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Computer RPG Basics:  The Computer RPG Core Standards

Computer RPG Basics: The Computer RPG Core Standards

There are some elements common to all the best computer RPG games.  These features have been developed to support the activities that players like to do in a computer RPG.

Computer RPG Basic Expectations

What are the basic activities a player wishes to accomplish in an RPG video game?

Boiled down to the essentials, an online RPG is basically exploring the world, fighting enemies, collecting gear and treasure, and improving your character.

There are additional things that are popular, like farming, collecting pets, or crafting, but these would be considered either character improvement or optional.  What we are looking for are the most common elements across a variety of online RPG games.

The RPG Core

I noticed that the best RPG games contain a set of common features that I call The RPG Core Standard (RPG Core).

The RPG Core consists of the following RPG features:

  • An avatar that represents the character in the world.
  • The ability to move around in the game world.
  • The ability to fight monsters or resolve conflicts.
  • The ability to interact with NPCs or other players.
  • The ability to complete in-game goals.
  • A robust inventory management system.
  • Character customization and improvement over time.
  • A basic commerce system.

For each RPG maker platform, I review I will be looking for ways to accomplish these core activities with an eye towards ease of creation.  I want to know which programs are best at dealing with the different aspects of making your own RPG.

Faster and easier will be favored over anything time consuming or requiring detailed programming.

My goal is to try to find the fastest, easiest way to make your own RPG.

Let’s explore these concepts one at a time.

rpg maker character avatars

The Character Avatar

Your Character’s Representation
In The RPG Game World

All good computer RPG games have at least one in-game icon or avatar that represents the player’s character.

Some RPG games only have a basic icon that the player moves around to explore the map.

This icon can represent a single character, or it can represent a whole party of RPG characters.

The best computer RPG games have a character avatar for every character the player can control.

It is through the character avatar that the player experiences and interacts with the world.

When evaluating an RPG maker platform I will be looking for ways to create rich and diverse characters in as little time as possible.

Aside from how the avatar looks, there should also be ways to make characters that are either fully customizable or if they have static characteristics, to make them very different from one another.

smile rpg creator map tool

The Map

Exploring The Game World

Players love to explore the world and uncover new places.

Exploring the world is fine, but the best RPG games give you ways to represent everything from a single closet or jail cell all the way up to continental maps.

Players enjoy discovering hidden areas in a variety of settings.

Ideally, the map would be able to represent everything on the surface of the world; cities, towns, villages, and houses.

The map should also be able to represent underground areas like caverns, caves, and mines.

I will be looking for RPG makers that have the tools to create a variety of rich maps in the least amount of time.

rpg world character combat

Friends and Adversaries

Fighting Monsters And Interacting With NPCs

Another thing all the best computer RPG games have in common is a way to fight monsters.

Even in games without monsters, there is still a way to resolve conflicts through negotiation, for instance.

For these reasons, RPG games should have a way to interact with non-player characters (NPCs).  You should be able to talk to NPCs, trade with them, and even fight them.

If your game does not include fighting, that’s fine, but you must still provide a way to interact with the characters inside the game.

At the bare minimum, you’re going to need to interact with townspeople, quest-givers, shop owners, other members of your adventuring party, and so on.

I will be evaluating RPG maker platforms with regard to how fast and easy the dialog system is to use, as well as how flexible and fast the combat system is.

I will be favoring systems that have easy-to-create dialog chains and combat that doesn’t bog down the game.

001 game creator quest journal


Completing Missions And Telling A Story

The best computer RPG games allow you to go on adventures to complete quests.

Games with quests are super popular because players like to see the story unfold.

Similar to moving around the map, quests are another way for players to explore and learn about the world.

Although the word “quest” has medieval connotations, you can use it to mean anything from tasks to missions.

Use quests as a way to tell the stories that take place in your RPG world.

You use quests to tell short stories or long stories.  

Use quests for main stories or side quests.  

You can string quests together to create epic, multi-episode campaigns that play out over the course of the game.

When evaluating an RPG maker platform, I’ll be looking for systems that allow me to create and track quests.

Fast, flexible, and easy quest development will be favored over complex scripting or programming.

computer rpg players love to get loot

Getting Treasure

Looting the Bodies And Managing Inventory

During your adventure, you are bound to come across something you want to take with you.

Inventory is something players expect in the best computer RPG games.

After fighting a monster, players expect to collect some treasure for their troubles.

Treasure can come in the form of money, equipment, experience points, or even skills and in-game titles.

Players like to see what’s in their inventory that might be able to help them overcome conflict in the RPG game.

Maybe they need a key to get past a door or open a chest?

Maybe they need a better or different kind of weapon to exploit the weakness of a particular monster?

Maybe they need a token to get past a certain part of the game?

There are many, many reasons to include an inventory system in your RPG game.

Another thing to be be considered while evaluating RPG maker platforms is the ability to create and manage items.  

Quest items should not be easily sold or lost.  Their status of a quest item should be indicated somehow.

Tracking item weight as an option will be considered better than no option for encumbrance.

level up computer rpg character progression

Gaining Power

Improving Your RPG Character

Another thing players expect in their RPGs is character advancement.

Whether skills improve over time or the character gains levels, this feature is a must-have for the best RPG video games.

This is another feature I will be evaluating when exploring RPG maker platforms.

Is there a way to improve the character over time?

Can characters gain class or skill levels?

Which RPG game platform has the easiest, most flexible character improvement features?

We’ll find out together!

computer rpg players enjoy buying and selling items at a store 

Vendors And Commerce

Buy, Sell, And Trade

The last thing common to all the best computer RPG games is the ability to sell stuff you can’t use, buy the stuff you need, and trade with other players or NPCs.

Some NPCs won't trade with you, but shopkeepers and other vendors need a way to trade something for something else.

Trading money for goods, or trading goods for money, or trading raw materials for finished products are all common activities in RPG games.

Even quest-givers need to trade.  They often give the character an object to take someplace to complete a quest, so being able to give and take between the character and the RPG world is an important feature that players expect.

Even Banks are a variation of a vendor.  They keep track of what you gave them so those items are still there until you withdraw them from the bank.

Being able to create vendors will be an essential feature I will be looking for when evaluating RPG maker platforms.

I want to be able to create shops and stock them easily.

Being able to customize what is available and how much it costs will be preferable over static shop systems.

RPG Core Summary

The 7 Features The Best Computer RPGs Have In Common

There are 7 common features found in popular RPGs:

  1. The Character Avatar
  2. The Map
  3. Conflicts
  4. Character Improvement
  5. NPCs
  6. Inventory
  7. Shops

These are the features that will be evaluated in each of the RPG maker platforms I review.

Your Turn

Did I miss any essential computer RPG element?

Is there a feature you think shouldn’t be on this list?

Let me know in the Comments section below.

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