Saturday, 10 January 2009

The Movement Project

A big part of the frustration of Far Cry 2's movement problems I mentioned yesterday, is that these problems have been solved in other games. It's not like FC2 is the first first person shooter invented which has tree roots. But at the same time, the problems I experienced are a worrying indication that first person shooters featuring procedurally generated, wide open spaces, are going to have issues with movement when the terrain isn't smoothed out by a human hand.

Movement in military themed first person shooters is, as far as I am concerned, a solved problem. There is an excellent article series Dslyecxi's Tactical Gaming Done Right (warning: hours of reading at this link) describing exactly what movement grammar a military FPS should include, the main trade off being the time required to implement these movements. But instead first person shooters seem stuck in the WASD jump crouch moves of yore.

I would like to propose a partial solution to the mess of FPS designs: a military themed first person shooter movement standard, which describes a standardised grammar of moves that a first person game which matches the standard must support. There would ideally be a reference implementation in a number of the current engines (Source, Unreal etc), but this is not necessary to start with.

The important part would be the branding, so there would be a sales and marketing advantage to publishers in adhering to the standard, and so that you, the consumer, could quickly check that the game complied.

There will be an inevitable trade off between what features the game must support, against what are optional features - while a rush to the lowest standard is probably inevitable, the benefit in having a standardised design document to which the major companies to reference, as well as would be FPS designers learn from, should hopefully improve the current state of affairs.

Another aspect is reviewer education: and I'd be interested to hear from any game reviewers whether this would be of help. Even pointing game review sites at Dslyecxi's article series on a regular basis would be beneficial to start with.

The argument against this, is that the grammar of movement forms an important part of the game play, and well-written games should have a unique feel for the avatar's movement. I don't disagree, but note that, for instance, I can quickly slip into Valve's source engine games because of the common movement core between games, before having to learn about the exceptions. And this is not necessarily targetted at well written games - Far Cry 2 being a case in point, where care and attention has been paid to parts of the game other than movement, and where (I suspect) a reference to design against may have helped in this instance.

Thoughts?

4 comments:

Oliver said...

I don't think I'd buy a game based upon a "Good Game Movement Association"-certified badge.. Movement is important, but I can try it out with the demo, or, if I'm unsure, I check a review in a game mag.

Also, I haven't come across a game with movements that are so bad it hurts in a long time. I think quality assurance, benchmarking against competing games and beta testers make sure the game controls are at least good enough to allow for a good experience.

Jonathan S. Fox said...

Hours of reading at the link was right. Thanks for the link -- I had to come back to this post a couple days later to finish it, after I got so wrapped up in reading Tactical Gaming Done Right.

Jeff said...

I remember a study many years ago on platform games that showed there was an "ideal" hang time for the jump. All the games that had "good" jumping as judged by players had surprisingly similar jump times.

Thus, a unified standard for movement makes good sense. I don't think it runs the risk of squashing novel systems, I think instead it would merely codify what developers are already trying to do. I don't even look at the key bindings of a FPS before I start trying WASD, for example.

Gavin said...

Your search - "rocket jump" site:http://dslyecxi.com - did not match any documents.

FAIL