Tripwire Interactive, developers of the Red Orchestra 2 and Killing Floor series, have put a lot of time and effort into the crafting of their authentic shooter experiences. Now, in the wake of some frustrating focus testing, Tripwire President John Gibson has made some pretty bold claims about the mega-popular Call of Duty franchise. While speaking to PC Gamer, he went on record claiming that, “Call of Duty has almost ruined a generation of FPS players.”
But before you get out your torches and pitchforks and join the mob marching on his home, listen to the rest of his explanation and justification. When asked for his thoughts on the modern day FPS genre, here’s what Gibson has to say:
“I think that single-player shooters are getting better. I think they’re finally coming out from under the shadow of the Hollywood movie, overblown ‘I’m on a rail’ linear shooter. I’m talking about Call of Duty-style shooters,” he said. “In the late ‘90s, you had the original Deus Ex, which was an RPG-shooter. And those kind of games almost took an eight year hiatus. And I’m so excited to see them coming back with interesting gameplay. Like the Fallout games, even though their shooting mechanics could really use some improvement, just mixing a really cool story, but not a linear story, one that you create yourself. The melding of RPG elements and shooter elements has been great. I’ve seen this reflected in a lot of the reviews, it’s like, ‘Okay guys, we’re tired of this on-rails experience.'”
But, even with the resurgence of RPG shooters and non-linear storytelling, Gibson is still troubled about the state of the FPS genre. “On the flip side, I’m really discouraged by the current state of multiplayer shooters. I think that, and I hate to mention names, because it sounds like ‘I’m just jealous of their success,’ but I’m really, I feel like Call of Duty has almost ruined a generation of FPS players.”
“I know that’s a bold statement,” he admitted, “but I won’t just throw stones without backing it up. When I was developing Action Mode [for RO2], I got a group of people that I know that are pretty hardcore Call of Duty players. And my goal was to create something that was accessible enough for them to enjoy the game—not turn it into Call of Duty, but try to make something that I thought was casual enough but with the Red Orchestra gameplay style that they would enjoy. And we iterated on it a lot. And just listening to all the niggling, pedantic things that they would complain about, that made them not want to play the game, I just thought, ‘I give up. Call of Duty has ruined this whole generation of gamers.’
Specifically, it appears that loyal fans of CoD had one simple problem with the game: It wasn’t Call of Duty. So, what makes the Call of Duty formula so popular that players refuse to accept any other playstyle? Gibson explains that, “one of the things that Call of Duty does, and it’s smart business, to a degree, is they compress the skill gap. And the way you compress the skill gap as a designer is you add a whole bunch of randomness. A whole bunch of weaponry that doesn’t require any skill to get kills. Random spawns, massive cone fire on your weapons. Lots of devices that can get kills with zero skill at all, and you know, it’s kind of smart to compress your skill gap to a degree. You don’t want the elite players to destroy the new players so bad that new players can never get into the game and enjoy it.”
Gibson feels this compression comes at a high cost, one his team is unwilling to pay. The game may feel fun and satisfying, “but the skill gap is so compressed, that it’s like a slot machine. You might as well just sit down at a slot machine and have a thing that pops up and says ‘I got a kill!’ They’ve taken individual skill out of the equation so much.”
“So you see these guys—I see it all the time, they come in to play Red Orchestra, and they’re like ‘This game’s just too hardcore. I’m awesome at Call of Duty, so there’s something wrong with your game. Because I’m not successful at playing this game, so it must suck. I’m not the problem, it’s your game,’ Gibson explained. “And sometimes as designers, it is our game. Sometimes we screw up, sometimes we design something that’s not accessible enough, they can’t figure it out, we didn’t give them enough information to figure out where to go… but more often than not, it’s because Call of Duty compressed their skill gap so much that these guys never needed to get good at a shooter. They never needed to get good at their twitch skills with a mouse.”
There’s more to the interview with PC Gamer, so I encourage you all to read through it.
Of course, calling out the single most popular shooter in gaming today is probably not the best way to garner support for your cause, but Gibson does make a few good points. The problem here is that Call of Duty is not specifically the problem, it’s only the result of a larger issue at play here. One of the few drawbacks to video games becoming more mainstream is that they’ve had to adapt to the growing market of consumers. That means, more often than not, that games have to prioritize accessibility over all else.
Unfortunately, for the gamers that grew up playing with no continues, one-hit kills, and cheap deaths, this means that games are way easier now then they have ever been before. But the thing is, they’re only easy for those of us who earned our stripes out on the no-nonsense battlefields of retro-gaming. This is something I’ll be discussing in an upcoming TL;DR feature, so I don’t want to get too deep into it, but the gist of it is that games like Call of Duty attempt to reach an audience of gamers who are only interested in playing Call of Duty with their buddies. They’re easy and accessible because gameplay mechanics are NOT the focus of their design. Instead, using addictive characteristics like instant gratification through constant medals, perks and point awards keep players constantly looking forward to the next kill and subsequent achievement (in-game achievement, not Xbox achievement).
It isn’t fair to blame Call of Duty for successfully appealing to a group of folks who wouldn’t otherwise be playing any games at all. The majority of the folks that Gibson used in his focus testing seem to be ones who exclusively play CoD and little else. So of course fans of Call of Duty that are only interested in playing games that are exactly like Call of Duty aren’t going to want to play a game that isn’t like Call of Duty. I mean, like duh, right?
So on one hand, we have a man who’s clearly frustrated over a genre that’s become so infused with compressed skill gaps that there’s little success to be found for the authentic shooting experiences of yesteryear. On the other hand, he’s making a wide-arcing generalization but only specifically targeting one franchise that really hasn’t done anything wrong, given that Call of Duty is simply just appealing to an already-existing crowd that wants exactly what CoD is offering. While I believe Gibson is partly in the wrong for shining the spotlight on the CoD franchise, his points are certainly still valid when looking at the industry as a whole. If nothing else, pointing the finger at CoD will at least get other developers thinking about what they can do and if this an issue worth considering. (Which it is.)
I’m sure you folks have all kinds of opinions about this, so feel free to let loose in the comments below. Just make sure to justify your points with tangible evidence and facts, and avoid sweeping generalizations that don’t really have any weight. Let’s see where this conversation takes us.
Sheep are just not big fans of change.
Where did you earn your FPS stripes? For myself, it was Q2DM1, Tokay’s Towers.
I acquired mine in the exact same place, way back in the late 90s. I’d practice my strafe jumping by myself in “The Edge” for hours to I could keep up with crowd in deathmatches on MSN Gaming Zone. Discussing this makes me feel incredibly old…and I’m only 24.
Goldeneye and Unreal!
Unreal and the original release of Counter-Strike. Although truth be told I don’t play too many shooters as I don’t find them challenging enough and they lack the great narratives I need to keep me engaged. Unless I have to review one, I much prefer the action-adventure and RPG genres.
But the Battlefront games were awesome!!!
I agree, if you do.
quake 1 team fortress!
Oh, wow I totally forgot about Team Fortress! I played the hell out of TF2 when it came bundled in The Orange Box.
First FPS I played was Goldeneye. First FPS I mastered was Halo: CE. Unfortunately the Halo franchise suffers heavily from the problem described in the above article, they took a platform that required patience, timing, and a decent amount of skill to excel at, and they expanded it so far that any 12 year old can AR spray while flying around with a jet pack and get kills on someone who exponentially better at the game. This was a sad but inevitable trend to witness.
doom doom2 were my first. however i first went pro with TFC 😉 and i do mean pro #1 ranked team for 3 years running rawr. Anyway i really dont see CoD as a problem. lets look at a game people play very competitively like Counter Strike. The thing you have to realize is only a VERY small part of the CS(or CoD or any other game ever) community is playing focused on skill, most are playing for fun sure they wouldnt mind ending the map wiht a 1:1 ratio or better but they DONT stop and analyse every death and every kill go around maps by themselves or with one or two other people looking for unusual spots to camp/hide/ambush from. dont practice throwing grenades, knifes, or puppies. the list could go on. For those who DO learn to master a game they tend to want to learn to master other fps’s. they wont mind that say CS doesnt have kill streaks to help get their KDR higher. Also this whole “wide spread” weapon debate….seriously i cant think of a SINGLE FPS without people that have played it that call this or that gun cheap. the n00bstick(shotgun) in ANY game with one is considered cheap, rocket launcher one shot sniper rifles a fast rate high accuracy gun(p90 for you cs players!). All this said it eventually comes back to the player do you have the skill to overcome a “powerful” weapon with a weak one that you want to use? are you using ALL of your resorces correctly? checking radar using sound and cover correctly? are you doing so EVERY time? no, practice more. when you get done with that, practice some more. you will never get good at ANY game if you simply focus on what is (to you) wrong or broken. Point in case my buddy has a son who is DAMN good at halo/CoD. i had never played CoD and so i fired it up on his xbox and was playing one night, the son was watching me and laughing at how “bad” i was. (no joke by the second map i had people accusing me of “nerfing”). Anyway he played after me, and i saw him do a number of things i was NOT doing that were really smart or in some cases particular to that cod game(like emptying your pistol in .00001 seconds flat through trigger spam). So what do i do? incorporated the new knowledge. its how you get better, even at a game like CoD their IS a skill gap
I will never understand why CoD is so popular… Of all the FPS games being released, it is one of the most generic and boring fps out there….
That’s why they’re popular. COD is easy for any noob to pick up and become skilled and their also predictable games. You basically know exactly what to expect when you purchase any COD game. While this is pretty generic for vet gamer’s and people who need a bit more difficulty, it’s the perfect balance for more casual gamer’s. Why do you think Call of Duty has flooded the market with games and they sell so well?
BACONS MY LIFE
For me, even though these aren’t super old games, it was Star Wars: Battlefront 1 and 2 that really got me interested in first person shooters. I prefer BF over CoD just for the fact that I can strategize with friends and feel good about kills that i dont think are common.
I get crazy dizzy when I play First Person Shooters. I get this sick feeling in my stomach like I’m gonna throw up. First experience was back in the day with Doom, also happened with Quake. Bought COD: MW2 cuz of the popularity. Could only play it for 30mins. Haven’t touched it ever since. Is there a way round the dizziness?
It depends on what’s actually causing your dizziness. For a lot of people it’s a combination of controlling character movement with one hand and constantly shifting the camera angle with the right analog stick, as opposed to games with a fixed camera. Other times it is caused by the motion “blur” effect most FPS titles use this modern generation. If it’s the latter, the “blur” effect can often times be turned off in the options menu. If manually operating the camera is the problem though, then unfortunately there’s little you can do to fix it aside from asking your doctor if any sort of aspirin would suppress the dizziness during play.
This happens with most first person games for me. I can’t play COD for long and if I play games like Skyrim I have to zoom out past my character. Strangely the Halo series is a FPS I have never had a problem with. Maybe give them a try?
The worst part about COD are the Mic’d up socipaths. Pretty shitty people.
I miss Fear for online play that game was fun and you had to have some skill to play you could lean around corners ect.. COD is losing alot of its game play now adays.
Gary Carl Hancharyk Jr.
unreal tournament, nuff said.
I tried CoD, couldn’t get into it. I miss Perfect Dark, wish sony would get the rights to that and release a new one. So many awesome guns, Laptop gun was always my favorite
Maaaaaan..!!!, thats what i wish since the day “Perfect Dark” camed out, awesome Guns, nice Levels and and, for the near Future it would be a very nice FPS for Consoles and PCs!!!!
people gotta stop hating on cod. Im a big fan of cod, but I still play a lot of other games. Ufc, mortal kombat, halo, fear, gta, re, mgs, elder scrolls etc… cod is a great game but if its not for you don’t hate. just don’t play. no big deal.
That’s ignorant to say cod ruins new fps’s. it’s also ignorant to say anyone is good at cod. It’s like any other game. You’ve got the top of the food chain and the bottom feeders. There are so many people playing the game that its hard to really generalize and point out a specific issue. Imagine if the other games had that fan base. Millions and millions playing at any given moment. Someone else would complain and say they ruined it for everyone else or They would find a way to make it work for them. The point is the game is fun to play and anyone can get used to playing it just like any other game. Till the next big thing comes along
Two reasons why Battlefield is better than COD and more realistic:
1) Bigger levels with BUILDING DAMAGE
2) Bullet drop. Not to mention you can’t kill someone with a sub-machine gun from across the map.
There are more reasons but those to me are huge for FPS, especially ones that try to relate to the military…which is pretty much all of them.
I’ve been playing Wolfenstein Enemy Territory and this game introduced me to collective and tactical gameplay, because of a game based on objectives, team goals, and soldiers’s classes (medic, ingenier, support, recon)… that’s what I like the most about modern FPS : Team play and strategy.
That’s the reasons why now I regularly play Battlefield 3 with friends on skype and why I gave up CODMW, that… and the community !
To compare between the few I know of, Wolfenstein ET(or what remains of it, since it’s quite an old game) and the BF community seams more mature, community-wise, with a lot less rage and insults in the chatbox than I saw on COD MW2 when I used to play it. I have quit this game because of that : I realized this game was putting me in a bad mood, because reading the comments of angry kids insulting each others, encountering cheaters, campers and other bad attitude players litteraly took me the pleasure off this game. COD is quite fun otherwise : arcade oriented, technicly ok and with great maps, but its community sucks, a lot.
I have respect for studios who try to make good games, not only a game that will sell, but a game that will be an interresting experience. At the end of the day, the game will keep the players it diserves. Money machine rooms in casinos are full of idiots, chess clubs gather smart people… The game will filter buy itself , as a game maker, I think you can’t have them all.
COD Black ops 2, sucks so much crap as a game, playing multi-player is a crap shoot, as soon as you start to loose people back out, they dont know going for “B” first in domination is how you win, the zombies is crap,
playing multiplayer is based less on skill and more on chance, if you want to play a multiplayer that is based more on skill and less on chance then play mass effect 3, but that game has such crappy servers, its not even worth playing, especially since your consumables can be “stolen” from you in the middle of a game when their crappy servers go down.
I played CoD since MW2 when I was just getting into the new generation of consoles; owning only really Halo 3 before that. I bought, of course, MW2, and Black Ops afterwards. I was extremely interested in fps at the time since it was basically my first fps that I focused on. I’m going to be giving absolutely no evidence in this, I just want to put in my story by the way. I moved onto Battlefield with Bad Company 2 and 1943, then eventually Battlefield 3. I felt that the game catered to the “CoD-audience” and eventually fell out of interest. Finally, I moved onto PC gaming after so many years, and one of the first games I played was Red Orchestra 2; sadly late to the party where the servers were basically dead save for a couple modes. I sucked at it, I sucked bad at it. I had one kill if I was lucky and plenty of deaths to get laughed at by every player in existence. But I didn’t whine, I knew the game would be a challenge, and I still barely even do average on it nowadays, but with my short time with the game, and Killing Floor, and the words of Gibson, I think I’m going to become a devoted fan of Tripwire, and I respect them and their games more than I ever will or did Infinity Ward, I have a bit more respect for Treyarch because they at least tried incorporating some new things into their games with each release, and the Battlefield series seems to be getting shat all over by EA now, taking a hot trip to the same destination as CoD.
So yeah, that’s my quick and dirty backless opinion of the different games and devs. Please save gaming with other developers, Tripwire; and know that Red Orchestra 2 is an absolutely phenomenal game that will only have a small following from a devoted few because of its learning curve. And maybe a few bugs like getting stuck in the ground, lol.
That’s a great story. I imagine Gibson was trying to reach out to gamers with similar tastes as you when he made his comments to PC Gamer. Thank you for sharing!