First Person Shooters: A History of FPS Gaming
I had recently given my second Toastmasters speech [Oh, I’m very involved :)] on a topic that I had a keen interest on – First Person Shooters! [its a ‘had been’ interest, all because my graphics card couldn’t keep up to the latest titles!]
So I thought, heck, why not? Publish the contents to the wilder world out there – the internet! *background music ending with a big crescendo*
[Looking for Toastmaster Project 2 tips? Check out Pavan’s blog then!]
First Person Shooters
First Person Shooter [FPS], and this is very obvious, is a genre of video games that center around gun-based combat in a first person perspective. It’s not like those horrible 2-D games where your characters basically moves left. [Note to self: Why do Horrible 2-D Games always begin from the left, and end on the right?] In FPS games, you see your arm, or a weapon, like you would through your own eyes. It may not sound interesting now, but believe me, it was a big hit when it launched!
1. First Era
The first FPS games actually appeared in the 1970s and 1980s – using horrible vector graphics. What really marked this era was the software-emulated graphics, and 2.5 dimension views (you couldn’t look up or down!). Lets talk about some games:
Wolfenstein 3D 
Even though this really wasn’t the first FPS out there, its generally credited with creating the template of all future FPS games! It was a big hit, and I still remember playing it on a black-and-white monitor! [I was quite shocked/horrified when I actually saw the game, sometime later, on a colour monitor!].
This game used a technique called Ray Casting to convert 3-D screens into 2-D screens for your monitor. Basically, it rendered whatever a ray emanating from the viewer could see. The problem, of course, was that it couldn’t handle reflections and shadows!
An even bigger hit, Doom was launched only a year later, and went on to become one of the most influential games of all time. Graphics wise, it was better than Wolfenstein in that it added ‘textures’ that would simulate reflections and shadows [although very badly!]. On a different note, it was even credited having influenzed the kids who went on to shoot their friends in the Columbine High School massacre.
Duke Nukem 3D 
Must also mention Duke Nukem 3D for that fact that it was the last sprite-based FPS, and marked the end of disgustingly hopeless graphics! Duke Nukem also created quite a controversy, especially concerning its treatment of women [you could “pay” some girls for a “show”!]
2. Second Era
The second era saw the introduction of true 3D geometry. Characters and objects were composed of polygons that had three full dimensions! Hardware acceleration (graphics cards) also helped with transform and lighting effects.
Quake was the first true 3D game, and was launched in 1996. While it centered around online gaming (and not so much single player gameplay), it also introduced the concept of ‘mods’ that could modify game maps, characters, weapons, etc!
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 
Two years later, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six made a big impact as a really nice tactical first person shooter. It was team-based, with a realistic design, like the single-shot-kill. Other games at that time required 15000 shots to kill some weird cyborg. Not happening.
Half Life 
That same year, Half Life was released and, oh my, it was a really awesome game! It had a featured narrative, along with some amazing Artifical Intelligence that could put half the world’s population to shame! [Citation needed]
Apart from many other games that launched towards the end of the 90s, Quake 3: Arena and Unreal Tournament were worthy mentions. [Slightly later we also had Medal of Honour: Allied Assault and Call of Duty, based on Q3A’s engine!]. But nothing really beat the popularity of:
Counter Strike 
Counter Strike was actually a Half Life mod with a counter-terrorism theme. It has gained such popularity that, till date, no other game has come even close. Most online gaming servers show statistics that almost 60% of the players play Counter Strike, even till now! [Yes, yes, you Counter Strike 1.6 fans, you play on a 1998 gaming engine!]
3. Third Era
Starting from the mid 2000 onwards, first person shooters started becoming much more “real”. Photo-realism was the new buzzword, as graphics cards become more powerful, and rendering technologies matured. Bump-mapping, lighting and shading effects, even cinematic imagery were introduced in most games!
Doom 3 
This game really showcased what powerful graphic cards were capable of! While the gameplay focussed on horror and frightening the (poor) player, it really awed audiences with its idTech 4 engine (by the unstoppable id Software).
More Recent Titles: BioShock, Crysis and Far Cry 2
These games feature large, open-level designs that are beautifully rendered. They make use of a lot of technicial rendering-jargon, but produce cinematic effects with true-to-life imagery!
So what do you think would be the future of gaming? Would we have even better graphics, more real-life animation (almost like cinematic film!) as you go around shooting zombies / aliens / cyborgs ?
Or would we take a nice big step backwards? Mobile gaming is probably the next big thing. All your small phones, iPods and iPhones could be the next gaming machines. And we start our graphics journey, all over again!