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Creating The Ultimate Next Gen FPS Experience Both Offline and Online
With the next gen coming up soon, you know every major developer is preparing to take the new consoles by storm with their existing franchises. Activision, EA, Ubisoft, Sony, and Microsoft are getting their studios prepped and primed for what’s coming next, but only two of those names have the upper hand. With Sony and Microsoft creating the consoles for the next generation of gaming, they have a chance to ensure their studios launch superior titles.
For the sake of having a subject to talk about, I’ll be using Killzone as my focused title but honestly, any FPS can take these ideas and make them work. If you don’t like Killzone and would like to see Call of Duty take on these features, I’m sure they could do it. I, myself, feel that Sony and Guerrilla Games have a great chance at making this all work right out of the gate of the PS4’s launch and therefore I have chosen to use it as my example.
This is my vision of the ultimate FPS experience.
Becoming A Campaign Masterpiece
It’s no secret that most FPS stories and campaigns aren’t worth much in the long run. They either end too quickly, don’t make much sense, or just don’t have that “it” factor to keep you interested and on the edge of your screen.
An FPS campaign needs to incorporate a good pace to keep the action flowing while giving you a reason to fight. You need to feel the need to shoot countless soldiers or it’s just going to feel like an achievement/trophy hunting experience which is completely forgettable.
Killzone has always done well in this department. It was easy to understand why the ISA was fighting against the Helghast and why it was important. From the first scene in Killzone you were invested in the story and its high visual payoff was enough to keep you wanting more. Killzone 2 did a lot to make the story more grandiose and dark. Killzone 3 focused on keeping that same level of investment but just added more ridiculous aspects to the story.
Note: Again, I am using Killzone as my example but you can substitute many other games and have the same thing I talk about below work.
What I propose for the next gen Killzone is that Guerrilla focuses on keeping you at the edge of your seat the entire time with twists, turns, choices, outcomes, and a few different endings. Never before has an FPS with a great multiplayer function been able to grasp players to the single player adventure. It has always been online first, campaign second. In recent years it has morphed into online first, co-op campaign/missions second, single player campaign last. This needs to change and Killzone has the best shot at doing that.
I want to see an FPS capture me with a storyline that can change on a whim depending on how my decisions affect the outcome of a battle, strategy, or which soldiers die where and when and how. This is war and nothing is ever linear in war. Things change every second and you never know what may happen. There are leaders on the battlefield and those leaders are responsible for bringing you in battle and getting you out. There are plans and there is strategy but leaders need to be able to call an audible at any second. Give us that experience and let us control a battlefield commander with the ability to change how this war goes with a series of defining choices.
In essence what I’d like to see is an FPS with the decision and morale systems that we see in inFamous, Fallout, and Mass Effect. Speaking of that, Commander Shepard’s decisions aboard the Collector base in ME2 and on Earth in ME3 are exactly what an FPS campaign should be like. The action is frantic. Nothing ever goes according to plan and you need to ensure your soldiers are thinking straight, have high morale, and will follow you wherever you need to go.
With the kind of characters and established lore that Killzone already has, this should not be hard to pull off. Even if you need to introduce some new characters, these types of stories always grip players and make then want more since at any second their split decisions will spell life, death, success, failure, progress, or retreat.
All I want is an FPS campaign I care about past the first week of release. I want an FPS to have a story that is talked about and remembered. I believe Killzone can be that FPS and going down this route can ensure that it succeeds.
This Is War, Give Us War
Killzone’s story has always been about the war between the ISA and Helghast. There is constant war waged on multiple planets and millions of soldiers involved. While I just described the ultimate adventure for a battlefield commander, when it comes to the online aspect of my next gen Killzone I want to become the ultimate battlefield soldier.
There are a few features I’d like to see in this kind of multiplayer:
- Massive battles on massive maps.
- Rise through the ranks and make them matter.
- Perks that not only help you aim or reload faster but can be offensive, defensive, and supportive.
Let’s start with feature number one.
I, for one, was a fan of MAG. Not so much the execution of the game but I really enjoyed the massive feeling of the battles. There were issues in how the large factions battles and the game would have benefited greatly from a rank and file system but overall it was a great experience to see happen on consoles.
With the PS4, there should be no reason why we can’t see battles of 60-120 players work without issue. The new network should be optimized for online games like this and the new Killzone should take advantage of that. There is no need to make MAG 2 in order to perfect the concept that the first game tried to produce but instead it should be adopted here where Guerrilla and Sony can work together to ensure a great massive online experience.
To also ensure that these battles are not only huge but also fun for all types of players, there needs to be a rank system involved. This brings me to feature number two on my list. I want to see the ranks I achieve mean something. Everyone starts out as a Private First Class but when I reach Commander why does it only mean I get a gun, some type of camo, and a picture for a profile? Ranks like Commander need to mean something on the battlefield.
To make this work I was thinking that for massive battles (at least more than 40 players) there needs to be strategic points of interest, side missions, and main objectives. These need to be controlled by the highest ranking soldier on your team.
Not everyone is going to want to lead 50-60 people in an online game but if you do, then you’d enlist in the Command Center and learn how to control teams and ensure the battle moves swiftly in your favor. These players would learn how to direct the flow of battle, send objectives to squads, control which main objective is the most important one, and utilize the in-game map to show every soldier where they should be. Commanders get priority chat access and when they talk, no one else can. Commanders cannot be muted and even if your volume is down a quick message will tell you that your Commander has sent you new orders and you’ll need to check your menu.
Commanders start fresh as a new Level 1 Commander but can also be demoted if enough negative community votes are given. That doesn’t mean they cannot command again but they’ll need to go through the training again and a mark of disservice will be added to their profile.
If you have multiple Commanders in one game, at the beginning of the game the entire team gets to vote on which Commander takes the spot and everyone can view their service record and profiles.
This all sounds very in-depth but if massive battles like what MAG tried to give us become a norm in the next gen, then a system like this needs to be implemented. Ranks need to matter and there should be options for players to take on specific jobs during these types of battles. You can command. You could be a squad leader. You could be a General and oversee a certain number of squads and their leaders. A rank and file system makes sure every player knows their role on the battlefield and should give some of the most epic moments.
I don’t know about you but even as a Private First Class, if I witnessed by team of 60 people being led by one Commander and we struggle through 40 minutes of constant warfare to see our objective taken and secured and the game won, I’d put my controller, breathe a sigh of relief, and just sit there stunned at how everything worked out.
This is the ultimate online FPS experience and I believe we’re going to get it at some point in this upcoming generation of consoles.
To Be An Effective Soldier You Need To Trust Your Squad And Leaders
I enjoy the recent co-op campaigns that games like Halo and Call of Duty have produced. Since a lot of FPS campaigns aren’t good, the co-op one normally takes precedence and you can tell.
A lot of work goes in to creating a great co-op experience for 2-4 players. Whether you have the Spec Ops from Call of Duty or the Spartan missions from Halo, you’re tasked with taking a group of players and completing objective for a successful mission. Sometimes it isn’t easy but great teamwork can get you by.
Taking the experiences I named above, I feel a great co-op experience for a game like this would be in the confines of virtual reality. Think Metal Gear Solid but put it in an FPS. Players would take their soldiers into VR courses with a team of 2-6 players and go through predefined missions to give them a starting rank or just more practice. If you go through the VR courses before going onto the full multiplayer experience, you could start higher than Private First Class because you performed so well during the VR evaluation.
This is just another aspect in making the online aspect seem realistic and make things matter. You’re mimicking a soldier in a war and instead of just pushing “Find Game” in a lobby and then spawning, there should be more to it. Why not have some training before you’re let loose on the battlefield? Every player needs to understand how teamwork, squad leadership and other roles work, and how objectives are handed out and executed.
But what if you’re already online and just want to play some co-op? You can also go through the evaluation courses again but there are more predefined missions you can tackle with a squad or even help other players who are in the Command courses learn how to be better Commanders. You can be in a squad that a fledgling Commander is tasked with taking through a mission and having them survive. You can be instrumental in making a Commander that one day may lead your team of 60 people to victory.
To me that gives me a reason to check out the co-op feature because not only can I play in a small group with friends at any time but I’m making myself a better soldier and at times helping other become better Commanders.
This is all part of making the online aspect of this ultimate FPS experience mean more than just heading to a lobby, spawning, running, shooting, dying, and respawning. This experience is realistic and every thing you do counts. It is because of these features that not only could this very well become the best FPS experience ever but could also make a run at being a huge e-sport game and having gigantic competitions worldwide.
Although I believe Killzone has the best shot at making all of this work, any FPS could theoretically make this happen. I can see these same features in a Call of Duty game or Battlefield. I can even see games like Medal of Honor or Mass Effect make it work if the developer has the resources and puts the effort in.
FPS games have become redundant experiences over the years and are doing nothing to enhance the experience. With the upcoming next gen, the genre and the people who develop it need to look at revamping it. I happen to think the ideas I present above are the best way to execute a next gen FPS.