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Making an FPS? Better Invert Your Approach


With the thousands of slavering, blood hungry FPS fans that Call of Duty has created – added to the thousands which existed before CoD and were merely turned by its arrival (sired if you will, like a vampire or a zombie) – it’s easy to see why so many publishers and companies are renewing their focus on FPS titles.

Realistically the two hottest genres at the moment are MMOs and shooters, take a look around and find a high budget high quality title which is neither of the two – they are few and far between, so it’s understandable that people would want to be making the kind of games that people want to play.

I’m cool with that. I totally understand.

What I don’t understand is why people think they can create some half-baked shooter with nothing new or innovative and assume they will make money off of it. I mean, I know people down rate the intelligence of FPS gamers – but we still have brains (and thoughts, occasionally), and we can figure out that if we play your game and it’s basically Call of Duty with a different storyline, we may as well be playing Call of Duty.

So then, how do you create a successful FPS which can make the (massive) jump from out of Call of Duty’s shadow? Games like Bulletstorm, Starhawk, Borderlands and to a lesser extent Gears of War, Halo and Bioshock (lesser since those games came out before Call of Duty and are franchises).

Well, like any game, you need to offer people something new.

Bottom line: people like killing people. I’ll admit it. I enjoy sniping someone and watching the bullet disappear into their eye, imagining it lodge somewhere deep in their brain causing blood to mushroom around it and swell the brain matter – smashing it against their skulls and rendering their thought processes null and void.

Well maybe not quite all that. But I like getting headshots. I like blowing people up. I like stabbing people, I like killing sprees and I like running people over. I am a gamer, and I enjoy (and revel in) the death of my pixellated foes.

That being said, I can’t just sit and kill whatever without any flair for extended periods of time. Games like Crysis 2 and Borderlands proved to me that a game can be lots of fun to kill things, but then you get tired of it after a couple of hours and need a break. Halo can also suffer from this problem. But there are games which I can kill for hours on end, games like Mass Effect 2 or Bioshock, where story or objectives are just as important as who you get to kill next.

And this is what new shooters need to tap into. They need to be giving you something more.

Looking at a recent (since it came out today, very recent) example: Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a game which offers you all sorts of customizable ways to kill people. Stealth kills, melee takedowns, head shots, exploding pistols, rocket launchers – whatever your thing is, Deus Ex probably has something for it. But they also have an active storyline, multiple mission paths and a large focus on character development.

For another example, of a truer FPS title, look at Inversion (currently in development). I’ll link a clip at the bottom of this article, but basically it’s a Gears of War-esque shooter with a catch – you can manipulate gravity as you go. This means you can make enemies lighter making them drift into the air (similar to the leash in Bulletstorm) or you can make them heavier forcing them to struggle on the ground. You can manipulate the environment to cause things to crash into people or cause barrels to drift into the air before you explode them. Enemies can even run on walls or ceilings to come and get you (much like the original Prey).

In a sea of FPS titles which are a dime a dozen, you need to work to make your game stand head and shoulders above the crowd. If nothing else, Duke Nukem Forever showed us that. It can’t just be fun, gory and have great weapons. It has to give us something new, something to focus on between fight sequences – something we want to play the game to see more of. Much like the original F.E.A.R, we want badass gun fights with squads of enemies – and then some OMG WTF moments in between.

I know this might seem like a rant out of left field, but I find myself more and more insulted by the laziness of some game developers who think they can rattle off an unpolished mediocre FPS and get blockbuster results (Call of Duty: Black Ops).

I want something more from my shooters. And you should too.

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