The FPShuffle
Monday, November 2, 2009 at 1:44PM
Richard Terrell (KirbyKid) in Call of Duty, Clean Design, Emergence, FPS, Genre, Halo, Perfect Dark, Section 8

First the explanation. The FPShuffle is an emergent behavioural occurrence in first or 3rd person shooters. Perhaps you've experienced it at some point. Picture one player moving back and forth in a fairly unpredictable fashion shooting at every opportunity at a single opponent who is doing the same. Neither can cause enough damage to kill the other quickly. So this dance of sorts continues until someone runs away, gets lucky, or other factors intercede. 

FPShuffle at 50 seconds (lasts 16 seconds)


The reason I especially dislike the FPS Shuffle is because it's a goofy stalemate. Though it's not the worst thing that can happen in a shooter, when excessive FPShuffling is present a game begins to fall apart on the basic level. In other words, the function of mechanics fail to move the state of the game closer to the goal or a resulting state where the mechanics become functionally useful again. In such moments, the game may seem like a very different thing. Instead of focusing on actions like getting kills or moving into position, when FPShuffling, players desperately try to kill, yet no kills are made. Nothing really happens.

Now, I understand that "nothing really happens" is an exaggeration. Even if two players are locked in a stalemate situations in a multiplayer shooter, the rest of the players are still moving and changing the state of the game in numerous, emergent ways. At any point when FPShuffling, a teammate can step in and dynamically break up the dance. However, when I can't aim, shoot, and kill effectively in a shooter, there may be little I can do to contribute to the game in a meaningful (goal oriented) way. And that's a serious issue. Of course player skill and play styles are contributing factors, so let's lay everything out clearly.

The reason the FPShuffle occurs is a combination of these factors:


Beyond adjusting the above factors in attempt to reduce the amount of FPShuffling in a shooter, there are other creative solutions.


On a final note, some games have more complex versions of the FPShuffle. From my experience, sliding into cover and rolling in Gears Of War can create a different kind of dance. Games like this and Shadow Run have to be careful about their design if they want to make their games more functional and accessible to a wider range of gamers. If you're the kind of gamer that likes the FPShuffle, let me know. 

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