PCRPGs: Man the Lifeboats!

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Poke it with a stick, see if it moves.

Most people who played KOTOR on the Xbox loved it, as well as the people who played it on the PC. If nothing else, PC gamers will at least get RPG's that were ported over, and that is one way the PCRPG gaming industry might stay alive. But another is the realization that the PC gaming market is still big not as big as console, no, but big enough to garner a lot of cash. Games like the Sims have proven that PC games can be big money. And once again, when we look at the fundamental game play of the Sims, we can see a PCRPG. Granted, there are no actual quests or even a story line, but the player does make their own character and develops that character through interactions with other NPC's. RPG-lite, true, but still a basic RPG at its core.

Future mega-hits will also give resurgence to the PC gaming market. Half-Life 2 and Doom 3 are two games that everyone is anticipating to be blockbuster hits. And anyone who plays FPS's (First Person Shooters) knows that these types of games are best played on PC's. However, since the gaming public is far more sophisticated than even five years ago, some RPG elements will find their way into the above games. Multiple ways to solve a situation is one RPG element. Another is finding loot that enhances the player character. Still another is NPC interaction. And finally there is story depth. Gamers are not as satisfied with just running around endless corridors shooting at anything that moves in their FPS's. The story has to be interesting and the player needs to be immersed and convinced that what they do in the game world matters.

Lastly, one genre that practically guarantees a lock on the life of PC gaming is the RTS (Real Time Strategy). Numbers don't lie, and some of the best sellers in the PC gaming market have been RTS's. To add to this, RTS's simply do not translate to console gaming. While an FPS can be faked into a control pad for a console (not with much success, in my opinion), there is no good way to transfer the point and click game play of an RTS into a console it's just too slow and awkward.

RTS's also provide another boost for the PCRPG, and that is that today's RTS's boast more and more RPG qualities. Take Blizzard's Warcraft 3, for example. The player gets a hero unit that not only collects experience points and levels, but also loot the hero can carry that augments his combat capabilities. Even Command & Conquer: Generals from EA gives the player's General character opportunities to level up and acquire new capabilities. I suspect that future RTS's will have branching story lines that are directly related to the player's choices during battles and whether or not the player won or lost those battles. The lines between RTS and RPG are definitely being blurred.

Why should I care?

What makes an RPG appealing? To me, an RPG is appealing because it allows me to step out of my life and play in an alternate life. It is both personal expression and play all mixed into one. It allows me to transgress without having to worry about real world repercussions. I can be bigger, stronger, fiercer, sneakier, deceiving, heroic, etc. without leaving the comfort and safety of my home. It allows me to experiment with (what if) possibilities in a simulated world where I can be the hero, the villain, or something in between. The more a game allows me to do these things, the greater my suspension of disbelief and the greater my enjoyment of the game. It is the reason why so many games that are coming out have more and more RPG elements in their design. The more immersive the experience, the better the chance the player will enjoy the game. It is these qualities that keep me interested in the genre, and I believe it is similar qualities that keep other fans of PCRPG's seeking out new adventures.

I can see the light.

It is games like the ones I described above that refocus the gaming community towards the PC, which will also allow PCRPG's to keep from being swept under the carpet. Gamers rarely focus on just one genre of game, and it is because of this gaming diversity that PCRPG's must continue to be developed. There is a market for them and developers, judging from past development history, eventually come to that realization. Sometimes it takes a lull before that one breakout hit surfaces to reignite the PCRPG genre. All it takes is a publisher and developer to think outside the box and not put all their eggs in one basket be it solely console or solely PC. Who knows who will publish the next Fallout, Baldur's Gate, or Ultima series? I just hope it is sooner than later, and I've a hunch it will be sooner.