Keep It Simple Stupid

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    The year was 1999 and we, PC gamers, were widely choosing sides on the great debate that raged on the Internet: Quake 3 or Unreal Tournament; and while both sides had their proponents it certainly appeared that UT was more highly thought of than Quake 3. Combine that with the Counter-Strike craze and I now have a name to my pain and it is complex multiplayer. . And it didn't do it by being the most complicated; or as they like to wrap it up as the “deepest” but by getting rid of the fat and reducing everyone to a relatively basic set of classes cooperating towards simple goals. So I come to the game industry with this plea: while I certainly don't expect that you stop making complex multiplayer games please make some simple ones. Really it won't hurt, there are people out there who are into this stuff.  Throw us a bone. 

    PC multiplayer gaming still really starts with first-person-shooters. In the beginning we had deathmatch and it was good. People shot at each other, for no other reason than because blowing someone else to bits was an intrinsically fun activity. It was like tag, or chase, or some other supremely basic activity that can be explained inside 30 seconds. If it moves shoot it, if it doesn't move pick it up. That's deathmatch for you. Then we started getting mods, and such things like CTF, 3-Wave and Team Fortress. Again, these were fun and they were relatively simple. The Rules such as they were could be explained in a few moments. Capture-the-flag became capture-the-flag with different player specializations to choose between. A bit after that, things really started to explode. These games got more and more complex whereas once you had something akin to tag with Quake.  Try explaining the conditional rules of a BF2 match to someone in 30 seconds: ranks, command structure, squads, VOIP, spawn points, vehicle spawns, map intricacies like artillery and how to do all this stuff. There is no real way to be eased in to any of this; you're thrown to the wolves from day one with people trying to kill you way before you can have any of this stuff down. Frankly, as much as I enjoy shooting stuff on my PC, I just don't have the patience to learn these details only to be mowed down tons of times in the first few minutes as I'm getting my feet wet. While I tried the game and thought it was pretty good, I just didn't want to have to go through the learning curve. Unreal Tournament is alright, but it spends a bit too much time trying to be all things to all people for my liking. I'd like to see something a bit more focused in the works.  

    So what do I want? Well, a real spiritual successor to Quake 3. A game with lots of great deathmatch maps designed for a few people (not 64 or 32, 8-16 tops). Simple weapons you know how to use the second you pick them up without silly alternative firing modes. Fast paced gameplay that's fun for its own sake; beautiful graphics that scale well; spot-on controls; and above all, a game that's fun as an activity and doesn't need a grand ulterior motive. A Spiritual successor to Team Fortress (classic/or for Quake World) would be nice too. A team based game that isn't a pain in the ass; that doesn't strive to be  realistic and is just fun; with a handful of classes having distinct roles and distinct advantages over other classes; guns and weapons as cool as heavy guns, scout caltrops or MIRV grenades; graphics that don't make everyone look like a real soldier would be nice too.   I hear 1,000 monkeys at 1,000 keyboards about to tell me why they prefer BF2 or CS:S to something simpler and to that I say I believe the market is big enough for more than one kind of game.   The presence of Serious Sam didn't affect the fact that Operation Flashpoint came out in the same calendar year in terms of single-player games. If that can happen, I don't think it such a big imposition to ask for some simple multiplayer shooters that are fun to shoot other people in.   It's been 7 years now since Quake; I don't think it's too much to ask that we see another game which is first, second and last about deathmatch once every 7 years. Sure there was too much DM on the market in 97-99 but there's been an over-correction. I haven't seen a game with better pure run-jump-shoot action in almost a decade.  

    For those who think there isn't a market for an exceptionally polished game that doesn't really do more than its competitors, explain to me the international phenomenon of World of Warcraft.   They clearly believe strongly in “keep it simple stupid” as part of their design mantra at Blizzard.  I mean seriously every single phase of WoW is significantly simpler than most other MMORPGs. WoW has fewer classes, less races, less customization options and less gameplay options. In truth, less is more, as everything in the game works to a tee. On an average molten core run I do about 9 things over and over again: Shield, Dispel Magic, Abolish Disease, Flash Heal, Greater Heal, Renew, Drink, Fade, Shadow Protect, and Fort makes up the overwhelming majority of what I do in the game--and yet it's one of the biggest games in history with Blizzard raking in monthly revenues from over 5 million subscribers around the world paying localized rates. I had tried some other MMOs before WoW; FFXI, Asheron's Call, Everquest and Planetside and they all struck me as esoteric, and as such I couldn't ever get into them. WoW, on the other hand, kept it simple: pick a race, pick a class, pick a name, and go. It does a wonderful job of holding your hand and slowly getting you into the game. Further, it's easy to figure stuff out. According to my Xfire profile I've played 47 hours of WoW in 7 days. I do believe they're on to something—just maybe.  

    Again I want to reiterate this: I'm not for taking people's more complex games away. I love single player games that are complex and/or deep like the Total War series but for crying out loud gaming just gets bigger and bigger with everyone assuming we're following a linear progression of games and going backwards is some kind of sin.   Just because there is standard-rules NBA basketball, does that mean families shouldn't play by house rules for 1-on-1 games?    Please, please, please, keep it simple sometimes though.

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