Role-Playing Games, Then and Now

CRPG designer Guido Henkel continues to explore various options for promoting his Deathfire: Ruins of Nethermore Kickstarter campaign, with his latest effort being the writing of a "Role-Playing Games, Then and Now" editorial over at ForeverGeek. And so we continue to jump from mainstream to niche and back again:

In its place we saw the rise of the action RPG. Spawned by the humungous success of Blizzard's (Diablo,) in 1996 the word role-playing was suddenly associated with intense bloodshed and furious action as innumerable monsters crowded down on the player who tried in a frenzy to free himself from the onslaught, while trying to find the next cool weapon or piece of armor.

Story? Who needs story. Character development? Who needs it? Strength and magic points are all you'll ever need next to your health bar. Turn-based combat? What a waste of time. My reflexes are honed and I can take down anything with my trigger finger. Non-player characters? What for? I have my friends to join me in a LAN battle.

Quite unintentionally, with one single stroke, Blizzard had become a blessing and a curse to many people in the industry. On the one hand, they turned role-playing into a viable, marketable genre again, yet at the same time, they single-handedly watered down the experience to its bare minimum. Or rather, they created an action game and gave it the caché of a role-playing game, because at its core, (Diablo) is no more than a glorified version of (Gauntlet,) a coin-up game with no role-playing affiliations whatsoever. And just like that the true roots of RPGs were all but forgotten.

Since those (fateful) days in 1996, the industry has never really found its way back to the true role-playing experience. There have been a few notable exceptions and attempts. (Planescape: Torment,) a game I produced for Interplay, was one example where we tried to at least keep the spirit of real RPGs alive, and games such as the (Baldur's Gate) series also helped to give the current RPG flock some of the depth it had lost, but never to the same extent. In fact, Bioware was probably the most prolific torch-carrier of a bygone role-playing era, but even they had to bow to the pressure of corporate marketing departments.

Even huge role-playing hits like (Skyrim) offer very little of the true spirit of role-playing, and it appears that many players now have never played a true RPG.

That is where (Deathfire: Ruins of Nethermore) comes in. It is a new role-playing game I have been working on with my team for the past 8 months or so. The (Deathfire) development team consists of a group of game developing veterans, some of which have worked with me as far back as (Shadows over Riva) in 1995, and other games. I myself have also worked on a number of role-playing games such as (Planescape: Torment,) (Fallout 2,) (Neverwinter Nights) and others during my 30 year career in the industry.