Role-playing game (video games)

Role-playing game (video games)

An electronic role-playing game is a broad genre of video games. These games are originally derived from traditional role-playing games, especially "Dungeons & Dragons", and use both the settings and game mechanics found in such games.

Typically, gameplay centers around one or more avatars, with quantized characteristics that evolve over the course of the game, and take the place of the gamer's own skill in determining the outcome of the actions taken by the player. These attributes are traditionally displayed to the player on a "status screen" as a numeric value, instead of a simpler abstract graphical representation, such as the bars and meters often favored by video games in general. Another common element in RPGs is a well-developed fictional setting.

The stories featured usually involve a group of characters (a "party") who have joined forces in order to accomplish a mission or "quest". Along the way, the adventurers must face a great number of challenges and enemies. These are usually monsters inspired by fantasy fiction, and, to a lesser extent, science fiction and classical mythology.

Gameplay elements strongly associated with this genre, such as statistical character development, have been widely adapted to other video game genres. For example, "", an action game, uses resource statistics (abbreviated as "stats") to define a wide range of attributes including stamina, weapon proficiency, driving, lung capacity, and muscle tone, and uses numerous cutscenes and quests to advance the story. "Warcraft III", a real-time strategy game, features heroes that can complete quests, obtain new equipment, and learn new abilities as they advance in level.


The role-playing video game genre began in the mid-1970s, as an offshoot of early university mainframe text-based RPGs on PDP-10 and Unix-based computers, such as "Dungeon", pedit5 and dnd. In 1980, a very popular dungeon crawler, "Rogue" was released. Featuring ASCII graphics where the setting, monsters and items were represented by letters and a deep system of gameplay, it inspired a whole genre ("roguelikes") of similar clones.

RPGs continued to be influenced by "Dungeons and Dragons". Starting in 1988 with "Pool of Radiance", SSI produced a series of "Gold Box" CRPGs based on the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules. These games featured a first-person display for movement, combined with an overhead tactical display for combat.

After the success of console role-playing games such as "Dragon Quest" and "Final Fantasy", the role-playing genre eventually diverged into two distinct sub-genres: computer role-playing games and console role-playing games. This is due to cultural differences which arose due to RPGs being produced primarily for personal computers in the Western world and primarily for games consoles in Japan.

The first RPGs offered strictly a single player experience. The popularity of multiplayer modes in these games rose sharply during the mid-1990s, with games such as "Diablo". With the advent of the internet, multiplayer games have grown into massively multiplayer online role-playing game such as "World of Warcraft".


There is a marked tendency for RPGs to be set in a fictional high fantasy world. Others feature elements from space opera, alien and other science fiction themes. Few take place in historical or modern settings. Several notable exceptions to this trend are ' (steampunk), ' ("gothic punk"), "Darklands" (a blend of medieval German history and legend), "Mount & Blade" (medieval Europe with no fantasy or magic), and "Fallout" (post-apocalyptic).


Character development

Players are allowed to choose how they want to improve their character's (or party's) performance in terms of attributes, skills, special abilities, and equipment. These improvements are given as rewards for overcoming challenges and achieving goals. The conditions that need to be met in order to earn these rewards may vary; some games are focused on defeating enemies, while others emphasize completion of the quests. The amount of freedom players are given when choosing what to improve also varies by game; some allow highly detailed and specialized customizations (known as "builds"), while others automate the process almost entirely.

Three different systems of rewarding the player characters for solving the tasks in the game can be set apart: the experience system (also known as the "level-based" system) the training system (also known as the "skill-based" system) and the skill-point system (also known as "level-free" system)

The experience system system, by far the most common, was inherited from traditional role-playing games and emphasizes receiving "experience points" (often abbreviated "XP" or "exp") by winning battles, performing class-specific activities, and completing quests. Once a certain amount of experience is gained, the character advances a level, at which point he may increase his skills and abilities.

The training system is similar to the way the Basic Role-Playing system works. The first computer game to use this was "Dungeon Master", and emphasizes developing the character's skills by using them - meaning that if a character wields a sword for some time, he or she will become proficient with it. This system was later used in the "The Elder Scrolls" series, as well as the "Dungeon Siege" series.

Finally, in the skill-point system (as used in for example) the character is rewarded with "skill points" for completing quests, which then can be directly used to "buy" skills and/or attributes, without having to wait until the next "level up".


Exploring the world is an important aspect of all RPGs. Some games allow greater freedom of movement, putting few or no implemented restrictions of where the player can go, locked doors not withstanding. Others use terrain obstacles to limit movement until key events or skills are unlocked by the player.


Computer role-playing games, more so than any other genre, are famous for having long and involved quests. The player is typically required to go through a series of challenges shared from pen-and-paper RPGs, such as clearing a dungeon of monsters, defeating an evil boss, or rescuing a princess. To do these tasks, one might be required to talk to an NPC to receive the quest. Other missions may include engaging in dialogue, item fetch quests, or locational puzzles, such as opening a locked door by means of a key or hidden lever.

Many games are played as a linear narrative composed of smaller quests in a fixed sequence. But other games such as "Fallout" contain multiple quest solutions and nonlinear gameplay through branching plots and often multiple endings. Different character builds may approach quests differently, using diplomacy, violence, subterfuge, bribery, or a variety of other methods, often driven by character as opposed to player skill.

Many games offer optional quests, allowing players to gain additional rewards. But some quests may also determine a character's goals and intentions. For example, ' offers choices that may have moral implications, potentially changing the alignment of the player. In other games such as ' or "Geneforge", a set of quests may be mutually exclusive with another set, forcing the player to come to a decision on the possible long term effects. Such quests often affect the player's standing with a particular faction which may help or hinder the player. Thus the player's choices can have profound consequences later in the game.


Almost every CRPG features combat as one of the main challenges to the player. A good portion of these games is spent avoiding, preparing for, or carrying out fights. Combat is usually carried out in either turn-based or real-time mode.

In a classical turn-based system, only one character may act at a time; all other characters remain still, with a few exceptions that may involve the use of special abilities. The order in which the characters act is usually dependent on their attributes, such as speed or agility. This system rewards strategic planning more than quickness. It also points to the fact that realism in games is a means to the end of immersion in the game world, not an end in itself. A turn-based system makes it possible, for example, to run within range of an opponent and kill him before he gets a chance to act, or duck out from behind hard cover, fire, and retreat back without an opponent being able to fire, which are of course both impossibilities. However, tactical possibilities have been created by this unreality that did not exist before; the player determines whether the loss of immersion in the reality of the game is worth the satisfaction gained from the development of the tactic and its successful execution. "Fallout" has been praised as being "the shining example of a good turn-based Combat System [sic] ".

Real-time combat can import features from action games, creating a hybrid action RPG game genre. But other RPG battle systems such as the Final Fantasy battle systems have imported real-time choices without emphasizing coordination or reflexes. Other systems combine real-time combat with the ability to pause the game and issue orders to all characters under his/her control; when the game is unpaused, all characters follow the orders they were given. This "real-time with pause" system ("RTwP") has been particularly popular in games designed by Bioware. The most famous RTwP engine is the Infinity Engine. Other names for "real-time with pause" include "active pause", "semi real-time"cite web | last =Babovic | first =Branislav | title =Combat Systems in RPG Games | publisher =ActionTrip | date =2000 | url = | format =HTML | accessdate =2007-12-02 ] and "smart pause".

Early "Ultima" games featured a semi real-time system: they were strictly turn-based, but if the player waited more than a second or so to issue a command, the game would automatically issue a pass command, allowing the monsters to take a turn while the PCs did nothing. "Fallout Tactics" is another game which used this system.

There is a further subdivision by the structure of the battle system; in many early games, such as "Wizardry", monsters and the party are arrayed into ranks, and can only attack enemies in the front rank with melee weapons. Other games, such as most of the "Ultima" series, employed duplicates of the miniatures combat system traditionally used in pen-and-paper games. Here, icons representing the players and monsters would move around an arena modeled after the surrounding terrain, attacking any enemies that are sufficiently near.

Many games, especially console role-playing games, generate battles from random encounters. But most RPGs also use scripted, persistent moderns to some degree, if only for boss monsters. Many games, especially computer role-playing games and newer console role-playing games, do not use random encounters at all.

Video role-playing game types

Though sharing fundamental premises, there are regional and cultural patterns to conventions in and design of video role-playing games, the main demarcation lines are based on geography (between Western and Eastern styles) and platform (between PC and console video role-playing games) where Western games tend to have darker stories and older characters, and focus more on roaming freedom and less on linear story than their Eastern counterparts.

Video role-playing games are divided into:

By platform

* Computer role-playing games
* Console role-playing games

By sub-genre

* Tactical role-playing games
* Action role-playing games
* Massively multiplayer online role-playing games
* Roguelikes


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