What is good game design for … A Shooter?
Welcome to a new part of my series Whats good game design for …. ! This time we´ll take a look at one of the most popular genre of our time and maybe the worst executed of our time. I´m talking of course about Shooters!
When it comes to Shooters the opinions of good level design may vary, so please don´t forget that this post is my opinion of good modern Singleplayer Shooters (Retro Shooters are something else).
A good Shooter should be Gameplay-focused but what does that mean? I mean, you shoot enemies in every shooter!
However that´s not what I meant, sure Shooters are normally already Gameplay-focused but the problem lies at the pacing. Let´s take the modern Call of Duty campaigns for example: They´re awfully bad and the way they present cutscenes during a mission to you is one reason for that and something a lot shooters get wrong one time or another. Basically at some point during a mission the player will trigger a scripted event, an event that can´t be influenced by the player and just happens to happen, like a crashing helicopter. There´s nothing wrong with a crashing helicopter itself but a lot Shooters will focus the players camera at it, forcing him to look at the explosion for some seconds.
This is the problem, by doing it like that, the game stops the flow immmediatly, taking the controller away from you, just to show you something that can´t be skipped or influenced. Like your little brother would play this segment for you. These things are the reason why modern Shooters get less and less Gameplay-focused. They will control every step from you by all means, sending you through corridors so you can trigger all these cool script events and do exactly what they want. They´re not focused on the Gameplay-flow or creating an interruption free experience, that can´t be marketed in trailers …
Never interrupt your Gameplay
Freedom is important for Shooters nowadays that don´t try to imitate the 90s Shooters, wait, what do I mean with freedom? As shown by games like Wolfenstein: The new Order or Crysis a Shooter can be more than just shooting enemies in corridors or killing rooms. More than a walk through a tunnel, where the developers control everything. For me a modern Shooter shouldn´t consist of corridors, it should consist of action bubbles.
What are action bubbles you might ask, well it´s basically an open area that gives you total freedom. Like the nazi checkpoint at Wolfenstein, if you played it, what I strongly recommend. You were thrown in this area with the task to make a path for your allies, how and what you do was up to you. You could have killed the enemies by sneaking through the level, which was possible due to it´s good and open level design or you could have shot your way through it or maybe a mix of both? It gave you the freedom to choose how you approach a situation, how to react to certain events and how YOU play YOUR game.
Instead of everlasting corridors Shooters should consist of action bubbles that are connected with corridors, so the pacing doesn´t get too slow. Give the player the freedom to choose how they want to approach a level and play their game. A Shooter fan could still slaughter his way through it but he could also sneak through it, avoiding all conflicts or maybe kill some enemies before starting the fight. You see what I mean?
Games like Wolfenstein prove that the Shooter genre can be more than just script events and killing rooms, they evolved the genre and showed us how a modern Shooter should look like.
On the other hand we have games like DOOM 2016 which abandoned all these innovations and returned to corridors and killing rooms, it had far more problems tho. It could have showed the industry how to do it, DOOM is the most influential name in the industry when it comes to Shooters but they decided to go the “safe” way but that´s something for another time.
Just remember: Freedom is the key.
And these are the two general things that create a good modern Shooter. I could talk about the movement, the gun-play and much more but these things are so specific that you can´t generalize them. You see, it doesn´t take much on paper to make a good Shooter but in practice it´s far more work to do. Designing a corridor is just easier than designing an action bubble for every situation. This “time” is the deciding factor why CoD or Battlefield don´t do it, imagine what could happen if the 2 biggest franchises switch to an open and free level design, the whole industry would shift, copying them. But since only a few developers take their time and effort to create games like Wolfenstein the industry won´t learn it for a long time.
Instead of improving our current innovations for this genre we shift to the old times, the 90s, when Shooters were still good but is that really the solution? Will that save our current Shooter problem? No, it may feed our nostalgia but sooner or later this won´t be enough and the industry will either crash with this oversaturation of bad Shooters or have to adapt.
And I await this day.
To conclude, a Shooter should give you the freedom to choose how to handle the situation, while also providing you with an interruption free experience. A good Shooter should be free of script events, first person cutscenes and such stuff. The player´s experience and the game´s flow should be the focus of every game, not the visuals and presentation.
It may be ten times harder than the generic Shooter á la CoD or Battlefield but as seen at Wolfenstein, it´s ten times more worth it because these games bring the genre forward, these games will be considered the “modern” DOOM´s in 5-10 years.
Whats your opinion? Wanna give feedback? Leave a Comment below!
All images belong to their respective owners.