A 'friendly' online FPS? Is that possible?

· by Steve · Read in about 4 min · (773 Words)

I’m not even sure it’s possible, but EA seem to think it is. I’m kind of intrigued by Battlefield Heroes - they’re making it free to download, apeing the Team Fortress 2 toungue-in-cheek approach (along with the cartoony visuals), and supposedly making it friendlier to those who don’t live & breathe online gaming.  I’m skeptical though, I’ve yet to see any online FPS that is actually fun to play unless you practice like a man posessed. Which reminded me that I really need to make a confession / apology to people who have been inviting me to Halo matches lately. First, an explanation.

I don’t consider myself to be a ‘casual’ gamer, but I’m definitely not a fan of traditional online FPS play. I used to like playing deathmatch & various team games a few years back, originally only in LAN games against friends, but also later online in UT2004. However it was also at the tail end of playing UT2004 that I began to really dislike online FPS games, mostly because I find the maps are just pwned by a top 10% of players most of the time. After UT2004 I tried Counter Strike, and hated it. TF2 has been quite fun at times, but I can still think of plenty of things I would rather be doing. Nevertheless, I tried to give online Halo 3 a chance, but it hasn’t changed my mind. I’ve played it online a total of 4 times now, and every single time I just end up wanting to chuck the controller at something - despite supposedly being matched against people who have only played a few online games too, the story is usually the same - there’s at least one player who absolutely slaughters everyone else. I’m fairly comfortable now with the (still desperately inferior to mouse/keyboard) 2-stick control system but still find myself far too often in that irritating cycle of ‘wander about looking for someone, see someone, get pwned’. I dread to think what it would be like if I strayed outside the ‘Beginner’ modes.

I know, the answer is to practice, practice, and claw my way up the online food chain. But you know what, I can’t be arsed with all that. I play games to have fun, not to embark on a ‘training regime’ so that I can pass muster against skilled internet foes. I honestly couldn’t give a rats arse what my ‘ranking’ is in the online universe - I just want to turn on the game for an hour now and then and have an enjoyable time. I don’t mind if spending time getting better at a game is also fun in itself - I’ve spent hours refining my Skate skills for example, but crucially it’s actually fun & rewaarding while you’re learning. Competitive multiplayer just doesn’t create that atmosphere for me - most of the time it’s punishingly ruthless, like Chinese acrobat training perhaps, and I almost always come out of it frustrated, bored and pissed off - which is not how I like to spend my free time. At least in LAN gaming if you do poorly, you could laugh about it afterwards with friends over a pizza or something and it didn’t matter so much, it was just part of the social experience. Online, while you have your friends list it’s really not the same socially - maybe some people feel they can build good social connections via text and crackly voice chat, but it really doesn’t do it for me. So all that’s really left is the game experience, which for me is largely not fun - just like any game with a poorly guaged difficulty curve is not fun. It’s all about the matchmaking of course, and I know that as a n00b there’s a smaller pool of people to choose from to match against me. I don’t care though - if the price of entry is hours of frustration until I hone my skills, then it’s a price I’m not willing to pay - my free time is precious and I can always find something more fun to do instead. Maybe I’m just not a ‘real’ gamer anymore.

So, sorry to those who have invited me to Halo matches on the rare occasions I’ve been able to grit my teeth long enough to play it online, but I’m unlikely to spend any more time with it - it’s not you, it’s me ;). Co-op is fun with my wife so I’ll be carrying on with that, but I’m going to focus more on gaming activities that I find fun. There’s plenty of them 😀