Breaking the FPS game stereotype

Deux Ex (2000)

Deux Ex (2000)

There is a trend from peoples who used to be fervent FPS players to simply … look for better pastures. These days first person shooters carry the following stigma:

  • They are played by younger players (regardless of age restriction but that’s a problem for another day).
  • They are games of reflexes and muscle memory with simple mechanics, leaving little room for a higher level of play.
  • They are all about shooting other peoples in the face and lack depth or maturity.

What are your ideas to get First person Shooters to “evolve” toward a more mature genre.
Of course we can’t really ignore the twitch combat origins of the genre, but is there some way to pull it out of the gutter it is currently in?

  • Maybe we need a different aproach at the play interface and resist simply sticking a gun in the middle of the screen, implying that the game is mostly about mindless carnage?
  • Many components of other game genres have been incorporated in FPS games, level systems, buy/sell systems, hell… even base management (who could forget battlezone?)

To me first person controls are all about immersion, it feels natural.

Here are a few example of games that where ground breaking for their time.


This game showed a good example of a non violent aproach to first person (shooter?) game design, a fusion where first person meets puzzle game.

Jurassic Park: Trespasser

Quite the alien in the world of FPS games, it was largely in advance for it’s time and come out riddled with bugs.
It used this rather strange “arm” based interface (you could move your hand in 3 dimentions, grab objects and manipulate them in freeform, being rocks, pushing crates, pulling doors open, or wielding a weapon), it’s the only FPS game to my knowledge to offer a sort of generic object handling that consider every object in the game world “equal” .
it’s really difficult to explain, here is a video:

Call of cthulhu: Dark corners of the earth

A first person shooter mostly about exploration and managing your character’s sanity. You where encouraged to avoid confrontations, your character being a normal (non heroic) person, most weapons you could get your hands on lacked the effectiveness required to save you. As a result, lots of sneaking, and lots of fleeing, while trying to remain mentally sound.

I would have cited “Cryostasis” because the game is all about orienting yourself in a frozen ice breaker (i haven’t seen a game displaying frozen environement better than this one) stuck in antartical and managing your body warmth, unfortunately it’s still very much a classic fps game in that it is ponctuated almost regularly by fight sequences that leave you without breath (enemies are scary, really noisy, surprising you and you usually try to club them to death with a piece of rusty pipe, not really apropriate for someone who doesn’t like high blood pressure games)

Those are a few of the envelope pushers that come to my mind, but the FPS niche is still widely dominated by counter strike and call of duty clones.

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One Response to “Breaking the FPS game stereotype”

  • Sorry, but I stumbled across your post via Google looking for this topic. Figured, what the hell.

    Here is what I want:
    #1: Offline, split screen, two player, first person shooter with a transition to OTS (over the shoulder) by tapping a button. (If it must be online, I’ll accept it – see COD Black Ops “Combat Training”)

    #2: RPG/Adventure “style” character and weapon development system. I don’t care what color boots the character is wearing, but I do want a deeper way to evolve his/her skill set and weapon. By this I mean, that his ability to aim quickly, perceive threats, move faster or more quietly, simply get accurate hits more often, be harder for the enemy to detect, etc., should be attributes that require a more leveled building up over time by earning experience fighting. The same for the weapon. Lighter weapons are faster to aim, shorter barrels are lighter but less powerful – like that. The game player would have to purchase parts and even ammunition if they wanted to use more powerful or more deadly rounds. Strength and stamina would be developed so that more weight carried less penalty. Reloading skills, stealth skills, sniper skills, etc, would be things that could developed more precisely than currently offered by games. Weapons would be fully customizable – I mean fully. Barrel lengths, barrel quality, gun color, (camo would matter in my game for each environment) and a full variety of accessories would all be available to be placed how the shooter likes them. We would go on the assumption that a skilled gun smith is available and it wouldn’t be free. I am not talking about sticking random parts from this gun onto that gun, but I want to be able to take 100 people running an AR and no two of them be alike. Map packs are great, especially for this game, but gun packs would also be a must.

    #3: Maps. This game wouldn’t really have a story/campaign mode. I mean it could, and that would be great but let me get to the point here. The core of the game would be the ability to create your own missions. There would be various mission objectives which the player would choose. He would then choose where this mission was going to take place and set up the enemy density. The enemy AI would then be randomly assigned to their post within the map and they would perform mundane activities like patrolling, smoke breaks, arguing with each other, guarding an objective or whatever it is. They would have no concept of eminent attack (unlike online multipayer gaming) so they would be vulnerable to well thought out attacks by the game player. Stealth would be awarded because enemies would be vulnerable to this tactic – this is where camo, night time ops, weapon suppression etc would come in. On the other hand, players who like a more confrontational style of attack would be free to do so. A significant number of maps, AI who don’t know that attack is eminent, and random AI placement are the 3 elements that would keep this game fresher longer. These features combined with the ability to change the mission objectives for every map, I don’t think a game like this would ever get boring.

    #4: AI is going to be a focus. The AI enemy cannot have the ability to see you coming through hills, or the back of their own skull, or in the dark, or fog, or any kind of really cool environmental effects that would take a game like this to the next level. Light meters and sound meters and variations of stealth have already been done. The ability to accomplish this exists – someone just needs to do it. AI would also be affected by suppressive fire, use cover, use some tactics, and react to situations as realistically as can be accomplished.

    #5: Get rid of the stupid shit. There would be no radar, or heart beat sensors indicating where the enemy is on the map. There would be no air support – or it would be limited to more realistic support. There would be no nuke, no bombs dropping, no “heavy armor” that can take a .50BMG, no vehicles to drive around in, pumping a shotgun would not require pointing it at the sky and using hernia inducing effort to run the action, none of this garbage. The list is long. The bottom line is, it would be you and your partner on the ground, fighting with what you brought. Consider it hard core mode. You wouldn’t be able to take many rounds. There would be no need for difficulty settings because there would only be one. All of the handicaps given by most modern games would be gone and the enemy would be basically playing with the same limitations. If you want it to be harder, you place more enemies on the map.

    #6: Currency and experience: Both are earned by completing missions. Currency is used to purchase guns, upgrades, kit for carrying stuff, grenades, tools, uniforms, sights, lights, everything would have to be purchased. How many of you are rich bastards in any given game you own? I know I am. I just want to stretch it out and make it useful. Experience is used to enhance your character’s fighting skill set.

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I started SecondLife in 2004 and created my own bdsm fetish virtual products under the name KDC. I'm also a php/mysql programmer, 3D artist and game designer.

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