Bioware: “JRPGs are Stagnant”


Leading western RPG developer Bioware has criticised Japanese-style RPGs for a “lack of evolution,” and excessively linear stories.

Bioware co-founder Greg Zeschuk lambastes JRPGs for a lack of innovation in a recent interview:

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

My favorite thing, it’s funny when you still see it, but the joke of some of the dialogue systems where it asks, ‘do you wanna do this or this,’ and you say no. ‘Do you wanna do this or this?’ No. ‘Do you wanna do this or this?’ No. Lemme think — you want me to say ‘yes.’ And that, unfortunately, really characterized the JRPG.”

Ironic words indeed, coming from a company which itself has yet to deliver any significant innovations since its magnum opus Baldur’s Gate series, released in 1998…

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    Avatar of Rensei Bayushi
    Comment by Rensei Bayushi
    14:21 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    I'll be frank.

    First off, this article feels like another footnote in the long list of people talking up a storm on how one side of the RPG spectrum is better.

    As a player of both videogame and tabletop RPGs from both sides of the ocean, I do not believe either side is better than the other. Rather, I view them as two sides of the same coin; taking a cue from GNS theory, wRPGs are simulationist, whereas jRPGs are gamist. I think the primary reason certain jRPG franchises became such a hit is due to having a 'pick up and play' approach to the matter. Dragon Quest is one of the biggest examples of this.

    I don't prefer one or the other (though I admit i'd like to see a little more variety in wRPG worlds), I just think that, not to sound cliche, there's more than one way to skin a cat.

    Comment by Anonymous
    14:22 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Gotta say I agree. Luckily, Final Fantasy Tactics didn't do this, but then I played Final Fantasy X and I guess I just thought, "What the hell is this crap?"
    Persona 3 and 4 sort of did it, but it was at a respectable level for me. The journey through the game was very open.

    I have no problem with a game being "linear" as long as the story is good and it's a fun experience (Earthbound, for example, which probably was helped by never taking itself seriously).

    Otherwise, yeah, I've nearly removed myself from playing JRPGs because of exactly this.

    Comment by Anonymous
    14:29 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    JRpgs are in a sad state of stagnation.

    How could you deny this?

    Comment by Anonymous
    15:33 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    in truth u all know y u play jrpgs... for the hot chicks that show up in them.. and u all know how lacking american games r in those.

    Comment by Anonymous
    12:28 22/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Scary thing is that in some JRPGs the hot chick turns out to be the main hero... Looking at you Magna Cartas and these sexually ambiguous Asian boy/girls.

    Comment by Anonymous
    15:35 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    I don't care much about the storyline for a game. While yes a game with hardly any story does suck IDAF if it's linear or not. I care more about the gameplay than I do other things.

    Comment by Anonymous
    15:38 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

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

    Why do I sense so much envious coming from this guy? The fall of the JRPG??? Final fantasy 13 just sold over a million copies in a single day alone, in Japan ONLY.

    Anyway, what's today JRPG developers guilty of are they always underestimated the western gamers: dumbing down the gameplay, censor/westernize certain part of the story/scenes, try too hard to make their JRPG appeal to western audience... Thus, today's JRPGs lost the luster they got during the 90's.

    Comment by Anonymous
    15:17 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Um, the Bioware guy has a point. I think the author here has their head a bit too far up Japan's ass... I fully understand that sankakucomplex is extremely opinionated, leaning towards paedophilia, and strongly pro Japan, but to defend the JRPG only by saying "Well Bioware sucks too" is just pure lame. At least throw a single title in the article to try and prove him wrong, other than call foul on a company which has been pushing itself constantly to provide as much flexibility in it's games as possible. It has not simply made Baldur's Gate... what's Final Fantasy at now? XIII?

    Comment by Anonymous
    17:49 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    "At least throw a single title in the article to try and prove him wrong" - look at the tags, I lold hard after seeing them. "Dragon Age" and "Final Fantasy"... Looks like this time, Mr.Artefact is all talk.

    Comment by Anonymous
    13:37 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Linear or not, you have to admit most JRPGs have kickass outfits.

    Comment by Anonymous
    Avatar of Ray
    Comment by Ray
    06:10 22/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Needs more unneccesary belts and buckles.

    Comment by Anonymous
    12:58 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    If you want to include DA:O or other IPs from Bioware, you have to do the same for square enix.
    TWEWY was a completely different JRPG than any of the final fantasies. Square enix doesn't equal final fantasy. In fact, since bioware criticized JRPGs as a whole, you have to consider games like Demons souls and the tales of series and compare them to each other.

    It seems that the largest thing in common between WRPG players and JRPG players is their level of rampant fanboyism...

    Comment by Anonymous
    13:53 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    I want to play a game not watch a long ass fucking movie.

    Comment by Anonymous
    14:11 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    This Article is 100% right. im so tired of the crappy cookie cutter JRPGs that never change. Alawys the same crap. always anime looking always aimed at 14 year olds.

    Bioware hasent released a innovative game since baldur's gate? hahah someones butthurt about there preferred preferably.

    Comment by Anonymous
    17:40 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    You sound butthurt youself. Enjoy you western 3D animation then. Some of us here actually prefer anime looks.

    Comment by Anonymous
    11:33 27/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Gotcha. More power to your mastubatory needs towards loli animated girls!

    Comment by Anonymous
    10:52 22/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    That's cool man enjoy being a faggot.

    Avatar of Kill099
    Comment by Kill099
    18:06 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    I think he (Greg Zeschuk) just states the obvious. There will always be a day that ideas will be exhausted and there will be no more innovation just like what we see in anime. Actually, what he said is the same for all gaming platforms. What has changed in Platforming, FPS, RTS, RPGs, Racing, Simulation, etc? Instead of stating the obvious why don't he just make an innovation at RPGs. Do it with action and not on empty and useless words. But something bothers me, what if a supposedly "RPG" game was so innovated that it can't be called as an RPG? What does make an RPG? Why is a game called an RPG if it hasn't have any similarities to it's predecessors?

    Avatar of taiwanshaun
    Comment by taiwanshaun
    18:12 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    "Ironic words indeed, coming from a company which itself has yet to deliver any significant innovations since its magnum opus Baldur’s Gate series, released in 1998…"

    No innovation since Baldur's Gate? I'm sorry, but that's simply not true, although I love how you completely pass off your opinion as undisputed fact. Nicely done.

    I love how everyone completely missed the point of what they were trying to accomplish with the original Neverwinter Nights, which was, to translate the table top DND experience as best as they were able to the PC. Given the unprecedented level of control they gave you over crafting your own RPG experience through module creation, I think they succeeded admirably. And the idea of allowing the Dungeon Master to participate invisibly in real-time offered further fine control over a campaign as your friends played through it. I spent countless hours just messing with the 2DA files, and creating my own spells and magical items, including a ring of transposition, which was great fun.

    Unfortunately, the vast majority of gamers are blood sucking consumers, so most of them approached the game from the built-in campaign perspective. Durp.

    Besides Bethseda's Elder Scroll series, I can't think of any other RPG which offered such an incredible amount of replayability.

    Comment by Anonymous
    18:42 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    "I love how you completely pass off your opinion as undisputed fact."

    Since when has Sankaku been anything other than opinionated?

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:44 22/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)


    Another bashing article, meant for weabbos to raise arms and protect precious Nippon!!!

    Comment by Anonymous
    18:28 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Pfft. That's the pot calling the kettle black.

    Most JRPGs that are worth playing have decent if not great stories. Most WRPGs I've seen are more or less one dude, running around, doing nothing (With optional good/evil [No middle ground] system!)in particular to a plot that, thanks to the 'totally open world' is usually enough to make some of the most cliche fan fictions look like works of intelligent planning.

    Mind you, I'm not saying that JRPGs are a creative wonderland, I'm just saying I'd rather play a game with interesting characters and story-lines than an open world without any half decent plot and a party that consists of a blank canvas supposed to represent 'me', and will in all likelihood be a grizzled male without a lick of hair on his head.

    Comment by Anonymous
    12:33 22/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Yes because going to an elven village to slay a werewolf that is actually also a hot dryad like female who was cursed by an angry elf whose daughter was gangraped by humans is cliched. Oh and now you have to choose to either end the curse and kill the elf who sends you on the quest or side with him and let it continue.

    Seriously just because you don't play these games don't talk like you understand them or can even have an educated opinion on them.

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:01 22/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Yeah, I also play RPGs for the narrative, the characters. Narrative is usually better when there's only one path to follow (or at best 2-3 branches like in Megaten games etc.). It's like novels, or movies, for that matter. And characters... Well, if I have to choose what the main character does, I feel rather disconnected from the narrative. Funny. I LIKE linearity in games! :D
    I totally understand what he means about choices which only allow you to say yes, though. They don't make sense, might as well let the main character say yes automatically and get rid of the choice.

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:22 14/02/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    You then like reading books instead of "role"playing then.

    Just look at it. RPG's means "roleplaying" games. If you do not have a "role" to play then you are just an observer, watching these heroes do "their" job on saving the world. You are not part of it because you are just watching them do the heroics while you are given the duty of being the party's official bell boy and guide, helping them arrange their stats, items, spell and levels so that they can show you what they will do next.

    Maybe you are not suited for true RPG, hell I do not know if you like the dramatics in life or played table top RPG. But calling a linear story for you to watch as a great and uber RPG is plain wrong.

    Comment by Anonymous
    07:22 22/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    As opposed to the angst-filled and/or transsexual protagonists we get in JRPGs?

    Avatar of Myballz
    Comment by Myballz
    18:04 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    I am only going to agree on the part about what the person that said "They kept delivering the same thing over and over", which the Japanese do sometimes make same old storyline where the Hero must save the world from an over powered godly evil being.

    I am going to counter that by saying Bioware does the samething showing there concept of a Hero must make a choice to do good or evil which also effects your relationship with your party members its always ways in there games.

    Comment by Anonymous
    18:41 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    I just say that JAPS and their FFs are FAGS!!!!
    Except for the inspirational EarthBound, not the gameplay that special but the themes (a contemporary world). Earthbound inspires today's games such as Left 4 Dead (four protagonist, one of them are girl), Fallout 3 (exploring RPG in a post-apocalyptic fashion), and Persona (set in contemporary Japan). Too bad Earthbound and Mother 3 practically massacred by the far worst FF, in which FF has horrible dialogue (ff7), and apparently Squeenix uses hypnosis to attract their peoples.

    SO, with the exception of EarthBound and Persona, JRPGs are FOR FAGS!!!!

    Avatar of celebrinen
    Comment by celebrinen
    17:53 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    I still love Morrowind, with the right mods its still the best RPG I've played. Oblivion, while a pale shadow of its predecessor, is still quite fun to play. After the Elder Scrolls games D20 systems feel really stifling, especially when it comes to character creation and fights.
    The ability to mod WRPGs is why I prefer them to console JRPGs. You can change the world to suit you.

    Comment by Anonymous
    17:16 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Regardless of who is stating it, it's quite true that gameplay wise, there's not much of a core difference between Final Fantasy 1 and Final Fantasy 13.

    I was hoping that Square would have gone further with the way they made Final Fantasy 12, but sadly they went back to basics.

    Most likely they, like every other company, is trying to cater to a bigger croud and thus dumbs elements of the game down.

    Avatar of Soldatoflife
    Comment by Soldatoflife
    17:09 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Dragon Age Origins is a 2009 title that is far more evolved than the average JRPG. Fallout 3 has more open ended events taking place, especially with the added downloadable content. S.T.A.L.K.E.R., a less recent game, yet truly worthy title, has more than one trick up its sleeve (though isn't the work of Bioware). Mass Effect 1, 2 and Knight's of the Old Republic are quite interesting to mention as well.

    Comment by Anonymous
    16:05 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Ironic words indeed, coming from a company which itself has yet to deliver any significant innovations since its magnum opus Baldur’s Gate series, released in 1998…

    - the heck?-_-

    Comment by Anonymous
    17:37 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Hmmm... I enjoy both.

    When you design an rpg you choose to focus on story or gameplay or in between.

    So in the end final fantasy xii with a good story is the pinnacle rpg?

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:18 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Not interested in WRPG

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:23 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Umm, isn't "goody two shoes, an ass or something in between" is pretty much the whole spectrum of human character? Is there something others than being completly bad, completly good or not completly bad, not completly good?

    Unless you're also adding people who are vegetable. That's all there is to characters.

    Avatar of Artefact
    Comment by Artefact

    Where did I say JRPGs aren't derivative?

    The very fact that we have just seen Final Fantasy XIII demonstrates all originality has been squeezed out of the major titles. Square churns out FF games, Bioware churns out D&D games (and lately, D&D in space). Both do it very well, but this is not innovation as such.

    Personally I would say Persona has come closest to originality in recent years...

    Comment by Anonymous
    17:42 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    And what exactly is bad with using the D&D system in space? Please elaborate.

    Comment by Anonymous
    23:04 22/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Calm down, fanboy. He's not even saying that it's bad.

    Comment by Anonymous
    06:33 26/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Ah, the subtlety of arte's trolling was left unnoticed. A shame. Try to read "deeper".

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:18 22/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    I just came here to remind you all of the economic crisis and how hard it is to make something new so you people can like it.

    By the way, I love the Shin Megami Tensei series, which has been reusing the same art for a couple of games and spin-off now...

    and I don't care!

    Comment by Anonymous

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:54 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    don't forget the rapping. and Engrish.

    It would've been nicer if they got rid of those.

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:32 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Please explain how Mass Effect relates to D&D. I can't even see one similarity besides the standards to any RPG.

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:51 13/07/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    lol d&d in space more's a shooter with magic powers and warp-headbutts. mass effect 2 doesn't even include dice rolling anymore so what about that? PLAY THE GAME BEFORE YOU TALK SHIT :OOOO

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:26 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    ITT, raging weaboos who can't handle the truth about the turds they've been worshiping uncondtionally.

    Comment by Anonymous
    08:39 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    I like RPGs from both sides of the world. There may not have been major innovations since Baldur's Gate, but there was innovation nonetheless. Most JRPGs I pick up today in 2009 are not as fun as the ones I played in the late 90s. Blue Dragon is an exceptional example of a boring JRPG that is nowhere near as good as a late 90s RPG like Vagrant Story or Finaru Fantajii.

    Comment by Anonymous
    08:40 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    People who played Fallout 2 would kill you for making that comment.

    Fallout 3 was pretty enjoyable, but only until you remembered how good Fallout 2 was.
    F3 is essentially extremely shallow and dumbed down console version of Fallout.

    Comment by Anonymous
    08:41 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    by that argument, then jrpgs are far ahead of Bioware when it comes to art direction (who can't seem to ever get their concept art into their games). S-E kicks Bioware's ass!

    it doesn't mean much to cherry pick a concept then claim that one concept defines the whole.
    something might be greater than the sum of its parts but a singular part never equals the entire sum.

    wrpgs have more dialogue choice, fine (though i could name jrpgs that dispute that, even versus Bioware's "super innovative" Mass Effect dialogue). when was it decided then that dialogue choice equaled the jrpgs are inferior because THAT is Zeschuk's conclusion.
    you use that one factor comparison to conclude an entire product.

    that makes far less sense than Arte's "counter"

    Avatar of El Chaos
    Comment by El Chaos
    08:55 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Then again, we can always take into account the variety in game mechanics present in BioWare games, from those found in Knights of the Old Republic, to the first-person shooting in Mass Effect.

    That's much more varied than SE's all-encompassing "Command -> Attack", if you ask me.

    Avatar of El Chaos
    Comment by El Chaos
    08:38 21/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    You see, most people who got into JRPGs (particularly those that got into them with Final Fantasy VII) tend to associate weird or eccentric looks with personality, so essentially your speech will fall on deaf ears.

    So, in fact, the only thing developers like BioWare and Bethesda need in their games are characters with much more glitz and zazz... and maybe also try new argumentative settings besides strictly medieval, strictly sci-fi, the Star Wars franchise... you know, come up with something else, like Team Andromeda's Panzer Dragoon universe, or Oddworld.

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