RPG purists don't understand that RPGs on computers have little
relation beyond underlying mechanics to RPGs that are played with
pencil and paper, and they argue that computer RPGs have to allow
you to "role-play a character." This, frankly, is immaterial.
True role-playing requires intelligent, adaptable feedback to the
player's decisions that right now can only be provided by a human
game master. Having a conversation tree like in Fallout that
has different options depending on whether you are "good"
or "bad" does not constitute role-playing. If anything,
games like Fallout that try to simulate the tabletop role-playing
experience just bore casual players with too much only-subtly-different
and often buggy conversation trees, distracting them from the core
gameplay of exploring and fighting and building up their characters'
that I feel U9 is such an important example for RPGs is a
simple one: in real-time 3D, the Zelda 64 gameplay paradigm
they have borrowed works far better than the archaic "hit points/numerical
attributes/turn-based combat" gameplay of older, less technologically
advanced titles. This may hard to swallow for certain hardcore computer
RPG players, and there's good reason beyond just the AD&D
license for why the practically retro design of Baldur's Gate
has done well. However, even BG struggles with its basically
realtime nature, and its combats usually feel out of the player's
control in a way that older RPGs never did. What is the practical
difference between a 16 and a 17 dex? You can see it when you watch
each to-hit roll, but in a furious real-time battle, it just doesn't
matter. The more that RPG engines move into the technological future,
the less applicable these old-school RPG designs are going to be.
In 3D, you can't get away with having only two in a stack of twenty
crates openable. They all have to open/be smashable or they all
have to be indestructible, otherwise the world will seem arbitrary
and inconsistent. U9 at its heart takes many steps in that
direction. It is merely the poor implementation of their basic ideas,
which keeps U9 from being the best RPG ever.
cannot hope to implement the same tired old designs on top of modern
engines. It would be feasible to use a real-time 3D engine to implement
a completely turn-based old-school RPG, and some developers will
no doubt attempt this, but this really is a waste of advanced technology
and doesn't really bring the general design of computer games forward
in any way. Ultima IX is a faltering step towards the future
of RPGs, and as much as I can barely endure playing it, I cant
help but get excited about games in the future that will follow
in its footsteps.
Beaker Wyckoff is a game designer, not a level designer,