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The World of Western RPGs

Introduction

This article is a sequel of sorts to the previous RPG article, by Oleg Roschin, which covered the Asian RPGs.

In this article I try to paint a picture of the evolution of Western RPGs, using only a handful of games, which I describe in some detail to see what game introduced what to the genre. If you are for some reason a hardcore fan of some obscure title from the 80's that was made by a poor, blind, black kid from Oklahoma, a game so innovative that it had Porcs instead of Orcs, and that poor blind, black kid then died in poverty all alone and forgotten, with only two copies of his game known to exist, you will hate this article.

Lame attempts at jokes aside, it was not my goal to write the most detailed RPG article out there. Rather think of it as a self-help book: "Things that you need to know about RPGs when surrounded by evil nerds intent on defending their knowledge with a 20-sided dice."

But first – what is an RPG? Well to be honest, RPG is a fuzzy term - like immersion, next-gen or mature - that can be used to describe almost anything. In almost any game, players take on a role. There is a lot of confusion surrounding the term, to the point where some people out there believe Halo 3 is an RPG. It is just that throughout the history of RPGs, a wide variety of different games (different on a fundamental level) have used the term. This is also actually something that differentiates Japanese RPGs and Western RPGs for me. Maybe I am blind but Japanese RPGs usually are rather similar – compare any recent JRPG like Lost Odyssey to the first Dragon Quest and you will probably see more similarities that differences – while with Western RPGs you have dungeon crawlers, story RPGs and simulated worlds that all are fundamentally different from each other.

Take any Bethesda or any BioWare game and it is clear that these two major developers of today's WRPG world offer something strikingly different – the first one concentrates on exploration in open-ended worlds while the other presents epic stories with good and evil choices. And so it has been since the early days.

As I said, I am going to paint my picture of the evolution of RPGs, meaning that I will generalize and subjectively select facts (though I will mention when I am about to deny the existence of something) and the point of this article is really to help the reader acquire knowledge on the history of the genre. But what made me pick these particular games? Especially considering that the term "RPG" is so fuzzy that it could mean anything. Well, I speak with the dead. So stop asking stupid questions.


Continued: Lexicon

Table of Contents: The World of Western RPGs