RPG Analysis

Posted on Jul 28th 2014 at 09:06:11 AM by (Fleach)
Posted under RPG, Indie, Golden Era, Unemployment Quest, Pier Solar, Heart Forth Alicia, Boot Hill Heroes,

There's a current trend in the video games scene to abandon the strict conditions synonymous with large-scale major name development studios in favor of smaller teams that focus on projects they are highly passionate about. This one of the major shifts that's currently changing the way we look at RPGs.

Once role playing games were associated with developers like Square, Atlus, or BioWare, but now smaller teams, some the size of a household family, are making names for themselves. They are the new trailblazers who are defying today's RPG status quo. They are the passionate creators who work on projects that are labours of love. Whether the game is the result of artistic expression or love of the bygone golden era of RPGs, these new names in the gaming market are generating a lot of buzz.

Unemployment Quest by Charles DeYoe

Take for example, Charles DeYoe, the mind behind Unemployment Quest. DeYoe is a long-time fan of the role playing genre citing Dragon Quest as his favourite series. "What I like about them is how they are consistently fun to play," says DeYoe. "Even when you're talking to people in a town or exploring a dungeon, the player always feels engaged by working towards their goals." This streamlined approach to game design is what motivated the developer to economize the length of Unemployment Quest. He wanted to avoid having the game feel padded, yet wanted all the content to be relevant. DeYoe values the player's time and opted to make the total playtime of Unemployment Quest around two hours.

The decision to independently release his game was a simple one. Unemployment Quest is the result of the creator's frustrations of being a degree-holder unable to secure a job. When asked to describe his game, he states that it is "the result of the extreme emotional frustration that comes from being unable to find a job manifested in video game form. The protagonist is as blank a slate as possible and goes through the experiences of looking for work using RPG tropes as a thinly-veiled metaphor. So you go from place to place looking for work, all the while doing battle with your fears and doubts with the ultimate "villain" being Uncertain Future."

Considering the subject of the game, it is safe to say that Unemployment Quest offers the chance to make sense of the daunting uncertainty many graduates face. A project of this size and theme would quickly be overlooked by a major development house. The love of the genre is often the driving force behind an indie RPG.

Watermelon's Pier Solar HD

Pier Solar and the Great Architects is a game with very humble beginnings in 2004 that within the past couple of years, expanded into a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign. The game's origins can be traced back to a Sega homebrew website called Eidolon's Inn. The project, which began as a basic RPG revolving around members of an online community that gathered on the message board called "The Tarvern" was consequently titled Tarven RPG."

As development continued the team opted to drop the original idea and instead chose to create a full-fledged role playing game. Eventually, Pier Solar was released for the Sega Genesis to great praise among genre fans and Sega collectors. Fast forward to 2012, Watermelon, now an indie studio, created a Kickstarter fundraising campaign for an HD remaster of their 16-bit homebrew. Their story is that of success and an example of what a dedicated, passionate team is capable of producing.

Unlike many independently released games which tend to be available on one platform only, Watermelon ambitiously plans to release Pier Solar HD for PC, Nintendo Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Playstation 3, PS4, and even Sega's Dreamcast.

Alonso Martin's Heart Forth Alicia

The exciting world of indie games allows anyone to become a content creator. Alonso Martin is a Mexican film industry employee who is currently working on a Metroidvania/action RPG called Heart Forth Alicia. His game features a day and night cycle, over 40 spells, vast environments, and beautiful pixel art. Heart Forth Alicia was also funded via Kickstarter, which indicates that there is still a lot of passion in the RPG community.

Experimental Gamer's Boot Hill Heroes

Whether a veteran of an industry or entirely new to game development, anyone can create games now. Experimental Gamer, the team behind Boot Hill Heroes is working on their debut game. This band of industry hopefuls are creating a Spaghetti Western style Earthbound-like, "turnless" RPG that offers 4 player co-op, which is quite an ambitious undertaking for a first game. They want to highlight character growth as they feel that "the opportunity to watch your characters progress under your direction and watch the stories unfold, often makes RPGs more engaging... There are more opportunities for the player to feel connected with the characters, the world, and the story." They have also stated that the definition of an RPG is becoming more blurred as many games incorporate RPG mechanics and strictly turn-based games from Japan are labeled as "JRPGs."

Considering that gamers are expecting more memorable experiences, a greater focus has been placed on narrative. The Boot Hill Heroes staff points to The Walking Dead as an example of a successful, narrative-driven game. They don't expect to see a great deal of change with respect to RPGs within the indie scene, but look forward to a future with shorter, narrative-based, memorable games like Gone Home.

It's difficult to predict whether independently released RPGs will blossom into a whole new subgenre, but it is reassuring to know that dedicated and passionate creators are still keeping the genre fresh with new, innovative ideas and breathing new life into gameplay from that golden era of role playing games nearly twenty years ago. The pessimists like to call the genre dead, but (from what there is to see from these indie teams) the RPG is still going strong.

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I highly recommend Pier Solar. There are a lot of great indie RPGS I still need to try. Thanks for the recommendations!
Great read, Fleach!  The Indie RPG scene has been exploding over the past year or so, and it is a great place to be in whether you like 16-bit style RPGs (such as Doom and Destiny) or more experimental games with an old-school visual style (To The Moon).  I'll be looking into the games you mentioned here.
@Addicted: I backed the Pier Solar HD Kickstarter and it's supposed to be coming out soon. I can't wait to play it.

@bombatomba: I completely agree. We're seeing so many creative ideas coming out now it's hard to keep track of everything. It's really encouraging to see that there are still people so excited about the genre that they are motivated to create games. And they couldn't be coming at a better time because no matter how good the classics are it's so nice to experience something new.
@Fleach: also expecting PSHD to release soon but as of JUL.10 still showing minor bugs...

- & the WM published Elysian Shadows (although not yet complete) indie developed DC title.
The only problem I have with indie rpgs is that there are too many releasing all the time.
Nice post!  Yeah - with retail game budgets getting higher and higher, indie is going to continue becoming the place to find actually interesting stuff.

Man does Heart Forth Alicia look gorgeous... that pixel art is insanity.  And one of the Kickstarter tiers included a physical copy with a PS1 style case, which sounds preeeeetty awesome.  Maybe there'll be extras for sale, or hopefully some will hit eBay with reasonable-ish price tags!
Nice read, Floyd. It would be nice if some of these indie RPGs could come together on a multi-game release for something like 3DS. As it is, I'll check out Heart Forth Alicia when I finally get a Wii U.
Thanks Duke and CoinCollector! I like how the indie developers are more willing to take risks. They're not bound by anyone or a marketing department that's interesting in what's the hot topic at any given time. I think it's these risky choices that make these games stand out, especially to collectors.

A compilation disc or 3DS card would be so awesome! That would be such a great way to experience these games, but since self-publishing and digital distribution tend to go hand in hand it's unlikely that such a physical release will happen. But we can still dream. Smiley

Shortly after I wrote this I found a Polygon article about a Metroidvania/RPG-ish game called Timespinner. It looks a little like Heat Forth Alicia mixed in with some Symphony of the Night. The Kickstarter page is here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lunarraygames/timespinner and you can see the game in action here: http://www.polygon.com/2014/7/24/5934433/timespinner-preview-video-metroidvania-interview. It will be released through Steam, but will be ported to PS4/Vita and 3DS (digitally no doubt). It should be out in a year or so, and I'm super excited for it!@bombatomba:
PierSolar HD is soooooo close.  I can't wait!
While it isn't truly a RPG (Metroidvania) La Mulana was one of favorite indie games form last year:


@OatBob: Listed as Q2 2014 on Steam Greenlight, so I guess it should be already out.  Hopefully we see something soon.
New trailer added for Boot Hill Heroes. Smiley
Good stuff.  I think Divinity deserves a mention here also considering that it was a project of passion that the Divinity team always wanted to make but never had publisher support for. 
@wildbil52: Divinity looks very cool. I have to admit that some bias went into the writing of these article. It's probably well known here that I'm a big fan of turn-based games, especially pixel art ones, so that's why I omitted Divinity. I'm not really into mouse and keyboard games but I'll at least watch a playthrough of it.
Divinity is a turn based game, son!
Then I should go check it out right now.

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Role Playing games are my favourite genre of the gaming library. I feel it is appropriate to take a look at the games that have touched me in my time as a gamer and collector and share them with the community. Feel free to discuss your thoughts, ideas, and challenge my opinions. The conversation is welcomed.
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