What’s better: a ‘put back’ action, or standing atop another player’s head in an FPS?

By admin Apr18,2024

Last time, you decided that gliding powers are better than Dragon’s Dogma 2’s Unmaking Arrow. Honestly I’m surprised it was that close (66% vs 33%—don’t sweat the rounding), and I’m proud of your ability to weigh a whole concept against a single-game implementation. We are so good at this. Onwards! This week, I ask you to choose between placing things in two very different ways. What’s better: a ‘put back’ action, or standing atop another player’s head in an FPS?

A ‘put back’ action

I am always mortified when a video game lets me enter someone’s home, pick up and examine their most valuable and treasured possessions, then… not give me an option to gently set them back down where I found them. It’s a surprisingly modern development, which I think I first encountered in 2013’s Gone Home and still find absent from many games where it would fit.

For many, many years, you couldn’t help but be messy, destructive, and rude. Perhaps you’d examine a framed family photo then spend 10 minutes trying to correctly rotate it so it sits right. Or you’d try to put someone’s mug back down but end up watching in horror as game physics made it judder across the kitchen table, activating other objects along the way until an entire chorus line of supper is going put-pt-pt-pt-pt-pt-ptptp towards the edge before bouncing so violently that it launches through the ceiling and vanishes. Or you’d go to respectfully return grandma’s ashes to the mantelpiece but have no option other than attempting to delicately hurl the urn against the lounge wall and hope physics worked in your favour. It’s just not on.

‘Put back’ is perfect. You picked this up, you know where it was, now put it back down in the same spot. A simple, elegant, and much-needed verb. You might still be able to lob grandma at the dog if you really want, but ‘put back’ won’t force you.

Preparing to put a glass back down in a Gone Home screenshot.
Don’t just throw this glass at a record player in Gone Home. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Fullbright

Standing atop another player’s head in an FPS

We’ve lost a lot in multiplayer FPSes over the past two decades. Widespread level editors and mod support. Community-run dedicated servers. Games which can’t be killed by publishers flicking a switch. And worst of all, now you almost never get to stand on top of someone else’s head. These days, most FPS character are just a bit squishy. Push against another player and you’ll face a bit of resistance before squeezing through them. Maybe you’ll go clean through as if they weren’t there. But even if not, you probably aren’t allowed to stand on their head. Never let them forget what they took from you.

I have such fond memories of stacking up in games like Quake 2 and Counter-Strike. It’s simply a joy to stand on someone’s head, a little playground prank you could pull to make your pal laugh when they look up before getting back to the violence. You and some pals might take stacking a step further up and try to play a round or two that way, camping a corner like a human sentrypede. You might even try to walk around like that, a precarious and often-toppling tower that will not win you the round but will give everyone some laughs for a kill or two. And the very coolest people could coordinate movements to roam and stunt around the map together like an armed and leggy motorcycle display team. That was always a fun genre of trick video, like the Pubmasters:

Any excuse to watch the stunting superstars of Pubmasters.Watch on YouTube

It could be powerful too, mind. By stacking and jumping together, you could boost people into unexpected spots. You’d find people perched on top of crates, hiding above doorways, and walking along walltops. I really enjoyed this clever unintended use of your gamebody, the unintended layer they added to the game, the new skill to master and counter, in the same way I enjoyed strafe-jumping and bunnyhopping. Absolutely it created problems for mappers who didn’t expect that someone might end up standing atop pixel-thick decorative trim metres above the ground (or even swimming in the skybox), who hadn’t considered how that might affect balance and might not like it and might now spend several updates blocking off spots as new ones emerge.

Look, ultimately, I just think it’s funny it stand on top of someone’s head.

But which is better?

Ach, I’m torn between my twin loves of tidy tchotchkes and top bants. I can’t decide. This one is on you, reader dear. Which do you think is better?

Pick your winner, vote in the poll below, and make your case in the comments to convince others. We’ll reconvene next week to see which thing stands triumphant—and continue the great contest.

Disclosure: Some pals worked on Gone Home.

By admin

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