BioWare co-founder: JRPGs suffer from 'lack of evolution'

Destructoid writes: While up at BioWare's headquarters in Edmonton, I had the opportunity to throw some questions at company co-founders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk. I was curious about how the duo felt about the current RPG landscape in general, and why we're seeing more and more western-style RPGs while JRPGs have, at least among North American audiences, fallen somewhat to the wayside

"The fall of the JRPG in large part is due to a lack of evolution, a lack of progression," Zeschuk said. "They kept delivering the same thing over and over. They make the dressing better, they look prettier, but it's still the same experience.

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iamtehpwn3279d ago

I think that JRPG's and Western RPG's have their place in gaming, and that they can BOTH learn a lot from each other.

There a lot of things I'd like to see JRPG's I see in WRPG's, and vice versa.

Open World type experiences are fun, but linear ones are too.

Simon_Brezhnev3279d ago (Edited 3279d ago )

I guess turning a RPG into a slow third person shooter is innovative. I guess the lil choices your make makes your character dynamic its still linear. I guess using space marines is a real evolution. The Witcher is better the Dragon Age.

bakasora3279d ago

Its preference. I got bored of oblivion, fallout3 and dragon age origins after 15 hours, I dunno why.

RedSky3279d ago (Edited 3279d ago )

I agree that JRPGs have stayed stagnant in a lot of ways, but western RPGs have regressed.

The focus has been taken away from the story and plot development to figuring out how to integrate real time combat, FPS elements into it or otherwise how to mash unnecessary extra genres into the mix. Look at Fallout 3. When you see most people playing it and using VATS every fight, what exactly is the point of the real time FPS element anyway? At the same time the game clearly suffered in the story department with the third not coming within a mile of the cleverness and depth of the first and second.

Whenever I see, lets be honest here, the mostly 13 year old console kids proclaiming Oblivion and Fallout 3 to be the best RPGs ever I can't help but wonder if it's simply because they don't have a good frame of reference to a real, far more engaging RPG or if they've simply redefined the word to mean an action game where you character has a range of weapons. The way the interview has them saying they have debates over whether GTA is an RPG only confirms this. Yet, there is no way in hell GTA4 is an RPG in any notion of the word.

The only element of RPGs that truly matters is the depth, originality and the quality of the story and the capacity to make meaningful decisions in a fictional world that affect your development and the rest of the world. In that sense looking back to the likes of Planescape, western RPGs have clearly regressed.

Ravage273279d ago

though I agree that JRPG genre is stagnating(DS took more steps forward than an entire decade worth of JRPGs) i would really hate to see them start copying from WRPG. Both genres should remain separate with their own distinct identities intact. JRPGs should go beyond the same emo androgynous 15 yr old male protagonist trying to save the world.

Bigpappy3278d ago

JRPG's all try to copy Final Fantasy. These games are like Madden Football (The same thing for 20 years). The stories are different, but follow the same structure. WRPG, especially Bioware and vastly different form each other. From kungfu themes to scifi to middle age. They really do mix it up. WRPG's also give more options to play the games the way you want. They let you customize the games more than JRPG's. JRPG are more kid friendly so they control every aspect of the game, like who gets to live our die and how. With WRPG's you get to make those choices and live with the consequences like an adult would expect. I use to like JRPG's too but now my son plays those on his DS. I play the more adult and modern style games that are more complex.

beardpapa3278d ago

Well I advise Bioware to look into Japan and tell that to the 1 million+ new FF13 owners.

Noctis Aftermath3278d ago

There is 2 main issues JRPG suffer from:

1)The combat system of almost every JRPG has changed very little.
2)Most JRPGs don't have impressive visuals, hell if you play the ones on the DS and some on PSP they are 2D, even some on consoles are 2D.

I understand that visuals aren't the most important thing for most JRPG fans, but won't a game be much more impressive if on-top of the superb story and great combat system it had great visuals to match?

Well i doubt we will have this problem next gen, seeing how next gen handhelds will be significantly more powerful then the current gen.

Chris3993278d ago (Edited 3278d ago )

Just like a sports game, has well, "sporty" things. But to say that JRPGs have gotten stagnant, just makes him look like he hasn't really played enough of the genre. That, or he hasn't really explored the JRPG titles released in the past two years at all.

We have the Persona series, with it's sim and Pokemon elements. Demon's Souls with it's unrelenting, old-school charm. Valkyria Chronicles; a fresh take on SRPGs with a 3rd person perspective and sweeping story-line. Shadow Hearts with it's Circle of Judgement and quirky take on classic history (and the team's more recent take on classic JRPGs, steampunk epic Lost Odyssey). And there's Final Fantasy's melodramatic showboating with Western appeal (guns and robots abound) and a bunch of other interesting JRPGs on the horizon with varying systems and themes (Ar Tonelico's musical combat, Eye of Eternity's gun-toting RPG, Nier's apocalyptic setting). There are active battle systems (Tales series), classic battle systems, and systems somewhere in-between (FF ATB).

Quite a variety of architectures and themes if you only open your eyes.

Sure, there are always going to be "baseline" JRPGs - turn based combat, save the world, etc.. - but you really have to look for them nowadays and they are more on the handhelds than anywhere else.

And not to poop on anyone's parade, but what Bioware game since the NWN days has really evolved beyond even deeper dialog trees? Oh, wait, they've added space marines and you can have sex-scenes now. How revolutionary.

ChrisW3278d ago (Edited 3278d ago )


I like how you put it. The Persona series is about the only JRPG that has really stood out amongst the highly predictable and horribly cliche JRPGs out there. Despite the fact that they still sometimes use the 2D character pictures during dialogue. GOD I find that cheap... Yet we still find them in current gen Japan releases!

The only uber cliche JRPG that I recently tolerated was Eternal Sonata. Simply because I found the use of presumably gay heroes as a fresh twist (no pun intended!). With that in mind, let me direct you to an 'unrelated to games' article in the Asahi-shimbun (Morning Sun Newspaper) called "Some Men Prefer to be Called Boys", which is an article concerning how Japan men actually seem to be digressing in what is considered to be a sexist culture!

I find this directly-yet-indirectly related and relevant to why JRPGs are stagnating.

[EDIT] Meh... to the disagrees. Have you even been to Japan? No? Didn't think so!
I've been here for approx. 10 years... therefore, I do believe I have a bit of validity to back up my statements.

Kalowest3278d ago

Its JRPGs, not JRGPs, learn how to spell dumbass.

Marceles3277d ago

Both western and JRPGs are nice, but at the same time both of them have evolved just as much as the other. There's a few western RPGs with the same formula that's easy to pick up and play since similar games have it, and then there's some that change it up a little...same with some RPGs. I think both RPG genres are on the same boat IMO

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EvilCackle3279d ago

I switched over to the Western RPG camp in 1999, give or take. I was blown away by Baldur's Gate and really disappointed by FF8. Then came Fallout 1+2, BG2, and so on.

Lavalamp3279d ago

I understand what Zeschuck is getting at but I believe that JRPGS have something that WRPGs lack: charm. It's the lighthearted tone and the charismatic characters that cause the fans to love the sub-genre so much and return for second helpings. That being said, I have a feeling that JRPGs will be taking some strong strides in bringing forth some new ideas to the table. The titles I believe will accomplish this feat include (but are not limited to) Resonance of Fate (End of Eternity)with its melding of stylish gun slinging combat with turn-based strategery (George Bush word for you), Ar Tonelico III with it's original art style that is centered around music(no not classical music like Eternal Sonata), and Final Fantasy XIII with it's emphasis on a very strong, engaging, and dramatic story. I guess we'll see. Either way, there will be something for every RPG lover out there next year and I'm very excited.

lonestarmt3279d ago

yup for the most part they have charm, human, and character. I guess you have to have a pointless sex scenes and endless dialogue trees for something to be considered Mature. There is zero anything wrong with liking one over the other, but its unfair and over the line when they say one is dying or unchanging. The reason why is there hasn't been hardly any JRPGS on the PS3 and the 360. There are has been plenty of GREAT JRPGs on the other systems, but since most people live in a bubble they don't realize this. IMO Demon souls, persona, valkeryia chronicles are both leaps and bounds more innovate than anything bioware has done in many many years. My guess though bioware hasn't even heard of Persona.

Shadow Man3279d ago

FFXIII looks like FFX, Versus looks a little different.

I love Dark!!!

RadioactiveTouch3279d ago (Edited 3279d ago )

I wholeheartedly agree. JRPG's haven't changed tremendously since the days of yore whereas the Western RPG is a full package nowadays. When you look at games like Fallout, Oblivion, Dragon Age and Mass Effect, you realize that Westerners know how to blend leveling up and action perfectly. In the case of the Japanese, leveling up is just as much of a chore today as it was back then. Keep working on those crazy-looking haircuts and effeminate characters Japs, that'll sell a lot better than great storylines and mature themes.

iamtehpwn3279d ago

"In the case of the Japanese, leveling up is just as much of a chore today as it was back then. Keep working on those crazy-looking haircuts and effeminate characters Japs, that'll sell a lot better than great storylines and mature themes."

I enjoy leveling up, crazy hair cut, and Bishounen characters with great story lines. Mature themes, give or take it. I do miss when Video games were lighthearted, actually.

Baka-akaB3279d ago

I smell PR BS and selfgratification here . Still i know my opinion wont be a popular one .

In the end Bioware still go back remaking its classics with revamped graphics with it's current non mmos games . Dragon age is by all mean baldur's gate HD (but then again baldur is amazing , thus DA is great) .

And wrpgs , even bioware's stuff arent without flaws and stagnation either .

Without even knowing it , he’s reproducing steps and dating mechanics already done since psx era jrpgs (or hentai games but that's another matter) . Only with “sex” cutscenes they dont even stand behind and alter at the last minute .

Behind the sex appeal of an easy witch of the wild , and a bisexual red head ... DA got a level of romance dialogue inferior to what’s proposed in let’s say any persona game on ps2 , or at best identical . Hell it’s even pretty much the same gift system , same break up and multiple dating system .

And since many like to pretend FF is the only existing jrpg serie , let's not act as if Final fantasy , as the culprit , didnt evolve quite a lot in gameplay .

FFX and beyond are quite some leap compared to snes ff or ff7 ... For all my dislike of it , FF8 still had it's own unique gameplay .

FFXI may not sounds unique to you , but that's probably because most of you would instead only be aware of WoW and other games , actually pillaging and salvaging many ideas from it (and other mmos)

And dont dare telling that FFXII didnt try altering in a major way it's gameplay , giving some examples to follow to ffxiii .

But please show me the significant gameplay altering changes between the baldur's gate serie and Dragon age besides the 3d engine (again as enjoyable as it might be)?

How is oblivion a change from Morrowind when it's just bigger and according to many morrowind fans , even less rich and interesting ?

Such ego trip from that bioware guy , and all around hypocrisy baffles me .

WRPGs arent currently more innovative and pushing some envelop . They are just the obvious trend right now , and more popular because of Up to date graphics .

The most innovative rpg this year was neither a wrpg or a jrpg , but a crafty blend of both genre , though of japanese origin : Demon's souls

lonestarmt3279d ago

couldn't have said it better myself baka. Plus when Japan does do something out there and different it gets rejected and conveniently forgotten.

Azurite3278d ago

Very well put.

In retrospective JRPGs have evolved more than WRPGs, imho.
Most WRGPs are pretty much Multi User Dungeon games with graphics.

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