student 20 Productions

Random Thoughts of a Game Developer

VRP Madness (3.1): Going Off the Rails

Before reading this post, you’ll need to read one of my Brother’s again – specifically this one.

Are you back? Fantastic. As you’ll recall, in that post my brother describes what he calls three sub-types of RPG – Fixed, Semi-Fluid, and Inconsequential Fluid.  Now, I’m not going to go with Semi-Fluid in this post because when spoken aloud, it sounds far too much like “seminal fluid“, and that creeps me out. I’m going to go with quasi-fluid instead. The quasi- prefix and the semi- prefix don’t mean exactly the same thing, but I think they’re close enough to interchange them for the purpose of avoiding my own bizarre skwik factor.

I will disagree with my brother in the most complimentary way I can think of: these three aren’t sub-categories. These are actual categories that aren’t based on cultural/geographical distinction. By creating three categories here, he’s actually taken the old, Japanese/American division of RPGs and thrown them out the window in favor of a three-tier grouping that can whether the fact that there are many, many games that originate in neither America nor Japan. For instance, I can call Fable II a quasi-fluid game without calling it an “American-style game”. Since Lionhead Studios – the guys who developed the Fable series – are a British company, I think it’s probably better not to call their game “American”, don’t you?

My brother’s brilliance aside, I would like to suggest a fourth group, which I will call Completely Fluid. A Completely 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 COmpletely 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).

I can think of many examples of Completely Fluid games, but most of them are essentially clones of one. The two distinct examples that come to mind for me are Minecraft and Terraria.

Now, if you don’t know anything about Minecraft, I can only assume that you don’t pay any attention to the world of Video Games at all. I’m not a fan (yet) of Minecraft myself, although I haven’t played the full game extensively. Actually, that’s not accurate – I haven’t played the game for more than five minutes. It seems that there’s a threshold for that game, after which one is totally addicted, and I’m assuming that threshold is somewhere around the one-hour mark. I can’t afford to have a Minecraft addiction – it would interfere with my Terraria addiction.

Terraria has been described as a 2d version of Minecraft. That’s not correct, but it does, at least, bring the basic image to mind. In Terraria, you mine for ore, build an (ever-expanding) domicile for yourself an a growing collection of NPCs, and craft stuff. You also fight an astonishing array of less than friendly creatures and do one hell of a lot of exploring.

As I said, a Completely Fluid game consists of a World and a Situation, and not a plot. In Terraria, you find yourself on a world where “corruption” is encroaching, the Eye of Cthulhu is coming to teach you the pleasures of pain, and a few other things are going on that are equally distressing. Now, the situation is impending in every game. In the end, you choose when, or even if, things ever come to a head with the Eye, or any of the other “boss monsters” in the world.

These two Completely Fluid VRPGs have something else in common – the ability to run multiplayer servers, so you can share the adventure. They’re also very mod-friendly, evidenced by the massive mod Community.  They both also feature randomly generated worlds that can be exported and shared, and have a heavy crafting focus.

In any case, the purpose of this post is essentially to bring these games to light. I suppose you could make the argument that they;re not RPGs at all, but I would have to disagree.


Next up: VRP Madness (4.1): more on endings. Or something like that. Whatever, it’ll be a companion piece to this post from my brother’s blog.

English: Fluid physics animation.

Image via Wikipedia; now look at this animation, and start saying "semi-fluid" to yourself over and over again. Keep track of how long it takes you to get completely skwiked, and let me know in the comments. Think of it as an experiement in subliminal context.

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6 thoughts on “VRP Madness (3.1): Going Off the Rails

  1. Pingback: VRP Madness (IV): A Thing About Endings | Welltun Cares Presents

  2. Pingback: VRP Madness (III): Riding The Rail | Welltun Cares Presents

  3. So that you know, you’ve inspired a mild rewrite in my posts. Out of respect for your obsession with fluids, I’ve changed the name of the terms. I’ve also noted that I’ve done so, giving you the credit for the change in thought. It shouldn’t mean that you have to change anything with this post, and if so it should be a minor correction. However I thought you should know just in case.

    I am also kicking myself for not using these names in the first place. Cause they work without being… sqwick.

    As for Completely Fluid as a category (or subcategory or whatever), I thought about it including it (though following KISS I would have just called it Fluid). But at the time I couldn’t think of any examples. I was completely hung up on MMORPG, which I really haven’t played.

    Thanks to this post, though, I know where to go with the subcategory. I’ll discuss it more with the last post in the series.

  4. Pingback: VRP Madness (V): The Worst Games I Played | Welltun Cares Presents

  5. Pingback: Video Madness (VI): The Best VRPGs I’ve Ever Played | Welltun Cares Presents

  6. Pingback: VRP Madness (VII): Fluid and the Promise of Tomorrow | Welltun Cares Presents

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