The FPS Revolution Part 2 – Team Actions & Formations
With the genre of First Person Shooters wearing thin on the minds of hardcore gamers everywhere, there are a choice few that seek for it to evolve. Those revolutionaries are people like you and me who want that feeling of when we first played DOOM or Halo 2 or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. I’ve been trying work through some of the suggestions I made a few years ago to see whether they were essential features or extravagant fluff! Part 1 covered Progressive and Persistent War Fields and now we’ll cover Formations / Team Based Actions!
For reference, here is the total list I discussed in my original article years ago.
2.Formations / Team based actions
4.Loot Based Weapon Customization
5.Unique Leaders and Generals
So when it comes to shooters, most times we are all looking for either that perfect map balance with teams, or a huge battlefield. We’ve seen games like MAG come and go despite the claim that they could fit hundreds on a map at one time. We’ve also seen MMOFPS Planetside 2 draw in an impressive following as well. Still, it is debatable whether or not it is THE answer when it comes to the direction that modern FPS games should be going.
The call for ‘formations’ and ‘team based actions came from a desire to take a bit of the unorganized Rambo mentality that many casual players conjure whenever they hop into a Counter Strike or Call of Duty match. Often times a player that doesn’t see themselves as the perfect ‘killing machine’ get lost and get bored of not being recognized for actions that clearly help the team win a match. Most successful FPS games nowadays do acknowledge these actions to some degree.
Notorious for stressing the differences between the classes, Battlefield has long been a franchise to give each class a purpose outside of battlefield devastation that could lead to high scores even if their kill count was not high at all. Supplying ammo, healing allies, repairing vehicles, scouting enemy soldiers, even disarming enemy traps are all actions that can lead to big score bonuses. There are even bonuses for achieving goals that are set forth as orders by squad leaders or commanders. While this does typically lead to a bit more tactical movement and action within the Battlefield franchise, the challenge has always been making the commander mode/role something appealing to more than just a chosen few. Historically the role has been an unpopular one. This has led to the common scene of matches proceeding without a commander issuing commands or providing guidance or support to the team. In my opinion, this lack of appeal circles back to my original suggestion of providing an online persistent war. The generals will always understand the goal of attacking or defending each area. In doing so, they can be the ones to understand the map better than any other and find ways to have their forces position themselves or fortify themselves in key spots to either hold out or take over. This would allow for an opportunity for maybe even a ‘scorestreak’ of additional ‘reinforcement’ tickets if their soldiers pay attention to their orders. That kind of a bonus would make squad leaders even listen to their commander a bit more if they are TRULY trying to win the match rather than just pad their score.
So, the question is, how could formations and team actions continue to further the evolution of FPS games. Well, applying bonuses to actions like destroying an enemy UAV or achieving mode based objectives are a surefire way to effect that change. That, of course, assumes that the players are playing objective based modes. Historically speaking for just about every FPS game I’ve played, the most popular mode is typically Team Deathmatch. That is in part due to the fact that most FPS games cater their action and map size to maximize the action. Mechwarrior Online uses formation bonuses by having certain class mechs stay near their larger counterparts that are on their team when they attack. This essentially stresses to the new players to not go off alone and stick with the pack. Of course, this is not always essential as light fast mechs are expected to scout the enemy’s location. Again, formations are probably a hard aspect to execute in FPS games since it is more apparent in strategy based games where the full map or battlefield is the primary viewpoint of the action.
As stated in my previous article, team buffs and actions are a way that Brink sought to enhance team tactics in an interesting way. Each class could boost a teammate’s various stats for a short period of time depending on which class they were. This would make teams more likely to stick together and move as a unit as well as use tactics since it was clear that ‘boosted’ players would help you defeat the opposition quicker. Action MOBA style FPS games such as Battleborn (and I suppose even Borderlands to a degree even though its not a MOBA) utilize some skills that passively and actively boost the teams abilities in a given radius. Even non-FPS games like The Division have skills and feats that benefit nearby teammates to encourage teamwork.
As it stands, most FPS games have additional objective based modes that serve the purpose of having players use tactics more than simply run and gun. Team scoring bonuses are also utilized in most of the large scale battle games as well which allows for teams to work as such. In a way, games that force players to pick a ‘class’ are asking for players to pick a role for the team and act accordingly. I find this game feature works best when the battle is truly a field complete with vehicles, gadgets, capture points, and so forth. At this stage, though, it is doubtful that formations and team actions are much of an innovative necessity. Halo and even Call of Duty have managed to do away with the ‘classes’ feature to find ways for each player to specialize in a certain role on the battlefield.
Maybe this feature should be replaced with better and more inventive ways to incorporate field generals. Again, seeing this role (called the Commander Mode) executed in the Battlefield series has met mixed results. This is probably in part due to the fact that certain maps don’t allow the general to actively ‘do damage’ to the opposition. Instead, they play a passive role by suggesting where teams should go or defend and then sitting back and watching the action. Occasionally the general can assign ‘boosts’ to teams that affect them but often times, generals just wait. Use of UAV’s, EMP bursts, and supply crates are pretty effective. What I don’t understand though is the removal of the general’s ability to zoom in and ‘spot’ the enemy from the satellite as field soldiers are able to do with line of sight. Also, not providing the ground troops a way to temporarily disable a rival general kind of stinks as well. Of course, doing so kind of makes the general-less team want to take on the role if the opponent’s is particularly effective.
The real innovation is in finding ways to make the Commander or General Mode more interesting. Using comms to speak to only the squad leaders was also an excellent idea that seemed to drop from the Battlefield franchise as well. Persistent online war games would also have MUCH more meaning for generals to since not only the battle would be a concern but the entire plan to win. Maybe games like Blacklight or Helldivers or even Titanfall (which doesn’t have an ‘online war’ concept) could benefit from a feature like this to make each win or loss mean more than just a statistic. Giving the different factions advantages and disadvantages (as is done in games like Eve Online) could provide differences, bonuses, and awards to each side that would be unique. The flavorless sides in Call of Duty could certainly benefit from such an addition.
Of course, this would require an FPS player to become a strategy player or vice versa which is kind of an odd dynamic. Still, in the journey to continue to make games better, maybe the lines of genres should continue to blur!
Until next time when we discuss the addition of AI fodder!