It’s been quite some time since the days of Wolfenstein 3D. Back in ’92, each game that came out as a First Person Shooter (FPS) seemed to push the whole genre just a bit further. From Doom to Battlefield 1942, the whole concept of putting you into the head and eyes of one soldier was quite revolutionary. Over 20 years later, though, it seems that the whole FPS scene has been stuck in the mud due to unbelievable sales numbers by one franchise in particular. Still, their meteoric sales numbers have yet to incite the winds of radical change.
Now these suggestions are primarily for the multitude of military shooters on the market. For the last 4 or 5 years, games like Battlefield, Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, Rainbow Six, and others are released annually. While each edition of the games are good, they’ve fallen into the same trap that many successful games do where they don’t want to mess with the formula hoping that they don’t lose their already large market. That is the safe and intelligent way to go financially, of course, but most gamers wish that companies would stop putting out new versions of games that come across as more of an expansion.
With that said, gamers want more. Critics want more. Nothing pains me more than hearing people say that a great game is bad or horrible simply because they didn’t ‘change’ too much or that a game has been the same since almost 10 years ago. Even the developer of Call of Duty said that a majority of the people that only play their game are NOT hardcore gamers. I beg to differ but that is a topic best saved for another time.
Again, let’s keep in mind that these changes that I’m suggesting all pertain to military shooters.
1. Progressive and Persistent War Fields
When I think of games about war, there is always one question… WHY? When you jump into a Battlefield or Call of Duty match, most players only think that this question is answered by “so I can improve my kill/death ratio”. This reason alone has made a majority of the FPS games on the market stale simply because they aren’t successfully encouraging players to work as a team to achieve a common goal. While each of the FPS games all have various modes that are objective based, a majority of the players play team deathmatch.
So, to solve this I pose that each of these games evolve to have a persistent online experience. What that means is every session or battle that you participate in affects a larger scale war. Games such as Chromehounds, Bungie’s upcoming Destiny, Dust 514, Planetside 2, Tabula Rasa, and Hybrid are examples of games that have or are trying to use this style of feature. While I haven’t played a majority of the games that I’ve listed, one on the list that seemed to set up the scale and the affects of each match in a simplistic way was Chromehounds. I’ve actually written about the appeal of this feature in Chromehounds before. The reason why it sticks with me so is that Chromehounds, more than any other game, really integrated the whole in-game clan system well so that when you played the game, you became close to those you played with. The game structure forced teamwork and was infinitely hard without it. Once you successfully defended or attacked a certain area, your victory was clearly defined in the map and you really felt like your victory or your defeat really affected something… not your K/D ratio.
I’ve tried Dust 514 and while it is tied to an amazingly complex strategy game in Eve Online, the game is a bit too complex and not very welcoming to casual players or even players that know little to nothing about Eve Online and its huge universe. Still, its integration of Eve Online players that can affect Dust 514 matches is the kind of cross-play that revolutionizes the genre. More FPS games need some sort of interaction of this sort just to spice things up.
2. Formations / Team based actions
There are certain war simulation games that have found other ways to stress the importance of tactics and strategy. One action game in particular that seemed to utilize it in an interesting way was Koei’s Samurai Warriors 2 Empires. In that game, bonuses to various aspects of the battlefield were enacted when earned cards were ‘activated’ in battle. Some formations actually countered the effects of others and would negate the effects of your opponent’s if your formation as the correct type or of a higher level. Sound interesting? No? Ok… let’s try again.
Team based actions are a great way to get players interested in using the various tech that is offered in many of these games. Often times, these modes are overlooked or just simply poorly executed. The Battlefield series seemed to strike that balance well enough with their award system for actions that would support other teammates without directly leading to a kill. Actions like laser targeting, visually tagging enemies, repairing vehicles, reviving teammates and more all provide points as actions that help your team win. By doing so, players who never even kill an opponent can become the MVP of a match by being skilled at assisting his teammates.
While this is something that is currently being done by Battlefield, I think that this can become a common trend in FPS games that could encourage leery gamers who aren’t great marksmen to find their ‘place’ in the game. The challenge is making these actions fun and not tedious. An even greater challenge is making these actions require some level of skill to perform. For example, how about making engineers more like salvage troops that must salvage parts from wrecks before being able to repair a vehicle? How about allowing them to create artillery or other devices while in game on certain maps after stealing enemy plans or getting a killstreak that provides a blueprint for new tech to build or something. For example, the ambitious but flawed game Brink had some character classes provide bonus crates or powerups for teammates on occasion as a support action to assist teammates until they die. Providing actions or bonuses such as these provide more strategy and tactics beyond just having the fastest submachine gun on the map.
3. AI Fodder
This is another feature that has been utilized to varying success in various games. While it is not particularly innovative, what if this feature could be used as more than simply another soldier beside you to run and be a bullet magnet? What if there was a way that your avatar could learn how you typically play and become a player that could be integrated into other online player’s online and offline modes as either a teammate in single player or a bodyguard online of sorts? Get a certain number of requests and your avatar could earn you more money, or experience, or items.
I guess with this feature I’m looking more so at how Dragon’s Dogma utilized their ‘Pawns’ rather than how CoD Ghosts utilized their AI squads. These approaches I’m sure could be upgraded or merged or improved in some fashion to become the ‘way to go’ for future FPS games though.
4. Loot Based Weapon Customization
Maybe this feature is due to my love of loot based games but consider this. The Borderlands series is very popular due to it’s ability to keep people playing over and over looking for that one or two or three crazy powerful weapons that few to no one else online have ever found or use. I know that this game is not in the ‘military shooter’ genre but a part of this could be used quite effectively without really having to lose the ‘realism’ of the game.
Imagine merging the loot based idea with the wide variety of gun customizing options given in Tom Clancy’s Future Soldier game. There the gun could be broken out into pieces that could be switched out and customized to provide marginal improvements and penalties to various aspects of the gun’s performance. This could even be tossed in with the team action salvaging idea where engineers or any class for that matter could attempt to salvage parts from a foe’s dropped weapon rather than just taking the gun or the gun’s ammo. An RPG like check could be done where failure destroys the weapon and success quick gives you a random piece from the gun (since time is a luxury in a firefight of course).
5. Unique Leaders and Generals
Many times in 3rd person multiplayer games, like Lord of the Rings Conquest or Star Wars Battlefront 2, would allow you to take control of unique generals or leaders that have special abilities for a short amount of time based upon performance. These moments were exhilarating in those games because your character would temporarily become an uber badass that could do things no one else on the map could. Of course, if this wasn’t kept in check, these characters could unbalance the gameplay completely.
In a way, I suppose having a feature like this could be quite similar to using a killstreak bonus to become a Juggernaut or something similar. Still, most of these killstreaks aren’t necessarily recognizable.
What if Call of Duty decided to make a deal with certain celebrities to have them featured as a killstreak bonus within multiplayer? For instance, what if they had an Expendables 2 DLC where you could become a character from the movie for a short time? Think of the many movie characters (that are realistic of course) that Call of Duty could pull from to spice things up a bit? They could even go the comic route and add funny characters like Ash from Army of Darkness or Jack Black’s character from Tropic Thunder! Imagine the hilarity that could ensue!
So there you have it people. Bunneh3000 has blessed you with his insanity once again! Sound off on these ideas and suggest your own!