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.
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.