What's the best commercial CRPG series?

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adamantyr
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CRPG origins
Mark Vergeer wrote:

I say perhaps CPRG are actually more something of an American phenomenon.....what do you reckon fellow Europeans?

Well, Dungeons and Dragons did originate in the American mid-West, so that's probably one reason most of the well-known CRPG's originated here. (Dave Arneston did buy his first twenty-siders in a British game shoppe, though!)

I've always found it funny that Richard Garriot was called "British" because he had a habit of saying "Hello" instead of "Hi"... and then it was a nasty shock when you actually heard his voice in U7:SI in the opening cinematic, a high-pitched Texan twang. :)

Adam

Matt Barton
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German
Mark Vergeer wrote:

I say perhaps CPRG are actually more something of an American phenomenon.....what do you reckon fellow Europeans?

This could be, though the MUD originated in Britain, and there are several classic German CRPGs, particularly during the Amiga's heyday. I'm pretty sure the Gothic series is German as well.

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Mark Vergeer
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Perhaps CPRG are actually more an American phenomenon.....

I say perhaps CPRG are actually more something of an American phenomenon.....what do you reckon fellow Europeans?



Editor / Pixelator - Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Bill Loguidice
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The Bard's Tale

It's interesting that your first CRPG exposure was The Bard's Tale, Mat, as I've found it to be a rather brutal and unforgiving game initially. I'm glad you were able to work with it, as I could really see that turning someone off as their first example of the genre.

By the way, I'd love to know who voted for Final Fantasy and why. I certainly don't think any of the early ones are particularly good as C-RPG's go (too many random battles, and that's if we can even call the console-only games "C"-RPG's) and the later ones are an entirely different breed of game.

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
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Matt Barton
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Here's interest!
Mat Tschirgi wrote:

A VRPG was like going on an adventure with a tour guide every step of the way while a CRPG was like getting shoved into a forest without a map.

Fascinating! I really do hope you'll write this article. I know it'd be helpful to me to read someone who has played both and can compare/contrast them well.

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Mat Tschirgi (not verified)
CRPG vs VRPG

Final Fantasy certainly doesn't need to be qualified as a CRPG-- while Final Fantasy VII + VIII were released for the PC, not to mention the MMORPG FF XI, it is more successful on the consoles (NES, SNES, PSX, PS2, etc). I enjoy the Final Fantasy series a good bit and have had a different view of it since playing the recent ports/remakes for the GBA/DS on the recent titles. I've been thinking of doing an article comparing my "rose-colored retro glasses" view of the series compared to my current view and think I have enough material to knock a multi-part article out. Any interest? ;)

When I first played CRPGs, it probably all started with The Bard's Tale for the PC from the Interplay 10th Anniversary compilation for the PC. It was a huge change from the Japanese VRPGs (Video-game RPGS) I grew up on (Dragon Warrior I, Zelda, Final Fantasy, Crystalis, etc) and took some getting used to. A VRPG was like going on an adventure with a tour guide every step of the way while a CRPG was like getting shoved into a forest without a map.

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=- Mat Tschirgi =- Armchair Arcade Writer

Matt Barton
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Quote
Bill Loguidice wrote:

It's funny how when something is a poll, there's no quote function in the comments. Anyway...

Hey, you want it, you got it! Nothing is impossible for Matt the Plat.

Bill Loguidice wrote:

I think we need to make a distinction between "developer" and "publisher".

Yes, I was struggling with that, too. It's definitely foolish to overlook the importance of the publisher, especially when you're talking Origin. They practically define the term "value add," and Garriott really put his foot down about game packaging. He's a hero in that regard.

SSI, Epyx, Sierra, EA, and Origin all published some innovative works from other people, and let's not even get into the role of distributors. Origin apparently used Sierra and EA to distribute several of its big games; I'd like to know how that worked. In an upcoming "explosive" interview I plan to post here, the guy that wrote Bard's Tale got shafted by EA.

Bill wrote:

And yeah, you and I are on the same page with the console RPG and super deformed and anime art styles. To me, there is no diversity in that. If you choose that style, it looks a heck of a lot like every other style using the same techniques. I particularly dislike when Western developers utilize it. There are so many styles to choose from, why crib from the Japanese when they're already prolific with it?

Well, I'm not saying it's unoriginal or aesthetically simplistic or anything. People who really get into it can tell you in a flash which artist did what; I think there must be 16 or so distinctive styles of anime, at least. My thought is that if I were Japanese or had grown up with the stuff, I'd appreciate it a lot more. I just get bugged when I'm trying to get "into" one of these games, and then get distracted by some cute cuddly type thing. They just seem to be designed purely for kids; it's hard to shake off that vibe sometimes.

I mean, as good it as it was, Chrono Trigger could've been made by Disney.

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Bill Loguidice
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RE: The big companies

It's funny how when something is a poll, there's no quote function in the comments. Anyway...

I think we need to make a distinction between "developer" and "publisher". Obviously most developers back then were one or a few people. I guess the best term would be "best CRPG publisher". However, we run into a quandry with a company like Origin, who used On-Line Systems (Sierra), Broderbund and EA to publish their games, and for a time, published on their own. Who receives the kudos then? Certainly the companies outside of Origin were responsible for the packaging and distribution and goodness knows what else outside of the actual development. Nevertheless, top of my head, probably the most prolific publishers of actual specific CRPG's had to be SSI and EA. They also get extra points for the wide diversity of their CRPG offerings, not being limited to one type of branding. Tough. We'd almost have to come up with a master list of who published what and when from say 1979 - 1989 (give or take a few years either way). That would probably give us the best chance to determine who was "best".

And yeah, you and I are on the same page with the console RPG and super deformed and anime art styles. To me, there is no diversity in that. If you choose that style, it looks a heck of a lot like every other style using the same techniques. I particularly dislike when Western developers utilize it. There are so many styles to choose from, why crib from the Japanese when they're already prolific with it?

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
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adamantyr
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Ultima & Wizardry

Ultima, no question. It was one of the first chronologically, and what other game series not only defined the genre, but also inspired others? A pity the evil empire (a.k.a. EA) owns the license now.

Wizardry comes a close second in age and influence, although I can't say it did much for me, personally. I've tried it out in emulation, and I've read over the manuals. I've found the manuals for most of the old classics as entertaining as the games themselves, and worth collecting.

I find it interesting how Wizardry broke the standard by making the first three games an incremental continuation of the prior. That would have been pretty cool at the time, especially if you'd played and completed the first. It also makes sense since all three also used the same engine, more or less, so it's really more like one long game than three separate ones. It would suck to have to "replay" the same game over from level 1.

Still, it really seems dull to me, I'm sorry to say. The heavy use of statistics, even on the "game screen", robs you of the sense of immersion. I think Wizardry has more appeal for cerebral type of gamer who doesn't need a lot of flashy multi-color graphics.

Matt Barton
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The big companies

That would be a good idea, Bill. To my mind, the most important CRPG developers are Origin, Sir-Tech, SSI, Interplay/Black Isle, Bioware, Blizzard, Bethesda, Sierra, and EA. I certainly wouldn't blame anyone for stopping with BioWare in this list.

I honestly don't think the Might & Magic games really stand out enough to be counted, though I did enjoy several of them. FTL did have a breakout hit with Dungeon Master, but again the attention all seems to be on that first game, whereas the others have at least three notable hits. They definitely aren't known for doing anything else, whereas the other publishers have at least a few other hits that weren't part of the series.

I don't personally care much for console RPGs, but there's no denying their popularity with the masses. For many, the Zelda and Final Fantasy series are the end-all and be-all. I did enjoy Chrono Trigger, but I have to admit, the munchkin-style graphics just turn me off, and I'm just not comfortable with the anime style of art.

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