Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 2, 2013
Tom’s Hardware has a nice little retrospective about the influence of Dungeons & Dragons on computer RPGs throughout the short little history of video gaming, including some comments from two guys who were involved in brief renaissance of D&D-inspired RPGs, Chris Avellone and Feargus Urquhart. I’ll letcha read it now, and, as usual, apply my lame commentary at the end.
The title is a bit of a misnomer – it’s more of a story about, “How the Bioware / Obsidian D&D-based RPGs came to be.” Which is just as interesting to a fan, but perhaps doesn’t have much broad appeal.
While not offering new truly new information, I was interested in their take on what caused the ‘death’ of the style of game represented by the Infinity & Aurora Engine games. According to Urquhart, it was the trend towards making cinematic, console-style games. This made the kind of breadth of choice offered in their CRPGs prohibitively expensive. Publishers were no longer interested, instead focused on more linear, lusciously realized game worlds. Or, in my view – the dominance of the third-person action game!
Then there’s the little hint of a promise at the end that these guys would be interested in taking on a D&D licensed product again, and plugs for Project Eternity and the South Park RPG.
As far as the D&D system is concerned – while I’m personally a fan of 3.5 (and an even bigger fan of its spiritual successor, Pathfinder), the last edition of Dungeons & Dragons left me pretty cold. I’ve never been a huge Forgotten Realms fan, either.
The appeal to me in the past was mainly in the form of rules familiarity. I didn’t have to wonder too badly about the relative value of a 16 Strength versus a 17 strength, or a +1 longsword versus a +2 short sword. And I was already prepared to experiment with character and party ideas. If we have a druid and a paladin, can we skip having a cleric in the party? Plus, I could leverage off of that experience to apply known tactics in something like a dragon battle.
Today, however, I’m no longer one of the D&D faithful. While I’ve perused the 4th edition player’s guide when it came out, I only recognize the gist, not the details. And I’ve really not been paying attention to the “D&D Next” development (as Paizo’s already won my group over in spades with Pathfinder, capitalizing quite well on WotC’s missteps).
And it is not as if those rules were in any way sacred or particularly well-suited to computer games. In fact, they were arguably the opposite. While the nasty learning curve of a new rules system is a pain in the butt for developers and players, I’d just as soon see more broad, turn-based, choice-heavy RPGs in the style of the 1996-2003 classics with custom rules systems.
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