FPS roundtable: Apex Legends, Hunt: Showdown and Deceive Inc. devs dish on competitive shooters

FPS roundtable discussion
(Image credit: Tripwire, Respawn Entertainment, Crytek)

The FPS is in a vibrant place right now. Tight, competitive games like Counter-Strike and Rainbow Six Siege are more popular than ever, throwback "boomer shooters" have brought back the '90s sense of speed, and extraction shooters have branched off of battle royale to inject multiplayer with a new degree of intensity. There's too much going on in first-person shooters to possibly cover in one conversation, so at this year's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco we rounded up a group of devs who work on competitive shooters to talk about the present and future of the genre.

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Who's talking?

Evan Nikolich - Senior design director, Apex Legends

David Fifield - General manager for Hunt: Showdown

Alan Wilson - CEO Tripwire Interactive, design on Rising Storm & Red Orchestra 2

Brian Etheridge - Publishing director, Tripwire Presents

We kicked off our FPS roundtable talking about innovation in shooters, and how Escape From Tarkov and Hunt: Showdown have embraced difficulty as ways to hook players and make a win feel particularly meaningful. 

"It used to be you played UT or something and it's like, do you win the match, yes or no... and that's kinda where it ends," said Etheridge. "But in something like Hunt, it's not just did you win the match, it's 'did I get enough dollars to get my optimal setup for the next round or not?' Trying to think long-term."

Hunt: Showdown manager David Fifield joked that he loves the community meme that in which shotgun users call snipers campers, and snipers call shotgun users campers.

"If you wanted to make me angry as a design director, tell me the audience is playing our game wrong, and I'd get real mad real fast," he said. "But if players want to say to each other they're playing the game wrong, then I'm deeply interested. Why are they feeling that? Why are they coming back? What do they all want? Can you play your way?"

From there our roundtable talked about ways their games try to give players a variety of ways to win—through raw shooting skill, through tactics, through luck—unlike the simpler design of twitch shooters. And we tackled an eternally hot topic: balance.

"For Apex, we look at our weapon sandbox as a very delicate balance, where each weapon has a need in the game," said Evan Nikolich. "It's not so much about having everything balanced on the head of a needle, at least in a BR. It's about providing the tools to players so those tools feel fair. They have strengths and weaknesses, but there's always some kind of counterplay in the sandbox."

There's another hour of FPS discussion after that, so give the full roundtable a listen above or on your podcasting app of choice.

And if you like this sort of deep dive into game development, make sure to check out our recent RPG roundtable podcast and chat between the creators of Dwarf Fortress and Caves of Qud, also from this year's Game Developers Conference.

Wes Fenlon
Senior Editor

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.

When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).