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Article - 'Making a Round RPG #2 - Gameplay' by Guest

An item about Game Design posted on Jan 14, 2004

Blurb

Mr. Y extends his MaRR article into a general explanation of what gameplay is defined as, gameplay's importance in RPGs, and some traditional ways of improving gameplay.

Body

For this article I will be covering the priorities of gameplay in games (More specifically, role-playing games), some of the proven methods of improving gameplay, and some encouragement for original ideas. As with the previous article, however, the focus will be on making the game a strong sort of round in the gameplay aspect- a balance of elements comprising the good gameplay, yet each of those elements being in an excellent condition. Before you read this, however, please read my last article, MaRR #1 - Introduction. If you've already read most or all of that and get the concepts of flatness and roundness, we can proceed.

Gameplay in RPGs is arguably the most important aspect of the game itself- in my opinion, it really is the most important part of them all. Gameplay is effectively a measure of the amount of general fun in any game, disregarding any pleasure coming from the other major game aspects- storyline, design, graphics, music, replay, and difficulty/learning slope. Although it may look like that which is called gameplay is severely limited by all these removed factors, it is not a sliver at all- gameplay includes many other things such as the general scheme of the battle system, mini-games, puzzles, map design, NPCs and their reactions, and more.

Often gameplay is determined to be of less importance than the story of any game by pseudo-intellectuals in the gamemaking community and outside of it. That is not to say that anyone that embraces story and plot as more important is automatically deemed an idiot- they can be right, in their own manner. If an individual places more importance on the storyline-plotting just because he or she prefers the more literary aspects of RPGs to unrelated fun factors like mini-games or battle systems, I can accept that. What I cannot accept are individuals more attuned towards traditional RPG values that due not recognize the raw fun of gameplay as generally superior to storyline elements. That is to say, individuals that do not appreciate RPGs mostly for their storylines, placing emphasis on storylines because they are the clearest signatures that differentiate RPGs, and labeling RPGs with bland or cliched storylines as being "poor". This is quite simply incorrect- for everyone but the most literate RPG players that play modern RPGs such as Final Fantasy 7 and Xenogears for the pure plotting and deepness, the sheer fun of gameplay is the most important factor of the game. Gameplay is what truly bends and makes round every quality RPG, binding its many pages of stories, songs, systems, and characters with sweet-tasting mini-games, puzzles, battles, and general hit-the-button action. Gameplay is what really allows RPG players to relate to other genres of video games, such as fighting, action, puzzle, adventure, etc. That is why general RPG players cannot truly appreciate storytelling in RPGs as being more important. Similar to those detestable punk rock wannabes that listen to punk-pop artists and claim to be radical punk kids outside life's normal loops, false story-lovers truly appreciate the more generic, broad gameplay of RPGs, but deny it and see their true loves as more radical storytelling elements that are more outside RPG loops, like plotting and characters (Especially plotting, in fact). In short and in summary, no matter what others may claim, gameplay is the most important factor of all RPGs for the majority of RPG players, as storylines and plotting are for the more dedicated fans. Also note that I am not downplaying storylines and plotting that much- they are still important, as they lend your game an interesting string to tie the chain of events together, as well as a unique signature that should seperate and differentiate your RPG from other games.

Since we've established that gameplay is the most important aspect of any game, you should obviously try to improve your own as much as possible. If you recall me stating, gameplay's most important elements include the battle system, mini-games, puzzles, map design, NPCs, and NPC reactions. Those six categories are also roughly translated into the six fundamental ways to improve your game. Let's go through each of these elements seperately, and discuss what can be done to improve each of them.

Beyond these two areas, however, how can you improve upon the gameplay of the game? Well, don't just take to heart my solutions for improvement, design your own! As a gamemaker you must always work towards improving your logic towards solutions and improvements to RPGs. Always ask yourself for any ways you can improve your gameplay, and look within yourself for new ideas you can use for your game. As you seek the answers you will become a better seeker, and though you will never truly seek out and discover every possible solution for improving your game, your technique should rise enough that you can become an independent gamemaker, one that just needs little or no assistance in ideas or support from anyone. And, becoming an independent gamemaker is probably the most important step you can take towards making an epic RPG.

I am finished with this article. I hope all readers have picked up or at least relearned some ideas about building up and onto gameplay in RPGs. Thank you for reading, please post your own gameplay ideas and suggestions.