This has to be one of the most popular debates going on for the last couple of years in PC gaming: where did the fast-paced first-person shooting scene go? It seems like it was only yesterday when we all gathered on Ventrilo to play Quake 3 for hours on end. Now, in this world of tablets, apps, DLC and free-to-play, fast-paced shooters have been having a really hard time finding their role and spot. Small FPS projects come out with cool ideas from time to time, but nothing noticeable with big buzz on the multiplayer side.
The last time I was excited about a fast-paced FPS was ID Software’s Quake Live. In all respects to the game, the gameplay ended up being pretty good, but QL didn’t gather enough players and dollars to make any major impact. The servers are now all pretty much empty. Discouraging.
The New Gaming Industry
While the gaming industry experienced constant change, companies like ID Software got kicked to the curb… not because they couldn’t produce good games anymore, but because their titles constantly failed to get into the spotlight like they did many years ago. Did anyone even notice Painkiller Hell & Damnation? And who knows when we’ll see the next Unreal Tournament? And more dramatically, the UT we will get could be far from a AAA production, probably something like the 15$ Counter-Strike Global Offensive on Steam – in other words, something to keep the old-school guys playing and paying, but nothing more really.
Really, what is it with today’s generation that make them cringe at the sight of a challenging fast-paced first-person shooter? If you consider yourself part of that younger generation, please don’t hesitate to drop a comment in the section below to explain why you’re staying away from games like Quake and Unreal Tournament. Would you buy them and play if they got released? What are your conditions to drop LoL and CoD and go back to the fast-paced FPS genre?
The Matchmaking Problem
One thing that got us to this point is the poor matchmaking system in these fast FPSs. Quake Live’s effort in that regard was really shy, and it left players confused on whether the functionality was arbitrarily there or if they should just hop in a game and wait in-line like in the old days. And that may be the first reason why first person shooters got at an all-time low: there’s no guaranteed way to get a quality match instantly in Quake Live. That quick 15 minutes game you can get in CoD, you can’t get it in Quake.
The FPS world should look towards Starcraft 2 for a solution. Starcraft is just as hard as a game as Quake and their matchmaking and ladder system still manages to motivate players to play day after day. Maybe the fast-paced shooter developers listened too much to the veterans who thought that having a ladder would be “lame”, but we still need something to motivate our players to play before we act like were the coolest and purest gamers on the block again. Our active player count is nothing to brag about right now.
Not Much To Change
Personally, I don’t think fast-paced shooters need to go all the way and put tons of DLCs and purchases in the way of players. That would destroy the value of any purely skilled game, be it Starcraft, Quake or another. I still think the entry price should be kept high for fast-paced FPSs – its the gameplay you pay for in these games, so having a title like Quake Live free in the first place felt weird to me to be honest. Make people pay and let them know why, give them an efficient and motivating ladder and the gameplay we all love. That’s all.
We’re not that far from relaunching the fast paced shooting genre. We just have to make the right adjustments, and personally, I don’t think there are too many. A game like Shootmania took on a way too daunting task by trying to reinvent the whole genre. They did it just for the sake of reinventing it and it got very average results. Starcraft 2 didn’t have to insert weird paying schemes or become an MMO either in order to be played by the new generation, and there’s no reason why Quake 5 and Unreal Tournament 201X should do any of those things. Keep the good gameplay and engine the same and give us a nice shiny modern shell for us to enjoy it all over again. The new generation will drink the whole thing up like we never put any medicine in it.