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Thread: Seven 7hings: A History of Violence

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    Shreyk ArmadonRK's Avatar
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    Seven 7hings: A History of Violence



    A History of Violence

    (A Pseudo-Chronological Retrospective of a Genre)

    With the Bad Company 2 beta upon us, it seemed like the right time for a retrospective of the genre we all know and love - the first-person shooter.
    It's a long standing tradition amongst PC gamers, it may even be the most popular and celebrated in our history, and we should take the time to remember the things that brought us to where we stand today.

    This is by no means a complete list, but it is seven of the elements that stand out in FPS history, whether it's the launch of a revolutionary game, or the start of a great franchise, the execution of an innovative idea, or the beginnings of an important company.
    So here are:

    Seven 7hings That Defined The First Person Shooter


    1. Our Forefathers


    Now, when you think back to the early days of the FPS most everyone jumps immediately to the id classic, DOOM. But we'll get to DOOM in a second, because it's not quite the beginning of the story. No, to start at the beginning is to look back at another id title, one that came before even DOOM. In fact, we look back at the first shooter I ever played, on an ancient DOS powered PC off a 3 1/2 inch floppy disk, Wolfenstein 3D.
    I don't remember much of it, really, but I do remember marveling at the concept. A game in the first person perspective, free of the bounds of two-dimensional space, a game not of words and numbers or simple logic puzzles, but of unencumbered, nigh inexplicable violence. If I'd known then the role the genre would play in my future, I might have savored the experience more. I would, later, truly savor the FPS experience when I got my hands on the original Star Wars: Dark Forces, but Wolfenstein was where it began, and not just for me.
    To call Wolfenstein the first true FPS may not be factually accurate, but it's no stretch. It is the spiritual ancestor of the modern shooter in every way.
    The impact on the modern shooter landscape remains apparent, of one gun-toting William Blazkowicz against an army of Nazi mutants.
    Which brings us to DOOM. The heir-apparent that broke boundaries and brought the first-person shooter into the limelight. DOOM pioneered true 3D graphics for all, bringing us a true sense of three-dimensional space and beautifully mapped textures. It even foreshadowed a huge graphical innovation in recent memory, HDR, by introducing us to varied lighting. The game even blew us out of our seats with stereo sound.
    But DOOM was also the first to bring us two FPS staples: customization and networking. Mods and multiplayer today may be far beyond what we got back in 1993, but without DOOM they would not exist.
    It's fitting that for a time after DOOM, games in the genre were not known as FPSes, but as DOOM clones.

    2. To Pwn Or Not To Pwn


    Where was the genre to go next? We'd killed Nazis and mutants, fought hordes of Martian Demons, we'd even had glorious shootouts with our more tech savvy friends. But what we really wanted was to take the fragging to total strangers and people in faraway lands. We needed a versus mode that was more than local. We needed multiplayer that transcended simple networks. We needed Quake.
    Quake not only took the technology of the genre even further than its predecessors, it bore online multiplayer as it exists today. In fact, multiplayer gaming has not changed much since the first days of Quake. We still have deathmatch, we still have teamplay, and we still have co-op.
    The fast and frantic gameplay of Quake was a landmark moment for PC gaming. Quake would pave the way for FPSes for years to come, and the franchise it created would itself stand up in the face of competition for many of those years - chiefly among said competition, the Unreal franchise.
    And with that, let me break off on a tangent. Epic Games would be another important developer in the genre, not so much because of the Unreal franchise itself (although it was a strong contender), but because of the engine that was born of it. The Unreal Engine in its many numbers and forms has powered mods and games for more than a decade. That it remains one of the most popular engines for first-person shooters is a testament to its strength.
    Let us now turn away from the comfort of our chairs. Let's step away from our desks and the warm glow of our monitors, and into the room just down the hall. It's in this room of gathering, of a television and a couch and friends, that we find the next part of our tale. Because while it is clear that id Software reigned supreme over the FPS genre up to this point, something was missing. Franchising, brand recognition and a not-so-little studio called Rareware.
    Because what else did we need in an FPS but James Bond? With the success of the new James Bond, of course a video game adaptation was called for, but who might have predicted the scope and success of what was to be known as Goldeneye 64?
    Goldeneye's legacy is that it was the beginning of the console shooter, preceding modern juggernauts like Halo and Call of Duty, Goldeneye is where it all began. Another part of its legacy may be that it showed what a game based on a movie was capable of.
    And while crashing on the sofa to beat your closest friends in Mario Kart was nothing new at the time, blowing them to oblivion with a remote mine was. Goldeneye brought the full, fragtastic experience from your desk to your living room, and stands alongside DOOM as one of the most important titles in FPS history.

    3. Steam Powered


    With the industry dominating platform they have at their disposal now, it's funny to think that Valve struggled to find a publisher for their critically acclaimed debut title.
    But find a publisher they did, and Half-Life was given to the world by Sierra On-Line. To say the response was tremendous would be an understatement. Half-life was lauded for its action and its puzzles, for its visual style and concepts, for its sound and its immersion, and for its incredible and well executed narrative.
    Early on, Valve got their hands on the development team from the Quake mod "Team Fortress", as well as attracting Gearbox Software to work on Half-Life's expansions.
    All of this years before Steam came into the picture. The single-player experience of Half-Life was just the beginning of Valve's legacy.
    In a post Steam world, Half-Life 2 would share its predecessor's acclaim and success, with the Source Engine providing a great platform for game developers and mod creators.
    But could any of these be considered the pinnacle of Valve's accomplishments?
    I mean, what is Valve known for most?

    4. The n00b Coefficient


    The n00b as he exists today owes his manner, his very existence even, to two people - Minh Le and Jesse Cliffe. The creators of Counter-Strike.
    n00bs wander aimlessly about the map, they consistently whine over voice chat, they swear a lot in their prepubescent voices and they blame you for everything they do wrong. But if the n00b exists, so must the ones who hunt and kill the n00b, with whatever weapon is at hand.
    Every joke, every cliche, every stereotype about n00bs seems to stem from Counter-Strike's playerbase, and the culture surrounding it. It's the game that defined "tactical shooter", separating the men from the Men, the n00bs from the pros. Sadly, it even helped strengthen the whole "l33t" thing we had to put up with for so many years. Have I mentioned how glad I am that online fad died out?
    But I digress. And really, I'm not sure there's anything worth saying about Counter-Strike that hasn't been experienced by most everyone here. We all know it well. In fact, it is largely (if not solely) responsible for strafeRight's existence. It was CSS and NBF's Shed that first brought us together to own and be owned. And here we are, years later, as strafeRight. Isn't that something?
    Suffice to say Counter-Strike ruled over all other PC shooters for a decade. Would it ever be dethroned?
    Certainly other games would try. Epic would continue churning out Unreal titles over the years, while Quake got its share of sequels as well.
    Medal of Honor, in 2002, would spawn a successful and long-running franchise, as would the following year's Call of Duty. The common theme of their success, it seemed, was war.
    And we can't talk about war without mentioning Battlefield, can we?

    5. War Games


    As great as it would be to enjoy a virtual adaptation of Matthew Broderick taking on a military supercomputer in global thermonuclear war, or tic-tac-toe, I'm obviously not talking about that right now.
    No, I'm talking about the FPS that immersed us in a true war, brought us the full size and scope of battle with all the weapons and vehicles needed to do the job. Battlefield 1942.
    Battlefield 1942 stuck with the successful formula of setting your war game in WWII. It worked for Call of Duty and it worked for Medal of Honor. With Wolfenstein itself a WWII shooter of sorts, 1942 didn't break for a radical new milieu.
    No, DICE took its historic setting and brought it to life in immense and awe-inspiring maps. They created a game diverse and expansive, with a class structure that promoted teamplay in a way that hadn't been done before, and the opportunity to command vehicles of all types in a true battlefield experience. Most importantly, 1942 pitted two massive teams, of 32 players each, against each other.
    This successful formula would continue in the game's many expansions and sequels. Battlefield 2's continued popularity proves the concept's strength and staying power. The Battlefield formula is an experience like no other, with few games treading where the series has, and none succeeding on the same level.

    6. Still Steam Powered


    With the success of Half-Life and Counter-Strike under their belts, Valve's image was only slightly tarnished by Steam's early disappointments. But the company fought through it, following up with Half-Life 2 and Counter-Strike: Source. They'd begin to offer third-party games over Steam, and gradually the platform would grow to be a success.
    But what we're interested in is what they did next for the FPS genre.
    The Orange Box made some improvements to the Source engine, sure, but that's not the main event. Really there are two separate reasons the games contained within it are so important. Let's start with Portal.
    It was just awesome. It was fun, it catered to players of different skill levels, looking for different levels of replayability. But I think its most important trait was that it did something new. The FPS genre has always been a series of variations on the same formula. However large or small, few games have strayed too far from the path. Portal showed that not everything had been done, that there was real innovation still to come, not just in technology or persistence, but in the core gameplay. While we may still be dreaming of Portal multiplayer, Portal knocked our socks off by being wonderfully different from the norm.
    Team Fortress 2, on the other hand, relies very much on tried and true FPS conventions. In fact, so much of the game comes from what has come before. The Scout's double jump, the Soldier's rocket jump, the Medic's healing, the Engineer's sentry. Team Fortress 2 combined so many elements from FPSes past and created a fun and highly team-oriented game. Its crowning achievement, however, is in what came next. Simply put: a lot. Patch after patch, update after update, Valve churned out balance tweaks, and new weapons, new maps, new content, new everything. And, oh yeah, all for free. And while it is, clearly, downloadable content, I never call it "DLC". No, "DLC" is a dirty word we associate with developers charging us money for new content, and creating rifts in the playerbase. What we got was so much better. Maybe it was the game's RPG-esque elements that made the model work, but Team Fortress 2 gave us an MMO's persistent content at no charge. I can only hope that in the future we expect as much from other developers, other games, other franchises.

    7. The n00b Coefficient˛


    Modern Warfare 2's recent release was surrounded by hype and more than a little criticism. Infinity Ward's decision to drop dedicated server support, to force their console matchmaking on PC gamers, and to restrict the control we had over our game, was highly criticized. It forced us to unite against the tyrannical developer, and boycott their product. Most of us then proceeded, it seems, to buy as many copies of the game as we could... The point being, Modern Warfare 2 went on to shatter Halo 3's record sales. Both of these titles showed that video games were here to stay, in the public consciousness, and in the mainstream market.
    Is there a downside to this popularity? Some seem to think so. It was back with Halo 3's success that the "frat gaming" scene exploded (and only the action-packed, high concept, edge of your seat heart-stopper Guitar Hero would topple it as the "frat game" of choice...). Suddenly, servers were flooded with new, unexperienced players. And to some these people weren't "gamer" enough for the old regime. They weren't "hardcore" gamers, and they had no place in "our" world.
    The same has been said of Modern Warfare 2, only it went beyond attracting only "frat gamers" and brought an entirely new level of attention to the genre. Soon people were complaining that there were too many n00bs buying the game, flooding our servers (or serverless lagfests as the case may be), and spamming our comms.
    But I say nay. The more n00bs the better. For just as Counter-Strike first gave us n00bs to own, these games have given us... more n00bs to own.
    n00bs are our bread and butter, and we should embrace them with open arms (and a knife to the back).
    With video games at their most popular, and n00bs around every corner, there's no better time to be a gamer.
    But it's not just gaming as a whole that's the subject, either. These record breaking, boundary shattering titles have not just been games, they've predominantly been first person shooters. What more proof could there be that it is the Greatest Genre?


    And so here we are, with gaming in the mainstream, FPSes as top dog, and everyone clamoring to get their hands on the new Bad Company 2 beta.
    With so many years of history at its back, so much technology and innovation, Bad Company 2 stands poised to make an important mark on the future of the genre. Mostly I just want it to crush Modern Warfare 2, but I truly hope that it has what it takes to be the next dominant FPS in that can't get enough, glued to your screen kind of way. It's the experience I have of countless all-nighters in the Sheds, playing the gaming powerhouses Counter-Strike, Battlefield, Team Fortress and Left4Dead.
    And, obviously, the more successful it is, the more gun fodder we'll have at our disposal. Gotta love that n00b Coefficient.

    Well then.
    Here we go.
    Last edited by ArmadonRK; 01-29-2010 at 03:44 AM.





    Quote Originally Posted by DWall View Post
    go back to eating your jesus eggs.

  2. #2
    may the Bruce be with you CoffeeShark's Avatar
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    Re: Seven 7hings: A History of Violence

    excellent read.

  3. #3
    SR-> Henry henry's Avatar
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    Re: Seven 7hings: A History of Violence

    true i get more noobs to own in mw2 but i still dont like it. css is all about skill, every server i join i have to go all or nothing on it since if i dont ill get owned.
    but mw2 ill just play on easy moe and get high kill ratio. no challenge
    Quote Originally Posted by VincentVega View Post
    I got played by henry, wtf!

  4. #4
    m00tini! wootini's Avatar
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    Re: Seven 7hings: A History of Violence

    Damn what a great job! That really brought back some memories for me. You have to wonder at what point will the cycle repeat itself, as most such things eventually always do, and where will that ultimately lead us.

  5. #5
    Nothing Special Demoralized's Avatar
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    Re: Seven 7hings: A History of Violence

    Fantastic read.
    Never look down on anybody unless you're helping him up. -
    Jesse Jackson
    -----------------------

    Quote Originally Posted by DennyCrane View Post
    You, sir, are a god damn idiot.
    Love, Denny.

  6. #6
    Assault Fiend
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    Re: Seven 7hings: A History of Violence

    Excellent read!

    I'd like to point something out, though it may not be necessary to add to the list. Perfect Dark 64, Rare's successor to Goldeneye did nothing but improve upon what made Goldeneye so great (better graphics, lots of weapons, could walk-off platforms to lower levels, etc..). I'd have to say Perfect Dark is one of the more influential games for 2ndary gun modes, and creative guns. To my knowledge, it was one of the first shooters where each gun had some secondary function. While it may not be a must even by today's standards for the weapons to have multiple features, it certainly doesn't hurt. Think of the Famas from CSS (I'm assuming it was the same in CS) burst fire and automatic. Heck, the under-mounted grenade launchers in MW2 (and prob. MW1 [I didn't play it]) are nothing new. Those existed even in Perfect Dark, remember the Super Dragon and it's secondary grenade launcher feature? Even the sentry gun existed wayy back then (laptop gun). Seriously, that game was well ahead of its time in many respects.

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