5 major updates to RPG site
Some major updates to RPG Site:
2. New short descriptions
New short descriptions have been added to game listings, so visitors can see at a glance which games may interest them, and save the bother of clicking if it’s not their preferred RPG genre.
4. Twitter @rpg_site
A dedicated Twitter account has been created for RPG site - @rpg_site - to focus solely on iOS RPG news and updates. It does things like auto-tweet new TouchArcade posts about RPGs.
The Mystery of Sir Lamorak (and his $21.99 game)
Those who keep a regular eye on the jumbled, muddled mess that the App Store’s RPG category generally is may have spotted a strangely expensive game regularly popping up under a range of different titles, nearly always costing $21.99, and always mentioning a “Sir Lamorak” in the description:
A Mysterious Castle
A Big Mysterious Castle
A Castle Warrior HD
A Castle’s Top Warrior
A Castle’s Soldier
A Mysterious Castle 2012
And so forth. They crop up literally every other week, a search on Appshopper alone turns up 14 hits. And nearly all by different developers: Core Game Studios, GameDream Ltd, Open Gamebox Ltd, Immortality Inc, and so on:
You play the role of a young knight Sir Lamorak, who seeks adventure — as well as fame, fortune, and the attention of the fair maidens in the local village — by proving there is no such thing as…So what is going on? Other than the App Store’s usual prowess in banning apps for varied absurd, arcane and arbitrary reasons, while failing to separate the wheat from the shit everywhere else. A fairly quick Google search turns up this book on iPhone game development that apparently created the Sir Lamorak game as a demo. And this is corroborated by the oldest App Store listing of the Lamorak game:
"This game has been developed to accompany the Addison-Wesley book called "Learning iOS Game Programming" which is available now. This book details the creation of this game from start to finish and provides guidance on how to create a game on the iPhone platform. The complete source of this game is included."It seems likely that apprentice game developers have somehow been tinkering with this game’s source - and perhaps the App Store submission process too - as part of their studies, and have accidentally or deliberately been submitting their own versions. What’s more odd is why Apple, given its usual fervour in rabidly protecting anything perceived to be infringing on or duplicating its own software, is so tally ho when it comes to allowing over a dozen identically-described games into its App Store.
In praise of retro graphics
This post was inspired by Fall of Angels, a brilliant and original JRPG. It’s rare that I get really interested by the story of an RPG as most are so generic, but this one makes you actively want to know what happened. It’s different and strange.
But onto the graphics. The problem faced by many developers is that graphic goalposts are now set so high that any game whose graphics fall short of Skyrim’s gets heavily criticised. and you even see people in forums who outright reject or avoid a game for this reason. Even Skyrim gets slammed by those who have souped it up with graphics mods. Sadly, Fall of Angels has not been immune from the graphics gripers.
So here are five reasons why “retro” graphics should be appreciated rather than slammed:
1. More original games get made, faster
There are some brilliant people sitting by themselves in their bedrooms who can write and code a fantastic game, but lack the ability or the resources (=money) to use high end graphics. I want those people making games, not giving up because people bitched about their graphics in forums. I don’t care if their work looks more like Nethack than Uncharted 3.
2. Resources aren’t being wasted
While some game genres depend heavily upon artistic, high res graphics (such as HOGs) - with an RPG the key features are story and gameplay. A beautifully balanced, challenging game is far more important than a photo-realistic 3D gameworld. For games with simple graphics, you know that all the effort and resources have gone into the gameplay.
3. Retro appeal
Believe or not, some of the more “vintage” gamers get a bit of a nostalgia kick out of old-school graphics.
Simpler graphics mean people with older systems and devices can still enjoy a game to the full. They also usually mean you can play a game for far longer, battery-wise. Dragon Bane II was so undemanding that the battery meter never seemed to go down despite hours of play.
5. A gilded turd is still a turd.
“Amazing” graphics don’t make up for a shitty game. And high-res graphics and animations can still be poorly done or even annoying: surely there must be others who get irritated by the endless (pointless) sprite twitching and quivering and bouncing in many KRPGs?
And returning to Fall of Angels, simple or “amateur” graphics can also be beautiful and even moving. When the snow suddenly started falling, tiny little flakes spinning gently down against a violet-shaded world, it was in its own way just as wonderful as seeing the first snowfall in Skyrim.
RPGs to add
Many people have emailed me lots of great RPG suggestions for the site: RPG-site.com.
It’s hard picking which ones to add first, as there’s no way I’ve got time to play them all let alone write them all up. Currently I’m trying to prioritise classic RPGs (eg Bard’s Tale) and ones that are somewhat original (Book of Heroes, Silversword) - rather than wade through about a dozen Action KRPGs that look like Zenonia/Inotia clones. Combat-heavy/strategy RPGs are also being deprioritised for now.
But if anyone is really impressed by a particular game I haven’t yet managed to add, please feel free to help me out by providing some of the details I need to list them. Just drop me an email to istara@gmail. Specifically:
|Genre:||[eg Classic, Action, MMORPG]|
|Character:||[create-your-own or pre-defined? how much customisation is there?]|
|Story:||[original/unique or just generic?]|
|Sidequests:||[are there sidequests or missions? how many? ]|
|Treasure:||[where do you find/earn gold and eq]|
|Features:||[unusual or interesting aspects that add depth to or elevate the game, such as pets, IAP, puzzles, crafting]|
The “freemium” debate
Freemium games: great for choice, or a complete curse?
There’s a spiralling profusion of these titles, and they’ve spilled across from the Farmville genre into other genres, such as RPGs. Certainly the currently limited-release Book of Heroes is generating a lot of controversy.
Now there are some ways in which optional, paid items can enhance a game without breaking it, or being necessary to complete it. Here are three examples:
1. Kingdom of Loathing
Kingdom of Loathing is a pre-Facebook html-based RPG that allows a certain number of clicks/quests per day. It’s completely free. But players can buy premium items in the store that act as stat-increasing accessories - in the basic, casual mode of the game. They’re not equippable in the various “hardcore” playthroughs. It also isn’t possible to buy unlimited quests: at some point you’ll have to wait for the daily rollover.
TapQuest/TapQuest II is an entirely free game. It has three base character classes. But if you want, you can buy a fourth character (a dwarf). You don’t need the dwarf, but if you like it, and you want to see what combat is like with it, it’s there for a small cost. There are also some bundles of items (potions etc) you can buy: the value here is pretty terrible and I would be surprised if the developer has sold (m)any.
3. Mage Gauntlet
Mage Gauntlet offers premium items that can help a bit in play, but aren’t vital. They also offer wearable hats, solely for the fun/fan value. You can get some hats in game, but there are others than you can buy. None of them - in game or out - have any stat effects, they’re solely for style - digital merchandise. A great way for fans to show support if they want to.
Given that freemium is clearly here to stay in the RPG category, let’s hope more developers implement it like this, and also give players the choice of buying paid-upfront versions as well.
The more RPGs you play on the iPhone, the more you discover that often the simplest, “retro” little games can actually be the most satisfying and enjoyable in terms of gameplay. Simple graphics can also be a lot cleaner and clearer on a small screen than the busy feel that more intricate and animated titles create. They also tend to be less battery hungry.
CrazyQuest reminds me very much of old text-based MUDs, except it’s obviously a graphical game. It has the same “rooms” structure, and the same waiting-for-a-respawn to kill monsters again. Best of all there are shops, which means you’re grinding for gold as well as exp/skill points, so you have more choice on how to equip your character.
Small RPG had me hooked until I sadly hit the highest level, after which there wasn’t anything to continue for, although the game kept going. While there wasn’t a shop, there was an inventory which allowed you to pick and choose equipment. It was also great getting enhanced and rarer items, which are well balanced to your level, giving a nice sense of progression as everything gets more powerful.
Yipe was brilliant on Mac OS years ago, and has translated perfectly to small-screen iOS. It’s just enormous fun, both in terms of gameplay and its quirky humour. Often humour in a game can irritate, but in Yipe it’s warm and amusing. And there are multiple quests, so you get that real Classic RPG feel in a lovely retro game.
So much fun, especially being able to autoplay your characters and have them move and fight automatically across the screen. In many ways it’s more about managing your party than fighting with them. And there were (free) downloadable maps once you finished the pre-installed ones. It’s a pity the devs didn’t keep going, because it had a lot more mileage in it.
Also worth a mention, though they’re much longer and more involved games:
Dragon Bane II and Princess Demelza
Two very old-style but also lengthy and fully featured games, built on the same engine. These appeared to use no battery at all, so were perfect for playing when stuck in public transport for hours. A nice bit of nostalgia for those that remember the text-based RPG era, as they’re something of a hybrid between old MUD style games and graphical games.
Sick of the spam
A major problem for RPG fans is that the Games:RPG section of the iTunes App Store is absolutely crammed with absolute rubbish, which drowns out decent games and pushes them off the page.
Just a glance at today shows the following:
- game guides/utilities (not games)
- a shooting game (not an RPG)
- “Big Sean Fans” and “Curren$y - Jet Life!” (not even games)
- several games clearly marked as Strategy games
- “Russian Doll” (no description, clearly not an RPG though)
- “UAngelHanna” (pathetic Japanese dating/sex type game)
- “Fun Flirt!” (ffs)
- “Camera Girl” (pathetic Japanese sex game)
- “Mystery of statue” (billed as an Arcade game)
What’s Not Hot
I’m not even impressed by the staff picks “What’s hot” selection or “New and Noteworthy”. For example it currently includes some game called “Great Little War Game” - click on it, and it says: "GLWG is the hit 3D turn-based strategy game" so what the hell is it doing in the RPG section when there’s already a Strategy section?
And “Baseball Superstars” - isn’t there a Sports section that should go in?
And “CosPlay” - some Japanese manga dress-up app.
Another irk is games that have no description or info as to what they’re about. Often these are games (often at absurdly high prices - $40+) targeted to the Asian market, but there’s still no info. Then there are some games that may even be decent, but who the hell would know with no text and sometimes a single screenshot to recommend them?
Meanwhile, decent RPGs, lovingly crafted by hard-working and talented developers, get lost and buried. That’s bad for gamers and it’s bad for the genre.
Top 10 games (November 2010)
RPG-site.com intentionally has no personal reviews, since people’s tastes vary so much when it comes to RPGs that one person’s opinion seems of limited value. Also, my personal preferences tend to lean towards WRPGs and Classic RPGs, though I play loads of Action RPGs and KRPGs as well. But people have requested some recommendations, so here is my personal Top 10 list of iPhone RPGs to date - not necessarily in exact best-worst order, they’re all wonderful:
1. The Quest (and its expansions)
I’m a classic RPG fan, and The Quest and its expansions provide hours and hours of quality, interesting, role-playing questing combating fun. What adds to the experience is the really active, friendly and helpful community here, and the fact that expansions are still being made.
Just a wonderfully designed game, and one that is appealing and accessible to both new and less experienced RPG gamers, as well as veteran players. I truly loved this game.
Rimelands has a somewhat unique dice-based combat system, but one you will quickly adore. Just a great action RPG with a classic feel.
4. Sword & Poker 2
It’s kind of surprising to me, finding myself putting a Puzzle RPG on this list, but this game was so addictive. The game/combat mechanic was brilliant, as was the saving up for really useful weapons and armour. It truly felt like an RPG, not just a card game with RPG elements tacked on.
5. Yipe 5
Quirky and brilliantly fun retro-style RPG. It hits all the right buttons, and is a really satisfying playing experience.
A wonderful action RPG, that got even better when they expanded it to a second chapter with more sidequests. Lots of great gear.
8. Crusade of Destiny
Another amazingly ambitious game, that also manages to deliver. Repetitive grinding/levelling drags it down the list a little, but you will get hours of productive and interesting gameplay from Crusade of Destiny.
A very ambitious game engine, that worked flawlessly even on the older-generation iPhone 3 I had at the time. The mini-games were great, and also showed off the engine very well. A bigger world, and more items, would have put this near the top of the list.
10. Dungeon Hunter
A graphically very impressive action RPG, which is also somewhat easier than the average game. Given how tough and grind-heavy a lot of action RPGs are, I actually found this refreshing.
Tap Quest - strangely satisfying and addictive retro action RPG
Puzzle Quest - long and well-designed Bejewelled-style puzzle RPG
Vay - cult classic RPG, highly enjoyable
The Hard Grind
What is grinding? Briefly, it’s performing a highly repetitive task that earns you gold, items or experience. Think of the South Park kids spending weeks killing boars in World of Warcraft just to make their characters stronger.
Grinding is one of the categories I’ve included in the info of games features on RPG-site. Grinding can be useful (even fun) and it can be a loathsome, game-ruining abomination.
As an optional activity, grinding can be a very useful, elective method to build up your character or collect money for some nice weapon or armour. In a limited way, it can also be useful to level up a character to add a couple of skill points or get a new spell. Games that do this well include The Quest and its expansions. There’s no need to grind, and you’ll have to sleep for a week for monsters to respawn, but it’s a useful way to earn a bit more gold and maybe pick up some extra items.
Bad grinding involves the forced repetition of an uninteresting task to actually be able to progress in a game. When grinding is not optional, but obligatory, it means that a game has been cheaply designed, since grinding greatly increases a game’s length but offers no meaningful or interesting extra content, or that it has been poorly balanced. Zenonia is a classic example, and one of the few games I’ve not bothered to finish for this reason, though I did enjoy the early sections and still recommend it. The early-to-mid game is fun. You kill stuff, you find items. Then suddenly it’s like the progress hill juts up into a vertical precipice, with you right at the bottom. Monsters become insta-death. Any new equipment you find is ten levels too high for you to use. You can’t advance, you can’t do anything, you have to go back and re-kill easier foes for literally hours on end just to make any progress. This is not fun. This is not good design.
Some games, due to their form or design, have zero grinding - for example because monsters don’t respawn. This can be a problem in itself: if a game is too linear and you mess up your character’s skill point distribution, or use too many potions early on, you can really struggle in later, harder stages. This effectively self-nerfs your character and you may even have to restart. Or there is the situation in a game like Arvale Short Tales: Varju the Druid where the player keeps levelling despite reaching an effective power cap (damage and defence are limited by the best equipment available) but monster level and powerfulness keeps scaling. This was more of a glitch in design, it wasn’t intentional. But you’re effectively no longer able to grind for rewards while random monster encounters keep grinding your level and theirs higher.
So what we’re really looking for is a game that:
- doesn’t require grinding to progress
- allows some grinding for a sandboxy, less linear feel
- offers a way for less tactically-inclined players to build up for boss encounters
- doesn’t allow a character to get nerfed by excessive grinding