BioWare On The Decline Of The JRPG

Final Fantasy aside, Japanese role-playing games simply don't command the respect (or sales) they once did in the West. You may have an opinion on this! That's great. So do BioWare.

With Mass Effect and Dragon Age both leading the way as far as Western RPGs are concerned, they're a company well-placed to know what's good, and what's not so good, about the Japanese entries in the field.

"The fall of the JRPG in large part is due to a lack of evolution, a lack of progression," BioWare co-founder Greg Zeschuk told Destructoid last week. "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 favourite 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."

"We have big debates on whether GTA is an RPG, for example", he adds, highlighting some of the differences between Western and Japanese approaches. "It's got all the elements, it just doesn't have the numbers. And what gamers here want is that higher depth, that higher integration of features... Mass Effect 2 is in some ways a continuation of that evolution."

Ah, there's the BioWare plug. Still, he's got a point; the more you push those traditional RPG elements under the hood, the more accessible you make the game. The more accessible you make it, the more people will play it, the more money a company makes. Easy!

BioWare co-founder: JRPGs suffer from 'lack of evolution' [Destructoid]


    bah i blame the 360

    they tried so hard to get into the JRPG market that when they launched they tried to get every single one exclusive and that in turn resulted in a bunch of games that probably never should have been made anyways and the rest being marketed to a bunch of people whos only RPG experience was Fable

      Okay i am a 360 gamer, but with that aside.

      YOU are so wrong on so many levels. JPRGs have been around well before Xbox came into the picture. They haven't changed in any way. They are the same as before and no game on the horizon seems to challenge that.

      The point Bioware are making is, in the West JPRGs just are not popular. People look at them and think, oh well only the Achievements are different I suppose, is it worth buying.

      I don't get HOW the 360 can be to blame when Star Ocean and Tales are both on or coming to the PS3. I think you are just one giant PS3 fangirl looking to blast the PS3.

      Give the article a read again then voice your opinion that doesn't make you look so stupid.

        Bahaha im a PC gamer you twat

        and the whole achievment thing is a 360 gamers fad that i personally think is a negative towards games if you start buying games for achievements you need to decide whether or not you actually have a life and/or if you just have way to much disposable income

        sure JRPG's havent changed in 20yrs neither have FPS games and they come out a dime a dozen

        the JRPG's simply represent to much of a timesink for most people who as you yourself stated would much rather play avatar:legend of Ang to get some gamerscore points

        biggest problem is simply that theres only so many years you can tell a slightly modified version of the same story(something all RPG's do whether fantasy or sci fi) the west probably has the biggest problem in the fact that they dont relate to the charachters as much because there made by a different culture

        as they say the advantage Mass effect has is that you arent spreading points accross multiple things not actually knowing what each points complete effect is, now days most people game to escape they dont want to have to think incase they accidently muck up there charachter and have to go back to a 3hour old save and resume

    and this is why i've pre-orderd mass effect 2 and couldn't care less about ff13.

      I'm the same. I haven't bothered with a JRPG since... eternal sonata, I think? And I gave up on that for the same reason I've given up on JRPGs entirely... grind, grind, generic grind. Sigh.

    ...and it's not just in games. Nearly every Manga, and Anime from Japan are so similar to each other. Nothing new, nothing really original. Story progression are still pretty much the same throughout, and yet, this is the only facet that's diverse enough to separate one from the other right next to it.

    I've lamented previously on the contrived dialogue (especially the dubbing), plot and the non progression of the games in general when contrasted against Western RPGs. Bioware are spot on with this, and it will be the same with FF XIII, what with the contrived dubbing and story telling, repeated with lots of 'yes, yes, yes'.

    Still, it's going to sell extremely well, if only in Japan.

      there's millions of books out there, and since tehre's only so many genres, are you guys saying that all the books in each of the genres are pretty much the same with only a few outstanding ones?

      This is exactly how I think. The Japanese entertainment industry is stagnant there are very few innovators to be seen. However judging from recent articles the Japanese market seems to be very insular and doesn't accept foreign content very well, this is probably part of the problem.

        Those Japanese folks who can't accept foreign concepts and contents are XENOPHOBES! That's all there is to it.

          The west doesnt accept JRPGS very well either, does that make us XENOPHOBESINCAPS!!!11! as well?

          they make games for japanese and then we say oh that looks good give it to us you gotta remember a JRPGS first isnt america so calling them Xenophobes is just plain stupid

    Well he does have a point in a way. The first and last JRPG I really played was final fantasy 7 (and it turned me off the genre for years) but I recently downloaded demos of a few others, I think it was sparked by eternal sonata's concept sounding cool. Sadly the gameplay really was pretty much identical. Its not helped by the fact that I really don't like the way that JRPGs seem to deliver the story

    I suppose much the same thing can be said about western rpgs. When you boil it down, about the only real gameplay difference between Dragon Age & Baldurs Gate is the perspective and style. The one thing that has really evolved is the storytelling mechanic, it's become far more immersive over the years. Not to imply that the IE games didn't tell a good story. Hell Planescape Torment is still the stick by which I measure a game's story and nothing has come even remotely close in the years since its release.

    This is a good article because it exactly highlights the problem, in my opinion. I think you can get varied WRPG's, but most of the JRPG's I've seen/played are the same cookie cutter combat system, etc. There are a few standouts, but I think the JRPG devs need to step up and "evolve" their games, like Zeschuk said.

    If western gamers are like me, they are sick of playing as a sexually ambiguous 14 year old who has to reluctantly save the world one random encounter at a time.

    It’s easy to come off sounding arrogant when saying things like this, but Bioware make such great games that what they say pretty much goes. Honestly i don’t know when the last time was when me or any one of my friends were excited about an FF game, Mass Effect 2 on the other hand, I don’t even have a xbox and I want one.

    He's so right, you look at some of the conventions of JRPGS, they date back to the gaming conventions of the eighties/early nineties... e.g. not being able to see your enemies while you're going through the environment and the way they pop up randomly, the fact that they're turn based, etc... that and the painfully overstereotyped characters, I guess.

    The term WRPG shouldn't exist... There are RPGs and there are JRPGS... there should not be considered different! xD JRPGs aren't only distinct because they're Japanese I mean... they're distinct because they're so behind gameplay wise... MGS4 is a good example of a Japanese style game done right for this generation... kept the older style conventions that the fans loved, but also Westernised is for a newer audience... why they won't do this with FF and the like, I don't know... but I also won't touch them till they do.

    I've only played one JRP and I couldn't make it past 2 hours.
    I think my biggest issue was the turn based nature of it... I've always wanted to play a Final Fantasy game, but I'm not going to put in 60+ hours if it is like Infinite Undiscovery.

    On an unrelated matter, Bioware games are notorious for being great story wise... but flawed with either bugs, or lack of development. With all these people they're laying off; couldn't EA find some their staff who are awesome at quality control / bug fixing, and move them across?

    While I certainly agree that JRPGs have stagnated, I don't think that WRPGs have all the answers. I love bioware (baldurs gate superfan) but many of the criticisms of story and gameplay structure applied to JRPGS could easily be applied to Mass Effect. Cookie cutter characters, generic sci-fi setting, and the gameplay was essentially a 3rd person shooter with rpg tinsel - something replicated in many, many other games (just with extra tinsel this time).

    Neither industry holds the answer. While they both often adhear to well worn conventions (hello Dragon Age), there are still designers attempting to move the genre forward. Atlus are an incredible example of this (at least in Japan) Demons Souls is unlike any game I have ever played and their various DS efforts (Etrian Odyssey) feel like games designed in the future, but for systems from 1992. Perhaps not linear developments, but developments nonetheless

    Japanese RPG are supposed to appeal to a much bigger audience in japan. from children to adults, women and men. but the Western RPG are aimed towards one demographic. the male gamer only. i would like to see bioware try to make a game that is suitable for kids that they would like that isn't similar to pokemon.

      Bioware have made such a game! Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood, on the DS, is one awesome game made by Bioware.

    The last JRPG that I played was Lost Odyssey. It had a strange story (but still interesting) but the presentation was still stunning and the world was very you explored was gorgeous. I think the decline to JRPG's in the west is not about settings or stories but about game play which hasn't evolved to keep up with the times. Gamers want fluid combat that is 'semi-realistic.' ie. take cover while blowing away evil aliens. JRPG's still have your party line up and one by one take a swing at the enemy. It's slow and repetitive game play.

    For all those who say all JRPG male heroes actually look like women... yes fair call but look at the flip side. How many western games have the same hero being a muscle heavy, gritty bloke with brown hair and a 5 o'clock shadow. Both sides are guilty of using sterotypes.

      Great point except for one minor detail.

      Not all gamers want JRPG's to turn into shooters with a levelling system in the background. The point of JRPG's was to have an interesting chess-like battle system that tested your wits. That is the problem with JRPG's today - less of your intelligence is tested with these battles and more of it is just grinding to meet the level requirements so you are strong enough to beat a certain enemy.

      I hope that JRPG's in the future address that issue, so that More of my options are less valid, and enforce more time limits to your actions, to create a sort of pseudo-real-time RPG. It is still turn based, but now you must think on your feet. Also make their spells in the game less redundant late-game. I always hated that your main ability to go to at the end of any RPG is just your melee attack. This happened in Final Fantasy X for example.

    If the Japanese start making westernised RPGs, they lose their home audience. Considering how crap western RPGs usually do over there, they haven't got much of a choice - bit of a viscious cycle.

    But to be fair on them, think about the core gameplay elements of western RPGs. You can't really say they're all that varied themselves, just slightly more varied than JRPGs. For the most part they're split into either point and click or WASD and click then press button to initiate skill. Who knows, the western RPG market may even suffer from the same fate in the future.

    Wait wait! I'm confused! JRPG are unoriginal, & cookie-cutter?
    And WRPGs are not?!

    That's like saying all fighting games are the same with little originality
    or that all driving games are all the same

    Final fantasy (Lets get it straight - this is what Greg Zeschuk is indirectly taking a dig at) sells millions of copies in the western world. Sure they are similar, but their similarities/quirks are its charm, as are western similarities/quirks. (example effeminate male leads vs generic 3 character class system of Barbarian, wizard, thief)

    I'm sorry but this comment was just stupid. Mass (d)Effect was one of the worst games I have ever played with one of the most unoriginal stories i have ever seen. And while Dragon Age was great, it was short and extremely unoriginal, unlike many good JRPGs. He is obviously talking about Final Fantasy, and he obviously clumps all JRPGs with Final Fantasy because he has no clue about what he is talking about. Bioware had better look out, as there are a lot of great Japanese gaming companies that are becoming successful in the West. Namely Atlus, who won game of the year for 2009 and had a nominee for the best game on the DS. Demon's Souls, the Persona series, the Shin Megami Tensei series, the Etrian Odyssey series, these all blend comfortable archaic RPG elements with new ones almost seemlessly and are selling like crazy. And about his comment about the inability to alter a storyline in JRPGs...he obviously hasn't played Shin Megami: Devil Survivor for the DS, which came out recently, in which every single decision you make has an impact of the ending of the game. Bioware needs to combat the JRPG genre with quality games, not slander.

    @Joshua Iacobozzi

    your talking about wrpgs, being not varied............

    my how the tables have turned

    oh and lol then he did dragon age 2.......................................

    when you hate it proves your insecurity and jealousy of how good things actually are

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