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Western role-playing video games are role-playing video games developed in the Western world, including The Americas and Europe. They originated on mainframe university computer systems in the 1970s, were later popularized by titles such as Ultima and Wizardry in the early- to mid-1980s, and continue to be produced for modern home computer and video game console systems. The genre's "Golden Age" occurred in the mid- to late-1980s, and its popularity suffered a downturn in the mid-1990s as developers struggled to keep up with hardware changes and increasing development costs. A later series of isometric role-playing games, published by Interplay Productions and Blizzard Entertainment, was developed over a longer time period and set new standards of production quality.
A role-playing video game is a video game genre where the player controls the actions of a character immersed in some well-defined world. Many role-playing video games have origins in tabletop role-playing games and use much of the same terminology, settings and game mechanics. Other major similarities with pen-and-paper games include developed story-telling and narrative elements, player character development, complexity, as well as replayability and immersion. The electronic medium removes the necessity for a gamemaster and increases combat resolution speed. RPGs have evolved from simple text-based console-window games into visually rich 3D experiences.
The Western world, also known as the West, refers to various nations depending on the context, most often including at least part of Europe, Australasia, and the Americas, with the status of Latin America in dispute. There are many accepted definitions, all closely interrelated. The Western world is also known as the Occident, in contrast to the Orient, or Eastern world.
Ultima is a series of open world fantasy role-playing video games from Origin Systems, Inc. Ultima was created by Richard Garriott. The series is one of the most significant in computer game history and is considered, alongside Wizardry and Might and Magic, to be one of the establishers of the CRPG genre. Several games of the series are considered seminal entries in their genre, and each installment introduced new innovations which then were widely copied by other games. Electronic Arts own the brand.
Computer role-playing games (CRPGs) are once again popular. Recent titles, such as BioWare's Mass Effect series and Bethesda Softworks' The Elder Scrolls series, have been produced for console systems and have received multi-platform releases, although independently developed games are frequently created as personal computer (PC) exclusives. Developers of role-playing games have continuously experimented with various graphical perspectives and styles of play, such as real-time and turn-based time-keeping systems, axonometric and first-person graphical projections, and single-character or multi-character parties. Subgenres include action role-playing games, roguelikes and tactical role-playing games.
BioWare is a Canadian video game developer based in Edmonton, Alberta. It was founded in May 1995 by newly graduated medical doctors Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk, alongside Trent Oster, Brent Oster, Marcel Zeschuk and Augustine Yip. As of 2007, the company is owned by American publisher Electronic Arts.
Mass Effect is a science-fiction action-role-playing third-person-shooter video-game series developed by the Canadian company BioWare and released for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Microsoft Windows, with the third instalment also released on the Wii U. The fourth game was released on Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in March 2017.
Bethesda Softworks LLC is an American video game publisher based in Rockville, Maryland. The company was founded by Christopher Weaver in 1986 as a division of Media Technology Limited, and in 1999 became a subsidiary of ZeniMax Media. In its first fifteen years, it was a video game developer and self-published its titles. In 2001, Bethesda spun off its own in-house development team into Bethesda Game Studios, and Bethesda Softworks became a publisher. It also publishes games by ZeniMax Online Studios, id Software, Arkane Studios, MachineGames and Tango Gameworks.
The earliest role-playing video games were created in the mid-to-late 1970s, as offshoots of early university mainframe text-based RPGs that were played on PDP-10, PLATO and Unix-based systems. These included Dungeon , written in 1975 or 1976, pedit5 , created in 1975,and dnd , also from 1975. These early games were inspired by pen-and-paper role-playing games, particularly Dungeons & Dragons , which was first published in 1974, and J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Some of the first graphical computer RPGs (CRPGs) after pedit5 and dnd included orthanc (1978), which was named after Saruman's tower in Lord of the Rings, avathar (1979), later renamed avatar , oubliette (1977), named after the French word for "dungeon", moria (1975), dungeons of degorath, baradur, emprise, bnd, sorcery, and dndworld. All of these were developed and became popular on the PLATO system during the late 1970s, in large part due to PLATO's speed, fast graphics, and large number of players with access to its nationwide network of terminals. PLATO was a mainframe system that supported multiple users and allowed them to play simultaneously, a feature not commonly available to owners of home personal computer systems at the time. These were followed by games on other platforms, such as Temple of Apshai , written in 1979 for the TRS-80 and followed by two add-ons; Akalabeth: World of Doom (1980), which gave rise to the well-known Ultima series; Wizardry (1981), and Sword of Fargoal (1982). Games of this era were also influenced by text adventures such as Colossal Cave Adventure (1976) and Zork (1976); early MUDs, tabletop wargames such as Chainmail (1971), and sports games such as Strat-O-Matic .
Mainframe computers or mainframes are computers used primarily by large organizations for critical applications; bulk data processing, such as census, industry and consumer statistics, enterprise resource planning; and transaction processing. They are larger and have more processing power than some other classes of computers: minicomputers, servers, workstations, and personal computers.
Digital Equipment Corporation's PDP-10, later marketed as the DECsystem-10, was a mainframe computer family manufactured beginning in 1966; it was discontinued in 1983. 1970s models and beyond were marketed under the DECsystem-10 name, especially as the TOPS-10 operating system became widely used.
Unix is a family of multitasking, multiuser computer operating systems that derive from the original AT&T Unix, development starting in the 1970s at the Bell Labs research center by Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, and others.
|“||Gary Gygax [co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons] was pivotal to the development of the gaming industry, and to my own career. (...) Millions upon millions of players around the world live and play in imaginary worlds built on the back of what Gary first conceived.||”|
|— Richard Garriott,following Gygax's death, in 2008|
The popular dungeon crawler Rogue was developed in 1980, for Unix-based systems, by two students at Berkeley. It used ASCII graphics, and featured a deep system of gameplay and a multitude of randomly generated items and locations. Rogue was later distributed as free software with the BSD operating system, and was followed by an entire genre of "roguelikes" that were inspired by and emulated the original game's mechanics, and by later titles such as Diablo .Later examples of roguelikes include Angband (1990), Ancient Domains of Mystery (1993) and Linley's Dungeon Crawl (1997).
A dungeon crawl is a type of scenario in fantasy role-playing games in which heroes navigate a labyrinthine environment, battling various monsters, and looting any treasure they may find. Because of its simplicity, a dungeon crawl can be easier for a gamemaster to run than more complex adventures, and the "hack and slash" style of play is appreciated by players who focus on action and combat. However dungeon crawls often lack meaningful plot or logical consistency.
Rogue is a dungeon crawling video game by Michael Toy and Glenn Wichman and later contributions by Ken Arnold. Rogue was originally developed around 1980 for Unix-based mainframe systems as a freely-distributed executable. It was later included in the official Berkeley Software Distribution 4.2 operating system (4.2BSD). Commercial ports of the game for a range of personal computers were made by Toy, Wichman, and Jon Lane under the company A.I. Design and financially supported by the Epyx software publishers. Additional ports to modern systems have been made since by other parties using the game's now-open source code.
The University of California, Berkeley is a public research university in Berkeley, California. It was founded in 1868 and serves as the flagship institution of the ten research universities affiliated with the University of California system. Berkeley has since grown to instruct over 40,000 students in approximately 350 undergraduate and graduate degree programs covering numerous disciplines.
The keyboard was frequently the only input supported by these games, and their graphics were simple and often monochromatic. Some titles, like Rogue, represented objects through text characters, such as '@' for the main character and 'Z' for zombies.No single game featured all of the characteristics expected in a modern CRPG, such as exploration of subterranean dungeons, use of weapons and items, "leveling up" and quest completion, but it is possible to see the evolution of these features during this era and that which followed.
A monochromic image is composed of one color. The term monochrome comes from the Ancient Greek: μονόχρωμος, translit. monochromos, lit. 'having one color'.
Although simplified for use with the console gamepad, many innovations of the early Ultimas—in particular Ultima III: Exodus (1983) by developer Richard Garriott—became standard among later RPGs in both the personal computer and console markets. These ideas included the use of tiled graphics and party-based combat, a mix of fantasy and science-fiction elements, and time travel.The game's written narrative was an innovative feature that allowed it to convey a larger story than was found in the minimal plots common at the time. Most games, including Garriott's own Akalabeth, focused primarily on basic gameplay mechanics like combat, and paid little attention to story and narrative.
A gamepad, joypad, or simply controller is a type of game controller held in two hands, where the fingers are used to provide input. They are typically the main input device for video game consoles.
Ultima III: Exodus is the third game in the series of Ultima role-playing video games. Exodus is also the name of the game's principal antagonist. It is the final installment in the "Age of Darkness" trilogy. Released in 1983, it was the first Ultima game published by Origin Systems. Originally developed for the Apple II, Exodus was eventually ported to 13 other platforms, including a NES/Famicom remake.
Richard Allen Garriott de Cayeux is an English-American video-game developer and entrepreneur. He is also known by his alter egos "Lord British" in the game series Ultima and "General British" in Tabula Rasa. Garriott, who is the son of NASA astronaut Owen Garriott, was originally a game designer and programmer, and is now involved in a number of aspects of computer-game development. On October 12, 2008, Richard flew aboard the Soyuz TMA-13 mission to the International Space Station as a private astronaut, returning 12 days later aboard Soyuz TMA-12. He became the second astronaut, and first from the U.S., to have a parent who was also a space traveler.
Ultima III is considered by many to have been the first modern CRPG.It was originally published for the Apple II, but was ported to many other platforms and influenced the development of later titles, including such console RPGs as Excalibur (1983) and Dragon Quest (1986).
Garriott introduced a system of chivalry and code of conduct in Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar (1985) that persisted throughout later Ultimas. The player's Avatar tackles such problems as fundamentalism, racism and xenophobia, and based on his or her actions is tested periodically in ways that are sometimes obvious and sometimes unseen.This code of conduct was in part a response to the efforts among some Christian groups to mitigate the rising popularity of Dungeons & Dragons. Continuing until Ultima IX: Ascension (1999), it covered a range of virtues that included compassion, justice, humility and honor. This system of morals and ethics was unique at the time, as other video games allowed players to be lauded as "heroes" by the game worlds' denizens, no matter what the player's actions had been. In Ultima IV, on the other hand, players were forced to consider the moral consequences of their actions. According to Garriott, Ultima was now "more than a mere fantasy escape. It provided a world with a framework of deeper meaning[,] a level of detail[, and] diversity of interaction[,] that is rarely attempted." "I thought people might completely reject this game because some folks play just to kill, kill, kill. To succeed in this game, you had to radically change the way you'd ever played a game before."
The Wizardry series was created for the Apple II at roughly the same time, in 1981. Wizardry featured a 3D, first-person view, an intuitive interface, party-based combat, and pre-constructed levels that encouraged players to draw their own maps.It allowed players to import characters from previous games, albeit with reduced experience levels, and introduced a moral alignment feature that limited the areas players could visit. The series was extremely difficult when compared to other RPGs of the time, possibly because they were modeled after pen-and-paper role-playing games of similar difficulty. Wizardry IV (1986) in particular is considered one of the most difficult CRPGs ever created. It is unique in that the player controls the villain of the first game in an attempt to escape his prison dungeon and gain freedom in the above world. Unlike Ultima, which evolved with each installment, the Wizardry series retained and refined the same style and core mechanics over time, and improved only its graphics and level design as the years progressed.
By June 1982, Temple of Apshai had sold 30,000 copies, Wizardry 24,000 copies, and Ultima 20,000. 's Andrew C. Greenberg on "the ultimate fantasy role-playing game". The first Wizardry outsold (more than 200,000 copies sold in its first three years) the first Ultima and received better reviews, but over time Ultima became more popular by improving its technology and making games more friendly, while Wizardry required new players to play the first game before its first two sequels, and the very difficult Wizardry IV sold poorly.Garriott even discussed collaborating with Wizardry
Telengard , a BASIC port of the earlier PDP-10 game DND,and Dungeons of Daggorath , both released in 1982, introduced real-time gameplay. Earlier dungeon crawl games had used turn-based movement, in which the enemies only moved when the adventuring party did. Tunnels of Doom , produced the same year, introduced separate screens for exploration and combat. Dragon Quest is most commonly claimed as the first role-playing video game produced for a console, though journalist Joe Fielder cites the earlier Dragonstomper .
The Might and Magic series, highly popular in the 1980s and onward, began with the 1986 release of Might and Magic Book One: The Secret of the Inner Sanctum for the Apple II. It encompasses a total of ten games, the most recent of which was released in 2014, as well as the popular turn-based strategy series Heroes of Might and Magic . The series featured a mix of complex statistics, large numbers of weapons and spells, and enormous worlds in which to play. It was among the longest-lived CRPG series, alongside Ultima and Wizardry, It is also notable for making race and gender an important aspect of gameplay.
Strategic Simulations, Inc.'s series of "Gold Box" CRPGs, which began in 1988 with Pool of Radiance for the Apple II and Commodore 64, 's turn-based mechanics. Better known for producing computer wargames, SSI created one of the defining series of the period. The games spawned a series of novels, and titles continued to be published until the game engine was retired in 1993, although users who had purchased Forgotten Realms: Unlimited Adventures were able to create their own adventures and play them using the Gold Box engine. The later titles were developed by Stormfront Studios, who also produced Neverwinter Nights , a multi-player implementation of the Gold Box engine which ran on America Online from 1991 to 1997. As in the Wizardry series, characters could be imported from one game into another.was the first widely successful official video game adaptation of TSR's Advanced Dungeons & Dragons license and rules. These games featured a first-person display for movement and exploration, combined with an overhead tactical display for combat that tried to model D&D
SSI had already published many RPGs based on original properties. Its "hardcore" RPG Wizard's Crown (1985) presaged the Gold Box games' design, with eight-character parties, a skill-based experience system, highly detailed combat mechanics, dozens of commands, injuries and bleeding, and strengths and weaknesses versus individual weapon classes.The game did not, however, offer much in terms of role-playing or narrative beyond buying, selling and killing. Wizard's Crown was followed by The Eternal Dagger in 1987, a similar game that removed some of its predecessor's more complicated elements.
Interplay Productions developed a string of hits in the form of The Bard's Tale (1985) and its sequels under publisher Electronic Arts, originally for the Apple II and Commodore 64. The series became the first outside Wizardry to challenge Ultima's sales. It combined colorful graphics with a clean interface and simple rules, and was one of the first CRPG series to reach a mainstream audience. It spawned a series of novels by authors such as Mercedes Lackey, something that arguably did not occur again until the release of Diablo in 1997. The series allowed players to explore cities in detail, at a time when many games relegated them to simple menu screens with "buy"/"sell" options. A construction set released in 1991 allowed players to create their own games, and Interplay re-used the engine in its 1988 post-apocalyptic CRPG Wasteland .
FTL Games' Dungeon Master (1987) for the Atari ST introduced several user-interface innovations, such as direct manipulation of objects and the environment using the mouse, and popularized mouse-driven interfaces for computer RPG's.Unusually for the era, it features a real-time, first-person viewpoint, now common in first-person shooters and more recent games such as The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion . The game's real-time combat elements were akin to Active Time Battle. The game's complex magic system used runes that could be combined in specific sequences to create magical spells. These sequences were not detailed in the game manual, instead players were required to discover them through trial and error. Sequels followed in 1989 and 1993. The game's first-person, real-time mechanics were copied in SSI's "Black Box" series, from Eye of the Beholder (1990) onward. Dungeon Master sold 40,000 copies in its first year of release, and became the best-selling Atari ST title.
Times of Lore , designed by Chris Roberts and released by Origin Systems in 1988, introduced the action-adventure and action role-playing game formula of console titles such as The Legend of Zelda to the American computer RPG market.Times of Lore and Dungeon Master went on to directly inspire several later Origin Systems titles, including Bad Blood (1990), Ultima VI: The False Prophet (1990) and Ultima VII (1992). Ultima VI made some major changes to the Ultima formula, including a constant-scale open world (replacing the unscaled overworld of earlier Ultima titles) and a point & click interface.
|“||Ultima VII is still my favorite game. It's hard not to look at Oblivion and see the Ultima influence.||”|
|— Todd Howard, executive producer of the Elder Scrolls series|
The Ultima series went on to span over a dozen titles, including the spin-off series Worlds of Ultima (1990–1991) and Ultima Underworld (1992–1993), and the multiplayer online series, Ultima Online (1997). Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss (1992) offered players a full 360 degree view of the game world. Ultima VII: The Black Gate (1992) was the first real-time title in the series, and was fully playable with the computer mouse.Garriott later left Origin Systems and Electronic Arts to form Destination Games, under publisher NCsoft. He was involved with a number of NCsoft's MMORPGs, including Lineage (1998) and Tabula Rasa (2007), before his 2009 departure.
The Wizardry series' most famous titles did not appear until years after its debut,and installments were published as recently as 2001. Wizardry VII (1992) has been said to possess one of the best character class systems of any CRPG.
Quest for Glory (1992) was produced by Sierra Entertainment, known for point-and-click adventure games, and combined CRPG and adventure-game mechanics into a unique, genre-bending mix.The series featured involved stories, complex puzzles, and arcade-like combat. The last of its five titles was released in 1998. It was originally conceived as a tetralogy built around the themes of the four cardinal directions, the four classical elements, the four seasons and the four mythologies. The designers felt that the series' storyline made Shadows of Darkness too difficult, and so inserted a fifth game, Wages of War , into the canon and renumbered the series.
Legends of Valour (1992) provided an early example of open-world, non-linear gameplay in an RPG. It was cited as an influence on The Elder Scrolls series.
Sierra's Betrayal at Krondor (1993) was based upon author Raymond E. Feist's Midkemia setting. It featured turn-based, semi-tactical combat, a skill-based experience system, and a magic system similar to that of Dungeon Master,but suffered due to outdated, polygonal graphics. Feist was heavily consulted during development, and later created his own novelization based upon the game. The sequel Betrayal in Antara (1997) re-used the first game's engine but—as Sierra had lost its license for Krondor—was set in a different universe. Return to Krondor (1998) used a new game engine, but returned to Feist's setting.
Westwood Studios's Lands of Lore series (1993) featured a story-based approach to RPG design. It served as a stylistic "mirror" to Japanese RPGs of the time, with brightly colored, cheerful graphics, a simple combat system borrowed from Dungeon Master, and a semi-linear story. These elements contrasted with Western RPGs' stereotype as dark, gritty and rules-centric games.
|“||Probably one of the saddest sights over the last couple of years has been the rapid decline in computer role-playing games. [...] The emphasis [among newer CRPGs, such as Ultima VIII: Pagan] is on bigger on-screen characters with more realistic animation in a smaller game world. [...] This seems to be a part of a design philosophy which says that computer gamers don't want to play the big games any longer.||”|
|— Computer Gaming World , March 1994|
|“||There was this thought that maybe, like adventure games, RPGs were going to die out, too. [...] I wasn't the only developer that thought I'd coded myself into a corner.||”|
|— Brenda Brathwaite, former Wizardry developer|
In the mid-1990s, developers of Western RPGs lost their ability to keep up with hardware advances; RPGs had previously been at or near the forefront of gaming technology, but the improved computer graphics and increased storage space facilitated by CD-ROM technology created expectations that developers struggled to meet.This caused lengthy delays between releases, and closures among less popular franchises. Scorpia in 1994 said that "Nothing has come along to equal or exceed" Ultima IV ten years later. She wondered if "maybe nothing ever will. I hope that's not the case, though, because that would mean the CRPG has stagnated". Computer Games later wrote that "[d]uring the now-infamous mid-nineties CRPG lull, the toughest dungeons were the bottomless pits of failed designs, and the fiercest beasts the deadly-dull CRPG releases".
Increases in development budgets and team sizes meant that sequels took three or more years to be released, instead of the almost-yearly releases seen in SSI's Gold Box series.The growth of development teams increased the likelihood that software bugs would appear, as code produced by programmers working in different teams was merged into a whole. A lack of technical standards among hardware manufacturers forced developers to support each manufacturer's implementation, or risk losing players.
Further, competition arose from other genres. Players turned away from RPGs, flight simulators and adventure games in favor of action-oriented titles, such as first-person shooters and real-time strategy games.Later RPGs would draw influences from action genres, but would face new challenges in the form of massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), a late-1990s trend that may have siphoned players away from single-player RPGs. They also faced competition from Japanese console RPGs, which were becoming increasingly dominant around that time, for reasons such as more accessible, faster-paced action-adventure-oriented gameplay, and a stronger emphasis on storytelling and character interactions.
The dark fantasy-themed RPG Diablo was released by Blizzard Entertainment on December 31, 1996, in the midst of a stagnant PC RPG market. 's success was its support for online, collaborative play over a local area network or through its Battle.net online service. This greatly extended its replay value, though cheating was a problem. While not the first RPG to feature real-time combat, Diablo's effect on the market was significant, a reflection of the changes that took place in other genres following the release of the action titles, Doom and Dune II . It had many imitators, and its formula of simple, fast combat and replayability were used by what were later referred to as "Diablo clones", and more broadly "action RPGs".Diablo is set in the fictional kingdom of Khanduras, in the world of Sanctuary, and has the player take control of a lone hero who battles to rid the world of Diablo, the Lord of Terror. Its development was influenced by Moria and Angband, and Diablo resembles a roguelike due to its focus on dungeon crawling, and its procedurally generated levels. Major differences include the commercial quality of the game's graphics, its simplified character development, and its fast, real-time action. A factor in Diablo
Action RPGs typically give each player real-time control of a single character. Combat and action are emphasized, while plot and character interaction are kept to a minimum, a formula referred to as "the Fight, Loot, and Level cycle".The inclusion of any content beyond leveling up and killing enemies becomes a challenge in these "hack and slash" games, because the sheer number of items, locations and monsters makes it difficult to design an encounter that is unique and works regardless of how a character has been customized. On the other hand, a game that omits technical depth can seem overly streamlined. The result in either case is a repetitive experience that does not feel tailored to the player.
RPGs can suffer in the area of exploration. Traditional RPGs encourage exploration of every detail of the game world, and provide for a more organic experience in which NPCs are distributed according to the internal logic of the game world or plot.Action games reward players for quick movement from location to location, and tend to ensure that no obstacles occur along the way. Games such as Mass Effect streamline the player's movements across the game world by indicating which NPCs can be interacted with, and by making it easier for players to find locations and shopkeepers who can exchange items for money or goods. Some of the best characteristics of RPGs can be lost when these road blocks are eliminated in the name of streamlining the player's experience.
One action RPG that avoided these limitations is Deus Ex (2000), designed by Warren Spector. It offered multiple solutions to problems through intricately layered dialogue choices, a deep skill tree, and hand-crafted environments.Players were challenged to act in character through dialog choices appropriate to his or her chosen role, and by intelligent use of the surrounding environment. This produced a unique experience that was tailored to each player. According to Spector, the game's dialogue choices were inspired by a console role-playing game, Suikoden .
Diablo was followed by the Diablo: Hellfire expansion pack in 1997, and a sequel, Diablo II , in 2000. Diablo II received its own expansion, Diablo II: Lord of Destruction , in 2001. Diablo, Diablo II, Diablo II: Lord of Destruction and the Diablo II strategy guide were bundled together as parts of the Diablo Battle Chest , which appeared on the NPD Group's top 10 PC games sales list as recently as 2010. 's Curse, Hellgate: London and Fate use procedural generation to create new game levels dynamically.A third game, Diablo III , was announced on June 28, 2008, and released on May 15, 2012. Examples of "Diablo clones" include Fate (2005), Sacred (2004), Torchlight (2009), Din's Curse (2011) and Hellgate: London (2007). Like Diablo and Rogue before them, Torchlight, Din
Interplay, now known as Interplay Entertainment and a publisher in its own right, produced several late 1990s RPG titles through two new developers, Black Isle Studios and BioWare. Black Isle released the groundbreaking Fallout (1997) which, reminiscent of Interplay's earlier Wasteland, was set in an alternate history future America following a nuclear holocaust. One of the few successful late-1990 video game RPGs not set in a swords-and-sorcery environment, Fallout was notable for its open-ended and largely non-linear gameplay and quest system, tongue-in-cheek humor, and pervasive sense of style and imagery. Players were afforded numerous moral choices to shape the game world based on how NPCs reacted to the player, much like the original Ultimas. Fallout was nearly as influential on post-crash RPGs as Ultima was on Golden Age RPGs, and is considered by some to be the first "modern" CRPG. Black Isle produced a sequel, Fallout 2 , in 1998. Third-party developer Micro Forté produced Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel , a tactical RPG based on the franchise, which was published in 2001 under Interplay's strategy division 14 Degrees East.
BioWare's Baldur's Gate series was no less important, the most significant D&D series to be released since the Gold Box era. 's Gate (1998) provided an epic story with NPC followers and written dialogue that continued through both titles and two expansion packs. Black Isle produced a more combat-oriented series, Icewind Dale , soon thereafter.The games created the most accurate and in-depth D&D simulation yet, and featured support for up to six-players in cooperative mode. Baldur
The critically acclaimed D&D title, Planescape: Torment , was developed by Black Isle and published by Interplay in 1999, and became known for its moody, artistic air and extensive writing.Interplay's Fallout, Planescape: Torment and particularly, Baldur's Gate are considered by critics to be some of the finest RPGs ever made.
|“||I think there are a few reasons for Fallout's success. It gave you tremendous freedom to let you wander wherever you chose. This freedom—to take whatever quests you want and solve them however you choose—is what an RPG was always supposed to be about.||”|
|— Chris Avellone, co-designer of Fallout 2|
Black Isle's games during this time period often shared engines to cut down on development time and costs, and most feature an overhead axonometrically projected third-person interface. Their titles, apart from the two Fallout games, used various versions of the Infinity Engine that had been developed by BioWare for Baldur's Gate. Interplay's collapse resulted in the shutdown of Black Isle and the cancellation of the third games in both the Fallout and Baldur's Gate series, as well as of an original title, Torn .Instead, they published a trio of console-only action RPGs based on the two franchises: Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance (2001), Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II (2004), and Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel (2004). One of the last CRPGs released before Interplay seemingly went defunct was the poorly received Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader (2003) by developer Reflexive Entertainment, notable for using the SPECIAL system introduced in Fallout.
The new century saw an increasing number of multi-platform releases. The move to 3D game engines, along with constant improvements in graphic quality, led to progressively detailed and realistic game worlds.
BioWare produced Neverwinter Nights (2002) for Atari, the first CRPG to fuse the third-edition Dungeons & Dragons rules with a 3D display in which the user could vary the viewing angle and distance. New game content could be generated using the Aurora toolset supplied as part of the game release, and players could share their modules and play cooperatively with friends online. Based in part on experiences while playing Ultima Online, one of the goals during development was to reproduce the feel of a live pen-and-paper RPG experience, complete with a human Dungeon Master. –2012) and Dragon Age (2009–2014) series, all which were released for multiple platforms. With the Mass Effect and the Dragon Age titles, Bioware also utilized a save import system where decisions in the earlier games impact the story in the later games.Neverwinter Nights (NWN) was very successful commercially, and spawned three official expansion packs and a sequel developed by Obsidian Entertainment. BioWare later produced the acclaimed Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic , which married the d20 system with the Star Wars franchise; as well as the original Jade Empire (2005), Mass Effect (2007
During the production of Fallout 2, some of Black Isle's key members left the studio to form Troika Games, citing disagreements the development team structure.The new studio's first title was Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura (2001), an original, nonlinear steampunk-themed RPG with fantasy elements. Several Arcanum designers worked on Fallout, and the two titles share an aesthetic and sense of irony and humor. Arcanum was followed by The Temple of Elemental Evil (2003), based on the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 Edition rules and set in the Greyhawk universe; and Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines (2004), based on White Wolf's Vampire: The Masquerade . All three games received positive reviews—as well as a cult following in the case of Arcanum— but were criticized for shipping with numerous bugs. Troika's reputation became "Great Ideas. Never Enough Testing", and by 2005 the studio was in financial trouble, no longer able to secure funding for additional titles. Most of the developers left for other studios.
When Black Isle closed down, several employees formed Obsidian Entertainment, who released Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II – The Sith Lords (2005), a sequel to BioWare's successful Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Obsidian later created a sequel to another BioWare game: Neverwinter Nights 2 was released on Halloween of 2006, and featured the 3.5 Edition D&D ruleset. It was followed by two expansions and an "adventure pack", in 2007 and 2008. Obsidian Entertainment began development of a role-playing game based on the Alien film franchise in 2006, but it was canceled, along with an original title under the working name of Seven Dwarves.Obsidian's most recent RPGs are Alpha Protocol (2010), a modern-day spy thriller released for multiple platforms, and Fallout: New Vegas (2010). The company released Dungeon Siege III on June 17, 2011.
The Gothic series, by German developer Piranha Bytes, began with the first title in 2001. Lauded for its complex interaction with other in-game characters and attractive graphics, it was criticized for its difficult control scheme and high system requirements.The third game in particular was notable for a "ton of quests", rewarding exploration, and approachable combat, but also for its high system requirements, unfinished feel and "atrocious" voice acting. Piranha Bytes split from publisher JoWood Productions in 2007, and due to a contract between the two companies, JoWooD retained some rights to the Gothic name and to current and future games released under that trademark. Piranha Bytes have since developed Risen , with publisher Deep Silver. A fourth, "casual" installment of the Gothic series, this time by developer Spellbound Entertainment, was released by JoWood in 2010. The rights to the Gothic series may revert to Piranha Bytes following the release of Risen II.
Bethesda Softworks has developed RPGs since 1994, in its The Elder Scrolls series. Daggerfall (1996) is notable as a 3D first-person RPG with an expansive world. The series drew attention to sandbox gameplay, which gives the player wide choices of free-roaming activities unrelated to the game's main storyline. The Elder Scrolls series was seen as an alternative to the "highly linear, story-based games" that dominated the computer RPG genre at the time, and the series' freedom of play inspired comparisons to Grand Theft Auto III . According to Todd Howard, "I think [Daggerfall is] one of those games that people can 'project' themselves on. It does so many things and allows [for] so many play styles that people can easily imagine what type of person they'd like to be in game."
The series' popularity exploded with the release of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (2002), for the Xbox and PC. Morrowind became a successful and award-winning RPG due to its open-ended play, richly detailed game world, and flexibility in character creation and advancement.Two expansions were released: Tribunal in 2002 and Bloodmoon in 2003. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2006), released for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 as well as the PC, was a much-enhanced sequel that featured scripted NPC behaviors, significantly improved graphics, and the company's first foray into micro transactions, a recent trend among Western RPG makers. Two expansion packs, Shivering Isles and Knights of the Nine , were developed, as were several smaller downloadable packages that each cost between $1–3. Oblivion's immediate successor, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim , was released to critical acclaim on 11 November 2011 and remains one of the most successful, favourably reviewed RPGs (or video games in general) to date.
Interplay's decision to scrap plans for Fallout 3 and Bethesda's subsequent acquisition of the Fallout brand created mixed feelings among that series' fan community.Bethesda released Fallout 3 in North America on October 28, 2008, to critical acclaim and much fanfare, and the game was followed by five "content packs". The sequel Fallout: New Vegas, created by Obsidian Entertainment, used the same engine as Fallout 3 and was released to generally favorable reviews in 2010.
Multi-platform releases were common in the early days of RPGs, but there was a period during the 1990s when this was not generally the case.The sixth generation of home gaming consoles led many game developers to resume the practice, and some opted to develop primarily or exclusively for consoles. The combination of the Xbox and DirectX technologies proved especially popular due to the two systems' architectural similarities, as well as their common set of programming tools. Multimedia and art assets, which account for a greater proportion of the development budget than in the past, are easily transferable between multiple platforms.
This affected several major PC RPG releases, mostly due to console exclusivity publishing deals with Microsoft. BioWare's Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was developed primarily for the Xbox, and ported to the PC several months later. Their original IP, Jade Empire (2005) was also an Xbox exclusive, – Special Edition (which included bonus content) in 2007. Obsidian's KOTOR sequel was released in December 2004 for the Xbox, followed by a PC version in February 2005; and Fable (2004) by Lionhead Studios received a PC port along with its reissue as a Platinum Hit in 2005.and did not receive a Windows version until Jade Empire
Sequels to many of the above titles were also developed for next-gen systems, including Lionhead's Fable II (2008) and Fable III (2010).The Fallout and Baldur's Gate series of PC RPGs spawned console-friendly, Diablo-style action titles for the PS2 and Xbox as their respective PC series ended. Bethesda's Oblivion was released simultaneously for console and PC, but was considered a major launch title for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. BioWare continued to produce launch-exclusive RPG titles for the Xbox 360, such as Mass Effect (2007) and Mass Effect 2 (2010); and released the multi-platform Dragon Age series starting in 2009.
|“||[Console gamers] don’t have the patience to wade through the introduction of [new] systems. [...] [But] once they’re into the game, the console guys want just as deep of an experience as the PC guys.||”|
|— Ken Levine and Todd Howard|
The change of focus from the PC platform to console systems has been criticized, due to the concessions required to adapt games to the altered interfaces and control systems, as well as a need to appeal to a wider demographic.Developer Josh Sawyer lamented the decline of high-profile computer-exclusive RPGs, and claimed that the collapse of Troika Games meant that there were "no pure CRPG developers left", outside of small companies like Spiderweb Software. According to Matt Barton, "successful CRPGs of modern times often seem more like action adventures or first-person shooters than anything ever released by Origin." Other criticisms include the increasing emphasis on video quality and voiceovers, and their effect on development budgets and the amount and quality of dialogue offered.
BioWare was considered the "savior" of the Western RPG following the drought in the mid-1990s, but its prominent Mass Effect series now sheds the novel-like writing style, and other conventions of Western RPGs, in favor of the cinematic style and streamlined action of Japanese console RPGs and other video game genres. These changes raise debate as to whether games such as Mass Effect and its sequels are truly RPGs.On the other hand, BioWare's success has been attributed to successfully "marrying western mechanics with Japanese-style character interactions".
There have been more subtle shifts away from the core influences of Dungeons & Dragons that existed in the 1980s and 1990s.Games were originally closely tied to the system's basic mechanics such as dice rolls and turn-based tactical combat, but are now moving in the direction of real-time modes, simplified mechanics and skill-based interfaces. Dungeons & Dragons itself is diverging from its roots, as the 4th Edition D&D rules have been compared to role-playing video games like World of Warcraft and Fire Emblem. Even as some non-role-playing games adopt RPG elements, developers and publishers are concerned that the term "role-playing game" might alienate non-RPG gamers.
Development for multiple platforms is profitable, but difficult. Optimizations needed for one platform architecture do not necessarily translate to others. Individual platforms such as the Sega Genesis and PlayStation 3 are seen as difficult to develop for compared to their competitors, and developers are not yet fully accustomed to new technologies such as multi-core processors and hyper-threading.Multi-platform releases are increasingly common, but not all differences between editions on multiple platforms can be fully explained by hardware alone, and there remain franchise stalwarts that exist solely on one system. Developers for new platforms such as handheld and mobile systems do not have to operate under the pressure of $20 million budgets and the scrutiny of publishers' marketing experts.
The technical sophistication required to make modern video games and the high expectations of players make it difficult for independent developers to impress audiences viscerally, to the degree that large game makers with extensive budgets and development teams are able to,but innovation and quality need not necessarily be stymied. Europe, and Germany in particular, remains more receptive to PC-exclusives and, in general, to older, more "hardcore" design decisions. Like the movie industry, the indie video game scene plays a crucial role in formulating new ideas and concepts that mainstream publishers and marketing departments, stuck in their old ways, might otherwise deem unworkable or too radical. There are many examples that movies that never gained approval with the corporate decision makers were financially successful or became iconic on the film industry. Indie video game developers can provide more development time and effort whereas larger corporate enterprises are constrained by the expenses and expectations of voice-overs and advanced graphics. Independent developers can be successful in focusing on niche markets.
The new millennium saw a number of independently published RPGs for the PC, as well as a number of CRPGs developed in Europe and points farther east, which led some to call Eastern Europe a hotbed of RPG development in recent years.Examples of independently produced RPGs include Spiderweb Software's Geneforge (2001–2009) and Avernum (2000–2010) series, Pyrrhic Tales: Prelude to Darkness (2002) by Zero Sum Software, Eschalon: Book I (2007) and Book II (2010) by Basilisk Games, Depths of Peril (2007) and Din's Curse (2010) by Soldak Entertainment, and Knights of the Chalice (2009). Examples of Eastern and Central European RPGs include Belgian developer Larian Studios' Divinity series, starting with Divine Divinity (2002); Russian developer Nival Interactive's series of tactical RPGs, starting with Silent Storm (2003); German developer Ascaron Entertainment's Sacred series of action RPGs, starting with Sacred (2004); Polish developer CD Projekt Red's The Witcher series starting with The Witcher (2007); and Polish developer Reality Pump's Two Worlds (2007) and Two Worlds 2 (2010). Hybrid RPGs include Russian developer Elemental Games' multi-genre Space Rangers (2002) and Space Rangers 2: Dominators (2004), Ukrainian developer GSC Game World's hybrid RPG/first-person shooter S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl (2007), and Turkish developer TaleWorlds' hybrid series of RPG/medieval combat simulators, starting with Mount & Blade (2008).
The Finnish independent development studio Almost Human released Legend of Grimrock , a Dungeon Master-inspired game, in 2012.A reboot of the long-abandoned tile-based dungeon-crawler subgenre, it was a commercial success that reached the top of Steam's "Top Sellers list" in April 2012. Examples exist in which developers leave larger studios to form their own, independent development houses. For instance, in 2009, a pair of developers left Obsidian to form DoubleBear Productions, and began development of a post-apocalyptic zombie RPG, Dead State , using Iron Tower Studios' The Age of Decadence game engine. Three employees left BioWare in 2012 to form Stoic Studio and develop the tactical RPG The Banner Saga (2014) and its sequels. Dead State and The Banner Saga are both supported in part by the public, through the crowd funding website Kickstarter, a recent trend in independent game development.
Baldur's Gate is a series of role-playing video games set in the Forgotten Realms Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting. The game has spawned two series, known as the Bhaalspawn Saga and the Dark Alliance, both taking place mostly within the Western Heartlands, but the Bhaalspawn Saga extends to Amn and Tethyr. The Dark Alliance series was released for consoles and was critically and commercially successful. The Bhaalspawn Saga was critically acclaimed for using pausable realtime gameplay, which is credited with revitalizing the computer role-playing game (CRPG) genre.
Wizardry is a series of role-playing video games, developed by Sir-Tech, which were highly influential in the evolution of modern role-playing video games. The original Wizardry was a significant influence on early console role-playing games such as Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. Originally made for the Apple II, the games were later ported to other platforms. The last game in the original series by Sir-Tech was Wizardry 8, released in 2001. There have since been various spin-off titles released only in Japan.
Eye of the Beholder is a role-playing video game for personal computers and video game consoles developed by Westwood Associates. It was published by Strategic Simulations, Inc. in 1991 for the DOS operating system and later ported to the Amiga, the Sega CD and the SNES. The Sega CD version features a soundtrack composed by Yuzo Koshiro. A port to the Atari Lynx handheld was developed by NuFX in 1993, but was not released. In 2002 the game was an adaptation of the same name was developed by Pronto Games for the Game Boy Advance.
Gold Box is a series of role-playing video games produced by SSI from 1988 to 1992. The company acquired a license to produce games based on the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game from TSR, Inc. These games shared a common engine that came to be known as the "Gold Box Engine" after the gold-colored boxes in which most games of the series were sold.
Dungeon Master is a realtime role-playing video game featuring a pseudo-3D first-person perspective. It was developed and published by FTL Games for the Atari ST in 1987, almost identical Amiga and PC (DOS) ports following in 1988 and 1992.
Tactical role-playing games are a genre of video game which incorporates elements of traditional role-playing video games with that of tactical games, emphasizing tactics rather than high-level strategy. The format of a tactical RPG video game is much like a traditional tabletop role-playing game in its appearance, pacing and rule structure. Likewise, early tabletop role-playing games are descended from skirmish wargames like Chainmail, which were primarily concerned with combat.
Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss is a first-person role-playing video game (RPG) developed by Blue Sky Productions and published by Origin Systems. Released in March 1992, the game is set in the fantasy world of the Ultima series. It takes place inside the Great Stygian Abyss: a large cave system that contains the remnants of a failed utopian civilization. The player assumes the role of the Avatar—the Ultima series' protagonist—and attempts to find and rescue a baron's kidnapped daughter.
Action role-playing video games are a subgenre of role-playing video games. The games emphasize real-time combat where the player has direct control over the characters as opposed to turn or menu-based combat. These games often use action game combat systems similar to hack and slash or shooter games. Action role-playing games may also incorporate action-adventure games, which include a mission system and RPG mechanics, or massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) with real-time combat systems.
Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord is the first game in the Wizardry series of role-playing video games. It was developed by Andrew Greenberg and Robert Woodhead. In 1980, Norman Sirotek formed Sir-Tech Software, Inc. and launched a Beta version of the product at the 1980 Boston Computer Convention. The final version of the game was released in 1981.
Stieg Hedlund is a computer and video game designer, artist, and writer with over 25 years of experience who has worked on more than 30 games in the video game industry. Although he is probably best known for his work in action RPGs, he has also worked on games in each of the real-time strategy, tactical shooter, beat-'em-up and action-adventure genres on the PC and almost every dedicated game console. He has a professed interest in conlangery and linguistics.
Leonard Boyarsky is an American computer game designer and visual artist. He is one of the key designers of the video games Fallout and Diablo III.
Entomorph: Plague of the Darkfall is a 1995 action-adventure role-playing video game by Strategic Simulations, Inc. It was re-released in 2013 on GOG.com.
Telengard is a 1982 role-playing dungeon crawler video game developed by Daniel Lawrence and published by Avalon Hill. The player explores a dungeon, fights monsters with magic, and avoids traps in real time without any set mission other than surviving. Lawrence first wrote the game as DND, a 1976 version of Dungeons & Dragons for the DECsystem-10 mainframe computer. He continued to develop DND at Purdue University as a hobby, rewrote the game for the Commodore PET 2001 after 1978, and ported it to Apple II+, TRS-80, and Atari 800 platforms before Avalon Hill found the game at a convention and licensed it for distribution. Its Commodore 64 release was the most popular. Reviewers noted Telengard's similarity to Dungeons and Dragons. RPG historian Shannon Appelcline noted the game as one of the first professionally produced computer role-playing games, and Gamasutra's Barton considered Telengard consequential in what he deemed "The Silver Age" of computer role-playing games preceding the golden age of the late 1980s. Some of the game's dungeon features, such as altars, fountains, teleportation cubes, and thrones, were adopted by later games such as Tunnels of Doom.
Diablo is an action role-playing hack and slash video game developed by Blizzard North and released by Blizzard Entertainment on December 31, 1996.
Eastern role-playing video games (RPGs) are RPGs developed in East Asia. Most Eastern RPGs are Japanese role-playing video games (JRPGs), developed in Japan. RPGs are also developed in South Korea and in China.
Jim Schwaiger's 1977 game Oubliette (inspired by Dungeons & Dragons and Chuck Miller's earlier multiplayer game, Mines of Moria) had a first-person point of view and used line graphics to render the scene ahead. [...] In late 1979, the first ever fully functional graphical virtual world was released: Avatar. Written by a group of students to out-do Oubliette, it was to become the most successful PLATO game ever—it accounted for 6% of all the hours spent on the system between September 1978 and May 1985.
Baldur's Gate is, simply put, the best computer representation of Dungeons and Dragons ever made. (...) The entire game is played exactly like a true game of AD&D with savings throws, armor classes and to-hit rolls and combat range and speed all computed with every scrap the party gets into. The thing that makes this all so impressive (and very different from SSI's Gold Box series) is that it all goes on behind the scenes where it belongs.
For the last decade or so, the over-arching focus I’ve seen is a push for bigger worlds. This in turn drives the player to explore and try new things. To a great extent, these games contain specific experiences that 8bit predecessors could not deliver in such detail.
I was the lead designer on project "New Jersey," which was never announced, and then helped with finishing up NWN2 over its last six months or so.
Specific rights to already or yet to be published games [...] were contractually granted to JoWooD [...] The same applies to [...] the trademark “GOTHIC”. These contracts are extensive and confidential.
Legend Of Grimrock isn't a love letter to Dungeon Master, the 1987 blend of subterranean exploration, survival, switches and traps. It's a near-facsimile. But that's not a fact Almost Human is trying to hide; it's the selling point. Legend Of Grimrock replicates a classic faithfully enough to massage the nostalgia glands of anyone who played the original, and it's a test of the timelessness of an almost universally loved game.
Being someone that really didn't enjoy Oblivion – too big, too open plan, too much crazy dialogue, I was surprised to find that Stalker, as a similar RPG/FPS hybrid really did it for me.
Let's see a show of hands from those who played the original STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl. All of you with your hands down: shame on you. Despite its lack of polish, the appeal of its immersive open world, shooter/RPG hybrid gameplay, and gritty atmosphere earned it an 85 percent score last year.
If the whole thing passed you by, Mount&Blade: With Fire & Sword was announced at Paradox’s New York event, and seems to be an entirely separate title, the first true follow up to medieval combat sim Mount&Blade.
Gangs of Glasgow is what happens if medieval warfare sim Mount & Blade was transposed to modern Glasgow, Scotland – or at least an exaggerated version of it where the extreme football hooliganism, rioting and assorted other urban violence is worse than it already is/was.