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Max Schaefer on Innovation and Variety in ARPGs

Posted 19 Apr 2012 by

Fmulder points us to a new Max Schaefer interview on Rock Paper Shotgun. It’s a good piece, with comments from Max on TL2 and their (controversial) plans to release the very unhurried sequel to the very hurried Torchlight 1, about a month after D3.

We’ve talked about that before though, so I want to focus on something from the end of the piece, which also came up in the forum thread here (which is a good read). Here’s a quote churn out new FPS titles:

…In a lot of ways, hack ‘n’ slash are RPGs are only a few paces ahead of Diablo II’s decade-old stomping grounds. Over the course of a time period that saw countless other genres evolve, change, rise, and fall, ARPGs (with a few notable exceptions – ala Borderlands) stuck to samey fantasy settings, basic class archetypes, and even eerily similar interfaces. Sure, they’re fun games, but expectation and stagnation go hand-in-hand. Is Diablo’s oft-drawn well beginning to run dry?

“You know, maybe I have no marketable skills other than making Diablo-style games,” Schaefer joked. “But you’re right: [the entire genre] is just kinda riffing off that. But it’s a good thing to riff off of. It’s something that hadn’t been done like that previously, and I think there’s a long way to go before it’s a tired genre. You know, just like first-person shooters. How many times can you be looking at a hand holding a gun in front of you while you walk around in a 3D landscape? Turns out, a lot.”

“I think [lack of innovation's] due to the scarcity of the games over the years,” Schaefer offered. “Certainly, there hasn’t been one that’s been more popular than Diablo, but [in comparison] there’s been a lot of resetting the standard of, say, first-person shooters along the way.”

“I think [setting] is definitely gonna be one of the ways that the genre evolves over time. You know, people trying sci-fi and other themes for it. But yeah, I’m sort of at a loss to explain why there hasn’t been more [diversity]. But I mean, there haven’t been a large total number of ARPGs that have been big and successful. It’s a tough thing to do.”

Do RPGs innovate? Is innovation necessary? And why are people assuming a sort of churn out new FPS titles towards D3 vs. other RPGs? After all, numerous developers churn out new FPS titles almost monthly, most of which offer nothing more than “shooting soldiers vs. shooting demons/aliens/zombies” as points of differentiation, and most of them sell quite well.

If there’s anything to this, it’s probably due to the longevity of a good RPG. No one plans to play the same FPS for months or years, since they’re disposable and fairly generic. Some add limited RPG and customization elements, but basically you play through a couple/few times and you’re done and ready for the next slightly different version of the same thing. RPGs tend to have a longer life, as the character development, item slot machine, and end game features (like PvP) often lead to fans specializing in just one title, and playing it for years. At least that’s the hope of the developers, anyway.


Tagged As: | Categories: Max Schaefer, Other RPGs, Torchlight 2