I have played a lot of shooters, going back to Quake, through Battlefield, CoD, Halo, and then in the last few years games like CSGO, Rainbow 6, Valorant, as well as the BRs like PUBG, Apex etc. Some obviously I played less than others, but I played all of these to some extent in a multiplayer environment and I'm generally a competitive person so try to do well. Mostly I end up fairly good at them.
It seems to me though that they ultimately have something flawed in their gameplay. In any shooter where I've reached a high enough skill rating, gameplay becomes less about winning straight up gunfights, and more about trying to outright avoid that. Prefiring, shooting through walls, taking shots at corners predictively, finding new "one-way" angles that are impossible or extremely difficult for the opponent to react to, all becomes the meta.
This isn't really me being salty, because it turns out I'm actually pretty good at this – the more cowardly and easy the kill, the better my score! But after a while I can't help but feel it somehow is changing the basics of what the game is, and it makes it incredibly unfriendly towards newcomers. Ever played a matchmaking shooter with someone who is just average at games? It's such an unrewarding experience for them, and not because they're simply losing a 1v1 gunfight, but because half the time you're explaining to the person literally why they died.
"I couldn't see them??"
"Yep, in that corridor there's a headglitch where you can see one pixel of them but they can freely see you, you have to prefire or smoke every time"
"Damn, now this is gameplay".
I think shooters become like this as a natural consequence of competitive gaming being about minimising risk as much as possible. In an environment where everyone has similar reactions and aim, every minor advantage you can take becomes important: always be the one peeking, because of peeker's advantage, and you gain 50-100ms on your opponent, if you prefire you remove the reaction component, gaining 100-200ms on your opponent. Etc.
So I guess my question is, do shooters do anything about countering this, or do they lean into it? Some thoughts:
Ammo and firerate
In most competitive shooters, high firerate guns (AKs, M4s, any sort of AR) are the go to gun type, because even in games with one shot kills, it's easier to correct missing the first shot by a pixel by spraying more ammo at the target than it is to recalibrate and reaim with a slower weapon (the opponent may be constantly moving anyway).
Similarly, I can't remember running out of ammo in a shooter, well, ever really. The only exception is something like Battlefield if you've managed to survive a really long time. Another one that comes to mind is the BR mode in CSGO which actually harshly limited your ammo compared to most other games, which I found interesting but this was heavily criticised. Not sure if they changed this.
The result of having lots of ammo to hand is that you can spray and pray pretty happily through walls and while prefiring with little punishment in terms of resources, and the reward is a free kill, which in low population games can change rounds and entire games. Anyone who has been randomly one banged through a window you ran by at the start of the round in R6 by someone just emptying a clip immediately can attest to this!
Wallbangs are common in most competitive shooters these days, with CS, Valorant, CoD, and R6 all leaning fairly heavily into it. The result is a lot of simply taking potshots at corners, windows, walls, and common wallbang spots in the hope of free kills or damage, similar to above.
The most basic form of movement in any shooter for someone trying to get good at one is strafing. Strafing allows you to move quickly in and out of cover while keeping your gun pointed towards the enemy at all times. Most games therefore ultimately end up in people popping in and out from behind boxes or corners, hoping to use a combination of surprise, prefire, and peeker's advantage to take you down before you can react, and if they misjudge it quickly move back, or use ADAD to stay and fight you while moving somewhat unpredictably.
Is allowing such fast and simple peeking and movement while still shooting accurately good? Even the competitive shooter with the most complex and harsh mechanics, CSGO, actively rewards this style with counter-strafing. Is the only alternative a clunky realism style?
In some form of recognition of what's lacking from straight up deathmatch gunplay, most shooters provide a range of utility/special abilities/gadgets to the player as well. These allow for subtle or not so subtle altering of the environment, or disrupting the enemy.
In practice, mostly these are used to again try to safely obtain risk-free kills – pop flashing then peeking, laying traps in corridors you can easily prefire or wallbang, and CSGO maps have hour long youtube guides explaining how to use your various grenades in a completely safe manner while denying areas, which become essential to memorise.
I think some of this thread has been inspired by Valorant, which I went into hoping might invigorate the shooting scene but really just seemed to try to polish an existing formula while adding in some slight twists on utility.
Most shooters have some form of RNG when it comes to recoil, spread, spawning points, loot, sometimes damage. But far more influential is the feeling of randomness that comes from the unpredictability of players and how unconnected actions change the round. Anyone who has played a shooter has experienced that moment of watching an angle for what feels like hours, only to finally switch angle and then get immediately killed from there – then you watch the killcam and see they weren't even waiting for you, but simply had moved up to there and peeked without checking or info. Purely random chance.
Everything else I stated above happens ultimately to try and mitigate this kind of thing, because again, at a certain level of reaction and aim, anyone can kill anyone simply depending on who sees the other first and often that's a gamble. Even the pro players will get killed by the average high skilled MMR unless the pro uses every trick in their arsenal.
The counter is that these games are played iteratively, and that the worse player can get a few rounds by luck but over the course of many rounds and games the better player wins out, and this is absolutely true. It's just to illustrate the nature of the gameplay and how this impacts the bigger picture.
I don't really have a conclusion if I'm honest! It's more just some thoughts and questions I've gathered over many years playing a host of shooters. I guess I can end on some questions:
-is encouraging high firerate, high ammo spamming a good thing for a competitive shooter? -are peeking and strafing the only ways to design a fast paced shooter around? -if shooters necessitate a relatively low TTK to feel good, are they best placed to be competitive games?
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