PC Gamer recently organized a RPG round table Veterans like CD Projekt Red’s Pawel Sasko (Cyberpunk 2077 Mission Director) and Mike Laidlaw (Lead Designer on the Dragon Age series) zero in on some of the biggest problems plaguing the genre today.
The ever-increasing arms race in the AAA space, particularly regarding the price of cutting-edge technology, top-notch development talent, and inflated player expectations, was cited as a driving factor that needed to be addressed. Cyberpunk is emblematic of this problem (which cost over $310 million to produce), and Powell describes the situation in a little more color: “When it comes to triple-A, we’re just running into the horizontal wall, I think, and we’re going to crash against that wall really soon.” .
As core gamers, we expect a lot from sprawling, immersive, and aesthetically pleasing RPGs (and modern single-player games in general). The harsh truth is that video games are already a very cheap hourly form of entertainment, and we’re going to have to pay more for them if we want to see them continue to push the envelope.
The biggest challenge for today’s role-playing game developers is managing player expectations, which is often a losing battle from the get-go, Laidlaw says, noting: “Once you offer something that starts to be cinematic, you basically invite comparison with more cinematic things.” So you’re kind of keeping up with Naughty Dog or Cyberpunk.”
Of course, not every RPG needs to be budget AAA, and Pawel points to Disco Elysium as a recent example of a groundbreaking RPG made for relative pay. This is due to its reliance on a branching, top-down narrative structure and commitment to bits and pieces of high-quality writing. Words, after all, are cheap.
Perhaps it would be best, then, for consumers with bigger and better role-playing experiences to prepare themselves for an upcoming economic necessity. Because between the cost of big, slick RPGs and gamers still stuck in the $70 price tag, something has to offer. Would you put your money where your mouth is? Or are you looking elsewhere for entertainment? Name your rate in the comments section below.
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