Felipe Pepe loves Computer Role-Playing Games. Growing up in Brazil, he would often use CRPGs to escape to fantastical worlds and meet exotic characters; his affection for the genre ultimately led to him creating The CRPG Book Project in 2014. Originally begun as a collaborative, non-profit resource devoted to celebrating the history and impact of these amazing games, it is being taken to the next level via a collaboration between Pepe and Bitmap Books.
Keen to learn a bit more, we sat down with Felipe to discuss the origins of the project, his love of CRPGs and how the physical print copy is shaping up.
Could you give us a little background into how you got into gaming, and how you became acquainted with computer-based RPGs?
I'm Brazilian, and when I was a child we were forbidden by the military dictatorship to import computers or games. We were supposed to use only Brazilian hardware and software. However, my father was an engineer and smuggled in an Amiga 500 from the US, along with some games like Chessmaster 2000 and Lemmings. In 1992, we were finally allowed to import computers, but the country was in a massive crisis – we had an impeachment and 1,119.1 percent of inflation that year – so few could actually afford them. Eventually, things got better and my father got a Windows 95 PC, with games like The Secret of Monkey Island and Betrayal at Krondor. I loved playing them, but the language barrier still prevented me from making any real progress.
It was only around 1998 that everything clicked into place; we had a computer, I knew English enough to play games, and I found a copy of the original Fallout. That game changed everything. To this day I think it's one of the best RPGs ever made, and it made me an RPG fan for life.
When did you decide to turn your love of the genre into a book? What was the motivation behind the project?
It began in 2014, when I organized a poll at the RPG Codex to find out the 50 best RPGs of all time. After the voting was done, we asked people to write short reviews about each game, explaining why the game was so good. This became a very popular list, so I decided to expand it, adding more games, more screenshots and turning it into a well-presented ebook. The original idea was to expand it to 100 RPGs, but over the years it kept growing in scope, until it reached the current count of over 400 CRPGs.
The motivation has always been to compile the information that's spread across countless websites, forums, magazines and interviews and present it in a more accessible form. The CRPG genre is more than 40 years old now, so a newcomer trying to understand its history would have a very hard time without a proper guide. That's why the book is written by over a hundred contributors, each one talking about games they know a lot about, explaining the gameplay, story, historical context and influence of each one. It's the book I wish I had when I began playing CRPGs.
What is it about the CRPG genre that you find so appealing?
I think it's the genre that comes closest to simulating life and human interaction. They are games about choices, be it dialogue choices, morality, equipment, party composition, exploration methodology or resource management. In a good RPG, those choices will have consequences that will affect you and the world around you, and will even reveal more about yourself in the process.
I always remember playing Fallout 2 with my brother back in 1999 and being shocked at how different our playstyles were, and how the game adapted and changed to that. Now, 20 years later, we live very different lives on opposite sides of the planet. People have different goals, personalities and approaches, and I love the concept of games adapting to that; I think it's the medium's real strength. I can have an adventure in several types of games, but only CRPGs make it feel like it's my adventure.
It's hard to choose, but if pushed, what would you say are your top 5 all-time favourite CRPGs?
Baldur's Gate II
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
Tales of Maj'Eyal
Why did you choose to collaborate with Bitmap Books on this new edition, and what has Bitmap brought to the table?
I'm not a professional editor, designer or even a native English speaker; I needed someone with experience to help properly finish the book, proofread everything, prepare it for printing and distribute it globally. And after working so many years on this project, I really wanted a nice hardcover version of the book – not only for the readers, but for myself as well. I own the gorgeous Commodore Amiga: a visual Commpendium by Bitmap Books, so it was a no-brainer to contact them.
What aspect of the book are you most pleased with?
It is something relatively simple, but I love the developer quotes. I read hundreds of interviews and tried to select the quote that best represents the game, shows its relevance or helps complement the article. They really highlight the core belief that drove the developers, and it's interesting to see how they interact with each other, as if they were debating among themselves if combat should be turn-based or real-time.
Do you have any other projects on the horizon?
There are still CRPGs being released, so I guess sometime in the future I will need to make a new version of the CRPG book!
The CRPG Book: A Guide to Computer Role-Playing Games is currently available for pre-order. Stock is limited and selling fast so we advise placing a pre-order before they all sell out.