It seems to be Titanfall or bust for FPS games.

One of the most viewed posts on my site is entitled “Will the next big competitive FPS please stand up?” in which I waxed nearly-poetic about how I thought that either Infinity Ward or EA were going to reclaim the FPS estate with Modern Warfare 3 or Battlefield 3, respectively, only to find out that neither title lived up to the competitive goal they had set for each other.

bcdm_fps_titanfallA few other games have also come out into their own set of successes and failures that might have had an effect or two on the FPS genre as a whole. A little retrospective is in order, I’d imagine. A word of warning: I am incredibly ignorant when it comes to actually rating a game, but I have a reason for blasting through these games like I have. Just keep reading.

Oh yeah, this is a rant. I don’t even want to claim that anything following is factual, because I am dumb. This is just, my opinion, maaan.

Some good games, some bad games

Battlefield 3 enjoyed some success in its reboot of the famed name, thanks to the massive new vistas it created in both its single-player and online components. Seeing a radio tower collapse from ground level as an infantryman onto a tank driven by an enemy player right in front of me is one of those first-time experiences you don’t forget, even if I was playing the game 800×600. However, EA was not able to carry that momentum forward into its follow-up title, Battlefield 4. The latter is an exercise filled with game crashes and network issues that is so poor their Premium content calendar is open-ended, compared to the stable beat of content provided for Premium members in the previous title.

Fake Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare 3 gave way to Treyarch’s Black Ops 2, a Call of Duty franchise addition which, in nearly every way, advanced the series forward with the focus being placed on keeping the experience at a fluid framerate while pushing the bounds of graphics on console systems. While dedicated servers and PC-specific support failed in this release, everything else about it felt great. I have to say, it reminded me so much of how good the original Modern Warfare (made by the true Infinity Ward) felt online. To this day, I have registered Black Ops 2 as one of the finest online experiences I’ve ever had with the Xbox 360.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has been the only FPS game that I can really think of that has found its own success in not being like the others. Embracing a few of the new tricks that Valve and series co-developer Hidden Path have picked up from other multiplayer development and experimentation, CSGO has become a premier competitive title that isn’t only proven to be entertaining for spectators, but has become the pinnacle of what showcasing professional-level talent is all about in its high stakes format. I’ve been recently trying to give this game a serious go and I think that I am almost well enough versed in what to do that I could soon start playing competitive modes and get ranked. It’d be interesting to see how far I could get. Just another reason why this game has found success–and it’s not even a free-to-play game.

Activision’s truckload of money addiction made eventually allowed Fake Infinity Ward’s turn came back up to try to ship a title that people would buy en masse. Their Ghosts product certainly changed a few things. Instead of Treyarch’s easter-egg-turned-puzzle zombies game mode which eventually rated its own executable, Fake Infinity Ward decided that a future-looking design could be paired with aliens. This is just the co-op feature. Forcing a meta game shift into all other game modes while defacing or removing staple game modes helped turn off the most amount of vocal Call of Duty fans who keep YouTube channels or prop up the game’s competitive scene.

Thanks for the history lesson, but what am I supposed to grasp from all of that?

The trend one should notice is what types of FPS games have not really achieved any progression: the mainstream shooters. And it’s killing them.

That’s not to say that skill-based shooters aren’t worth investing in time into, but it’s just that there is an audience behind each game that is exclusive to that franchise or series. My thinking is that they more bells and whistles that they add to make the game more fun for casual players and players who have grown up with a particular series (fake-Infinity Ward, I’m looking at you, you sorry bunch of sellouts) increases the likelihood that the developer will miss the mark and eventually drop competitive-friendly features and support from future iterations in the series.

This was the case in the removal of a realistically usable spectator mode from Call of Duty in favor of the lobby-based multiplayer experience that crawled over to PCs from the booming consoles. When it takes a mobile television studio worth of HD A/V switchers and so on to effectively broadcast a game, of course the only realistic broadcasters for that title are going to be bigger competitions with a lot of money and capital behind them—MLG and Activision’s own million dollar competition.

Call of Duty, the proverbial titan of the genre, introduced meta gaming elements into a more traditional ruleset—chase after a player and they drop free points you can have for doing something completely stupid that forces you to play differently. Oh, and how about those killstreaks, man? I could give you a free one just for running around with a knife and playing Rambo for a split second.

Titanfall will have an impact on the level of what Modern Warfare brought to FPS

Forcing 6v6? Two roles for players? Proper balancing? No extra bullshit? Good matchmaking?

All of these are things that Titanfall will bring to the was-next-hen-now-current-gen table. Will the Call of Duty folks will be waiting for Treyarch to fix their series or Halo: The 343 Trilogy: Episode 2 to right the wrongs? Perhaps the Call of Duty faithful, but overall, the imting of Titanfall’s upcoming release is perfect. A late Q1/early Q2 release window for the title across several platforms ensures that only naysayers and legitimate EA boycotters (of which there are probably none, but just for the sake of suggesting all of the angles here…) will undoubtedly be wishing they didn’t have to drop another season’s pass worth of money on a game that appears to be more fun than Call of Duty or Halo—even though Halo 4 wasn’t really a step forward for the arena/hybrid shooter.

With a delayed Xbox 360 launch coming up, an on-time release for the Xbox One might be enough of an incentive to get the Xbox faithful, like myself, who are waiting for the right time to step up to the current generation console to decide that the right time is at Titanfall’s release. It might just be, speaking for myself, but that’s not the biggest reason that Titanfall will bring about a huge swing for the competitive FPS that isn’t Counter-Strike.

The biggest reason is that, thanks to League of Legends and other Dota-clones, small-team matchmaking is making a serious comeback into mainstream gaming culture. Forcing 6v6 into Titanfall is going to make the game become an even bigger deal in such a way so that the game could only become a genre-shattering title of even greater importance if it were free-to-play, pay-to-customize title akin to League of Legends. However, this is a EA joint, so I’m guessing that won’t ever happen in a million years to a title that will be released on console platforms because guaranteed money is better than free-to-play money for consoles.

I can’t think of any other FPS title that could see a release at this point that could dethrone a series like Call of Duty… but thanks to the lackluster attempts from EA’s DICE team to repair a broken-at-launch title and Activision’s fake-Infinity Ward group’s efforts to make a good game full-stop, Titanfall has the biggest chance to steal the industry’s spotlight away and run off with it.

At least until Treyarch gets up to bat again. Then we’ll have an old-fashioned one-up contest.

BF3 companion app comes to iPhone, but will skip Android?

Okay, I know that many of you folks could give less than over 9000 shits about anything that Electronic Arts is doing in the gaming industry that isn’t ruining Mass Effect 3’s ending, and that’s fine. This blog probably isn’t for you in the first place.

EA’s subsidiary responsible for Battlefield 3, Digital Illusions CE (also known as DICE), released its long-awaited mobile app for its Battlelog pseudo-social network it deployed with the launch of the game. DICE’s Global Community Manager for BF3, Daniel Matros, announced the release on his popular Twitter feed. 1

Now, there’s nothing wrong with this whatsoever. I, as an iPhone 4S user, have already downloaded the app and it’s all great fun being able to show folks that I am not among the elite in the BF3 community by my sub-1.00 kill/death ratio and the fact that my top three weapons include the SKS, not to mention that I haven’t hit Colonel level 50 yet, let alone any level of Colonel.

As a Twitter user, there’s nothing wrong with announcing something before your PR department releases something boring and simple. That and you get to inject a bit of personality into it, whereas if a PR drone were to write up the release, it would almost completely lack any manner of emotion or excitement.

However, in response to users asking him about an Android version (which surely has to be coming at some point), zh1nt0 had the following to fire back with: 2

@mund0x Android.. It´s like asking if future BF games will be released on Betamax

I’m not quite sure that was the most professional sort of reply from a Global Community Manager.

Now, I don’t think he’s going to be losing his job over something like this. I mean, everyone has a right to their opinions, but I’m pretty sure he’s going to be getting a talking to from the community at large after comparing Android to Betamax. There are Apple fanboys, and then there are those that take things a bit too far.

And to be quite honest, the Battlelog application doesn’t seem to have the design thought put into it compared to the Halo Waypoint companion that Bungie and Microsoft developed for the iPhone. For the short time that I spent playing the Halo prequel title online, I felt like the mobile experience the app provided actually enhanced the system as a whole.

To DICE’s credit, the Battlelog system would be great if it weren’t so tightly integrated into the game thanks to the capabilities and EA’s desire to show off Origin. But then again, Battlelog is no replacement for the server browser being built into the game itself.

Will the next big competitive FPS please stand up?

It’s hard to predict what the next big thing is going to be in FPS gaming anymore. I thought for the longest time that Modern Warfare 3 was going to be the premier competitive title that would emerge from the last release cycle of games, but it seems like the next release cycle will hold what the community will probably circle around.

MW3 and Battlefield 3 have all the necessary components to construct a vibrant competitive scene. Some may argue that these scenes exist and that I’m ignoring them, but I don’t think they have reached a critical mass compared to the titles they are replacing.

These games are arguably successes in their own right, but they still haven’t garnered the support of competitive organizations in the way that they need to. Here are a few thoughts on why I think that these games fall short on gathering critical mass to construct a competitive scene.

Design As Intended

The competitive modes around these games are generally the means to provide players with the circlejerk that they need so they can boast on their achievements. These modes were designed for small instances and not for ongoing campaigns, such as a league. Furthermore, the amount of weapons and the smaller variances that these weapons have in these games contribute to the complexity of game balance. There’re only four classes of players in BF3, however each of these classes have up to 10 different primary weapons to choose from and there are three different types of weapons among these 10 for each class, at best.

Additionally, these multiplayer modes require players to play the game in order to unlock additional weapons. Only a limited arsenal is available for players in MW3 until they rank up enough times to gain access to the complete arsenal that’s available in the game. Unlocking the complete arsenal in BF3 this more complicated as players have to fulfill four specific roles in game play to gather the required experience to do so.

Ultimately, confrontations in these two games are governed by scarcity and seniority. Scarcity, in this context, represents the amount of players with access to a more complete arsenals and newer players to the game. In the same manner, seniority represents the amount of experience that up player games while playing the game.

In a purely competitive arena, these two principles no longer matter because, if the competitive arena set up with any common sense, all the weapons are unlocked for all players and the skill level of the competitors represents the highest portion of players. In this circumstance, the game has to fall back on mechanics, reflexes, and strategy.

Specific roles in this situation are not specific. All of the roles in these situations are fluid and everyone is essentially doing the same thing: eliminating the other team in the most efficient manner possible. Almost all of the effort the developer puts into the game to maintain balance and atmosphere are eliminated in the same way: matches become oversimplified and tactically meaningless in ways the developer did not intend.

Community Logistics

For players new to the competitive scene in these games, finding venues in which to compete is not as easy as it once was. Currently, the simplest way to get into a match is to simply click ‘quick match’ or enter a matchmaking mode. To actually find friends to play in a competitive mode, a player has to actively pursue these things.

The microcosms which are matches are short enough to where running into individuals in one match then doing so in a second match seem to be a oddity and almost an anomaly. BF3 has a certain leg up on MW3 on this particular point, but it’s still difficult to build a community around a specific server compared to other games. All of these communities typically do not produce top-tier teams, these types of communities have always felt part of a growing, successful scene. Luckily, these communities have already been founded in older games and are migrating to newer games as they gather interest from their players.

Still, the pub community aspect of these games make the competitive scene possible by way of continuing the success of the title. In games where the competitive scene does not rise to level of international interest, these communities often turn into the harbors of the most loyal players in that game.

For the console players of these titles, the pub server scene has been replaced by online communities where players can engage in posting and discussion about the games. Neither online gaming service provided by the two major consoles even holds a candle to the value of discussion and interaction that takes place on subreddit. the networks simply seem to be the medium in which stereotypical pre-teens throw racial slurs and threatening messages at other players, often behind a veil of anonymity.

Replacing actual servers for these console games, console gamers depend on LAN events for supporting their competitive scene. It’s the model that Halo made popular and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to go away anytime soon.

Pickup and Playability

These two games are also not intuitive for newer players to jump into compared to upcoming titles. CS:GO and Tribes: Ascend have fewer complexities surrounding their core game modes, in which they expressly eliminate the other team in the most efficient manner possible.

The spiritual successor to Counter-Strike has set weaponry for either team that is playing that game. Tribes to send have vastly different types of weapons and all those weapons play different roles. Both games have a core component based on what is available to you, the player, in a particular situation.

Okay, I’m out of ideas. I’m really just upset about how MW3 and BF3 were supposed to save the FPS genre and haven’t because of shit developers.

I’ll just be honest here. I really thought that one of these two games would really just clean up and neither of them really have. I enjoy playing BF3, and from what I can tell of MW3, it’s the bastard child of MW2 and Black Ops. Neither of these games are made for a competitive scene.

These games are made for people to spend money on them. And not in the roundabout marketing style, either. The genre seems to have become the DLC delivery machine of choice in the gaming industry and has lost sight of what the FPS has been known for.

So will there be another competitive FPS to sweep the industry?

With Valve focusing on more than one product, it’s safe to say that CS:GO might not be the company putting its best foot forward as it has done with its entire lineup to date, excepting Team Fortress 2. Massive intellectual property owners, EA and Activision Blizzard, have more incentive to rehash older games and continue their DLC dominance of the industry instead of innovating in the field of gameplay.

Plus, consider what a competitive title is in the industry right now: it’s either a strategy game or a fighting game. Both games are typically solo efforts and require little to no teamwork to succeed and both games already have massive cult followings that span multiple games inside their genre.

And in both of these scenes, change has been affected on them by developers who really just wanted to mix things up. Starcraft 2 is an evolution of the original game complete with a graphics and engine overhaul. Street Fighter IV was a massive departure to the 2D fighting system by rendering 3D graphics while integrating online multiplayer for the first time in the series. DotA-clones didn’t change how the game was played, but made the game easier to play for a variety of gamers. MVC3 reintroduced how matches could be won and lost on the character select screen with its three-character tag team format and the strategy that added to the game.

Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 just added more boring shit for players to grind out that held back access to the games’ arsenal while making it more difficult to organize any sort of competitive meeting.