tempest in a teacup

the pointless musings of a strange recluse

Some thoughts on Brink (mostly not mine)

Brink-Xbox_360Artwork506Founders_-_Island

I recently bought Bethesda/Splash Damage’s new FPS Brink in the hope that it would be able to replace TF2 for me. After about ten hours of playtime I could see it had some merits, but that there was something about it that just didn’t feel right. I wasn’t really able to put my finger on what it was…I mean, all that parkour style movement was nice but it didn’t really seem to be useful for anything since my aim went to shit every time I tried to use it to become harder to hit. On top of that CS-style tactics seem to reign supreme – take cover, aim for the head, drop people in two bursts, which isn’t what was implied by Splash Damage’s publicity at all. I believe the phrase ‘Move more than you shoot’ was bandied about a lot, but this isn’t the case at all.

Well, leave it to a long-time competitive FPS player to cut through the bullshit and lay out exactly what the design problems with the game are. The following are two posts from Kaizoku (the discoverer of Kai jumping in Left 4 Dead) on the Brink Steam forums about why exactly the game seems to be a letdown for so many:

The game does not lend itself to movement based combat, as a veteran quake player and a fan of UT games I’ve seen what those games do to make combat skilled and movement based, rather than cover based. A lot of the issue is the mechanics around firefights, they don’t reward movement based combat, and the guns really aren’t functioning on a "sustained aim" system as they have plenty of recoil and spread.
The game doesn’t know what it wants to be, CS or Quake, so it’s using elements from both, and they’re conflicting.

When I referenced "sustained aiming" it is a reference to an archetype of FPS, one being sustained aim and another being first strike determination and the mechanics that surround those. I used CS as a synecdoche for the "first strike" archetype, those archetypes are explained below:
Sustained aim games are usually movement based combat, in that you aren’t using cover to keep yourself alive, you’re dodging and moving around or using the game’s movement abilities to stay alive. These games nearly *always* use no recoil minimum spread guns, the reason being it’s very hard to keep the crosshair on people in those games (relatively), and you are rewarded with damage based on how long you can keep the crosshair on someone. These games also usually give players higher HP pools (relatively) than other FPS’s, meaning you have to sustain your aim on a target to get the kill through dodging and keeping your cross on them.
The you have first strike determination games, which are the most popular right now. CS, CoD, Battlefield, these all fall under first strike type FPS’s. This means that nearly always the game is cover based for defense, meaning if you are without cover, there are no movement abilities and your character doesn’t have good enough speed or movement to stay alive and needs to use terrain or cover to defend themselves. These games are often "realistic" with their guns, using recoil and spread to off-set slow character movement. At the same time, player hp pools are (relatively) lower and headshots/locational damage is rewarded. The first shot is the most accurate from these guns, and tends to determine the outcome of a firefight.
Brink mashes these together in a seemingly contradictory way, taking counter-rationales in the elements they use. They have an advanced movements system, and player movement is a bit faster than most FSD (here on in, first strike determination) games. However, both recoil and spread are present, not just present, but prevalent. These elements contradict in their reasoning, as you remove recoil and spread to reward players for being accurate in fast-paced movement combat, you don’t penalize them for moving and dodging, and you don’t make them hope their recoil and spread stays where they are aiming. They also (relatively) increased player HP pool, advertising a near elimination of 1HKO’s (by the way, there’s still a lot of those) but if you get a headshot (locational damage also being quite important) it can be a FSD situation.
The movement and firefight mechanics conflict in how they reward and penalize players, and it really doesn’t make sense in precedent, rationale, or function.

I have written about the two schools of FPS design before (although nowhere near as thoroughly as this) in my old blog entry comparing Call of Duty 4 to Painkiller (although if you want to go with multiplayer FPSes, Counter-Strike vs Quake III Arena is a much better comparison), and I agree with the thrust of Kaizoku’s argument. Generally I found the parkour-ish moves in Brink to be most useful when attempting to flank or find alternate routes, but not really in actual combat.

I’ll probably keep playing it for a bit longer, since the novelty hasn’t quite worn off yet, but it seems clear at this point that this is a game that needs some rethinking in terms of base mechanics. Until then I’d recommend holding off on getting it.

3 comments

3 Responses to “Some thoughts on Brink (mostly not mine)”

  1. NeoChaos says:

    Dang. Looks like I have to wait for a UT2004-killer elsewhere.

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