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RPG Genre Highlights From the last 30 Years (I am listing the best RPGs from each era: The pinnacle of the genre at that snapshot moment) legend: + = increased since the previous era - = decreased since the previous era N = neutral D = totally different take Explanations in parentheses were the genre wide alterations that became notable from the time 1987 Final Fantasy1 Dragon Quest1

gameplay system (1) appears randomly, periodically, while interacting with the exploration based narrative system (2) | evolution | | v 1994 Terranigma (world +, graphics++, story+, gameplay++) Final Fantasy 6 (world++, graphics+, story++, gameplay+) Chrono Trigger (world++, graphics++, story++, gameplay++) (world: worlds went from single worlds to ones with multiple dimensions / times / planets) (graphics: from pixel to animated 2d) (story: added significant scene animations, higher quality dialog, actual characterization) (gameplay: upgrades 'turn based battle system' to 'active time battle system', some narrative design begins to appear such as 'trading' information through NPCs for the purpose of telling a story, and scripted story told through free exploration)


a ludic battle system periodically appears to interrupt the narrative system of exploration; no longer goes to an entirely different screen (2). Sprites improve and emotional and scene specific animations are invested in (1) | evolution | | v 1998 Final Fantasy Tactics(world--, graphics+, story+++, gameplay+++) Xenogears (world+, graphics+, story+++, gameplayN) Breath of Fire 3 (world++, graphics++, story++, gameplay+) Suikoden 2 (world+++, graphicsN, story++++, gameplayN) (world: worlds became more expansive and with more life, stopped relying on 'alternate dimensions') (graphics: animated 2d sprites go from 4 directions to 8 directions, environment becomes 3d, camera angles based on 'room' are improved to be more cinematic) (story: added more emotional scene animations, improved the quality of storytelling via usage of simple storytelling techniques such as flashback, foreshadowing, characterization) (gameplay: minor tweaks, execution improves – no fundamental improvements)


graphics increase, 2d sprites gain more scene and emotional animations, world improves to 3d world (1), ludic violent battles appear periodically while going through the narrative exploration based system (2) | devolution + evolution | | v 2005 Radiata Stories (world--, graphicsN, story--, gameplay+) Final Fantasy X (world--, graphics+, storyN, gameplayN) Fable (world--, graphics+, story-, gameplay++) (world: world becomes smaller due to industry demand for high amount of 3d graphics, life of environments decreases of stays neutral) (graphics: graphics devolve from beautifully animated sprites to mediocre 3d at extreme costs to worldscope and story execution) (story: animations become less emotional due to difficulty achieving that with 3d models) (gameplay: narrative design improves slightly by normalizing day/night cycles and daily routines for NPCs; storytelling through voyeurism becomes possible. Gameplay improves from an active time battle system to a beginning action RPG battle system)

Violent ludic battle system periodically appear along the story path produced by the exploration based narrative system (1); scenes shift from a theater/literary based model with unique video game camera angles and animation techniques, to a wildly inappropriate, unliked, unsuccessful, non-interactive cinematic style that is a fundamental change and a step in the wrong direction; emotional and scene animations suffer from the switch to 3d; world scope suffers from the switch to 3d (2) | devolution + evolution | | v


2010 Mass Effect 2 (world-, graphics++, story+, gameplay+) Fable 3 (world+, graphics++, story+, gameplay++) Fallout 3 (world++, graphicsN, story++, gameplay+) (world: world stays neutral in size but develops more life, although still not to the point of 1998 era) (graphics: 3d graphics improve, (story: devolves from the dialog box, theater stage format to a grossly inappropriate cinematic format, subject matter and meaning improve to a small degree, execution on simply storytelling techniques improves; more advanced techniques are added such as homage, allusion, self-reference, and unreliable narrator) (gameplay: narrative design improves in the form of storytelling through exploration. Gameplay in the form of execution on action RPG gameplay)

Dialog selection trees become more popular. Some minor ludic mechanics are added on top of them (such as a persuasion skill); but it is otherwise simply an extension of an exploratory narrative systems – you are exploring a database of dialog phrases (1); the exploratory narrative system is populated by violent, ludic battles throughout (2) | evolution | | v


2014 Great American Braves (worldD, graphicsD, story++, gameplay++) (world: world takes a totally different, short story approach; it is a fundamental improvement in the same way the short story or periodical is a fundamental improvement on the novel or encyclopedia) (graphics: graphics go from a high opportunity cost for little gain, expensive photorealistic 3d approach to a fully live actor approach, regaining the ability to produce high quality, emotional animations at low cost. It returns to the better balances graphics of the 1998 era, and then improves fundamentally on that approach by turning the drawn 2d sprites into filmed, and then digitally manipulated 2d sprites) (story: improves the maturity and subject matter of the story. Uses never before accessible literary & rhetorical techniques such as skinner box manipulation, judgment and character assertions, and goes beyond derivative tolkien or heinlein worlds into a more literary-informed modern focus) (gameplay: makes the core gameplay RPG system a narrative system for the first time ever, freeing RPGs from being tied to violent systems to tell stories – all previous narrative systems based in following and exploration were subsystems because they are unsuitable to be a core button/pellet mechanic. Upgrades “action RPG battle system” to “turn based RPG conversation system”)

Exploratory narrative system is not interrupted by violent, ludic battles: instead the idea of laying ludic gameplay components over a dialog tree is taken to the next level, and takes over as the core mechanic, making violent, ludic battles unnecessary: instead, non-violent, conversational encounters appear periodically through the exploration based narrative system, and are wholly integrated with the narrative system. A return to 2d sprites and a theater/literary style of exposition over an unsuccessful cinematic style. Improvement on the production of 2d sprites. (1) 2018


Some new game (world++, graphics++, story++, gameplay++) (world: interlinked short stories become more numerous and improve to short story anthologies) (graphics: 3d environments and filmed 2d sprites improve in quality) (story: storytelling becomes even more mature, aiming for literary quality that surpasses John Milton, Edgar Allen Poe, Mark Twain and other great American minds) (gameplay: “turn based RPG conversation system” upgrades to “active time RPG conversation system” over time)

some reasoning and overall notes on trends throughout the timeline: world (this trend from epic storytelling based around mythology – 1998 – to interconnected odyssyian quest model – 2005 – to short story – 2012 – to short story anthology – 2018 – perfectly lines up to the trends in traditional literary history, which did exactly the same thing, beginning with enormous epic mythological works, to Greek epics such as the Odyssey, to the novel, to short stories, to short story anthologies) graphics (the switch to 3d aided many genres such as FPS games, but undeniably killed this genre of RPGs for a period of nearly a whole lost era – many great series such as Final Fantasy, and Suikoden could not adapt the types of stories they told to the scope that 3d requirements shrunk their project. Enormous world became increasingly impossible to make; facial animations and other emotional animations skyrocketed in expense; as a result, games that did not require those things flourished, while the RPG genre almost entirely died out – the smart solution, and my solution, is to return to a proper balance, take a loose hit in objective graphics quality, but use an entirely different approach, and one that is improvable over the long-term and can overcome photorealistic 3d in quality while also freeing up enormous resources for the rest fo the project) story(games, except for Suikoden 2, have told mostly forgettable plots. Their stories are trite and mean nothing, and say nothing, and any literary figure from Chaucer to Dante to Milton to James Joyce would be rolling over in their graves that this trite nonsense is in any way a reflection of our ability to tell a story. There are no extremely advanced literary techniques such as stream of consciousness, musical sentence structure, careful delineation of word choice, dramatic or tragic irony, symbolism, disambiguation – I have a whole book of advanced literary techniques that have never appeared before in garbage video game stories over 30 years) gameplay(has been on a relatively steady path toward improving. Stagnated greatly since its inception of the core RPG battle systems; narrative systems of exploration and following existed with ludic 'battles' populating the linear journey. To upgrade this key system to itself be a narrative system after 30 years of stagnation, improvements to subsystems, or additions of new subsystems, and other such non-solutions is an unbelievably enormous breakthrough and it boggles my mind when people say 'what is unique?')

rpg timeline  

shows where american braves falls in the history of games, in the context of RPG development

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