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The RPG Files: The Top 5 Steam RPG Trends That Need to Go Away

By Christopher Coke on May 20, 2016 | Columns | Comments

The Top 5 Steam RPG Trends That Need to Go Away

Steam is the go-to place for PC gamers. Unfortunately, it wades into its own version of Fallout 4’s wasteland. For every good game, there are 100 bad, side by side in every category. Sure, you can sort and filter, but none of it seems quite as good as it should be. Here are the RPG Files top five trends we wish would go away.

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1. Retro Hack Jobs/Pixel Graphics

Like many of you, I grew up in the NES and SNES era of RPGs. I have fond memories of playing Final Fantasy and Legend of Zelda and spending countless cafeteria conversations talking about my dungeon romps with my buddies. So believe me when I say that I have nothing against a little retro in my gaming life. But come on, Indie Devs, your game needs a little more than nostalgia to float its boat.

There comes a point when that cool, throwback thing becomes so overdone no one wants to see it anymore. That point was two years ago. These days it takes a whole lot more than 16-bit graphics to stand out. In fact, going “retro” just makes me skeptical, not excited.

2. Anime Box Art, Usually Featuring an Underdressed Girl

I admit to a little bias when it comes to anime. I’ve never hopped the Goku wagon, only really enjoyed Spirited Away, and only watched it when I had to watch it as a kid. But I get it, there’s something there people adore and that’s cool. More power to you.

But for just a second, can we admit that there are way, way too many anime covers in the RPG queue? Seriously. The worst part is, when you click into the game, most of them look like they were ported for the PSOne or “retro” with, you guessed it, 16-bit pixel graphics! And sorry, neither of those even come close to the anime on your cover.

Case and point.

3. Procedural Generation

Procedural generation can be pretty cool when it’s done well. Look at No Man’s Sky or the worldscapes of Elite: Dangerous. But most of it isn’t done very well. The risk of procedural generation is that your levels will come out looking like bland and repetitive. And, unfortunately, boatloads of the procedural generation on Steam is just as forgettable you would expect it to be.

But what rubs me the wrong way isn’t the procedural generation is being used, it’s that smaller devs are using it to falsely inflate how impressive their game is. “Hundreds of procedurally generated levels” sure sounds better than “five you’ll actually want to play,” which is closer to the truth of it. I’m no dev. I don’t know what goes into making this game magic happen. All I know is “procedural generation” is usually code for “bland levels that don’t feel handcrafted at all.”

4. Bland Survival “RPGs”

The original DayZ mod came out in 2012. Why are bad cash-ins still happening?! Over the last four years, a whole survival genre has emerged -- which is great. Most of those games are terrible, lazy, early access fodder hoping to make a quick buck or win the lottery as the next indie hit -- which is all so, so bad. These games are mostly not RPGs, yet always get tagged as such, and most of them aren’t worth the time to look over. The few exceptions do something special, like ARK: Survival Evolved.

The point is, just stop. Unless you’re doing something really special, there are better trees worth barking up.

5. Endless Early Access

We seriously need limits on Early Access. The case has been made over and over again, but it’s worth restating until something is done about it. Early Access needs a hard set of guidelines before developers are allowed to accept money for their product, and if they fail to live up to their end of the bargain, there needs to be consequences. Internal review at Valve, for example, or refunds to those who want them. I look at games like RUST or DayZ and see two games that have been available for purchase for nearly two and a half years. Yet, they’re not actually “released”, so don’t judge them too harshly, okay? No.

Regardless of the state of these two games in particular (RUST is actually pretty good), big changes are needed to the Early Access program. More than one game has died on the vine, many others are stagnating as we speak, leaving their players wondering what they’ve wasted their money on.

At very least, let us sort them out through the entire store.

Bonus: Dating Sims and Visual Novels

In some ways, they’re close. But in others… No, I don’t want to date your pigeon.

Quick Hits

Fallout 4’s Far Harbor DLC came out this week but some players got it sooner. According to Kotaku, the expansion was unsurprisingly uploaded to torrent sites ahead of launch. What is surprising though is that the DLC seems to have been uploaded in whole as a free mod at Nexus Mods! The page has been taken down at the request of Bethesda, but a cached version shows over 700 people were able to download it.

While we’re on the topic of mods, an intrepid Dark Souls 3 modder has brought first-person mode to the game. Actually using this mod seems like a recipe for certain death, but it’s hard to argue that he did a good job with it. Those disembodied hands though…

In other Dark Souls 3 news, a new iteration of the anti-cheat patch has been released and it seems to be free of issues. The first version lead to lag stutters, which we can only assume lead to many broken controllers.

CD Projekt Red has published a new dev diary video exploring The Witcher’s final mission. It’s a great look at the other side of Toussaint’s picturesque fairytale aesthetic we’ve seen so far. A city built on the blood and bones of its enemies? A dark underbelly no one wants to think about? Now we’re in Witcher territory.

While little is currently known, Obsidian has confirmed that Pillars of Eternity 2 is already in the works. This is great news, especially with Tyranny coming later this year to keep us busy!

The Division has turned out to be quite a success. This week, Ubisoft reported that their profits are up by nearly 12%, and that The Division has a whopping 9.5 million registered users, logging in an average of 3 hours a night. Echoes of Destiny drift through my head at this news.

Lastly, a new map has been added to ARK: Survival Evolved. Called “The Center,” the map more than doubles the landmass of the previous map, adding floating islands, rivers of lava, underground ecosystems, and more mystery than you may be bargaining for. What’s especially notable about this is that “The Center” is the first community mod Wildcard Studios has adopted as part of its Official Mod program. Rather than simply pay The Center’s creator, as the program promises, Wildcard went the extra step of offering him a job and promoting his work. That’s how you reward modders!

Christopher Coke / Chris has been a fan of MMOs since the mid-1990s when he cut his teeth on MUDs. These days he scours the internet for the latest and greatest multiplayer gaming experiences.