When did first person shooters become linear?

I've only played a handful of FPS, so I'm definitely no authority on the matter. Now that I think of it, I can't even recall how linear Quake 2 was. I remember Perfect Dark (1999) giving you a lot of freedom in a number of maps, which utilized different areas depending on difficulty.

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I think as were approaching late 90s and as we made our way through the 2000s did we see linear leveled games becoming more and more popular. Quake II I don't remember being that linear, but I remember certain levels of Dark Forces II being rather straightforward, or some parts of some levels. I guess it was a mix bag in truth, but I probably blame the first Call of Duty game. And Medal of Honor 1 I remember being pretty straight forward too without a lot of exploration or extra map stuff. Just go straight and shoot pretty much.

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Clonehunter said:

And Medal of Honor 1 I remember being pretty straight forward too without a lot of exploration or extra map stuff. Just go straight and shoot pretty much.

I was about to jump on this and defend the original Medal of Honor as being a pretty good game in its day, but then I reminded myself what it was like. Didn't take long to become aware of the nostalgia glasses I was wearing.

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When arcades died and the incentive to make fun/addicting replay value having games to maximize quarters spent went away, and the business model changed to play-through-once near movies.

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I like some linear games such Half Life and F.E.A.R, because their game play was pretty cool and generally enjoyed the experience. Plus its pretty good to unwind to without too much 'thinking'.....great for blowing of steam and de-stressing.

However, I also really enjoyed semi-open games such as FarCry, you could approach things in different ways and different things happening, no play through is always the same. I think this was the year FPS started opening up more.

Then their is games like Skyrim, which I am really enjoying ATM (Only recently started playing it). Its great to just do what ever you like, but requires alot more management, planning and takes more thinking, but certainly draws you in.

......umm.....what are we talking about again.....soz

yea....umm.....there are lots of different types of FPS you can play. Have they started taking a specific direction? I know all this COD stuff seems like it has, but thats just one franchise.....a god awful one at that!

I guess many companies jumped on the bandwagon because it seems like the COD formula works. I would love to say it doesn't, but it sells and companies will make things that sell, even if it is total shite that leaves the player with no thinking at all......how exciting!!!

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DoomUK said:

I was about to jump on this and defend the original Medal of Honor as being a pretty good game in its day, but then I reminded myself what it was like. Didn't take long to become aware of the nostalgia glasses I was wearing.


Did you play MoH: Underground? Basically an eight episode expansion of the original, which was far better. The Wewelsburg levels (E4) were the best in the set. The crossbow and the knights brought a different element to the game. It was still linear but much more fun IMO.

Okay..back on topic..MoH was linear and that was 1999. DN3D was non-linear and that was 1996.
So yeah, definitely late 90s.

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Oh man, Perfect Dark... you had to remind me of this game!
Now I'm sad there's no PC version (bad emulators doesn't count).

gggmork said:

When arcades died and the incentive to make fun/addicting replay value having games to maximize quarters spent went away, and the business model changed to play-through-once near movies.

That's... makes sense actually. =/

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bcwood16 said:

I like some linear games such Half Life and F.E.A.R, because their game play was pretty cool and generally enjoyed the experience. Plus its pretty good to unwind to without too much 'thinking'.....great for blowing of steam and de-stressing.


I completely agree, and this is why I love the F.E.A.R. series, despite being able to recognize some obvious flaws in the games. The levels are very linear and some times unimaginative, but the combat is bloody, visceral and DAMN satisfying.

Don't get me wrong, I love an all-around well-balanced shooter with non-linear level design, but still... the F.E.A.R. games have great atmosphere and gunplay. And sometimes, you just gotta unwind and blast stuff.

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F.E.A.R. was a really good game. The first expansion pack was also pretty good.

The series kind of declined after that, though. F.3.A.R. barely resembled the original game.

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I find that other people don't typically think of "linear" on a granular enough scale anyway. Like a hall with one hellknight and a side "extra" room with a few imps up on columns is still linear on a large grain level. The extra room just adds a 2nd linear line branching off the first, 2 linear paths isn't much more than 1. Every time you replay you'll have an overall identical experience (the exact x/y coordinate path of doomguy will be very unique, each replay almost guaranteed, but that's a bunch of symmetrical stuff that drowns out in a feeling of overall uninteresting sameness to the brain.

You can easily have a single "linear" hall, yet very complex/randomized/nonlinear accumulated behavior that produces interesting gameplay, unique on each replay, at the granular level of moment to moment decisions as which input to press, and constant surprise and adapting to the unique moment. Instead of 2 linear paths, there's like a million possibilities depending on who infights who, and what choices you take leading to more accumulated complexity, making the same initial conditions produce unique stuff each replay. That's the type of nonlinear that interests me. I played halo 4 recently, basically a scripted linear sequence, but they want you to buy another game, not replay it. Its a pretty epic linear sequence though. Also played red dead redemption. Its a fantastic 3d reality simulator, a so so "game". I bet the government somehow funneled videogames down this 3d path to progress ai and such.

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The last line was classic gggmork 10/10 would read again. **

I'd like to say that I like non-linear gameplay and leave it at that, but I just like interesting gameplay. So loathe as I am to admit it, the non-linear approach isn't always the best for each type of game. Linear can be done well and it can be done poorly; the same goes for its opposite. And as gggmork pointed out, there are different types of non-linearity, or dynamic-ness, or 'emergent gameplay' (I believe this is the current buzzword - Far Cry 2 is the most obvious example I can think of in an FPS).

I think the main artefact of linearity I've noticed in more recent FPSes is that each area commonly only contains one exit and one entry portal. I posit that this is a side-effect of bloated budgets and a culture of 'packaging' the FPS experience like a movie, so everyone sees the same things (wouldn't want players to miss that toppling skyscraper - Eric, Stan, et al. spent three weeks on that!). I'm not even sure this is a bad thing, it's just a different approach, and personally me no like it. :grouch:

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I think they were always linear (except for rpg fps).

Wish those responsible for gameplay would make something like Metroid Prime (the only FPS that doesn't seem to copy any other FPS including Doom; Heck, Doom should copy Metroid); why hasn't anyone made something like Metroid Prime after all these years? If I was the doom guy and had abunch of demons to clean out in a non-linear way I'd be back tracking and going after big bad asses after finding expansions and parts to my BFG, shotguns, and chainsaw; not to mention I'd probably be scared shitless. It might end up looking like a rip-off of Metroid Prime but that would be infinitely better than all the crap out there.

Finding keys for doors in Ultimate Doom was an idea (kinda reminded me of metroid not to mention the radiation suits) but it's so numb and repetitive. Too bad no-one has used these ideas for less repetition and more of a survival journey; especially for PC gamers. Power-ups and protective gear are temporary just to end a short level without dying and that's it. Doom was ground breaking technology considering it scaled a huge number of sprites and used texture mapped graphics in large 3D levels on a 486 at 35 FPS; but it was too much to allow more dynamic gameplay (like rooms over rooms and underwater environments).

Seriously after Doom 3 and Half-life 2, I say the best fps is Metroid Prime. Everything else seems so Doom based; so many games are like a carbon copy of it. You pay $5.00 for Doom 2 used and you have access to thousands of WADS and source ports; that's a lot for $5.00. Half-Life 2 made a huge deal out of their physics system and blowing up barrels which made the game more cinematic and less engaging for me (didn't like screwing around with BS just to get through a window or something after watching a show). Woulda killed to see a survival horror rpg (or something like Metroid Prime) using the Doom 3 engine. It sucks cause ID has pushed technology to the limit but you keep getting so many Doom like games.

Never played RAGE but it sure sounds like a start for non-linear FPS.

So many FPS's demand you progress forward and never go back. Then when you finish the game, you receive a story made from money and megabytes to make it seem like you did something great even though you didn't. All it does is rot your brain.

ID has had the best technology but after Doom 3 I just didn't like FPS's anymore. Crysis was shit. Duke Nukem 3D still gives me some refreshment after all this time. Maybe it's just me and I'm getting old. Until something like Metroid Prime gets made I'm just going to keep screwing around with Doom WADS when I'm on the PC (I don't even have game consoles anymore). Maybe play some Quake Live (Quake 3 was a really fun multiplayer BTW).

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They became so linear when it started taking FPS 2 years to dump out the chute.

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I hate to say it, but linear gameplay started with Half-Life. I friggin' love the Half-Life series, but yeah, that was the first FPS I played where you always had only one way to go. I liked how Half-Life and Half-Life 2 handled it, though. Sure, there was only one path, but the games worked well to create the illusion that you were part of a larger world. It's something I've taken to heart in my own Doom map-making... Always creating little details to make it look as if my maps aren't enclosed environments, that there's a whole world to explore. I always add buildings off in the distance, doors that don't open, etc., to help make the map feel like it's part of something bigger.

Of course, I also always try to give freedom in my maps. Sure, they can be very linear, but I always try to offer up at least two different paths to tackling an encounter. Sure, one may be easier than the other, but you have that option.

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Whenever cinematic cutscenes became popular, I'd wager. They increase production value, involve heavily scripted sequences, and serve to advance the story. Once a developer commits to using them, it takes too much effort to make a nonlinear map because players can skip entire parts of the map with or without intending to.

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It blows my mind that there are still entire genres of games that the entire industry still steadfastly refuses to develop. You'd think breaking fresh ice would make it easier for them to sell some games, but the opposite is true.

I mean really, where the hell are the first-person games in any genre other than wartime shooter? You have Elder Scrolls games, but even those are hit and miss.

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AndrewB said:

It blows my mind that there are still entire genres of games that the entire industry still steadfastly refuses to develop. You'd think breaking fresh ice would make it easier for them to sell some games, but the opposite is true.

The game industry is like Hollywood these days; they'll only fund what they know will sell. Until the industry starts to take a nose dive, we'll probably see the same type of games repeated.

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TheCupboard said:

Whenever cinematic cutscenes became popular, I'd wager. They increase production value, involve heavily scripted sequences, and serve to advance the story. Once a developer commits to using them, it takes too much effort to make a nonlinear map because players can skip entire parts of the map with or without intending to.

I know what you mean but I disagree. You can always make some parts of the map non-linear but they all connect to those impressive "cinematic zones" at some point, for example, creating a middle ground between linearity and non-linearity.
Sure, when almost all of the map is a pure cinematic experience then that's not possible, but then the game will suck. Games are not movies, damn it!

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AndrewB said:

It blows my mind that there are still entire genres of games that the entire industry still steadfastly refuses to develop. You'd think breaking fresh ice would make it easier for them to sell some games, but the opposite is true.

I mean really, where the hell are the first-person games in any genre other than wartime shooter? You have Elder Scrolls games, but even those are hit and miss.

*sigh*

I realize that we're not exactly AAA, but some of us are at least trying to make a significant, high-quality FPS that isn't Call of Halo 34.

I have some more specific thoughts on the topic here:

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Aw Carn! IF I'd known you where trying to get Wrack greenlit, I'd done voted for it sooner!

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AndrewB said:

I mean really, where the hell are the first-person games in any genre other than wartime shooter? You have Elder Scrolls games, but even those are hit and miss.

The Thief Trilogy, The Penumbra Trilogy, Amnesia The Dark Descent, Miasmata, Portal and Portal 2, Minecraft, Mirrors Edge, inMomentum, Antichamber, Q.U.B.E., Proteus, Dishonored, Dear Ester, The Stanley Parable and Arx Fatalis are all games played from first person with either have no shooting or at least don't have shooting as a primary mechanic. Some of them kind of old, some of them indy, but some of them big budget AAA titles. That also doesn't include FPS/RPG Hybrids like The Deus Ex games, The System Shock games, Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas and, Arguably, The Dead Island, Bioshock and Borderland games.

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DoomUK said:

I was about to jump on this and defend the original Medal of Honor as being a pretty good game in its day, but then I reminded myself what it was like. Didn't take long to become aware of the nostalgia glasses I was wearing.


That's the original 'Medal of Honor' released for PS1 in 1999. The series started on consoles.

The first PC MOH game was in 2002 and called 'Medal of Honor: Allied Assault'.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3EnVrAquBA

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I feel like the gaming industry is going to be a cyclical thing. In a short while people will get bored of the linear gameplay and we'll go back to the good old days of exploration style 3d games with loads of secret content.

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Vermil said:

That's the original 'Medal of Honor' released for PS1 in 1999. The series started on consoles.

The first PC MOH game was in 2002 and called 'Medal of Honor: Allied Assault'.

I know.

But when someone says "Medal of Honor 1", I'm going to assume they don't mean the third game in the series :p

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Hate to admit it, they have always been linear with progression of short term goals (e.g find key 1, find key 2, find exit, rinse repeat for new level), but how that was done wasn't linear (Kill 1 Cyber demon to key room or go through 5 with various weaker enemies). They have became more linear (e.g call of duty) or non linear (e.g. Far Cry 3) or just trying to be more obvious about being non linear while being linear (e.g. Rainbow Six Vegas),maybe starting with GoldenEye on N64?

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Probably when making a room started to not consist in just dragging a few lines in an editor. Compared to the 90s, it takes a whole lot more time, money and people to make just one room and devs probably don't want to put in rooms that players only COULD see or rooms that could potentially break the pacing and the flow of the level if not implemented correctly.

The Wolfenstein devs promised that we would be getting an action-adventure shooter, and promised and gave examples of implementing classic features such as: finding secrets (the adventure part) and a combination of regenerating health and medkits. This game will help us see if non-linear levels can work in modern FPS games. If it becomes a smashing success, we might see more such games.

If not...well we still have tons of good wads and I still have faith that Doom 4 will turn out to be a good sequel.

Regarding keycards, they still "use" them but they have been replaced by people.

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DooM_RO said:

Regarding keycards, they still "use" them but they have been replaced by people.


Yea, thats very true. Whats wrong with bringing keycards back though? Peronsally I like them. Think they worked really well in System Shock 2, maybe not as well in Doom 3 though, think thats because I wanted to see an actual system key/card, not 'Privileges' uploaded to a PDA...boring!

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Obligatory.

On the other hand, there's a growing trend of bloated and aimless sandbox FPSes, which, unlike Far Cry [1] or Crysis [1], involve lots of walking/driving around for the sake of walking/driving around.

I'm not sure which I enjoy less.

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bcwood16 said:

Yea, thats very true. Whats wrong with bringing keycards back though? Peronsally I like them. Think they worked really well in System Shock 2, maybe not as well in Doom 3 though, think thats because I wanted to see an actual system key/card, not 'Privileges' uploaded to a PDA...boring!


It HAD keycards, though maybe just a few. To be honest, PDAs were better than cards.

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