The first thing you need to know for programing a CRPG is ... the elements of a typical CRPG. CRPG are diferent from Paper&Pencil RPGs, because in a computer there is less room for imagination: you are actually looking to the world you're playing. Also CRPG's has some differences with other computer games. Well, in all computer games there's a world, when you play with some avatars to accomplish certain task. But here we will make a little "introduction" about how those elements are implemented in CRPG's (and in the next chapter we'll take a more in-deep look to these characteristics).

 The Plot

Well, when you're playing a CRPG, usually there's a plot behind the game. Yes, in every game there's a plot, a "why_your_avatar_must_do_this". But CRPG's plot are usually more elaborated (like in a movie), and also you take an active part in the plot: Your actions in the present will have an echo in the future. Also in CRPG's there are a lot of side-plots. Not missions: side-plots. When you're playing you're trying to solve the principal plot, but also there're some side-plots that interacts in more or less ways with the principal plot (and hence, in the game).

This plot can be a simple one (like in "Diablo" saga, BTW it's not exactly a CRPG, it's more a hack'&'slash) or a very complicated, side-plot filled one (like in the Ultima saga).

Usually there're discussions about if the plot is an important thing in a CRPG. The answer (for me) is: Yes and No. When one role-play gamer plays the CRPG, one of the things that keep him/her playing is knowing what is going to happen next. But also a very important thing is if the game is enjoyable. For example, in all Zelda games you know that your final enemy is Ganondorf, but they still rocks.

 The World

The world, in all CRPG's, is huge. There's a lot of places to go, a lot of things to see, and lots and lots of dungeons to explore. And usually you don't have one world to explore: you have two or more.
But...worlds?. dungeons?. Let me explain:

 You usually have a world to explore. Can be a continent, a planet, or an entire galaxy. Through the game, you can go anywhere in that world.

 In this world you have dungeons. A dungeon can be a town, a cavern, a castle...

 Is in this dungeons where you interact with the people (talking to good guys and kick'in the ass of bad guys).

You must visit almost all the dungeons of the game to finish it, and in a certain order. Also there are some dungeons that are not needed for completing the game, but exist, and you can visit them if you like.

Usually there's very little interaction with the elements of the world. You can't destroy a town, or you can't change the course of a river (only if it's a part of the plot ^_^). The real interaction in CRPG's are with people.

 The People

The people in a CRPG (NPCs or Non-Player Characters) is here for two things: Obtaining information, or fighting.

Usually for advancing in a CRPG you need to talk to people. They will tell you things of the world you're playing, they will give you clues, they will try to cheat you, or they will speak nonsense things. The way people interacts with you depends of how you interact with them. Maybe with some people you need to be polite, or maybe with some people you need to be a complete bastard.

But with some people the only thing you can do is fighting them. They want to kill you, you must defend yourself. This is a part that is deeply root in every CRPG: Fighting. You can fight in real time, swinging your sword with your controls, or you can fight turn-based, giving orders to your avatar and seeing how they do the hard work.

 Your Avatars

In a CRPG you control a party (from 1 to... oh, let's forget Suikoden here ^_-) of avatars.

Your avatars are defined by some characteristics, that are expressed in numbers. And this numbers (like in a paper&pencil RPG) will determine how good (or bad) are yor avatars in the things that they can do in the game. Your party will improve these characteristics during the course of the game. Also, every member of the party, have his/her own habilities (for example magic), and you must discover and master every aspect of those habilities.

Also, your avatars will have some objects. These objects will be used like equipment for improving your characteristics, or used in the world for any purpose (a key that opens a gate). But, usually, you don't have to use your objects: your avatars know how to use them (There's a locked door?. If you have the key, you'll open it ^_-).

 Hmmm, but how about japanese CRPG's and "other CRPG's"

This is in the next chapter ^_-.
In the next chapter we will see these elements "in-deep", and we'll discover the types of CRPG's we have due to these elements are used in the game.