First-person shooters put under the microscope

QuakeCon 2011: Julien Roby, Mackey McCandlish, Drew Murray, and Tim Willits talk about the past, present, and future of the first-person shooter genre.

Who was there: In attendance for this QuakeCon 2011 panel on the state of the first-person genre were Julien Roby from Arkane Studios, Mackey McCandlish from Respawn Entertainment, Drew Murray from Insomniac Games, and Tim Willits from id Software. Daniel Kayser from GameTrailers moderated the discussion.

See? Not all of id's games have players lost in corridors.

What they talked about: Kayser opened the discussion by asking the panelists how they determined if they had achieved their creative goals for a game. Roby attributed success with recognition. When people see an image from Dishonored, they should be able to instantly recognize what game it is because it's so unique, he said.

Willits admitted that "it's very hard to nail down what the id feel is." He elaborated by saying that, with Rage, an interesting challenge has been overcoming certain expectations--such as Rage needing to be a corridor shoot with lots of brown and no lights--and really analyzing what makes a game uniquely id at its core.

Murray discussed how with Resistance 3, the team at Insomniac tried to create a more personal story compared to its previous games. A lot of the team had kids during the development of this game, he said, and the studio was all reading The Road as well, so they drew inspiration from those experiences.

McCandlish had to be careful with his responses throughout the panel since his game hasn't been officially announced yet. However, he did mention that at the start of development, he and the team got together in a big circle and talked about their favorite games and biggest gaming disappointments.

The next talking point was about casual consumers and finding a balance between supporting gaming newcomers and veterans. "I think some people believe that accessibility comes at the cost of depth, but you can have both," Roby said. "It's all about making sure your game is presented in a sensible way so that it builds up your player gradually."

Murray echoed this sentiment about having good pacing with an anecdote from the development of Resistance. Having a primary and secondary fire on all the weapons really confused a lot of people, he said, and whether or not people liked the game depended heavily on whether they understood the weapons. The lesson learned was that developers can have complex systems in their game so long as they assist players in understanding them.

Kayser asked about the importance of multiplayer next and how, predominately, the success of a game is based on the multiplayer experience. Willits was quick to admit that not having a classic deathmatch mode in Rage freaked a lot of people out. "In every game I've worked on, people have told us we're crazy about halfway," he added. All kidding aside, he went on to say that games need single-player components and that these components are what draw new players in.

"In this console generation, it's become a winner-take-all situation," McCandlish said. He then elaborated by saying a lot of people flock to "that game" since they know that's what their friends will be playing.

The panelists were then asked what was going to evolve the first-person shooter genre. Without missing a beat, Murray brought up cooperative play. "I don't always want the stress of having to compete with people when playing in multiplayer," he said, before praising Gears of War 2's Horde mode and the asymmetrical co-op missions in Modern Warfare 2. Willits took this a step further by imagining a game that doesn't have a defined ending when it is released. Instead, the conclusion would be compiled from thousands of individual player choices all feeding into one shared experience.

Before opening the floor up for Q&A, the topic of motion gaming was brought up and what its future in the genre might be. "It would be silly of us not to let people play the way they want to play," Murray said. "I like the controller, but there are a lot of fans out there who really like playing with alternative methods."

McCandlish added that it's important to note that for a lot of kids today, touch technology, such as on a smartphone or tablet, is their first exposure to games. The idea of using a controller could be foreign to them, which may lead to a shift in expectations for the first-person genre.

One of the early questions from the audience was about developing a sense of the body in a first-person game and how developers can improve the feeling of being in control of a person rather than a camera. "There are always some new guys who say we need feet in our games," Willits said, adding that in the end, it never works out. He went on to explain that your field of view in an FPS is much more limited than in real life. To help simulate this, sometimes members of the design team will cut a small square out of a box and wear it over their head.

When asked whether 3D technology will be the future of the first-person genre, Willits polled the audience to see who actually preferred playing a first-person shooter in 3D. Only one person raised his hand, and the topic was closed.

Quote: "Resistance actually started out as a time-traveling, high-science fiction game."--Drew Murray, on the development of the Resistance series.

"If I made a game where, when you beat the game, you get a hot girlfriend, I'd be rich."--Tim Willits, on finding new ways to reward the player.

Takeaway: Despite the success of certain casual games and multiplayer-focused shooters, all four developers are still committed to making the types of games that appeal to them. And while they were quick to dismiss the potential of 3D technology, it remains to be seen how this and other new technologies will impact the first-person shooter genre.

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Discussion

76 comments
4blizzard
4blizzard

I honestly think the problem is money. To many developers are scared to try something new, because they are afraid it won't make "enough" money. To me it seems that many Game Developers are to obsessed with making the next cash cow, but not the next classic. How many times can a M4 or a M249 be "created with more detail" than the other FPS that features that game? How many times, must we point and shoot without a second thought? The routine point and shoot is starting to wear thin. So developers add some more "side items" or eye candy to sell the game. Mass Effect 3 and Duex EX are two FPS that make you think before/while/during you pulling the trigger. If you kill this person, then this will happen. IF you don't kill this person than this won't happen? you're forced to make decisions on the spot. Instead of just walking through each stage and killing anything that moves.

revanknight
revanknight

Half-Life, Deus Ex, System Shock, Thief, Metro. I'd like to see more FPS's like these and less restricted, mindless shooters. (Call of Duty, Halo, Gears) Battlefield is taking the next, best step for tactical shooters and will definitely change the industry if it beats the sales of MW3. "the lesson learned was that developers can have complex systems in their game so long as they assist players in understanding them." Completely agree.

VarietyMage
VarietyMage

You want an FPS? Okay, here's one. Take Warhammer 40K. Make each client program an FPS HUD. Network all the players into one of two sides, Space Marine or Orky. Have a massive army vs. army FPS-RTS. New game mode: Capture the Planet. There's your brand-new, epic-scale, co-op FPS. Oh, and make the damn thing free-to-play. That can be your testbed for new engine technologies, so players have no right to complain when a bug crashes the game - they didn't pay for it. Quit complaining about lack of ideas, people. You have a ton of them sitting in front of you. Push the envelope, and it will open and have a lot of cash inside.

MEDzZ3RO
MEDzZ3RO

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

WolfGrey
WolfGrey

@MEDzZ3RO I was specific.The word Killzone was even before the parenthesis.Perhaps i should of rearranged and reworded what i said. Resistance is improving and changing much like Killzone did(Killzone 2 lacked secondary fire oddly enough) and will do well.

scatterbrain007
scatterbrain007

Co-op was in every single FPS back when the genre first got popular. They never should have stopped making that option available. It should be standard like it was in the past, there is no excuse not to have it there. 99% of the time when I play a video game it's to BLOW CRAP UP. That's it, I wanna unwind and blow up stuff, and shoot people, hack, slash or what have you. I could give 2 sh*ts about the story. I would have loved to have played Bioshock cooperatively with a friend.

doomsoth
doomsoth

I'm so bored of shooters; I can rent most of them and be done with them in a week. At this point, they need to change a lot of things for me to consider buying any new titles within the genre.

endorbr
endorbr

@frankblack789 - More like if it ain't broke don't fix it. @surppo got it right.

Enexs
Enexs

"I don't always want the stress of having to compete with people when playing in multiplayer," O.o strange me and my friends have fun playing multiplayer not stress

MEDzZ3RO
MEDzZ3RO

@WolfGrey You didn't specify. The only FPS that any of these developers have worked one where secondary fire was on every weapon is the Resistance franchise. The majority of people who commented below you were also talking about Resistance, was I wrong to assume otherwise?

surppo
surppo

the mouse keyboard combo is more precise but it isnt pratical it comes down to where you prefer to play desk or couch. the ps has tried other controllers with eye toy ps2 and move, i mean what would you have done with the controller you only change something when it sucks sony got it right the first time.

frankblack789
frankblack789

@endorbr yeah, the reason they haven't made any changes to it since ps one is because they're too unimaginative to come up with anything else. 3 generations of consoles with the same controller, come on Sony...

endorbr
endorbr

Sorry PC fanboys, the keyboard and mouse combo is NOT better than the PS3 controller. There is a reason why Sony hasn't made any significant changes to the design since the PS One.

surppo
surppo

i always wondered why they dont put feet on the characters. if you dont put feet on the dude dont put in platform sections. this is what i wanna see mirrors edge movement, battlefield 3 engine vehicles and mag network skills. wake me when they get that one done.

WolfGrey
WolfGrey

@MEDzZ3RO Silly person, the reference was to Killzone 2....

febreez123
febreez123

"Other than an addition to realism, viewing your body brings no effect on the game whatsoever." I'd like to make this brief Mr.GameDesigner. This "addition to realism" combined with what you think makes a good game, assuming it is a good game, has a great effect on the mind. It makes the player feel more human at a subconscious level, which makes them more sympathetic and connected to the character. Yes the core mechanics of a game are important. But if every FPS is basically the same, then its the fine details that together can set a game apart, especially something as simple as seeing your feet, or even a beer gut.

starduke
starduke

@heroesfan261 I think you missed the point of my comment. I want an FPS that realistically simulates what it would be to actually see out of the characters eyes. A 3DHDTV just wouldn't do that.

Flint247
Flint247

We need more FPS games that lets us customize the game. (Maps, weapons, characters, etc.) Just a story line and multiplayer can get boring after a while.

ramonl2
ramonl2

I feel BF vs. CoD flame here or is it just me?

evilweav
evilweav

@Spartan-1657 you'll notice that the first resistance didn't review as well as the second. i'd take a plunge and at least borrow the second one just to be sure you don't like it. one the deepest problems the industry is facing was mentioned above as the "winner takes all situation," stemming from the fact that most casual gamers (the bulk of gamers) only play what their friends play, or what they know they'll like. Spartan, I know you're better than most casual gamers.

Steakface
Steakface

Ahh FPS, the top 40 music of the video game genre.

evilweav
evilweav

@taino1128 true gamer indeed. also, you need new friends.

SkamArtist
SkamArtist

My two cents: What these developers need to do is look at MAG. MAG was headed in the right direction, Zipper dropped the ball. The potential for a game such as MAG is endless. To be able to work as a team and have direct influence on the plot of a dynamic storyline is where FPS need to be headed. I for one can't wait for DUST 514.

Snaptrap
Snaptrap

Someone needs to make an FPS about fish and call it COD just confuse the &%#$ out the everyone.

Reyveign
Reyveign

@anthonycg Fair enough. Thinking on the developer's side of things, it's a lot of extra work for something not everybody cares about. But I think even with blowing stuff up etc. everybody at some point says, "Hey neat" when they see it. I don't blame developers for not bothering. But I still find it weird that in a lot of these FPS they create this beautiful, living and breathing world, and then not make a body to go along with your floating arms. Maybe I'm just nit-picking. =P

vicsrealms
vicsrealms

Everyone mentions Resistance Fall of Man and and Killzone. Two series I would love to see hit the PC as well as the last few games in the Halo series...probably because I can't hit the broad side of a barn with a console controller. To me FPS games are for PC's with the much better controls with the mouse and keyboard. A lot of the really good SRPG/RPG's (Although, its been a couple years for any good ones. Lost Odyssey comes to mind as being the last, but my 360 died and I can't justify buying another one for one game.) have been on the consoles like the Final Fantasy (1-8, and 10), Phantasy Star (1-4), Shining in the Darkness, Shining Force (1-2), Disgaea, Dragon Warrior, Chrono Trigger/Cross, etc... Its kind of messed up when my PS3 is primarily used for the Genesis collection. ~grin~ Great use of its gaming abilities! lol

baal46
baal46

@taino1128 Excellent and insightful comment. Spoken like a true gamer.

PixelAddict
PixelAddict

@MEDzZ3RO I remember your case for R3, and I do want to give it a chance this time around. I wish Insomniac well, so I'll give it another go. Like @Spartan-1657, my OCD tendencies forced me to complete Fall of Man, and I think I resented the franchise for it. Though I will say the last mission into the hive/spire/what-have-you was far more inspired than the rest of the game. Still, because of the overall let down, I couldn't give the second chapter more than a momentary glance, sadly. I've heard the claims of some that we are heading towards a more dumbed-down, hand-holding gaming universe. But I disagree. I really like the current trend of horde/firefight modes in my FPS, because I've grown tired of the multiplayer twitch-fest that is CoD. Interested to see where it is leading us.

MEDzZ3RO
MEDzZ3RO

@WolfGrey Resistance 2 did have secondary fire? Carbine had grenade launcher, Sniper had slow-mo. Bullseye had tracers, Shotgun had double-shot...etc.. @Spartan-1657 Sad to hear that, I don't think you should make the assumption that all the Resistance games are just like Fall Of Man. From game to game they've changed loads and improved greatly. Unlike certain shooters, Insomniac do like making a new game instead of putting a different skin on their old one. I didn't like Fall Of Man much, I liked the ideas and concept but it wasn't quite there. I thought multiplayer was good though, it was the best online fps the PS3 had until 2007. I played on it quite a bit. Resistance 2 improved heavily upon the foundation Fall Of Man had laid, weapons were better, boss fights were bigger, graphics were better (unique art style); it was just a much better game overall. I didn't like the multiplayer much though, it lacked direction and was unbalanced. I preferred Killzone 2. Having played both the Resistance 3 demo and the Beta I can safely say it's a HUGE improvement over both and I don't say that lightly. I urge you much like I have PixelAddict to reconsider and at least give Resistance 3 a go sometime. I'm a huge Killzone fan but I have to say I might be swaying more towards Resistance this time around. Visuals are strong and the multiplayer is incredibly balanced. If the quality continues I can recommend it to any fps gamer. Just something worth considering anyway.

Neil_Clancy
Neil_Clancy

Well, they were right to dismiss 3D gaming. Like, 3D movies, it's a stupid marketing fad that will pass with time. I doesn't add much in the way of realism or immersion, so it's just a waste of development time and money.

taino1128
taino1128

So many shooters don't get the praise or hype that they deserve because a lot of people like to stick to a few games and then not try out other ones. Almost everybody I know has the same two games: Call of Duty and Halo. Both of those games are overrated. Other shooters that are much better in certain aspects(examples: Killzone, Crysis 2, & Battlefield to some extent) do not get the hype they deserve. Times when I've played MW2 with friends and they are getting angry at the game, I say to them "Why don't you get Bad Company 2? It's a modern war shooter and it's nowhere near as frustrating," continue to explain why it's good and they just simply ignore what I say and refuse to give the game a try. Killzones 2 & 3 are VERY underrated games. They have amazing action, unique settings, unique weapons, great servers etc. Let's look at KZ2. Name any game besides that one that can do large maps, amazing graphics, 16vs16 matches, ridiculous fast-pace and very intense action, loud and beefy sound effects, and no lag or random disconnections at all. You can't, can you? Crysis 2 is different because it's not like every other shooter where you reach an objective just by simply shooting your way through and taking out everyone. You actually have to pick and choose who and when to kill. If you just always run in with guns blazing, you will never beat the game. Do any of my friends play BF, KZ, or Crysis? Answer: No. Neither KZ3 or Crysis2 sold that well, which is aggravating.

PodXCOM
PodXCOM

Am I the only one who doesn't like this "that doesn't have a defined ending" thing? I want my games to have an ending; I don't want a game were I need other people to play the game to win.

anthonycg
anthonycg

@sidzero It's not that they can't or shouldn't - they just don't because they see it as a waste of time. That time is usually spent on tweaking things that are going to be relevant more often than the ability to just look down at yourself. Leaning would be an example of a more important camera option that is bound to be used a lot more than just looking at yourself.

Spartan-1657
Spartan-1657

@PixelAddict I could never get into Resistance either. Personally I think its a horribly bland shooter and I don't understand how it gets the ratings it does. It's mediocre at best. My friend and I played through the first one, just to finish it and see how it ended, but we both forced ourselves to do it. You shouldn't have to force yourself to play through a game. I never touched the 2nd one because of that, and I'm not going near the 3rd either.

MEDzZ3RO
MEDzZ3RO

@PixelAddict Killzone's a superb game, despite what some people say it is indeed underrated. I've never understood why Killzone has only ever good sales instead of great sales, it's a good game. It's fair to say Killzone is a much harder game, play the last Killzone 2 level on Elite difficulty and anyone will agree it's one of the toughest shootyers currently on the market. I feel the Insomniac trademark Ratchet and Clank weapons carried over well into the Resistance franchise. Bosses and guns are probably the highlight of Resistance for me; I was sad to see bosses taken out of Killzone 3 because Killzone 2 pulled that off very well. Resistance hasn't ever quite delivered but I really, truly believe Resistance 3 is the one that will. The triple A titles I don't think deserve the hype are Call Of Duty, GTA IV, Uncharted and Halo. I can see why they originally got attention and I agree with that, I don't agree with the fact the hype's continued even though the quality hasn't. GTA IV was good though I just didn't feel it took advantage of what San Andreas achieved (I was a huge SA fan), any luck "GTA V" will.

WolfGrey
WolfGrey

@PixelAddict I dont think i even consider calling anything AAA or A.I call games games.Everyone should. However Resistance is looking to improve in its newest installment much like Killzone did( i found the lack of secondary fire in 2 disturbing) and honestly i hope it does well. Give it another chance.Though if i dont see enough improvements myself, ill probably not get it myself.Especially since i tend to only get one FPS at a time to enjoy for a while.TF2 is filling that bill atm but i would like a nice single player story to enjoy.Resistance may fit the bill if they dont screw up.

j0abell
j0abell

I thought Bulletstorm was one of the better shooters this year, too, but it had no replayability. I wish they could mix it with the Unreal Tournament concept, instant action tournament mode, bots, mods and downloadable maps, and all that. They say MP is important, but it's not just about a tacked on MP mode. It should be about building games for that sort of replayability. Whether its online, or just with bots, being able to jump in and play, where all that repetition fits in with what the game's all about.

PixelAddict
PixelAddict

@MEDzZ3RO Can't quite put my finger on why I dislike Resistance so much. Probably because some games do not deserve AAA or A or whatever rating they are attaching at the moment. Maybe it is because sales-wise, Killzone has done so poorly (i blame the name) while it is MILES superior to Resistance. It's a shame. Maybe it is because, for all the talk about alternate mode, Resistance played the same no matter how you played. Even in harder difficulties (I'm a sucker for the mean difficulties). Probably the most disturbing was the fact that the Ratchet games actually had guns with interesting and useful secondary fire modes, and Resistance did not deliver on the promise. Don't hate, people. Not all of our A-level franchises are worthy of acclaim. Resistance fills that bill.

WolfGrey
WolfGrey

I just have to wonder how people got confused about secondary fire.You press one button and you fire.Check.You press another button, you fire differently, with the same gun.Common sense says"Hey this must be secondary fire, each gun might have this". Wow was that hard to learn? Ya know folks, its people like this that are determining our future of our video games.Another words.....all games in the future will be dummified.Expect to see what all of your buttons do on the screen at all the time, the options for constant hints at all times for things that are obvious(already being done), and multiple arrows pointing where to go.Bloody community is turning into wimps. Poisoning our favorite types of games and forcing them to be shorter,easier, and less worthwhile overall. I swear a lot of current day game players just dont care about common sense and learning anymore.Braindead casual gamers.Tch.

MEDzZ3RO
MEDzZ3RO

@Sergeant_ I know it is but it's not really as bigger issue as it used to be, largely because the majority of the market isn't on PCs anymore. It's not really a case of developers being too scared but more of a case that thye know they can build a game cheaper on consoles and garner more profit. You could indeed build a PC cheaply and it would last, I was referring more to playing every game on max settings. If you're not it somewhat defeats the object of having the "superior machine". I suppose you wouldn't have to upgrade so often now come to think of it, PC tech is advancing quickly but PC games aren't. Developers aren't using the new tech. Crysis 2 is a good example, it's technically less impressive then the original, why? Despite what Crytek say it was because it was "consolised", on top of this more PCs could run it resulting in a larger potential market. Fives years ahead when the next generation of consoles comes out is rather optimistic now. The Xbox 360 and PS3 matched the average gaming PC when they released. You even sent me an article stating the same thing: "..also the fact that if you look back 5 years when the consoles, the high definition consoles, were released, they were actually better or good as high-end PCs back then".

MEDzZ3RO
MEDzZ3RO

@PixelAddict Likely because from a financial aspect it has proven to be the most successful exclusive fps the system has. Both Killzone games have sold roughly around 2 million whilst Resistance has sold 4 million and 2 million. From a gameplay standpoint it's always delivered, personally I didn't think Resistance 2 looked too bad; it wasn't a visual masterpiece but it looked alright. Compare it with Fallout 3, World At War, Halo 3..etc.. it held its own. Fall Of Man wasn't a good looking game but as I stated before, it was in development last generation so it could make the PS3 launch deadline; it's a last-gen game out this gen. In fairness it was Insomniacs first attempt at an FPS, the dark and bleak Resistance setting was a massive change from the bright setting of Ratchet and Clank they were used too. Graphics are nice but gameplay is what's important, as Counterstrike, Call Of Duty, Fallout and Borderlands have demonstrated. On a lighter note Resistance 3 graphically looks good, did you ever watch those videos? I'm intrigued, I'm not having a go; you don't seem to just dislike the franchise but you seem to have a certain bitterness towards it, why is it you dislike it so?

Sergeant_
Sergeant_

@MEDzZ3BRO The console hardware is slowing down PC, more developers are to scared to touch the technology. Rather then advancing themselves they demote themselves to out dated hardware, the minute a new generation of consoles are released the PC is 5 years ahead. And no, you dont "need to upgrade every 2 years." If you had a brain and bought the proper hardware you can have a PC built for less the $800 and it would survive 5+ years if not more, and just for ****s and giggles read this interview. http://www.geforce.com/News/articles/battlefield3-interview

PixelAddict
PixelAddict

Why do they call out Resistance? Such a bland looking series with terrible textures and graphics. If using the PS3, please always talk about Killzone when talking about FPS. Resistance is terrible. As for variation, I wish more people would discuss the blending of characteristics of other genres, such as the RPG elements in games like Borderlands. And possibly Dead Island? THAT is what is intriguing to me..

MEDzZ3RO
MEDzZ3RO

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

kvan33
kvan33

I think developers and publishers need to give fans more credit. They can handle more complex games as long as they are good. A good game makes players want to learn how to play them. If you look back at gaming franchises, you will see that the most complex game is usually the first one, and then they are dumbed-down (streamlined) for sequels. This is counter intuitive to me. Why dumb down a game that had so many fans liking it the way it was?

ash162
ash162

I appreciate that they wanna make the games they want but we have seen time and again that devs bow down to publishers and we essentially get a an MP experience with a campaign to get u ready for MP!!! For me the FPS genre has been dead for quite a and i didnt really enjoy crysis 2 all that much. This interview didn't make me much hopeful either. Anyway here's looking forward to rage and to all the dust it kicks up!!!

heroesfan261
heroesfan261

@starduke or you could just play killzone 3 on a 3dtv.

dstv
dstv

@Ladiesman17 i really hate it when PC players always feel the need to say that their console is better ....for crying out loud we already know ...on every gameplay vid or documentary there has to be some pc gamer saying "our graphics our better" or "Keyboard and mouse pwn all" ...jeez we know the pc is the superior console just some of us like playing console exclusives, are to lazy to upgrade our pc's or just don't like the KB & M combo(believe it or not)...you don't have to flex your muscles at every party . people game on consoles too

quinholo
quinholo

The reason I changed the FPS gaming to 3rd person shoters!