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Role-playing games (RPGs) are a genre of video games. The games are named for paper-and-pencil based role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons, from which they borrow many elements. For example, the vast majority of video-game RPGs assign various qualities to the characters, such as hit points (HP), magic points (MP), and levels. These games also tend to borrow the narrative structure of many paper-and-pencil RPGs; usually a group of heroes (a party) is sent on some sort of quest. Along the way, the adventurers face an endless barrage of enemies and monsters (often inspired by real-world mythology). Video-game RPGs often involve intridcate plots and character development as characters advance through a large number of statistics, items and abilities. Players must usually choose which of several possible combinations of these things to acquire for their character in order to win the game.
Role-playing video games began as an offshoot of early roguelike Unix games, themselves obviously inspired by paper-and-pencil role-playing games. Multiple-User Dungeons (MUDs) also fed many concepts and ideas into the role-playing genre. Text RPGs evolved from text adventures, the roguelikes and MUDs. Among the first was Akalabeth[?] (1978), which gave rise to the well-known Ultima series.
The early Ultima games are perhaps the largest influence on the later console RPG games that are now popular. Many innovations of Ultima III: Exodus eventually became standards of almost all RPGs in both the console market (if somewhat simplified to fit the joystick) and the PC market. The earliest console RPG was the NES title Dragon Quest (called Dragon Warrior in North America) (1986). This was followed shortly by Final Fantasy (1987) by Squaresoft. Both of these games proved popular and spawned a series of sequels. Both game series remain extremely popular today, Final Fantasy moreso in North America, and Dragon Quest in Japan.
Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy both borrowed heavily from Ulitma. For example, levelling up[?] and saving must be done by speaking to the king in Dragon Quest, and in order to rest and get healed, the characters must visit the king (Dragon Quest) or stay the night at an inn (both games). The games are played in a top-down persepective[?], much like the Ultima games, as well. The combat style in Dragon Quest was borrowed from another PC-based series, the Wizardry games.
Fairly recently, more and more multiplayer[?] RPGs have appeared. For instance, Diablo features a system by which different players can enter the same world and cooperate against the enemies, trade equipment, or, should they wish, kill one another. Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), huge open-ended worlds with hundreds of interacting characters, have also appeared, pioneered by systems like Ultima Online and EverQuest.
An interesting entry into the RPG world is Pokemon, a fairly simplistic game whose main innovation is the replacement of the party by creatures that can be captured, collected, and trained. Its success has been phenomenal, leading to a huge industry with many spin-off products, including other games, cartoons, and endless merchandise.
In 1997, a new internet fad began. Influenced by console RPGs, a large group of young programmers began creating their own independent RPG games, based mostly on the gameplay[?] and style of the older SNES and Genesis games. See: Independent RPG Video Games for more information.
See also: video game