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...And I am now stuck on thinking about how games have progressed over time gameplay wise.
The biggest thing that comes to mind is controls. Wolf3D/Spear were really simple, only allowing a few keys to be bound. Unfortauntly modern-day FPS setups are harder to set up on wolfenstein, due to the fact that there cannot be decicated strafing keys. This was a downfall for me, but I suppose I could get used to holding the right mouse button to strafe.
Then comes doom. It implements the basis for modern-day FPS controls. Dedicated strafe left/right keys, and mouse turning support. That's how most people tend to play anything these days. Quake then comes along and gives people mouselook. It's a pain to use though since it requires a key to be pressed down (you can enter +mlook into the console or an AUTOEXEC.CFG file though). Duke Nukem 3D, on the other hand, allowed free look at a quick keypress without needing to hold it.
This leads to an interesting question. Did anyone use pure mouse controls back in the day? Moving using the mouse is probably one of the hardest things to reliabily do. I'm surprised that it has stuck along for so long. It just isn't worth it. Every computer had a keyboard so you have plenty of buttons to move with there.
And now on the subject of gameplay itself, it's interesting to see how games evolved. Wolfenstein was simple. Shoot nazis with guns while keeping your distance to avoid high damage. Or was it? The limited controls, as well as the damage of the guns made it a challenging expirence, as standing next to a SS will basically kill you instantly, whereas at a distance if they start firing you have a chance. Then on some episodes you have monsters like hitler's ghosts, which implement a slow projectile cannon. The projectiles are slow so a careless player could stumble into them. Also, rocket bosses have a little difficulty because you need to avoid fast moving projectiles with the limited controls. This is easy though but if you screw up you take damage. And lots of it. (It's interesting to note that every bit of damage I took from the death knight was actually from his chainguns, not the rockets. I used to be horrible at dodging the rockets from any rocket boss).
Doom made the hitscanners a little simpler. They are inaccruate, and always do consistant damage independant of range. Or did it make things simple? the farther you are the more chance of a zombieman missing. At a distance it's going to be much harder to be hit by 2 or 3 pellets from the shotgunner, whereas at close range you may take two or even all 3 pellets. And then the rest of your enemies are projectile throwers. In doom this makes plain sense since it's much easier to dodge. Of course, the enviroment can hamper your dodging ability a bit.
Doom also implemented floors and ceilings of various height. And this change would change the gameplay of all future FPSes. Monsters can attack from above or below. Of course, Doom aims a bit for you (you still have to get the enemy generally center though), but in later games all autoaiming was removed. It was soon enough expected that player could do this aiming by themself.
So in general Wolfenstein, being one of the first mass marketed PC FPSes set a base to be improved on. And improved on it was. Of course these days only thing people can ever think of are graphics and "realistic" gameplay.
(tl;dr version: InsanityBringer beats wolfenstein and realizes that things have changed :P)
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I remember watching one of the early video game shows back in the mid-90s, and they were showing off some kind of mouse that was supposed to revolutionize FPS gaming. It had a kind of joystick on it meant for mouselooking and they were showing it off using Duke Nukem 3D. I thought the thing looked clunky and awkward, and I guess the rest of the gaming community agreed with me.
Sounds like the Logitech Cyberman. Incidentally, the Cyberman is the reason that Doom always says "Wrong mouse driver - no SWIFT support" on startup - the Cyberman used a modified mouse driver to provide the extra inputs.
The Cyberman was supposed to be a 6DoF controller, like the Wiimote. A while back I was looking into how the Cyberman API worked (there is code for it in the Descent and Heretic sources), with a view to creating a DOSbox patch to allow you to play DOS games with Cyberman support (like Doom and Descent) using a Wiimote or similar.
the forward-equals-up mode is more expected from a mnemonic or rationalized starting point.
Indeed. I wouldn't argue that "normal" mouselook allows for more proficient play than "inverted", or vice versa, but I would agree that "normal" mouselook is the more "rationalized" choice, which is why a logical fellow like me might express surprise when confronted with "inverted" mouselook's popularity. I don't agree that "inverted" mouselook has a parallel in desktop computing, however. Consider that a forward movement with the mouse already "equals up" for the movement of cursors in GUIs. If "inverted" mode was analogous to "dragging a window*", then while playing an FPS a user of this mode would move the mouse to the right to look left. Perhaps such input would also have a physically intuitive basis? After all, when one looks left, he has rotated his body to the right, beneath him. :P
* I think you may have switched your analogies? They make more sense to me when transposed, but I quoted yours anyway.