The Rise of Asymmetrical Gaming: Part 1 - Introduction

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Multiplayer sells.

And in the age of shooter games Call of Duty is unquestionably dominating the console market. Various companies have failed in effort to tailor their game to the "Call of Duty audience", and in the meantime the giant has stood as the #1 shooter for the 7th straight year.

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Even Battlefield, often described as the more "realistic military shooter" (which once was the aspect attributed to Call of Duty's success), has not been able to keep up despite its larger maps, featured destructible environments, and wide array of vehicles.

Also, Titanfall, known for its map maneuverability and giant robot violence, failed to live up to the hype.

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But maybe not all hope is lost.

Asymmetrical Shooters

Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Titanfall all fall into the sub-genre of "symmetrical shooters" in terms of multiplayer gameplay. As for released "asymmetrical shooters" we have Left 4 Dead 2, Dead Space 2, and Aliens: Colonial Marines (yes that Alien game); clearly a far less popular bunch.

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And with the exception of Left 4 Dead 2, most asymmetrical shooters aren't known for their multiplayer. Dead Space 2 is recognized for being a jump-scare survival horror game, and its multiplayer was considered a last-minute addition. Aliens: Colonial Marines was infamous for people not really knowing what it was.

Sales-wise, our asymmetrical titles don't stand a chance, but is it really fair to count out a sub-genre in its infancy due to a throw-in multiplayer and a product troubled by developer conflicts? Symmetrical shooters rule the genre, but as for potential? I believe we haven't even begun to scratch the surface of asymmetrical shooters.

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Symmetrical vs Asymmetrical

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Symmetrical (Pictured: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare)

  • Maps intend to give each team a fair amount of vantage points in theory, if the maps are not perfectly symmetrical already.
  • The same weapons/perks/kill-streaks can potentially be acquired by both sides.
  • Both sides are usually humans. If one side is non-human then they are usually indistinguishable from the human side mechanically speaking (e.g. Gears of War).
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Asymmetrical (Pictured: Dead Space 2)

  • Maps are usually route based with linear objective points. The "defending" side usually has an advantage on the map over the "attackers".
  • Weapons are specific to each side. Some sides may not have guns at all, and instead they may use biological weaponry such as the Spitter's acid spit in Dead Space 2.
  • One side is typically non-human, which is usually some form of alien (ACM) or zombie (L4D2) or both (DS2).
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The Potential of Asymmetrical

Regardless of what happened in the development phase of Aliens: Colonial Marines, it's hard to deny that there was a good, if not genius, multiplayer hidden within the unfinished title. Players playing as the US Colonial Marines were pitted against a human team of Xenomorphs. Not only did the Xenomorph side have 3 categories to choose from, but within each category came a vast range of control for each type. Xenomorph Spitters could sit at a far distance and use a variety of ranged attack to assist in battle, or fight close-quarters with an acid spray attack. Xenomorph Soldiers had combo-like melee attacks which allowed more experienced players to wipe the field of Marines much faster.

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Also a simple, but often overlooked feature is that roughly a million players got to play as the iconic Alien Xenomorph, and possibly for the first time ever. How many times has Call of Duty allowed you to play as a non-human?

...

Anyone?

...

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* Man's best friend... Helicopter's number one natural predator

Having an asymmetrical side opens up an entire new slate of possibilities. Symmetrical shooters will always have a stronghold in market, but asymmetrical games have a much wider range of creative capabilities and game mechanics. Plus...

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* T-Bagging is so 2011

Final

In the upcoming parts I'll discuss how asymmetrical shooter games have: the advantage in complimenting what makes competitive multiplayer so appealing, the main aspects that are needed to make the top shooter game, and the one secret advantage that symmetrical shooters don't have.

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