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What Happened To FPS Games?
First person shooters have been around for a long time. They have endured radical transformations through decades. In this article I would like to describe how much I like these games, but also my annoyance about what happened to them.
February 5, 2014
8 Min Read
First person shooters have been around for a long time. They have endured radical transformations through decades. In this article I would like to describe how much I like these games, but also my annoyance about what happened to them. I have played a lot of FPS games. I even dedicated five years of my life playing one intesively online, professionally. I may sound like an old hag complaining about 'change', but I think these changes did some damage to the core concept of FPS experiences.
The Simple Past
For me it all started with "Wolfenstein 3D", quickly followed by Doom ofcourse. There is some unwritten rule that says these games are all aimed at boys. I have to say I have not met many woman telling me they have been playing Wolfenstein or Doom in their younger years. So what did I like about these games? I think it's the satisfaction of the conflict occuring, and solving that with a lot of gore as a result. This sounds pretty twisted and that's what it is. However, in the early days because these effects were so extreme, it had a "humoristic" vibe to it. Impact mixed with visuals and soundfx had a fun and overdone feel to it. These shooters were really simple. "Make way by killing everything to progress". Because I was a young lad (age 8 or 9) this was very interesting. Young dudes like me still had a simple mind therefore simple games were easy and fun. Games exploiting this genre followed like Quake, QuakeII and Team Fortress.
The Counterstrike Charm
Nearly a decade later, mods like Counterstrike came around the corner. Because Counterstrike set a standard and you could notice more developers took this as a design 'law' for their own projects. Soldier of Fortune is a great example of a game using this game design. Because I had a fondness for gory FPS games I was heavily attracted to Soldier of Fortune. Especially the second installment SOF2. Games like CS and SOF were not that different in comparison to their predecessors. They made use of new technologies and exploited the focus on "online gaming". FPS games changed from having an offline FPS experience to an online community. Unofficial and official online tournaments arised and games like Counterstrike and Soldier of Fortune achieved a new meaning and this was invented by the players itself. Players grouped up in "clans" and started to make competition rules based on gameplay.
The Call for Duty Fever
A new age of FPS games was on the verge of beginning. Call of Duty entered the battlefield and introduced more realism. In my opinion this moment symbolizes the start of a FPS disaster. Don't get me wrong CoD was 'ok' but I think it ruined the feel of FPS games for me. For example, in games like Soldier of Fortune you fired your gun from the 'hip'. In CoD You could do this as well but wasn't as accurate as your second firing option 'over the barrel view shot'. When you fired your gun over the barrel, your movement automaticly changed to a 'walking speed'. To me this radical and realistic change ruined my feel of 'flow'. It felt like I was riding a bike that didn't drove so well on two wheels, but introducing a third wheel would slow my speed but would make it more stable to drive. I hated this, and I quickly ran back to Soldier of Fortune. Newer Call of Duties released and they introduced more and more tools, gadgets, and systems to artificially keep 'player engangement'. Wow, what was wrong with engaging yourself, leaving things to player imagination? No, playing games shouldn't be a waste of time, therefore we introduce a large list of 'shit' to achieve, because otherwise these spoiled kids don't know what to do anymore. Excuse me? They were teaching their players to get accustomed to achieving 'shit' and introducing 'more shit', so they won't get bored. Ofcourse I am exaggerating a bit, but what happend to the self created tournaments? the clans? the mixed up wars? the fun? They were still there but something interesting happend at the official tournaments and wars for ranking websites such as clanbase.com. Hard sets of rules were set-up "what not" to use in official wars. Nearly everything about CoD was stripped down to a clean and fair set of mechanics and tools. All the shit that was introduced was ripped out in official tournaments. In my opinion communities in CoD were adjusting the balance to a fair and playable game. Because Counterstrike and Soldier of Fortune had equal and balanced gameplay from the start, fit for clean, basic and fair battle, a lot less changes were made in these rulesets. It all came down on the actual 'skill' of the player.
Great spoof on call of duty called "Duty Calls"
Money Design vs Game Design
Call of Duty became a money generating machine. I think the focus changed from "passionate game design" to "how are we going to make more money with less work". What do we need to change that it will look like a new game but actually isn't. There is a reason Counterstrike is still being played and been played for so long. Players engage in gameplay generating crazy flow streaks. Call Of Duty needs to release a new version each year to provide their educated artificial engaged players. Now, indie-games are rising, I think one of them will invent a new FPS game that's focussing completely on gameplay, fun and natural player engagement. Hell, if nobody does, I will. A small example that made me laugh my ass off was when Call of Duty introduced their 3498193 sequel and what made this one so special? Well, now you will have a freaking 'wardog' beside you. The complete trailer was focussed on this new 'doggy-gadget'. In my opinion a disgrace to their own Call of Duty franchise.
Many Call of Duties may come and will build upon their money generating structure. They will have to provide and serve their large audience, a large audience greatly fooled by their magic. Pretty impressive you have to give them that. I have to say I am guilty as charged, I tried playing one of the Call of Duties with my old 'Soldier of Fortune' clan. It never met my standards but we had some fun, but what actually feels as my real 'duty' is to create an FPS that will help current FPS players heal from the disasterous path of destruction layed down for money.
What do you think about current or past FPS games?
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