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The future of RPG gaming revealed

KitGuru's latest addition to the team wishes everyone greetings from sunny California – home to gaming developers such as Nintendo, Sega, Square Enix, Blizzard, and Electronic Arts!

Graphics, voice actors, music, game art, character design… so many elements make up video games.  They retain components of movies and books while also allowing players to interact with a virtual world.  There are so many directions developers can take games, making the story bigger, the action more intense, the characters more engaging.

So why not evolve gaming one step further by redefining an entire gaming genre?  Before you start to sniff and turn up your nose at the possibility, just think how products like the Wii, iPhone and iPad have managed to generate huge changes in the face of gaming in just a couple of years.

A genre that remained fairly static in past years was that of the RPG, a fairly simple genre classified by storytelling and narrative.  However, through reclassification of classic storytelling techniques, how can RPGs possibly claim significant territory in an industry dominated by action?

While no one will argue the success of the early Final Fantasy and Zelda games with their primitive graphics yet engaging storylines, there is certainly a difference between early RPGs and their evolution.  Dr. Ray Muzyka and Dr. Gregory Zeschuk (CEO and VP of Bioware, respectively) see a broadening of the RPG genre, “We see a lot of other genres incorporating features of RPGs and in turn RPGs are incorporating features of other genres”.

They aren’t the only ones who see a “broadening of the RPG genre”.  Square Enix producer Yoshinori Kitase said in an interview, “In the global market we see many players moving away from games that used turn-based systems toward what you might term an action-RPG. That’s a trend, and you ignore things like that at your peril”.

An example of this trend can be seen in the Mass Effect series.  Mass Effect allows for a broad range of battlefield options, rather than strictly adhering to the turn-based systems of the traditional RPG.  Some gamers are concerned the RPG foundation of the series will be diminished through the third person shooter aspect of Mass Effect 3.  However, Mass Effect is doing something right.  The collaboration of action and RPG is certainly part of Mass Effect’s success, as the series appeals to a much broader audience than the standard RPG.

This movement toward action RPGs may be beneficial as gaming evolves over time.  With new methods of gaming geared toward the motion-sensored (PlayStation Move and XBox 360 Kinect) and 3D (Nintendo 3Ds), the emerging action RPG genre lends itself well to the diminishing gap between gamers and their gaming environments.  After all, wouldn’t a RPG-based, real-time shooter be more interesting in a potentially motion-sensored, 3D environment than a turn-based RPG?

While personally a huge fan of both genres, I am looking forward to new developments on both fronts – with the release of Mass Effect 3, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Final Fantasy XIII-2, Valkyria Chronicles 2 – as well as upcoming changes in the way gamers interact with games.  A new era of gaming will emerge only as long as developers continue to push the boundaries of genre classifications, gaming interactions, etc.  After all, aren’t video games headed down a path in which gamers will eventually be entirely immersed into a new reality, where you truly feel a part of an action-packed, Hollywood movie environment?

If all goes well for the industry, within the next two decades or so gamers will look back at our current games/gaming systems and laugh at their simplicity.  At least, I hope they will, since I hope for drastic innovations within this industry!

The progression of the RPG genre can truly be seen in the current explosion of action RPGs – Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Fable III, Darksiders 2, Dragon Age II.  With turn-based RPGs a phenomenon long past for consoles, die-hard fans may have to embrace their PSPs for a taste of past RPG gameplay.  In IGN’s list of “Top 8 PSP Games of 2011,” some action RPG games are listed (such as The 3rd Birthday and Monster Hunter Freedom 3), but there are also plenty of turn-based RPGs – Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, Final Fantasy IV, and Valkyria Chronicles 2.

KitGuru says: To all you die-hard, turn-based RPG fans out there, if you’re squinting to read the words on this screen, be sure to get some thick glasses for future PSP gaming endeavours. It seems that we're unlikely to be lost for words!

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