In this chapter we will cover how to play first-person shooter games at the highest levels.
Either to increase your performance or make the experience more pleasant, one of the first things that we should do is adjust the game settings for our needs.
First of all, the how to mouse works, how it moves, will be different from one game to another. Plus, the mouse might react different depending on your graphics settings, mouse polling rate (125-1000Hz), DPI settings, etc. In general, it is recommended to use Raw Input and turning off acceleration. And to find a mouse sensitivity that allows us to aim with great precision, but is fast enough to allow us to perform a 180 degree turn if necessary. Inevitably, this is also relative to how large your mouse pad is if you play with mouse & keyboard. We personally recommend you to use a large mouse pad and a shorter keyboard that doesn't have a Numpad on the right, that way you have more space to move your mouse and you keep a good posture.
By adjusting certain graphics settings, we can gain a performance boost and improve also the responsiveness of our mouse. One of the most common graphics settings that FPS players turn off on all games is "vSync", because when it's ON it adds a tremendous amount of input lag. Certain games such as Unreal Tournament 2K4 and Overwatch have a special setting "Reduce input lag" and you will want to turn that "ON"; it will help reduce the mouse input lag. Other games have other special settings such as turning ON/OFF multicore rendering, etc. In such case you'll have to go through an elimination process and try those settings for yourself to see if you prefer to have them ON or OFF. The end result can be different from one PC to another depending on the hardware.
During the Unreal Engine 3 era (Gears of War, Unreal Tournament 3,
Bioshock, Toxikk, etc.), we used to be able to turn off a setting
named "One Frame Thread Lag". This could be done either by checking a
box in the graphics settings or by entering the following console
command: OneFrameThreadLag 0.
Unreal Engine 4 renders graphics differently and this console command will not work as expected; ignore it.
In most games, setting Texture Quality to the maximum can at some
point start to add a noticeable amount of lag depending on your
hardware. Same goes for Shadow Quality. It's recommended to turn off
post-processing and anti-aliasing, unless in this case you would
prefer the visual benefits that they can provide. Things such as
Refraction/Reflection can be quite heavy on older hardware and, in
such cases, should be turned off. If you play on a 144Hz gaming
monitor and your game runs only at 30-60 fps, motion blur can be
turned on to the max to help smooth the frame rate at the cost of
adding a little bit of mouse input latency. The model quality and
effects quality should also be turned down depending on your hardware.
In general, the graphics settings that will have the biggest impact on
performance is the "View Distance".
In Unreal Engine 4 games, by example, try using the following setting. Find your Engine.ini file in:
Edit the file and add the following lines.
First person arms & weapons
In certain games, by default, the first person arms and weapons take 1/4 of the entire screen. Thankfully, certain games give you options to change the position and size of the first-person arms and weapons or even to hide them.
Field of view
Most competitive multiplayer FPS games allow you to adjust your Field of View (FOV) settings. A lower FOV will make the game feel slower, enemies appear bigger and players will see less of their surrounding environment. A higher FOV will make the game feel faster, enemies will appear smaller (harder to aim at) and players will see more of their surrounding environment.
There is nothing to gain from a lower FOV other than accuracy. A higher FOV allows players to better position themselves in their environment and keep an eye on multiple entrances all at once. However, a higher FOV, at some point, also adds a significant amount of distortion.
The first thing that you should do is get an idea of what the game is about. You need to know what you are getting yourself into.
Main paths & objectives
Discover and memorize the main player paths and objectives. You'll have to play the game for a while to figure out what main paths players generally use in every match and how much time it takes to get to specific locations.
Depending on the type of level design, certain maps might feature several chokepoints, meaning that the map doesn't feature many flanking routes (intentionally or not) and players are forced to meet at certain locations.
Advanced player paths and movements
We use the term ''advanced player paths" here to describe flanking routes, shortcuts, crouch-jumps, jump tricks, bunny-hopping, rocket jumps, grenade jumps and much more. You'll need to get better at moving around the map in order to perfectly execute your tactics and strategies.
Each map features multiple locations that players can use to gain a tactical advantage. In such location, we are much harder to see, harder to hit and it makes it much easier for us to land shots on the opponents.
If you are playing a game in which you can use items, destroy the environments or create objects, you can create your own vantage points on the fly during a match. Plus, you prevent opponents from using certain vantage points as well.
In this guide, we are using the term "Covers" to describe the parts of a multiplayer map that a player can use as a temporary cover while firing at a specific enemy to avoid getting shots during that time by other opponents.
Once spotted by the opponent, players should change side or quickly move to a different cover while the opponent isn't look at them. Either to flank or evade. Players also need to be conscious of what is behind them. Certain covers are excellent against hitscan weapons, but will make you an easy target to rockets, grenades or other similar attacks.
Item location & timings
In many competitive multiplayer FPS games, items that can be picked up and offer certain advantages have been placed on the map. In general, the location of those items do not change as they are part of the game strategy and players need to memorize where all those items are located. If a player gets critically wounded in combat, he needs to know where he can go to refill his health by picking up Health Vials or a Health Pack. If you are playing Unreal Tournament, you want to grab the Armor, Helmet or UDamage before the opponent does. And in those kind of games each pickup has a timer. Items only respawn again after a certain time.
That's why we say that Quake, Halo and UT are heavily based on "map control". Players have to take control of those items. Introducing Quake Live Map - TDM Purgatory, we have an excellent example of how items can be placed on a map.
For team communication, gaming communities and teams generally come up with short terms to quicly describe various locations on a map. Illustrated by Froosh, a member of the Steam community, here is an fantastic example of map callouts.
In any competitive multiplayer FPS game, you'll want to take full advantage of sound cues. You might be able to hear the footstep sounds of your opponents, but only at a certain distance. You might be able to hear when someone picks up an item or take a life. A player might fake using a lift and attack you from another angle. You might spam 1-2 rockets somewhere to prevent the opponent from hearing you coming out from the other path.
In first-person shooter games, hitboxes are attached to players to simplify hit registration. Certain games only feature one big hitbox, no headshots allowed.
Many games feature multiple hitboxes that represents various body parts. However, this is generally used for hitscan weapons only.
Certain games use a combination of those two.
Competitive multiplayer FPS games have been around for two decades and the art of aiming seems to be an unsolved puzzle. If you are experiencing issues with your aiming skills, stick around, because we got you covered.
Control the fights
You should position yourself in the world in ways that will make it easier for you to put your crosshair on you next potential target. By placing your crosshair in a way that will help you save time and travel distance. And by doing this, you are also continuously practicing your aim.
It's easier to aim at a target located right in front of you than it is to aim at someone flying right above you. And when you are the one above the target it's easier for you to land headshots, because when you are looking from above the first body part of the enemy that you see is his head. It's also much easier to aim at an opponent when you are forcing him to chase you down and just to make him run into your crosshair.
In order to get better at aiming with different types of fire modes, you'll invevitably have to train with different types of guns.
The ligthning gun in the Quake series or the secondary fire mode of the LinkGun in the Unreal Tournament series are excellent ways to train your tracking skills at close range.
The Plasma Rifle in the Quake and the LinkGun primary fire mode in UT will help you get better at aiming with fast moving projectiles. For weapons that shoot and hit directly where you are aiming at, pretty much every FPS offers such weapons.
If you want to get better at using guns that require you to learn and master the recoil matters, the Counter-Strike series has multiple guns for this (M4, AK, etc.).
If you are looking for 3 rounds burst weapon, the Halo series have the classic Battle Rifle. Call of Duty and Battlefield series might also have interesting 3 rounds burst weapons.
Quake and UT also have weapons that shoot projectiles that follow a curved trajectory (Flak Cannon, Grenade launcher, etc.). And Halo has nice grenades.
You also have weapons that can be used to place traps. Players need to understand how they can quickly place traps and then use certain attacks to force their opponents to unvoluntarily walk into those traps. Or players can use other types of attack (kick, rockets, etc.) to directly push them into your traps.
For close range attacks that also allow the player to move in the environment, Overwatch would be a better training platform for this.
You'll notice that if you duel some of the best players, they tend to already know where you are on the map. As you are about to come out from an entrance, their crosshair is already on you. That's because they carefull listen to footstep sounds and they can basically track you through walls as if it was almost a legitimate 360 wallhack. A proper skill-based games would never allow that, because it prevents players from taking full advantage of flanking routes and taking a player by surprise from the side or from behind.
Splash damage and wall-bouncing projectiles
When you play FPS games, if you have ammo to waste, you can shoot rockets and wall-bouncing projectiles around wall corners to detect opponents that could be hiding there. Sometimes, you might use them ahead of time, try to flank the opponent by another routes and you'll notice that your previous projectiles successfully hit the guy and he really isn't where you thought he would be. This will help you to know how to better position your crosshair for your next fight.
Learn how to better read your opponents
During a match, your mind shouldn't be focused on aiming. It should be focused on the game and reading your opponents. If you can successfully put yourself in the shoes of your opponents, you'll understand where they are going and what they are going to do next based on what is happening on their side. And you'll know where to aim.
The more skill-based a FPS game is, the more intelligence it requires to win fights. The less skill-based a game is, the more players can rely on only aim to win fights.
Players should also acknowledge their own personal limitations and take full advantage of playstyles that fits their skillset. Players with finer aim and movements will be able to perform better when pushing against the opposite team against all odds. And players who are more well-rounded when it comes down to decision making, time reaction, reading opponents, evading and much more will perform better in Team Deathmatch where they can be creative and fully control the fights. This is something that is very important to consider when building an esport team.
This chapter presents how we can use mind games and the environment at our advantage to create opportunities, neutralize and defeat our opponents more easily or even effortlessly.
When players run through a map, there are specific ways to clear rooms to take down targets and make sure we do not get shot from behind in the process. Once a first area is cleared, we can proceed to the next area knowing approximately how much time we have left, before a potential opponent could attack us from behind. And if by entering a new space you get into a fight, you'll have a safe space to go back to in the case you need to fall back. If you move through the map as a squad, the last person should be responsible for watching the back.
As we enter a new area, we want to check all the potential hiding spots, make sure that no one is there and could backstab us. While scanning the area, we want to use the world geometry to cover our blind spots. The type of areas that need to be avoided are "T" and "+" shape intersections where our back would be exposed no matter what. Unfortunately, sometimes it's inevitable. In such case, look for tools that you have at your disposal. There might be something that could be used to temporarily block one of those ''extra'' entrances. We want to buy time by using a smoke grenade, frag greande, rockets or else that might discourage opponents from showig up there and shooting us in the back while we clear the other entrances of that dangerous intersection.
Minimize your visibility
As players move through a level, they need to do their best to remain invisible to the eyes of the opponents and, at best, hit without ever being seen.
Once spotted by one or multiple opponents, it's recommended to not come out twice from a same location. Fall back, find a different cover and flank the enemy. In the middle of a fight, when you and your opponents are having an exchange (gunfight), the second your opponent takes cover and cannot see you anymore, quickly change position, find a different cover and angle of attack. You must take control of the fight and ensure your survival.
The more skill-based a game is, the more important it is to have the capacity to read one or multiple opponents. Meaning that at the highest level, this is the most important skill to develop.
At first, you'll get the impression that every player is different. As time passes, you'll slowly notice that your opponents will start to look alike and it will become easier for you to put yourself in their shoes, understand how they think and what they are going to do next. There is no shortcut for this, it comes with experience. As time passes, you'll slowly build your own personal network of information and patterns.
You'll start to identify at what level players are and better understand what they can do with their skillset. The better players are, the easier they are to read, because their actions and timings are much more precise. Interestingly enough, when players reach a certain skill level, they reach a plateau. Over time, they tend to develop bad habits or playstyles that make them easier to read.
It is this ability to read your opponents that will allow you to find their weaknesses, find how to create openings in their defense and better understand what you could do to directly influence their actions, forcing them to make mistakes. To the eye of an outsider, it might look like you dodged the shot, but in reality you made the enemy fire where and when you wanted it to happen.
You suppressed fire on purpose to force the enemy to take cover, just so you could damage him more with a frag grenade. Plus it gave you the time to pickup the next Armor before he does.
You are losing a fight and fall back and as your opponents try to hunt you down, you shoot rockets at wall corners to either damage them, slow them down or finish them off.
You are the only survivor on your team and are facing 3 opponents. Conscious that they outnumber you, they act carelessly with overconfidence. It's a perfect opportunity to take them by surprise with high mobility and high risk/reward weapons.
You are dueling a better player and he is totally confident that he is better than you are. He has more health than you have and he is confident that he can finish you off as soon as possible. He is currently walking on a platform above you and you trick him into jumping down to finish you off, but you welcome him with a rocket as he is about to land and that allows you to finish him off with a second one that he couldn't avoid either.
Combat is about control and mind games. The mindset that we have has a direct impact on how we play and react. It's everything. In the early stage of development, players have to learn how to get physically good at the game and tend to react to what their opponents do. They believe that they simply need to perform better: aim better, move better, etc. However, when we react to what opponents do, we aren't in control of the fight. We are already losing the fight. We are the ones that are being played.
In order to reach the highest skill levels, we need to shift our mindset. Every single action that we do must be performed to manipulate our opponents. This is the key to defeat opponents that are more experienced than you are, aim better, move better, etc. And when outnumbered, this will allow you to defeat multiple opponents all by yourself.
Esports are different from traditional sports and that is precisely what makes them so special. When we play competitive multiplayer games, we do not run out of stamina and we don't end a match with broken ribs or a concussion. Players keep playing and learning non-stop. Video games aquickly became powerful learning tools.
During their journey, there will come a day when top tier players (Rapha, DaHanG, Cooller, Clawz, etc.) will hit a wall and feel like they might have reached their own limits of what is humanly possible to achieve. No matter how much they train, they are unable to become faster, more precise, put themselves in the shoes or more opponents all at once or keep track of X number of items.
And yet, deep down you know that there is more.
We tend to focus so much on what is physically possible to achieve, we tend to forget that competitive multiplayer games are more mental than they are physical. In order to break through this plateau, we will have to dive into the realm of the human mind. Most of us when we play competitive multiplayer games, we aren't fully in control of our mind. Computers can have several applications running in the background wasting tons of power and memory. In its own way, the human mind is quite similar. We need to learn how to calm down the mind; get rid of the noise. Once that occurs, it has a direct effect on both our body/mind. It's a form of dynamic meditation, a meditative state that occurs while performing a physical activity. This method allows players to become faster, more precise, react faster, process more information, perform more complex calculations, put ourselves in the shoes of more opponents all at once and much more.
And don't be surprise if one day you wake up, sit down on your chair as usual, put your hand on your mouse and suddenly feel as if it was integrally part of your own body as it obeys perfectly to your will.
WARNING: This should not be confused with two other concepts known as "flow" and "entering the zone". Those are 3 distinct changes in consciousness. The concept of flow is about becoming absorbed by the experience. Game designers do their best to keep players in a flow state. Unlike flow, the concept of entering the zone is about becoming fully focused when performing an activity. In this chapter, we are talking about a higher state of consciousness that is achievable by entering a meditative state while performing a physical activity. And this finally allows athletes to reach their full potential.
How to calm the mind and unleash your full potential