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FPS games are all the same…

April 11, 2012 Leave a comment

The stoic soldier, with gun pointed down… walking away from a hazy wartorn backdrop.There are too many shooter games. North Americans are obsessed with their stupid FPS games. AAA games are all becoming FPS games. FPS games are all in shades of gray or brown… they’re all about war… they’re boring… they’re all the same. FPS games are ruining gaming! I see these statements littered through the comments, and frankly, it pisses me off . Usually the person making the statement has not played a lot of FPS games and their only exposure to the shooter concept is aiming for the toilet bowl… and probably missing.

Shooter games involve shooting… and that similarity extends through the genre in the same way that RPG games have quests, or that platformers involve moving, jumping, exploding or rolling from one platform to another, or that fighter games involve mashing some buttons to pull off combos. As with any genre, when one game become inordinately successful, others unfortunately seek to copy it. How many Mario clones are there out there? Why are many JRPG games all similar in some way to Final Fantasy? Why does Bayonetta seem like Dante with boobs? Why do Two Worlds 2, Divinity 2, Dragon Age and Fable all seem suspiciously similar to Oblivion? Yes, the incredible commercial success of the Call of Duty series has had an impact, but this has always happened in gaming. Ideas are often stolen and used as a genre of games grows, evolves and changes.


Sometimes we see the back of the stoic soldier… walking into a hazy, wartorn backdrop.

First off, games like Portal, Borderlands, Half Life, Bioshock and Fallout 3 are all FPS games. They all involve shooting from the first person perspective. Secondly, even among the “typical” war based FPS games there are huge differences. I realize that people generally tend to have a problem with the second part… the war based “realistic” shooters, so I’ll restrict myself to discussing those.

Let’s look at the single player element. FPS games tend to borrow from a variety of other genres which often makes them all a little different and keeps them interesting. Most tend to have a convoluted story of sort, and yes, the story is usually shitty and often involves Russians or some random terrorist group, not unlike the usual crappy RPG story line of save the Kingdom. Many even involve a quest structure, like Far Cry 2 where the game is very much like a WRPG with a main quest and optional side quests in a fairly open world. The only real difference between Far Cry 2 and Oblivion is that there are guns and jeeps in Far Cry 2 instead of horses and swords.

Other FPS campaigns include racing elements, vehicle sequences, and boss battles. These are very similar to boss battles in other genres – a boss or mini-boss with special powers and you must figure out their weakness through trial and error. They require the same persistence and skill to defeat, although the boss isn’t always a specific person – sometimes it’s a large group, or a new class of enemy with a specific weapon, a stealth section to get through without being spotted, or sometimes it’s a large creature or vehicle. Just like most RPG games, conquering a mini-boss or boss often unlocks a new skill or weapon or alternatively you are given a new weapon/power that must be used to defeat this boss. Many FPS games are based on real-world weaponry, but others like Halo, or Resistance: Fall of Man are based on incredibly fun and imaginative weapons – sniper rifles that can slow down time, bubble shields, or a gun that can shoot through walls. In some FPS games you are alone, in others like Rainbow Six you have a “party” or squad that you can control. In still others, like sections of Modern Warfare, you follow the lead of another character who gives you specific instructions, and in Battlefield: Bad Company you had a hilarious group of A.I. sidekicks that often made me laugh with their humour.

My main point is that FPS single player games are NOT all the same. They are not even all in shades of grey and brown. While they tend towards a more realistic look, I think that the colors of Resistance 2 were closer to a Ratchet and Clank-ish colorful world, than the sepia tones of the first Resistance game. Far Cry 2’s jungle areas were alive with bright greens and colorful flowers.

While the single player campaign portions of most FPS games have quite a wide variety of styles, and lean more towards the “adventure” genre, many gamers tend to buy FPS games, not for the campaign, but more for the online portion. Again, these games may seem to be all the same to the view of a more casual outside viewpoint, but they simply aren’t any more similar than the platforming in Mario when compared with Super Meat Boy.


Sometimes the soldier is even pointing his gun… against a hazy, wartorn backdrop!

In general, FPS gamers are not attracted to these games because they are violent sociopaths who want to kill (well, maybe a few of us are), they are attracted to these games for the same reason that MMO’s are so addictive – it’s the social aspect. The game is continually changing depending on who is on your own team and who is on the opposing team. Clans form and people gather together to share a social evening of chatting and teabagging some opposing team. Like MMO’s, FPS games also tend to incorporate the hook of “leveling up”. There are new ranks, or guns, or classes to be unlocked. For the money spent on a game, FPS online games tend to offer value… hundreds of hours of value.

Yes, most have similar modes. There is deathmatch, team deathmatch and then various objective based modes. No, on closer examination they are NOT even remotely the same. Some are team based games requiring team cooperation in order to win the match (MAG), others are squad based (Battlefield) and others are more individual, where players play mostly on their own for killstreaks and a high score (COD). Additionally there are co-op games like Left for Dead or Resistance 2 which are again similar to MMO’s where members group up to take on a quest against A.I. Some FPS games are “twitch shooters” or reactive games that are extremely fast paced like Halo and other arena style shooters, while others are proactive – slower and more strategy based like SOCOM. There are even some FPS games where a high score is not at all based on kills, but can be based on points gained by reviving teammates and repairing team assets. Playing each of these differing game types within the FPS genre requires a substantial shift in how you play. Those used to getting high killstreaks in COD will often find themselves placing last in MAG games because they’re not running with their squad getting objective points, revive points or repair points. Those used to using vehicles merely as a form of transportation in MAG will be reviled in Battlefield or Homefront where the use of vehicles is more key to decimating the opposing forces, and using a tank as a taxi to the front lines is a waste of a team asset. In Killzone, the choice of class is often key, not just to a team’s win or loss, but also your personal points within a game. There are many variations of FPS games and they can’t all be played in the same manner.

In conclusion, before you ever type the words “FPS games are all the same” please don’t make an idiot of yourself. There is a reason that FPS games are so popular, there is a reason that a lot of developers create new FPS games – the reason is because they are not all the same. The genre is growing and evolving. In addition to RPG and MMO elements, we are increasingly seeing RTS elements also entering into the category of FPS games. There is room for growth not only in gameplay, but also in social elements. There is a large variety of single player and multiplayer forms of FPS games, creating a vast genre. For fans of the genre there are nuances and substantial differences to the games. Yes, there are lots of sequels in the genre… but who can complain about FPS sequels while they’re playing Final Fantasy XIII, Mega Man 9 or the most recent Pokemon, Mario or Madden game. Any genre looks somewhat the same at first glance, that’s what makes them part of the same group, but if you think FPS games are “all the same”… then you either don’t play them – or you’re playing them wrong!

… or maybe you’re just judging the book by it’s cover, cause yeah, I’ll agree that the box art on a lot of FPS games is pretty similar! LOL!

 [originally published 11/01/2011 on my Destructoid.com blog]

The Tipping Point in Games

April 11, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve never been a real fan of the Call of Duty Series. I’ve played the campaigns for most of the recent games and particularly enjoyed the Modern Warfare series, but I’ve just never enjoyed the online play. I tend to like team based shooters where people talk about the objectives, enemy movements and try to coordinate and work as a team. I enjoy the social aspects of shooter games… the social aspects that aren’t full of little kids asking me what my nipples look like. Call of Duty tends to move too fast for any real team based chat to be effective. I didn’t like jumping into a game and getting killed over and over and over and over again. The graphics were beautiful, the guns feel effective and are responsive… but the game seemed to lack soul. Modern Warfare 3 is the first time I’ve actually stuck with Call of Duty and achieved a rank higher than 10. I like the support killstreaks. No matter how bad I am, I do tend to get a couple of these in a game because killstreaks don’t reset upon death. I like that I get to experience the fun of actually having some form of “killstreak” reward without the need to sit and camp for kills. Ranking up also brings all the usual rewards of better guns, better perks, better scopes… better everything. Again, this rewarding good players has always been a negative for me in the series. I almost feel bad killing some n00b with a basic gun and few if any decent perks. I definitely do feel bad when I get killed by a high level player with a really good gun… and I get to see the replay and want that gun so at least I would have a fighting chance!

Still… last week I reached the tipping point. I’m a level 59 and I unlocked the thermal scope on the GC36 assault rifle… and I was actually excited that I unlocked it! I now tend to place in the middle of the pack in most games. I often place last on my team, but usually I’m just sitting there near the bottom and on a few wonderous occasions I’ve actually placed first on my team (usually because everyone else has dumped for the game or else because I’ve had a really good run with the recon drone!). I don’t tend to use my mic at all in Call of Duty… I have it on, but generally have myself muted because I don’t like the sound of others talking coming through the TV. The tipping point came when I unlocked that scope and realized that I like this game. It’s a rather mindless game… just jump in with any group and simply play. The game is very much based on “first shoot, first kill” but after awhile you tend to know the usual camping spots on many of the maps and check them before blindly running anywhere.


(WTF? How did he manage to see me to shoot me?? I say this a lot in COD!)

There is strategy in the game, but it’s strictly a personal strategy… and there is a wide range of strategies to use. The game does rock, paper, sissors quite well. Having a shotgun or close range weapon is lethal up close, but useless at a longer distance. Sniping is often a one shot kill, but anywhere you can snipe from generally has multiple entrances that are difficult to guard, so being knifed in the back becomes part of choosing to be a sniper. Each of the perks serves a purpose and tends to counter some of the other unlocks given. The restriction of only 3 perks generally means that you will have a weakness somewhere. The number of guns, unlocks, perks, etc. can be rather overwhelming and confusing but it does add some depth to the game and allows people to change their playing styles. I’ve not reached the level yet where I can prestige and don’t know much about choosing that option… but again, this does seem designed to again add depth to the game for those that play a lot… or too much I guess!

I don’t even know that I would call the game “fun” for me… but since hitting that tipping point, I find I want to play it… pretty much all the time, too much, and more than is good for me. I want to try out the different guns, I want to rank up a better gun and unlock the scopes I like. I want to try some of the other perks or even try different killstreaks. I want to play some of the game modes I haven’t tried yet. I’ve reached a zen state where dying rarely bothers me now… I almost zone out while playing and in some respects it’s like playing a game with annoying bots rather than real people (especially since the voice chat quality is very poor when compared to a game like MAG where it’s crystal clear).

This “tipping point” has occured in other games. I didn’t initially like MAG and found it confusing… but at one point I looked around while playing the 256 player Domination mode and that tipping point was reached… I was addicted and to date I have over 1400 hours in the game. With single player games I tend to find the tipping point more quickly… I just started Skyrim and I KNOW this is a game I will love. With multiplayer games it often seems to take much longer. With Call of Duty it took a lot longer and I’m actually a bit surprised that I even reached it. With some games I never reach that tipping point, or I give up long before it’s reached. I like Uncharted. I’ve played UC1 and 2 and have played a bit of the online for 3 (and will play the campaign later). I don’t think it matters how much or how long I play Uncharted, I’ll never reach that tipping point where I want to play the game constantly. It just doesn’t hold that addictive factor for me. I’m not even sure if this tipping point is personal taste or design. I started Skyrim and was immediately there – full blown addiction, I can’t put the game down. It seems that others too feel this same response. MAG and Warhawk took a bit longer but there are others too that obviously feel this addiction because both games still have active online communities years after the game’s release. Call of Duty has a fanatical online following so it seems that those that have reached this tipping point into a love for the game are quite willing to transfer this adoration to each new game in the series to a some extent. The online gameplay is similar enough, yet different enough to retain those that love this game – and this is surely purposeful design. This tipping point… it’s a cash cow. If developers can achieve it, it not only seems to assure sales of the game, but can also assure sales of the next game. The Oblivion, Final Fantasy and Call of Duty series point to this.

The odd thing is, is that this tipping point is a different thing for me in each game. In Call of Duty it’s the fact that I am not playing with a group. It’s a solitary experience where I can just zone out and play. With MAG and Warhawk it was the opposite – it was the group experience of playing with friends and being inter-reliant on them. The early SOCOM games relied on this social aspect as well… with large clans that formed to regularly play the game and not just socialize, but work on the game as a unit that worked well together. With Skyrim, it’s the exploration… on my way to one location I come across a cave… this constant input of newly discovered locations keeps me constantly going in the game (regardless of the glitches and other annoying aspects). I’m sure that devs did wish that there was one answer to what the tipping point is, but I guess fortunately for us gamers, there is no one answer. This means that devs will keep looking and will continue to bring us a variety of different games in the hopes that the game will have that elusive addictive factor that can assure sales.

In the meantime, my addictions are piling up! Skyrim… or Modern Warfare 3… or MAG… or trying the Starhawk beta again because I’m pretty sure I’m close to reaching the tipping point there. I need more time… I need… ugh, I need to get a life and quit spending so much time gaming. Meh… I’ll get back to real life right after I check out that new town I haven’t been to yet in Skyrim… the one I’ve been heading towards for the last couple of days but keep getting sidetracked!

… just like real life.

(though it should be noted for those fearing I have a gaming addiction, that while I game a lot and can occassionally lose track of time while playing a game, I have no problem turning off the console to spend time with my husband, friends or family. My housework gets done, dinner gets made and I find time to write blogs and read. Gaming mostly replaces TV watching or other leisure activities… and being retired, I do have a lot of leisure time!)

[originally posted 12/28/2011 on my Destructoid.com blog]

The possibilities for the PS3… a look back at UT3.

July 25, 2011 Leave a comment

UT3 seems to be an overlooked game in the PS3 library, yet it’s a game that showed many of the true possibilities of the PS3 system. Just a few of the things they managed to incorporate were:

Keyboard and mouse support! You could play this game with either the controller or you could use a keyboard and mouse. Why is it that no other game has offered this option? It seems that this would be ideal for single player RPG or RTS type games that often originate on the PC, and the option of keyboard/mouse control might attract more PC gamers to the PS3. While the new Move controller system might attract those that are unused to a console controller, there is still a very large number of PC gamers that simply prefer the mouse/keyboard combo input. It seems that other games could use this input as an alternate control scheme, yet no other PS3 game that I’m aware of has done so. Rather than attracting new gamers, it seems that this might be a way of attracting existing gamers.

Mods! UT3 offered PS3 users the ability to freely download user-created mods, mutators and maps from various web sites and seamlessly load them into the game. There was even a later patch that provided web browser integration and mods could be downloaded directly to the game through the web. Unlike games like LittleBigPlanet, there is no moderation or restrictions. Destructoid recently ran a story regarding The Ball, which is to be released on October 18th on Steam. It’s a UT3 mod that is actually freely available to play for those that already own UT3 on the PC or the PS3. There are many sites that offer downloadable user-created mods for the PS3, and but two of the better sites are: Read more…

Follow Me!

June 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Leadership is a quality needed throughout life, whether you work in a business, are self-employed, run a website, a gaming clan… and now even for playing games.  One of the more interesting aspects of the game MAG is that it allows most any player to become a “leader”.  You are randomly assigned a squad and given powers to set objectives and lead your squad of 7 other players in strategies to achieve those objectives.  It’s interesting to see the different leadership styles and increasingly on the game forums there is a call for giving more “powers” to the leaders in order to ensure compliance with their strategy.

It seems to me that a lot of people misunderstand leadership.  Leadership isn’t a “power” it’s a “skill”.  You can give someone a fancy title, the power to set priorities, a nice office and a big raise… but unless they have the skill of leadership, people will not follow the directives.  One of my favorite quotes is from Dwight D. Eisenhower, who once said that leadership was “The art of getting someone else to do something that you want done because he wants to do it.”  This is perhaps a simplistic definition, however it encompasses the ability to achieve a goal through the inspiring of others to not only do something… but to do it because they want to!  In his book “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”, John Maxwell is even more succinct and declares that “leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.” A 2002 SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) survey showed that the most important qualities of a leader were: performance, character, adaptability, flexibility, persistence and ethical standards.  Rarely do I see a definition of leadership that entails the ability to teamkill people that don’t follow orders, to penalize insubordinates, or to rule with an iron fist.  More often that falls closer to “dictatorship” than “leadership”. Read more…

Nice Puppy… Stay!

June 16, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s not unusual to kill stuff in video games.  Many an RPG starts with the ubiquitous killing of rats in a sewer or cellar, then we progress to killing trolls, goblins and other assorted critters.  We kill humans, we kill monsters, many of us even killed little girls in Bioshock… and I can gleefully kill all that stuff… but somehow it bothers me when I have to kill dogs.  It makes me… uncomfortable.

I’ve always had pets (at one point we had 3 dogs and 5 cats) and I admit that even in the early Tomb Raider games, I used to try and climb up high and avoid the dogs rather than killing them if I could.  In COD4, killing those dogs with a knife was brutal.  Yes, they were german shepherds with big teeth lunging for my neck… and the natural reaction is to kill them, but still, that yelp that they made when dying made me feel a bit sad.  The multiplayer of Call of Duty was even worse with the killstreak perk of “attack dogs” where a pack of dogs is suddenly howling and trying to rip your ass off… though I often did manage to get up high and avoid them – but killing them just seemed much worse than killing a human for some reason. Read more…

Unexpected… like Pink Flamingos

June 16, 2011 Leave a comment

So what happens when you use “Dark Blonde” hair dye on medium brown hair with a liberal sprinkling of gray?  Well, apparently I’m now a redhead with dark auburn hair.  It looks ok.. though a little darker than what I wanted, so I guess next time I’ll spin the roulette wheel again and try a lighter blonde to see what I get!  In general, I like little surprises… like my pink flamingos.  Yes… pink flamingos.  Those tacky plastic birds that sit on front lawns.  I actually have some – the two shown above to be exact.  I’m an avid gardener and have a lovely garden of shrubs, annuals and perennials.  I don’t know if I reached a certain age, or what happened… but suddenly I decided that my garden was too “serious”.  I just couldn’t bring myself to buy garden gnomes (I personally find them a little creepy), but I thought that two pink flamingos nestled deep in the shrubbery and poking their noses out would give me a quiet smile when looking out at my garden.  I looked all over and finally found some… and they’ve quietly made me smile for several years now.

In gaming I also like “pink flamingos”… those incongruous, tacky, and stupid little things you see in a game that bring a smile to your face.  I’m not referring to Easter Eggs… the funny things that devs put into game that anyone can find, nor am I referring to those moments where I’m sure the dev intended one thing, but was just unintentionally funny… like in this COD screenshot below.  Anyone who played Modern Warfare likely remembers this… and I’m quite sure we all giggled just a little bit. Read more…

Me and My Gun

June 16, 2011 1 comment

OMG!! I’m one of “them”!!  How in hell did this happen??? I used to be such a nice girl. Now, I’ve become that stereotypical gamer… spending my evenings loading up some shooter game and yelling at people into the mic.  The fact that I’m old (49) and female, well that’s irrelevant because I’ve become exactly how I always thought gamers were – addicts who bought SOCOM or HALO and played them night after night.

I don’t really know how it happened.  It was never my intention.  I look at the games scattered near my console and most every night I find myself playing an FPS or shooter game – usually MAG, Homefront, L4D2, Resistance 2, KZ2 or sometimes Warhawk.  I find this odd.  I don’t like guns. I’ve never fired a gun in real life. I don’t know guns and always think a SCAR is a mark left by an injury, or that FAMAS is somebody misspelling Famous (OMG… I’m Famas!)  I don’t even know the differences between an SMG and an assault rifle and they all kind of seem the same to me – point, shoot.   Terms like bullet spread, grips and suppressors always sound vaguely S&M dirty to me. Read more…

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