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Talk Video: Are arena shooters obsolete now?

Arnox

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I wanna apologize to Houseman for taking SO LONG to get this video out the damn door. I could say that life intervened... Blah de blah blah... Whatever. Not your guys' problem. Anyway though, with this, we should be back on track. Enjoy!

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Original video contributor(s): Arnox - script writer, video maker
Houseman - voiceover, second opinion

Creator's description: Why aren't arena shooters popular anymore? Are they really just relics from a forgotten age now or is there still a lot of life left in them? We'll give you the definitive answer here.

Game source: Smash Remix v.0.9 (Modded version of SSB64)
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So it happened. Nerd Slayer released a Death of a Game for Quake Champions. And with it, a common question I see asked a lot in certain gaming circles arises once more. Are arena shooters no longer relevant in today’s age? Could an arena shooter ever succeed in the modern gaming market?

Before I begin to answer that question, I feel I need to establish where I’m coming from here. I’ve always been a first-person shooter fan and have been playing arena shooters ever since Perfect Dark released for the N64. As many people who know me already know, I consider the first Unreal Tournament to be the best arena shooter currently available, with Halo 3, Unreal Tournament 2004, and Timesplitters 3 snapping at its heels.

And now, with that out of the way, we can begin to answer the question of the relevancy of arena shooters in the age of 2019. I think though that we should break down exactly what we’re asking here. For a game (or in this case, a genre) to be considered not relevant anymore means that it is outdated and has been replaced by something else. So, have arena shooters been made obsolete and replaced? And if so, what has replaced them?

Well, at the moment in the FPS space, there are three reigning genres. Class shooters, battle royales, and loadout shooters. Class shooters are basically the same as loadout shooters but you cannot change the loadout. Each individual class has a fixed loadout and attributes. Battle royales are basically deathmatch arena shooters but with a huge map with constantly shrinking boundaries, and about a hundred people with one life each.

We’re going to go through all three of these specific sub-genres and look at their advantages. And the first one on our list is loadout shooters. These are games like Call of Duty and Insurgency. They are defined by giving players certain slots for their characters where they can pick weapons, equipment, abilities, or attachments, depending on the loadout shooter in question allows.

A loadout shooter has the advantage of being easy to learn and easy to get right into. You don’t need to hunt for anything on the map. You get what you choose and that’s all you get besides perhaps the weapons from vanquished enemies laying on the ground. They also appeal to players who like to make “builds”. It can be quite fun to choose and experiment with different loadout options to see what you like best. What works best in different scenarios.

After that, you have your class shooter. Class shooters are games like Overwatch and Team Fortress 2. These are defined by giving players a certain amount of characters to play as. Each character will usually have unique abilities, weapons, and attributes that cannot be changed by the player. While being more limited than a loadout shooter in terms of choice, these tend to be much more polished and have more unique and powerful abilities with more personality than a loadout shooter.

And then finally, you have your battle royale. These are games like Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds and Apex Legends. With this one, each player is dropped into a random place on a huge map with many pieces of equipment scattered around that do not respawn. As time goes by, the map boundaries will continue to shrink. Last player alive wins. The appeal of battle royales lies in the combination of mindless deathmatch, huge battles, and very high risk with some randomness thrown in.

While all of these sub-genres offer distinct and cool experiences, we see that they do not actually replace the arena shooter sub-genre which has its own experience that cannot be replicated by those three. An arena shooter can be defined as having three things. One, equal starts, two, weapons and items scattered around the map, and three, a max player count of 16. MAYBE 32 players if you really wish to push things, but 32 is the absolute max and, of course, such requires rather large maps.

An arena shooter has several advantages of its own. For one, with a mandate that everyone starts off on equal footing, an important element of unpredictability has been removed. This makes things inherently more competitive right out of the gate compared to a loadout or class shooter. Furthermore, an arena shooter, like a class shooter, is much easier for a developer to polish and balance than a loadout shooter. There’s also the fact that while players start off with none of the items on the map, they can use all of them as long as it’s been picked up by them. And finally, like a battle royale, map control is a fun and strategic aspect of arena shooters.

OK, so if they’re so great, then why aren’t they taking off? Well, let’s examine that, shall we? In my mind, the last successful arena shooter to come out was Halo: Reach, all the way back in 2010. If we don’t count the Halo games, then it’s Unreal Tournament 2004. That’s nine years for the console and fifteen years for the PC. But why has it been so long? Haven’t there been many other arena shooters made after those games?

Yes, and I’m so glad you asked, random person, because this leads right into the crux of the matter. The reason why the arena shooters of today aren’t taking off is because they are not meeting a certain standard that has been set over and over by this sub-genre’s stand-out titles. Now, to be fair, this standard is a pretty high one. As I said in the beginning of this, the first Unreal Tournament was the one to set the bar the highest at this current time, and when it did, it reached for the stars and beyond.

Now, I don’t wanna turn this into an Unreal Tournament review, but let it suffice to say that few games have met Unreal Tournament’s level of completeness and quality, even outside of the arena shooter sub-genre. And so, because of this, and other incredible arena shooter titles that have released in the past, the bar has been set, and any arena shooter that doesn’t meet these standards are seen as redundant or worse.

It is not enough to make an arena shooter anymore. You need to also fill it out with all the extras that players have come to expect from the genre. Namely, very high match customization being one of the most important features. Bots also help a lot. And finally, give the game a lot of gametypes and make sure the basic ones are there. Also, while not a set-in-stone standard at all, two firing modes at least for every weapon will give the gameplay even more replayability.

When I look at the arena shooters of today, I’m not seeing that standard being met anymore. Even further, some arena shooters like Quake Champions are releasing with a lot of microtransactions which drags down the game even further and prevents mods. Now, can a company still make a reasonably successful arena shooter even with all this going against it? Perhaps, but it’s definitely not going to reach the heights that the arena shooters of old have reached.

At the end of the day, why should I play Quake Champions or Reflex when I can just play Quake 3 or Unreal Tournament? At least Quake Champions tried to mix class shooters with arena shooters, which is neat, but it’s not enough to keep butts in seats. You not only have to give players a reason to buy it, you need to give them a reason to stay. And of all the arena shooters I’ve seen since Halo Reach, none of them have done the latter.

And that's all. Thanks for watching! If you liked this video, DON'T leave a like or subscribe, but rather, head over to our dedicated forums and clan site at intosanctuary.com and comment there. We'd love to see you there, but whichever you choose, keep it shiny and chrome.
 
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Vendor-Lazarus

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Bummer. This one also says "This video file cannot be played.(Error Code: 102630)"
I should probably try duckduckgo'it. Could be one my end only.
 

Arnox

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Bummer. This one also says "This video file cannot be played.(Error Code: 102630)"
I should probably try duckduckgo'it. Could be one my end only.
Video is showing up and playing for me, if at a slow buffer speed. Have you tried going to the site and downloading it?
 

Battousai

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Long story short: They are dead because the market and the people playing FPS games are aimed at a whole different genre of shooters. Currently the most popular shooting games are either in the genres of Battle Royale or Hero/class based shooters for the most part. Obsolete however? Don't think so since games do follow trends in popularity. It is entirely possible for the arena shooter to make a resurgence, but currently all the best arena shooters are over a decade old and the most recent ones are not very popular. (Quake Champions for example)
 

Arnox

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Can't. Have no link to it. and the embedded URL is no URL at all..
Go to the link in the other thread that I gave. From there, in the bottom right corner, is the channel. Click on that to see all content posted.
 
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