We may never settle on an exact definition of "role-playing" that satisfies all interested parties, but Obsidian Entertainment boss Feargus Urquhart believes the one primary element is "choice."
In speaking to IncGamers , Urquhart says choice separates a "true RPG" from a game that simply has RPG elements. These days, he says role-playing can be confused with other genres and it can be difficult to spot the "real RPG," which must offer freedom and decision-making to the player. In other words, without consequences; if your actions have no real impact on the game, it's just not an RPG. Said Urquhart:
"This is what I think matters and this is what I love about making role-playing games is that choice. If you don't offer different endings, you don't offer ramifications then you don't have consequences. The consequences mean that if I chose to do 'this', then 'this' is going to happen and not 'this.'
That kind of changes the game and I think it also really does, which I think is more unique to role-playing games, is deployability."
It's true that role-playing elements can be found in many other genres. Straight-up action slashfests often utilize such traits, like leveling up, customizable characters, buying weapons and equipment; even towns to explore. The lines really are getting very, very blurry. But we do have one thing we can say definitively: Obsidian, if Dungeon Siege III turns out to be as technically broken as Alpha Protocol , we really won't care about "choice." You actually have to make a good game , too.