Endgame is the bane of LitRPG

#1
This is an essay / rant post.

In too many LitRPG works, the game-like mechanics are butchered and forgotten as the story progresses, until you no longer have a LitRPG work, just some fantasy novel with few game-like elements.

The story begins with lots of message boxes, and status, and skills learned and character sheet updates. As it goes on and the complexity increases, or the mechanics start to get in the way, or even the character growth gets out of hand, the author begins to neglect this aspect of the work and near the end it is completely ignored by many.

This is a flaw on the design of the game-like system used in the literary work and an oversight by the authors. As the character grows in power, the management of all the status and skills become a big bother (disclosure: I have published one such novel online – not linking it – and felt this nightmare in the flesh), the sense of danger and challenge is removed (e.g. heck, the MC has 30,000 HP and we know a good sword blow deals only 200 damage, no way the villain will threaten him in one blow) and it is this problem that makes authors give up on their game-like systems and just ignore the stats.

There are some examples I can point at of published works that do exactly that, I can post if it is not against the rules.


Re: Endgame is the bane of LitRPG

#2
I feel like, just like developers do, the author of such stories needs to seriously consider their systems for the end game of the story. I have, for example, played a lot of games where one of the special effects of a weapon is "Ignore defense stat." Imagine how devastating you could break that out in the end game of a story. "I have this legendary spell." "Oh, big deal, I have a million resistance." "It ignores your magical resistance stat and deals flat scaling damage with my intellect." "Oh ... oh damn." So it's less of a flaw with litRPGs themselves and more with the fact you have to write them from a game developer's point of view in mind. Of which many writers are not ALSO game developers. We experience the player side of things and if you ever encounter such a concept in a game there's always a way around it, you may even metagame and look up a guide on how to deal with such a weapon/spell, which leaves a different first impression of it than if you were in VR or if you lived in a world where stats were actually a tangible object and you encounter it for the first time.

There's also always looking at the skill tree as something to consider. Rather than making an OP MC that has all of the skills in the game, make it so there's a cap on how many you can have and then encounter someone that took the other tree. The MC has 30,000 hp? Well, this guy took all of the weapon damage bonuses, so now his weapon deals multiple times the damage than anyone else's does. maybe he's a glass cannon with less HP and significantly higher DPS. It's all about balance, which again goes back to "writers aren't thinking like game developers, so of course their MC seems out of whack by the end of the game." Heck, it might even be funny if the MC reaches the end game and, in a situation where it's an actual video game, patch 1.1 comes out and WHOOPS! Your skills got big nerfs, now you have to figure out how to run your build, again, just like everyone in WoW did after every major update. So it's more a flaw with people who write them.

Re: Endgame is the bane of LitRPG

#3
I think endgame can work in LitRPGs without being planned out. The problem comes when the LitRPG has a focus as a power fantasy with an OP MC able to overcome all the odds and be 10 times better than people who should be at the same level. Authors are all too easily convinced to go down the route of creating a dark brooding MC who "isn't like the rest" and thats the edge they have on them because they don't do stuff "normally". If there was more variety in the stories LitRPG tells and the themes within them, writers would run into this issue less. I get that a lot of the LitRPG community are gamers and I know that we want to win and beat the boss at the end of each level but to make them do it alone isn't the only form of games e.g. raids.

I'm writing this coming off of 4 days straight working on finals with only 6 hours sleep so I hope its legible and I added something to this discussion.

TLDR; The problem isn't LitRPG's but the subgenre of OP MC's within them.