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A Historical Introduction

The idea of pitting gamers against one another rather than against PC-controlled enemies is 14 years old already. Quite a long time for the video games industry. The first time you could face a live opponent in a 3D virtual world by means of a network, modem or COM-to-COM connection it was in id Software’s Doom back in 1993. The game supported two players with a point-to-point connection or up to four players on a LAN. And although it looked primitive by today’s standards, the opportunity of multiplayer battles made it really popular – people would even contest in championships!

Almost all of later first-person 3D shooters provided the option of multiplayer, but players would eventually get bored with the concept. Simple fighting for “frags” lost all the excitement eventually. Innovations were called for and didn’t take long to appear. In 1998 Valve released its sci-fi shooter Half-Life . The game offered a thrilling plot, which is still considered an example for the whole industry, but what is more important for our topic, Half-Life became the basis of the first multiplayer shooter that wasn’t limited to the “kill ‘em all” concept. It was Counter-Strike . In that game players not only split into two teams: the terrorists and the counter-terrorists had their own objectives they had to accomplish in order to win.

The year 1999 became a milestone in the evolution of the first-person shooter with the release of two projects focused entirely on multiplayer: Quake 3 Arena and Unreal Tournament . The single-player mode of each game was limited to fighting bots with no plot whatsoever. The project from id Software seemed more dynamic but only offered one unusual game mode called Capture the Flag whereas the project from Epic Games offered a variety of new features, particularly the Assault mode in which one team was to defend a base (castle, ship, etc) and the other, to attack it. Both teams had their own objectives, just like in Counter-Strike . For example, the attacking team’s objective was to destroy a generator while the defenders had to keep them from doing that.

The project from id Software was later complemented with the add-on Quake 3: Team Arena , yet the Unreal Tournament series was developing faster and its 2002 version enhanced the selection of game modes even more. Unreal Tournament 2004 then offered the opportunity to control military equipment, from light air motorcycles to heavy tanks, which made virtual fighting even more engaging. You could also use such equipment in multiplayer shooters of the Battlefield series developed by Digital Illusions and published by EA Games, but the FPS veterans from id Software had switched their attention to single-player projects at that time. For example, Doom 3 had limited multiplayer capabilities, not much better than those of its ancestor, while the multiplayer of Quake 4 wasn’t far better than that of Quake 3 Arena according to many critics.

 
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