A History of First Person Shooters

The Birth of the Genre

First person shooters pioneered the use of 3D environments in PC games. It was an exciting frontier for developers, with continuous computer developments allowing for more detail, more effects, more speed. In this article we'll trace out the early years.

Wolfenstein 3D

Wolfenstein 3D was created by id software. It was not the first 3d game ever made, but it is regarded as the one which popularized the use of the first-person perspective for PC games.

A relatively basic shooter, it features an American soldier fighting a Nazi stronghold, eventually going up against Hitler himself. It caused a lot of controversy for its prominent use of the swastika.

ID Software released one sequel to the game before hitting on its more popular Doom shooter. Spear of Detiny contained the same engine and would use the Nazis going after a secret artifact plot found in modern revivals of Wolfenstein 3D.


Meet your Doom

id Software would release several other first-person shooters, but it wasn't until the Doom games that they hit their stride. It has become the most well-known PC shooter, featuring numerous ports, fan-made levels, and has become a gaming subculture in itself. Within its first 2 years, over 10 million people downloaded the game.

Its graphic violence (for its time) caused a great deal of controversy. Much of Doom's popularity came from the support of WADs, (custom player-built levels) and online multiplayer at a time when the modem was becoming widespread.

Doom was superior to Wolfenstein in many respects, from lighting, greater level layout varieties, interactivity (platforms, stairs, bridges) and would go on to inspire an era of games so similar to itself that https://hubstudio.brighthub.com/tools/createedit.aspx?articleId=3967they would be dubbed Doom clones. Doom, a single player, paved the way for Quake, but it would not be long before other makes


The plots of Wolfenstein and Doom were relatively simple. The Marathon trilogy of games developed by Bungie would change all that, incorporating a far more sophisticated sci-fi plot involving different alien cultures, computer AIs, and advanced technology.

The games would also introduce many modern shooter ideas, such as dual-wielding, voice-chat, and sophisticated physics. The interface is also fairly advanced, having motion-tracking, an inventory, and health bars.

The Marathon games have since been released as open-source by Bungie, and there is a strong community today in conversions and mods.

Duke Nukem 3D

Duke Nukem 3D developed by 3D Realms was the evolution of the Doom genre. Featuring more graphic violence, it faced even greater public controversy.

The engine it was built on allowed, once again, more sophisticated effects. The camera could now look up and down, and diagonal slopes and curved hallways were now possible. It also introduced the idea of puzzle solving and secret rooms and passages.


Multiple Players on a Server

Quake would feature id Software's most sophisticated engine yet, finally using 3d polygonal models instead of two-dimensional sprites. Complex enemy models and level geometry could be done with the new engine.

Quake would also see the rise of multiplayer shooter gaming. With the popularity of the internet. The game initiated the concept of hosting servers in which other players could connect to and play against each other over the internet. Competitive gaming became standard with the Quake games.

This game also started a large speedrunning and trick scene, using the sophisticated physics to perform astounding feats – jumping high into the air from grenade explosions, allowing adventurous players to bypass entire portions of levels.


No discussion of the history of the first person shooter would be complete without Halo. Bungee's early offering for the Microsoft console gave people a reason to buy the new system. The world was intorduced to the Master Chief for the first time. The plot of Halo will seem familar to science fiction fans. A collective of bug-like races decides to attack humanity with little or no warning or provocation. The novelty of the game does not come from its plot. Halo was the first first person shooter to let the player use vehicles in the game effectively.

Halo has sparked a cultural phenomenon and inspired a mountain dew flavor. Halo Reach, Halo ODST, Halo wars, Halo 2 and the first Halo comprise the series.

Early Years

These early years pioneered many concepts still in place in today's first-person shooters. Games released was often like an arms race, with each successive game trying to feature faster, more graphically intensive engines. But alongside the technological advances would come into place unique gaming concepts, including as player-created content, server-based multiplayer, and physics-based gameplay.

The Evolution Of First-Person Shooters: Part Two


Wolfenstein 3D Screenshots

Duke Nukem 3D Screenshots

Doom Screenshots

Quake Screen Shots