Eric Schwarz at Critical Missive has a good article about Greg Zeschuk’s comments on RPGs. Zeschuk said:
“It’s funny because the RPG in the context of the current world is – well, it’s not specifically irrelevant, but it’s becoming less relevant in and of itself. It’s more a function of ‘hey, this game has a great story’. For us having that emotion but also having other great features like combat and persistence of character progression and stuff. [“The RPG studio for EA”] is kind of what we are, but more importantly we’re just about great games.”
As always, Schwarz makes a lot of very good observations in his article, but I think I ultimately agree with Zeschuk’s main point, although I do agree he phrased it rather poorly.
In the gaming world, there’s an ongoing debate as to whether Mass Effect 2 is a “real” RPG. Many say it’s “just Gears of War with dialogue”. I’m not enough of an expert to give a verdict on this, but in my opinion, it’s not a terribly important issue. I say that respectfully, as many intelligent critics of games have debated this, but I feel they are off-course in this instance.
My position has always been that you should try to make a game that is enjoyable, not one which conforms to some genre’s predetermined demands. It’s fine for people to go and sort games into genres if they so choose–inevitable in fact, since since if I enjoy a certain game, I will want to know what other games are like it–but for the game designer the question ought first and foremost to be: “How shall I make a good game?”
So yes, from the developer’s point of view, RPGs are irrelevant, as are FPSs, Survival/Horror and all the other genres. A game should be thought of, I believe, as an experience by itself and not as an “instance” of a “class” in order to be really good.
Given that, should we gamers quit sorting BioWare’s games as “RPGs” and instead sort them into some other category, such as third-person adventure? Well, I suppose we could, but personally I prefer to simply consider the game on its merits as a game, rather than how it fits into a genre.