IndieCade 2009: Rethinking the Shooter

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Fresh Ideas for First- and Third-Person Shooters was one of the most interesting talks at IndieCade 2009 — and one that turned out as more of a giant brainstorming session than a traditional panel.

The three speakers leading the discussion were Keita Takahashi, the creator of the first two Katamari Damacy games and Noby Noby Boy, Jenova Chen, designer of Cloud, Flow, and Flower, and Robin Hunicke, who served as a designer and producer for MySims and Boom Blox.

All three are noted for their anti-violent games stance, and they used this opportunity to develop ideas that could make the FPS genre more positive.

Takahashi kicked off with some ideas he has for a possible upcoming game (more after the break)….


Imagine an FPS from the perspective of a little boy who has the ability to grow larger. As he grows, the camera angle and perspective changes, much like in Katamari Damacy. Takahashi asked the audience to think of some ideas for power-ups (and power-downs) to trigger the growth/shrinking.

Takahashi then addressed some of the complications that would arise with a character who reaches skyscraper proportions. A gigantic boy would be unable to enter a building, for example, and would find it almost impossible to effectively communicate with regular humans.

Takahashi drawings and brainstorm

Only the boy would get bigger, not his clothes, said Takahashi, which would result in the main character becoming quite embarrassed (what with the whole naked-in-the-middle-of-a-heavily-populated-area thing).

The large, powerful boy would become the target of angry soldiers, who would play the main antagonists. The final boss would be the boy’s scientist parents, who only wanted to stop wars and violence via making the world’s people large.

Ultimately, the giant boy and his also-enlarged parents would all have to duke it out, perhaps with everyone eventually getting too big and naked for their own good. And you thought Noby Noby Boy was weird!

Jenova ChenNext up was Jenova Chen. Normally, he said, he thinks of a type of experience he wants the player to have and then builds a gameplay mechanic around that. When rethinking the FPS, though, it’s the other way around. He noted that nothing has excited him to make an FPS game that he thinks people will want to play.

He started by asking the audience questions, such as what’s the significance of the FPS genre, and what is it that we shoot from our bodies? Chen compiled lists of obvious-to-abstract answers.

Chen felt that a person playing an FPS was going to practice to get good at it, so how could that practice and improvement translate into a real world benefit?

At one point, it was surreal to be in a room full of game developers all shouting out ideas on what kind of game to make, all trying to one-up each other.

With the two lists made — what type of experience does an FPS create, and what do we shoot — Chen proceeded to pick items from each and imagine game concepts.

For a while, the discussion revolved around a game where people shoot glances via facial recognition technology, and the player has to avoid them or respond.

Robin HunickeNeedless to say, we didn’t come out of the session with the game idea Jenova Chen was looking for.

Finally, Robin Hunicke took over to talk about the possibilities for a non-destructive FPS. What type of bullets or ammo could create rather than destroy?

Clay bullets, for example, could create bridges, walls, and other types of structures, as opposed to simply blowing said structures up.

Who knows if these ideas will spark much of a change to the shooter genre, but it was certainly refreshing to ponder the possibilities of flipping the traditional approach on its head.

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