Friday, October 21, 2005

[Blog Entry] A Very Brief History of First Person Shoot-em-Ups

A Very Brief History of First Person Shoot-em-Ups

In light of Doom's theatrical release (haven't seen it, and I don't think anyone but The Rock fans will really watch it) and nostalgia for my days as a video game addict, I'll give a quick run-down on the 3D first person games that matter.

While Doom is what popularized the genre of first-person shooters, its roots can be traced to Wolfenstein 3D (which in itself is based on an even older game from the 80's). It had choppy, pixelized graphics but its mediocre success would pave the way for its successor, Doom. Another draw of Wolfenstein 3D is its story, as you combat the forces of a quasi-magical and scientific Hitler.

Next would be Doom, and is immortalized by a gamer's pop culture reference of the BFG (Big Fragging Gun). Perhaps what contributed to its popularity is the fact that it was a shareware game (shareware is essentially a program that gave you limited features of the whole program which you could use for free, and if you wanted to utilize its full features or use it indefinitely, you paid a fee to its creators). So Doom enjoyed much commercial success, despite the fact that it was virtually given away for free. (I won't even go into the violence controversy it spawned.)

Several Doom clones down the line, the mother of modern shooters is Half-Life. While not many people might be familiar with the name, one of its mods is extremely well-known: Counterstrike. The lure of Half-Life aside from gameplay is perhaps its ability to have mods, and free at that. Mods are important because they let budding designers customize the game, from giving it a facelift to adding new features, while still remaining faithful to the original system that spawned it. To non-gamers, it's pretty much like changing the casing of your mobile phone: same device, different appearance. What the masses didn't know was that instead of buying the game Counterstrike, you could purchase the cheaper Half-Life game, and download the mods off the Internet for free. And of course, Counterstrike remains the cornerstone of many Internet Cafes (only to be deposed by online gaming here in the Philippines).

There have been other notable shoot-em-ups, from Duke Nukem 3D to Quake to my personal favorite, Rainbow Six. But without the three games I mentioned above, the genre wouldn't have existed to begin with.


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