Dude! Who Killed My First-person Shooter?
Disclaimer: Bear with me, because this post is intentionally aimed at being both whimsical and controversial at the same time. Plus, it points out some huge biases I have when it comes to gaming. Some might even think I’m a purist or ... worse … a snob! Phooey.
About 12 years ago, when some of today’s gamers were still in diapers, I was struggling with a game addiction. Perhaps I still do, but I’m a fan of eating my own dog food. At any rate, the game in question happened to be Quake II, developed by id Software and distributed by Activision.
I loved this game! It was super-fast, and it had awesome weapons (which were arguably unbalanced in some cases). Best of all, it had a robust modding and level-design community. One could download all sorts of skins, levels, etc., that added more dimensions and flavors to the game.
This leads to my next key point. When I say this game was fast, I mean it was fast! As fast as one could react to the game. To make it even faster, I found myself over-clocking, scrambling for more cooling, running a couple of 3dfx Voodoo2 cards in SLI mode, cranking everything I possibly could up. If I remember correctly, I was able to get my frames per second (fps) up to about 70-80 fps on my 21-inch CRT monitor. With that configuration, the game was butter-smooth. It enabled me to be more competitive, and I was soon mastering things like the grappling hook and rocket-jumping.
So, what happened? What is the state of my beloved first-person shooter game today? I’ve played Crysis and Quake 4, and even tried some of these games on an Xbox 360, including Halo 1-3 and Gears of War. However, they still just don’t hold that magic for me like they used to.
Then it dawned on me. Most of these first-person shooter games, even though they can achieve much higher frame rates, have sort of blown it (in my honest opinion) on two major fronts. First, this genre suffers from being slowed way down to accommodate the console and gamepad paradigms. That might be OK for some game design -- but not all. When I play this genre now on a console or PC, I feel like I’m in a bad dream, wading through a sea of molasses. That’s just plain lame.
Secondly, there’s the issue of game balance. It’s OK to have a few weapons and tweaks in the game that are a bit imbalanced. This is what getting your hands on the BFG was about! The only other weapon I’ve seen to date that surpasses the BFG was to be found in the game Shogo: Mobile Armor Division from Monolith. It was the mini-nuke! Now that was what I call imbalanced! But it was so fun to use.
So how do we fix this predicament? Well, game consumers, we have to ask for it. Start by contacting the game publishers, then the developers, and let them know what we want. GDC 2011 is right around the corner, and we can start there. Let’s restore this genre to its rightful place!
Matt Ployhar focuses on graphics, multimedia and gaming in Intel’s visual computing software division. Prior to that, he worked at Microsoft for more than 12 years. His passions are graphics and gaming. And when he can get away from his computer, he also enjoys the great outdoors and reading.