A Guide To Some Early FPS Games, Mods, and Source Ports
June 24, 2010 11:32 PM   Subscribe

"Do you find yourself pining for the days of gaming yore? ...for simple sprites and chiptuney soundtracks? Is your computer a bit crap and does 11,000 frames per second sound like something you might enjoy?" A Guide To Some Early FPS Games, Mods, and Source Ports. [via mefi projects]
posted by killdevil (50 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Where's the section on hiking?
posted by Burhanistan at 11:33 PM on June 24, 2010 [6 favorites]

Err, the link text should actually read "Doom, Duke3D and More: A Guide To Some Early FPS and Source Ports." Please hope me, mods.
posted by killdevil at 11:40 PM on June 24, 2010

Just for clarity:

Marathon was built on the Portal Engine, like Duke

Marathon was a portal-based engine, but it did not share its engine with Duke.
posted by Mikey-San at 11:58 PM on June 24, 2010

Marathon was built on the Portal Engine, like Duke

posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:32 AM on June 25, 2010

A while back I found an emulator and a copy of Joust. Even at maximum key repeat, and holding down the key, I could not flap those wings fast enough to get off the ground :)
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 1:11 AM on June 25, 2010

I believe there was a source port of Descent and Descent II in the works once upon a time. Those were by far my favorite FPS games. Yeah, the physics was ridiculous (don't _any_ of these planets have _any_ gravity? Also, inertia anyone?), but it was just so damned cool having that much freedom in the third dimension! Also, it came out at a time when other FPS's were still doing the fake-3d map thing, where it was impossible to have stacked rooms. Needless to say, Descent had really, really three-dimensional maps.
posted by kaibutsu at 2:27 AM on June 25, 2010 [4 favorites]

Marathon was amazing. It felt years ahead of Doom in so many ways – like comparing Zelda to Pacman. It had a deep and well-developed story, varied and solid-feeling weapons (with dual-wielding, no less) and genuinely engaging player-NPC relationships with the ship's three AIs. Maybe I'm just a sucker for games where you take orders from an insane computer and you're not sure whose side you're on, but it feels like it's taken until Portal for an FPS as interesting as the Marathon trilogy to come along again.
posted by him at 2:34 AM on June 25, 2010

Okay... it was a bit strange to see this blog introduced like that, without any commentary and with just the one link to that one article - seems to be a bit of a weak post - but the whole site isn't just about the one thing, it's a general gaming blog run by the good MeFites who also frequent the MeFight Club forums. (Disclaimer: I'm one of them.) So - if you're into gaming (mostly videogames of the console/ PC variety, but also a bit of boardgames and gaming technology too), drop by the blog. It's run somewhat like Metafilter, since all MeFight Club members are allowed to post, but its look is modelled a little more on RPS and Kotaku. It's been up for only a little while but as you can see the content is already flowing pretty quickly. Like Pompeii. Almost. But not as bad.

Here's a link to the main site. Please drop by and comment or subscribe to the RSS feed or what not, and if you like what you see maybe you could register at the forums and join us. Everyone's welcome. Except hikers, possibly.
posted by WalterMitty at 2:49 AM on June 25, 2010

Okay... it was a bit strange to see this blog introduced like that, without any commentary

It's the Internet. You don't get a say in how people do or don't link to your blog, or which bits, or with what supporting material. If somebody's only interested in one bit, they're allowed to link to just that bit. They're not under any obligation to help anybody find their way to other bits or place the overarching blog experience within a conceptual framework.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:56 AM on June 25, 2010

I don't think Mitty was complaining, just trying to contextualize a bit. Ill advised, perhaps (I think everybody here knows how group blogs work) but no need to be all Metafiltery to him about it.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:19 AM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Descent was a flight sim, not an FPS, and Duke used the Build engine.

Kids today...
posted by NortonDC at 5:09 AM on June 25, 2010

Descent was a flight sim

No, back then I had played quite a few FPSs and my share of flight sims, and the play experience of Descent wasn't about accomplishing varied objectives in a vehicle that behaved like a simulation of some real-life experience. It was about moving around an enclosed environment and blowing shit up.

Descent: Freespace was a space sim like Wing Commander and it wasn't as good.
posted by Space Coyote at 5:28 AM on June 25, 2010

Metafilter: No need to be all Metafiltery about it.
posted by doublehappy at 5:37 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I retract my Metafilteriness.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:40 AM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

I didn't say it was a good flight sim, but it is a representation of piloting a flying vehicle, i.e. a flight sim.

What do you call Dynamix's original MechWarrior? That's a sim.
posted by NortonDC at 5:53 AM on June 25, 2010

What do you call Dynamix's original MechWarrior? That's a sim.

I see your Mechwarrior and raise you Shogo: MAD. An FPS through and through. :)
posted by Space Coyote at 6:11 AM on June 25, 2010

Descent: Freespace was a space sim like Wing Commander and it wasn't as good.

Doesn't matter, Freespace 2 came next. Space sims have yet to be better.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 6:15 AM on June 25, 2010

Worth it for the news that Steam has the Id Superpack on sale.
posted by Artw at 6:15 AM on June 25, 2010

What do you call Dynamix's original MechWarrior? That's a sim.

How can something simulate something which cannot actually be experienced? Is this something I'd have to have read Baudrillard to understand?
posted by Ritchie at 6:30 AM on June 25, 2010

Shogo had both FPS and Mech sim game play, just like MechWarrior 3's Pirate Moon expansion that had playable Elementals. If you want to argue that there's a crossover point between FPS and sim populated by powered armor, I can see that, but it doesn't apply to Descent.

Ritchie, simulators exist exist for planes that don't yet fly and therefore cannot actually be experienced.
posted by NortonDC at 6:35 AM on June 25, 2010

Do you find yourself pining for the days of gaming yore?

Yes! Like Dig Dug!

...for simple sprites and chiptuney soundtracks?

Yes, yes! Like Dig Dug!

Some Early FPS Games, Mods, and Source Ports.

There's a...Source port of Dig Dug?
posted by Sutekh at 6:58 AM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

Yeah, that really confused me too. Simple sprites and chiptunes is 80's era gaming. This article talks about 90's era gaming.
posted by demiurge at 7:00 AM on June 25, 2010

Doesn't matter, Freespace 2 came next. Space sims have yet to be better.

Freespace 2 was pretty good. But it was no Elite.

Also, Descent was a sim. I know, it was a sim only FPSers could love - a game that played worse if you actually used a flightstick, rudders and throttle, but it's a sim nonetheless.

The original Jedi Knight / Dark Forces were pretty good.

Anyone remember Tekwar, based on the works of one William Fucking Shatner ?
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:01 AM on June 25, 2010

So System Shock 2 is charmingly retro already?
posted by naju at 7:17 AM on June 25, 2010

A side project of mine is that due to the size and constant vacuuming of shareware CD collections for cd.textfiles.com, I am reasonably sure I have a majority if not a nearly complete collection of DOOM and DOOM II maps. Obviously, if a mod went to someone's BBS and nobody wanted it, or if it never actually ended up FTP'd or contributed anywhere, I probably don't have it, but otherwise, I have an awful lot of compilation CDs of them:

DOOM II Mania (1995)
The Complete Doom Accessory Pack (1994)
The Doom Companion Edition (1995)
Doom: Knee Deep in the Dead (1994)
Instant DOOM Levels (1996)

And that's not counting the DOOM levels that are subdirectories on more general CD-ROMs.

One of my "someday" projects had been to remix all this DOOM data into one big browsable library.
posted by jscott at 7:20 AM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

I mean, come on. Descent I and II were flight simulators to exactly the same extent that DOOM was a moon-base simulator.

Flight simulators tend to:
* Damage your craft proportional to your velocity when you run into things.
* Involve gravity.
* Make use of the Bernoulli principle.
* Involve objects that tend to continue on a given path and velocity, modified by external factors such as wind velocity, air resistance, and gravity.
* And finally, are usually set entirely underground.

Oh wait. Maybe not that last one. Descent, on the other hand, was a first person game in which you fucking shoot at things. I've played flight simulators before. Flight simulators are for people who enjoy the sensation of falling asleep while sitting at a computer monitor watching a jet fly itself from San Francisco to New York. Descent was for blowing up robots in environments that had absolutely nothing in common with real-world environments except for their names. It just had a different - and revolutionary - interface compared to most in the FPS genre. This does not mean it wasn't an FPS. On the contrary, I still am of the opinion that it was the best FPS*.

* - That I have played.
posted by kaibutsu at 8:13 AM on June 25, 2010

Descent was not a flight sim, it was a flying game. Cf. Starfox. Cf. that awful, awful arcade rail-flyer I played once back in 1993 in an arcade at Seaside, where you weren't flying the plane so much as pointing its nose guns at various incoming bogeys.

Flight sims are boring by design. It's what makes them interesting. They're simulation-oriented. You have to do a lot of work on a flight sim to make it fun for someone who doesn't enjoy pretending to fly a plane just for the fun of pretending to fly a plane. Maneuvers can be complicated. Combat, in games where combat is even present (and, n.b., combat being present is fundamentally ancillary to the concept of a flight sim) is generally hard. Controls are varyingly complex and get closer in a lot of cases to the actual annoyingly low-level process of moving a large aerodynamic body through atmosphere than many people would prefer to bother with.

There have been attempts to make fun, accessible flight sims. Sky Odyssey was a nice example of splitting that difference well—controls were pretty minimal and the setting was often borderline arcade in tone and challenge, but you were absolutely, positively flying motherfucking planes using thrust and rudder and ailerons and elevators.

Descent is a classic, one of those great old nostalia-fuel games, and it involved being-in-a-flying-vehicle, but it was not a flight sim.
posted by cortex at 9:06 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yes - Flight simulators tend to model those things.

Other sims do not. Space flight sims, for example.

Descent was a sim, as Elite was a sim - Freespace was a sim - and Mechwarrior was also a sim.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:10 AM on June 25, 2010

Descent was a sim, as Elite was a sim - Freespace was a sim - and Mechwarrior was also a sim.

So by "sim" you mean "game in which you pilot a vehicle"? Starfox is a sim? Burnout Paradise is a sim? Mario Kart is a sim?
posted by straight at 9:29 AM on June 25, 2010

Doom was a muscle-bound-jar-head-goes-to-hell simulator.
posted by brundlefly at 9:32 AM on June 25, 2010

So by "sim" you mean "game in which you pilot a vehicle"? Starfox is a sim? Burnout Paradise is a sim? Mario Kart is a sim?

Yeah. Basically, any sim is going to have to make sacrifices in fidelity for some reason - computational power, interface, gameplay, etc. It's going to be hard to make any distinction between sim/notsim meaningfully and consistently that way.

It's more meaningful, especially as a means to distinguish game types (sim, FPS, RTS, etc), if you throw out model fidelity as a criteria. Doom is as much an FPS as Armed Assault II, but one models bullet drop and windage and the other.... doesn't.

It's not fidelity, it's what is being modelled that matters.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:42 AM on June 25, 2010

Let's stop talking about sims because it's a lot more fun to talk about Marathon.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:46 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Pogo, I think it's actually more common among gamers to call games like Mario Kart a "racing" game, games like Starfox a "rail shooter" or "vehicular rail shooter," and games like Descent a "vehicular shooter" or "first-person vehicular shooter."

"Sim" is usually used for games like Freespace or Elite or Mechwarrior where you have more control over individual components of your vehicle beyond merely steering and shooting. Descent is strictly steering and shooting.
posted by straight at 9:50 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's not fidelity, it's what is being modelled that matters.

I think this is too much of a reduction. I mean, I see your point w/r/t genre assignment, but I think that fundamentally what makes a sim a sim is specifically the issue of fidelity mattering.

To put it another way, "Sim" and "Shooter" are not mutually exclusive categories—a game could be one or both. What happens in the game in terms of action events vs. how the game presents the the player with an interface and mechanics to try and engage those action events are two separate things.

If there's an explicit focus on a fidelity-oriented model of a real system as a goal in its own right, we're looking at Sim territory. That may co-occur with a game that is about shooting the shit out of stuff, in which case you've got a Sim and a Shooter at the same time. It might co-occur with a game that is about getting somewhere first, or beating a clock, in which case you've got a Sim and a Racer. (This is probably the best description of Sky Odyssey, in fact—a racing-inclined flight sim.)

To a degree there's a question of intent, I guess—Doom could, in theory, just be a spectacularly inept "shooting sim" or "infiltration sim" or something—but I think looking formally at the mechanics of how a game functions and of how models within that game attempt to map to real systems is the fundamental issue. Whether something is a Sim, in addition to whatever else it may be, is essentially precisely a question of the fidelity with which it attempts to model real systems and the degree to which the game is focused on that aspect.

And it's not utterly binary, of course—ganes can loosely integrate sim-type elements into games that are otherwise not focused on that front, and plenty of things have been described as e.g. "Sim-y" or having "Sim-like aspects" when that's useful to reference.
posted by cortex at 9:54 AM on June 25, 2010

Shogo: MAD - chronically underrated.
posted by Cheesoning at 10:34 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

If I've learned one thing from the study of literature (aside from "don't study literature and expect to be employable") it's that genre distinctions aren't nearly as useful as they seem. They shape expectation, they're handy for marketing copy, but once you've actually read the book or played the game, it really doesn't matter much what genre you think it fits into.
posted by him at 10:35 AM on June 25, 2010

Man... I fucking love 2.5D FPS games, specifically the Build engine.


Build was, erm, built in the early nineties, and was responsible for Duke3D, Shadow Warrior, TekWar, and my absolute favorite FPS of all time, Blood.

The reason I love the Build engine, even in the face of ever increasing realistic graphics and improved gameplay, was the fact that it felt like a craft as opposed to an industrial production.

The Build engine, not being true 3D, doesn't support a lot of stuff that we take for granted today. That means that the mapper has to use certain tricks to get dramatic lighting, or rooms-over-rooms, water, reflections, vegetation, etc. At certain parts you can actually see the tricks they used - a little peak behind the facade of the graphical engine to the mechanics that make it work.

For example: you blow up a wall section to reach a secret. The way that walls work in Build is that each vertical standing line is a "sector" which has a certain vertical height and width. To make it look like the wall is being blown apart you have to have sprites (2 dimensional objects rendered in the 3D environment) that represent debris. You also have to have the sector of the wall that's been blown up slide up or down, simulating the fact that it's just been reduced to smithereens. Often times this is obscured by an exlosion sprite, and shaking the player's screen, but sometimes you can catch the wall sliding into the floor. At that point it's less like you're actually there, and more like you're in a fun house as a spectator.

Put another way: there's a cartoonishness to the 2.5D engines that's appealing, but as soon as you extrude the experience into true 3D it becomes less like a cartoon and more like a poor approximation of real life. Half-Life's graphics haven't held up very well for me, where-as I can still appreciate the rough hewn look of Blood.

Speaking of Blood, it's a great game, and available on Good Old Games (http://www.gog.com/en/frontpage/) for six bucks, including manual, and a fucking sick custom DOSBox wrapper for systems older than 98.

What makes this game great is the atmosphere. You're Caleb, a member of the cult of Tchernobog (an ancient transdimensional demon), who's recently quit. You, and four of your friends, are hunted down like vermon and killed. Only problem: they don't kill you quite well enough. In the setting of the American West, circa 1900, you rise from your grave and procede to get a very messy brand of revenge. There are some bullshit enemies (hit scan machine-gunners that make DOOM's chaingunners look like fair play), but overall the level work is astounding. In spite of its muddy graphics, and maybe even because of them, you're immersed in this gory, visceral, comic book world of the gothic west. I haven't played a game to this day that has the same feeling. You quest takes you from speeding trains, to ruined temples, to blown-apart towns, to mock-ups of the Overlook hotel from the Shining (my favorite level). If you like FPS games and can stand a slight step back in graphics, then you should play Blood.

Anyway, good write-up. I hope it gets some kids who've grown up on Halo to look back into gaming's past.
posted by codacorolla at 10:45 AM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

Oh, God, Marathon. Marathon 2: Durandal ate up an amazing chunk of my time in the 90s, as did making terrible, terrible levels in Anvil. It was a memorable moment for me when I managed to get myself cited on Hamish Sinclair's Marathon Story site.

And I don't even know where to begin with the Pathways Into Darkness-related glee.
posted by Earthtopus at 1:05 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

The thing about Marathon was that it had so much character to it, and Halo just has none whatsoever.

Also, and this is probably controversial, at the time I thought Marathon was waaaaaay better than Doom. And TBH I probably spent more time playing the Mac Wolfenstein than both of them, and using the map editor to make giant swastika shaped rooms or huge long tunnels with no ammo where you had to stab loads of dogs.
posted by Artw at 1:20 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

And after that was Duke, and then Star Wars: Dark Forces, and then the age of Quake and true 3D began.
posted by Artw at 1:23 PM on June 25, 2010

Marathon was easily ten times better than Doom. Marathon had character and atmosphere and a plot, and enough mythology to have things like BOBs and pages and pages of terminal screens explaining the history of the ship, the various AIs, and NPC relationships.

Doom had demons that shot fireballs.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:30 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

That's pretty much all it need shakespherian.
posted by codacorolla at 1:35 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

my absolute favorite FPS of all time, Blood

Holy fuck yes, Blood. The sheer variety of weapons alone--from a pitchfork to a flare gun to flaming cans of hairspray to three kinds of dynamite bombs--is a big draw.

What really made it for me, though, was the sheer range of the levels. Modern FPS designers (with a few exceptions) seem to have lost their way, offering up nothing but endless iterations of running down brown corridors shooting your brown weapons at brown enemies with a heaping helping of brown sauce. Blood, on the other hand, took you through a mortuary, a train station, a twisted carnival, and an evil hidden monastery--and that was just in the first few levels. (I was really sold when I walked into the freak show in the carnival level and heard unseen sinister voices chanting "ONE OF US! ONE OF US!".)

Man, what I wouldn't give for a modernized version of Blood.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:40 PM on June 25, 2010

Descent: Freespace was a space sim like Wing Commander and it wasn't as good.
posted by Space Coyote

Nostalgia is the ultimate subjective modifier for all games of old, BUT:

Descent Freespace was revolutionary in its scale, and while I've played, and enjoyed, a Wing Commander game or two, you are spitting into the wind by writing Freespace off so glibly. I'm not saying that a cult of modders/updaters cannot be wrong, but Freespace offered something truly fantastic.

As for the SIM argument, especially over older games, good luck with that.
I rocked at Silent Hunter for the NES, using both controllers.
None of the sequels, for all their prettiness and authenticity, grabbed me as much.

I'd love to argue this further with an eyelander handy.
posted by Busithoth at 2:58 PM on June 25, 2010


Just reading the word here fills me with good feelings. It was so much more than any other shooter I knew of at the time. It happend to be on sale at CompUSA and young Hicksu happened to have enough cash. I didn't know anything about the game beyond what I read on the packaging. Probably my best impulse buy ever.

Anyway, I think that a "sim" must try to simulate a real known human experience that occurs outside of videogames. Whereas flight, racing, doctor, sports management, and other games attempt this, Wing Commander and Descent have no such basis.
posted by Hicksu at 6:22 PM on June 25, 2010

And after that was Duke, and then Star Wars: Dark Forces, and then the age of Quake and true 3D began.

It's not even very many years is the thing. 2.5D FPS gaming was such a brief flicker.

1992: Wolfenstein 3D
1993: Doom
1994: Doom II
1994: Marathon
1995: Dark Forces
1996: Duke Nukem
1996: QTest

Huge jump in 4 years. Everything in the 14 years since then has essentially been a Quake mod.
posted by fleacircus at 8:57 PM on June 25, 2010

I'd say the first 2.5D FPS game dates back to 1973's Maze War, with the modern era of the genre kicking off with Midi Maze in 1987 on the Atari ST.
posted by NortonDC at 7:37 AM on June 26, 2010

That's more of a Dungeon Master kind of thing, where you move about one "block" at a time, and turn left and right by 90 degrees.
posted by Artw at 9:41 AM on June 26, 2010

We could quibble about that +0.5D, but I think the way anyone ever really means it, 2.5D FPS = "DOOM-like". Moreover, I think lots of people sort of mean "Quake-like" (Half-Life-like?) when they say 3D FPS, because those were the games that people meant by it when these terms really took off.
posted by fleacircus at 10:45 AM on June 26, 2010

Just in case anyone's still got this in their recently-commented and is not a Mefight Club member, the new Review-o-matic is live, and hugecranium's running a Free Game Giveaway Contest on the main site. Stop by, especially if you'd like a chance to win free copies of Freespace and Freespace 2, the best darn space combat games evar.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:28 PM on July 8, 2010

« Older After the revolution, life goes on... and so do...   |   Peter Quaife, RIP Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments