I remember when I was young, the game genres where very well defined: there were action games, adventure games, role playing games and so on.
As the game industry grew up, some interesting genre-mix started to pop up. For example now we all refer to Diablo as a RPG, but would be more accurate to call it Action-RPG. Actually, right now, we can find many “RPG elements” in lots of games. Very few “pure action” games remains.
One of my upcoming games, Planet Stronghold, is a “light-RPG” game. I consider it a visual novel with RPG elements, but stronger than those you can usually find in dating sims. What I exactly mean? I’m talking about quests, relationships, interactiveness? No, because many of those features were already present in my other “normal VNs”. In Heileen 1-2 there are quests, in Bionic Heart relationship and some interactive scenes, in Summer Session there are the stats/skills to improve and so on.
So to call the game “light-RPG” I knew I had to go forward and push renpy to its limits (well no, not really, is quite easy to achieve good results with it!). Indeed in Planet Stronghold there will be combat, an inventory, quests, character relationships and so on. There will be several kind of weapons based on the damage type: energy, piercing, explosive, etc. There will be 4 classes: psionic, soldier, guardian and scout, each one with special advantages.
BUT, the game won’t be FILLED by stats. You’ll clearly know from beginning what kind of gameplay you can expect from a certain class. Scouts will need lot of time to recharge but will be able to kill opponents with a single shot, especially human ones. Guardians will be tough and have lots of hitpoints, psionics duty instead will be to heal / protect others. That’s why I use the word “light”, because while is clearly a RPG game, it’s not hard to understand.
Clearly is not easy to create a game like that. Is actually harder than creating an uber-complex game like some I did in the past (Magic Stones or Supernova 2 for example). Because with this game, even a casual player should be able to pick up the game and after learning a few basics, being able to enjoy the game without getting lost not knowing what to do.