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Bill Murphy: The Shooterization of E3

Columns By William Murphy on June 16, 2011

The Shooterization of E3

There was one very apparent thing at E3 this year: everybody loves to shoot things with guns in their games.  Okay, maybe not everyone, but the prevailing presence at this year’s Big Show was the shooter.  Even most of the MMO’s we covered had a distinct shooter mechanic in some form or another.  There was Black Prophecy with its Wing Commander style, TERA with its action-based combat, and of course the reveal of Trion’s Defiance.  But everywhere we went on the show floor, the shooter was King.  Duke Nukem, Bioshock Infinite, Battlefield 3, Gears of War 3, Uncharted 3 (that’s a lot of threes…).  What is our fascination with toting a gun and popping caps in asses?  Do the kids even still say that?

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I’m not going to lie; I love shooters just as much as anyone.  Since the early days of 3D Realms and id Software, when my family got Doom II on our old Compaq Presario I was in Heaven.  Then came the wonders of Goldeneye 007 on the N64, and that was all she wrote.  The shooter had me for life.  I’ve since however become a larger fan of the MMORPG, and I’ve been waiting a long time for my two favorite types of game to find a way to come together in some union or another.

Don’t get me wrong; Planetside is awesome, and I love the more recent takes on quasi-MMOFPS titles.  But there hasn’t yet been a true blend of the MMORPG and FPS and I think that’s going to be changing very soon.  Everything we’ve seen or heard about Defiance sounds like it’s going to take the epic scale seen in our favorite MMOs and tie it all into the controls and fast-paced action of the modern FPS. 

Think of the Elder Scrolls series and its focus on the first-person perspective.  Sure you can scroll back, but the games are usually designed for first-person and there’s no denying it.  If anyone tries to tell me that a massive, freeform MMORPG experience can’t be built around the FPS gears and cogs, I’ll scoff at them… scoff, I say!  But is it really the best thing for the genre?  Is evolving into some other type of game all we can do?

I see the trend of MMOs trying on new types of control schemes, making themselves merge with other genres.  It’s the natural progression of things as we all want different ways to play online worlds.  But what I’m worried about is that developers will think merely taking existing MMO-isms into new genre types is all they have to do.  For example, I don’t want an MMOFPS that has kill ten rats quests and walls of text.  I want an MMOFPS that will make me feel part of a larger world, make that world a dynamic and ever-changing thing, and give me new ways to do those traditional MMO practices such as crafting, questing, and so forth.  Simply putting in a new way to play the same old content is not going to cut it in the long run.

People may be starting to wonder if MMOs will ever crawl out of the slump, and I honestly think they already are.  Quality is becoming more and more important to the success of a game and developers see that.  New ways to play are important and it’s something that’s being addressed.  Taking new approaches to old design decisions is something that just about every game strives to do, even if they don’t succeed.  It’s only a matter of time before someone strikes gold.  At that point while I’m sure it’ll take us all about a millisecond to start seeing cracks in its armor and asking for “MOAR NEW NOW”, at least we’ll be able to say that someone listened… someone gave us what we wanted. 

Every company out there knows that “Massive Multi-player” is something a lot of gamers want.  They’re just not sure how to approach it.  Moreover they’re not sure how to get us excited about it, or how to make us believe it’s worth paying for (especially when we all know it’s not).  E3 showed me one major thing this year: shooters and MMOs are becoming bed-buddies.  Not everyone’s going to like that, and I’m absolutely sure that shooters won’t be the only type of new game we see down the line.  But I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a part of me that was giddy with anticipation for games like Defiance, PlanetSide 2, and the like.  The FPS, shooter or melee, sci-fi or fantasy, is a great and direct way to put the player in the role of their character.  Let’s hope all these companies can make it feel as good as it sounds on paper.

William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, and lover of all things gaming. He''s been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for all of his pointless rambling.