In August 2006, the editors of Gamasutra asked its readership of game industry professionals to chime in and vote for which game in the first-person shooter genre "brought the genre forward" in the biggest way - whether it be an early game that helped define the FPS, or a more recent one which took those core ideas and developed a more rewarding experience than before. Specifically, we asked:
"Which first-person shooter/action title over the entire history of the FPS game do you think has made the biggest 'quantum leap' in the genre, and why?"
On the following pages, we'll first present eight "honorable mentions" - games that, while certainly innovative and important, did not receive enough votes to make it into the top echelon.
Following this, we'll present the top five first-person shooters voted for by our readers, in reverse order, ending with the overall recipient of Gamasutra's first Quantum Leap Award, which received the largest amount of votes from game professionals.
[Please note that while many games received small amounts of votes in this survey, we could not possibly give adequate attention to each of them. 'Honorably mentioned' games also voted on by our readers, but not making it into the top five _or_ receiving detailed commentary alongside the voting included Halo, Star Wars: Dark Forces, FarCry, Tribes, and Quake III.]
Although Wolfenstein 3D basically invented the genre, it lacked variations in height and had no textures. Doom took things to a level where the player was immersed in a believable 3D environment, and added addictive network play to boot. There was nothing as satisfying as blasting your cube-mate with a BFG in the back. As far as I recall, it was also the first use of the term "Deathmatch" in video games as well. Since Doom nothing has been the same.
-Ken Carpenter, Pervasive Media Co.
Doom started the multiplayer frenzy. Of course, if it had not been Doom, it would have been only a question of time before another FPS would take the flag and bring to the audiences the wonderful experience of multiplayer gaming. But in the end, Doom did it, not another game. Duke Nukem 3D? Plenty of weapons, lots of humour, hours of play with friends. Plenty of features, the premises of a real story, mainly through a step by step level design. But no major leap to be found there.
In the end, I'd choose a game which defined the premise of what is now so important to FPSes: the multiplayer. And it's Doom.
Doom. I remember sitting with my friends, motion sick after playing marathon sessions, thinking "Oh my God, this is unbelievable!"
I would argue that 'pre-Shock', shooters defined a narrow category of player experience more or less unchanged since the days of Wolfenstein 3D. It wasn't until the genre was 'post-Shock' that richer titles - in terms of game mechanics, story design and emergent gameplay - started to appear (notably Half Life and Deus Ex).
In terms of shooter mechanics, System Shock was the first FPS to really attempt to create physical immersion beyond just the camera POV. It introduced a full range of movements (most of which we take for granted now) and avatar hit location to give impact to damage effects. The weapons system, in addition to giving unprecendented levels of customization, also offered greater control modality than had been seen previously. System Shock wove in enough elements borrowed from adventure/RPG to elevate its design beyond the basic shooter tropes. It offered a robust system for the player to upgrade his weapons, equipment and skills; and it integrated a well-realized 'VR' hacking game that gave authenticity to its cyberpunk theme. The fact that so many of these features are now virtually de rigor in modern sci-fi shooters is a testament to the influence exerted by this one game.
-Patrick Redding, Ubisoft