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What can game devs do to revitalize the roleplaying game genre?

What can game devs do to revitalize the roleplaying game genre?

February 17, 2017 | By Alissa McAloon

February 17, 2017 | By Alissa McAloon
More: Design

"Roleplaying games nowadays allow players to immerse themselves in the game world, but that immersion is still plagued by numerous constraints."

- The Witcher 3 narrative director Marcin Blacha discusses how roleplaying games still have room to grow in an interview with PC Gamer.

Thanks to open-world adventures like The Witcher 3 and Skyrim, roleplaying games have significantly grown in scope throughout recent console generations. But despite the praise games like this have pulled for offering vast and immersive experiences, the roleplaying game genre has yet to reach its full potential.

Or at least that seems to the common sentiment shared by several game developers interviewed by PC Gamer for a story exploring the future of RPGs. Individuals who have worked on everything from The Witcher 3 to Sunless Sea weighed in to discuss what elements game developers should focus on if they want to break the genre out of its formulaic mold. 

Though most of the developers interviewed believe that the roleplaying game genre is due for a good shakeup, exactly what the big change should entail varied from person to person.

One developer, Vacant Sky's Katherine Holden, argues that the traditional definition of RPG doesn’t accurately represent what the genre actually has to offer. 

“The actual definition of an RPG seems to be: you have numbers that represent your abilities, you gain a resource called experience for doing things—usually, for making stuff die—and that makes your numbers go up,” said Holden. “I’ve always felt this is a million miles away from the actual experience of playing a role, stepping into the shoes of another person.”

On the other hand, Sunless Sea creative director Alexis Kennedy says that roleplaying games are “a bundle of beloved traditions,” and as such are composed of tightly woven and ultimately genre defining mechanics. Deviating from those to innovate risks creating something that simply borrows mechanics from the genre, rather than something that is actually a roleplaying game.

These ideas, of course, are only the tip of the iceberg. The full story from PC Gamer is absolutely rich with input from game developers on the future of the genre and on what game design frontiers roleplaying games have yet to fully explore.

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