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'Emergent gameplay': RPG devs mull what the future holds for big RPGs

"[I'm] fascinated by the emergent gameplay that comes from open-world systems," Brian Fargo tells RPS. "Yet we love storytelling, and so we want to explore how we might be able to merge those worlds."
"I’ve been completely fascinated by the emergent gameplay that comes from open-world systems, but yet we love storytelling, and so we want to explore how we might be able to merge those worlds."

- InXile chief Brian Fargo, speaking to Rock, Paper, Shotgun about what the future holds for RPG design.

Sprawling top-down RPGs (think: Pillars of Eternity 2, Wasteland 2, Torment) have enjoyed something of a renaissance over the past few years, and in its wake Rock, Paper, Shotgun corralled a few of the devs who make them to ask: so what comes next?

Their answers make for interesting reading, especially if you're at all interested in (or working on) what RPS bundles up as "CRPGs" -- RPGs like Baldur's Gate that are large and long, often pausable, and almost always played from an overhead perspective. 

One of the common themes that emerges is an eagerness to work the sort of dynamic, emergent play fostered in a game like Hitman into the character- and narrative-driven design of most big RPGs. Multiple respondents single out Larian's Divinity: Original Sin 2 as a standout example of how to build a big, tactical RPG with lots of dynamic systems and opportunities for emergent play.

"If I were to make a game set in the Pillars of Eternity universe that were not part of the series, I would totally want more of that stuff,” Obsidian's Josh Sawyer told RPS. “By making more fundamentally dynamic gameplay that’s more driven by environmental interactions, you’re creating a game that’s richer for creating your own stories, your own gameplay by just fooling around.” 

Original Sin 2 was also lauded for its robust multiplayer options, something InXile chief Brian Fargo thinks will be an important part of RPG development going forward.

"Every metric [suggests it will get] more and more difficult to do a single player game," Fargo said. "You’ll see more multiplayer [in CRPGs], but the trick is for us to not give up the depth."

As you might expect, none of the devs interviewed (who together have credits on everything from Baldur's Gate to Neverwinter Nights 2 to Wasteland) think the genre is likely to crash in a big way, but they all have slightly different ideas about where it's going next. It's worth your time to read them in full over on RPS.

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