Something you may want to know about FPS IV - FPS Mechanics

The actions player can take and UI information they can see depend on how developers want them to interact with the game , which effected greately by the sub genre and theme of a FPS.There’re also standards set by early games , which are adopted and impr

The actions players can take and UI information they can see depend on how developers want them to interact with the game  , which effected greatly by the sub genre and theme of a FPS. There’re also standards set by early games , which are adopted and improved by later games ,  then to what they look like nowadays 



1.Player Action


In the beginning, the only thing players can do in a FPS game is the loop of Move and Shoot , as technic evolves and more sub genre involved, players are allowed to take more actions even running on a wall surface that we can expect from a swordsman novel  



Wall-Run in Titanfall 


  • Basic action:Move,Sprint,Jump,Close Range Attack are common actions,Close Range Attack is implemented by two methods , one is using the button configured by default , another needs the player to switch to a melee weapon then hit with the shooting button , they can also Throw something to attack enemy or to some other use.It's always impossible for developers to support every single action players can take , so Interact helps in this scenery , it's all-purpose , in this abstract way players can Jump over a cover , operate on a computer terminal , jump into a vehicle , use a machine gun etc. Because accuracy matters a lot in FPS , some games offer Stand,Crouch even Prostrate for players to help to improve their shooting condition


  • Gun action:Aim,Shoot,Reload are basic ones , Switch allows players to switch between primary and secondary weapon , they can also Change shooting mode of a selective-fire weapon in games like COD 1 and battlefield 4 , Hold breath is introduced when use a sniper rifle to achieve more steady aiming 


  • Other action:there are more actions in FPS games that aim for specific playing style,influenced by Third Perspective Shooting games,cover related actions  are added to enhance the importance of cover based playing style, like Lean left/right in Call of duty 1 and System Shock 2 , but this doesn't work well for its requirement of  two extra buttons , so gradually replaced by the Aim from Cover action like in Deus EX:Human Revolution, Slide is introduce by Call of duty:Ghost to provide a faster approach to take cover. Don't forget the Tomb-raider style Wall-Run in Titanfall we mentioned at first, players can even Wall hung to stick to the wall and shoot enemy from unexpected angle



Stealth is encouraged in Deus Ex:Human Revolution, which adopted cover related actions of regular TPS games



In Titanfall the attacker is hard to be spotted when hang on a wall  


         In Role Playing FPS , character can obtain action skills from a skill tree , it can be the enhanced version of basic action , like Double Jump in Destiny , Ari Storm in Borderlands Pre-sequel , and many other skills commonly seen in ARPG games , such as Cloak and Armor in Crysis 3 , Electro Bolt in Bioshock and Summon Turret in Borderlands 2




Crysis 3 —Cloak is very powerful skill allowing player to sneak 





Information players access frequently and those not are often organized into different gameplay mode  , they can be quite different among different games , but there are also elements like Map,Ammo and Character status that almost every FPS game has 



2.1 Target Indicator


In early days ,  exploring the game world is also part of fun of one game , to encourage players to solve tasks by themselves , it barely has target or direction indicator to tell people what to do next , as game pace gets faster and faster universally , players are not as patient as before , that's the time when task tracing system is introduced , generally it has two modes - Ray method and Navigation method


  • Ray Method:
    • Arrow Style:(Implementation Difficulty     Confusion  ★★★)  the easiest way to implement , also easy to get lost when deal with complicate building structure


Target indicator in COD:MW


Bioshock 1's direction indicator 



  • Augmented Reality Style:(Implementation Difficulty   Confusion ★★) , a mainstream method in recent FPS games  , players need not to observe extra map information , destination point is always visible telling players how far they still need to travel 


Multiple targets and their directions can be clearly seen in Battlefield 4


  • Radar Style:(Implementation Difficulty ★★   Confusion ★★) Target place will be marked in a radar or mini-map according to current task a player is tracing , by which the can know how to be in the right place 

Radar Indicator in Cod 1 has plenty information especially in Z axis when target is not at the same horizontal level 



Mini map in Borderlands 2, players can link themselves to the target  from two dimension perspective, but the target is usually set on a high place


  • Navigation method:(Implementation Difficulty ★★★   Confusion ★)  this approach can tell players what direction they should go in any moment they want, it works best for a direction guide purpose



Bioshock infinite's direction arrow is very straightforward



2.2 Health


FPS game presents challenge to players based on limited Life/Energy value , encourage them to take strategy move and react fast, this system has been changing since early FPS 

  • Fixed health:it's basic and commonly used by all types of video games,players loss health or armor points when take damage,a game over is expected if HP reaches 0 , it can only be recovered by picking up med kits


In Doom, it tells how seriously a player is injured by showing the avatar face which is interesting 


  • Regenerating Health:Among famous FPS series , COD 2 is the first game using this mechanic , in which the life meter is removed , player will die if take certain amount of damage during a period of time ,  until that if they manage to keep themselves away from being damaged for awhile , character's health will regenerate to maximum value.The Invention of this mechanic improved the game pace , making it more smooth by getting rid of med kits, so it was adopted by other games and widely used from then on,  though some people don't like it , thinking it ruins their impression about what a FPS game should have been 



splashed blood on the camera hints player has been injured ,the stronger this effect is the more serious the injury is, the sound of heart beat and breath can be heard if character is dying 


  • Shield: This mechanic combines the other two we just mentioned above , player has fixed health meter and regenerated shield meter , shield will be consumed first if take damage , then the player's health, which only gets recovered by med kits ,  this mechanic is widely used in Sci-Fi FPS games , it has the right balance comparing to other two mechanics 

Borderlands 2 - Shield system,Recharge Latency and Charge Speed are the most important attributes to measure if a shield is good or not  


  • Minimum health protection:it also combines fixed health and regenerating health mechanics , part of player's health can only get recovered by med kits while certain percentage, like 25% will get regenerated as soon as it goes below that bottom line , the mechanic is commonly seen in non Sci-Fi FPS games , intending to make the game more real 


In Far cry 3 Jason's health get recovered if it's less than the protecting value


Latest Jobs

Manticore Games

San Mateo, California
Senior Software Engineer - Mobile

Sony PlayStation

San Diego, California
Sr. Online Programmer

The Walt Disney Company

Glendale, California
Associate Marketing Manager - Walt Disney Games

Insomniac Games

Burbank, California
Accessibility Design Researcher
More Jobs   


Explore the
Subscribe to
Follow us

Game Developer Job Board

Game Developer Newsletter


Explore the

Game Developer Job Board

Browse open positions across the game industry or recruit new talent for your studio

Subscribe to

Game Developer Newsletter

Get daily Game Developer top stories every morning straight into your inbox

Follow us


Follow us @gamedevdotcom to stay up-to-date with the latest news & insider information about events & more