Some time back, I posted about the decline of the Arena FPS genre, wondering if it had a future, and if it could ever see a revival. A lot has changed since then, some things have not(the more things change, the more they remain the same?). The bottom line is that the genre does seem to be experiencing a revival of sorts. All it took was a big title(Doom) to show that gamers were getting bored with the modern take on multiplayer FPS, and while the merits of Doom’s multiplayer are debatable, no one can argue that it didn’t expose a whole new generation to the possibilities of competitive combat in close quarters.
The ironic thing is, that the old-school gamers who pine for an old-school Arena FPS lamented the direction Doom multiplayer took – all the while missing the point of what id/Bethesda was trying to accomplish. Doom, with it’s loadouts, limited weapon carrying, slower pace, is the conduit, the introduction if you will, the BAIT, to entice this new generation of gamers to where the REAL meat is gonna be – Quake Champions. As evidenced by the footage released at QuakeCon 2016, QC is going to be pretty much exactly the game that the old-school guys wanted(and really, give id/Bethesda some props for even CARING about them given their paltry population), and it will be a huge success. It’s what people wanted all along – something that plays fast AND looks good doing it – probably what Quake Live should have been from the start.
But, Quake Champions isn’t the only entry in the fight. Unreal Tounament 4 is progressing, and I recently tried it out again to be quite impressed with it’s progress. The level design is worlds better than UT3, with tighter, smaller, faster playing levels. It seems like that game is righting the wrongs of UT3, yet keeping the amazing looks and sounds. Great job by Epic, and their community driven project. I also purchased Toxikk and Reflex to try out and was very impressed with Toxikk overall. It felt good, played great, and was very impressive visually. Their art reminds me an awful lot of Xonotic, but executed much better – it really looks like what Xonotic should look like, and aspire to. I was less impressed with Reflex, I didn’t like the movement(which felt swimmy) and the sounds were very weak. As this game is “in development”, hopefully that will change, although it has clearly gained a foothold in the ESports world. A new game, Diabotical looks really great from it’s trailer, though they stole “Frag like it’s 1999” from Toxikk! Ratz Instagib is out, I have not tried it so I have no real comments.
Unreal Tournament 4
All of these look very promising, and with this many new AFPS games coming out, obviously there is a shift in the perception of what gamers want. More often than not, “what gamers want” is controlled by this very perception that game moguls have. There are of course silly debates about what constitutes an “Arena” FPS game, or what a “competitive” game truly is. Purists will for the most part dismiss anything that doesn’t follow the strict rules of Quake deathmatch, and that doesn’t lend itself to dueling. This narrow minded point of view is what has led to the demise of the genre in the first place. Far too often cynical players such as this are their own worst enemy. They want a new game to replace Quake and bring the genre into modern gaming, but then dismiss the new game when it’s not a carbon copy of Quake and includes modern nuances. The silly arguing of semantics and definitions such as trying to demonstrate that UT was never an “arena” FPS, or wasn’t a “competitive” game is emblamatic of the problem. Any game, in which players are competing against one another to achieve a specific goal is a competitive game. Sorry die-hards, that’s a simple fact. Dismissing a game as being too “casual” is exactly why your choices and ranks remain so narrow, and so miniscule. An “Arena” FPS game is an FPS game in which players primarily compete in small “arenas”. Period. No, Counterstrike is not an “arena” FPS game – it’s maps are generally too large to fit the definition, even if a few maps, or custom maps fit the mold. UT, Quake 3, Doom MP, etc, *are* arena FPS games.
Of course I am in the midst of completing COR’s own Arena FPS game, Alien Arena: Warriors Of Mars. Along with Max Eliaser, Jim Bower, and a few others, we are steadily grinding away and getting things closer. It’s interesting to me that Alien Arena and Toxikk are two games trying to achieve the same thing, but coming from opposite directions. Toxikk is coming from the Unreal Tournament world and marrying elements of Quake to create a hybrid, fast paced game that feels fresh. Alien Arena is coming from the Quake world, and infusing elements of Unreal Tournament to create something similar…but yet…different.
Alien Arena: Warriors Of Mars
Ironically, or maybe not, as time has gone on with this complete overhaul and reboot, I’ve found myself constantly re-examining the content, winding up doing things I’d previously said I would not do, or simply re-re-re-doing things because I didn’t like the quality, or felt they were too derivative of other games. There are certainly some “ish” levels, or pieces of levels, but most of those items have been morphed over time to become their own things. As I continue on with the content, Max continues working on the engine making things faster, smoother, and modern. The game has transformed into something that I feel really nails the Arena FPS genre, something that will be faster, and more exciting than the AAA offerings can offer due to their own rules of appealing to the widest base possible. Movement is among the fastest of any AFPS game, with a high skill threshold that seems in contradiction to other similar games. Instead of dumbing it down, we’ve made it so that you can go further up the ladder, achieve more spectacular movement and feats. We won’t back off from that…and when you execute a perfect dodge-jump combo, and fly through a map faster than everyone else, you’ll learn to appreciate your newfound skill.
WoM will push every boundary of speed, hyper fast gameplay, and attempt to wrap it up into something that is appealing to the eye. It will not have the fidelity of UT4 or Quake Champions, we aren’t going to up our model polycounts to 50k and have 4096×4096 textures. None of that matters in this genre – it only serves to use resources, up system requirements, and bog down the game. It’s more important to paint a pleasing picture, than to paint one at ultra high resolution. It will look terrific by 1080p standards, and it will play smooth and fast – which is what really matters. The environments will feel rich, colorful, and atmospheric, the characters iconic, and the weapons will feel beefy and alive in your hands. You’ll be satisfied when vaporizing your competitors, and you’ll be pleased by the visceral display of blood, guts and voltage. The variety of arenas and their themes will keep you on your toes, and make things less repetitive(the biggest enemy of the genre has been when everything looks or feels the same). UT was great at doing that, and we have followed that lead. We are really excited to be working on this game, and cannot wait to get our entry of Arena FPS games into the spotlight.