Speaking with Wired.com, Bioware co-founder Ray Muzyka mentioed that he thinks that genre lines are "a vestige of the past," explaining that "a lot of the best shooters are RPGs as well, because they allow you to have progression, exploration, combat or conflict, and a story."
BioWare is well-known for its RPGs; however, Muzyka's sentiments echo Epic Games' Cliffy B, who recently told Develop that "the future of shooters is RPGs."
On the one hand, games like Mass Effect and Fallout 3 are RPGs with a touch of shooting. On the other, System Shock and BioShock are very clearly shooters first, with a few tacked on RPG elements. And Gearbox' Borderlands may be the most seamless fusion of first-person shooting and RPG we've seen yet. It seems that Muzyka might be on to something.
However, Muzyka admits that his definition of RPG is "broad," and I have to wonder if it isn't too broad. Words like progression and exploration are pretty vague, and it seems to me like games have been sampling from RPG mechanics for a long time. Is it an RPG trope when Kratos gathers enough orbs to unlock a new ability, or when Wander and Argo have an entire, open-world to traverse? I'm not sure, but the fact that I have to ask myself those types of questions lend credence to Muzyka's belief that genre lines are continuing to blur.
I can't say for sure how blurry I want those lines to be -- I certainly don't want all my games to play the same way -- but Muzyka acknowledges that there will always be gamers "that say 'Oh, I want to buy a great RPG, because there’s a sort of feel that you get when you buy an RPG, or a shooter, or a (real-time strategy) game.'”
Or maybe we should just make an entirely new genre: we could call it RPG-lite.