But this was not the first time the First Person viewpoint was used, as it has been used since the dawn of computers.For the very first examples of first-person shooting, you have to go right back to 1974 – an era when most people were only just getting their first taste of videogaming via Spacewar and Pong, and the idea of owning your own computer or gaming console was a distant dream. Early that year, two ambitious programmers – Steve Colley and Jim Bowery – independently came up with what are widely regarded as the original First Person Shooters: Maze War and Spasim, respectively. Although their wireframe graphics and slow frame rates make them look extremely primitive even by early videogame standards, they nevertheless provided a few lucky students with a glimpse into an entertainment future that would engross millions.
But as ambitious as some of these early efforts were, the time wasn’t right for first person shooting to blossom just yet. For most of the 1980s, free-roaming 3D engines were beyond the capabilities of the dominant 8-bit systems. The best of the bunch was Incentive’s incredible Freescape engine, used memorably in Driller (1987). That said, back then you’d have been lucky to move around in more than two frames per second on the average ZX Spectrum. The truth was that the required tech was still a long way off. As developers began to get grips with some of the newer, increasingly popular 16 bit systems, experiments were made with free-roaming 3D engines that amounted to more than just an interesting tech demo. id Software’s first stab, 1991′s Hovertank 3D, was a huge stepping stone for the genre in that the game actually ran as smoothly as an action game.
But id's main man, Jon Carmack, didn’t really capture mainstream attention until he replaced the tank with a person. With that, and the fact you saw your hand holding a gun, making the game more personal. Inspired by the textured environments present in Looking Glass’ 3D RPG, Ultima Underworld, he set about creating a faster, less demanding ‘ray casting’ technique which could run on relatively low-specced PCs. Designed by John Romero and Tom Hall, Wolfenstein 3D would prove a watershed moment for the FPS genre. It didn't introduce your hand/s in the a game but also many features we now take for granted, such as weapon selection, health and ammo pick-ups, 360 degree movement.
At this point, other developers began getting in on the act, but among the copycat clones were some genuine advancements. In late 1994, Rebellion released one of the very first console FPS games of any note with the Atari Jaguar exclusive, Aliens Vs Predator. Sadly, with such a tiny installed base, few people ever got to experience it.
Apogee Software’s Rise Of The Triads from early 1995 stood out for its OTT violence, as well as offering multiple playable characters, while Bungie’s Mac-based Marathon series broke new ground in the plot-driven possibilities of the genre. I wonder if this developer will be mentioned again? Elsewhere, LucasArt’s first Star Wars FPS, Dark Forces, was the first in the genre to make full use of 3D environments – forcing players to look up and down, as well as jump and crouch. It sounds incredible now, but until that point first-person shooters took place on a flat plane: the mouse had yet to be utilised as a looking device.
Around this time, console owners were ‘treated’ to ports of the first wave of PC FPS titles – largely with mixed results. Wolfenstein 3D had its fair share of conversions, but Doom was such a phenomenon, that every platform under the sun got a version, including the SNES, Sega 32X, Atari Jaguar, 3DO, PlayStation and SEGA Saturn. By the middle of the 1990s, the first person shooter genre had given rise to a full-scale gaming revolution. With fluid 3D engines inspiring developers to stunning feats of innovation, the genre helped spark off a PC software and hardware race that continues to this day. Suddenly, not only were companies like 3D Realms, Epic, LucasArts, and Bungie joining id in the race to produce the next blockbuster First Person Shooter, but were doing so using their own proprietary in-house engines, built from the ground up.
After many copycat releases (like Blood,Exhumed, and Redneck Rampage) it wasn't until the arrival of id’s next project, Quake, until the newly formed genre moved forwards. Initially available as a three level multiplayer demo ("QTest") in February 1996, its eventual full release in June of the same year confirmed id Software as the undisputed kings of the genre. Considered both a technological and design masterpiece at the time, its influence on the multiplayer scene in particular cannot be overstated.
The ability for players to engage in co-op and competitive multiplayer matches over the Internet, rather than a local network, was a massive leap forward not just for the FPS scene, but for multiplayer gaming as a whole. Its instant appeal and ability to easily create new content ensured that a huge community sprang up instantly, and it soon became one of the first games to be considered a genuine ‘electronic sport’. As fans mastered the quirks of Quake’s fast-paced free-look mouse-controlled gameplay, moves such as rocket jumping, strafe jumping and bunny hopping became part of the genre’s vocabulary.
Soon after Quake's success (especially because of the burgeoning online communities) the demand for 3D Accelerator cards boomed. PC power accelerated rapidly during the late 90s. Despite this being a burden on gamers wallets, their love for this new genre only grew. As the new technology came so did the games that supported them. Like Lucasart's Outlaws and the second Star Wars FPS, Jedi Knight.