Quit mixing things that don't mix.

There's been a big problem recently with people mixing genres that don't mix.  Let's take the most common offender:  RPG and Strategy.

The rational seems to be "Similar people like these games, and often a single person likes both kinds of games, so putting the two together seems like a good idea."  The problem you run into is that the fundamental principles of each genre are competing with each other.  The fun of an RPG comes from accumulating more and more crap over time.  An RPG where you don't gain anything isn't really an RPG anymore.  Strategy titles want players to start as evenly as possible, so that some measure of player skill (multi-tasking, micromanagement, etc.) will let one player overcome the other.  If what makes the difference is "how long have you been playing", then you have a strategy RPG, but it's not very fun and tends to eat itself because whoever has been playing longer almost always wins (barring terrible, unwinnable matchups that are equally unsatisfying).

Sometimes it's some particular gameplay element driving me nuts.  I remembered a game named Savage that I played a demo for.  One of the problems was that you earned points for getting kills, which you then used to get better equipment when you respawn.  The problem with that was that you end up with somebody running around with bows and arrows shooting at each other, and one side tends to rack up a bunch of kills.  The game is effectively over at that point, because even if you (with nothing but bows) manage to kill your adversary, they come back with kick-assed flamethrowers or electric guns that tear you apart because you can't afford them when you respawn (to be able to afford those required multiple kills).  So you end up with the first skirmish deciding the match (at least at the time when I played it, which was early).

The "good" combinations of Strategy and RPG have been so-so.  Warcraft 3 is one of the better meshes of this water-and-oil combination.  For the single player experience, it leans on the RPG side more, with persistent characters that gain levels as you move further into the story.  For multiplayer, everyone starts with a level 1 hero and levels up from there.  The problem is that, especially on the competitive end, you run into the problems of RPGs, specifically that sometimes they can become a terrible grind.  In a normal RPG, you grind and grind but then it's done and you don't have to go back to level 1 unless you volunteer to.  Competitively, you have to grind repeatedly, every game, and that gets old.

Another "Strategy/RPG" title that put the two together successfully was Disgaea.  The trick here was to completely eliminate any real competition between the two.  It's more RPG than strategy.  The "strategy" part of this game is just lifting a basic combat interface from successful strategy titles and putting it into an RPG game -- because you never play against another person, you don't mind that you win or lose based on a combination of how long and how well you play it.  I'm not saying it's bad -- it's brilliant to take something from one genre and fit it into another.  But ultimately, Disgaea is more an RPG than a strategy title, and has very few elements of strategy in it, and I want it recognized for what it is.

I'm not saying that crossing the streams is always bad.  Hellgate: London had a lot of potential (which I don't think it reached), just using the FPS interface for an RPG.  There are other titles that worked well that I don't remember off the top of my head.  I just want a little more thought put into the decision making before blindly churning out another "Thing A + Thing B" game.  I'm tired of "strategy/RPG" and everything else crossed with RPG.  As a general rule, it seems like the RPG elements either dominate the game, or drag it down, with no happy medium.

I feel sure I'm missing some other mix-and-match that doesn't ever really work out for fundamental reasons.

27 Comments
28 Comments
Posted by DragonBloodthirsty

There's been a big problem recently with people mixing genres that don't mix.  Let's take the most common offender:  RPG and Strategy.

The rational seems to be "Similar people like these games, and often a single person likes both kinds of games, so putting the two together seems like a good idea."  The problem you run into is that the fundamental principles of each genre are competing with each other.  The fun of an RPG comes from accumulating more and more crap over time.  An RPG where you don't gain anything isn't really an RPG anymore.  Strategy titles want players to start as evenly as possible, so that some measure of player skill (multi-tasking, micromanagement, etc.) will let one player overcome the other.  If what makes the difference is "how long have you been playing", then you have a strategy RPG, but it's not very fun and tends to eat itself because whoever has been playing longer almost always wins (barring terrible, unwinnable matchups that are equally unsatisfying).

Sometimes it's some particular gameplay element driving me nuts.  I remembered a game named Savage that I played a demo for.  One of the problems was that you earned points for getting kills, which you then used to get better equipment when you respawn.  The problem with that was that you end up with somebody running around with bows and arrows shooting at each other, and one side tends to rack up a bunch of kills.  The game is effectively over at that point, because even if you (with nothing but bows) manage to kill your adversary, they come back with kick-assed flamethrowers or electric guns that tear you apart because you can't afford them when you respawn (to be able to afford those required multiple kills).  So you end up with the first skirmish deciding the match (at least at the time when I played it, which was early).

The "good" combinations of Strategy and RPG have been so-so.  Warcraft 3 is one of the better meshes of this water-and-oil combination.  For the single player experience, it leans on the RPG side more, with persistent characters that gain levels as you move further into the story.  For multiplayer, everyone starts with a level 1 hero and levels up from there.  The problem is that, especially on the competitive end, you run into the problems of RPGs, specifically that sometimes they can become a terrible grind.  In a normal RPG, you grind and grind but then it's done and you don't have to go back to level 1 unless you volunteer to.  Competitively, you have to grind repeatedly, every game, and that gets old.

Another "Strategy/RPG" title that put the two together successfully was Disgaea.  The trick here was to completely eliminate any real competition between the two.  It's more RPG than strategy.  The "strategy" part of this game is just lifting a basic combat interface from successful strategy titles and putting it into an RPG game -- because you never play against another person, you don't mind that you win or lose based on a combination of how long and how well you play it.  I'm not saying it's bad -- it's brilliant to take something from one genre and fit it into another.  But ultimately, Disgaea is more an RPG than a strategy title, and has very few elements of strategy in it, and I want it recognized for what it is.

I'm not saying that crossing the streams is always bad.  Hellgate: London had a lot of potential (which I don't think it reached), just using the FPS interface for an RPG.  There are other titles that worked well that I don't remember off the top of my head.  I just want a little more thought put into the decision making before blindly churning out another "Thing A + Thing B" game.  I'm tired of "strategy/RPG" and everything else crossed with RPG.  As a general rule, it seems like the RPG elements either dominate the game, or drag it down, with no happy medium.

I feel sure I'm missing some other mix-and-match that doesn't ever really work out for fundamental reasons.

Posted by Spacemonger

I mostly agree with this. 
    

If you want more of my deep and insightful opinions on other stuff, don't be afraid to ask.  
Also, Deus Ex & Mass Effect are good FPSRPG's.

Posted by TurboMan

Fire Emblem. 

Posted by ZeForgotten
@Spacemonger said:
" I mostly agree with this.     If you want more of my deep and insightful opinions on other stuff, don't be afraid to ask.  Also, Deus Ex & Mass Effect are good FPSRPG's. "
Sadly, Mass Effect isn't an FPS and I have no idea why people keep calling it that. 
Confuses the hell out of me :P 
 
A game that should just have been an open world hack-whatever-you-see game was Brutal Legend. 
Posted by Scheds
 95% of the time I agree with you, but sometimes I don't mind the mixture. For example...
 
 
@TurboMan said:
" Fire Emblem.  "
Posted by ArbitraryWater
@TurboMan said:
" Fire Emblem.  "
This. This is why I disagree, and this is why you are wrong with your specific example, although perhaps not on your overall point. Strategy and RPG are two genres that mesh relatively well and without much incident. The thing is, the hybrid itself has practically become its own genre, usually with a heavier emphasis on the strategy than the RPG. Warcraft III is a full on real-time strategy game with some RPG elements, and not actually a strategy RPG.
 
However, some other genres... not so much. I think that having dice rolls in your shooter is a good way to annoy people who play actual shooters. Thus, why I don't like Mass Effect 1 as much as some other people, and thus why I can't actually finish the first level of Deus Ex.
Posted by Animasta

shin megami tensei: devil survivor.

Posted by scarace360

Dont mix your motion controls or your 3d with my games.

Posted by Red
@TurboMan said:
" Fire Emblem.  "
Also, would DotA count?
Posted by smokemare

I can see your point, I suppose nobody has really made the perfect blend.  i think as well RPG's tend to play like a narrative, where as strategy single player campaigns tend to play as a set of challenges with linking cut-scenes, which isn't very much 'in the spirit' of RPG's.
 
Making a very good RPG Strategy game would probably present something of an element of challenge - but it could be good.  Imagine a game whereby you play a knight - you have to go around a 3D virtual world, accumalating followers, equiping them, then leading them into battle - whereby you can flick to an over head 'command' view at any time - then flick back to your avatar to join in the fight.
 
Taking over villages, attacking towns... Then when you were getting established you could have to deal with disease, mutinies - make alliances , break alliances... That could work if done well as a strategy MMORPG actually/...

Posted by Gamer_152

I don't think these kinds of problems in games are about certain genres not mixing, I think they're more about situations where developers haven't blended the genres together well. For example, I believe when done correctly you can add RPG mechanics to just about anything. Progression and unlocks are by no means game mechanics that should be exclusive to RPG games alone, it's just when they're thrown together carelessly with existing games that problems begin.

Moderator
Edited by owl_of_minerva

I don't think you're right about this. Roleplaying games share their lineage with tabletop wargames, their combat systems are usually equivalent to strategy games. Most if not all RPGs are either strategy or action in terms of their combat mechanics. The problem is where you equate RTS, a sub-genre, with the strategy genre as a whole. Some strategy games (turn-based) do not have the features you describe because they are more about planning and micromanagement and even use dice rolls. This is why Fallout could translate into Fallout Tactics pretty easily, and why some people would argue Jagged Alliance 2 is an RPG - the boundaries are fuzzy.
However, I would be inclined to view RPGs as involving choice and consequence, character skill over player skill, interactions with NPCs and communities, developed narratives, party interactions (in some cases), etc. etc. This is the crucial difference between the two. As long as those priorities are kept in place, you can utilise almost any system you want. I think strategy elements are better at this than action or FPS though.

Posted by ryanwho

These kinds of mixtures are a mixed bag, and the fact that you sometimes get something good out of it is all the reason in the world to keep mixing shit. Hey maybe peanut butter and ketchup taste great together, never know until you tried. 
 
Ug. Just tried. Its no good. But now we know!

Posted by BeachThunder

How have we got to this point in this thread without mentioning Borderlands D: That game was a great shooter and the RPG elements worked well.

Posted by ryanwho
@BeachThunder said:
" How have we got to this point in this thread without mentioning Borderlands D: That game was a great shooter and the RPG elements worked well. "
Except its nothing new. Heretic did that shit decades ago. If Heretic came out now, it wouldn't even be a shooter anymore. It'd be a "modern" RPG.
Posted by BeachThunder
@ryanwho said:
" @BeachThunder said:
" How have we got to this point in this thread without mentioning Borderlands D: That game was a great shooter and the RPG elements worked well. "
Except its nothing new. Heretic did that shit decades ago. If Heretic came out now, it wouldn't even be a shooter anymore. It'd be a "modern" RPG. "
Well 16 years before...I am aware many things came before Borderlands; I didn't say it was new. The thing is that Borderlands is an example of a game that did it well (unlike Hellgate London which he mentioned).
Posted by Video_Game_King
@DragonBloodthirsty said:
"Let's take the most common offender:  RPG and Strategy."
Didn't realize that was an offender. Hell, Fire Emblem, Warsong, Final Fantasy Tactics, Ogre Battle, Shining Force, and the like have a pretty decent and satisfying balance of both. Where's the long post against RTSes and kart racers :P?
Posted by owl_of_minerva
@Video_Game_King:  Maybe he's only played Devil Survivor.
Posted by Video_Game_King
@owl_of_minerva: 
 
Then why'd he mention Disgaea?
Posted by owl_of_minerva
@Video_Game_King:  True, was just trying to imagine what could get someone vindictively angry at SRPGs. Anyways, all those games you listed are good counterexamples as well, there are tons of great Japanese SRPGs. The Western approach of combining RPG elements with RTSes is terrible in comparison, although standard CRPGs with sound D&D (or other pen and paper) combat systems are also good.
Edited by valrog

Leauge of Legends would like to have a word with you.

Posted by Icadae

So many things wrong with that blog. If your definition of an RPG is getting more and more crap, then you've either missed out, or well, I can't think of any other reason. It's right there in the name. RolePlayingGame, where you assume a role of a character or perhaps several characters. You progress through a story, levels, character building (which too involves collecting and upgrading gear) but the most important part is character progression - In any form. No RPG can truely stand alone with JUST item gathering - and if that is its sole-redeeming factor that adds attributes and abilities, well its probably not a very good game. I can't think of any that did just that - Maybe that's just my lack of knowledge.
 
It's all a problem with how RPG's are defined, since they by definition involves alot of different components to make up a body as a whole. 
 
I can think of at least 10 Strategy-RPGs that would have been all the poorer without the RPG: 
 
Dungeon Keeper 1+2
Fantasy Wars
Majesty 1+2
League of Legends and its bastard offsprings  
Warcraft 3 as you mention yourself - including MP 
Evil Genius
Dawn of War 2 
Heroes of Might and Magic 
Ultima 
Company of Heroes 
Vandal Hearts 
 
And that's without touching on the more tender subjects such as FPS/TPS RPG's, actual JRPG's and so on. Hell, Baldur's Gate would be nothing without its Strategy influences.
 
Aside from balancing issues, there's a reason everyone starts at level 1. It adds depth to the gameplay, flexibility in how you want to aproach any given game and a necessary adaptability that makes any great game stand out from eachother. Even in Co-op RPG's you can't have someone who's significantly lower or higher than yourself in any gamemode as it would upset the balance of the difficulty, making it either too hard or too easy.

Edited by Tennmuerti
@DragonBloodthirsty:   
You can mix all you want as long as you do it well, there are plenty of games that manage to do it. Some games can't pull it of, it's as simple as that
RPG + strategy is one of the easiest and ones out there and make a really good mix, play some turn based strategies like Disciples or HoMM or even a ore recent titles like DoW
Also you have this misconception that what defines an RPG is a ton of loot. There are plenty of superb RPGs out there where loot plays a very minor part or none at all.
 
 

@ryanwho

said:

" These kinds of mixtures are a mixed bag, and the fact that you sometimes get something good out of it is all the reason in the world to keep mixing shit. Hey maybe peanut butter and ketchup taste great together, never know until you tried.  Ug. Just tried. Its no good. But now we know! "

Beer and Brownies.
Works surprisingly great together.
 
Also coffee and cheese.
Instant coffee with plain edam or similar.
Cheese gives the coffee an oily film that makes it go down really smooth too.
(you put the cheese slice into the coffee)
Edited by coaxmetal

Not a fan of strategy RPG's myself, beyond the strategy (there in some) in something like Fallout 1 or 2 (or even Fallout Tactics) and Baldur's Gate style games, but I have never thought stragegy rpg's were a bad mix, or bad games, I know plenty of people who love them. FInal Fantasy tactics seems really popular. I mean, even the OP mentioned one bad example to 2 good ones. Any genre is going to have bad games, that doesn't make the whole genre bad though. That would just be silly. 
 
As far as FPS RPG's go, there have also been good and bad examples of that. The most recent shining example of it done well is the aforementioned Borderlands. (NOT Mass Effect (2). Both of those games are fantastic, but they are not FPS's. They are third-person shooter/ RPG hybrids instead). Deus Ex, System Shock 2, Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, and STALKER also come to mind here. Some (not me) would also argue that Fallout 3 is a good FPSRPG.

Posted by Spacemonger
@ZeForgotten said:
" @Spacemonger said:
" I mostly agree with this.     If you want more of my deep and insightful opinions on other stuff, don't be afraid to ask.  Also, Deus Ex & Mass Effect are good FPSRPG's. "
Sadly, Mass Effect isn't an FPS and I have no idea why people keep calling it that. Confuses the hell out of me :P  A game that should just have been an open world hack-whatever-you-see game was Brutal Legend.  "
All right, all right, TPS then.
Posted by fwylo

Dota. Win.

Posted by MonkeyKing1969

Mixtures are cool.  Where would be be without dihydrogen monoxide!  You trying living with just pure atoms all separated....its not fun.  
 
What would we do if Cytosine didn't matches with Guanine or Adenine didn't matches with thymine.   How dull life would be if we didn't try spicy with sweet or meat with potatos!

Posted by McGhee

You are wrong. Some of the best games are a mix of genres. 
 
RPG + Platformer = TOMBA! 
 
'Nough said.