CGD Podcast Episode 25 – On FPS Games


This week, I’m talking about FPS (First Person Shooter) games, something I’ve spent a good chunk of my life playing. I think we really misunderstand these things, as the correct distinction is probably just “shooter” – and probably it’s time that we moved on from them.


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  • Conor

    Hey, here is an idea for you,

    You said the core mechanic of shooting is not really deep as it is effectively just a click speed contest. I agree but I also feel we shouldn’t think shooting should be the core mechanic of FPS games. If you think instead of positioning as the core mechanic and build the game around that I think there is a fair amount of depth to be gotten from the formula. Like how Auro is about trying to move yourself and the monsters to get them into a position where you can push them into a lethal hazard, I think a good FPS would be about trying to get yourself and your opponents into a position where you can easily shoot them but they cant shoot you. I think the most important thing to do to achieve this would be heavily limit the player turn speed. If you can’t turn very quickly you can’t rely on faster aiming skill to win. When someone out-manoeuvres you, you lose. “Flank your opponents without getting flanked” is a far more interesting problem than “click on them before they click on you” right?

  • Yeah. Limiting execution is definitely a start, because even if you add strategy, execution will over-ride it. So yeah, you have to limit execution, and then you have to sorta build a strategy game. I would posit to you that if you *just* took the execution out of a modern day FPS, you wouldn’t be left with much. So you’d basically be starting from scratch. “Positioning” is too broad to be a real core mechanism.

  • Conor

    I agree that just “positioning” is too general a core mechanic, maybe I was too vague. Let me try and explain myself better. I think there is a very specific core mechanic to the FPS game but I think the focus on the shooting keeps us from really seeing it. If we strip away the shooting, the different weapons, AOE, the special character traits, there is a very specific problem that these games present, moving about in 3d space so as you are looking at someone and they are not looking at you.

    Limiting the turn speed doesn’t just reduce the power of execution skill but makes it so as line of sight isn’t symmetric. In FPS games, you can’t get a strategic positioning edge over your opponents because combat is based on line of sight. As there is no limit on turn speed any position where you have line of sight on an opponent they can just turn very quickly and also have line of sight on you. This means every position is strategically equal with a margin of error dictated by the other player’s ability to turn. Limiting turn speed breaks this dynamic, making approaching your opponent from behind significantly more strategically valuable no matter their execution skill. Now when we throw two teams of 8 into an arena the decisions about where to stand, where to move, and where to be looking that were before quite shallow take on a new depth.

    I think that was a proper explanation of what I am thinking. I think there already is a strategy game in the FPS but that symmetric combat breaks it.

  • Max Boyson

    To build off of what people have said about positioning,

    The importance of the first person view in fps is that as well as being an inefficient way to control a game it is more importantly a way to limit the players information. By putting the perspective into first person the players are unable to see their own flank and behind themselves. This works wonderfully with the concept of positioning as it makes the game all about finding a flank.

    Possibly the best game I can think of to accentuate my point is Rainbow Six Siege, while it has its faults mechanically(as well as bad net code and a plague of hackers) the game demonstrates the strategy derived from flanking the most apparently.