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Thread: Top Ten: RPG Clichés - Editorial

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    RPGamer Staff RPGamer Staff InstaTrent's Avatar
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    Top Ten: RPG Clichés - Editorial

    Want to save the world from the ultimate evil? You'd better have spiky hair or you might forget that you're supposed to be fighting random encounters.

    EDITORIAL
    "To tell you the truth, I like drinking tea and eating fresh vegetables, but that doesn't fit with my super-cool attitude. I guess I have to accept this about myself."

  2. #2
    A Witness to Destruction Moderator DarkRPGMaster's Avatar
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    One of the biggest cliches I cannot stand is the holding of the Idiot Ball, to quote a Trope. Basically, when one or more people's stupidity in a situation fuel a small plot line. Example...the scene in Tales of Graces F where Richard, currently controlled by Lambda, manages to almost kill Sophie because Asbel thought he was back to normal despite having a demonic voice. AND NOBODY BOTHERS TO POINT THIS OUT AND EVEN PREVENT IT FROM HAPPENING! They even act shocked when it actually happens! I almost just stopped playing the game right there, because it just pissed me off so badly due to how stupid it was.
    Last edited by DarkRPGMaster; 10-30-2013 at 01:16 PM.
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  3. #3
    Honestly, most of these cliches are what I love about JRPG's. Sure, some of them I sort of feel are a bad thing, like the use of annoying characters (Like Cait Sith, or those stupid kids in Lost Odyssey, etc..), yet sometimes they have a good place if done properly (Like Jansen in Lost Odyssey, or Syrenne in Last Story, etc..). Granted, Chu Chu was a rare exception for me, when an oddball character actually worked ok!

    Ultimately, though, in my opinion, why would you want to break away from tried and true story telling methods, that have inspired people for thousands of years? Sure, being innovative and different has its place, but most of the games that strive to do so, would never make my top favorite RPG list. Sure, Pokemon may not have some epic plot behind it, and was still fun for many (mostly children - I'm not a Pokemon fan myself.), but was it truly that awesome of an RPG? Maybe some think so, but here's what I think:

    I believe most jRPG fans care about story first and foremost. Gameplay is important, but I will gladly play a game with bad gameplay, glitches, and terrible graphics, if it has an amazing story that is well told, even if it is chalk full of cliches. And sadly, most modern RPG's are moving away from this. Gameplay driven games (most modern RPG's) can definitely be fun - but they will never truly satisfy me.

    For me, the best RPG's with the best stories, have almost always employed cliches, because they WORK! They work, because they draw out our emotions. But it seems like most RPG's these days strive hard to move away from it, and it really shows, in the lack of emotional depth I find in most modern games.

    When I play an RPG, I want the story to draw out my emotions, and I want to get that horrible feeling in my chest after I beat it, and I get depressed the next week because it's over :P. And that's a feeling I've gotten maybe 2 or 3 times in the last 5 years (Valkyria Chronicles and Last Story. And I guess Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky was up there too.).

    Sure, Mass Effect was great. But when it was over? Meh - it just didn't leave any emotional imprint on me. Not like the good old story driven RPG's of PS2 and before.

    I've played almost all of them, and though many have been very fun - VERY few have been what I've truly been after. And so few story driven RPG's are released these days, it's pretty sad!

    So yes, please give me more story driven, cliche ridden RPGs!! I need more! I'll even put up with a Cait Sith if I must (Granted, FF7 wouldn't even make my top 10 list, personally. )! And crazy spiky blue hair? Bring it!

    I will admit, though - I've never been a fan of the silent protaganist, and rarely has it worked for me (Suikoden V being a rare exception that comes to mind. Dragon Quest VIII was pretty good too.)
    Last edited by MobiusZero; 10-30-2013 at 02:44 PM.

  4. #4
    Most of those aspects are matters I shrug at anymore, they don't impress me to any degree but there are a couple of things that annoy me far more. At this point, I am sick and utterly tired of female characters being relegated to the roles of fragile long range combatants/casters/healers. Just today I looked at Path of Exile just long enough to realize that of the seven classes available when you first load up the game only two are female: the ranger and the witch. Every single time I see it my blood boils and I lose every shred of respect for the developers presenting that to me. There's also the sheer impossibility of getting a game with a set female protagonist but that's an issue with games in general rather than something specific to RPGs of any variety.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by LornMarkus View Post
    Most of those aspects are matters I shrug at anymore, they don't impress me to any degree but there are a couple of things that annoy me far more. At this point, I am sick and utterly tired of female characters being relegated to the roles of fragile long range combatants/casters/healers. Just today I looked at Path of Exile just long enough to realize that of the seven classes available when you first load up the game only two are female: the ranger and the witch. Every single time I see it my blood boils and I lose every shred of respect for the developers presenting that to me. There's also the sheer impossibility of getting a game with a set female protagonist but that's an issue with games in general rather than something specific to RPGs of any variety.
    It makes sense for a female character to have those types of roles. Pretty much any game (or story for that matter), where a female takes on a role as some strong warrior, brawler, etc., it's just plain fake. It's a simple fact that a woman can't compare to a man in physical prowess, but she could damn well wield a bow or cast a spell with great skill!

    And I think the reason why most protagonists are male, is the simple fact that most people that will be playing the game are male, and thus it's easier for them to relate with the character. The same reason why most people choose to play their own gender in a game where they are given the choice (Sexy female avatars being the main reason males choose to play a female, when they do!).

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by MobiusZero View Post
    It makes sense for a female character to have those types of roles. Pretty much any game (or story for that matter), where a female takes on a role as some strong warrior, brawler, etc., it's just plain fake. It's a simple fact that a woman can't compare to a man in physical prowess, but she could damn well wield a bow or cast a spell with great skill!

    And I think the reason why most protagonists are male, is the simple fact that most people that will be playing the game are male, and thus it's easier for them to relate with the character. The same reason why most people choose to play their own gender in a game where they are given the choice (Sexy female avatars being the main reason males choose to play a female, when they do!).
    . . . I'm going to walk away from this thread now and never look back, because if I exchange even one more word with you I will end up threatening horrific and unconscionable violence. You are a cancer on this earth and I hope I never have the displeasure of interacting with you again.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by LornMarkus View Post
    . . . I'm going to walk away from this thread now and never look back, because if I exchange even one more word with you I will end up threatening horrific and unconscionable violence. You are a cancer on this earth and I hope I never have the displeasure of interacting with you again.
    Sounds to me like you're the one with the problem.

    I was simply stating the reasons why things are the way they are. I was not necessarily agreeing with all of it.

  8. #8
    Angel-Possessed Priestess Administrator Strawberry Eggs's Avatar
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    I tend to overlook cliches when they're presented, though I will likely not like that game's story as much. Heck, some like "save the world" are so so often you don't even notice them as cliches. That makes the rare RPG that isn't about saving the country/planet/universe/multiverse all that more astounding, but I'm not really tired of saving the day either.

    I do enjoy the odd twist on tropes. I can think of two for the amnesiac protagonist. In the World Ends With You, Neku doesn't even realize he's lost nearly all of his memories until the second day, as his memories were his payment for playing the Reaper games. In Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, Emil doesn't realize he's lost his memories until the last two chapters or so. Instead, he's been creating false memories for his human guise for the past six months, and all while completely believing he is a boy named Emil and not the Summon Spirit Ratatosk.
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    is not declawed RPGamer Staff Ocelot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MobiusZero View Post
    It makes sense for a female character to have those types of roles. Pretty much any game (or story for that matter), where a female takes on a role as some strong warrior, brawler, etc., it's just plain fake. It's a simple fact that a woman can't compare to a man in physical prowess, but she could damn well wield a bow or cast a spell with great skill!

    And I think the reason why most protagonists are male, is the simple fact that most people that will be playing the game are male, and thus it's easier for them to relate with the character. The same reason why most people choose to play their own gender in a game where they are given the choice (Sexy female avatars being the main reason males choose to play a female, when they do!).
    Lots of combat-trained women would seriously disagree with this reasoning. Although it *is* a bit painful when female characters with stick-thin arms and legs heft gigantic swords. This is why I love the female player character in Monster Hunter Tri/3. She's built athletically and has some meat on her bones, so she looks like a woman who would wear heavy armour and greatswords.

    With anything short of a big ol' battlehammer, skill, practice, and training are more important than sheer physical strength, and women throughout history (no seriously, women have participated heavily in revolutionary and freedom fighting conflicts throughout history) have learned ways to use their smaller stature to their advantage. Hell, a lot of martial arts like Judo specifically teach people how to overcome an enemy who is larger and more muscular than they are.

    Though honestly, Japanese games have been better than Western games in having female melee warriors lately. The ones in the games I've played have even been wearing appropriate attire for the job.

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    Member Zeboyd Games's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LornMarkus View Post
    Most of those aspects are matters I shrug at anymore, they don't impress me to any degree but there are a couple of things that annoy me far more. At this point, I am sick and utterly tired of female characters being relegated to the roles of fragile long range combatants/casters/healers. Just today I looked at Path of Exile just long enough to realize that of the seven classes available when you first load up the game only two are female: the ranger and the witch. Every single time I see it my blood boils and I lose every shred of respect for the developers presenting that to me. There's also the sheer impossibility of getting a game with a set female protagonist but that's an issue with games in general rather than something specific to RPGs of any variety.
    Correction - of the 6 classes available when you start, 2 are female. The 7th class needs to be unlocked and is female (and is the must versatile class in the game).
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  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Ocelot View Post
    Lots of combat-trained women would seriously disagree with this reasoning. Although it *is* a bit painful when female characters with stick-thin arms and legs heft gigantic swords. This is why I love the female player character in Monster Hunter Tri/3. She's built athletically and has some meat on her bones, so she looks like a woman who would wear heavy armour and greatswords.

    With anything short of a big ol' battlehammer, skill, practice, and training are more important than sheer physical strength, and women throughout history (no seriously, women have participated heavily in revolutionary and freedom fighting conflicts throughout history) have learned ways to use their smaller stature to their advantage. Hell, a lot of martial arts like Judo specifically teach people how to overcome an enemy who is larger and more muscular than they are.
    Wing Chun comes to mind, which is a martial art invented by a woman.

    Honestly, I'm not here to get into a debate over the ability of women to do things, especially when were talking about fantasy worlds!

    I just think it's crazy for someone to be offended by the fact that games actually portray women as being...well, women! I certainly don't see it as them being portrayed as inferior.

    Though honestly, Japanese games have been better than Western games in having female melee warriors lately.
    I was going to say the same thing, myself. JRPG's, of all genres, actually do it a lot.

    The ones in the games I've played have even been wearing appropriate attire for the job.
    Now THIS type of thing is something I can understand a lady being upset about, lol. But sex sells, and so that's why they do it. And honestly, being a guy myself, I can't complain, as long as it's not over the top! :P

  12. #12
    RPGamer Staff RPGamer Staff GaijinMonogatari's Avatar
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    One reason why female archers are so common in JRPGs is that kyuudo (Japanese archery) is predominantly a female sports activity in Japanese high schools, while kendo (Japanese fencing) is predominantly male. There are plenty of exceptions to that, but socially the image is set that way. On the other hand, I have also met plenty of high school girls who practice judo and karate.

    So when I think back to some JRPGs I've played in the past, like Eithea with its mostly Japanese high school cast, it doesn't surprise me that many of the major female characters are archers.

    I think one of the series with the best track record in going against this trope would be Atelier, to be honest. Those games have a history of strong warrior women going all the way back to Atelier Marie. And they even tend to be properly dressed most of the time!

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    I, for one, usually like the Kooky Party Member (Tales of Graces' Pascal comes to mind).

    But one of my least liked cliches is a variation on "Not Really the Bad Guy". It's the "Guy who Betrayed the Party but not Really and he had a Good Reason so we Forgive him Anyway." It often breaks immersion for me. Why are you people just letting him back into the party? He just betrayed you! Don't you have any sense at all? He isn't even acting sorry!

    Just once, I'd like to see one of the main characters in an RPG betray the party, permanently. Something really unforgivable. You know, walk off with the party's inventory and gold, and leave them in the middle of the desert to die. And the next time they meet, no feigned penitence, no half-hearted reconciliation, just a battle to the death.

    I guess I just touched on another one of my disliked cliches. The enemy who you defeat, but who then somehow escapes at the last second, and returns later at a higher level. Rinse, repeat. Sometimes this pattern works, but mostly it's just irritating.
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  14. #14
    Some more cliches that seems to be the norm in RPGs (be it western or JRPGs):

    The settings are usually medieval or steampunk inspired: There are of course the exception to the rules like Persona, but for all my 20 + years of playing rpgs it has always been the same settings full of the usual suspects of elves, dragons, castles, etc. Not that there is anything particularly wrong with these things, but I would love to see more unique settings inspired from other cultures other than the Arthurian legends and other related western cultures and myths. So many Eastern cultures, legends, and myths that could be use in this genre that I think game makers haven't taking advantage of. Indian cultures, African cultures, Mid Eastern cultures...too many stuff out there to continue on using the same try and true formulas.

    Lack of diversity: Again, there are some exceptions out there, but still much needs to be done about diversifying characters in RPGs. The world is huge place with very diverse races, but you would not know it playing videogames. It isn't just the rpg genre that have this issue though, but with the amount of imagination this genre can offer compared to others, it still never ceases to amaze me how unoriginal designers can be with the simple aspect of race. Having one ethnic guy in the group doesn't really cut it also in this day and age either as being diversified.

    Not just with race either, but with sexual orientation and gender as well I would like to see more diversity of. I just think game designers are dropping the ball with these things and if they were to open up on this a bit it could kill a lot of the monotony that the genre has been facing as of late.

    I understand though, staying in Japan for about 5 years just how xenophobic they can be with these things and how stuck in their ways they are with stuff that have been successful for them, so it could be years yet before JRPGs get better at this stuff. Western RPGS seems to be more open-minded in these aspect though, so that's something I suppose.
    Last edited by The Last Paladin; 10-30-2013 at 10:06 PM.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by The Last Paladin View Post
    Some more cliches that seems to be the norm in RPGs (be it western or JRPGs):

    The settings are usually medieval or steampunk inspired: There are of course the exception to the rules like Persona, but for all my 20 + years of playing rpgs it has always been the same settings full of the usual suspects of elves, dragons, castles, etc. Not that there is anything particularly wrong with these things, but I would love to see more unique settings inspired from other cultures other than the Arthurian legends and other related western cultures and myths. So many Eastern cultures, legends, and myths that could be use in this genre that I think game makers haven't taking advantage of. Indian cultures, African cultures, Mid Eastern cultures...too many stuff out there to continue on using the same try and true formulas.
    Again, I think what it really comes down to, is what people want. And what most people tend to prefer, is medieval fantasy style worlds. I think this has especially been made apparent in the MMO setting, where sci fi and other type settings tend to be less popular (of course there are always exceptions.).

    I definitely personally would love to see more Sci Fi type games (And Steam Punk, actually, lol.). I also love recent historical type games, such as one of my all time favorites, Shadow Hearts 1&2.

    But again, though there are SOME annoying cliches, I do feel that many are a good thing, and really help define the genre. In my opinion, to eliminate them, is to gut out parts of the genre itself! And part of my frustration, is how rampant the "anti-cliche" type RPG reviews there have been, which I very often disagree with.

    Look at Last Story, for example. What an amazing game, with a riveting story! If you haven't played it, you should, even if it means buying a Wii just to play it! Yet the reviews for it are like 8/10's? Because it employs too many cliches? It's like reading a movie critique of a (awesome) sci fi! These reviewers must have totally different tastes than I. And I certainly feel they have no clue that many of those things are what made the genre so damn good, to begin with, with such riveting, emotional, and memorable stories.

    A lost orphan who one day ends up winning the heart of a princess? How does that get old?! Fusing 500 demons in Shin Megami Tensei? Now THAT gets old!

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    Veteran RPGamer watcher's Avatar
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    Regarding random encounters - The reason they still use it is because it's the cheapest encounter system to make.

    Now, about Bad Guy, but not REALLY and Earthbound. What are you talking about? The final boss is known to you from the beginning of the game.

  17. #17
    What? No village burning?

    Not sure why the Lich King is included with the "Muwhahaha" villains. Arthas has a heck of a backstory.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by MobiusZero View Post
    Again, I think what it really comes down to, is what people want. And what most people tend to prefer, is medieval fantasy style worlds.
    See, I can't ever agree with this kind of thinking and it is this philosophy that I think is hindering on some possible future prospects in this genre and the gaming industry as whole, not to mention that it could be argued that Medieval theme RPGs may not even be the most popular in this day and age, but I'll get to that later. Look, its easy to say "Well people only want this" when that is all that is really being offered to them for the most part. Its like saying McDonald's is the biggest and most well-known fast food chain in the world, thus people only wants to eat Big Macs all the time and not try other type of foods.

    Persona is arguably one of the most popular JRPG series for this generation and it doesn't fit the medieval themed mode, in fact, its probably one of the few games that is influence by more culture than most with all of the different demons that you can summon from different mythologies and legends. The Mass Effect series is of course another obvious example of a RPG that doesn't uses medieval settings at all and is loved by millions. Really, a VERY good argument could be made that the most popular RPGs for this generation has not even been your typical Medieval fantasy ones for both the East and Western Style RPGs. Dark Souls could be thrown in there, but people don't buy that game because it Medieval based, they buy it because of the challenge the game offers in the genre. You take the challenge away from the game, and it just another Medieval RPG that would not be given another look. You take the medieval theme from the game and replace it with something else and people will still be playing the game.

    Even with MMOs that philosophy of people only preferring MMOs with medieval themes is not always true. The reason why MMOs fail isn't because of the themes they have but because of the gaming mechanics. A good example is the MMO The Secret War, a game that is a modern horror MMO with probably one of the best storylines you'll ever going to find in this genre. But as far as being a good MMO, it has lacked in a lot of areas. Everyone that plays the game didn't dislike it because it wasn't Medieval, they disliked it mostly because of some gripe with the gameplay mechanics. There are probably a few other examples of games that didn't meet the Medieval theme and have gone through the same issues as The Secret War did that can be thrown in as well. Furthermore, MMOs in general are not that great of an example to prove that people prefer just medieval type of games because there are constant failing MMOs that uses the Medieval theme as a source every month. People will play a game that is great regardless of what theme is being used. And let us not forget games like Eve online that have lasted a lot longer than most MMOs as well as games that had great longevity like Cox and Champions Online, all non medieval-themed games. In general, MMOs is just not a great example to use anyways because I say only about 20 percent of the ones that are made will survive for a long period of time, regardless of the genre or theme it uses.
    Last edited by The Last Paladin; 10-31-2013 at 12:03 AM.

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    You forgot one.

    Worlds that can be traversed in 10 minutes from East to West and with only about 5 villages and 1 city in them, with a population of around 50, 10 of which are the evil villains. Oh, and let's not forget that every town is important, plotwise... somehow...

    They have GOT to stop creating "worlds"... I'd much rather fight all my battles in a much more believable province than an entire world, especially when each continent ends up looking exactly the same anyways.

  20. #20
    Member Cidolfas's Avatar
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    The FF Tactics games and Chrono Cross did that quite effectively, and I agree that giving games a smaller scope (both in area and final objective) is something we sorely need.

    Some of the complaints here are not with RPGs per se, but with Japanese culture in general. These tropes are inherent in any Japanese media, including anime and light novels. TVTropes has them here: Genki Girl, Anime Hair, Saving the World, Trauma-Induced Amnesia, The Man Behind The Man, Omnicidal Maniac, and Call A Rabbit a Smeerp (which is actually common across all fantasy and sci-fi, not just Japanese stuff). There are certain accepted tropes in any genre, and some of them, like Anime Hair, just come with the territory. Others are lazy writing and need to be seriously dialed down or removed entirely.

    I categorically disagree (as I am pretty sure every other person on this board will) with MobiusZero's claim that cliches "just work". I have heard (perhaps by Terry Pratchett?) that cliches are the hammers in an author's toolbox. Every story needs one, but you can't build a really good story with just hammers. Cliches can work if they are doled out judiciously, and have enough variety and originality to offset their tiredness. Relying on them to build a story makes it come crashing down to the ground. Tales of Graces F, for example, was lazily built on nothing but cliches, and I found the story to be my least favorite part of the game. On the other hand, while Chrono Trigger boasted several cliches, the presentation, style and writing was fun enough and the details interesting and unusual enough to make them work for the story instead of against it.

    As for the role of women - it's certainly true that women are not as physically strong as men. However, RPG heroes (at least in most games) tend to be unusual specimens of humanity. No man in real life could effectively use a Buster Sword or a Masamune, especially given how slight most bishounen protagonists are; so stretching it to give women the same ability shouldn't be beyond the pale. If the game has a slightly more realistic bent, women could still be given the physical classes, as long as they are portrayed so realistically - i.e. they are heavily trained, well-built, and are not shown as being equal in strength to a muscled bodybuilder. The female-as-magic-user is a cliche buried in hoary old fantasy novels, and its time is well over and done with.

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