My FPS Commandments

After I finished playing through most of the fantastic releases that came out this fall, I decided to go into what I call "summer drought" mode in order to get myself through my Christmas vacation.  "Summer drought" mode is what I call it when I go to New Egg or any retailer website and look for decent, cheap games that I may have missed.  This behavior is more common in me during the summer, when the gaming releases tend to dry up, hence "summer drought".
 
In any case, in this round of frivolous spending I picked up F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, TimeShift, and Viking: Battle for Asgard.  While I found Viking to be enjoyable over all (though not free from certain quirks of its own), I found myself a bit more bored with TimeShift and FEAR 2.  I wondered to myself "What is it about these two games that I dislike?  What makes them less good than Call Of Duty 4 or Modern Warfare 2 or Borderlands?".  With that question in mind, I have found my list of FPS Commandments, a list of guidelines for FPS.  It's acceptable to break one or two, but three or more and the game spends the rest of eternity in my gaming hell.
 
So, here we go:

1.  Thou Shalt Not Make Regular Enemies Bullet Sponges

 This is one of the things that bothers me so much about so many FPSs lately.  I should not be pumping whole clips of my assault rifle into guys before they go down.  One to five bullet(s) from me, depending on point of contact, should mean death for whatever is on the other end.  Increasing difficulty should not increase baddie health, it should decrease my health, and increase the number (and proficiency) of my enemies.  This is not to say the game shouldn't have stronger enemies.  I have no problem with a much harder enemy appearing a dozen or two times throughout the game.
 

2. Thou Shalt Respect the Headshot

 This goes hand-in-hand with Commandment One, but the two are not mutually exclusive.  The commandment is simple: If a baddie takes a bullet in the brain, the baddie must die immediately.
 

3.  Thou Shalt Have a Unique Visual Style

 I don't like bland games.  Photorealism is one thing, but total lack of design and art direction is another.  Make sure there is something that "Wow"s me visually.  It could be nice looking explosions, special effects, or just the art direction in general.
 

4.  Thou Shalt Have Variety, Variety, and More Variety

 I don't like crawling through the same corridors over and over again.  I don't like using the same weapons over and over again.  I as a stereotypical FPS fan, have a poor attention span.  You need to be switching things up for me to stay interested.  Change what I kill, what I kill with, where I kill, and how I'm killing.
 

5.  Thou Shalt Not Be in World War 2

 Seriously.  Stop making World War 2 shooters.
 

6.  Thou Shalt Have Perfect Hit Detection

 Sniper rifles are pretty accurate.  Not 100%, but pretty fucking close at fair ranges.  If a dude's head is in my sniper rifle crosshairs at a decent distance and I pull the trigger, I expect one more notch in my rifle butt, not the dude looking at me with huge anime eyes, as if he were saying to himself "Well, shit, that was a close one".  I'm looking at you Medal of Honour: Airborne.
 

7.  Thou Shalt Have an Appropriate and Thought Out Cover System

This one seems like kind of a no-brainer, and it's pretty easy to pull off.  Either do the pure "hide behind wall, pop out and shoot" deal or go for something a bit more complex.  But if you try to do something more, make sure you test it out.  If you do the "stick to walls in 3rd person" thing, a la Rogue Warrior, make sure you can pop in and out of cover effectively and quickly.  If you do the "hide behind boxes or whatever other object that isn't a wall, pop out and shoot" thing, I strongly recommend having a way to go prone, or cover that is taller than the player when the player is couched.  EDIT: I feel as if people don't understand what I really mean when I say this.  FEAR 2 had this thing where you could knock over tables and other objects for cover, but those objects were never really tall enough to offer real protection and there was no prone mechanic (to my knowledge).  I don't need any additional cover mechanics in my FPSs.  Give me the ability to go prone and I'll find cover.  I'll hid behind walls without a "snap on" feature.  But if developers decide to do the whole "snap to cover feature", they should test it out, make sure it works properly, and probably add a blind-fire.
 

8.  Thou Shalt Have Be for Longer Than a Few Hours

The assumption by developers is that the player is paying $60 for the game.  The game should be longer than a, say, 5 hours, or 3 movies, counting both multiplayer and campaign experiences.  Anything less is bordering on a ripoff.
 

9.  Thou Shalt Have Something Unique in Thy Gameplay

There should be something that sets the game apart from other games in the genre.  There are a lot of ways to do this, from special player abilities (which usually seems to be some sort of time slowing), an upgrade system, customizable weapons, set pieces, or [gigantic] bosses.  Walking around and shooting just doesn't cut it anymore.
 

10.  Thou Shalt Have a Swift and Powerful Melee Attack

Melee attacks should be quick, strong, and have a decent vertical range.  I use melee attacks when I find someone has invaded my personal bubble.  I don't like people in my personal bubble.  Melee attacks should be quick (meaning, the knife should be plunged into invader quickly), and they should mean instant death for the person on the receiving end, a la Call of Duty/Modern Warfare.
 
And these are my Ten Commandments of First Person Shooters.  I also prefer my games (regardless of genre) to have at least an attempt at a story.  Keep in mind, there are FPSs that have excepted themselves from this list, such as Borderlands, and these are my personal preferences for what I look for in Shooters, and I find that Shooters that violate more than a couple of these rules I never finish playing.  TimeShift and FEAR 2 both violated commandments 1, 2, 7, and 10.  I finished them, but only because I was bored, and I didn't want super low gamerscores in my log....
17 Comments
18 Comments
Posted by cstrang

After I finished playing through most of the fantastic releases that came out this fall, I decided to go into what I call "summer drought" mode in order to get myself through my Christmas vacation.  "Summer drought" mode is what I call it when I go to New Egg or any retailer website and look for decent, cheap games that I may have missed.  This behavior is more common in me during the summer, when the gaming releases tend to dry up, hence "summer drought".
 
In any case, in this round of frivolous spending I picked up F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, TimeShift, and Viking: Battle for Asgard.  While I found Viking to be enjoyable over all (though not free from certain quirks of its own), I found myself a bit more bored with TimeShift and FEAR 2.  I wondered to myself "What is it about these two games that I dislike?  What makes them less good than Call Of Duty 4 or Modern Warfare 2 or Borderlands?".  With that question in mind, I have found my list of FPS Commandments, a list of guidelines for FPS.  It's acceptable to break one or two, but three or more and the game spends the rest of eternity in my gaming hell.
 
So, here we go:

1.  Thou Shalt Not Make Regular Enemies Bullet Sponges

 This is one of the things that bothers me so much about so many FPSs lately.  I should not be pumping whole clips of my assault rifle into guys before they go down.  One to five bullet(s) from me, depending on point of contact, should mean death for whatever is on the other end.  Increasing difficulty should not increase baddie health, it should decrease my health, and increase the number (and proficiency) of my enemies.  This is not to say the game shouldn't have stronger enemies.  I have no problem with a much harder enemy appearing a dozen or two times throughout the game.
 

2. Thou Shalt Respect the Headshot

 This goes hand-in-hand with Commandment One, but the two are not mutually exclusive.  The commandment is simple: If a baddie takes a bullet in the brain, the baddie must die immediately.
 

3.  Thou Shalt Have a Unique Visual Style

 I don't like bland games.  Photorealism is one thing, but total lack of design and art direction is another.  Make sure there is something that "Wow"s me visually.  It could be nice looking explosions, special effects, or just the art direction in general.
 

4.  Thou Shalt Have Variety, Variety, and More Variety

 I don't like crawling through the same corridors over and over again.  I don't like using the same weapons over and over again.  I as a stereotypical FPS fan, have a poor attention span.  You need to be switching things up for me to stay interested.  Change what I kill, what I kill with, where I kill, and how I'm killing.
 

5.  Thou Shalt Not Be in World War 2

 Seriously.  Stop making World War 2 shooters.
 

6.  Thou Shalt Have Perfect Hit Detection

 Sniper rifles are pretty accurate.  Not 100%, but pretty fucking close at fair ranges.  If a dude's head is in my sniper rifle crosshairs at a decent distance and I pull the trigger, I expect one more notch in my rifle butt, not the dude looking at me with huge anime eyes, as if he were saying to himself "Well, shit, that was a close one".  I'm looking at you Medal of Honour: Airborne.
 

7.  Thou Shalt Have an Appropriate and Thought Out Cover System

This one seems like kind of a no-brainer, and it's pretty easy to pull off.  Either do the pure "hide behind wall, pop out and shoot" deal or go for something a bit more complex.  But if you try to do something more, make sure you test it out.  If you do the "stick to walls in 3rd person" thing, a la Rogue Warrior, make sure you can pop in and out of cover effectively and quickly.  If you do the "hide behind boxes or whatever other object that isn't a wall, pop out and shoot" thing, I strongly recommend having a way to go prone, or cover that is taller than the player when the player is couched.  EDIT: I feel as if people don't understand what I really mean when I say this.  FEAR 2 had this thing where you could knock over tables and other objects for cover, but those objects were never really tall enough to offer real protection and there was no prone mechanic (to my knowledge).  I don't need any additional cover mechanics in my FPSs.  Give me the ability to go prone and I'll find cover.  I'll hid behind walls without a "snap on" feature.  But if developers decide to do the whole "snap to cover feature", they should test it out, make sure it works properly, and probably add a blind-fire.
 

8.  Thou Shalt Have Be for Longer Than a Few Hours

The assumption by developers is that the player is paying $60 for the game.  The game should be longer than a, say, 5 hours, or 3 movies, counting both multiplayer and campaign experiences.  Anything less is bordering on a ripoff.
 

9.  Thou Shalt Have Something Unique in Thy Gameplay

There should be something that sets the game apart from other games in the genre.  There are a lot of ways to do this, from special player abilities (which usually seems to be some sort of time slowing), an upgrade system, customizable weapons, set pieces, or [gigantic] bosses.  Walking around and shooting just doesn't cut it anymore.
 

10.  Thou Shalt Have a Swift and Powerful Melee Attack

Melee attacks should be quick, strong, and have a decent vertical range.  I use melee attacks when I find someone has invaded my personal bubble.  I don't like people in my personal bubble.  Melee attacks should be quick (meaning, the knife should be plunged into invader quickly), and they should mean instant death for the person on the receiving end, a la Call of Duty/Modern Warfare.
 
And these are my Ten Commandments of First Person Shooters.  I also prefer my games (regardless of genre) to have at least an attempt at a story.  Keep in mind, there are FPSs that have excepted themselves from this list, such as Borderlands, and these are my personal preferences for what I look for in Shooters, and I find that Shooters that violate more than a couple of these rules I never finish playing.  TimeShift and FEAR 2 both violated commandments 1, 2, 7, and 10.  I finished them, but only because I was bored, and I didn't want super low gamerscores in my log....
Posted by StaticFalconar

Your commandments only make sense if all FPS games had human enemies. However, if say a demon or alien was in a game, I would totally accept bullet sponge enemies or headshots not being i hit kill since they aren't human (ditto for melee attacks). The shorter a game's single player is the more it can give you the sense of variety. While I can sense where you're coming from with this, all FPS games would be clones of each other if they actually followed your stupid rules.

Posted by Coombs

Well Said,
Though Im not a big single player fps fan, That is what I look for in single player.

Posted by cstrang
@StaticFalconar: I had said that these were personal preferences.  I would not accept a FPS game that had enemies with extraneous health, be them aliens or demons (and I know you're pointing in the direction of the Resistance series with your point).  I don't care.  My personal preferences.  Also, you are quite rude.  These are not "stupid" rules.  They're perfectly logical.
Edited by ThePhantomnaut

Hmm...
 
1. Every game is not Counter-Strike but I see what you mean.
2. Reinforced helmet?
3. Too much blue hue in Portal. It looked boring.
4. Portal violated this one like no tomorrow in a general sense.
5. Until the last Brothers In Arms game is done. I want to see snow on Unreal Engine 3.
6. Some developers can't make the perfect hitbox yet, even Counter-Strike can't do that.
7. PC elitists will hate you for that. They love dem wall staring yo!
8. Sometimes quantity doesn't help quality. Varies mostly.
9. I agree with that.
10. That too.

Posted by StaticFalconar
@cstrang: Just like it's your opinion that every FPS game should have these rules, It's my opinion that your rules are stupid. This isn't a matter of logistics since I never said your rules where illogical, but rather stupid.
Posted by cstrang
@ThePhantomnaut: 
1.  I had Modern Warfare more in mind with this :) .
2.  Acceptable iff the helmet flies off or otherwise indicates it has been hit or damaged in some way.
3.  Agreed.
4.  Also agreed.  But, to be fair, I didn't love Portal as much as other people seemed to have, and I consider it more of a First Person Puzzle Game.
5.  True enough.
6.  If I can tell that the hitboxes are off, and it effects my gameplay, I != happy camper.
7.  Screw 'em.
8.  True, but a quality game usually has a length than meets that quantity.
9.  Thank you.
10.  Thank you again.
Posted by Nemesis

So, you pretty much want to be playing every FPS except for Halo.

Posted by natetodamax

I hate instant kill melee attacks. The knife in Modern Warfare 1 and 2 is one thing, but punching somebody once in Halo 3 (after warping towards them) and sending them flying through the air is not fun at all.

Posted by Romination

commandment 3 should go for everything.
 
and commandment 5...there have been very few WWII games in the past while, actually. i can only think of wolfenstein and world at war. people seemed to like the latter well enough

Posted by cstrang
@Nemesis: Not every FPS.  I don't think I'll be picking up Rogue Warrior any time in the near future  :)
 
But, in all seriousness, I didn't really think about Halo at all while writing this.  It does seem to violate a good number of rules, huh?  Well, I guess that's why I'm of the mind that Halo 3 was my first and probably last Halo game.
Posted by Solarus

Although I agree with your commandments for most "realistic" FPS games out there, StaticFalconer has a perfectly valid and acceptable explanation why some of them can't come true. The commandments are more targeted towards army/special forces based shooters that are meant to be realistic in every way possible. When you venture outside of that, your comments seem to contradict each other in some senses.
 
For example, as Static stated, you can't assume demons can't be bullet sponges, because we don't know what these demons are or even where their vitals are located. The developers could make a humanoid with diamond plated skin and his brain in his ass for all we care. They make the rules.
 
If all games (realistic or no) contained all those commandments, then ultimately it would result in commandment 9 and possibly 4 being violated. There's only so much you can change to make your game different when there are strict rules in place with regards to enemy health and vital location.
 
In regards to realistic shooters however, I can agree with most of the list with few qualms. There are many points which are perfectly valid and are violated on a regular basis (like hit detection... I despise trying to snipe someone from mid-long range only to find I have better accuracy with my handgun half of the time). Good post!

Posted by FartyMcNarly

Thou shall cook a grenade until it explodes when in a group of teammates. 
Thou shall flash bang entire team at the start of every game and every chance that presents itself.
Thou shall shoot teammates until a slight breeze will kill them. 
Thou shall crouch in front of  friendly snipers and stand when an enemy is within sight. 
Thou shall play "Ki$ha - TiK ToC" or any Lady GaGa song for all to enjoy.  
Thou shall, when it is an option, customize their character to look as flamboyantly gay as possible. 
Thou shall, when entire friendly team is dead, kill all but one of the enemy team and then commit suicide.

Edited by cstrang
@Solarus: It's true, these rules really narrow down what games I'll play and enjoy.  But I think the bullet sponge thing is more of a design choice than anything else.  It's sure, demons could be totally diamond plated, but I wouldn't expect said demon to be a "grunt" of the game.  You know?  I dunno, I know where the contention is coming from, but I just can't get behind a game that requires me to empty a whole clip into a dude's torso before he goes down.  Thank you for your kind words, though.
 
@FartyMcNarly: I almost like yours better.
Posted by cdstacker

I don't think head shots need to kill but the does need to be a quick, clean way to kill enemies, for instance i thought ODST did a pretty good job at this; brutes could take numerous headshots unless you used a plasma weapon to down their shields first, then you could headshot them, hitting a jackal in the side would make them move their shield allowing you to pierce their headball. I'm not saying ODST was that great (frankly I only really enjoyed firefight) but I did appericate how different weapons could be deadly but only if you set up the cirumstances. 
 
The other thing i'm not sure about is length, I think that depends on the game. Frankly with MW2 i was glad the campaign was short because I thought spec ops and mulitplayer were superior and while the campaign did have some excellent set pieces and gameplay areas I thought the plot was quite pathetic. I think that if the games real focus is clearly not on the campaign and instead on the mulitplayer or coop modes than i don't care that much about length, i'd rather have more quanity in the areas I actually want to play. For instance I really don't want the single player in bad company 2 to be very long, what i want is good multiplayer and a coop mode (if coop mode is in the campaign mode than i do want some qunaity).

Posted by cstrang
@cdstacker: All great points.  I agree, my wording of the "length" commandment was not the best.  I should change it to "overall longevity" or something, 'cause I agree that the campaign is not everything (most of the time).
Posted by cdstacker

Also Dead Space, while not a fps, did some cool things with enemy weakspots, not only cause dismembering them was cool but because there were some enemies where if you shot them in head or stomach they would actually make the situation harder for you (thinking of those fat guys where if shot their torso it just released a whole bunch of killer babies and did little damage to the fat guy).

Posted by cstrang
@cdstacker: Yes, I, too, love what Dead Space did for enemy weak points (And it fucked me up when I played the demo, 'cause I kept going for head shots).  I loved that game, though, after I picked it up almost a year ago to the day.  But let's not make the jump from discussion on FPSs to Survival Horrors or another genre.