What I'm Doing Right Now

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Vault - Entry 8 - DID Role-Playing Shooters Ever Work?

This was originally posted at the official TF141 Media website: tf141media.wordpress.com, I'm just copying it to here because I wrote it with Alice Thompson, and Elinor Bass.

There's an old theory that's been passed around from time to time: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Games have been improved over long decades of new genre ideas and production delays. It's wicked stuff, but, in the end,
there's been some real groundbreaking, globe-trotting masterpieces, and unspeakably pathetic, totally uninteresting flops. And yet, now with games like the Fallout series, Borderlands, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., hell, even Mass Effect, has everything been as crisp, clean, and award-worthy as they are today? Role-playing has had a massive effect on video gaming today, and a good one at that, but also one of the saddest. With constant court fights between our supporting studio Bethesda and Interplay on Fallout Online, the genre has, as of right now, come to a halt, for we're breathlessly waiting for something to happen in the Fallout universe.

Well, I guess a fairytale won't always have a happy ending.


Well, if you get beyond Dungeons and Dragons, the incredible success that it was, the RPS genre started way back in the 80's, actually. There was a man. A man named Brian. Brian Fargo, that is. He founded the
company (that most of us at TF141 Media don't exactly love), INTERPLAY ENTERTAINMENT, on October of 1983. At the time, Interplay was very, very small. There were only four-five employees at the time (most of which slipped past my mind, I apologize). In 1984, under the assistance of Activision, Inc. (just like us under Bethesda), Interplay kicked off their career with three unsuccessful games.

But, that's beyond the point. After the success of The Bard's Tale, or Tales of the Unknown: Volume 1, nearly three years later came the "official" RPS, in 1988. Wasteland. Wasteland was massive, Wasteland was, by all means, the start of the RPS genre. It was huge. Named #9 computer game of all time, the single game that made RPG heaven.

And it had everything that made Fallout, another good example of an RPS, good. Each of the characters were different in statistics and aspects. There was Strength, Intelligence, Luck, Health, Climb, Picklock, Rifles, etc.
You still gained XP like you do in Fallout when you "reduce a bandit to mincemeat" (trash talk in the game), you still gained levels like you do in Fallout, and your survival was numero uno: your hygiene, food, water,
ammunition, everything that you HAVE to have in a nuclear wasteland. You can recruit NPCs like in Fallout (anybody remember Dogmeat?), and take them out just as quickly, if you please. Combat messages, like your
limb strength, were also in Fallout.

I think that one of the major effects on gaming the first Fallout DID have was that it was different. You had to survive to thrive. There wasn't one way or the other: Fallout would grow difficult as time went by. RPGs are
supposed to have a place: they're supposed to be more time-consuming, more difficult, and more rewarding than usual games. Most games with big dudes and guns are simple: you run, shoot to kill, continue to the
next level. Role-playing shooters make sure you earn your progression and stats.

Borderlands' looting experience was one of the best in the game, and one of the reasons it is popular.

After Fallout, it seems that role-playing shooters expanded vastly. Games like System Shock would go to become some of the most acclaimed games of all time. Then came other games like Mass Effect, BioShock, and the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series are not only some of the best games created BECAUSE they're so diverse, they took a hint from games like Fallout. The Elder Scrolls series, for example, benefitted because of all the
breakthroughs in Fallout and other Role-playing Shooters. It wasn't until Fallout 3, though, when the true-to-life genre that are "RPS games" came about. Fallout 3 was massive. The diverse collection, the limitless freedom, troubling enemies, a brilliant leveling sytem, the game was an absolute rolling stone. Add the increasing number of downloadable content that came out, and you've got a massive game.

Due to the atmospheric nature of Fallout 3 being so free, RPGs were sure to have a better future. And that's for sure. The next game, New Vegas, surely benefitted from all the risk-taking Fallout took. Borderlands was
huge as well. With millions of guns, hundreds of quests, and sixty-nine XP levels. Legendary? Indeed it was. But it wasn't just Fallout. As I said before, games like Mass Effect would eventually have an aftermath that
would help the thunderous success of Mass Effect 2. And we can NEVER forget Wasteland, of course. (I mean, besides the terrible sequel) It feels more like interactive realism, Role-playing shooters. It's like moving from your old house to a new one: it'll take some time to get used to the atmosphere, but once you get into it, you'll find an enjoyable experience, indeed.

Even shooter games' multiplayer is an RPG in itself. Leveling up, an unlocking system, freedom of choice, etc.

And yet, the future for Fallout Online seems bleak. With all the arguments and fines thrashing around from Bethesda and Interplay (with the poor fans in the middle of it all, not to mention our studio and Masthead), it seems that we'll have to wait another long decade, like we did for the big switch from Fallout 2 to 3. Well, I guess it's not always happy in Neverland.

So, the $60,000,000 question still remains: DID role-playing shooters ever work? Well, yes and no. Fallout did break all the taboos of role-playing games today, but it seems that a lot of other games have tried to copy the success, with only few actually meeting the expectations. But until Fallout Online comes out for the PC, I guess we'll have to stick with shooting and looting through New Vegas.

But I guess what they say is true: War... War Never Changes.

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