Feature

Roundtable – Receiver

Receiver started as Wolfire’s entry into the 7 Day FPS Gamejam, but has since been released via Steam. It’s an FPS unlike any other, focused primarily on the technical aspects of gun handling, and not at all interested in making you feel invincible, badass, or even particularly competent.

Due to this oddness of design, I wanted a second opinion, so below is the conversation that took place between myself and Master James McKibbin, esquire, concerning the subtle complexities of Receiver.

James McKibbin: So, Receiver. Interesting game, if anything I’d call it a proof of concept.

Corey J. White: Yeah, definitely. Very interesting concept, but if it was expanded, I’m not sure what type of game it would work best in. Pistol dueling? Some sort of espionage or assassination sim?
I couldn’t figure out how to kill any of the enemies. Within moments of being spotted I was dead.

JMK: Once you get the controls down and learn how to kill the robits, it does have something of a game behind it. I found the tapes to be intriguing. Points to them for making their audio files make a little bit of sense – it’s more than most games do. The drones are the main pains because they can chase you and there’s no easy way to see where they’re looking. But once you learn to start looking for the blue sensor beams it becomes quite a bit more easier to take them all out.

CJW: What about the turrets? They seem to react too quickly.

JMK: With them it’s all about checking for the sensor beam, they rotate around on their tripod and once they pass you they have to rotate around again to target you.

CJW: Haven’t noticed the sensor beam before.

JMK: Essentially you wait for the sensor to pass, pop out and shoot them. Also I found the flashlight to be more of a hindrance than a help when spotting the blue hue of the sensor lights moving past.

CJW: The funny thing about the premise of the game is that in some ways I found it easier to fire a real gun than to memorise the way the keys work in the game.

JMK: Oh yeah, most definitely. I’ve done quite a few small arms training exercises and the direct feedback of using gun logic is much easier than applying that same logic to keyboard keys.

CJW: I’m glad you agree, because I wasn’t sure if that was a stupid thing to think. But yeah, as soon as you have a gun in your hands you have that immediate tactile feedback. Once someone shows you what you need to do, you pick it up almost immediately. The actual aiming and holding a gun steady is what’s difficult, but not necessarily the mechanical aspect.

JMK: Here’s the thing. Guns are made with the distinction of being easy to understand, control and use. It’s what any manufacturer would make their main goals for any gun. Hell even anti-armour armaments are so simple to use it’s laughable. You essentially unpack them, point them and shoot them.

CJW: Well, how else are your child soldiers going to be effective?
I started off wanting to make a joke, but it’s true and thus tragic.

JMK: The most complicated thing you can do with a rocket launcher is account for distance, or wait for a laser mark to sync with the launcher. Those are complicated because they normally require two people to perform the task instead of one.

CJW: Well, that’s the same way the military uses snipers. One to spot and communicate with whoever’s in charge, one to shoot. But I think that’s more to do with concentration rather than complication.

JMK: Exactly. More to judge distance than mark a target. The spotter will confirm a target though.

CJW: When are they going to simulate that properly? Do they do that sort of thing in ARMA?

[Chat devolves into talk about ARMA, DayZ and resurrecting the EOG to take over a town in DayZtandalone]

Next Day:

CJW: Now that I know the trick to the turrets I am an unstoppable turret-killing machine. Fuck those drones though.
They always seem to be hanging around near doorways, so you hardly have time to spot them, let alone get a bead on them.

JMK: Yeah the drones tend to be what gets me. It doesn’t make it any easier that they’re quiet until they turn hostile.
The first thing your mind tends to do is seek any enemies on the ground level. That logic is hardened by how quickly a turret will fuck your day up if it gets the drop on you.

CJW: Yeah, with the drones there’s at least a chance to get some distance between you and them, and hopefully turn them non-hostile. With the turret, it’s binary – 1: you’re careful enough to spot or hear it first, or 0: you’re fucked.

JMK: When you run afoul a room that has more than one drone in it, that can get pretty hairy.
Receiver is neat for what it is. A randomised,proof-of-concept game that is all about gun mechanics. I feel it certainly adds something to a fairly monotonous genre, though how and if it is implemented upon in a field that largely remains clinging to it’s arcade playstyle remains to be seen.

* * *

Which is a perfect closing statement. Much like the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games before it, Receiver deserves to have a broad impact on the FPS genre as a whole. The marketplace is saturated by po-faced, military seriousness, yet the weapons are still as complicated to use as they were in Doom.

Receiver makes you vulnerable, forces you to be patient and in turn submerges you in a world of sci-fi intrigue.

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