Friday, August 31, 2012

This is my world! You are not welcome in my world!

The title of this post is a quote from the soldier in TF2. He says the line randomly whenever he kills someone. It is quite possibly my favorite quote from the game, because it says something about both the soldier and his perception of what it is he is doing.

The soldier is a veteran of wars, a scarred, blood-crazed violent lunatic who demands great performance from and has high expectations of his fellow comrades. In some ways he is a relic from the past, possibly from a better age where honor and respect were just as important as skill and tactics. He possesses one of the most difficult-to-consistently-perform abilities in the game, that being the simple act of rocket jumping. While it is not essential for a soldier to perform, it separates the good ones from the bad and makes the soldier distinct in comparison to the other classes.

In the soldier's mind, what he is doing is the reason for his existence. If flaming limbs and scorched blood are not exploding in his face, if he cannot soar through the sky, raining explosive death from above, then life is not worth living. He wishes to inform you, should your charred, splattered corpse have the ability to hear, that this pain you are feeling and this misery he is inflicting upon your person is what he does best. It is his job. His duty. His world ... and your presence in it is not one he tolerates kindly.

You may question why ... why does the soldier not enjoy your presence in his world? Why indeed ...

Anyways, I have eventually managed to get my colleagues and I to play a single match of a competitive FPS game. Now, my colleagues are all experienced gamers and have some very interesting opinions on game design and skill in games. When it comes to FPS games, they have experience in the likes of Halo, Call of Duty, Battlefield and even TF2. They are also familiar with games such as Gears of War and other 3rd person combat shooters.

I on the other hand tend to lean towards more arcade-like FPS games, that of which I dub 'arena shooters'. Most of my experience with FPS games has come from these kind of games, which I have some very strong opinions on in contrast to the games my colleagues play. Games that fall into this category are games like Painkiller, Serious Sam, Quake and the original Unreal Tournament. This is not news, but it is important.

When I found out we were going to play a competitive FPS deathmatch game together, and that this game was going to be Unreal Tournament 3, I was quite thrilled! UT3 is a game I would consider about 1/2 way between the hardest-of-core arena shooter (something like Quakeworld or the non-commercial Nexuiz) and your average modern day shooter (something like Modern Warfare 3 or Battlefield 3), so it would be an excellent test-bed for examining the performance and play styles from players of both genres. While arena shooters are mostly dead in this day and age, it was expected that most of the people who participated were more familiar with modern day shooters. Which seemed to be the case.

The following video shows the result of the match from my (Tinman's) point of view. Apologies for the jerkiness and inaccuracy (turning angles, audio etc) of the UT3 demo recording playback. It never did have good replay functionality. I recommend watching it in 720p so you can actually make out some of the details the engine likes shrouding:

While I don't think I actually played that well (only a 23 frag killing spree after all), I am still quite pleased with the overall result. However, I will say that I am not surprised in the slightest. I am unsure whether my colleagues felt the same way, but I do hope that even for a brief moment in time they may have realised that shooters of yore are not quite what they think them to be, that being mindless, shoot fests more about luck than they are about skill. Even if it were just for half a second.

But, more importantly, in that half a second, I hope they realised something else as well. You see this virtual environment we were just in. These rules, unbounded by restrictive controls and unwavering in non-casual/hardmode mechanics (e.g. non-regenerating health) form something that may not be obvious. They form a matrix of flexible rules and the boundaries that push them. They form a place where freedom and skill is limitless. They form a ... world ... one that I am well acquainted with ...

... and you are not welcome in it.

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