The Evolution of Role-Playing Games and Storytelling

gaming console controls

Role-playing games (RPG) are some of the most popular games out there. As RPG continues to expand, it’s important to understand where it came from. The dynamic storytelling and evolution of RPG mechanics have shaped modern day gaming experiences.

Have you ever wondered how your favorite RPGs came to offer such complex and engaging experiences?

Well, that’s what this is all about.

The early days of RPG were much more humble than what we see today. Dimly lit basements and cluttered tables were the typical sights where gamers gathered. They used pennies and paper and dice to embark on journeys.

That all sounds crazy, right?

During the 1980s, these tabletop games began to transition to digital outputs, leading to the first RPG style computer games.

Here’s just a few of the bigger RPG games from the early days.

Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord (1981):

This was one of the first computer RPGs to gain widespread popularity. Its gameplay featured first-person dungeon crawling and turn-based combat, heavily influenced by tabletop RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons.

Bard’s Tale (1985):

Known for its challenging gameplay and 3D graphics (which were quite advanced for the time), Bard’s Tale offered a rich fantasy world with complex dungeons and a variety of spells and enemies.

Final Fantasy (1987):

Another cornerstone of the JRPG genre, Final Fantasy introduced a more developed plot and character-driven narrative to RPGs, along with a unique combat system and an iconic job system for character specialization.

Game Mechanics Evolved

As you can see from the above samples, the early days of RPG, although mind-blowing to those at the time, were pretty pixelated and limited by today’s standards. But as technology rapidly advanced, that all changed.

Early games were mostly about exploration and combat, but soon, developers began to experiment more with storytelling and allowing players to make decisions.

In what seems like a flash, RPGs evolved from mere dungeon crawls into rich, narrative-driven experiences with multiple endings. This was a massive shift that forged a path into what we see today.

Today’s Most Popular RPGs

Clearly, there’s a lot of history involved with the evolution of RPGs. Most of the time, we don’t think about that when we are immersed in these modern rich experiences.

Let’s look at some of the big RPGs today.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015):

Developed by CD Projekt Red, this game is often hailed as one of the greatest RPGs of all time. It’s known for its deeply immersive world, complex narrative, rich character development, and moral choices that significantly affect the game’s story. The game’s open-world design, stunning visuals, and the depth of its side quests have set a high standard for the genre.

Elden Ring (2022):

Created by FromSoftware and in collaboration with George R. R. Martin, Elden Ring is renowned for its expansive open world, intricate lore, and challenging gameplay. It combines elements of traditional RPGs with the punishing difficulty and meticulous design characteristic of FromSoftware’s previous titles, like the Dark Souls series. The game’s blend of exploration, storytelling, and tough combat has earned it widespread acclaim and a massive player base.

Final Fantasy VII Remake (2020):

This game is a modern reimagining of the 1997 classic Final Fantasy VII. Developed by Square Enix, it has been praised for its updated graphics, reworked real-time combat system, and a deeper exploration of the original game’s world and characters. While it only covers a part of the full story of the original game, its blend of nostalgia and innovation has resonated with both long-time fans and new players.

The evolution from the early examples we posted to these modern ones is stunning.

And we expect this evolution to continue onward. With advancing technology and expansion of 5G and increased internet speeds, things are only going to get better. AI should help development teams cut costs and increase production in areas such as creativity.