The ‘micro-RPGs’ offering new perspectives on the genre’s overstuffed epics

In what crumbling, dragon-leather tome was it written that role-playing games have to be so incredibly long? It’s certainly not a convention that rings true for Sraëka Lillian, whose RPG Maker-based ‘OI’ games clock in at a few hours apiece. Each is a focused exploration of one of “a thousand little questions” an RPG developer must answer—Atom OI, for example, is an interrogation of the nuances of status effects. “My points of obsession are these fundamentals of RPG design, right?” Sraëka explains. “And I don’t need to make a big game to explore those.” 

Once you’re done with the OI games you could move onto jetstorm4’s Fallen Star, or John Thyer’s Facets—two wordier yet equally brisk productions that are pitched as the climax of longer, untold fantasy stories. “Like, you get that there’s a 20 hour version of this,” says Thyer, “but we’re cutting straight to the part you care the most about.” Or if you want something a touch more esoteric—Hylics, Mason Lindroth’s visually overpowering but concise claymation escapade. Or for a splash of romance, Get In The Car, Loser, the hectic lesbian roadtrip RPG from Ladykiller In A Bind developer Christine Love, which tells much of its story in the backseat of a speeding pink convertible. Or for something at once comedic and darker, Slimes from scitydreamer, in which you play an asshole adventurer eradicating a single dungeon’s worth of Dragon Quest’s least-threatening critters. 

(Image credit: Komodo)

That’s just a small sample of the genre—’micro’ or ‘capsule’ RPGs, ranging from surgical poetic experiments crafted with free tools such as RPG Maker or Game Maker, to slightly bulkier commercial indies that sometimes play like ruthlessly efficient fan edits of blockbuster RPGs. Micro-RPGs are music to the ears of genre fans who no longer have time for the kinds of games they binge-played as kids, but even if you’re a diehard Dragon Age player with weeks to spare, these games are worthwhile for how they concentrate and reveal things about the behemoths they riff on. 

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