Slash slash, nuke nuke, cure3, punch punch. Those are the commands of many gamers who were nearly finished playing Final Fantasy I. Today the commands are Quick hit, Overdrive, and an attack so big there should be a mile wide crater after the battle. In terms of battling and plot, RPGs have grown tremendously. We’ve gone from 1-d random four crystal wielding heroes to in-depth critiques of the Catholic Church and even questions regarding Creationism. Battle systems have ramped up to the point that quadruple digit damage is weak, quintuple numbers is where it’s all at. If we want to look at where RPGs are going now, we have to look first at how they’ve changed over the past decade.
There were the sad old days in Dragon Warrior where refusing a certain girl’s hand in marriage would only make her repeat the question until you said yes. Luckily, in today’s RPGs, arranged marriages are frowned upon. We now demand choices galore to make it all seem more and more realistic. A perfect example is Crono Trigger, which took choices to the point of giving the player multiple endings based on decisions made previously in the game. Unfortunately, the majority of RPGs have yet to implement the multiple choices system.
Plots have gotten much better. At least the heroes and heroines have names. They have reasons for their actions as well, from Yuna wanting to bring happiness for a short time to Spira to Kite wanting to find out what happened to his friend Orca. Stories still have the whole save the world from evil thing going on, but with some twists. .Hack takes place in a MMORPG in a game, Final Fantasy X’s protagonist has a relation with the main villain and that same main villain turned into a monster to protect his people during a war. Star Ocean’s latest version is so complex that it literally speaks volumes.
Another movement in RPGs is that of facial expressions and realism. No longer are gamers sated with funky unrealistic characters and worlds, we demand real looking people in games! However, this in my opinion is due to RPGs going mainstream like many other gaming genres. No longer can you sell to the hardcore gamers who want only a good plot and don’t really care much for awesome, spectacular, and eye bleeding graphics. And this is where I feel a problem might start appearing in the future.
If we look at movies and other forms of media, as demand goes up, so does supply of said media, but the price of producing it does as well. Quality also takes backseat to the aforementioned eye bleeding graphics and overall “prettiness”. Movie studios spend hundreds of millions on world war worthy explosions because the formula works. It attracts cash, it attracts people, so sequels and remakes are a must have. Though I have not seen this problem on a grand scale yet in RPGs, I still have many sleepless nights on the subject. As we look towards the future, we see the same trend occurring across the whole videogame industry. No one wants to try and break the mold because if that game bombs, the company will go bankrupt.
Realistic people in games do evoke more emotions from the gamer as do better plots. And that’s what will count in the end, how well the story can be told. There is always room for inhuman characters as well. I know I’ve raised a great hoopla about all of this, but I really feel RPGs will continue to get better because in the end we hold the wallet. I just can’t wait for the day to control a 3-d black mage and launch a nuclear attack from my fingertips.