[Matt Downey is a game designer and programmer working on a science fiction first-person shooter in Unity3d. A hopeful indie, he strives to have a working version of his game by E3 2013.]
Player behavior can make a game more fun (helping teammates) or less fun (infinite combos).
The advantages reaped by infinite combos, camping, or spawnkilling are often perceived as unfair, but can be used and abused equally by both parties. Does the mutual access to these unfair mechanics make them fair? The answer is subjective.
Today, I present to you solutions to the perceived problem of spawnkilling and camping in the arena of first person shooters.
Spawn Kill: In a multiplayer combat game (particularly a First Person Shooter) to kill another player as they spawn.
The current convention is for players to respawn in preset spots, generally far from the action, which are determined randomly, algorithmically, or though player choice (by convention, limited to a few choices).
Examples of Convention
Team Fortress 2--the player has no control over spawning. The computer places the player in a protected zone that cannot be entered by enemies. Some spawns have one exit, others have up to four.
Battlefield 2142--the player has a choice. The player can spawn at any of the locations his team has control of, on a squad leader, or on a squad beacon.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare--the player has no role in spawning. The computer determines which of many spawnpoints a player will spawn in based on an algorithm that will put the player in a statistically low-danger area.
Problems with Convention
If the computer determines where the player respawns, when "spawnkilled" a player will feel that dying was outside his/her locus of control.
Players often respawn far from the action.
Fixed spawns allow ruthless players to trap enemies in their own spawns, often unable to exit.
In random or algorithmically determined spawning, the player cannot possibly know where they will spawn, resulting in initial vertigo.
By introducing a bird's eye view minimap, a designer can supply the player with the information to grasp level geometry, and the player, based on knowledge of enemy positions, could at any time tell the designer exactly where he wants to be by simply pointing his finger. Enter skyspawn.
What if, upon death, the player could look at an in game minimap (with the positions/directions of teammates and potentially even enemies) and click exactly where he wanted to spawn? The player then falls from the sky (in a drop pod), invulnerable to damage until the instant (s)he hits the ground. Smart enemies might look up and spot trouble, whereas the player can familiarize him/herself with his/her settings before it's too late.
In order to create skyspawn, you need an accurate minimap. Three possible implementations are:
Camping: when a player hides in a single location that serves as a tactical advantage over the opposing player(s) for long periods of time.
Game rules that (arguably) contribute to camping in first-person shooters:
While some say camping adds a layer of strategy to the game, I would argue it detracts from escapism, since an idle player is more likely to be aware of what he is doing if he isn't preoccupied.
The addition of heartrate into a first person shooter allows designers to tweak the advantages and disadvantages reaped by having a high or low heartrate.
High Heartrate Advantages
Low Heartrate Advantages
Making a believable in-game heart is a must. Players must be able to intuitively grasp the rate at which their heartrate increases and also not feel punished for aggressive behaviors (in the case of high heartrate) or necessary behaviors (in the case of low heartrate). Furthermore, the heart must not have a fast acceleration, for that would defeat the point.
Some player behavior is best restricted by embedded rules. A competitive game does not rely on player morality, specific rules are put in place to restrict player actions. In the same way, in online multiplayer the metagame should not be left to the players, as that can result in less interesting game dynamics and predominant (and sometimes painstakingly repetitive) strategies.
By placing more rules in the game, you can reward the behavior that the community deems more "fun". As subjective as "fun" is, a designer should know when a gamer is having a good time. Sure first person shooters are repetitive, but a lot of "fun" can be had when the rules of repetition are broken, and the player either surprises himself or is surprised by the enemy.
Feel free to comment or send me a specific question on twitter @MattDWNY.