A Drunken Irishman's history of Western RPGs - part one
Sciere (205649), Jul 21, 2008
Our resident contributor Drunken Irishman has taken up the humongous task of writing the history of Western RPGs, in the same way Oleg Roschin covered the World of Asian RPGs.
Because of the scope, this article is going to be published on the site in small doses this week. That way it will be easier to discuss parts of it in the comments. Readers need to keep in mind it has not been written in an objective way. As a personal history of the genre, some games have been deliberately left out and there are many subjective opinions all written using his rather unique way with words.
Do not let that detract from his authority on the matter. Most noteworthy is the how the evolution of the genre is described. You will get to know the founding games that defined the elements we now take for granted, who borrowed a lot and how different titles can be compared in terms of design.
The first part contains an introduction to the article, a lexicon of terms being used, an overview of the forefathers of the RPG and the first of four generations (From nerd to an artist – the 80's). This is just a small step however as more hefty sections will follow the next days:
(Edited by YID YANG (162352), Jul 21, 2008).A Drunken Irishman's history of Western RPGs
YID YANG (162352), Jul 21, 2008
He is so talented that no matter what he writes, it's still funny and interesting. I think the summaries of games are not always optimal, and there are many "style over substance" cases, but damn it, when I compare it with my Asian article I feel like Salieri near Mozart.
Looking forward to the continuation: Ultima 6 to Mass Effect!.
At last! Some new article! I was frankly tired of seeing "But this article isn't about the best" for maybe a year now...
(Edited by DANIEL HAWKS ! (1841), Jul 22, 2008)Re: A Drunken Irishman's history of Western RPGs
DANIEL HAWKS ! (1841), Jul 22, 2008
Yeah, me too. Great read so far !
GamaSutra did a three part series on this:
What do you plan to add to the table that's different?
Read the first post in the thread, and read the article :)
Some Dude Wrote:
At least the approach is different. Something that mostly comes from DI's unique writing style which I believe that the other members here like me will find more familiar (and entertaining). Of course for the rest we'll have to wait and see the full article. As for the article on the other site it's great (managed to read most of it - I'll probably finish it tomorrow).
His age shines through in the chapter about the eighties.
Great work so far. The word "infotainment" jumped to my mind, but in a very positive sense.
Thank you, Joosua. Now I know that only Ultima IV and V are worthwhile when it comes to RPGs from the 80's.
Haven't read it yet but if that's what you get out of the article I really have to agree with Iggy up there.
Haven't had time to read all of this yet, but it looks really good so far. MobyGames really needs to convert featured articles into PDFs and push them as ebooks.
Also, "This Day In Gaming" needs to be a widget. Come on, people, let's do some marketing!
I would have liked to see mainframe game origins (is it any coincidence so many muds were essentially text-based versions of today's MMORPGs?) and even pen & paper gaming (in the mainframe days, a hot new development in the gaming biz, such as it was -- with early AD&D and Tunnels and Trolls games to match!) dealt with a bit less glossily.
There are some interesting attempts in the early '80s -- Maze Master can in some senses be considered Bard's Tale 0.
Some assertions seem a bit arbitrary -- why compare Rogue to Dungeon Master when you have Dungeon Hack (and its key element: random dungeon generation) to compare it to? Also what I've long since considered The Hallmark of the oldschool RPG, managing and developing character abilities and statistics (the build-up toward which we grind), seems to go unmentioned.
Dungeon Master's main contribution to the genre was of course multimedia production values and a user interface to match. This wasn't just due to their design expertise -- a few years earlier those kinds of lavish sights and sounds wouldn't really have been possible on any home computers on the market. (Technological limitations were responsible for all sorts of peculiar genre conventions, most notably the old "flip to paragraph 455 in the game journal because we don't have any room left on the disk for plain text!")
(The Bard's Tale series didn't quite die with the third game: there was also the construction set, setting precedents of home RPG-makers through to Neverwinter Nights!)
I wouldn't say that the SSI Gold Box games were heavy on rewarding story experiences (perhaps you mean relatively considering what they were following up 8) -- rather, they tended to tie in cross-promotionally to existing and upcoming TSR module and novel releases! Hence, Pool of Radiance and Curse of the Azure Bonds are about something and hence interesting, while Secret of the Silver Blades is just killing time 8) (How is Curse more linear? I recall you have most of Cormyr to wander in any order you like, which is more than I remember from Pool 8)
Where Hero's Quest is concerned (heh, a nod to the Gremlin boardgame namespace collision might have been useful for purposes of contrast) a main feature of the series is that most puzzles have several solutions, and though your choice of initial class will naturally suggest some over others, the player's own cultivation of their abilities over the course of the game generally can trump class weaknesses. There's the way you think you're going to play, and the way you actually play, and it turns out: that's role-playing!
The impact of the AOL Neverwinter Nights may be difficult to gauge in retrospect, but it wasn't just another Golden box game 8) (Ditto for DSO, when you deal with the Darksun games.)
You paint Event Horizon a bit broadly when you say "they looked ugly and felt uncomfortable then" -- I was quite impressed by Veil of Darkness' production values at the time, and the screenshot you included from it still looks pretty fabulous to me now 8)
(On to the Ultima Underworlds -- you mention that they went unplayed due to being too graphically intensive. It's true and worth mentioning that through the '90s, Origin games often pushed the boundary of top-of-the-line desktop requirements, and that many of us wouldn't in fact have enough horsepower to play them until they had long since been moved off the shelves. The role of technology in cRPGs shouldn't be understated!)
Remember Westwood of Eye of the Beholder fame? Well, this is the game they did next. We'll just gloss over the Legend of Kyrandia and Dune 2 since they're trifling titles outside the scope of this article 8)
An unmentioned contribution to Betrayal at Krondor's success may have been its grounding in an established writer's work?
The Elder Scrolls: Arena story as I remember it is that it shipped unplayably buggy and it was only through months of patches that the hardcore dedicated fans were able to enjoy it at all, so when you say "the gamers of 1994 liked it", that rings a bit false in my ears 8)
I was hoping for a bone tossed to Dreamweb but I understand that they were following, not setting, trends. Faerie Tale Adventure?
I'll presume I've gotten to the end of part one. In retrospect, not being here as they were doled out, it's hard to know where one ended and the next started. My response was full of nit picking but really I am quite pleasantly surprised that you covered as much ground as you did and picked some areas that I was quite surprised by. All the same, I'm not saying there's not room for a later revision down the line 8)