Different FPSs for Different People?

6th January 2008

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3

Are you different from me? In what way? What things do we have in common? Well, we both like playing FPS games and mods. What else? Perhaps nothing. Maybe our playing style is very different, maybe our gender, age, skill level, and motivation is different. Perhaps a hundred other things.

What I am trying to say that we are probably very different, yet we still enjoy playing the same type of game. Now let me take this idea and ask “Is it possible to make different FPS games for different types of people?” I’m going to briefly discuss 3 difference: gender, Age and playing style.


Here is a serious question for you:
“If you wanted to make an FPS game or mod specifically for females, how and what would you do?”

No doubt that question has been asked by many game developers but I’ve never seen a discussion about it. (I’m not saying one has never been published, I’m just saying I haven’t seen one) Hopefully this can be the start of one. Let me be clear: I want this to be a serious, intelligent discussion and if anybody simply comments “Make it pink” I will delete it.

Perhaps a more pertinent question should be:
Do female FPS players want something different from male FPS players?” Only my female readers can answer that but let’s assume they do. (Not because I believe they do but because it may make an interesting exercise)

Exactly what difference would there be? Would different weapons be required, if so in what way would they be different? Would you tone done the blood and guts? Would you reverse the roles of male and female? The main character becomes female, as do most of the NPC and the few males are almost love interests, or at best a sidekick.

I’m trying not to be patronizing because that’s not my intention but as I re-read the previous few sentences it sounds like I am!


Moving on from the gender point, what about other types of players? The first split that comes to mind is young and old. I know that my readership has a quite a few grey gamers and their input would be both interesting and insightful. Does the age gap mean that the games we enjoy are different?

I know I lot of older players play FPS games but I wonder how many play CounterStrike. Is that style of gaming less interesting to older players? If so, why? What sort of FPS games do they prefer?

Playing Style

Let’s split FPS into different sub-genres. Imagine we separated FPS players into the following groups:

  • Puzzlers
  • Explorers
  • Strategists
  • Run and Gunners
  • Story Lovers

(Of course the above list is just a starting point and there could well be plenty more).

Now, we all probably enjoy a little of each sub-genre and a successful game or mod incorporates sections of each but imagine somebody said they were going to specialize and make a game focused on one sub-genre.

Now that I am writing this, it occurs to me that Portal is quite possibly the first of its kind regarding sub-genres. It’s an FPS-Puzzle. I don’t know whether there is any actual shooting it in but that’s almost beside the point.

Let’s assume that there will be shooting in these new sub-genres, how exactly would it work? Allow me to use the Puzzler as an example.

The FPS Puzzle

To begin with let’s set a possible scenario.
You have been captured by an alien race and unbeknown to you, you are being tested and experimented upon, similar to rats in a maze. You awaken in a room with a number of exits and along one wall are openings in which you can see weapons or useful items. These openings are protected by a force field. You collect whatever meager weapons and ammo are lying on the ground and choose a door. The game/mod begins!

The level design is totally focused on puzzles. There are still plenty of enemies to shoot at, as in a normal FPS but there are part of each puzzle. Perhaps there role is to delay you reaching something within a period of time. Or maybe to simply distract you from something else.

You need to find you way through the level and this “way” requires you to move crates, open valves, find correct sequences etc. Each time you reach the end of the level you return to the room and one forcefield protecting something is removed. You then move onto the next room until you finally escape or reach some other objective.


I’m not saying that these types of mod haven’t been built, in fact as I was typing the above Saw Life for Half-Life 2 sprang to mind. What I am suggesting is that we begin to create more and more detailed mods based on an acceptance of the different types of players. Perhaps we even begin to market these mods in a specific way. Maybe I need to create new categories on PP that will help readers identify these different types of mods. Something like the Tags that readers can search with.

FPS – Strategy

Let’s look at the Strategy sub-genre for a moment. There are quite a few games that claim this within their title but they often seem to be squad based. Some of the most enjoyable levels for me have been in warehouses, where the fun comes from the carefully considered placement of enemies and health. It’s impossible to simply run through the level because of the way it has been designed. The player has to very carefully choose the route and, in my case anyway, often dies many times before the optimum route and stratagem is found. There are no fancy new weapons or buttons to press, you simply have to get from A to B.

Why not a whole game based around this premise? “Because it would be boring!” you reply. I disagree. If you knew what you were going to play before you downloaded it, you would know what to expect. If the mod was clearly marketed as pure strategy then players couldn’t complain.

FPS – Explorers

Onto the Explorer sub-genre. I know of a lot of players who are interested in exploring environments as much as shooting. The reason for the exploration could be a simple as looking for a key to more complex objectives. The enjoyment comes from finding areas or view points difficult to find without proper effort.

These types of levels don’t have to be mazes but I suppose that’s the simplest implementation. I was thinking of more free-form designs. Perhaps an island or complex building system?

FPS – Puzzlers

One of the big selling points of Half-Life 2 was the physics puzzles and a few people have tried to take the concept further but not being a big puzzle fan I haven’t really paid much attention to their release. In many ways this type of mod would be Half-Life meets Myst.

FPS – Run and Gun

A few recent releases have fitted into this category and the objective is to simply move from room to room and kill the enemies encountered. I’m not a great fan of this sub-genre but it seems quite popular. I think somebody should contact all the authors of these types of maps and create on HUGE mod where the objective is to simply reach the last level without cheating. Ideally the mod would contain 100 levels each last approximately 5 minutes.

With a little work the game could supply statistics once completed that would be uploaded to a website listing the top 100 players. Things like time taken, accuracy, enemies killed, secrets found etc etc.

FPS – Story Lovers

This type of sub-genre would contain more scripted scenes, dialog and other story telling techniques. The objectives are closely linked to the story, which is hopefully more than just a set of situations. You could even add some roleplaying elements too depending on the story.


I started with female/male, then I talked about young/old and finally different playing style. What I am trying to say is that perhaps the time has come to split FPS into clearly defined sub-genres and focus on those.

The basic questions still stand:
Are there significantly different FPS players?
And if so how do you define them?
Perhaps most importantly, how will the games and mods differ?

What do you think?


Whilst looking for an image to use for this post I found this site: gdargaud.net/Antarctica/Glacio. It’s a very interesting site and remind me of John Carpenter’s The Thing. The Source engine should be able to render these types of scenes really well.


  1. Kasperg

    I don’t know if your question is oriented into making different separate mods for different players, or giving players a chance to play a mod in very different ways according to their style of gameplay.
    Chris Fox and I experimented a little bit with this concept in “The Citizen”. For example, the metrocop in the room where the “Slipping by” part begins, can be ignored by players who like stealth gameplay. If you’re an explorer and find a nearby crowbar, you can actually kill the metrocop. If you take a more direct approach, throwing a heavy object to his head or simply jumping on him would also work.
    It’s very hard to implement this type of situations througout a whole mod, but in my opinion it would be an accomplishment to have a mod that adapts to a player’s style, and having people discuss and be surprised by the different ways in which a certain objective could be achieved.

  2. I don’t know if your question is oriented into making different separate mods for different players

    Yes, that’s what I am suggesting.

    After I wrote this (6 months ago) I realized that in many ways there are many Zombie mods that have a very specific style of gameplay, especially when you consider they often are based in basic arenas.

    I’m sure there are other things we could do in the same vein.

  3. zeroth404

    Games that are made for a target audience typically suck and don’t do well at all.

    Games that are made because someone had a vision are the ones that do really well if they aren’t held back due to acceptance concerns.

    It’s very important to understand that games aren’t games at all – they’re works of art. art is not somethign you make FOR someone, it’s something you make for yourself that others might enjoy. That is why thevast majority of retail games are crap – they’re just cash-ins.

    Games require winners, losers, and scores. Quake 3 is a game. Half-Life is art.

  4. Kasperg

    it’s very important to understand that games aren’t games at all – they’re works of art. art is not something you make FOR someone, it’s something you make for yourself that others might enjoy.

    You mean “some” games are works of art then. I can’t really agree with the following statement since most works of art in the history of mankind have been made for important people (kings, emperors, popes) and the artist got paid for it.
    Regarding maps and mods, I do agree with that definition.
    Sticking to a predefined genre like the ones mentioned in this post might actually make the whole thing too artificial. I think mods should just be a mix of all those genres in order to be a satisfying experience you’ll remember. That’s probably one of the reasons I didn’t like Portal that much. It felt like some sort of tech demo for the portal effect and realism across the enviroments was mostly absent.

  5. zeroth404

    I was too rigid when I said that nothing good can come from an attempt to satisfy a crowd. rather, it’s more likely to make something great if you actually have a vision more than a need to create something at all.

    genres are a yucky subject. people put more emphasis on genre than the art itself. those who limit themselves to particular genres are only limiting opportunities to admire art of different kinds. furthermore, perspective has little to do with perspective. (ie, First-Person). to better narrow down how games are classified, you should consider only what you do in the game, and the experience you have.

    For more on this, see my article “Rethinking Genres”: http://gamesthatwontsuck.com/index.php?pg=genre.php

  6. zeroth404

    fix from previous post: perspective has little to do with [genre]

  7. SPY

    i have made a whole lot of sp-maps/mappacks/mods for different fpshooter games, and to be honnist, I never have asked myself if it would be fun to play for womans what I made, (although we all know that fps mainly are played by man, as far as I know). why this is, I realy can’t tell, other then that agression and killing proberly is not that what womans like most.
    beside the gender thing it’s nearly impossible to say what is liked best by what group. it always surprices me, even after releasing so many sp-maps, that things who are liked by some people are hated by others, and what is like by them is again hated by others. therefore it is simply impossible to make something that I liked by everyone. it all comes down to what you like (taste), and as we all know do we all have a different taste. some of those tastes can maybe be grouped by ages, gender and interest and life experience and how you’re brought up. but further then that you can’t make a rule of what is liked and what not, and why.
    i think this is therefore also the main reason why some games don’t do well and others do. gess that when you knew the answer to this you are the best payed person in the game industry, and every company would like to hire you, haha.


  8. Berrie

    The problem with making these sub-genres is that you will be catering to a very limited group of players.
    I’ve found my self looking for a combination of things in games.

    It is perhaps better to work from a specifc mechanic you thought up, then to fix yourself to a (sub-)genre before hand.

    In regards to gender specific games. I feel that games are often taylored more to the male population, through the way the female role is presented. Males still have the majority of the leads, women often seem to designed on some impossible beauty ideal and female enemies are just as common as female lead characters.

  9. Berrie

    Also Zeroth404 I like your genre rethink

  10. wisemx

    Again a very good topic, well done.

    I’m working on Team Fortress 2 maps especially for children.
    Yes non-violent, fun, single player maps for a Multi-player game.

    In my opinion Valve is missing out on a big opportunity. Creating non-violent mods for children would not only be of market value but also for Media.
    Can it currently be said the Valve Source Engine is not for children? Indeed.

    As for female gamers…I’ve taken a lot of polls and have created things for female clans, for the most part it appears girls want more “fun”, and yes with a splash of color.

  11. zeroth404

    my last post isn’t showing up…

  12. zeroth404

    as for gender, I see it like this:

    Females don’t typically like video games like Males do, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Why it is seen as some sort of problem is anything but legitimate. just because somebody doesn’t like something doesn’t mean there is a problem. There are no minorities. When you come to think of all people as one collective thing instead of segregating them into whites, blacks, men, women, straight, not-straight (forum wont let me say the G word) etc, all these fake made-up problems just disappear.

    What would men think if women tried to add some sort of masculine aspect to hair styling? would it seem at all appealing if there were machine-gun shaped hair clips and junk? no, it wouldn’t change. we still would find nothing to like about hair styling.

  13. Females don’t typically like video games like Males do, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    I never claimed there was anything wrong with that but instead of just accepting what other think I am suggesting that it may be possible to make an FPS game that does appeal more to females.

    May be it’s not possible but who knows until we try.

    The problem with making these sub-genres is that you will be catering to a very limited group of players.

    Yes,, which is why I am suggesting making mods not games based on sub-genres.

  14. zeroth404

    I would really like to see the mod communities for all games grow larger than they currently are. there are a lot of levels and simple mods out there, and there are a handful of really good ones, but there aren’t very many full-length games with original stories. I want to see modding become as popular as the “underground” music scene, mix tapes and local bands. I want for everyone with even an inkling of a desire to make games do so.

    there just aren’t enough good games; neither mods nor retail.

  15. Ade

    In order to make a game for the female player, you have to think like that player. Thus, a female mapper and game designer, creator etc is required. You can’t just tell someone the ideas, HE will miss what matters most, if you want to do this right.
    But don’t ask me what would a game for females should look like, because I like FPSs just fine, I’m not quite a female representative from this point of view. And sometimes I even look for games more violent and scarier than Half-Life, definitely not more colorful!
    Still, if I were to give a starting point, think of what would be appealing to us: just shooting n running in an unrealistic environment isn’t; saving people from real earthling enemies with lots of puzzles and a strong storyline.. my guess would be it is. More thinking, less shooting. And as it has been said, more female characters involved.
    Hope I haven’t offended anyone..

  16. Thus, a female mapper and game designer, creator etc is required.

    I disagree. There have been many books written from the female perspective, written by men. Often, the reader was completely unaware.

    I’m sure the reverse is true.

    What matters is understanding what different types of players want; be they female, older, puzzlers etc. This can be done through actually asking them.

    saving people from real earthling enemies with lots of puzzles and a strong storyline

    I find this interesting. It may be your preference or you may in fact be representative of other female gamers.

    I wonder if saving NPCs would be of interest to other female gamers.

    Would you prefer that Alyx was the player’s persona rather than Gordon? Does it make any difference to you?

  17. Kasperg

    A sentence from the film “The Mating Habits of the Earthbound Human” comes to mind:
    ‘Human females enjoy stories about one person dying slowly, the males prefer stories of many people dying quickly.’
    While it’s not always true, it’s somehow accurate. You can see the difference in games played by both males and females. My sister, for example, would spend twice as much time talking to NPCs in Final Fantasy or Zelda games, always gathering all the information she could. I’ve just asked her, and she says that solving conflicts in a game by a means other than brute force would always be welcome.

  18. i shall too try to my point of view:
    1Games that are based only on one type of genre dont seem to fun but some can become addictive.
    I remember I once had syberia wich is a thinking game that I really licked but after a while it became boring.
    so my point of view is that thinking games are for serious more serious people and shooting only games with almost no background or a cheap one are only for fun example serious sam
    So a good game has thinking a bit of action exploring and a story to involve the player
    2 And the ideea of games for females it most be thought outside the box man…

  19. I would give my thoughts but last time I did, I was bashed in the head by another reader and accused of being sexist so I pretty much keep them to myself these days.

  20. AI

    Your not “sexist” you have valid opinions,now jump in and give ’em!! You can’t let some lame opinion from someone else stop you!! There are others on this site who value your thoughts and ideas! 😉

  21. GoddessAlyria, don’t let the opinion of one person or a few individuals stop you from giving your own opinion. Especially if they bash you and don’t give a constructive reasoning why.

  22. Tycell

    I think it’s quite possible to make a game or modification targeted at a primarily female audience. While no one can clearly define what a female game is there are a few examples of games which appeal more to women (but not necessarily more to women than men). In my experience women like to be in control and like to change things to their own style, trying to give something a look they feel is unique to them. The Sims for example is a huge hit with female audiences because women can relate to household activities, design and drama. Generally women don’t like games based around violence but usually like to keep violence open as an option. A group of women however are a different matter; discussing the subject at hand and either collectively agreeing on a step forward or one or a small group of women taking control and deciding for the benefit of the rest. This can also be said about men however men usually have a more objective and indifferent approach.
    Age can be a big factor in whether one likes a game genre or not though it is even less defined than gender. Older gamers sometimes lean towards games which challenge their stratagem or organisational skills. However you can still see older gamers enjoying themselves on a run-and-gun game playing alongside younger players as well. I suppose you can’t really say that as you get older your preference of game will change in XYZ direction. Usually older gamers have more taste and experience and know what they like and do not like in a game. Older gamers also generally prefer more serious games; and not colourful, quaint, happy games, perhaps viewing them as child-like or boring.
    Styles of play is really down to the individual, usually people will enjoy multiple styles of play or sometimes have a more dominant favoured style of game. My father, for example, loves the (older) settler games. He enjoys creating a self sufficient settlement from nothing, the management of resources and manpower as well as the militaristic aspect of invading another’s land with troops trained, equipped and ordered from your hard work before hand setting up the basic infrastructure. I also enjoy these games but I also play a lot of other genres. I think overall while there is on the whole a loose trend as most gamers get older you can’t really quantify it.

  23. I never did really believe that there was any particular difference between males and females when it came to video games. I’ve met girls who were a lot more violent then I am and in the end, I don’t really believe that certain tastes can really be sorted under gender.

    As for my own preference, I have a thing for tactical shooters (Operation Flashpoint is so beautiful..) and simulators.

  24. Ade

    There have been many books written from the female perspective, written by men. Often, the reader was completely unaware.

    I’m not sure if I can believe that entirely. Maybe I haven’t read enough books :)) but from my experience.. men got many things wrong about women and those writers are the exceptions that prove the rule. But I’m stopping here because I don;t want to get all sexist.
    The ideas I presented are not my preferences, as I already said the FPSs are fine and could be even more violent; I should have mentioned “appealing to women” instead of “appealing to us”. I didn’t say those things with 100% certainty, BUT pure violence isn’t appealing to women in general – others have pointed that out also.
    Having Alyx be the hero would be a nice change, but it wouldn’t make a difference to me 😛

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