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Dakota Day

Golden era of the RPG

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My personal favorite RPG era was when the PS1 was the current-gen console.  So that would be around 94-99.  Buuut... there have been some really stellar RPGs in the 03-11 period, so I don't think I could really say there was some historical period where RPGs were across-the-board better than they have been recently.

 

RPGs have been one of the most well-populated and "healthy" video game genres pretty much as long as there have been video games, so I think there was never a period where they really "fell" from some past golden age to a bronze or iron age or w/e.  They've always been spotty as far as story quality, but their graphics have improved steadily and their gameplay has been "good" quality on average (range of acceptable to great) since the early 90s.  If you specifically wanted to rehabilitate a genre for some reason, I'd nominate one of the smaller genres that fell out of fashion at some point.

Edited by sunandshadow

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I was just thinking that a lot of people seem to be looking for a retro feel in everything these days. It feels like there has been some form of disconnect somewhere down the line.

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Agreeing with a lot of these points, I thought I'd add that I think an important distinction is that the era the OP is talking about, the large developers were making standard RPG's. Now, they make things like Dragon Age, Skyrim, Mass Effect, Witcher MMO's, etc. Those are still legitimately RPG's, though as TheChubu pointed out, they've replaced much of the dice rolling and such with more direct mechanics. Additionally, I think you don't see many small devs, and certainly very, very few solo devs making "traditional" rpgs, simply because of the sheer amount of content required. The amount of dialogue, artwork, audio, etc for a traditional RPG is pretty daunting/near impossible for a small team/solo developer. So, I think you haven't seen much in the way of rpgs (again, of the late 90's sort you're likely thinking about) with the rise of independent developing, and large developers have mostly moved on to the aforementioned type of rpg.

 

So, in a nutshell, they require a large team, the large developers aren't doing them, and the small ones can't (or to some extent won't. There really is probably a limited audience).

 

That said, I think even of the turn-based, dice rolling late nineties style rpg, there are plenty of recent examples. Certainly a bunch of GameMaker ones have come out. I know my steam library is full of 'em tongue.png They don't get the hype they  used to, and they might not be quite as large, but they're there. 

 

 

I was just thinking that a lot of people seem to be looking for a retro feel in everything these days. It feels like there has been some form of disconnect somewhere down the line.

 

 

I think people just consume things way faster and in a greater amount than they used to, "innovation" can't really keep up, but it's easier to give a new spin to something old. This is pretty esoteric, but I don't know if you ever read John Barth's "Death of the Novel," but back in the 70's he pretty much proposed that we'd essentially reached the end of "new" stories to tell, but concluded that there are infinite ways of retelling, twisting and combining the old ones. Same goes for movies and games, I'd say tongue.png

/end esotericism

Edited by Misantes

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To re-use an old joke, "12-18 years old".


I'm guessing you are referencing that that is the general age group of the fans of the genre.

 

 

More that, if you ask any old-timer about when a Golden Age was, it'll just happen to be when they were that age.

 

So I was suggesting, obliquely, that the magic of the Golden Age of RPGs doesn't so much have to do with the games themselves, but who we were when we played them: when we had enough time to invest in games that rewarded extended investments in time, when the mechanics and stories were all new to us, when we had friends who played the same games at the same time, etc.  (And when, looking back, we remember only the high points, the best moments of the best games of a whole era.) 

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To answer your question for real, my own RPG Golden Age was the SNES and PS1 era, although played in retrospect because I was usually a generation of consoles behind.  (I played some of the RPGs from the 80s/90s PC "Golden Age" too but not too many of them; I didn't have a lot of money for games during that period, and don't remember it as well because it was rather longer ago.)

 

What I enjoyed and would still enjoy:

  • Many of them had some great art direction (good pixel art, hand-painted backdrops, etc.)
  • Good characters that I'd enjoy traveling with.
  • Creative settings.  Square was actually quite good at this, back in their heyday, at having it so your "dungeons" were all manner of places.

What I would no longer enjoy, even if I once didn't care or notice:

  • The quite rigid progression, so that a lot of your time is spent finding that one NPC to talk to or the right building to enter, so that the intended cutscene happens and the game state changes so you can progress.  That's not really a game; usually it's a puzzle with a nonsense answer and insufficient clues.
  • Thousands of samey battles.  "Attack -> Goblin1, Attack -> Goblin1, Attack -> Goblin2".  No, I never want to attack a Goblin1 ever again.  I'm not even sure there's a twist to the JRPG battle formula that could get me interested in this again.
  • I'm rather tired of saving the world, and all the standard story tropes.

Anyway, what I really enjoyed wasn't anything about the genre or that era, just things (good art, characters, settings) that would be good in any game, or in media that aren't games.

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In the communities opinion what made up the golden era of the RPG and would it be possible to bring it back?

 
When was that?
What defined this?

I would say it started somewhere in the early 90s or so. Maybe just before the 90s when there was an increase in their popularity.
 
That seems in the eye of the beholder... I would be inclined to disagree with your assessment this far...
RPGs became popular in the 70s, but has massive opposition. Do you mean to refer to the era where it became acceptable to roleplay? (in which case I would be tempted to say that now is possible the most liberal time there has ever been as geek culture has successfully supplanted 'regular' or 'hip' culture) or when it became more accessible to the public (which, once again, I'd say now is the best period with all of the video games based around the concept of RPG made available through non-retail distribution).
 
If you want to refer to some kind of abstract golden age of when games were 'better', then specify how they differed from today, and perhaps we can start having a serious conversation, but until then, I think it is a pretty empty statement.

Are you stating that now is the golden era?


Actually Snes was my personal golden age (ff 4, 5, 6 and CT) but I realize my younger age at the time taints my memory of these games.
Rpgs speak louder to young minds because they are engaging stories leveraging fertile minds hungry for knowledge.

20-30 years from now some people will call today the golden age of rpgs and articulate their reasoning accordingly.

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I was just thinking that a lot of people seem to be looking for a retro feel in everything these days. It feels like there has been some form of disconnect somewhere down the line.

As others have indicated, I think that a large portion of this is simply nostaligia: a yearning for games like those of one's youth. Such games can, for some, carry echoes of childhood joys; those people may then play--in part--to hear those joys again.

 

(In all fairness, I do think that there's also an element of bringing back games of types and in graphical styles that are no longer much provided by the larger companies.)

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I don't know that it would be appropriate to talk about a golden era of RPGs at all, since I think few would argue there's been a decline in quality after its end. The only thing that makes older RPGs better is what valrus and others have been saying: nostalgia.

 

I have my own rough division of eras of the computer/console RPG, but since I didn't play too many of them when I was young, it's mostly out of historical interest. Here it is:

Prehistory (1975-1980): Reaching from dnd on PLATO terminals to Rogue. Most RPGs were weak ports of DnD.

Early Classical (1980-1985): From Rogue to Ultima IV. Most of the conventions of classic RPGs were developed, such as the Roguelike genre and the dungeon/town/overworld distinction.

Late Classical (1985-1997): Ultima IV to Final Fantasy VII. This is where the RPG really matured, starting with Ultima IV breaking the "defeat the evil overlord" mold. Lots of classic, genre-defining series started here, like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest for the JRPG, Fire Emblem for the tactical RPG, and Ultima Underworld and The Elder Scrolls for the first-person RPG.

Middle Period (1997-2007): FFVII to Mass Effect. Most of my favorite RPGs came out in this period. The MMO, as opposed to the MU*, took shape with Ultima Online, EverQuest, and World of Warcraft. The western, action RPG was refined in System Shock 2, Deus Ex, and Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines. Fallout and its descendants had their age of glory here.

Modern Era (2007-Present): I'm really not sure about putting Mass Effect at the start, especially since it puts Oblivion before. Recent RPGs seem to be about turning "RPG elements" from a cliched buzzword into the status quo. Roguelikes exist again, too.

Edited by Dodopod

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Im talking about fantasy star, golden sun, even megaman battle network as examples of rpgs.

 

Golden Sun? I wouldn't really consider it a high point of RPGs. Yea, it's sorta fun, but doesn't really offer anything new worth mentioning.

Also, Golden Sun was released in 2001 - if it's part of the 'golden age', that age must cover a large block of a years.

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On the console I would say SNES was really the right place and time, and this extended into the PS1 -- The N64 really didn't have any good RPGs unless you also consider Zelda and Tactics-style games to be RPGs. The NES also had some great titles in Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest and as the original home of the series that became popularized as Earthbound here in the states. There were a handful of good titles on the Genesis too, and some must-plays on the Sega-CD, such as the two original Lunar games. These kinds of games in general are usually refered to as jRPGs, or Japanese-style RPGs -- They borrowed elements of western pen & paper RPGs in heavily modified form, and begat a genre style that was distinct. I read an article not long ago about how Final Fantasy's design, which set the standard for jRPGs, was really in part informed by how the lone Japanese programmer didn't really understand western P & Ps all that well -- jRPGs were as much the result of a misinterpretation of the western games as much as the result of an artistic interpretation. Playstation could be said to rival the SNES in jRPGs, but IMHO they suffered uneven quality, overuse of CGI cutscenes, and unnecessarily-long, grindy gameplay (I feel like 20-40 hours is a good first-run playtime for an RPG, which is where most SNES RPGs sit. Playstation RPGs like Legend of Dragoon, IIRC, advertised itself as being a 90-hour epic, and playstation RPGs in general were largely 50-hour affairs, give or take a bit. [yes, I know people speedrun all of these games now in considerably less time].)

 

On the PC, the RPG heyday probably began a bit earlier than RPG games on the NES and extended through until Baldur's Gate or A Tale In the Desert. After that, MMOs really stole the spotlight for role-playing fans, though there have been notable exceptions since. These kinds of games are generally refered to as CRPGs or computer RPGs -- they're a much more literal interpretation of Western pen & paper RPGs (in contrast to jRPGs "artistic misinterpretation") with the primary difference that play became real-time, and the player took direct agency over their avatar.

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