Wow. Suddenly, a deluge of comments! I'm not sure I have time to do them justice. This is the first time I've come to the blog and seen more new comments than would fit on the recent comments roll. There are so many, a new post seemed the most appropriate response.
Let me start by saying that I have enjoyed this round table - I wasn't expecting everybody to be arguing that innovation was largely absent from FPS games, otherwise I might have taken a different argument. After all, it's not worth an intelligent person's time to be in the majority (according to GH Hardy, at least). :) It was nice to see everyone's different focus on the subject - narrative, mods, business issues; there was a lot to cover.
Anyway, on with the comments...
I do, however, disagree that FPS will advance with new input devices. Well, it may, but only because the industry isn't willing to take the financial risk to explore the other dimensions first.
I completely agree that in principle it wouldn't take new interface devices to bring about advances in FPS games - but in practice...?
But is there really a way to solve this problem without moving back to Doom's dead-ahead camera? Now that I'm used to the mouselook, that control scheme feels just as weird to me on a console. It's a shame, because one of my goals eventually is to build a better library of console FPS games.
You hit the nail on the head here - the complexity has become ingrained, and there are probably only two ways to solve the problem - go back to a fixed camera (like Doom) - but most players wouldn't tolerate this "step backwards", or get a new interface device. I've been wondering if gyroscopic camera controls would work or not... I think I'd have to physically try it to know.
GoldenEye, I think, introduced a fine mechanic where the reticle would jump towards the enemy if you got close enough. Not so much autolock, but definately aim assist. Not a bad compromise between DooM and Quake.
I'm glad you mentioned this - I cannot believe that after Goldeneye (1997) the genre of (console) FPS games threw away one of its key elements - that of auto-aiming. EA freely admit to using Goldeneye as the template for their FPS games, and yet they omitted this crucial feature, which didn't come back until Halo (2001).
I still disagree - would you classify Super Mario Sunshine as having simple controls? You have quite a large array of moves at your disposal, and if you've never navigated a 3D world before, even a single-stick interface is daunting.
Mario Sunshine is at the most complex end of platformer controls... it still doesn't come close to the complexity of console FPS. It's not about 3D platformers having simple controls, just *simpler* controls than FPS games.
I have two points of reference for this - one is a model we call dimensionality of control, which would take too long to go into in detail (it's in the book!) but in brief, count 2 dimensional data (a stick) as 2 dimensions of control; count 1 dimensional data (an analogue trigger; two controls that modify one element, such as a throttle) as 1 DOC, count single controls as half a DOC. I hope the logic behind this is clear. The DOC of Mario Sunshine is 4 (not counting Yoshi control) - one stick, plus four atomic controls - the DOC of most FPS games is at least 8 (twin sticks = 4 DOC, weapon select = +1, 6 atomic actions = +3) and on PC it sometimes goes as high as 13 what with leaning and so forth.
The other is direct observation of players. A new player can stumble through the controls for any 3D platformer - but they often cannot even begin to control an FPS. Try it yourself (if you know anyone who doesn't currently play 3D video games!) It really is quite illuminating!
It is the case that many people struggle with jumping in 3D (I still hanker for 2D platform games...), but this is not specifically a control issue... this point isn't about being able to play well, this is about being able to control the game to any degree at all. As I say, we have found very few new players who cannot at least stumble through the controls for a 3D platformer, but we find many players who cannot even begin to operate a twin stick game.
I do heartily agree that navigating a 3D world is daunting to new players, though. Does anyone know (from player studies, or informal observation) if navigating in first person is easier for people to handle than navigating in third person? I know I find third person easier, but I am not often a good general case.
I think you missed my point - FPS games are not innovative, but neither are RPGs nor platformers nor whatever.
Well, it's a question of perspective, as ever. I personally see the innovation in the genres you mention. Innovative platform games include tranquility, the flash game N, the lovely Mischief Makers, and (to a lesser degree) Tak. Innovative RPG games include Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (admittedly a strat-RPG), our own Heretic Kingdoms: The Inquisition (if only for the elimination of the potion economy) and even the hilariously sarcastic ProgressQuest. Well okay, maybe not ProgressQuest. :)
I would agree with you that there are many, many cookie cutter clone games in the genres you mention, but I still see some innovation in the corners. No matter how hard I look, I don't see the innovation in FPS games. As before, however, it may come down to a subjective decision as to where one chooses to place the boundary between innovation and refinement.
James once more:
Is there a reason you omitted fiero? I would think fiero is one of the main draws to multiplayer, overlapping heavily with agon.
I skipped over this because it was a jump in reference. The categories I had mentioned were from from Caillois' categories of play (Agon, Alea, Ilinx and Mimicry); fiero is an emotion referenced from either Nicole Lazarro's Four Keys (linked to Hard Fun) or linked to our Type 1 Conqueror play style. I appreciate I jump around between different systems and models like Mario on amphetamines, so it's hard to keep everything straight at times. Sorry about that. :(
So yes, FPS games are heavy on the fiero (Type 1 players seem to love FPS games, according to our research) - but I was purposefully avoiding language from audience models, because it didn't seem appropriate in the round table. Even referring to Caillois was a bit of a stretch, but I felt it was at least intuitive what I meant in that context.
My thanks to Corvus for setting up this round table - I look forward to the next one!