Maeglin's Design Point Roundup

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Maeglin's Design Point Roundup

Post by Maeglin Dubh » December 23rd, 2009, 1:50 am

The Genre; First Person Shooters

The idea here is to look back into the past of FPS games and see what design aspects we might have lost along the way, that we could bring back to improve the current gaming experience, or to see what we've gained that we should continue to move forward in to keep making gaming better.

Today we're going to start with some of the earliest examples of the FPS genre.... Wolfenstein, the Doom family, and Duke Nukem 3D.
(Those are just chosen as being some of the more well-known games in the genre... if you have suggestions on other games to look over, please feel free to put them in your replies.)

-Wolfenstein 3D
The combat is fairly rudimentary, but simple. You have one of four weapons, all but one of which have the same basic effect (the knife). Bigger guns do more damage by using more bullets faster, all weapons use a shared ammo pool, no visible bullet trails or impact points (but the sprites do react to being shot). In lieu of complicated combat tactics, the levels themselves are the primary challenge, with multiple hidden areas, secret levels, maze-like structure, and troops placed so as to provide a nasty surprise every now and then. There wasn't a tremendous variety in the types of enemies, but it meant you pretty much knew what to expect from everyone. The limited art made navigation difficult, as often the only thing you had for landmarks were dead bodies, since walls all looked the same.

-Doom 3D
Combat is a bit deeper, with divided ammo pools, variable weapon effects, exploding barrels (the forerunner of destructible terrain, perhaps?), and crouching and jumping. A few more troops types, but the levels are (from my limited experience) almost as mazelike as Wolfenstein's, but I think there were less of them (more of an art sink, perhaps). A lot more enemies, some of which were minibosses of their own in later levels, most requiring some degree of effort beyond 'run away shooting' (one of the more popular ways to deal with Wolfenstein's bosses). Adding a vertical dimension to levels did allow for some more impressive layouts, but the inability to aim up and down made combat awkward in certain situations. Doom also added powerups, God Mode, Berserk, Invisibility, and the Chem Suit (from memory, there may be some I missed).

-Duke Nukem 3D
I'm actually going to hold off on observations on this one, since I want to get some discussion going first, and I'm actually in the middle of playing this one, so I'm still seeing new things.



So, I've given my observations. What do you think we can learn from old games that would make modern games more engaging?
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Re: Maeglin's Design Point Roundup

Post by Thrawn » December 23rd, 2009, 3:39 am

I'd say that the *biggest* point that was lost and needs to make it's way back is having an engaging single player mode that more closely resembles Wolfenstein, Duke Nukem (I know you haven't mentioned him yet), and a lesser known game called Descent, that was a slightly later, FPS ship shooter game. Each of these had, as was touched upon, secret areas and crazy easter eggs hidden, that served no real purpose.

However, with the intent of SPC (single player campaigns) being to prepare gamers for the highly competative MP experience, alot of simple single player "fun" elements have been removed. Also, a need for super in depth plot ruins the enjoyability of many games. Luckily, there are a few people (Orangebox jumps to mind, w/ games like half-life and portal--I count it as an fps--that still have a similar feel.
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Re: Maeglin's Design Point Roundup

Post by loonycyborg » December 23rd, 2009, 1:10 pm

Maeglin Dubh wrote: -Doom 3D
Combat is a bit deeper, with divided ammo pools, variable weapon effects, exploding barrels (the forerunner of destructible terrain, perhaps?), and crouching and jumping.
Huh? I'm pretty sure that Doom I/II didn't have crouching/jumping.
So, I've given my observations. What do you think we can learn from old games that would make modern games more engaging?
All those games features much more complex levels with tons of hidden areas etc. You don't see much of that in modern games due to 3D environments being a lot harder to design. Many of modern FPS don't even feature an automap feature because it isn't really warranted..
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Re: Maeglin's Design Point Roundup

Post by Maeglin Dubh » December 23rd, 2009, 5:33 pm

The version of Doom I/II I have includes jumping and crouching, but you have to set the keys manually; they're not preset. It might be a function of having to run it in ZDoom.
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Re: Maeglin's Design Point Roundup

Post by zookeeper » December 23rd, 2009, 5:59 pm

Maeglin Dubh wrote:The version of Doom I/II I have includes jumping and crouching, but you have to set the keys manually; they're not preset. It might be a function of having to run it in ZDoom.
Most likely. The originals certainly didn't have either.

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Re: Maeglin's Design Point Roundup

Post by Redeth » December 24th, 2009, 12:25 am

Those games didn't take themselves seriously, neither in the art department nor gameplay wise. I kind of miss that.
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Re: Maeglin's Design Point Roundup

Post by Maeglin Dubh » December 24th, 2009, 2:15 am

Redeth wrote:Those games didn't take themselves seriously, neither in the art department nor gameplay wise. I kind of miss that.
Didn't try to be 'gritty', you mean?

(Remember, kids. Realism is brown!)
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Re: Maeglin's Design Point Roundup

Post by Redeth » December 24th, 2009, 3:06 am

Maeglin Dubh wrote:Didn't try to be 'gritty', you mean?

(Remember, kids. Realism is brown!)
They just try too hard nowadays, they overdo it almost to the point where that's all there's to it. And then some more. I have no problem watching realistic violence, blood and gore on the screen, as in, say, "First Blood" (the first Rambo movie), which was quite good... but now some games are resembling "Rambo III"... Something has gone awfully wrong along the way :augh:
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Re: Maeglin's Design Point Roundup

Post by Gambit » December 24th, 2009, 3:56 pm

I also miss the easter eggs and hidden zones of older games.
Placing laptops and suitcases throughout linear levels is not the way to go (that means you Call of Duty and Killzone series).

The recent Uncharted 2 was a little better. You had to stray far from the beaten path and work for your treasure. But there wasn't any much use for it other than bragging rights.

The three games you mentioned Maeglin are before my time but the slightly newer SWJKDF2 was very very good with easter eggs and hidden areas. All of the hidden areas had full heals and maybe a cool weapon to make them actually useful. But besides that, they also awarded you extra force power points for finding them. And then there was Max, who was undeniably the best easter egg ever.

I'd like to see an FPS with more of an RPG kind of feel where the levels are designed so that not only can you revisit them, but you actually have some reason to.

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Re: Maeglin's Design Point Roundup

Post by Coaxke » December 24th, 2009, 6:56 pm

Maeglin Dubh wrote: -Duke Nukem 3D
I'm actually going to hold off on observations on this one, since I want to get some discussion going first, and I'm actually in the middle of playing this one, so I'm still seeing new things.
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Re: Maeglin's Design Point Roundup

Post by Maeglin Dubh » December 25th, 2009, 4:39 am

So, we can establish that the in-depth singleplayer maps are what drove the original popularity of the FPS genre. (Also, props on the Descent reference.... I and II were probably my favorite games back in the day, next to the X-Wing series, which is another genre I want to address since NOBODY makes Space Sims anymore...)

While I understand that Valve did a good job with Half-Life and its sequels, I still felt that they were very linear. Yes, there were interesting puzzles, but I still felt like I was on rails the whole time, which is something I never felt in the older generation of shooters. Some say that Half-Life redefined the FPS genre, but I'm not wholly convinced... We're still being fed a string of neckless macho space marines, only without the gameplay that redeemed such games back in the day. Halo, for instance, felt like it had a nice story when I played through the second and third game, but there wasn't much in the way of replay value, unless you really like the story. There wasn't really any incentive to 'go back and do it a different way'.
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Re: Maeglin's Design Point Roundup

Post by Cloud » December 27th, 2009, 7:37 pm

Maeglin Dubh wrote:X-Wing series
OMG I still remember that, it broke a ball mouse of mine (those were the days) due to excessive scrolling. Took me years to figure out all the controls and I don't think I ever got passed the first few levels -_-. Still great for killing a few days at a time.

Yoda Stories used to be an old favourite of mine, despite the repetitive way you played the game, each mission was always different (well if you played it as much as I did they did start to repeat).

Ahh that takes me back, to when games were actually challenging to complete, without being impossibly hard. I don't think I ever got past World 2 of Super Mario, but I never really cared either.
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Re: Maeglin's Design Point Roundup

Post by Maeglin Dubh » December 28th, 2009, 6:00 am

In the very first mission, you have to take out three or four freighters, then hyperspace home. It's a fairly simple mission, complicated by the fact that you can't use up all your torps early or you get to watch the last freighter jump to hyperspace. Sometimes, and I don't think I ever figured out what the trigger was, the game would dump a Nebulon-B frigate on you, which would start deploying TIE fighters.

Well one night, I was feeling lucky. I have vaped all the freighters, and the people I was escorting had gotten away, and the frigate had jumped in and started dumping TIEs. So I ordered my wingman home, pushed the throttle, and proceeded to destroy the entire frigate's compliment of starfighters before pulling a victory loop around their bridge and escaping into hyperspace.

Those were the days...
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Re: Maeglin's Design Point Roundup

Post by StandYourGround » January 3rd, 2010, 3:29 am

I used to play that (sigh, on the cheat mode sometimes), and the frigate was always triggered one minute after I killed the last freighter, usually as I was mopping up the last of the escort ships. Destroying the TIEs was pretty easy. I could usually pot-shot down the first few waves before they could get their shots in. Then, you just back off a little to let your wing mates draw a little fire, then broadside the TIEs. Destroying the frigate was pretty simple, too. Just nail the two shield generators, and it's easy prey. After that, you better high-tail it outta there, or the Advance TIE squadrons will come. Those things were definitely impossible to kill without some cheating.
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Re: Maeglin's Design Point Roundup

Post by Stilgar » February 7th, 2010, 5:55 am

Ahhh, FPS games. Well, I play/have played a lot of old FPSes, but not very many new ones (partly due to not being impressed by the demo versions, partly due to being primarily a Linux user for the most part for the past few years, and pretty much exclusively now since my Windows XP disc no longer will install on the computer I have now, and I have no intention of buying a newer version).

I agree strongly with the secret areas mention above--done wrong, they can potentially skew the game, but there was a great deal of satisfaction in finding a nice bonus area when it was done well. And games like the ones Maeglin mentions had lots of them, not just a handful over the course of the whole game. I also agree that more focus on single player is needed, especially in the realm of Free Software FPS games--I can't think of a single FLOSS FPS that isn't either entirely MP oriented (having only "MP vs. AI" in place of a real SP mode), or that's just an exact clone of some already existing game with only different data to drop in on the engine (though the project I myself work on is guilty of that too... though not by my choice.)

On to new points...

One thing that I think defines a lot of old FPS games is what I think of as the "One Man Army" effect. Essentially:
A) Your character is powerful, to the point of being unrealistic, but because of the way it works in the game, you don't really notice the unrealistic-ness of it that much because it's fun. What I mean is, this guy gets shot with a shotgun point blank and only loses some HP rather than dying right away, unless he was already weakened. He doesn't get realistic but un-fun penalties when he's wounded, he can be on 1 HP and still run like a marathon racer for instance--the penalty for having low HP is you might die on the next hit. Things like that. One of the things I hated about Half-Life was the realistic system of combat; a tank killing you when you have full health with just one shot from its gun is realistic, but it isn't fun, unless it's a game like Contra where you have some other compensation like extra lives (save/restore doesn't count).
B) Your character is alone. Every living thing in the game falls into two categories (assuming you're playing single player mode): You, and Things That Want To Kill You. There are no hostages, no AI "sidekicks" who might or might not be useful (or a hindrance) and no NPCs that you have to search out to advance some pretentious yet boring plot.

Now, there were old FPS games that ignored one or both of the above, but I think that the lack of one or both is a lot more common nowadays, from what I understand of modern FPS games.

Also, fantastic settings. Look at a game like Doom (the more hell-oriented type levels in particular; some of the Doom II levels tried to be somewhat realistic and the effect was even worse than what modern stuff does due to engine limits) or Hexen and compare to a "realistic" game; games back then weren't about trying to make a realistic environment so much as about trying to make one that followed the Rule of Cool. They weren't always successful, but it was at least more interesting than some drab war-blasted metropolis. Adding a lot of cartoony color isn't something I think is necessarily the way to go, though Hexen does prove that you can have bright colors in a macabre game if you do it carefully.

Also, they used sprites. Now I know that people will probably raise an eyebrow and say that sprites in an FPS would be outdated and/or too much effort, but models, at least at first, weren't strictly superior to sprites if you ask me; while models allowed you to look at them from any angle in true 3D, sprites allowed certain kinds of details that didn't work so well on a limited polycount model--if you look at Doom creature designs versus Quake ones, for instance, you'll notice little spikes, tendrils, wires, and the like sticking off of the Doom ones that couldn't be done as easily with modeling. Another aspect of this is that a lot of times, sprite based creatures had more interesting death sequences than model based ones, which, at least in the Quake era, tended to just fall over.

Also, Rise of the Triad should be on the list of old FPS games with lost elements. It was never popular or influential, but it had some pretty interesting elements that crossed over from Mario-style platform gaming; stuff like floating platforms that moved, bouncy pads, certain traps and stuff (Some of the earlier Quakes toyed mildly with some of these sorts of thing, but nowhere near to the same degree.)

Anything else I can think of, I'll post again... but the "One Man Army" style is the big one for me.

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