Tuesday, February 09, 2010

When RPGs Meet SMGs, Part Two

I've been thinking a bit about The Core Mechanic's ruminations on the topic of how, and what, Role-Playing Games can borrow from Social Media Games to endear themselves to future generations. The more I think about it, the more I think that, while there may be some base concepts which are adaptable, there simply isn't enough compatibility for one to pull from the other without becoming something else entirely. (This is not a bad thing, but I'm going to take the viewpoint that what we're looking for is still an RPG).

In my view, RPGs require an imaginative flexibility which simply can not be adequately modeled with current technology. Even if, as Mad Brew Labs proposes, we throw in mini-games between session's, without a human's intervention (or at least close observation), they become the same old monotonous tasks that litter games such as Farmville. At best, such a game would allow a game master to set up parameters and goals, allow the characters to run through it once using the rules of the system they are playing, and report the results back to the game master. Other then being possibly more aesthetically pleasing, this option does not offer anything that can't be done better with something like e-mail or Google Wave.

However, I found Malcolm Sheppard's Mob United article on Next Gen RPG's to be almost exactly what I have been thinking about for a while now. Instead of forcing the traditional table-top paradigm of books, dice, and loose papers into digital analogs of the same (creating near abominations like DDI), perhaps we should build new RPG systems from the ground up with current technology in mind. Build the game not as a set of books, but as a set of integrated digital tools which serve to speed the more crunchy parts of the game so gamers can focus on the story at hand. This is an area I'd very much like to be working in, especially with the potential of products like the iPad.

Which leads me to my last point in today's article. Oddyssey of the blog How to Start a Revolution in 21 Days or Less gives us an informative article from the perspective of the "whippersnapper" we're trying to capture with all of this discussion. This article provides an insight into what the young gamers of today are looking for in the table-top games of tomorrow. Turns out they pretty much want the same thing we did when we first started: a solid set of rules that allow us to sit around with a bunch of friends, roll some dice, and tell some stories. It is the creative, as well as the hands-on aspect, which seems to be far more interesting then mini-games filling in for a skill challenge. I think if we're going to digitize the delivery mechanism for the RPGs of tomorrow, then we have to do so in a way that enables rather then distracts. It's been said that great software makes the gadget disappear, and that is the goal I have for developing software in this space. I want a player using one of my programs to be no more distracted by it then the pen and paper character sheet they use now.


  1. "I want a player using one of my programs to be no more distracted by it then the pen and paper character sheet they use now."

    With this statement - I think we are on the same page. I would never want to play an RPG where the software got in the way of the human interaction - I guess where I was going was more: if the hobby is going to survive, or perhaps even become more main stream (widepsread) that it currently is - what role will tech play?

    Really enjoyed your comments, thanks for taking the time to read through all our posts!

  2. And thank you for stopping by and commenting. I think a lot about the mix of tech and traditional RPG's, and if/when I have anything more significant to add I will most certainly post it up here.

  3. I think that maybe one thing along these lines might be, for instance, integrating RPG experiences across the world. If the biggest part of SMGs is comparing notes with friends, why not have a game where characters adventure in A) single-player adventure arcs, B) party team-ups, C) rare but massive "roleplay meets", and then essentially upload to a central place.

    Difficult to manage? Possibly. I think, though, with a lot of gamer management and input, it could be rather successful.