off as a crappy driver, bad bike rider, slow runner without much stamina, no respect, no sex appeal, etc etc... until you grind those skills up doing related tasks.

It's kind of sad, because due to the horribly buggy worlds of GTA, I usually just used the game to fool around, but when I started GTA:SA, I found that I'd have to basically run around and excercise my various stat bars up to an adequate level before I could play the game. So basically, it falls into the same traps detailed in the article.

Not MMO (1)

lonechicken (1046406) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030648)

The author is actually speaking about "single-player" RPGs, though the points of the article seem more evident in MMORPGs.

Avernum and Geneforge. Eh? Wouldn't know those two games if Ray Muzyka and Richard Garriot smacked me over my head with those game boxes. Granted, sales numbers and popularity don't mean everything, but something tells me that the author is sick of RPGs because he's not getting the point of what makes some RPGs successful and good from start to finish. As if he's taking the character's tasks too literally. Immersion, smooth learning curve, is probably interpretted by him as busy-work prior to head bashing heroics. Sort of an ADD view on RPGs if you ask me (and you didn't).

<shakes head> (1)

wooden pickle (1006975) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030728)

I'm so glad we got rid of all these stupid casuals from my guild.

hmmm (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030744)

In the Olden Days you used to be able to (usually) copy your characters over to RPG sequels. I don't think they do that that much anymore.

But I have to say, while spending 60 hours on an RPG was great when I was younger, the older I get the more uncomfortable I am about spending too much time on a game.

RPG=ROLE Playing Game (2, Insightful)

knarfling (735361) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030750)

First, let me say I can partially understand where he is coming from. Usually I run into this when I want to replay an RPG over again. As you go through the game you find bigger and better items (weapons, armor, magic, etc.) and when you start over again, you think, "If I could just get the *Light Sword* found at the end of the game, I could kick butt in the beginning of the game and get to the end that much quicker." I know some people who like to hack the game just to give their characters the coveted items early in the game.

Some games deal with this by having shortcuts that you find out after you already need them. The first time though, you go the long way building up experience and learning the shortcuts. If you go through again, you know the shortcuts so you don't spend a lot of time just building experience. The problem with that is that there is a trade off. Once one person knows the shortcut, EVERYBODY knows it. Why do the long way when someone else has found the shortcut for you?

After having said all that, I firmly believe that Role Playing Games are there for you to play a role. What fun is the game if your role is Urak the Unkillable? Do you really want a role where you start out as all powerful and the goal is to lose all your powers and get rid off all your cool stuff? (Maybe I will start a game with that as the premise.) If you don't like the role any more, don't play the game.

As for me, it is true that I don't play nearly as many RPG's as I used to. They do take a lot of time that I don't have any more. There are times that I don't like starting out so low and I want to start out with a bit more of a head start. But I still get a kick out of improving my character(s) and developing him/her/them the way I want. I tend to prefer games where I have lots of control how I build the character. Do I want a wizard or a warrior? A fighter that can do some magic, or a magic user that knows which end of a sword to hold? What are the benefits and drawbacks to a quest? I know that not everyone likes the same games I do, and not everyone likes the same character development. Furthermore, as time goes on, peoples tastes change. If you don't like spending that much time developing a character, perhaps it is time to either change game styles, or program one that better fits what you want.

It's the XP paradigm's fault (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18030758)

What RPGs often do wrong is make the main XP source from killing targets, so a char that goes out and kills 500 wolves is innately better than one which killed only 5. When the game system rewards tediousness, many players will get tired and angry.

There are a few examples that I recall that alter the formula a bit. The Elder Scroll series do not derive leveling purely from killing, so your character can enjoy doing whatever he/she needs to. Chrono Cross levels all your characters when you beat the next boss; all the creatures in between is just practice. Deus Ex (the original) had an RPG-like system which rewarded the player skill points for completing objectives. All three basically having leveling objectives that don't include "killing X more creatures".

As a side note, I don't feel having to run-around-and-level in RPGs is nearly as bad and distracting as having to collect resources and redo all research in every scenario of a RTS.

They don't waste my time (-1, Troll)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030828)

I've never played one. Are they any good? Judging by the summary, and the fanbase, I'd say no, they are not.

Untroll parent (0, Troll)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031752)

RPGs leave me completely soft too. There is so much scope for real learning/creativity on and off the computer.

Buy a Lego Mindstorms system and explore robotics. Contribute to an OSS project. Learn to flyfish, knit, frisbee,...

I actually agree with him... (3, Insightful)

ShawnMcCool42 (557138) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030848)

I'm a long time gamer and i've been known to get sucked into FF11 and then the far superior WoW.

I had so much fun with WoW, but I ended up quitting and eventually feeling disdain towards the MMO genre as it currently exists.

I honestly can't find a nugget of story or novelesque quality at all in either of the MMOs I've mentioned. On top of that, the entire game structure is set around rewarding you for spending your time playing. I find that beyond superficial familiarity of your abilities and being observant in-general there's no real skill to be had in these titles. I can't believe I worked so hard to get a stupid mount in WoW...

In the time it took me to grow to level 45 with two seperate characters I could have beaten a number of games that had a MUCH higher engagement level than WoW. WoW is drawn out and slow, you have to play for an hour to complete a quest (you know what I'm talking about, don't nitpick me here). I've come to realize that I'd rather have a much more condensed gaming experience. I feel that for every 1 part of WoW i expended 3 parts time. Why bother when there's SO many great titles out with closer to 1:1 ratio?

I don't really have anything at all against the people who play the games.. But, for me (at least personally) I find them to be an extremely inefficient use of time.

Jagged Alliance Series (1)

lonechicken (1046406) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030870)

Not necessarily considered RPGs, but JA seems like the ticket for this idiot. You don't have to start out as a "loser." One or two characters on your team (party) can be pretty major badasses from the get go. It doesn't make the game any easier, and you still get to experience the entire storyline.

Well, it is better then the alternative (3, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030908)

I am talking about the RPG effect were the end or even the mid-level game is just one long hack&slash. Offcourse you might have a different opinion, maybe the descende into one long slaughter session is what you call the exitiing bit and you are glad to have gotten that boring talkie stuff.

Not even NWN2 succeeds here. Part of the problem is that the game gets too big. You go from a having a small party whose members are constantly in each others hair providing color, to a HUGE party who members you can barely get to know, whose interaction is extremely random because you have ZERO change of hitting the right combo of party members at the right moment/location.

But an ever worse game was a RPG set in our own medeival times but were magic was real. It started out as a good RPG but soon became nothing more then one long dungeon crawl with zero Rpg elements.

But back to bashing NWN2. If you have played it, you will have seen a loading screen message that tells you that you can interact with your party members enough to change them. What they don't say is that you can change ONE of them. The dwarf can become a monk. About half way through too and then that is it. Zero reaction from him.

Whoopee. Then again, the entire game is not to fleshed out. Only one romance option per gender. No same sex romance. If only they hadn't gone for a every single class as a party member approach and concentraded on a smaller group they could have avoided all that.

BUT I never really came across the need to 'grind' in a PC RPG. Yeah, in a way perhaps the whole bit in NWN2 were you got to do quest after quest to get access to the next area in your quest. Espcially since the "part of Neverwinter blocked of by the guards" bit is getting pretty old by now. Is that city ever not under lockdown?

Yet that is part of the gameplay, sure it is not the best story telling to do all these quests when you feel you should be rushing to get inside but that is the way bad stories work. It is like that eternal sex scene in action movies were the leads suddenly get naked for no reason when they really should be trying to solve the case.

As for ALWAYS playing a newbie. Well yeah, that can get old. Again NWN2 fails here a bit. Since you can create your own character you get the effect of being treated like a kid when your character is a 200 year old elf. Sure, they mature slower but still. Wel at least they were bright enough to make your forster father an elf as well.

As for starting at level 1. Okay, just try to imagine a game where you start at level 20. Problem? Well, if it is D&D beyond that you start to come close to godhood. Monk's are near invulnerable. Fighters slice and dice through anything, magic users don't have a single spell available anymore that does NOT wipe out the entire party (by accident, I SWEAR!) and healers can pull people back from death before they were born.

Sure a TRUE RPG could probably pull it off. In fact there is an other genre of games that already does. It is called an adventure. RPG without the combat. Because what does the combat mean if you are so fucking powerfull that nobody can stand against you. It would have to be an RPG with extreme story telling.

I want one, but in todays world were not a single RPG designer can resist skipping corners by just adding a few extra levels of nothing but boring nasties you already defeated dozen of times, I am not holding my breath.

Even the legendary Planescape Torment had them.

But as for needing to grind up, he is playing the wrong games.

"Wasting Time" is subjective (3, Insightful)

wuie (884711) | more than 7 years ago | (#18030980)

The concept of 'wasted time' is completely dependent on the person who is doing the activity. For some people, it's a fun and rewarding experience to start a character in a different world/time/setting and build that character up through experiences and quests. However, for some people, this is akin to pulling teeth: an agonizing trial that they believe separates them from the action at the endgame. In the latter category, I'd place the author.

I'm one of those people that likes the build a character from scratch and have them grow as I see fit. For this reasons, CRPGs are perfect for me, and don't feel like a waste of time at all. The fact that the author complains about 90 minutes of doing a quest when he could have used that time for something more 'exciting', like watching a movie, tells me one thing: he should definately get his entertainment elsewhere. He wants spontaneous action, he doesn't want to build the character but have it handed to him on a silver platter. There's nothing wrong about that, since there are plenty of games that do this, but CRPGs are not one of them.

It's not a matter of the CRPGs being at fault, it's just the author looking in the wrong place for his entertainment.

Re:"Wasting Time" is subjective (1)

^_^x (178540) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031316)

Personally, I like dungeon crawler type games like Diablo, Dungeon Siege, Untold Legends, etc... and they force you to start out weak, and ill-equipped, but the game's difficulty is laid out so that as you play each level and clear each dungeon, you're generally powerful enough by the time you're finished to take on the next one.

Currently I'm playing WoW with some friends, and while it seems the same on the surface, there are so many missions where you talk to one NPC who sends you running west through a desert for 20-30 min only to search an entire randomly laid out town for another NPC, walk up to them, deliver a message, and run 20 min back the way you came to say "He got the message!" Or like the article mentioned, kill 100 of the same monster to get 10 items (heh... back when I played Ragnarok Online it was more like kill 10,000 for ONE item! ...or do without it!) These are shameless wastes of time. There is no real gameplay in pointing toward a city and holding down the "up" button until you get there. There are games that take it even further like Eve Online where to learn a skill, you simply choose the skill to learn (or buy it) then start it training in the background - then wait for its timer to finish. At the start it takes minutes, but higher level skills can take weeks or more to learn. This is a game you pay monthly for! You pay them to sit around and wait!

I don't know if the problem is so much that he doesn't like any RPGs, but there is definitely a difference between good design and bad. You can start as a weakling and it'll be fine if the game is paced well. On the flipside, you can be a godly character already and have the fun sucked out of the game by doing pointless busywork and nonsensical errands (collect 600 wolf noses! Only 1 in 50 wolves HAVE a nose!)

Re:"Wasting Time" is subjective (1)

shalla (642644) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031584)

Exactly. I don't mind spending 90 minutes on a WoW quest, because in that time, I'm usually exploring, talking to people, working on some skills, and possibly working on another quest or two. I find that much more engaging than watching a movie, because after the movie, I've accomplished nothing. After the quest, I know that I stuck it out, probably snickered at something my brother said to me in tells, got money or rep or a reward, or somehow added to my feeling of accomplishment. I'm not going to say that there aren't quests out there that I felt were not worth the trouble, but a quest is only part of the total gaming experience.

I also can't say I really understand the mentality of "zOMG! GO GO GO! I must have a 70 of DOOOOOOM by tomorrow!". To me, I enjoy making the character and deciding how I want it to go, not competing with others to be the uber player of the server. To that end, I enjoy building the character through level 70, and my goal at level 70 is not always to have the best, shiniest, coolest stuff or attempting to pwn other folks, but to do things that I consider fun--whether that's running endgame instances or taking silly screenshots or planning scavenger hunts or whatever. A game is what you make of it.

So while I guess some people might consider me hosting a scavenger hunt to be wasting time, I consider it great social and family time, and I certainly know where to find a lot of bizarre stuff now without having to check Thottbot.

I dare you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18031044)

to take a look at my +5 sword of never getting laid and say thats a waste of time.

Jeff Vogel - competent? (1)

Dr.Boje (1064726) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031250)

I was actually enjoying this article until the author made mention of a quest in FFXII he considered to be time-consuming. From the article:

I just played Final Fantasy XII, for the PlayStation 2 - an entirely worthy role-playing game. And, by turning the combat speed to maximum and skipping all optional quests, I managed to win it in only 47 hours. There was one quest in it that finally broke my spirit. You have to find this secret door into this castle. Fair enough. And you find out how from this guy in the sewers who sounds like Apu from the Simpsons, but a grumpy old man. He knows how to open the hidden door into the castle. But does he give you a key? Or just, Heaven forbid, open it for you? No. He says, "To get into the castle, you must first get a darkened sunstone. Then you need to fill it with sun energy. By wandering the lands to the south, and searching for the four shadestones. Then you fill the crystal with sun energy. Then you..." SHUT UP! I don't want to spend hours wandering and killing wolves and for the shadestones, whatever those are, to open a door. It doesn't make any sense! Just open the door for me, you creepy old Apu-sounding FREAK! Finding the shadestones and charging the sunstone took 90 minutes.
Sorry, Vogel, but if it took you 90 minutes to finish this quest, which is near the beginning of the game, you might want to consider a catscan. This quest, honestly, is almost too easy. You don't even have to fight any monsters. I have to agree that RPGs do essentially waste a lot of players' time today (MMOs especially), but it's just absurd for someone to make this claim. That'd be like saying, "it took me 2 hours to finish the tutorial!" This article should've been named, "Why Lying Authors Waste Your Time".

What's worse is... (1)

Vacardo (1048640) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031288)

It's worse in some cases where sequels are involved. Either you're playing a whole new character who has nothing to do with the previous story - or the writers find a way to magically strip you of all knowledge, weapons and phat lewt.

Oblivion and Final Fantasy XII (1)

C4st13v4n14 (1001121) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031302)

The last several Final Fantasy games, as well as Morrowind, entertained me for over 100 hours each. Now Oblivion is out and I feel drawn toward it. It's interesting this topic appeared on Slashdot today as I was just thinking about what a waste of time these games can be. Why do I play and waste so much time when the sense of accomplishment I experience isn't tangible? I have absolutely nothing to show for it, except a memory card or a save file on my hard drive, which could be obliterated at any time by a strong magnetic field. Why do I want to keep playing? Why do these games just get longer and more involved? I'm afraid to try World of Warcraft, I'm afraid to get sucked into it and end up strung out as so many others have. Still, if I had children, would I want them to be out on the street on drugs, or inside on the computer?

No real different to life itself (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18031340)

The endless quest to "upgrade".

These games are arguably the most addictive because of how well they synthesize much of what it is to be human - to be social, to be constantly engaged in furtherment of our experience. Most of them are quite fulfilling. Its only when we reach the limits of the game or see them being experienced by others that we start to question our participation.

My only complaint about games like WoW is they don't capture cut throat nature of real life. Thats what stopped me from playing it. Kind of like that bit in the (only decent and necessary) matrix where agent smith is discussing how the utopian matrix was rejected by humankind. Quite insightful that moment.

Re:No real different to life itself (1)

Zero1za (325740) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031710)

Play Eve...

Plenty cut throat nature in there, and you don't really have to grind.

Exactly why I stopped playing RPGs (1)

SpecialAgentXXX (623692) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031472)

I've never played a MMORPG and hadn't bought an RPG since the Ultima Underworld series except for ES4:O. I enjoyed Ultima IV, V, VI, etc. and Underworld, maybe because I was a kid and the fantasy stuff was fun. I don't seem to recall, however, having to "grind" or "level-up". I do remember that if you killed someone who had better equipment, you could take it and get more powerful. However, I tried the RPGs again with ES4:O and it was fun for several quests, but then got repetitive - go into this dungeon and find this, go into that dungeon and find that, etc. Even Grand Theft Auto gets boring after awhile, especially after trying to increase my skill levels.

When I get home from work, I have very little actual "free time." I get really annoyed if all I can do in my "free time" is kill the same minor creature over and over again (or in the case of GTA:SA, swim/dive stationary into a wall to up my skills so I can complete a mission where I need to hold my breath) and never progress on with the game. Talk about sheer boredom. That's why I used trainers to automatically up my skills - I don't want to waste my precious free-time.

Now, I only play FPS and RTS games with a little TBS (Civ series). For FPS, I can immediately get into the game and make a difference, do something cool to advance the storyline, etc. I don't need to go do all these little tasks to build up skill points. That's why games like Far Cry & HL2 were so fun - there was an interesting storyline and you could "power-up" by getting better weapons. For RTS / TBS, it's about planning. The best one I played were the built-in campaigns in Age of Mythology.

Levelling is too important? (2, Insightful)

TriezGamer (861238) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031488)

Perhaps a majority of the problem is the ridiculously unrealistic gap between an experienced warrior and one with relatively less experience.

I think the entire problem would resolve itself if the difference between a level 1 character's fighting ability and a level 90 character's fighting ability was significantly less.

In an MMORPG environment, if 3 level 1 characters could gang up and take down someone who has reached the highest point you can reach, then I think the entire concept of the grind would take a back seat to interesting gameplay.

PlanetSide is an MMOFPS that takes this concept and deals with it quite well. You can spend your points each level to gain the ability to use new weapons or vehicles, with some abilities having pre-requisite abilities. If you want, you can trade the abilities back for the points you used to earn them, but you can only 'sell' one ability every 6 hours. Once you're level 8 or so, you have access to pretty much everything the game has to offer, and further levels only serve to expand the number of things you can do at once -- essentially expanding your flexibility. But by no means is a level 20 character STRONGER than a level 8 character, they simply have more venues of attack.

Not Oblivion, I think... (2, Interesting)

rocket rancher (447670) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031490)

I think Oblivion handled this well, scaling the world as you went and giving you really interesting things to do from the get-go. What other games dodge this bullet? Do you see this timesink as an inevitable part of the RPG genre?

Granted, Oblivion is a game where instant immersion is truly possible, where you can literally choose how you want to explore the world. The quests in the game provide some structure, but you really can just pick a direction and start walking when you begin the game.

But the world scaling backfired, I think. Leveling your character a dozen times and then going back and pummelling that boss is a major part of the fun in an RPG. Getting trounced by the same adversary whether you are level 1 or level 12 is not very fun at all. But that is only part of the reason why I think Oblivion does not address the grind issue very well.

Ironically, the main reason that Oblivion doesn't address the grind is because the developers did too good of a job implementing magic in this world. Without putting out too many spoilers for people who haven't already figured it out, even level 1 characters can create spells that completely unbalance the game, no cheats, no console commands, no mods required. (If you are curious about these spells, checkout [] ) And I don't mean for just spellcasting classes -- magic in Oblivion is so open and customizable that it takes only a little bit of thought to create unstoppable characters of any class. Grinding your way battle after battle through adversaries to level up is boring, but so is blowing right through them.

Wait, that's not right... (4, Insightful)

alisson (1040324) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031524)

That isn't why RPGS/MMOs waste our time. That's simply how they do it. So why do they?

Because you love them, darnit >:(

RPG's Purpose IS to waste your time and money. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18031534)

The whole purpose of RPG's is to waste your time and money.
Thousands of hours, hundreds of dollars - disrupting your productivity from pro-social activities
(such as helping your community, volunteering, earning additional income, building up your family and personal wealth, etc).

The Purpose of RPG's is to bring you closer to poverty and death, nothing less.
If it wastes your time and you don't date and die childless - all the better, the game wins!
It it hurts your company and your social life - great, undermining society is the very goal of Fantasy worlds.

Are RPGs any worse than Alcoholism, Crack, promiscuity, gambling addiction, etc? Who knows?

But he just doesn't get it. If he wants value to his life, he should volunteer to help Habitat for Humanity,
the local animal shelter, his church or public library, or just help some relatives clean the yard or share a vacation.

While you waste away, behind a keyboard - other people enjoy profiting from you're folly - go buy speed boats and enjoy living at their 3rd vacation home near the beach.

RPG's waste your life time, when you die - for real - put on your tombstone - 'IF I COULD HAVE ONLY LEVELED UP!'

Oblivion's trademark innovative AI dialogue here! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18031548)


Pathetic excuse for a game. I can't believe I wasted so much time on it. And yes, I say wasted; that game starts great but unfortunately falls very very short. Most unfortunate is that the shortcomings are very well hidden under a thick coat of eye cand, disguised as a very nourishing substance which in the end is like that inflated rice diet thing.

But I suppose people need to get their sense of achievement from somewhere. If they can't get it from the real world, grinding at a RPG is the natural substitute. And offers quasi-immediate rewards. Powerful addictive combination.

Quest for life (1)

scolen2 (956819) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031582)

I totally agree... I hate having to quest to get up, then quest to take a shower just to quest to drive to work and do more meaningless tasks so that I can just quest to pay my rent and eat food. I guess in the end i'm rewarded with sex, but then that just starts all the quests over again and I look like a ass hole agian!

Cross-marketing? (2, Insightful)

Doc Hoss (1062428) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031586)

I think the big problem confronting developers these days is the financial benefits to cross-marketing a video game. Since development budgets have gotten larger, the demand by "the brass" to make more money off one particular game has increased as well. Same way that Hollywood works: if you drop a lot of money on a project, you want a strong return. The problem with this in the video game industry is that people expect a game to be a great performer in more than one category. People don't really want a roleplaying game anymore...they want a roleplaying/action/adventure game that has great puzzles and an amazing fighting system.

In short, the problem is one of expectations, not of production. One poster here brings up Fallout, one of my favorite games of all time, and a perfect illustration of my point. The game is a straight-up roleplaying game. There is fighting, but the fighting system is a bit cumbersome. However, the system still gets the job done within the confines of the environment of this game. If someone plays this game expecting a fighting system that's fast-paced, exciting, and streamlined, they're in big trouble. By the same token, if I go to the next Jerry Bruckheimer movie expecting the next "American History X" or "Man on Fire" (2 of my favorites that happen to make commentaries on important social issues), I'm going to be sorely disappointed. Not neccessarily because it's a bad movie, but because my expectations were not met. I think it's the same with video games.

City of Heroes/Villains (3, Interesting)

Tiger Smile (78220) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031600)

I don't normally play computer games. Before I tried COH/COV the last game I played was on the Apple ][. So, you see, this was a bit of a leap. I love RPG games, running mainly. I specific like superhero games, like Champions. I spent some 20 years playing with a large group of people and other gatherings like Dundracon. I also very much enjoyed the game V&V for it's simple system that allow people to get into the game quickly. With pen and paper RPGs it was important to make sure people had a good time. Most game system got-it. Some did not. And, before you go pointing out the problem with these systems, I and everyone else knows there is not perfect system. They all have flaws, but most are fun.

When I started COH/COV is was interesting for it's newness, to me. But after playing a while I found it's shortcomings quickly. You start as a complete idiot. You are basically a normal person who can't drive a car, motorcycle, or ride a buss. Your "powers" can only be described as a few lousy tricks, at the start. You only get real powers at around level 38. It's only then that you even start to have power that you might start with in the pen and paper system. So if you want to imagine yourself as a homeless person, unable to use normal human transportation, who can preform little tricks, then you gotta love this game.

There is little imagination to it also. All characters complete the exact same "missions" and they are never in public. The mission take place in an isolated bubble. The missions always come down to these simple goals or a combination.

1) Defeat everyone
2) Defeat so-and-so
3) Kidnap somebody
4) Click on glowing or translucent things
5) Beat up an object(s) and escape(like bank vault)

The only goal is to "level-up" and beyond that there is little going on. The only place where user content utilized, besides characters, is in base construction.

One day someone will tap into the imagination of the people who love these games, and create a system where people can contribute. This generic system will play host to a number of different genre. People will be able to create their own "mission" and "missions" for others.

Maybe I don't get it. But on COV I have a "mastermind" character. As a Mastermind I only end up taking orders from others.

Never mind. I've just thought of my next project.

Shock finding (1)

john-da-luthrun (876866) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031652)

Playing computer RPG's wastes your time? Who knew? about because they are GAMES? (1)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031672)

What's a game if not a "waste of time".

LO fucking el (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18031712)

Like nerds have anything else to do except piss away their lives. If it's not RPGs it's TV, or action figures.

Don't change RPGs. (1)

MaWeiTao (908546) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031744)

I think the whole draw of an RPG, at least for me, is that I'm building a character. I like that sense of progress. I want to see my character's strength grow enabling him to slaughter foes who he initially had no hope of defeating. I like being able to explore, not have everything open to me within the first 30 minutes of gameplay but rather having a new region to explore made safer because of that character's progress.

Essentially, if I didn't want that sort of experience I wouldn't be playing an RPG. I'd be playing any one of a number of other games where my character remains unchanged from start to finish. I see an RPG, at it's essence to be a facsimile of real life. Obviously, it's not a literal depiction; it's not a simulation. However, such games are designed around character growth and evolution. An individual in real life doesn't reach a given and and find him or herself suddenly endowed with everything they will ever need to know. They aren't going to land the perfect job immediately out of college, earning untold fortunes. It may happen for someone, but that's the exception to the rule. Life is about growth, change and improvement, the basic elements found in most RPGs.

Perhaps too often these games devolve into a treadmill. But then developers are limited by how much variety they can put into a game. And regardless, life is essentially a treadmill: go to work, earn money, buy some stuff, earn experience, get a better job, buy better stuff. One could argue that they play games to escape from reality, but then that's a completely different debate.

MMOs are another story. In that case the developer has chosen to make the treadmill more tedious for a simple reason: to earn as much money as possible. That's the thing about subscription-based games. The trick there is to keep the carrot dangled just out of reach; keep the player interested enough that they keep playing. The thing is that people want a goal to reach for. Everyone is focused on the destination even though the journey is probably even more important. The thing is, without the end goal the journey becomes pointless. That's the problem with MMOs. It's an exercise in frustration because the game is based around making a player feel inadequate regardless of what level they are. There's no point at which a player can say they've made it. So the treadmill becomes painfully obvious.

I don't think Oblivion's system helps in any way. I don't like the idea that my enemies scale with me. I expect that as my character grows lower level enemies become insignificant. High level enemies pose a challenge because they are so powerful. The idea should be that the stakes are higher and greater forces are at play; battles become increasingly epic. If I get defeated at level 50 it's because I faced something truly powerful, not because of some unnatural mechanism. I don't want my level 2 foe to continue to be a challenge in the end game.

Reading the article I'm left with the impression the guy shouldn't be playing or developing RPGs.

Japan does this very very well (1)

hellfire (86129) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031778)

I've noticed those Japanese style RPGs there's not much of a level grind. Zelda is one that comes to mind, and the original Final Fantasy.

Zelda does this by combining the elements of a puzzle game with a little bit of FPS thrown in. There are no levels, you just get dramatically better because you get powerups and better equipment. However, how well you do is primarily based on your skill with the moves and the controller.

Final fantasy did this by basically pacing you through the areas of the game so that if you ran through each area straight through without stopping to "level grind" the game would in general level you to sufficient power. No "you must be this level to take this guy on." The natural course of the game gave you the power you needed.

In Spiderweb's games, there's very little need, or even ability, to grind. However, the one thing that both it's strength and weakness is that you need to switch tracks every now and then. It's nice to be able to feel like you can control where you go and organize how you tackle multiple quests, but sometimes I've run into situations where I'm simply not strong enough to tackle a question and I have to go do something else, which is mildly annoying.

The RPG grind back in the 80s wasn't that bad. The real problem with the grind is when you compare it to other people in MMORPGs. In the 80s, I played wizardry and bards tale. The grind was part of the game, but I loved it because I could track my progress, level, and move on. It was on my own terms and I felt good because it was the game challenging me and I pushed myself to do my best.

In MMORPGs, I can push to do my best, and then some asshole comes up to me and says "You aren't level 99 yet? You don't have a sword of +50 pwnz j00r azz yet? Where's your orb of ultimate sexiness? You suXX0rs d00d." MMORPGs are in general scaled to try to satisfy the most people in order to make the most money, and make you make an investment of time to get anywhere. And that's the problem. Jeff's right that MMORPGs are about time invested, and the reward is a measurable level of power or amount of gold or equipment. MMORPGs have become places where your penis size is measured by the number of levels you have, and can bring out the worst in people.

so you're tired of just aboutevery game genre then (1)

foobat (954034) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031822)

in a FPS you start off with a knife or a pistol, then about 40 million levels later you have the super mega ultra special cannon in a driving game, you start off of 3 crappy cars, and you have to get the better ones, infact in some of these driving ones you have to earn your driving license?! I think that's pointless but someone likes it. Then after driving 800 tracks a million times you can get flames on your car or whatever in a RTS you start off with "moron who throws stones" later you get ultra tank shooting lightning

Certainty is the Worst Form of Unreality (1)

Locus Mote (307298) | more than 7 years ago | (#18031836)

"Was it Laurie Anderson who said that VR would never look real until they learned how to put some dirt in it? Singapore's airport, the Changi Airtropolis, seemed to possess no more resolution than some early VPL world. There was no dirt whatsoever; no muss, no furred fractal edge to things. Outside, the organic, florid as ever in the tropics, had been gardened into brilliant green, and all-too-perfect examples of itself. Only the clouds were feathered with chaos - weird columnar structures towering above the Strait of China." -William Gibson

One of the strongest qualities of the original Star Wars universe (Episodes IV-VI) was the dirt around the edges. Spielberg's banged-up, worn out world breathed life into an otherwise unbelivable story. It's pretty obvious that 1st-person shooters are a literal testbed for the neat-and-tidy=fake hypothesis. Virtual worlds would look a heck of a lot better with a little grunge. But what about other dirt; grit in an RPG's algorithmic cogs?

The algorithms that govern character growth and power-potential in an RPG universe could use a little virtual "dirt". These algorithms are very often linear and dull dull dull! There's no real uncertainty in the system--uncertainty that would allow a very low level character to find a disproportionately powerful weapon (for example) very early on in the game. There is also no potential to be a very unlucky player who's character takes a very long time before going anywhere. These are two qualities that make life interesting. The potential for failure lends an exhilarating edge to success while certainty makes success dull.

Game designers are so terrified of alienating players that they design games which no one with an IQ over 90 could possibly lose.

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