Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Strategy RPGs: Intro to a Top Ten

at 2:47 PM
Hey y'all, it's snowing! Or, it was supposed to snow today. How romancetic. There's nothing I like better than curling on a cold winter's day. Yes, curling, the sport of true men and brooms all across the world.

What's with "curling up by the fire" or whatever such oft-repeated Cold Winter's Day Xpressions? I hate that kind of phoned-in memory imagery. You know what it looks like because you've heard the expression before. Were that not the case, you'd hear "curling up by the fire" as someone calculating ∇ × F where F is the rate at which that bank I just blew up burns to the ground. No you wouldn't. Why would anyone need to know the curl of that function? It would be useless. It wouldn't even be a vector field for that matter.
Remember on exams when they would make you draw stupid vector fields like this, then add stuff like the curl? If you haven't been there, you may not realize how impossibly annoying it is to hand-draw this many tiny arrows and distinguish their angles and lengths by such a small factor, while the clock ticks away your three hours. Hey, where did everybody go? This is interesting!
On an afternoon like this, I like to divergence up under the covers and grab a nice fresh Japanese Tactics RPG. I originally intended to make a list of just TPRGs, but it turns out there aren't enough worth playing to really sustain a top ten. So instead I'm going to broaden the category to Strategy RPGs in general. Allow me to distinguish the terms, since careless writers (EVERYONE BUT ME) tend to jumble them interchangeably.
This is what a TRPG will always look like; you probably recognize it like your own mother. Whom, by the way, you definitely should not have strangled. That wasn't nice at all!
I use the term T[actical]RPG to impose the tightest possible genre restriction. It refers strictly to games that play exactly like Tactics Ogre (to my knowledge the first to define the standard, as well as the tradition of using the word "Tactics" right there in the title). These form a sub-genre which fully falls under the larger SRPG salsarito. If you're blind and couldn't see that image, let me wordalize the concept of the TRPG: it's set on an isometrically-viewed elevated grid, usually sized to the screen, with individual character placement and facing, using a traditional experience-leveling system with jobs/classes/skills and persistent units.
Check out Valkyria Chronicles as an example of an SRPG will very little in common with TRPGs

As TRPGs carve out their own niche within SRPGs, SRPGs are themselves encapsulated in the larger RPG salsarito. However, they can also be considered a subset of strategy games, as they share elements with XCOM, Nobunaga's Ambition, and Famicom/Advance Wars. So really they're an intersection of Strategy and RPG. I'm trying to phrase this as set theory since I've unwisely chosen a mathematics motif for this post. The main defining element of an SRPG is that the player controls a force (strategy) of independently developing components (RPG). A pure strategy game has you controlling generics (essentially descended from chess), while a pure RPG puts you in control of a uniquely developing singular control unit (either a single character or a party). 

I'm not going to bother listing examples from either genre, because the list will give you plenty if you still don't get it. Plus I don't want to spoil anything. So come back in a little while as I kick off another Thrilling Ten Tops: SPERG edition.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, I just love that I tastefully ended with an Asperger's joke. Truly the sine of a good writer. "Sine"? Get it?!