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Article - 'Making a Round RPG #1 - Introduction' by Guest

An item about Game Design posted on Jan 14, 2004

Blurb

Mr. Y begins his explanation of round and flat RPGs and what they consist of.

Body

Hasn't it been awhile since I wrote a gamemaking article? If you don't remember back to when I did write gamemaking articles, then let me tell you that yes, it has. However, as I am on a fun new article kick, why not get serious for once instead of writing some humor, right? Well now, I have begun a new storywriting, plotwriting, and gamemaking article series, simply titled "Making a Round RPG". See, this is called MaRR #1- I won't cheat you and make a MaRR #0 later if I forget something, either, unlike a certain PlayStation game series that made the jump to the Game Cube (*cough*). Anyways, no more Resi... I mean, no more jokes bashing ANY commercial game series. Let's get onto the ball, right?

What is the definition of a "round RPG"? What is a round anything, altogether? Well, games are typically not explained in "roundness" when players describe how good they are. Things like gameplay, design, storyline, characters, music, graphics, replay, and others are discussed and compared instead. So, maybe I am coining up a new word? Not really, I am just adapting a common word from one trend to another.

In dramas, novels, and other forms of fiction and entertainment, characters are often labeled as being either "flat" or "round". Flat characters often are limited to very few character traits, display few emotions, and tend to strongly portray one or a couple traits in particular. These flat characters are more often placed in storylines to either moderate and stem the tide of the plot so that it flows into the author's desired direction, though flat characters are also quite popular in comedies to bring humorous situations about with funny behavior (For an immediate example of that, you can play nearly any comedy games here at GW and notice it almost immediately). Round characters are far more human than flat characters, often displaying far more traits and emotions and helping the readers or viewers better relate to the story. Stories that use strictly round characters are few and far between, and tend to let the characters push and carry the storyline rather than the author's motives do that. Most storylines and dramas written farther in the past use both round and flat characters, except they retitle them to become the "main" and the "supporting" characters, respectively. However, it is becoming more and more popular nowadays to use realistic, round characters in novels, movies, and plays today, and although that sort of realism has yet to be perfected by the majority of writers, it is becoming more of a staple of good literature and writing now than it ever was. To apply the ideas of round and flat characters towards our RPGs, however, we will just define them the following ways. A "flat" whatever specializes specifically in a few key areas and does particularly well with them, but falls short on other areas, and a "round" whatever excels moderately the same amount in all areas, and generally does very well in all categories.

How do the concepts of roundness and flatness apply to video games then? Let me start to explain by explaining what a flat game consists of. Most RPGs (Especially on the amateur non-commercial scene) are considered flat, because although they are generally pretty good games that specialize in one or a few ways (Storyline, plotting, graphics, mini-games, and music, to name a few), they fall in other areas. These sorts of games are usually summarized by sentences like "Don't get me wrong, it's a nice game, but it needs to be improved on _____ and _____ ," and they get ratings of about 7-8.5. They are just okay, but ultimately they prove to be forgettable in a few months. On the other hand, round games do very well in all categories and ways, receive the excellent and awesome reviews, get ratings of about 9-10, and prove to be quite memorable for half-dozens of months (Around 6-12 months) at the amateur gamemaking scene, or at least until another new game takes the title of Newest Epic Video Game.

Epic Video Game..? Does this mean that I am really creating a synonym for the adjective "epic", by establishing roundness as a quality? Somewhat, but not completely. Although all round games are epics, not all epics are round. The biggest difference between an Epic Game and a Round Game is that all Epic Games excel either in a few important areas (Thus being flat), or excel in all areas (Roundness).

Roundness also describes another sort of trait of the well-rounded RPGs- the sort of complete and thorough satisfaction that comes from the makers for making them and the players for playing them. This sort of pleasure is hard to explain for those that have never experienced it (Like an orgasm?), but I know of an excellent way of describing it. Can you imagine an RPG with all the perfect qualities we would want? A game with an absolutely amazing storyline with superb plotting and characters, an extremely fun and challenging battle system, lots of great systems and mini-games, lots of hours of gameplay, a beautiful souindtrack, gorgeous graphics, the whole kit and caboodle. Now, imagine all those categories in slightly less godlike prowess, and whala, you've pretty much a complete idea of a round game. Round games are not perfect, but they are darn close to it.

The near-perfectness attribute only applies to round commercial games. What about all the amateur games floating about and in development at all the gamemaking communities? Well, the standards have never really been set here at GW for a round game, as most people haven't even heard of the term. I believe I have quite a bit of experience on current amateur RPGs and their quality, as well as the general goods and bads of them. So, here is my definition of what would be a round amateur RPG made with the current leader of gamemakers, RPGMaker 2003. Please note that these descriptions are pretty brief because I plan to cover them all in future MaRR articles.

Those are all the basics to round RPGs and their qualities. If this article is successful I will continue it; if it isn't, I will drive into town and buy a sno-cone. I hope you've taken interest in expanding your own projects into round games.