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The end of Autonomy in the first person shooter

A follow up to my post on Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose on being the keys to a great game.

The experience of playing the Duke Nukem Forever demo made me ponder the idea that Autonomy is more or less dead in the first person shooter genre. Every modern FPS I have played (with the possible exception of Crysis) seems to have replaced the idea of leaving the player to solve the game their own way with the idea of holding their hand all of the way through it.

 

Let's look at the ways it has done this:

 

 

Level design

 

(Note: I have no idea who originally authored this map. It's pretty good though. I think the map is one of the later levels from Doom 1's shareware episode.)

 

Back in the "good old days", the player was simply dropped into a map that resembled a place - a maze-like Castle floor in Wolfenstein, a Sci-Fi or Fantasy environment in Doom, or a city block in Duke Nukem 3D - and left to explore it their own way.

 

Granted, this wasn't always fantastic. Exploring mazes became monotomous, especally when backpeddling and finding keys was involved. But at least levels with multiple paths give replay value. The first level of Duke 3D springs to mind, although it isn't the most open level in the game you could siege the movie theater from either side, and there were numerous optional side rooms that could be explored.

 

 

Recharging health


In most modern First Person Shooters, you can be fully healed after taking damage by just stepping out of the way of gunfire for a few seconds.

 

I admit that it was sometimes frustrating to hunt down health kits. But the flip side of it was an intense experience, where you had to be extremely careful with your health, especially as it was running out. It was also very satisfying to find health after holding on at 10% for awhile.

 

I'll be fair and say that I actually like the concept of recharging health in multiplayer modes - to a degree. The first time I played Goldeneye multiplayer, I couldn't score a single kill as the game's owner knew exactly where the armour was. Recharging health removes the requirement for players to learn where the health kits are in order to play competitively. By the same token though, finding and jealously protecting health kits did add another layer of skill and strategy.

 

 

Restricting the number of weapons

 

Most modern first person shooters only allow you to carry two guns at a time. By contrast, all of the classic ones allowed you to carry every gun in the game simutaneously.

 

Sure, this was far from realistic, but it was great to use any gun in the game at any time. Asides from being fantastic for replay value, it added a layer of strategy as often you'd have to weigh up using the BFG-9000 ammo to get out of your current situation, or saving it for a more heated battle later.

 

 

Quick time events

 

I don't think I need to elaborate on this point. No body seems to enjoy these.

 

 

The end result of all of this is:

 

When I get a first person shooter these days, I play through the single player mode in around eight hours. I have a great time, but that's the game over and done with, because there's almost no replay value. Eight hours doesn't even come close to the amount of hours I've spent playing and replaying Duke 3D, Shadow Warrior, Doom, Goldeneye, Blood, ROTT et al. I think even the free Shareware versions of these games had comparable play value to their modern counterparts.

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chirinea
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I agree with you in every point, except maybe for the restricted number of weapons one. I like it when the game tries to be realistic in this respect. I remember playing BloodRayne with a code to display all weapons on the character. The girl could unrealistically carry several guns, but at least I saw them on her (of course this doesn't apply to FPSs, but anyway...).

I'm sad to read so many bad reviews about DNF. Part of my motivation in getting a new machine was thinking about playing new games such as DNF.

Earok
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Hi Gui, good to hear from you.

There are definitely good points to limited weapons, such as the realism factor you mentioned. It's also good for Console FPS (Managing guns without number keys can be a pain). I really liked it when I first experienced it in Halo, which I suppose attempts to be a "semi-realistic" sci fi shooter.

I've been playing Duke 3D's Shareware ep again, and I've really enjoyed the freedom to switch between Pistol, Shotgun, Chaingun, Rocket Launcher and Pipe bomb depending on how I want to approach the situation. I'm not limited to a choice of two weapons that happen to be lying around. In any case, some of the complaints about DNF are the fact that he can only ever hold two weapons at a time, even if one happens to be a pistol..

That said, don't make up your mind about DNF without at least playing the demo. I was disappointed the first time, though I really enjoyed the second playthrough. Maybe not enough to rush out and buy the game though.

arran4
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Joined: 05/05/2009

Level design. Yes I do think that it did decay a bit from ID software (speaking from someone who recently attempted completing the ID Software package on steam.. Almost done.) Does seem to have decayed a little for a bit. However I think it's being replaced with a more RPG like open-endedness in terms of the story line, focusing on quests and giving you the options there. Such as look at mass effect. While I do miss puzzle based level designs, I do seem to prefer Mass Effect 2 over Quake, for the reason being Quake, and all it's expansions got really repeatitive. Similar story to Doom and Doom 2 (I didn't play Final Doom as a result.) However doom and doom 2 were amazing in terms of the ideas they introduced, which made them playable.

 

Recharging health and Weapons. I consider this more of a "rules of the game" sort of issue. Most Mutliplayer games don't seem to have a Mass effect style ammo, they seem to be stuck on the limited (that you need to find+pickup) ammo for each weapon. Personally I liked how (whilst not a shooter) Portal and Portal 2, you didn't have a health bar. It just wasn't any of your concern. It makes the game much less about Numbers are more about "hits" and the way you where "hit." Maybe numbers were just a transition point until computers and game development got to the point where it could support the concept of localized damage?

 

In terms of replayability. I don't really share your view on the old games. When I was a kid I played them a lot and they got great replayability, but that's because I was playing with a keyboard, and let's face it. I was a pretty bad player. Never having completed a FPS before I finished school, other than Quake 3 Arena. 

In terms of weapons and carrying load. I do like games that limit what you can do based on the model you choose. Such as carry load. However I do like the option of having a modern game that doesn't use that implementation too. I like the idea of classes to some extent, but not as much as I like the idea of the Dues Ex method of Bio moding. Having just finished Invisible War, I think I prefer the original. Or even Bioshocks method. (Haven't played Bioshock 2 yet though let's see how that is.)

Duke 3d shareware? Grab the full thing off gog or something? :P I still have the original disk! :)

Earok
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Yeah, I never finished the original Quake, or any Quake for that matter. The levels were drab and not very interesting, compared to Duke 3D at least. Even the Doom levels were more interesting with their bizarre mix of Sci fi and Fantasy. Still never played a Mass Effect, must wait until there's a Steam special..

I still have the original Duke 3D disc too - Atomic edition, infact ;)

arran4
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Yeah I have made it my aim to actually _complete_ games. It's a worthwhile goal. But it means my steam list is KILLING me. Atomic too! We can be "Atomic owner brothers!" Or perhaps not...

What games have you played? VS completed?

(Maybe playable and completed are of Nullable<Type> type? :P )

Earok
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heh, we defs should see if we can get co op mode working. Would love to play it through start to end with a friend.

Re: completed, refer to my 100 game challenge list, which is unfortunately somewhat out of date. As for played but not completed, probably four times that long.

arran4
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I don't know if I can find a serial cable that long! :P

Yeah a play though would be cool, when do you have time for that?

 

100 games list:

http://www.earok.net/sections/news/personal/100-game-challenge

 

Shouldn't that be a section, not a news article?

Earok
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Hows your Saturday evening?

Uh.. I'm not really sure the list of games I've beaten is enough of an attraction to deserve a section of it's own.

arran4
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Sunday it is! :P

Well I suggested it as a structural thing. You don't expect news articles to be updated. I suppose there can be follow ups however.

Earok
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Touche, but whenever I make a significant revision to something old, I reset the publish date so it rises to the top of my blog. I'll definitely amend the 100 game challenge when I get a chance.

arran4
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Touche. Not sure why. :S Yeah. Drupal seems to have this concept of articles "floating" it's kind of weird. Personally I am trying out Concrete5 on www.arran4.com and www.ubels.com.au (Both still in progress, by that I mean hardly started. :) I might flick arran4.com back to drupal however. Concrete5 has a different feel to it.

hydra9
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I might have mentioned this before, Erik, but if you're ever in the mood for a classic FPS, you should give Quake another shot.  When it first came out, I also found it rather uninteresting. I played quite a bit of deathmatch with my friend but we eventually tired of it and went back to DOOM. As for the single-player, I completed the first episode but lost interest soon afterwards. It did indeed seem drab and repetitive.

I gave the game another try a couple of years ago, and REALLY dug it this time. After playing so many fun but rigidly designed modern FPSs, Quake felt really fresh. It has mostly excellent level design (often hub-based) and a focus on secrets and traps that is simply not seen anymore. Every episode is dominated by a different level designer, which makes the game even more schizophrenic but does give each episode a different feel. Plus there's a small but distinctive cast of enemies that are well used throughout.

I liked it so much I even played the expansion packs afterwards.

As for your main points: I think, at the very least, modern shooters should have more optional side-rooms and 'secrets' to discover. I'd prefer to see health-packs instead of recharging health but it also depends on the game. I like the limited weapons thing, but not all the time (I haven't played Duke Nukem Forever but I know it's crying out for a patch that removes this 'feature'). QTEs? Who needs 'em?

Earok
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Ah, I'll definitely have to give Quake a second look then. I don't think I've played it since the 90s, when I was firmly in "Team Duke", so I may well enjoy playing it today.

Also, there was a mod of Quake I really loved - Quake Rally, have you seen it?

hydra9
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Hadn't heard of Quake Rally but I've just checked out some videos of it - Very impressive!

arran4
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Quake rally sounds good. Looking it up now.

I agree with what Hydra says. Also play the expansions. Its' a good time to buy the complete ID software package on steam atm. It's $30usd. It doesn't contain the newier games, but it certianly is a lot of fun. (I have almost completed the pack.)

Although I played a bit of Serious Sam 1, it seems to have secrets like what you say. But I am not sure if this is repeated in the newier versions. (I haven't play'd them as I am stuck. ):

http://youtu.be/uZvaVgmIUrc Heh Love the sky effect!

 

http://youtu.be/UDzv9IGcuIE Hah! Health packs and "underwater" driving!

Earok
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Heh, I saw those videos on your Google Reader shared items. I'll look at the complete ID pack sometime (I need to get another copy of the Doom games too, not sure where I put my copy of final doom etc).

hydra9
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The only problem with Quake on Steam is I don't think it comes with the soundtrack (something that can probably be downloaded quite easily, though).

From what I've heard the new Serious Sam game is as oldskool as can be (lots of secrets, etc). Pity I never liked Serious Sam :|

arran4
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Yeah, the discount expires on the 30th or something.  It annoys me you don't get any of the newier games with the pack. Also I just had a look and I can't seem to find where the music is kept. However you could probably download it from somewhere.

Yeah. I also stuck somewhere in it. It's a very easy game to play, for the majority of the game.

arran4
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10th, sorry.

Earok
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Doesn't have the soundtrack? Ouch. Anyone know why that is?

hydra9
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'Legal reasons', I believe. Yawn. Or maybe just unforgivable laziness, seeing as the original soundtrack is played as CD audio?


Actually, if you do want to play it anytime, I could send you the music (ripped from my CD copy). Not sure how you'd get it to work with the game, but there must be a way.

Earok
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That's cool, it looks like there are patches on the internet that restore the soundtrack.

I completely forgot the soundtrack was by Trent Reznor. I guess whatever licence they had for the music expired.

arran4
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Joined: 05/05/2009

What is significant about Trent Reznor and expiry? Did you buy the IDSoftware pack?

Earok
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Well, the soundtrack as by Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails. I thought there might be a possibility that, due to whatever licence deal they struck, it ended up making the soundtrack appearing on Steam an impossibility.

And no, I haven't. Don't really have any time for more games at the moment, I'm currently half way through Curse of Monkey Island (again) and Crysis.

arran4
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Joined: 05/05/2009

Monkey Island. FTW. :)

Crysis, is it a good game?

Earok
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I recommend Crysis, you liked Mirror's Edge so you'll probably enjoy Crysis too, assuming you can get it to run smoothly. There's a fairly large degree in autonomy in it (which is why I labelled it an exception in this post) as you can approach combat situations with a multitude of different tactics, like all out warfare, stealth, or just sprinting through it.

arran4
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So similar to Dues Ex then?

Earok
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I haven't played Deus Ex much, but I guess, yes?

There's no RPG elements in Crysis. What you have instead is a suit that you can switch between modes (Maximum shield means you can take more damage, maximum speed means you can run really fast, maximum strength means you can jump high, strangle North Koreans and toss their corpses with one hand, cloak makes you invisible). Since you can only be in one mode at a time, you frequently have to make tactical decisions about how to fight or fly from a combat situation.

arran4
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You haven't? You have your orders! :P

Ah right. I did play.. 15mins of it. Before my graphics card overheated. Sigh. I should put more effort into it. How long is the game? Hopefully I can do it when I clear up the contract before getting the iPhone contract, or at least until I get the materials for it.

Earok
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I've got a dozen other things still on my 'to play' list, including a few Wii titles I own but haven't actually taken out of their case! That said, Deus Ex didn't "grab me" straight away, so I'm not sure if I'd actually enjoy the game much.

I have no idea how long it is, I presume it hovers around the standard 8 hour range, maybe longer depending on difficulty etc.

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