FPS is an abbreviation for First Person Shooter.
First-person shooter (FPS) is a video game genre centered on gun and projectile weapon-based combat through a first-person perspective; that is, the player experiences the action through the eyes of the protagonist. The first-person shooter shares common traits with other shooter games, which in turn fall under the heading action game.
First-person shooters are a type of three-dimensional shooter game, featuring a first-person point of view with which the player sees the action through the eyes of the player character. They are unlike third-person shooters, in which the player can see (usually from behind) the character he is controlling.
They are also often categorized as being distinct from light gun shooters, a similar genre with a first-person perspective which use light gun peripherals, in contrast to first-person shooters which use conventional input devices for movement. A more important key difference is that first-person light-gun shooters like Virtua Cop often feature "on-rails" movement, whereas first-person shooters like Doom give the player more freedom to roam, though this distinction is slowly beginning to blur with recent, more linear, first-person shooters such as Call of Duty.
The first-person shooter may be considered a distinct genre in itself, or a type of shooter game, in turn a subgenre of the wider action game genre. Following the release of the influential Doom in 1993, games in this style were commonly termed "Doom clones"; in time this term has largely been replaced by "first-person shooter". Wolfenstein 3D, released in 1992, the year before Doom, has been credited with inventing the genre, but critics have since identified similar though less advanced games developed as far back as 1973. There is sometimes disagreement regarding exactly what design elements constitute a first-person shooter, for example, Deus Ex or Bioshock are sometimes considered first-person shooters, but may also be considered role-playing video games as they borrow from this genre extensively. Some commentators may extend the definition to include combat flight simulators, as opposed to characters on foot.
Origins: 1970s to late 1980sEdit
The earliest two documented first-person shooter video games are Maze War and Spasim. Maze War features on-foot gameplay that evokes modern first-person shooter games. Development of the game began in 1973 and its exact date of completion is unknown. Spasim had a documented debut at the University of Illinois in 1974. The game was a rudimentary space flight simulator, which featured a first-person perspective. They were distinct from modern first-person shooters, involving simple tile-based movement where the player could only move from square to square and turn in 90-degree increments. Spasim led to more detailed combat flight simulators and eventually to a tank simulator, developed for the U.S. army, in the later 1970s. These games were not available to consumers, however, and it was not until 1980 that a tank video game, Battlezone, was released in arcades. A version of the game was released in 1983 for home computers and became the first successful mass-market game featuring a first-person viewpoint and wireframe 3D graphics, presented using a vector graphics display.
Early first-person shooters: 1987–1992Edit
MIDI Maze, an early first-person shooter released in 1987 for the Atari ST, featured maze-based gameplay and character designs similar to Pac-Man, but displayed in a first-person perspective. Later ported to various systems - including the Game Boy and Super NES - under the title Faceball 2000, it featured the first network multiplayer deathmatches, using a MIDI interface. It was a relatively minor game, but despite the inconvenience of connecting numerous machines together, its multiplayer mode gained a cult following: 1UP.com called it the "first multi-player 3D shooter on a mainstream system" and the first "major LAN action game". Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode, released in 1988 for the NES, was one of the first video games to place importance on accurate shooting and incorporated a sniper rifle, a weapon later to become a mainstay of the FPS genre.
Id Software's Hovertank 3D pioneered ray casting technology in 1991 to enable faster gameplay than 1980s vehicle simulators; and a later advance, texture mapping, was introduced with Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss, a 1992 action role-playing game by Looking Glass Technologies that featured a first-person viewpoint and an advanced graphics engine. When shown a demo of Ultima Underworld the year before, id developer John Carmack remarked that he "could write a faster texture mapper", and would feel motivated by Looking Glass's example to do the same in Catacomb 3-D (which was released in late 1991). Catacomb 3-D also introduced the display of the protagonist's hand and weapon (in this case, magical spells) on the screen, whereas previously aspects of the player's avatar were not visible. The experience of developing Ultima Underworld would make it possible for Looking Glass to create the Thief and System Shock series years later.
Rise in popularity: 1992–1995Edit
Although it was not the earliest shooter game with a first-person perspective, Wolfenstein 3D is often credited with establishing the first-person shooter genre.Wolfenstein 3D (created by id Software and released in 1992) was an instant success and has been credited with inventing the first-person shooter genre proper. It built on the ray casting technology pioneered in earlier games to create a revolutionary template for shooter game design, which first-person shooters are still based upon today. Despite its violent themes, Wolfenstein largely escaped the controversy generated by the later Doom, although it was banned in Germany due to the use of Nazi iconography; and the Nintendo version replaced the enemy attack dogs with giant rats. Apogee Software, the publisher of Wolfenstein 3D, followed up its success with Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold in 1993. The game was initially well received but sales rapidly declined in the wake of the success of id's Doom, released a week later.
Doom, released as shareware in 1993, refined Wolfenstein 3D's template by adding improved textures, variations in height (such as stairs the player's character could climb) and effects such as flickering lights and patches of total darkness, creating a more believable 3D environment than Wolfenstein 3D's more monotonous and simplistic levels. Doom allowed competitive matches between multiple players, termed "deathmatches", and the game was responsible for the word's subsequent entry into the video gaming lexicon. The game became so popular that its multiplayer features began to cause problems for companies whose networks were used to play the game. Doom has been considered the most important first-person shooter ever made: it was highly influential not only on subsequent shooter games but on video gaming in general, and has been available on almost every video gaming system since. Multiplayer gaming, which is now integral to the first-person shooter genre, was first achieved successfully on a large scale with Doom. While its combination of gory violence, dark humor and hellish imagery garnered acclaim from critics, these attributes also generated criticism from religious groups, with other commentators labelling the game a "murder simulator." There was further controversy when it emerged that the perpetrators of the Columbine High School massacre were fans of the game; the families of several victims later unsuccessfully attempted to sue numerous video game companies - among them id Software - which the families claimed inspired the massacre.
On the Macintosh, Bungie's 1994 release of Marathon, and its subsequent sequels, set the standard for first-person shooters on that platform. Marathon pioneered or was an early adopter of several new features such as vertical aiming and freelook, dual-wielded and dual-function weapons, versatile multiplayer modes (such as King of the Hill, Kill the Man with the Ball, and cooperative play), friendly NPCs, and a strong emphasis on storytelling in addition to the action. Star Wars: Dark Forces was released in 1995 after LucasArts decided Star Wars would make appropriate material for a game in the style of Doom. However, Star Wars: Dark Forces added several technical features that Doom lacked, such as the ability to crouch or look up and down, Apogee's Duke Nukem 3D, released in 1996, was "the last of the great, sprite-based shooters" winning acclaim for its humor based around stylised machismo as well as its gameplay. However, some found the game's (and later the whole series') treatment of women to be derogatory and tasteless.
Advances in 3D graphics: 1995–1999Edit
In 1994, Exact released Geograph Seal for the Japanese Sharp X68000 home computer. An obscure import title as far as the Western market was concerned, it was nonetheless "a fully 3D polygonal first-person shooter" with innovative platform game mechanics and "free-roaming" outdoor environments. The following year, Exact released its successor for the PlayStation console, Jumping Flash!, which placed more emphasis on its platform elements. Descent (released by Parallax Software in 1995), a game in which the player pilots a spacecraft around caves and factory ducts, was a truly three-dimensional first-person shooter. It abandoned sprites and ray casting in favour of polygons and six degrees of freedom.
Shortly after the release of Duke Nukem 3D in 1996, id Software released the much anticipated Quake. Like Doom, Quake was influential and genre-defining, featuring fast-paced, gory gameplay, but used 3D polygons instead of sprites. It was centered around online gaming and featured multiple match types still found in first-person shooter games today. It was the first FPS game to have a following of player clans (though the concept had existed previously among MUD players), and would inspire popular LAN parties such as QuakeCon. The game's popularity and use of 3D polygonal graphics also helped to expand the growing market for video card hardware; and the additional support and encouragement for game modifications attracted players who wanted to tinker with the game and create their own modules.
Based on the James Bond film, Rare's GoldenEye 007 was released in 1997, and as of 2004 it was the best-selling Nintendo 64 game in the United States. It was the first landmark console first-person shooter and was highly acclaimed for its atmospheric single-player levels and well designed multiplayer maps. It featured a sniper rifle, the ability to perform head-shots, and the incorporation of stealth elements; as well as Virtua Cop-inspired features such as reloading, position-dependent hit reaction animations, penalties for killing innocents, and an aiming system allowing players to aim at a precise spot on the screen.
Though not the first of its kind, 1998's Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six started a popular trend of tactical first-person shooters. It featured a team-based, realistic design and themes based around counter-terrorism, requiring missions to be planned before execution and in it, a single hit was sometimes enough to kill a character. Medal of Honor, released in 1999, started a long running proliferation of first-person shooters set during World War II. Half-Life featured in-game scripted sequences rather than cut-scenes.Valve's Half-Life was released in 1998, based upon Quake's graphics technology. Initially met with only mild anticipation, it went on to become an unprecedented commercial success. While previous first-person shooters had focused on visceral gameplay with comparatively weak plots, Half-Life had a strong narrative; the game featured no cut scenes but remained in the first-person perspective at all times. It featured innovations such as non-enemy characters (featured somewhat earlier in titles such as Strife) but did not employ power-ups. Half-Life was praised for its artificial intelligence, selection of weapons and attention to detail and "has since been recognized as one of the greatest games of all time" according to GameSpot. Its sequel Half-Life 2 (released in 2004), was less influential though "arguably a more impressive game".
Starsiege: Tribes, also released in 1998, was a multiplayer online shooter allowing more than 32 players in a single match. It featured team-based gameplay with a variety of specialized roles, and an unusual jet pack feature. The game was highly popular and later imitated by games such as the Battlefield series. Id's Quake III Arena and Epic's Unreal Tournament, both released in 1999, were popular for their frenetic and accessible online multiplayer modes; both featured very limited single player gameplay. Counter-Strike was also released in 1999, a Half-Life modification with a counter-terrorism theme. The game and later version Counter-Strike: Source (2004) went on to become by far the most popular multiplayer first-person shooter and computer game modification ever, with over 90,000 players competing online at any one time during its peak.
Online wars and return of the console: 2000–2006Edit
At the E3 game show in 1999, Bungie unveiled a real-time strategy game called Halo; at the following E3, an overhauled third-person shooter version was displayed. Later in 2000 Bungie was bought by Microsoft, and Halo was revamped and released as a first-person shooter, one of the launch titles for the Xbox console. It was a runaway critical and commercial success, and is considered a premier console first-person shooter. It featured narrative and storyline reminiscent of Bungie's earlier Marathon series but now told largely through in-game dialog and cut scenes. It also received acclaim for its characters, both the protagonist, Master Chief and its alien antagonists. The sequel, Halo 2 (2004), brought the popularity of online-gaming to the console market through the medium of Xbox Live, on which it was the most played game for almost two years. Deus Ex, released by Ion Storm in 2000, featured a levelling system similar to that found in role-playing games; it also had multiple narratives depending on how the player completed missions and won acclaim for its serious, artistic style. The Resident Evil games Survivor in 2000 and Dead Aim in 2003 attempted to combine the light gun and first-person shooter genres along with survival horror elements. Metroid Prime, released in 2002 for the Nintendo GameCube, a highly praised console first-person shooter, incorporated action adventure elements such as jumping puzzles and built on the Metroid series of 2D side-scrolling platform-adventures. Taking a "massive stride forward for first-person games", the game emphasised its adventure elements rather than shooting and was credited by journalist Chris Kohler with "breaking the genre free from the clutches of Doom".