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July 15, 2007



Don't forget the camera. Countless third-person action games have been ruined by poor camera management, while in FPSes, camera is pretty much a non-issue. It's partly why terrain is easier to work with in FPSes than in 3rd-person game: in an FPS, blocked sight lines are a part of the challenge; in 3rd-person, all the occlusion and clipping makes you want to throw your controller out the window.


There's also an extra level of expectations in TPS. The player can see the avatar, and will expect him to behave in a realistic and context sensitive way.

And that typically means you have to building the avatar's control system to have more AI.



I'm really of the FPS type, but to my surprise it's actually possible to make a fun 3rd person view game.

This tells me that World In Conflict is probably the PC game of the year 2007 unless something better comes out. It's like if you took Battlefield, throw all the bad things in BF away and put in the good things they didn't like to put in BF (tactical weapons that level almost every player in the map if they happen to be nearby. - that's fun. the 10 second respawn timer also makes it not that bad to be in receiving end)

Alan Barasch

I've worked on both and have some other takes on this. I think an FPS is certainly easier to make, however not necessarily more fun at all. Technologically as well I think 3rd person melee can finally be done correctly. (the machines finally have the power to do what would make them cool.)

I play a lot of the new FPS games and they just aren't that fun because it's difficult to innovate with that camera view and format of 'shooting weapons'. You can only do so many forms of projectile ammo. In The Darkness my favorite action is ripping dead people's hearts out. The shooting just isn't that cool.

My favorite weapon (satisfaction wise) in Gears of War is the chainsaw. There is nothing as good in the game as grinding into someone at having their blood cover your screen. About as raw as it gets in gaming. (for me, it's also a nostalgic tribute to a multiplayer chainsaw kill in Doom, which next to the BFG was the best weapon in the game. And certainly getting a kill with the saw was far more satisfying because of how hard it was to get into range to use it.)

Camera is definitely the biggest 'gain' for going with an FPS. A bad camera can and does ruin the best 3rd person games if done poorly.

Terrain could matter in a 3rd person melee combat game if it's planned for initially. You could have ground qualities, like quicksand, or grass that allows you to move quietly, vs. leaves that create crunching sounds as you approach someone (if you're careless to step on them) and ruin a surprise attack. As well you could have height advantage, where a player above another gets a 'quick' kick move when above the other player (that kicks the enemy in the face.) There are too many ideas for terrain effects for me to even list here. Powerstone is a great example of quick paced melee combat that really works. (even if you took away the guns in that game it would still be very fun)

Ammo is also something solveable. You can have weapons 'break' (just like running out of ammo). You can repair them just like picking up ammo, and also find more of them in the environment again just like ammo. (You could even store multiples again just like ammo.)

Here's the simple reason why Halo is bigger than GoW, multiplayer combat. If 8 people could get into GoW and cut each other to shreds, and respawn, GoW would sell the same as Halo.

I don't think it's easy to do any of the things I suggest to make a 3rd person game more fun, but I definitely think it's possible now that the systems can support what is needed.

Phil Cohen

"...but I do wonder if a game in the God of War camp will ever be able to really compete with a game in the Halo camp."

I disagree with this statement, both in terms of quantifying success in unit sales, and in terms of capturing that feeling of visceral combat... and it is sort of an apples to oranges debate at the same time.

I'm not privy to the hard numbers as of late, but has Halo 1 and 2 really sold more units worldwide than God of War 1 and 2? There are way more PS2's in the market than Xbox's or 360's combined, so it's entirely possible that God of War has sold close to, if not more units, than Halo. Another thing, is Halo even profitable as a game? The marketing and dev budget is so bloated for those projects; they are meant to sell systems. God of War is also a system seller, but I'm pretty sure that the franchise turned profitable on it's own with the release of GoW2 (though could go back into the hole again when they move art/tech over to the PS3).

What about Grand Theft Auto? The last NPD report I saw had GTA3, Vice City, and San Andreas all holding the top 3 sales positions; all are 3rd person action games (with a horrible combat system to boot).

As far as the feeling of combat is concerned, I think both FPS and 3rd person can delivery equally satisfying experiences, and can learn lessons from each other's genre's to capture certain "feelings" of gameplay typically not executed well in their respective genres.

Capturing that brutal feeling of bashing someone’s head in with a blunt object (be it fist, bat, crowbar, etc...) in FPS view really started to get explored thoroughly in Breakdown for the Xbox a few years back, and has been steadily refined in titles like Chronicles of Riddick, Condemned, and even Oblivion. It's still maturing, but you can now find fairly satisfying, and at times robust melee combat mechanics in an FPS. Hit someone with a crowbar a couple of times in Condemned and you'll get similar satisfaction as when you brutalize someone in God of War.

3rd person games have been around long enough to do both shooting and melee attacks in a billion different forms. I noticed a trend, tracing this a few years back, where all of the "popular" and "good" shooters were going FPS (Half-Life, Unreal, Quake, Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon) and by the nature of evolution (and Team Fortress / Counter-strike), began leaning toward a tactical gameplay approach (as opposed to Doom, which held much more of the run'n'gun influence from Contra in it's blood). Fast forward to today, and you're seeing that a lot of the 'best' shooter games are 3rd person (Ghost Recon, Resident Evil 4, Gears of War), or a hybrid 1st/3rd person camera, like Rainbow Six: Vegas. Even a simple 3rd person shooter like Killzone on PSP employs design lessons learned from FPS games to give a layer of strategy to the gameplay, when it easily could have been a 3D Ikari Warriors style blast 'em up.

Hell, even story/narrative/presentation has flip-flopped between FPS and 3rd person. It used to be that only the best narratives in games were from 3rd person games, and FPS games were more like frantic shooting gallery's with thin plots. Along comes Half-Life and changes everything. Then the trend was that FPS games had this immersive narrative and presentation that wasn't to be found in 3rd person games. Then God of War 1 comes around and flips it again, taking these lessons from FPS (which were originally learned from 3rd person game development), and re-applies them back to 3rd person.

In summary, I agree that making a 3rd person game is harder than a 1st person game on many levels (no pun intended), but I think either can have an equally engaging melee or ranged combat system with today's technologies and lessons learned from previous designs from both presentation styles.

Great blog! Got my motor running... ;)


Jedi Knight II and Jedi Academy really hinted at the possibility of competitive third person melee gameplay without many of the trappings of the 2d fighter crowd. The game design community as a whole should take a look at why those games garnered such a dedicated online community for so long.

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