Over on his blog, Coyote has posted the results of his latest indie roundtable question, about generating emotions in RPGs. Perhaps no surprise, the results are a mixed bag.

For instance, Thomas Riegsecker of Basilisk Games isn’t sure that RPGs are “the most effective format for delivering an emotionally loaded story”. Hamumu (and where has he been lately?) thinks adventure games are better at evoking emotions, while the “interactivity” of RPGs prevents emotional connection. Funny about that one; adventure games I’ve played have been plenty interactive.

On the other hand, Steven Peeler of Soldak Entertainment wants to bring forth what we could call “the usual emotions” we experience: the satisfaction of getting through a tough fight, the delight in finding a Neat Item, and so on.

Jason Compton of Planewalker Games looks to be the most pro-emotion of the group. He’s definitely aiming for a variety of interpersonal relations in his game, though not necessarily of the “angst and despair” type.

Steven seems to be closest to what we have now: the feelings we experience from the more mechanical aspects of the game. There’s nothing wrong with this. It would be strange if we didn’t feel good about putting down that “boss” or getting our hands on the “+50 Sword of Instant Death”.

But I think what Coyote was after here were the “interpersonal” emotions, the ones we might feel from interacting with the NPCs. And as we’ve discussed before (particularly in We Need People In RPGs), this is where the RPG tends to fall down.

Since most of those NPCs are one-dimensional at best, however good the story may be otherwise, we find it hard to feel much of anything about them, except maybe exasperation.

So I think I’m going to side with Jason here. Properly-developed NPCs, and the right way of interacting with them, along with a good (or at least, decent) story, would be quite capable of evoking various emotions in players.

Not all players, of course, because we bring our own viewpoints into a game. After all, I didn’t cry when Floyd bit the dust in Planetfall. Then again, that was just so obvious a manipulation, I didn’t care for it. Besides, he wasn’t human.

I think some of the designers who answered the question are, perhaps, too focused on the mechanics. Some thought to the NPCs could go a long way to livening up the games.

Emotion & RPGs on Coyote’s Blog