Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

“RPG” stands for “Role-Playing Game,” but what exactly makes a game an RPG? In the world of indie gaming, this question is often debated among developers and players alike. Is it the character customization? The ability to make choices that affect the story? The turn-based combat? In this article, we’ll explore the different elements that can contribute to a game being considered an RPG, and what sets them apart from other genres. Whether you’re a seasoned gamer or just starting out, join us as we delve into the world of indie RPGs and discover what makes them so special.”

What is an RPG?

Character development

Creating unique characters

One of the key aspects of character development in an RPG is the ability to create unique characters. This often involves customizing a character’s appearance, such as choosing their hairstyle, clothing, and physical features. In addition to visual customization, players may also have the opportunity to choose their character’s name, background, and personality traits. This allows players to create a character that feels truly their own and immerses them in the game world.

Building character backstories

Another important aspect of character development in an RPG is building a character’s backstory. This can include their upbringing, family, and past experiences. Players may also have the opportunity to make choices that affect their character’s backstory, such as whether they were raised by loving parents or orphaned at a young age. A well-developed backstory can add depth and complexity to a character, making them feel more realistic and relatable.

Leveling up and gaining abilities

Leveling up is a crucial aspect of character development in an RPG. As players progress through the game, they gain experience points and increase their character’s level. This allows them to learn new abilities and skills, such as spells or combat moves. Leveling up also often comes with other benefits, such as increased health or improved stats. This system of leveling up and gaining abilities helps to keep players engaged and motivated as they progress through the game.

Narrative focus

An RPG, or role-playing game, is a type of video game that places a strong emphasis on narrative elements. The storytelling aspect of an RPG is a key factor in what makes it unique from other genres of games. In an RPG, players take on the role of a character in a fictional world, and their choices and actions directly impact the story and the outcome of the game.


Storytelling is a crucial element of any RPG. The game’s narrative is typically crafted by a team of writers, who create a rich and immersive world for players to explore. This world is populated with characters, both major and minor, each with their own backstory and motivations. Players must navigate this world, making choices that affect not only their own character, but also the characters they interact with and the overall story.

Player choice and agency

In an RPG, players have a high degree of choice and agency. They are able to make decisions about their character’s actions, dialogue choices, and even the direction of the story. These choices can range from simple dialogue options to major plot decisions that significantly alter the course of the game. The level of player choice and agency can vary from game to game, with some RPGs offering more player input than others.

Branching storylines

RPGs often feature branching storylines, meaning that the story can change and evolve based on the player’s choices. This creates a sense of replayability, as players can make different choices and experience different outcomes. Branching storylines also allow for a more personalized gaming experience, as players can tailor the story to their own preferences and playstyle. This can make RPGs feel more like interactive novels, with players as the main character.

Party-based gameplay

In a party-based RPG, players work together as a team to complete quests, defeat enemies, and advance the story. The success of the party relies on each character’s unique strengths and abilities, making it crucial for players to understand their roles and how they can contribute to the group’s success.

Some key elements of party-based gameplay include:

  • Working together as a team: Each member of the party plays a crucial role in the game, and their success is dependent on the collective efforts of the entire team. Players must work together to strategize, plan, and execute their actions to overcome challenges and defeat enemies.
  • Utilizing each character’s strengths: Each character in a party-based RPG has their own unique abilities, skills, and strengths. Players must understand how to use these abilities effectively to overcome challenges and defeat enemies. This requires careful planning and strategy to ensure that each character is contributing to the team’s success.
  • Managing inventory and resources: In a party-based RPG, players must manage their inventory and resources carefully to ensure that they have the necessary items and equipment to progress through the game. This includes managing consumable items, such as potions and healing spells, as well as equipment upgrades and repairs. Players must also consider the needs of their team members and ensure that they have the necessary resources to support them.

Overall, party-based gameplay is a crucial element of RPGs, requiring players to work together as a team, utilize each character’s unique strengths, and manage their inventory and resources carefully to ensure success.

The Evolution of RPGs

Key takeaway: Indie RPGs are games developed by small teams or individuals, often with a focus on innovation and creativity. They offer unique and unconventional storylines, a high degree of player choice and agency, and a focus on player experience. Indie RPGs have been pushing the boundaries of what is considered traditional gameplay and narrative, often incorporating unique mechanics, storytelling techniques, and themes that are not commonly seen in mainstream games. Examples of indie RPGs include Underrail, Divinity: Original Sin 2, and Stardew Valley.

Early RPGs

In the realm of gaming, role-playing games (RPGs) have undergone a remarkable evolution since their inception. Delving into the history of these games, it is essential to examine the origins of early RPGs, which laid the foundation for the genre as we know it today.

Pen and Paper RPGs

The earliest form of RPGs can be traced back to tabletop games, where players gathered around to engage in imaginative storytelling and character-driven adventures. Pen and paper RPGs, such as Dungeons & Dragons, allowed players to assume the roles of various characters, embarking on quests and overcoming challenges within a rich, fictional world. These games relied heavily on creativity and improvisation, as players and game masters collaboratively crafted intricate narratives.

Early Video Game RPGs

As technology advanced, RPGs transitioned from pen and paper to video games. Early video game RPGs, like the 1980 game “Dungeon,” paved the way for the genre’s progression. These games featured simple graphics and text-based interfaces, but they offered players the opportunity to control their characters’ actions and make choices that influenced the story’s outcome.

Influential Titles and Franchises

Several influential titles and franchises emerged during the early years of video game RPGs. “The Legend of Zelda” (1986), “Final Fantasy” (1987), and “Chrono Trigger” (1995) are some of the most iconic examples. These games refined the RPG formula, incorporating elements such as character development, epic storylines, and immersive worlds. They not only captivated gamers worldwide but also inspired countless subsequent titles, shaping the future of the RPG genre.

Modern RPGs

  • The rise of indie RPGs
    • Independent developers creating innovative games
    • Focus on storytelling and player choice
    • Emphasis on player agency and immersion
  • Open-world and sandbox RPGs
    • Players have the freedom to explore and interact with the game world
    • Emergent gameplay and player-driven narratives
    • Complex quest and side-quest systems
  • The impact of technology on RPGs
    • Advanced graphics and sound
    • More immersive and interactive gameplay
    • Increased accessibility through digital distribution and mobile gaming

Indie RPGs

What makes an indie RPG?

  • Smaller development teams: Indie RPGs are typically developed by smaller teams compared to mainstream games. This allows for more creative freedom and the ability to take risks that larger companies may not.
  • Lower budgets: Due to the smaller team sizes, indie RPGs often have lower budgets. This means that developers need to be creative with their resources and often use innovative solutions to create compelling experiences.
  • Experimental gameplay and narrative: Indie RPGs often push the boundaries of what is considered traditional gameplay and narrative. They may incorporate unique mechanics, storytelling techniques, and explore themes that are not commonly seen in mainstream games. This experimental nature is one of the defining characteristics of indie RPGs and what sets them apart from other genres.

The benefits of indie RPGs

  • More diverse storytelling: Indie RPGs often have unique and unconventional storylines that can be a refreshing change from the typical narratives found in mainstream games. Indie developers have the freedom to explore new ideas and concepts, resulting in stories that are more thought-provoking and imaginative.
  • Greater creative freedom: With indie RPGs, developers have the liberty to experiment with different game mechanics, art styles, and world-building. This allows for a wide range of creativity, resulting in games that stand out from the crowd and offer players a distinctive experience.
  • A focus on player experience: Indie RPGs are often designed with the player’s enjoyment in mind, rather than being driven by commercial considerations. This can result in games that are more immersive, engaging, and tailored to the needs and preferences of the player.

Examples of indie RPGs

Indie RPGs, or independent role-playing games, are games that are developed and published by small teams or individuals, often with a focus on innovation and creativity. Here are some examples of indie RPGs that have gained popularity in recent years:


Underrail is a sci-fi RPG set in a dystopian future where humanity has been forced to live underground due to the surface being uninhabitable. The game features a deep and complex storyline, along with a robust combat system and a variety of customization options for players to tailor their characters to their preferred playstyle.

Divinity: Original Sin 2

Divinity: Original Sin 2 is a classic RPG with a modern twist, featuring a vast open world, engaging storyline, and a deep combat system that encourages strategic thinking and planning. The game features cooperative multiplayer, allowing players to team up and explore the world together.

Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley is a farming simulation RPG that has gained a massive following since its release. Players take on the role of a new farmer in a small town, tasked with managing their farm and building relationships with the townsfolk. The game features a variety of activities, including farming, mining, fishing, and socializing, along with a deep crafting system and a range of customization options for players to personalize their farm and character.

The Future of RPGs

Trends in RPG development

  • Procedurally generated content: One of the most significant trends in RPG development is the increased use of procedurally generated content. This technology allows for the creation of vast, unique, and dynamic game worlds that are different each time a player explores them. With procedural generation, game designers can create vast open-world environments, diverse enemy and character designs, and intricate quest lines that offer countless possibilities for players to explore.
  • Multiplayer RPGs: Another trend in RPG development is the rise of multiplayer games. Many modern RPGs are designed with cooperative multiplayer in mind, allowing players to team up and tackle challenges together. Some games even include competitive multiplayer modes, where players can battle each other in PvP combat. This trend has opened up new possibilities for social gameplay and community building within the RPG genre.
  • AI-driven narratives: The use of artificial intelligence in RPGs is also becoming more prevalent. AI-driven narratives can create more dynamic and interactive stories, with characters that react differently to player choices and events based on their personalities and motivations. This technology can also be used to create more complex and realistic NPCs, who can have their own schedules, routines, and interactions with the player. The potential for AI-driven narratives in RPGs is still being explored, but it has the potential to greatly enhance the player experience and create more immersive game worlds.

The challenges facing RPGs

  • Balancing accessibility and complexity
    • As the gaming industry continues to evolve, one of the biggest challenges facing RPGs is striking the right balance between accessibility and complexity. While many players enjoy the depth and complexity of traditional RPGs, these games can also be intimidating to new players who may struggle to understand the intricacies of the game’s mechanics.
    • To address this challenge, indie RPG developers are exploring new ways to make their games more accessible to a wider audience. This includes creating more streamlined gameplay mechanics, providing detailed tutorials and explanations, and offering multiple difficulty levels to cater to different types of players.
    • Additionally, some developers are experimenting with alternative control schemes and interface designs to make the games more intuitive and user-friendly. By focusing on accessibility, indie RPGs can attract a wider audience and help to ensure the long-term viability of the genre.
  • The impact of monetization on game design
    • Another challenge facing RPGs is the impact of monetization on game design. Many indie RPGs are released as free-to-play or pay-to-win games, which can create pressure to include microtransactions and other monetization schemes in the game.
    • While these schemes can provide a source of revenue for developers, they can also detract from the overall gameplay experience and create an uneven playing field for players who choose not to spend money.
    • To address this challenge, some developers are exploring alternative monetization models, such as subscription-based models or one-time purchase options. By focusing on providing a high-quality, immersive gameplay experience rather than relying on microtransactions, indie RPGs can build a loyal player base and ensure the long-term success of the game.
  • Keeping RPGs fresh and innovative
    • Finally, one of the biggest challenges facing RPGs is keeping the genre fresh and innovative. With so many RPGs available on the market, it can be difficult for indie developers to stand out and offer something new and exciting to players.
    • To address this challenge, many indie RPG developers are exploring new gameplay mechanics, storytelling techniques, and art styles to differentiate their games from the competition. Additionally, some developers are experimenting with incorporating elements from other genres, such as survival games or platformers, to create unique and engaging gameplay experiences.
    • By focusing on innovation and experimentation, indie RPGs can continue to thrive and evolve as a genre, providing players with exciting new experiences and pushing the boundaries of what is possible in video games.

The importance of RPGs in gaming

The Enduring Appeal of RPGs

Role-playing games (RPGs) have been a staple of the gaming industry for decades, captivating players with their immersive storytelling, engaging characters, and expansive worlds. The enduring appeal of RPGs lies in their ability to transport players to new realms, allowing them to explore and interact with these virtual worlds in ways that are both captivating and empowering. Whether it’s battling monsters, solving puzzles, or navigating complex relationships, RPGs offer a rich and dynamic gaming experience that continues to captivate players of all ages and backgrounds.

The Impact of RPGs on Other Genres

RPGs have had a profound impact on the gaming industry as a whole, influencing the development of countless other genres. From action-adventure games to strategy RPGs, the mechanics and storytelling techniques pioneered by RPGs have been integrated into a wide range of gaming experiences. By emphasizing character development, dialogue, and exploration, RPGs have helped to broaden the scope of what is possible in video games, paving the way for more nuanced and sophisticated gameplay mechanics.

The Future of RPGs in Gaming

As the gaming industry continues to evolve, RPGs remain a vital and dynamic force, with new titles and innovations constantly emerging. From the indie scene to major AAA releases, RPGs continue to push the boundaries of what is possible in gaming, blending cutting-edge technology with classic gameplay mechanics to create unforgettable gaming experiences. Whether it’s exploring vast open-worlds, engaging in turn-based combat, or building deep relationships with NPCs, RPGs are poised to remain a central pillar of the gaming industry for years to come.


1. What is an RPG?

An RPG, or Role-Playing Game, is a type of video game that allows players to assume the role of a character in a fictional world. In an RPG, players make choices for their character, which affect the course of the game and the outcome of the story. RPGs typically feature a complex plot, multiple characters, and a variety of gameplay mechanics.

2. What are the different types of RPGs?

There are several different types of RPGs, including Japanese-style RPGs (JRPGs), Western-style RPGs (WRPGs), and indie RPGs. JRPGs are typically developed in Japan and often feature anime-style graphics and a strong emphasis on storytelling. WRPGs, on the other hand, are developed in the West and often have a more realistic art style and focus on combat and exploration. Indie RPGs are developed by small teams or individuals and can take many different forms, from text-based adventures to fully-realized graphical experiences.

3. What makes a game an indie RPG?

An indie RPG is a game that is developed by a small team or individual, as opposed to a large, corporate game development studio. Indie RPGs often have a unique style or gameplay mechanic that sets them apart from mainstream RPGs, and they may be developed using a variety of different engines and tools. Indie RPGs may also be more experimental or unconventional than mainstream RPGs, and may explore new or unconventional themes and ideas.

4. How can I tell if a game is an RPG?

One way to tell if a game is an RPG is to look at its gameplay mechanics. RPGs typically feature character creation, leveling, and skill progression, as well as a variety of quests, missions, and other activities. RPGs may also feature a branching storyline, where the player’s choices affect the outcome of the game. If a game has these elements, it is likely an RPG.

5. What are some examples of indie RPGs?

There are many examples of indie RPGs, including the popular games “Undertale,” “Stardew Valley,” and “Cuphead.” Other examples include “Oxenfree,” “Neverwinter Nights,” and “Baldur’s Gate.” Indie RPGs can be found on a variety of platforms, including PC, consoles, and mobile devices.

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