We left our roundtable with Pat ranting and raving about how "Western RPGs are made for immediate gratification, whereas Japanese RPGs bring about lasting rewards." In this section of the roundtable, Pat attempts to defend himself against the glare of the RPG world; then, our editors discuss MMORPGs and how they factory into the east vs. west debate.
Eric Farand, Editor-in-Chief
Okay Pat, the floor is yours.
Patrick Gann, Chief Soundtracks Editor
Why, thanks Eric! I know it's almost absurd to say what I said, but I'm going to attempt to stand by it. First, let me say that I'm not necessarily talking about how long it takes to complete the game. Regardless of regional origin, there are short RPGs and there are long RPGs. I'm talking about, however, the journey itself from beginning to end.
Mark P. Tjan, Previews Editor
How does that journey differ on a Western RPG versus a J-RPG?
The Western RPG may have simple gameplay and combat, or there may be complex gaming mechanics involved. The game may attempt to make an "epic" plot with decent character development, or it may not. What matters to the developer and the publisher both, I believe, is that it
is "fun" every step of the way. No doubt, this seems to be the way many Western game reviewers rate games!
On the other hand, Japanese RPGs, especially the well-crafted ones, take a different route. You can know a lot about a Western RPG by playing it for 3 hours, but depending on how far you get in a J-RPG, you will probably have a very different impression regarding the game. There are bound to be boring, uneventful sections of the game; after all, not every part of life is fun and exciting! But you're investing time into the story, into the work of the creator, and there is a fair reward at the end. The reward is not just the sense of accomplishment, but also the fond memories of the story told. It would not seem this way with most Western RPGs.
Damian Thomas, Chief Reviews Editor
And how do MMORPGs fit in with this discussion?
I dare say that MMOs help make my point even stronger. If you compare Japan's leading MMO with America's champ, you can see the difference. Final Fantasy XI, despite being an MMO, manages to incorporate linear plots for the gamer to follow, each with plenty of NPC character development. The game is also exceedingly difficult, and almost requires a "hardcore" dedication. World of Warcraft, in contrast, can be enjoyed as a casual gaming experience (though many become "hardcore" before they know it due to how much they enjoy it). WoW offers easier ways of gaining experience, quests that award you (here's that phrase again) immediate gratification, and a host of other time-killing events.
Mark P. Tjan
You're telling me that WoW is for the casual, non-hardcore gamer?
I'm not going to say that WoW is for chumps; those "hardcore" gamers have plenty of fun and exciting challenges waiting for them. But I ultimately believe that FFXI, between the two, is ultimately a more rewarding experience because of the nature of the game. It will bring more vivid and more fond memories with it.
So then which type of RPG is better? How do we combine the best of the east with the best of the west in order to appease all of the concerns we've talked about? Which companies will be brave enough to champion the cause of narrative content as well as open-ended gameplay? How should these games look and what are good examples of games that have successfully combined both elements?
Mark P. Tjan
I could tell you Eric, but then I'd have to kill you.
Yeah Eric, let's tease the readers a little more and make them wait one more week.
Sorry folks, that's all for today. Look for the conclusion of the roundtable where we answer all of these pressing questions and look toward the future of eastern and western RPGs.