What's next for RPGs? Obsidian's Feargus Urquhart and BioWare founder Ray Muzyka say it's asynchronous multiplayer

Mass Effect 3 co-op

During last week's D.I.C.E. (Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain) conference in Las Vegas, Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhart and ex-BioWare boss Ray Muzyka spoke about the possible next steps for the RPG genre. They suggested the biggest gain would arise from stronger social features and asynchronous multiplayer, which Urquhart compared to "putting the water cooler into the game."

"You could imagine online gameplay modes in the future that could work with a single-player game, like ghosting or seeing other players' characters, being able to play with other players' characters in an asynchronous multiplayer mode, or seeing achievements," Muzyka offered.

One of Obsidian's biggest challenges, Urquhart stated, is "how do we put a lot of asynchronous multiplayer into our bigger role-playing games."

Urquhart suggested a possible solution would involve gameplay comparisons between a player and his or her friends. "If there's different ways to play the game, good and evil, why can't you look at how your friend is doing the quests?" he asked. "Or how the world is doing the quest—how are people doing in America or Europe, and what's the ebb and flow of that?

"We always thought it would be really interesting if instead of having to go to a website or having to go somewhere else, it's actually in the game," he continued. "I can go into the game and look at my friend's characters and then see the trinkets, see the weapons, and get information about where they got that."

Though widening RPG adventures to include our buddies could be an interesting evolution, lots of us flock to the genre for the isolationism and stories typically revolving around the actions of a single hero. Besides the immersion-breaking risk of a system that notifies you whenever you've killed more chickens than your friends, multiplayer in RPGs should feel natural and will always risk polarizing a community a la Mass Effect 3.

Do you see a future for RPGs where multiplayer and social tools live alongside traditional single-player experiences?

Omri Petitte

Omri Petitte is a former PC Gamer associate editor and long-time freelance writer covering news and reviews. If you spot his name, it probably means you're reading about some kind of first-person shooter. Why yes, he would like to talk to you about Battlefield. Do you have a few days?