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RPG Classics Mailbag

HAH! And people say guilt trips don't work. Would you believe that after posting that I only got four answers to the mailbag and had to push it off a week, I got flooded with over 20 more submissions?

Unfortunately, a LOT of them deserved the following. *rustle*

I think I'll split this up into three categories.
Category 1: People Too Stupid To Realize They're Stupid. Like the following, sent in by MajinChaos Gavins:

I think the main thing that seperates RPGS from other games are mainly complex storylines, compelling characters and battle systems

Well, thanks! And all this time I thought it was the price tag! I would like a *little* bit of explanation, thank you very much!
Category 2: People Who Completely Misunderstood The Question. Like this one, from Daniel Burnell.

I am a fan of RPG's. Been into them ever since Final Fantasy 4.
Anyway, I believe that the difference between a GOOD RPG and any other game is the emotions you go through.
You start out with however many characters, and over time, they grow and mature. They meet new friends, and fight nasty enemies. Some characters you love, and some you love to hate (Kefka) In other games, you feel very shallow feelings You win, you are overjoyed. You lose, and you feel angry. RPG's can make you feel emotional, sad that one charater died, happy and almost tearful that two characters are in love, determined to make sure the characters see another day. Some bosses scare you in such a way you just dont want to fight them. (Sephiroth and usually any boss from Earthbound) In some ways, and RPG is a combination of all types of games. Action, (like in the Parasite Eve games) Puzzles, (like in almost any RPG) strategy, (some RPG's require a great deal of strategy. Unless you are a master at RPG's Chrono Cross is difficult) horror (some RPG's are really dark) and so on. My main point is: RPG's are different from other games because they add a whole new perspective and emotion to the game play. It;s like controling a movie or a book.

See? Now that makes a lot of sense, but in no way does it answer my question. I want to know technically, what kind of game is called an RPG and what isn't? Despite my rephrasing it twice on the main page, some people just didn't get it.
Category 3: This Guy: Kevin Francis Stabinsky.

What makes an rpg? I believe people make rpgs. Unless the people at Square, Nintendo, and other gaming companies employ robots, aliens, or other non human entities, I stand by my conviction that people make rpgs. If you have any evidence to disprove my beliefs, please send it this way.

Not only is this completely out of left field, he made sure I got the point by sending this in twice! I rest my case. We now go to some real answers. First up is Arcanus Dominius.

I don't think there is any definite criteria for what makes an RPG. Having said that, I think some distinctions between RPGs and non-RPGs can be made. Once upon a time, all RPGs (e.g. Dragon Warrior, Final Fantasy, the Ultimas, etc) all shared numerous common characteristics - characters have levels, which are raised through the accumulation of experience points, a larger world map with smaller sub-maps, and a menu-based system. Later games added new innovations such as characters with personalities who develop over the course of the game, more innovative systems for characters and their abilities, and numerous mini-games.

This is my opinion, but I have never considered the games of the Legend of Zelda series RPGs - I have always seen them as adventure games. The difference to me is that the Zelda games have an action component. Your success in these games is at least partly based on your reflexes and button-pressing skills. While some RPGs (Mario RPG or FF8, for example) do have these "action components," the essence of the game play is conducted through menus or at least via more passive means than, say, Super Mario Brothers. Part of what initially drew me to the RPG genre is the fact that I lack superb hand-eye coordination and that the early RPGs (and for the most part this is still true) require little frantic button-mashing in order to play. The emphasis is on exploration, strategy, and problem-solving. Of course, there are Action-RPGs which blend the elements of both action games and RPGs, but these are acknowledged to be hybrids of two genres.

One other criteria that should be mentioned is that RPGs focus on a character or set of characters and follow those characters throughout the game (hence the reason they are called "Role-Playing Games" - you fill the role of a character or characters); RTS games, for example, focus not so much on characters as on the gameplay itself - strategic combat. (I say this to clearly define why I think games like Final Fantasy Tactics and Ogre Battle are definately RPGs)

I admit that I am probably over-generalizing here, but to me, the above criteria is what sets an RPG apart from a non-RPG. I apologize for the length of this letter.

Chalk one up for the "menu screen" school of thought. Although he doesn't actually say that, it should be noted: just that the "emphasis" is on exploration and strategy. And he says that games such as Vagrant Story are hybrids of two genres. Okay, let's see the other side of the coin, by... er... this weirdo dude...

*whistles innocently*

Greetings there! The Vault Dweller is speaking again!
I'd like to say that....ONLY 4 BLARGING RESPONSES?! The hell is wrong with us all!?

They're all demented! Evil! Sadistic!

Hey! I thought I cornered the market on that!

Sez you!

Ooh! Yummy-yummies!

AAAUUUGGGHH! *runs away*

Er, what's Dark Macc doing here?

Hah! Wouldn't you like to know!


Oh... er... I forget, to tell the truth... Bye!

Come back here!*rush after Dark Macc a Jell-O Cannon Mark 7 in hands*

......Er..anyway, off to the mailbag!
What make a game a RPG, right? Hmm..Okay.
Let face it: Pure RPGs are nearly extinc. While they still existes, most are combinasons of others types.
Check at all thoses rpgs around...

SDs: Action/RPG
FFT, Ogre series, Vandal Hearts: RPG/Tactics
System Shocks, Deus EX: Sci-Fi Horror/FPS/RPG
Zelda: Action RPG, Puzzle.
Super Metroid: Action/RPG

There just too many types out there! But I'm besides the point
IN MY opinion, a pure RPG is something that YOU are the hero. Not just a specator to some characters you control in somes events, where you dont have a word on the char's personality and suchs. While they most of the time RPG in system, they still rpg

Also, like I just yelled, dont need XP to make a RPG. If in the role of a certain char, completly, personality, and all that. It a Hard-Core RPG. The few ones that are still hard-core RPGs are Pen-And-Paper based Games, or just the Pen-And-Paper games(AD&D, Shadowrun, GURPS, you name it!) They the origine of all RPGS, well....most.(AD&D at least.)

So, that it I guess..
The Vault Dweller from the Holy Vault 13 singing off.

So this is RPG in its most basic form: being someone. That's also a certain school of thought.

I doubt that meant that.

All right, for some comic relief (well, slightly comic and much relief) let's take a gander at our very own Wertigon's reply.

Ok figured that even though you don't want my 2 cents on this topic I'm gonna give 'em to ya anyways just to annoy ya! Mwahahahaha!!!

(Feel free to add a comment here about reversed psychology)

Errmmm... uhhh... okay. Reverse psychology sucks. And I'm only printing your reply because everyone wrote such short ones that I can fit in 15 or so this week! So nyah!

...Er...You actualy MEAN that you posted 15 messages in this bag?

I don't know! You think I actually sat down and counted them?

Well, yeah. I though you could count up to 15.

Anyways, here goes: The stuff that makes an RPG is that you have a world to explore freely, filled with NPCs to talk with. I mean think about it: All other genres got stuffs such as multitude of weapons, armors, magics and items. Experience points is not a factor, since there are RPGs that has no Exp points. Even though no other genre has it yet. Although that is gonna change within the near future with the Prophecies of the Spears mod to Wheel of Time...

Whoops drifted off topic there. Anyways, the only thing that truly defines a RPG is like I said before, the world to walk around freely in. Think about it, how many RPGs is there that you CAN'T explore? How many RPGs are there that you can't go back to a previously visited town (unless the town has been buried beneath a cliff or summink for plot reasons)? Yep, you guessed it. None. Therefore it is the world that makes a RPG. Take Zelda. Many ppl disagree that it's a RPG, but it is. Because you can walk around freely in the world. It's more of a "RPG light", true, but still a RPG.

Heh now I'm starting to think in circles... Oh well. Have a nice day. *Teleports out of the room*

Why thank you, I will. But only 'cause you told me to. I guess by your own criteria, Illusion of Gaia isn't an RPG, huh? Now there's a linear game if I ever saw one. Zelda being "RPG lite" - heh, that's an interesting way of putting it. I wonder if all those crazed Zelda fans would see it that way, though. On to another non-"stats/menu" dude, 1WFeathy.

Hi Cidolfas, Ozzie, Lunaris, I am 1WFeathy, a first time responder, so please don't throw this out.

Oh, can I please? Please please please?

Lemme think... ummm... NO.


So your question was "what makes an RPG?" Well there is not one certain thing that composes an RPG. Let me take a popular example: HP and MP (or AP, or FP, or whatever-P). Only RPGs have these, right? Wrong! Many people think E.V.O. is an RPG because it has HP in it, but it is actually a platform game. And besides, FF8 doesn't have MP. So that one is crossed off. So lets look at the word RPG. You would think that an RPG is, simply, a Role-Playing Game? Wrong again! In virtually EVERY game you play a role of some sort. So you're saying, "tell us 1WFeathy, what makes an RPG?" Here is the answer: STORYLINE. Every RPG (that doesn't suck) has a STORYLINE with at least a few plot twists & turns. Even if the storyline isn't all that great *coughpokemoncough*, it counts as an RPG. Maybe I should rephrase that. An RPG is a game that contains a CHANGING STORYLINE. So virtually any platform game is ruled out, because in platform games, you continue towards your goal of killing Bowser or whomever the current antagonist is. I'll give an example. In FF8, first your goal is to become a SeeD. Then it is to kill Edea. Then, BAM, Edea's good and you gotta go kill Ultimecia. Another example: Chrono Trigger. First your goal is to find Marle. Then you have to kill Magus. Then you continue right along, and BAM Magus is on your side. Do you see what I'm getting at? An RPG is a game with MULTIPLE GOALS. Well thanks for your time and I hope to respond again.

CAPITALS are GOOD. They show EMPHASIS. Anyway, Metal Gear Solid had a changing storyline... would that make MGS an RPG as well? Could definitely be, yes. But that would also make, for example, FF2j, Phantasy Star, or Dragon Warrior a non-RPG! You only had one goal in both of those games, to kill the bad guy. So that throws your argument out the window, I guess. Nice try, though. On to Megaman984, one of the "stats/menu" people.

Isn't it obvious what RPGs are? It's when a man and woman need to spice up a relationship. They can dress up as doctors, police officers, or nurses. That's called "role-playing." In fact...

*Looks at all the people staring*

Ehh... Never mind.

Thank you! This is a family-rated mailbag, so please stay on topic!

What is my real definition of an RPG? I better be careful about this one. I've seen some elitists that say that the only true RPG are Pen and Paper RPGs. Anyway, RPGs have to have some sort of stat based system. Your character has to gain levels and the stats increase as you gain levels.

Most console RPGs are confining, so you really only get to play the role of the hero. Computer RPGs like Fallout, however, let you take on more of the role-playing aspect. You can choose if you want to be good, bad, neutral, a thief, etc. Online RPGs also allow this sort of in depth RPG.

Many people say that a story is necessary in an RPG, but that's not totally true. Everquest and Phantasy Star Online are called RPGs, but there really isn't a story. The only story is a basic story which you add on to.

Zelda can't be calssified as an RPG because it doesn't have stat increases. Action-RPGs like Seiken Densetsu 3 have stats that change as you gain levels.

Basically, stats, experience, and role-playing make a game an RPG, not that it matters if a game is an RPG. Games don't have to be RPGs to fun. Man, this was a short Mailbag answer.

So that's almost the exact opposite of "storyline is everything" from the other folks. And another polite message to Link to stay the hell out of RPG-character-only bars.

P.S. This is in regard to Gryzz203's song. If your Mom doesn't read her e-mail, and Gryzz203 said she does, then doesn't that mean he deserves the "You Messed Up" award?

No. I only give that to people who should have known something and don't. Whereas he had no way of knowing that, and only invented desperately to continue his pathetic parody of a song I've never heard of in order to make the maximum number of people groan... hmmm... come to think of that, he deserves it just for the song itself. Erm... Gryzz, want to say something in return?

How dare you call my song dumb! I find that to be highly offesnible.

Tough. Go parodize someone else then. 8-)


Anyway, I guess Iíll answer your Mailbag Question.

An RPG is a role-playing game. That is when you role-play as a character. In my opinion, stats are needed to make a game an RPG. Even though you role-play as Mega Man in Mega Man games, Mega Man is not an RPG. Zeldaís not an RPG because you donít have stat increases. Only 1 Zelda had stats, but it was pretty close to an Action-RPG at best. Thatís what is needed. Stats and stat increases. I hope that adequately answers your question. This is Gryzz203 signing off.

::Hums "Ciddy Donít Be A Hero" to make Lunaris mad::

*is standing there, blood-eyed, maniacly grabing a few really big cannons, breathing irregularly*

And now a word from our sponsor... er, no, sorry, it's Teran.

A RPG is a game were you take the role of a character or of several characters. The character is defined by attributes, skills or whatever you call it, and while playing the game these values change, which forms your character(s) and has influence on the game. So I would say it is "Character Growth"! And for RPGs this is the most important factor. Every game that has this element is a game with "RPG-elements". In the 80's it was easy to distinguish between pure RPGs (Dragon Warrior, Wizardry etc.) and other genres. Now the genres often mix with each other, taking the best elements from various genres; and slowly developing characters make would make sense even in a sport, beat'em up, or action game.

That was the most wonderfully vague answer I've ever heard. So basically, even RPGs aren't always RPGs, and sports games can be RPGs as well. Oxymoron time! Or, we can settle for a regular moron, or someone who writes like one, i.e. Geo121.

The thing that makes an RPG great is the Battle Background. Without one, the RPG is surely doomed. As a matter of fact, I cannot think of a good RPG without one. The Final Fantasy series has stunning maps, battle background, and the like. That is the secret to Squaresoft's success. Then, there is the best RPG series ever, Breath of Fire. Back in the day, that game was awesome, and it was made that way by the stunning backgrounds.

Er... FF1 didn't have any backgrounds at all (at least not the original NES version)... this is just trying to avoid the issue, isn't it? Admit it!

Um, he's not here.

Excuse me, I'm in mid-rant here, do you mind?

Not at all.

Good. Um... crap, forgot what I was saying. Bjorn can take over while I think about it.

The main difference that I can see is that most RPGs are more involed. They usually have lots of mini games, sub plots, and other things. They usually take between twenty and one hundred twenty hours to complete. Have at least a few well developed characters, and almost always have that annoying time before the end where you have to gain at least twenty levels in order to beat the game. Most RPGs have some sort of level building system, and unbelievably endurent characters. I mean, most people get seriously hurt by getting hit by lightning, huge monsters, meteors, and variouse other painful things. Yet they are killed by a sword piercing their body. How come these near invulnerable beings can be killed by a mere dagger? Yet in combat the same thing wouldn't even phase them? Anything I forgot? Well that is the only things I can think of.

Admit it! You were just writing something funny so you wouldn't have to think! Man, I HATE people like you...

Er... what're you talking about?

Just finishing up my rant. I remembered what I was saying.


Hyuk, gosh, I am! I am so weird, I just don't know where my fingers might go, whoops, what's that button I just pressed by absolute mistake?

Have you ANY idea how old this joke is getting? *falls down a plot hole*

Back to Bjorn: So time is a factor as well. I know I spent several dozen hours trying to pass Super Mario: The Lost Levels, so I dunno if that counts either. And surviving lightning and swords doesn't mean you're in an RPG, although not having it probably means you're not in one. That's that sufficient but not compulsory drek I always mixed up in Calculus... For some more favoritism, we shove the floor onto Mr. Saturn, our *third* (if you count the Vault Dweller) RPGClassics staff member this week.

Well, as far as I see it, there's more conscious thought put into an RPG. Games such as _Super Mario Bros._ or _MegaMan_ require little conscious thought, you merely must learn which button jumps, and which button shoots. An RPG requires much more than that. You must learn to push the max of your character, not waste items or magic, conserve currency to enhance your characters strength and other stats, etc.

Of course, not all RPGs have all of the items listed. Some don't have items, or magic, or money. My general rule of thumb says that if your character has "stats" that can be upgraded, then it's probably an RPG. Games such as _Crystalis_, _Dracula X: Gekka no Nocturne_ (CV: SOTN), and _The Legend of Zelda_ definitely show character improvement, in HP, strength, etc. Games such as _Super Metroid_ have no character improvement, though the equipment gets stronger.

Generally, I consider an RPG any game that requires more thought than other games. _Final Fantasy_, _Dragon Quest_ (Dragon Warrior), _Lunar_, and _Estpolis_ (Lufia) certainly require much more thought than your regular game of _Super Mario Bros._, _Street Fighter_, or _Do Run Run!_.

Ooh, another vague answer! So you'd definitely call Metal Gear Solid an RPG, then... that's fine, as I said before. I think I consider it an RPG as well, come to think of it, if a rather short one. We now move on to I Abdide, who can give us his enlightened opinion on the subject.

All of the games given in the above list [ed. - the list I gave when I asked the question, including Super Metroid and Vagrant Story] may be considered video role-playing games, since they require the player to "become" the main character, and to take part in the adventures experienced by that main character. That is the essence of playing a role, after all. However, the definition of "video role-playing game" that has traditionally been adopted by those who deal with such things is this: "A video game, based more on mental activity and the solving of puzzles than on quick thinking and reflexes, in which the player assumes the role of a hero(ine) or a cast of hero(ines) in a conflict between Evil and Good in a fantasy world filled with, among other things, magic, monsters, and swordplay, all controlled through a system of menus and statistics that emphasizes the mind over fast fingers." (I am of the opinion that the pencil-and-paper Dungeons and Dragons game, which was and is the original fantasy role-playing game, is largely responsible for the first video role-playing games taking this direction.) Given the evolution that is taken place in the genre of video role-playing games, this traditional definition is no longer valid for many reasons, since a "hero" is defined pretty loosely these days (as explained in the previous Mailbag), the conflict between Evil and Good is no longer the center of every story (there are too many examples to list here), science fiction and science fantasy are as widespread as pure fantasy (the Final Fantasy series is a great example of this), and the menus and statistics of days gone by are much more unique and varied than they were in the beginning in the instances where they remain (though the Junctioning of Final Fantasy VIII is, nonetheless, a pain in the bum at times). Unfortunately, many, or perhaps most, players still use the traditional definition when they decide for themselves what is and is not a video role-playing game. When this limitation is completely removed, I think that the genre will become as broad and rich as it deserves to be in the contemporary world.

So it's more about what you find in the game than how you play it. That can make sense too. I think that as time goes on, genres are blurring more and more. In a few years, we might very well not have any well-defined "RPG" genre at all. Now Steve Lahler has a nice rant for us.

If I was in a bad mood I'd say it was...

* endless random encounters
* completely linear storyline that you have no control over
* hours upon hours of "levelling"
* unimaginative rehashing of swords, sorcery, and stupid-sounding made-up "fantasy" names
* piss-poor translations from japanese that ruin the whole game
* hours wasted accessorizing your guys with 'cool' items
* a big bad boss fight at every major plot point, even when fighting doesn't seem that sensical at the time

but perhaps those can be reserved for the 'bad' rpgs.

On a good day I'd say...

* engaging storyline with multiple endings, plot twists, and plenty of character interaction
* sidequests and puzzles to find secret powers, items, characters, and "easter eggs"
* inventive new combat and encounter systems with each new release in a series
* a well-designed balance between time spent exploring and interacting with your environment and time spent fighting the 'bad guys'
* the ability to control the development of your character's strengths/weaknesses via manipulation of stats and equipped items
* special abilities for your characters
* dramatic fights with big bad bosses

So there you have it: RPGs can be the bane of all existence or a heavenly experience. You decide. Our final reply comes from the interestingly named Quadraharpy. No, we don't have any ridiculous songs or super-long answers to leave off with this week. I'd make something up, but I anticipate of all the millions of flame e-mails this would cause.

Ooh! Is da widdle mailbag person afwaid of da big bad e-mail?

Uh... no, but the slightly cynical and somehow compelling mail correspondent doesn't want to waste all his time sifting through "YOU SUCK" e-mails. He gets that too much already. You can see the symptoms... dropping people through plot holes, giving awards to perfect strangers, dropping people through plot holes, talking in third person, dropping people through plot holes...

Geesh. I get the point.

On to Quadraharpy! Erm, another "menu/status" student.

What makes an RPG? Hmmm... Well, in my humble opinion, the following factors determine wether or not a video game is a role-playing game or not.

First of all, an RPG must include menu based battles. Yes, this rules out your Zeldas, Terranigma, Illusion Of Gaia, etc. Secondly, the advancement of levels are necessary. This explicitly means that character gains must go from Level 23 to Level 24, and suchlike. It can't just say something like Strength incresed by 1, Defense incresed by 4, you get the idea. Now: some games blur the line a bit, and have menu based battles but not level advancement and vice versa, those games are typically much debated upon. Also, it's hard for most people to say that the Nintendo 64 Zelda games are not RPGs, but according to my system, they also are not.

There ya go. As always, if this entry to the mailbag gets posted, give my regards to Gilgamesh of FF5. After all, I am his biggest fan.

Woo-hoo! A fan!

I thought you were stuck working for Macc?

We do get coffee breaks, you know. Like once every decade or something.

Yeah, but if Macc found out you were ogling the mailbag, he might decide you were thinking... rebellious thoughts...

ZOINKS! *runs away, but grabs Quadraharpy's letter first*

So there you have it, our mailbag-which-wasn't-a-mailbag-last-week. Next week's topic (you can still send in your ideas, by the way) comes from Chris Beaton.

Women and the rpg.

Is it the fate of womankind to evermore remian nubile and helpless, awaiting the strong (male) hero to rescue her from the evil wizard's lair? Or perhaps you believe that this is a *modern world* with *modern ideas* and women should receive the same treatment as men... so long as they're disguised princesses, perpetually clad in pink and powerful weilders of white magic. Are pretty pixels the only benefit of female characters? How do you feel about the way women are portrayed in games? Does anyone out there want more games to have a female main character? Do any girls even *play* these games? Are you a woman??? SPEAK OUT!!!

(NO responses that just say "Um... well, women are totally equal and... um... GIRL POWER... yeah, totally, to the people! ...but that's just my opinion and nobody should pay any attention to me....................... help..." can get in (unless they're funny). Make POINTS people! This ISN'T about mindless opinions... what?... oh... well then.... perhaps they *are* allowed, but don't just toe the politically correct line, say what you think 'cause otherwise this mailbag will suck.)

I LIKE this idea. So that's for next week, folks. Should women stay helpless, should they become equal or almost equal to men, should they be treated as sex symbols, or what? The drop box is at but make sure not to get your fingers trapped in it.





Dont forget kiddies: Do 3 typos a minute and you will be SURE to have your typist teacher after you for the rest of your life!