Continuing that proposed template, what sub-genre is the indie FPS working on?
Today in 2011, mainstream commercial efforts still focus on arcade man-shooting with photorealistic graphics in military contexts. They are descendents of one vision of first person gaming, the lineage of Wolfenstein 3D (1992).
But back in 1994, video games were confronted with a very different vision of what first person games could be....
The New York Times' review from December 4, 1994 is entitled, "A New Art Form May Arise From the Myst" by Edward Rothstein.
Only two years after the rampage of Wolf3D, we already had an ambiguous, complex narrative with multiple endings; a sophistry of representation that Tale of Tales values in digital games, albeit with considerable technical constraints and hacks; and a hardcore emphasis of "solving" systems. The result, according to Mr. Rothstein, was "a game that weaves together image, sound and narrative into a new form of experience."
Photorealistic in its treatment of materials and light, while utterly nonphotorealistic in its surreal fantasy and bizarre warping of context / setting. Nearly 17 years later and we're still trying to catch-up.
|Jonathan Blow's "The Witness": a first person game on a surreal island with puzzles.|
Many 2D indie games use pixels / flat squares, so it seems fitting that many indie FPS games use cubes and embrace that "digital brutalism" aesthetic. They're also usually profoundly non-violent, or have little or no shooting. The FPS without the S.
(This "untextured indie 3D" aesthetic also reminds me a lot of the GeoComp2 maps for Quake 3, which I've done some writing about.)
Maybe there's some half-baked notion of "purity" here, when you see the simplest 3D primitive glorified in this way. We can still do so much with 1 KB of texture memory and vertex-lit shaders. Why did we abandon them so quickly for MegaTextures(TM) and normal maps?
So here's a lovely survey of five (5) "indie FPS" games. These aren't THE indie FPS games, they're just five (5) that I thought fit together. Some are publicly released and some aren't, but they all inherit that central aesthetic from Myst: this timeless notion of mystery... the mystery of blocks. The awe of a monolith. The scale of things.
"At A Distance" is a short 2-player co-op game where stuff happens. If you're in New York City, you can play it at the NYU Game Center until the exhibition closes sometime in June.
"Fract" won the 2011 Student IGF. In this game, things happen. I think he's expanding it into a full game currently.
"Hyperabuse Monolith" is a single player time-attack where you harass monoliths for mega points. It's probably not as Myst-inspired as the others. But hey, there's no shooting!
"Kairo," a single player game where you quietly explore places and activate things.
"Activate the Three Artifacts and Then Leave" is really unsettling and disorienting... so, in other words, typical of his work.
If you know of any indie FPS games set on islands / where you solve puzzles / among giant flat-shaded blocks, do post a comment below. Or if you think my attempt at articulating genre was really lazy... umm, sorry? How else should we categorize these games?