A small lesson to realism wannabe shooters

Have you played Red Orchestra?
Insurgency, the Irak-inspired mod for HL2?
Resistance & Liberation, also for HL2?

These mods (ok, RO is now a retail game, whatever), and other games, seem to try to outdo each other in claiming to be the uber-realistic fps that reach unprecedent detail in their gritty realism, from the guns to the uniforms, and a great emphasis in teamwork, which in their game, “it will really work”, unlike past games that they have tried it, but in the end in public matches everyone run as a headless chicken alone. Hell, some of them were a bit annoying in their claims (Insurgency, i am looking at you…).

But then i play the game, and while in some stuff it’s true they have done a great job, the whole game feels off. They have made the right choices with the possible stances, with the guns, with the inventory system, with the ironsights, but in the end the game plays a whole world of difference of what would be in the real thing (and i am not referring to the fact that if you made a true realistic war game, 95% of it would be waiting, and patrolling, and traveling, and boring things like making a hole in the ground to shit on).

I am speaking about the whole pace of the game, the way the team divides itself as the game progresses, the way people throw their “life” pointlessly in suicide missions, the little use of cover sometimes… in other words, i am speaking about the game type itself. More exactly, to their election of a gametype (usually both teams try to conquest a few zones, or attack/defend the zones) respawning in the initial point every time you die.

Yes, i know each “life” is supposed to be a different soldier, i am not speaking about that, but IMO, given the human psychology, this system is not ideal for this type of games, in the end makes people play very unrealistically, and also it doesn’t promove any teamwork. People just run alone, die, respawn, they try it again using the same path or perhaps another one, die, respawn, they doesn’t follow another teammates, etc etc. Not only that, this system usually makes the game very static, with in each life people trying to go from point 1 to 2 using path A or B and fighting in just that path. Again and again. And let’s not speak about possible spawn camping, as the game needs somewhere to respawn the players, how it usually divides the team in various sections so even if you actively try to keep the squad coherence, or even some games where the put the sector to conquer in or very near a spawn zone!!

So when today i tried it a new mod http://www.neotokyohq.com/
which it doesn’t try to be a “uber realistic war game!” (it does have people moving more or less slowly and stuff, but it doesn’t even have ironsights! :P), and having some enjoyable matches with people going in groups, escorting the “objetive-bearer” to the exit point, people moving with care and using cover, i laughed remembering some matches in the previously named games, where somehow the matches finished with a TDM feeling in my mouth, where the winner was decided when the spawn counter (or time counter) was empty in a side.

The secret of Neotokyo? Not a lot. It just does have a clear objective (take a item from its initial point to a marked exit) with some well thought mechanics (you can’t run or use the main gun with the item, but you can see the enemies through walls), and it doesn’t have respawn system. It’s played with rounds, and everyone has a life in each round, having to wait if you die until the next round. This little incentive (don’t die early if you want to play!) makes wonders for a realism shooter, and every round is like a small slice of realistic action, instead of trying to make a longer but irrealistic round with respawns as in other games.

Woah, that was a lot of text to say i prefer the “last man standing” type instead of “respawn” type in realitic shooters.

That sums up why I didn’t really get into Insurgency. When the game rewards a spawn-sprint-grenade-die type of approach, it doesn’t make any difference that the machine guns have tripod mounts. The same holds true outside of the “realistic” shooter sub-genre; there’s a reason that after trying out Battlefield, Team Fortress, and various HL mods, I always find myself returning to Counter-Strike.

When i am in the “get off my lawn, kids!” mood, i remember fondly the Infiltration mod for UT, with the DTAS mode.

It was my fav multiplayer game, ever. It was very realistic (in fact, it was a pioneer in this subgenre of shooters in lots of things, from freeaim zone to 3d ironsights to bullet penetration and ricochets to frag nades with sharpnel to realistic Claymore mines, to anti-strafe measures, etc), it was a “last man standing” affair, of course, and it had random positioning of the objective and the initial spawn point. Every time the game was different, you couldn’t simply memorize the A, B and C paths, sometimes you had to defend an open area, others a sewer tunnel, others attack a hill, etc.

If I’m in this curmudgeonly mode - AA2 - get a proper ablative tank armour damage model in place, for Gods sake. And thermal sights would be funky too.

(I’ve been playing far too much Steel Fury lately for my own good.)

I remember playing a little-known Half-life mod that incorporated this a decade ago. It’s a shame Counter-Strike never got any popular recognition, maybe then we’d see this game type more often.

The first rule for making a realistic shooter is:
You can’t run and shoot (or - you can but you will only hit the sky).
The second rule for making a realistic shooter is:
You can’t jump (or - you can jump but not very far and it will make you tired. Also, you’ll need to take some time after to get your gear back in place). I think I read that ARMAII doesn’t have jumping.

Of course, these are just technical issues easily implemented. I could raise a hundred more of them. The main issue is that fighting units spend a lot of time training until their members can work together efficiently. In the course of this training they also bond so they care about each other. They have a commander they obey. The only way to achieve anything resembling this is joining a hardcore clan.
You’ll never find what you want playing random matches with strangers.

I never said this was a new, original and exciting idea.


I do understand what you are getting at with your post, regarding games trying to be overly realistic but not succeeding. However, there are two points I want to mention regarding this. First is there still has to be a balance between fun and realism. Granted I have only played RO out of the list you mentioned, the maps are generally pretty big. It would take ages for everyone to find and kill each other when it’s down to just a few guys. I can understand why they would include respawning, so players don’t get bored but instead keep interacting and fighting.

To me, ‘realism’ is more about the way the weapons and players handle themselves. Weapons need to handle realistically, there is no run & gun gameplay, no bunny hopping, no crosshairs (just iron sights), teamwork, communication, etc. The last time I played RO (a month or two ago), it had most of this and worked really well. I greatly enjoyed it.

Secondly, in regards to people throwing themselves at stuff just so they can respawn, to me that is going to happen in any game. Realistic games just strive to recreate the world a little better, but ‘realism’ itself will never truly exist. People will always remember it’s a game, and it doesn’t not have the fear and permanent death aspect to keep people from carelessly tossing themselves out into the line of fire. There is nothing to discourage this behavior in any style game.

Neotokyo though is a wonderful mod and I’ve enjoyed it. People still play it fairly TDM style though, but when you get with a good group of players who communicate, it is definitely fun. It’s a nice CS clone with some twists.

RO is awesome.

I think it does an amazing job of capturing the feel of an epic battle. Running through the environments, the sounds of explosions all around, how quickly you can die, you don’t feel safe anywhere… I think they did a pretty good job.

I remember when I got a bunch of friends together to play this. They had never touched the game before. To sum up their thoughts in one word… “Epic”. The game just gets the scale so right, you feel so tiny and weak… but you still have to fight.

I haven’t tried the HL2 mods you mentioned, but I do get your point. It does seem like these “realism” shooters have been trying to one-up eachother all the way… but I think it is cool. It is changing how the FPS game works. RO is a great example, you can just run around willy-nilly shooting from the hip… you need to think about what you are doing, hide behind buildings, wait for a chance to ambush, sneak up around the enemies flanks. The game rewards this play-style through how the combat works. 1 shot, 1 kill is usually how firefights go, so being sneaky or careful really pays off.

I haven’t played the game in probably 6 months, but that is how I remember the game working last I played. I was really into it.

Last Man Standing Action Quake blew the socks off Counter Strike any day of the week and both of those games were very far from realistic. There was also no viable FFA component to CS, nor was there any equipment besides the mandatory kevlar, nades & defusers. I tried the first beta for Insurgency, it was complete garbage and I never touched it again. What’s the population for small scale Source mods nowadays? I’d assume it can’t be much larger than a couple thousand active players, at best. Anyways, a large component of the LMS allure on public servers is the spectator aspect. This really hasn’t changed since Rocket Arena 1v1’s back in the QW days, it’s just more hilarious to watch someone headshot 7 other people with a single magazine of pistol ammunition as they flounder around like idiots.

That’s probably a bit on the high side past the first month after release - sadly valve / steam has stopped updating the game stats page that used to list hl2 mods as well as retail games. But back then (sept 06 was the last update to the stats page), most mods were averaging about 60 players and anywhere from 120 to 2 servers. With the number of mods released since then, I suspect that it’s even harder to maintain a player base after the first month of release above a couple of hundred concurrent players.

Most mods have a real small core of dedicated players while the rest sort of fluctuate in and out as and when new updates drop or when for whatever reason it appears back in the public eye again.

Life is too short to sit and wait for 3-4 minutes till the rest of your team dies off so you can respawn in the next round.

One of the best gaming moments in my life were rounds in a game where you could wait until 30 minutes for a new round.

For 5 years I’ve played Mechwarrior 4 in a no respawn league. Was some of the best gaming years of my life.

You don’t die and wait for the next match. You make the enemy do that.

And the original poster is right. No respawn in shooters (and sims/hybrids) changes everything. It becomes a whole other and better game, even if the vanilla game is mediocre (such as is in the case of Mechwarrior 4 respawn).

I don’t have anything against CS style one life rounds in teamplay FPS, but it’s attempting to be a very different game than respawn games. One life games can be great fun of course, but they also can be a source of frustration and boredom. Playing with a familiar group makes a big difference. Respawning games allow public matches full of noobs to still be engaging epics. As my LAN group has slowly dissolved so has my ability to enjoy rounds of Rainbow Six. Yet rounds of Day of Defeat or Red Orchestra remain attractive options. I don’t think “realism” has anything to do with it.

No Respawn game types have their place, IMO. It adds a lot to basic Warzone in Gears of War simply because it means you have to be careful. You can’t get crazy or go lone wolf because it means you’ll be sitting out the rest of the round. The key to having fun is playing with the team and keeping each other alive.

I prefer games that allow you to respawn, mostly because I suck. I could never get in to counterstrike because I couldn’t stay alive long enough to learn the maps and get good. I don’t log in to an online game to spend 95% of my time waiting to play. I actually liked that CS clone Global Operations because it combined a lot of the CS formula with a cutting edge version of the Lithtech engine and a timed respawn. Had way more fun with just the demo of that game than I ever had with all the versions of CS combined.

(I couldn’t remember the name of Global Operations, or the developer and actually had to look through the list of Lithtech lincenced games to figure it out. I also did not realize that Barking Dog Studios, which made the game after working on the CS beta 5, eventually became Rock Star’s Vancouver Studio. They have a really impressive resume!)

I don’t mind the action Neotokyo brings, its a hi-tech CS clone , but its a way of gaming thats fun, and makes it a ‘tad’ more interesting as people generally wanna try to stay alive.

COD4 had far more furious action, but I tend to get really sick of being bombed by planes every 30 seconds.

As for realism, Neo Tokyo falls short of RO, I know the problem of RO’s spawn mechanics tho, they should have adapted a BF 2 spawn on leader thing, that was just awesome.

However on some maps they moved spawns with the action, which helped some.
Problem with Neotokyo and many other shooters is that accuracy is way to high in some cases…which makes run and gun too easy.

While it isn’t a wargame, I think the system that Left 4 Dead implemented with regards to this was a pretty good one. It has some respawning, but it’s limited by of time and by location (ie, you have to be near hero closet). This means that death has a noticeable penalty, but if you do die, you aren’t out for a whole round, and there’s a little uncertainty to the respawn as well, so you can’t just sacrifice yourself and assume you’ll be back by the time the next wave comes.

Of course, there are some other factors about why this works (relatively hard to die, losing a single teammate is a potentially huge disadvantage), so I’m not sure how well this would work in a war game, but I think spawn technique is a relatively under-explored aspect of multiplayer games.