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Game Design Essentials: 20 RPGs

July 2, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 6 of 22 Next

5. Quest for Glory

Designed by: Corey Cole, Lori Ann Cole

Influenced by: D&D, graphic adventures (Sierra style).

Series: Five games. Even though considerable time elapsed between the later installments, it's still possible to take a character through all five adventures.

Legacy: RPGs seem to be coming back around to adventure game design, particularly in their use of object manipulation puzzles.

The time was that adventure games and role-playing games were considered close kin. Pen-and-paper Dungeons & Dragons adventures are held in what could be termed "narrative space," the players forming a mental image of the area using a description provided by the DM, stating what their characters were doing, which the DM folded back into his own internal representation.

Back and forth their descriptions go, defining the world's progress in an iterative fashion. Early adventure games were inspired by this kind of interaction, and even drew from some of D&D's other aspects; Zork had a fight with a troll the outcome of which was determined randomly.

But then the two genres split apart. Adventure games became about puzzles, especially object manipulation puzzles, but usually things that worked the same way each time. Meanwhile, RPGs went towards statistical simulation: things that were influenced by numbers and contained a strong random element. Further, the narrative gap between the two genres widened. In an adventure game, you played the part of some specific someone, someone like Arthur Dent, King Graham, or Roger Wilco, all of whom have a personality -- even if it's a fairly generic one. RPGs let the player create a character to take the role of protagonist.

But the key aspects of adventure games and RPGs are not incompatible; they just evolved along different tracks. In fact, most RPG characters end up doing many of the same kinds of things that adventure game characters do, just in a different interface.

They take things from place to place, they speak with other characters, they solve puzzles that often have to do with putting a specific object in a specific-object-shaped hole, they push magic buttons and pull switches. The real difference is that in RPGs this stuff is just a means to an end, something to break up dungeon exploration and combat sessions. (This also means adventure games tend to have rather better puzzles, since they aren't distracting from the "real" game.)

Considering the two genres' common roots, it's amazing that there aren't more crossovers between them. Probably the best known, most popular such crossover is the Quest for Glory series, a sequence of Sierra On-Line graphical adventures that handily combines the best of both worlds.

Quest for Glory (Screenshot courtesy

At the start of a game, the player chooses a class, Fighter, Thief or Wizard. The choice of a class determines which skills they get. There's an experience score, but it's mostly just points, without an effect on the game. Skills can be advanced by practicing them, however, causing them to creep slowly upward.

The most interesting thing about the game is that it is filled with skill checks that demands a player have one skill or another, but all the major puzzles can be solved with every class. There's multiple ways to solve most puzzles.

There's also a few things that can only be one with one character, but they aren't required to win. Ultimately this is the same idea that was used in Wasteland, indeed all skill-based RPGs, and it gives the game a surprising amount of replayability.

Best of all, like Wizardry, the games in the series allow the player to import a character from one game to the next. It's possible to take a hero from the beginning of the first game to the end of the last one, four games later, taking his skills and some equipment and money with him.

Very few games try to do anything like that today; it's a feature that seems to have mostly died off from gaming, although it still shows up in strange places; the Gamecube/Wii Fire Emblem games allow the player to import his party from one to another, which remains, to this day, the only use a non-Gamecube game has had for the memory card ports on the side of the Wii unit.

Article Start Previous Page 6 of 22 Next

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