How important is story to an RPG? Where does it sit on the priority list? We talk about that and other recent indie projects right here.
Indie Corner - Storytime
I think I prefer powergaming/gameplay to story, maybe theorybuilding skill trees. Nevertheless story is what can make me plough through a game with mediocre gameplay. So I'm not a big fan of adventure/light novel style games.
Yet, for instance in Might and Magic and Magic the Gathering, it's often the campaign I relish playing through the most.
You can also argue the essence of a Role Playing Game is development of characters and enjoying the vicarious experience of living through different personas and experiencing their narrative.
On a side note, Boothill heroes looks awesome! I loved one of the Wild Arms games, and from the interview I could tell these guys were influenced by the same sort of games that people of my generation love. Oh and Chris was right the music is awesome
Having an engaging story is definitely a big pro for an RPG, but on the other hand I'm not interested in playing an interactive film where I merely determine the outcome of the battles, no matter how well-written it may be. More than a good story, I want a sense of immersion and agency; so that I can actually as though I am the main character and can make some choices more meaningful than which weapon I equip. We're finally at the point where technology really allows for this, yet most AAA RPG developers seem more interested in making action films where you have an extremely limited ability to level-up. In my opinion, that's not an RPG, or at least not a good example of what one should be. The Witcher series is off to a great start in this direction and I hope other developers try to follow their lead. I also liked what Craig Stern said about making the theme relevant to contemporary issues, rather than abstract philosophical debates that are often the focus.
Setting is another aspect of RPGs that warrants some innovation. Let's face it, we've all played as the leader of a band of (unlikely) heroes facing an ancient evil against impossible odds to save the Tolkien-esque pseudo Medieval England fantasy world many, many times before, albeit with slight variations. It's a great set-up, and I will always enjoy returning to that world, but I'd like to see more RPG developers take a risk and try something different. There's actually a number of forthcoming indie RPGs actually doing just that: the recently released Shadowrun Returns (fantasy meets cyberpunk) and Expeditions: Conquistadors; Dead State (a zombie apocalypse RPG), Unrest (an RPG set in Ancient India), Kitaru (cyberpunk), Wasteland 2, and of course Boot Hill Heroes (spaghetti Western RPG).
Gameplay is of course very important; particularly combat as that's generally what players spend the bulk of our time doing in RPGs. I'd like to see RPG developers focus more on the non-combat aspects of RPGs as well. There's no reason that game dialogues can't be just as interesting as the battles, but it will take some work and innovation. And again giving the player meaningful choices. The afforementioned Unrest is taking this to an extreme, making combat rare and entirely avoidable.