7 Key Technologies Used in RPG Game Development
Role-playing games (RPGs) typically take place in highly creative settings, based on the fantasy or science-fiction genres. These games are immersive adventures where the players want to get caught up in exciting virtual worlds that they can truly believe in, but what technology is needed to make this come true?
By RealMoneyGames – Steve Cross
A Powerful Game Engine
A good game engine is the starting point for many new RPGs. These are powerful pieces of software that are used to put the framework in place for a game. They come with a suite of tools that allow the developers to create their graphics, sounds, animation, and all of the other elements needed in the game.
The best game engines are designed to make the process of creating new games a lot easier, while developers may also decide to save time by using elements left over from other games they’ve created in the past. Some of the big names in this industry include Unity, Godot, and CryEngine.
Many of your favorite games have been created using a game engine like the Unreal Engine from Epic Games. Initially released in 1998, it’s now on its fifth version that was brought out in 2022. Games prevalent in esports contests and often seen on video game tournament sites such as Fortnite, Gears of War, Final Fantasy VII Remake, and Valorant have all been created using this engine.
The biggest software companies either use their own, proprietary gaming engine or else have a wide-reaching licensing agreement with an independent gaming engine. However, if you plan to create your own RPG then you could pay for an individual license on any of the options that are open to the public.
Of course, it’s possible to create a game from scratch without a game engine, but this is far more time-intensive and complex. Around 60% of professional game developers use engines, with the majority choosing 3D engines.
The Right Programming Language
A painstaking approach to coding is needed for any game to look good and play in the right way. The amount of effort that goes into coding can range from about 10% of the time spent on a new game to virtually 100%.
The use of middleware helps to cut down the effort needed, as this is pre-written code that can be used right away. However, the most complex modern games are among the biggest single pieces of software to exist, with hundreds or thousands of programmers writing millions of lines of code for them.
Various languages can be used to create games, such as Java or HTML5. C++ is currently the most popular software development language, particularly for those developers who want the freedom of creating their own game engine for the RPG that they’re planning to build. Yet, it has quite a high entry barrier so isn’t particularly suitable for newcomers.
We can see an interesting approach taken by Bethesda Softworks when they wanted a new language for Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. They updated the ObScript language to create the completely new Papyrus, which has since been used to create Fallout 4 and other games.
Some game development tools allow you to make new games without any programming knowledge at all. While this is likely to lead to less complex games just now, it’s possible that programming languages become less important in game creation over time.
Graphic Design Software
The graphic design of an RPG is crucial to its success, as the players want to feel that they’ve been transported to a magical world where everything fits in and makes sense. Even just a single element that’s out of place can break the spell.
To get this right, software like Illustrator and Photoshop from Adobe are used. Everything has to be clearly visible for the player as well as easy to read or understand. A graphic designer creates the user interface, which basically includes all of the elements that the player needs to use, like their status bar or their collection of tools and other objects.
The question of which RPG has the best graphic design comes down to a question of taste, as some people prefer the minimalist approach while others prefer to see the screen filled with colorful elements. If it’s based on an existing board game then the developers will want to keep the same feel in the video game version.
The graphic designers will also create the artwork and promotional materials that are designed to get a buzz going for a new game. This is a crucial part of the marketing campaign as they want to get players excited about the way the game looks and its overall theme.
The sound in RPGs is another aspect that can make or break it in the market. It’s one of the features that can help to create a realistic world for players or else blow apart the illusion. The designers might choose rock music, rap, an orchestral soundtrack, or whatever else they feel fits the mood.
Then there’s the dialog between characters to take into account. This needs to sound just right and take into account aspects such as the time period and the location. Some software companies hire famous actors and actresses to lend their voices to certain characters, such as when Keanu Reeves played Johnny Silverhand in Cyberpunk 2077
To fit all of these different sounds together in a cohesive way, the programmers need to use specialist audio software, with the most widely-used tools including Wwise, FMOD, and Fabric. They all offer a vast array of features that can be used to tweak the sound and integrate different elements to create the perfect soundtrack and crank up the atmosphere.
Random Number Generators (RNGs)
One of the most interesting aspects of games is the way that you never know exactly what will happen next. The randomness in a great RPG means that you can keep on playing it time and time again because you know that it’s going to be different every time.
This is achieved through the use of random number generators (RNGs). These pieces of software work through a set of complex algorithms that throw up unpredictable results each time. The programmers need to choose a seed number as a starting point and this leads to random results.
The more effective the RNG, the more unpredictable the game, while any errors in the coding can lead to players being able to predict what might happen next. This includes areas such as what weapon you find, what enemies you meet, and where on the map you’re taken to.
RNGs are also a crucial part of casino games, as we need to be sure that the next card drawn or the next pocket on the roulette wheel that the ball falls into can’t be guessed. This has the double benefit of protecting the casino from players who might try to guess the outcome, and at the same time ensuring that the outcome of every game is completely fair for everyone involved.
However, there is no need for RNGs in live casino games like live baccarat, as the use of physical decks of cards introduces the necessary random element. Live baccarat uses the classic rules of this card game, with the players betting on which hand is going to get closer to a total of 9. Since a shuffled deck of playing cards has a completely unique combination every time, there is no need to add any extra randomness. And, in live casino gaming, that applies to all the types of casino card games.
In terms of RPGs, the use of an RNG could help to keep things fresh, as we can see in Baldur’s Gate 3. This game from Larian Studios has been made available on early release ahead of the full release later this year. The developers admit that they’re still working on the random elements, with some players suggesting that it’s just too random at times as spells and attacks can fail for no good reason.
In Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, the look contained in the game’s caves and dungeons is highly randomized. This means that you can never predict where or when you’ll find exactly what you need at any time. Because of this, there’s a unique feel every time you play it that adds to the appeal.
These examples help to show us that getting exactly the right level of randomness and unpredictability is crucial in this genre. Players want to feel in control of their characters and earn the right to their rewards, but the addition of random elements may keep things interesting for longer.
One of the hottest subjects in the entertainment industry right now, we can expect to see artificial intelligence (AI) have a huge effect on RPGs in the future. The truth is that AI has been used to some degree in gaming for a number of years, in areas such as the decision-making of non-playable characters (NPCs).
A great example of this came with Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs: Legion game, where the player could choose any NPC and play as them. This could become increasingly valuable in RPGs since these games tend to have a vast range of very different characters with different motivations and abilities to take into account.
With AI, the NPCs can take into account huge amounts of information before deciding what to do. So, they can provide an even greater challenge by looking at your situation in terms of health, weapons and so on, and working out how best to defeat you or slow you down. This would make each interaction unique and challenging and It would be a huge step up from the scripted characters that can only react in predetermined ways.
AI could also be used in several other ways, such as by helping game studios work out what their players like most and least about their games. By seeing what causes players to keep playing or turn the game off, they can more easily work out what to focus on in future updates.
In fact, AI could be used to give each player a tailored experience that’s based on their interests and skill level. The difficulty level could be adjusted as the game is played, while missions and enemies could vary in this way too.
AI can also be used to do things like convert the player’s voice into text, or convert on-screen text into audio. It’s also going to be interesting to see how it’s used to add to the stories told by these games, perhaps by randomly creating music, characters, or cinematic scenes that fit in perfectly with the current action.
Procedural Content Generation
While procedural content generation (PCG) uses AI, its potential importance in RPGs means that it’s worth looking at its own section. This is a process in which AI is used to create different parts of the game, such as landscapes or textures.
The phrase reached the mainstream with the release of No Man’s Sky in 2016. Developed and published by Hello Games, it amazed gamers by creating unique spaceships, monsters, and even complete planets using PCG. The idea is that an infinite number of scenarios can be created, although No Man’s Sky players noted that the planets started repeating after a certain point.
Again, this technology is particularly relevant to RPGs, as players look for vast, open worlds where they might run into any sort of creature or situation. The use of PCG means that games become a lot more replayable, as each time we play it we don’t know what to expect.
This process should make it easier for software companies to create games more quickly and easily, as there is no longer the need to create every aspect individually. However, given the desire for realistic worlds and characters in RPGs, it seems that programmers need to choose carefully what elements to create and what to leave in the hands of AI.
This look at the technology needed to create an RPG helps to show why the best games take a huge amount of time and effort to get right. A huge team filled with members who all have different skills is needed to put everything in place for the player to have a fantastic experience playing it.