May 31, 2009

Questing for the Future of Roleplaying

This is my entry into this month's blog carnival on the Future of Roleplaying by the RoleplayingPro where they asked some questions for thoughts on what will happen to roleplaying in the future. These are mostly just speculative musings and by no means are supported by any statistical or factual evidence or any inside knowledge on the industry. So take these with a grain of salt and don't forget to drink lots of water after that.

What games do you see emerging as the big players in the near future?
The traditional structure of leading games in the industry from what I've gathered has always been Dungeons & Dragons leading the pack for the past 30 years, followed by a strong suit of World of Darkness games. I'm not sure if there is anything currently that could topple either one of these games from their comfortable seats in the near future but it would be very interesting to see who takes third place.

For my candidates I think it would be either Savage Worlds, Pathfinder or the D6 system.

Savage Worlds has been receiving some rave reviews and uses quite an innovative approach to their gaming that emphasizes on speed and simplicity which is quite a far cry from the models of traditional roleplaying. This might be the edge needed to attract old and new players. Also, Pinnacle Entertainment has greatly maximized its open license which has given it plenty of support and settings that will give a special niche to all of its players one way or another.

I have big hopes for Pathfinder. They have a great team that is creating a great system. If they are able to win big attractions from the OGL crowd, they will surely make Wizards pay for their mistake by abandoning the OGL and resort to 4E.

West End Games studio has recently opened their main game system with the launch of Open D6 and this might herald a major revitalization for this system. If enough momentum is started and sets in for content producers for this system, it might win a lot of fans because it has been a tried-and-true system that many gamers still think its version of the Star Wars RPG is superior than its decedents (i.e., Wizards).

What companies should we be watching out for to release the next big product?
Well, almost every product released by Wizards for D&D has always been taken as the next big product by their fanboys so that was a bit of a moot question.

Alright, seriously, I don't know but I probably won't be surprised if its from Green Ronin. I'm not saying that Dragon Age is going to take over the P&P RPG world by storm but they seem to have a track record of adapting many desirable IPs into pretty solid gaming product lines, so maybe the time will come when they release a RPG based on one really popular product that creates a huge market.

How will technology become more integrated into roleplaying games?
As much as I hate to admit it, yes, technology will play a bigger part in RPG days to come. Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike technology but I really enjoy the simple joys of rolling actual dices and using graph paper tactical maps while we let our imaginations do the rest. Nowadays, technology is slowly finding its permanent spot on the gaming table from projector maps, laptops for managing in-game and out-game notes to using iPhone as dices (though they are not quite as sturdy as good old dice).

On the industry side, Wizards have already begun adapting more digital technology to provide additional content and services and it could set the days of how other publishers would provide these services for days to come. We'll also be seeing subscription as the base model for many RPG companies to provide content to their customers.

A curious piece of technology now is probably Amazon's Kindle and it might be the chosen method for Wizards and other gaming companies to distribute their products if it gains enough traction among gamers when e-books have become very common.

What industry writer do we need to be on the look out for?
To be honest, my knowledge of prolific writers in the industry can be considered shamefully dismal as it rarely goes beyond the well-known names within Wizards' office. So my money could be on anyone. I like to see myself making it in the industry about 20 years from now.

What blogs do you see exploding into becoming the next big thing?
There's plenty of great blogs out there in the RPG Bloggers Network so this is really hard to say. Almost everyone is on the equal balance of making the next big thing and they have my utmost admiration.

If I really had to pick and based on my regular Questing's Readings, I think we can expect to see some big things from the villainous trio At-Will, The Core Mechanics and Mad Brew Labs. They've already worked on some epic evil schemes together and who knows what other nefarious plot would they unleash on us next?

In terms of popularity, I think everyone should watch out for Wyatt of The Spirits of Eden. He is gaining quite a following from big time and lowlife bloggers like myself with his 'captivating' style. He could make a good representation of the younger generation of gamers.

Honorable mentions go to Dungeon's Master, RoleplayingPro (duh!) for their great resource and advice and Stargazer's World because you can't beat someone who is looking at stardom right in the eye. But again I would just like to say that any blogger is far from capable of making it big.

What do you see for the future of the industry?
Despite what many other bloggers have said about the bright futures of RPGs, I'm tending towards a more pessimistic view of our future. While game companies are constantly attempting to bring more younger players into the fold, I think computers and consoles will be the P&P RPG industry's greatest and fiercest threat. I'm fearful of the days when young potential gamers have chosen to pick up a console game for solo amusement which takes less time than the social camaraderie of P&P RPGs that can be time consuming and tiring at times.

RPGs in the future would have to be designed to be less about imitating their computer/console counterparts and more emphasis on a social type of play and fun.

So that's all my serious thoughts on the future of roleplaying and the state of the industry in the future. I would love to see some of these predictions come true and some I would rather not (like the last one) but we'll see in the coming years. One thing's for sure, it's going to be an interesting future ahead.


Mad Brew said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence! I must say, we (At-Will, The Core Mechanic, and I) are looking at some opportunities and we'll probably explode somewhere (good or bad, hehe).

Here's hoping that everyone on your list does some great things in the future (I love to see d6 get big!).

Questing GM said...

Hey Mad Brew,

Best of luck in your future endeavors. Looking forward to see you guys make up something big for the bloggers community.

Jonathan said...

thanks for the kind words of support!