VRP Madness (VII): Fluid and the Promise of Tomorrow

Well now all of that was self-indulgent now wasn’t it? Not a lot for the neophyte and a whole lot of nattering that those familiar with Video Role Playing Games (VRPGs) probably are far more familiar with than I am.  Still, I had fun, and that’s what’s important, right?  Oh, and I hope you had fun, too.


But as with good things, so too must this series end.  And at seven posts, as promised.  The mind reels.

But before we go, let’s dip our feet back into terms one last time.

At Part Three we discussed subcategories (or just categories) of VRPG.  Solid, Semi-Solid, and Inconsequential Fluid.  What these terms refer to in short is the consistency of a VRPG plot.  The Solid ones give the player no choice in story, the Semi-Solid as general (if limited) say in how the plot goes, and the Inconsequential Fluid the illusion of having a say in something that is more or less Solid.

Now the observant might notice a lack there.  A missing fourth category.  Call it True Fluid, or, to keep things simple enough for even me to understand, just plain Fluid.

Brother Eric noticed this lack and pointed it out in his answer post.  His idea, with mild editing on my part, is as follows:

A … Fluid game is one where there really isn’t a story at all – there’s a situation and a world, and that’s it. Any other story you come up with is yours. Generally, games like these don’t really have endings at all. My brother can be forgiven for not thinking of this himself – I doubt he’s ever played such a game, and if he did, he might not have thought of it as an RPG. I imagine that a lot of people have played some of these games without thinking of them as role-playing games, but that’s exactly what they are. Moreover, proper … Fluid games are a pretty recent development, and no major studio has latched onto the idea (although one studio has become a major studio by pioneering, if not inventing, this group of games).

Being almost as brilliant as I am, Eric comes up with some very interesting ideas.  His suggestion of Minecraft fitting the bill of Fluid games works quite well, and it’s real tempting to just say, “Whelp, he’s right!” and move on to the next self indulgent series of posts.

Except he isn’t right.  In fact, he is almost hilariously wrong.

Why so funny?  He’s a game designer.  He has game mastered countless RPGs.  He should know better.

At no point in my list of terms do I move away from plot or story.  Both all always there in some fashion or another.  What changes is the level of control the player has.

By using the “situation and world” definition, we eliminate the game designers from the equation completely.  It would be, to my mind, like calling the Neverwinter Nights toolset fluid.  Players create their own stories with that, right?  They can even create their own worlds and situations, within reason.

  No, there is a better definition of Fluid VRPG.  It is one in which both player and game designers play off one another to fashion a complete story.  The old tug and pull, twist and shake, where things could be planned for one outcome only through inspiration and creativity head out to some other direction.

It is, in essence, the complete and total recreation of the Role Playing experience in video game form.

Has it happened yet?  I don’t think so.  Minecraft isn’t it.  Minecraft, I would say, isn’t even a VRPG.

But with the wealth of options growing in both the standard VRPGs and the Massive Multi Online Play games, it might not be long before it does.


4 Replies to “VRP Madness (VII): Fluid and the Promise of Tomorrow”

  1. Just a sec – let me pull a quote…

    “No, there is a better definition of Fluid VRPG. It is one in which both player and game designers play off one another to fashion a complete story. The old tug and pull, twist and shake, where things could be planned for one outcome only through inspiration and creativity head out to some other direction.”

    That’s exactly what the Neverwinter Toolset is. The GM using the toolset becomes the game designer using a game creation tool provided by professional developers. Because you can continue using the tool while the game is being played, you can have your give-and-take, complete with player feedback and so on.

    I’m just saying. I’m not arguing with your statement about me being wrong – I probably am, but I keep seeing these games as being static products provided by game developers. Assuming I stick with that definition, the kind of Fluid game you describe here is only possible as something like the Neverwinter toolset, not as a final polished game.

    1. Having tooled around with the Neverwinter Toolset, I’m not convinced on it being Fluid. There are open worlds and some such out there and they might meet the definition better, I dunno. But from what I’ve played with, the closest we come with it is setting up a Semi-solid experience. Which ain’t bad, but it ain’t Fluid either.

  2. I was saying something like the toolset – something that lets you do what the toolset lets you do, but in real time would be ideal. While there would still be limitations and parameters you would have to work within, that would be as close as a video game could get to the tabletop experience.

    I don’t know why anyone would want that, though. Once the games have gone that far, you’re better off (IMHO) sitting around a table with your friends, rather than staring at a computer screen. That, of course, comes from the perspective of a life-long tabletop gamer, though.

    I still think that the truly fluid video game format would be a game with a persistant world you could change – something like a Minecraft or a Terrarria, but with NPCs that have depth and react in something resebling a realistic manner to the PC. Suc a game would evolve with the player, but there would be no central plot line, because once you introduce that, there are rails.

    If the game will let me choose my own path in the world, change the landscape, set up a shop, develop simulated friendships with NPCs, and find my own adventure, then it’s fluid. If the game has an “end” – that is, a through quest with a final battle or confrontation of some kind – it’s lost fluidity. I’m not saying this loss of fluidity is always a bad thing, and that a game can’t be pretty damn fluid even if it has a main throughline – Skirim allows immense freedom, for instance – but I can’t establish my own castle, any and all political intrigue only relates to predefined quest lines, and so on. Also, the NPCs are very scripted and limited.

    We would need major advancements in AI programming in order to make a properly Fluid game that doesn’t involve a living GM on one end, with players on the other. I can see it on the horizon, but i don’t know if we’ll ever get there. I think the premise is a little too scary for AAA game developers, and indies just don’t have the resources for that kind of AI programming, and probably never will.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s