So, if the gaming industry fucked it all up, who got it right?
Well that’s the thing. Lots of people. There is still a cadre of people that want to make games. Where fun comes before margin.
In my mind, game companies didn’t even need to look hard to find the games that should have pushed them into better ideas.
I want to give a shout out to two honorable mentions. Doom II and Quake III Arena. I didn’t include it for a reason, there is still enough love out there to keep the franchise going.
I don’t think anyone will give me an award for being some kind of far-sighted genius for saying that I totally expect something like Quake III in the next few years. id Software has basically been teasing this concept, and I think a lot of people love those new Doom games (like me).
To put it more directly, they didn’t get included because I feel like enough people draw inspiration from those games to still make games similar to them today. I wanted to focus on those that I don’t feel like gets put in the conversation enough.
Lets start with the one that blurs that line…
They broke the mold and sanity when Epic and Digital Extremes made this thing. Internet has clearly gotten good enough to have platforms for just deathmatches (Quake III would have a very similar thing the same year).
What I think Unreal Tournament got right that others didn’t was creating a big enough playground for gamers. I remember seeing the menu for the first time and it looked like fucking windows. They had every setting under the sun, and you could make profiles for your situation.
Another thing Quake III and this game has in common is the robust modding communities, but I want to point out how far UT went with theirs. You could set up each individual match with a separate mod. Want to go back to normal? No need to restart, just select normal from the dropdown. You could make preset game rotations where you could customize every single thing about the map before you got players in there.
The main thing this got right is that they KNEW it was going to be a vehicle. That the base game was only the beginning and set up a world for the gamers to add and subtract whatever they liked. They didn’t fucking sue for monetization. Of course these days, I don’t think Sweeny would be as charitable. But back then, it was about making something that could have long fucking legs. People were playing original UT well past UT 2004 coming out.
Of course now, seems like the only thing people remember is the announcer.
Brilliant. Chaotic Genius.
Full disclosure (if its not clear from the previous post), I have never been a fan of the console shooter. I just hate the controller for any kind of precision. It always feels clunky to me compared to a mouse and keyboard.
Of course, there is always the exception that proves the rule.
TimeSplitters 2 is an exception manifested into physical form as a video game.
The thing that made TimeSplitters 2 different was that pure exuberant fun. From the second I was introduced to it, I fell in love. Like sure it had all the standard deathmatch stuff, but where it stood out was these little vignettes. Like Sergio’s last stand above, where you are a circus strongman and have to fight it out with a shotgun as flaming zombies come at you. Or like Silent but Deadly where stealth is the key as you try to blow up a satellite dish without your gunshots being heard.
Its this sense of wild imagine. A fuck pile of different gun types, an insane amount of modes. And all of it ported to the multiplayer experience.
I think of the three, the biggest take away from this one is just how fucking creative they were. Making something really special. To me, this WAS the FPS of that console war era. Fuck Halo. Timesplitters 2 is the masterpiece that everyone should worship.
And we have arrived, dear congregation.
My pick for the greatest online first person shooter of all time. Fucking Tribes.
Holy shit. There will never be anything to duplicate the experience of tribes. First person shooters seem to isolate to polishing one mechanic to a fine edge. Maybe its gun accuracy. For DOOM its speed. For Battlefield, it seems to be verticality.
Tribes had all of that plus more. It was the first game I ever played where you were taking a full 360 degree risk every time you walked out of the base. The enemy could be floating in the sky above you.
You could set up a turret at the far edge of the map and control it remotely from inside your base to pick people off.
Some games had bigger maps. Some games had more customization (ala Unreal Tournament). But nothing was more fucking fun that tribes.
Sure, what made the game was the EXPANSIVE modding community (including one mod in particular that will always be near and dear to my heart). But none of that would have worked without the base game.
Unreal Tournament had a platform for gaming. Tribes had a perfect FPS that only increased in value with each mod.
I still consider it a crime against humanity that Tribes 2 sucked has hard as it did. Making modding hard to impossible certain didn’t help matters.
Some people maybe learned this lessons. I mentioned id Software, but I feel like there are a few others. Borderlands certainly keeps fun as a top priority. And the indie scene is vibrant.
Maybe we see a second life for the type of gameplay these titles had. Maybe not. And if the answer is not, damn I am just glad I was there to witness it.
If anyone reading is thinking about getting into game development. Keep the user in mind. There are still some of us that are focused on fun.
Ah, I’m not kidding myself. If you are going into gaming, you’re working on a mobile app. Go fuck yourself.