First-person (gaming)

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In video games, the first person refers to a graphical perspective rendered from the viewpoint of the player's character. In many cases, this may be the viewpoint from the cockpit of a vehicle. Many different genres have made use of first-person perspectives, ranging from adventure games to driving, sailing, and flight simulators. The most notable genre to make use of this device is the first-person shooter, where the graphical perspective has a heavy impact on gameplay.

Game mechanics[edit]

A screenshot from S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, a shooter game played from the first-person perspective

Games with a first-person perspective are usually avatar-based, wherein the game displays what the player's avatar would see with the avatar's own eyes. Thus, players typically cannot see the avatar's body, though they may be able to see the avatar's weapons or hands. This viewpoint is also frequently used to represent the perspective of a driver within a vehicle, as in flight and racing simulators; and it is common to make use of positional audio, where the volume of ambient sounds varies depending on their position with respect to the player's avatar.[1]

Games with a first-person perspective do not require sophisticated animations for the player's avatar, nor do they need to implement a manual or automated camera-control scheme as in third-person perspective.[1] A first-person perspective allows for easier aiming, since there is no representation of the avatar to block the player's view. However, the absence of an avatar can make it difficult to master the timing and distances required to jump between platforms, and may cause motion sickness in some players.[1][2][3]

Players have come to expect first-person games to accurately scale objects to appropriate sizes. However, key objects such as dropped items or levers may be exaggerated in order to improve their visibility.[1]



While many games featured a side-scrolling or top-down perspective during the 1970s and 80's, several early games attempted to render the game world from the perspective of the player.

While light gun shooters often have a first-person perspective, they are distinct from first-person shooters, which use conventional input devices for movement.[4] It is not clear exactly when the earliest such first-person shooter video game was created. There are two claimants, Spasim and Maze War. The uncertainty about which was first stems from the lack of any accurate dates for the development of Maze War—even its developer cannot remember exactly.[5] In contrast, the development of Spasim is much better documented and the dates more certain. The initial development of Maze War probably occurred in the summer of 1973. A single player made their way through a simple maze of corridors rendered using fixed perspective. Multiplayer capabilities, with players attempting to shoot each other, were probably added later in 1973 (two machines linked via a serial connection) and in the summer of 1974 (fully networked).[5]

Spasim was originally developed in the spring of 1974. Players moved through a wire-frame 3D universe, with gameplay resembling the 2D game Empire ire. Graphically, Spasim lacked even hidden line removal, but did feature online multiplayer over the worldwide university-based PLATO network. Spasim had a documented debut at the University of Illinois in 1974. The game was a rudimentary space flight simulator, which featured a first-person perspective.[6] Futurewar (1978) by high-school student Erik K. Witz and Nick Boland, also based on PLATO, is sometimes claimed to be the first true FPS. The game included a vector image of a gun and other armaments that pointed at the monsters. Set in A.D. 2020, Futurewar anticipated Doom, although as to Castle Wolfenstein's transition to a futuristic theme, the common PLATO genesis is coincidental. A further notable PLATO FPS was the tank game Panther, introduced in 1975, generally acknowledged as a precursor to Battlezone.

Rise of first person[edit]

1979 saw the release of two first-person space combat games: the Exidy arcade game Star Fire and Doug Neubauer's seminal Star Raiders for the Atari 8-bit family. Star Raiders was followed by a series of similar games, including Starmaster for the Atari 2600, Space Spartans for Intellivision, and Shadow Hawk One for the Apple II, and went on to influence major first person games of the 1990s such as Wing Commander and X-Wing.[7] Atari, Inc.'s 1983 Star Wars arcade game leaned entirely on action rather than tactics, but offered 3D color vector renderings of TIE Fighters and the surface of the Death Star.[8]

Other shooters with a first person view from the early 1980s include Taito's Space Seeker in 1981,[9] Horizon V for the Apple II the same year,[10] Imagic's Star Voyager for the Atari 2600 in 1982, Sega's stereoscopic arcade game SubRoc-3D in 1982,[11] Novagen's Encounter in 1983, and EA's Skyfox for the Apple II in 1984.

Flight simulators were a first person staple in the 1980s, including the series from subLOGIC, which later became Microsoft Flight Simulator. MicroProse found a niche with first person aerial combat games: Hellcat Ace (1982),[12] Spitfire Ace (1982),[13] and F-15 Strike Eagle (1985).

Amidst a flurry of faux-3D first person maze games where the player was locked into one of four orientations, like Spectre, 3D Monster Maze, Phantom Slayer, and Dungeons of Daggorath, came the 1982 release of Paul Edelstein's Wayout from Sirius Software.[14] Not a shooter, it has smooth, arbitrary movement that came from what was later labeled a raycasting engine, giving it a visual fluidity seen in future games MIDI Maze and Wolfenstein 3D. It was followed in 1983 by the split-screen Capture the Flag, allowing two players at once,[15] and foreshadowing a common gameplay mode for 3D games of the 1990s.

The arrival of the Atari ST and Amiga in 1985, and the Apple IIGS a year later, increased the computing power and graphical capabilities available in consumer-level machines, leading to a new wave of innovation. 1987 saw the release of MIDI Maze, an important transitional game for the genre. Unlike its contemporaries, MIDI Maze used raycasting to speedily draw square corridors. It also offered a networked multiplayer deathmatch (communicating via the computer's MIDI ports). Sub-Logic's Jet was a major release for the new platforms, as were Starglider and the tank simulator Arcticfox.

In 1988, Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode featured first-person shooter levels and included a sniper rifle for assassinating an enemy agent at long range using an unsteady sniper scope.[16] The same year saw the release of Arsys Software's Star Cruiser.

In the late 1980s, interest in 3D first-person driving simulations resulted in games like Test Drive (1987) and Vette! (1989). 1989's Hard Drivin' arcade game from Atari Games was particularly influential, with fast polygon graphics, a mathematical model of how the vehicle parts work together, force feedback, and instant replay after crashes.[17] In the following years, two Hard Drivin'-esque MS-DOS games appeared, each including a track editor: Stunt Driver from Spectrum Holobyte (1990) and Stunts from Broderbund (1991).


In 1990, SNK released beat 'em ups with a first-person perspective: the hack & slash game Crossed Swords,[18] and the fighting & shooting game Super Spy.[19] In late 1991, the fledgling id Software released Catacomb 3D, which introduced the concept of showing the player's hand on-screen, strengthening the illusion that the player is viewing the world through the character's eyes.

Taito's Gun Buster was released in arcades in 1992. It features on-foot gameplay and a control scheme where the player moves using an eight-direction joystick and aims using a mounted positional light gun. It allows two-player cooperative gameplay for the mission mode and features a deathmatch mode where two players compete against each other or up to four players compete in two teams.[20]

In 1992, Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss was among the first to feature texture mapped environments, polygonal objects, and basic lighting. The engine was later enhanced for usage in the games Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds and System Shock. Later in 1992, id improved the technology used in Catacomb 3D by adding support for VGA graphics in Wolfenstein 3D. It would be widely imitated in the years to follow, and marked the beginning of many conventions in the genre, including collecting different weapons that can be switched between using the keyboard's number keys, and ammo conservation. 1996 saw the release of The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall for MS-DOS by Bethesda Softworks, featuring similar graphics and polygonal structures to other games at the time and furthering the first-person element included in 1994's The Elder Scrolls: Arena, to which it was a sequel.

Zeno Clash features beat 'em up gameplay from a first-person perspective

The 1995 game Descent used a fully 3D polygonal graphics engine to render opponents, departing from the sprites used by most previous games in the FPS genre. It also escaped the "pure vertical walls" graphical restrictions of earlier games in the genre, and allowed the player six degrees of freedom of movement (up/down, left/right, forward/backward, pitch, roll, and yaw).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Rollings, Andrew; Ernest Adams (2006). Fundamentals of Game Design. Prentice Hall.
  2. ^ Miller, Ross (17 July 2008). "How Mirror's Edge fights simulation sickness". Engadget. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
  3. ^ Ashcraft, Brian (16 July 2008). "Mirror's Edge Motion Sickness". Kotaku. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
  4. ^ Casamassina, Matt, Controller Concepts: Gun Games Archived 2011-07-13 at the Wayback Machine., IGN, Sept 26, 2005, Accessed Feb 27, 2009
  5. ^ a b en, en. "Stories from the Maze War 30 Year Retrospective: Steve Colley's Story of the original Maze". DigiBarn Computer Museum. Retrieved January 19, 2016. It may be that the networked version didn't happen until '74 because I [developer Steve Colley] can't remember exactly when the network was put on the Imlacs.
  6. ^ Garmon, Jay, Geek Trivia: First shots fired, TechRepublic, May 24, 2005, Accessed Feb 16, 2009
  7. ^ Dutton, Fred (October 23, 2010). "Atari revives Star Raiders". Eurogamer.
  8. ^ Star Wars at the Killer List of Videogames
  9. ^ Space Seeker at the Killer List of Videogames
  10. ^ "Nasir Gebelli and the early days of Sirius Software". The Golden Age Arcade Historian. August 28, 2015.
  11. ^ SubRoc-3D at the Killer List of Videogames
  12. ^ "Hellcat Ace". Atari Mania.
  13. ^ "Spitfire Ace". Atari Mania.
  14. ^ Duberman, David (February 1983). "Product Reviews". Antic. 1 (6).
  15. ^ "Capture the Flag". Atari Mania.
  16. ^ Playing With Power, 1UP
  17. ^ Hard Drivin at the Killer List of Videogames
  18. ^ Crossed Swords at AllGame
  19. ^ The Super Spy at AllGame
  20. ^ Gun Buster at the Killer List of Videogames