Updated: November 17, 2010
All right. So let's see the other end of the spectrum. Better graphics, no coding skills required, smoother integration of elements, just place the building blocks anywhere you desire and enjoy yourselves. Sound great. In that case, FPS Creator is exactly what you want.
FPS Creator, both the free version and the paid one, is an extremely simple-to-use, intuitive 3D game creator. It allows just about anyone anyone to create their own custom first person shooter games, complete with elaborate levels, tons of enemies, locked doors, exploding barrels, and whatnot. No programming skill is required. All you need is some basic ability to move your mouse, some imagination and a few minutes of your time. The results are immediate and impressive. Let's see how this thing works.
I must admit it's a real joy to use. Without browsing the help pages or watching their online tutorial, I managed to piece together an extremely simple shooting scenario. If you're even remotely gaming savvy, you'll be able to use FPS Creator without any difficulties. It will come down to your imagination and design skills.
You have more than 500 objects to choose from, including characters, walls, doors, furniture, items, weapons, and more. Just place them on the map in a somewhat reasonable manner, and they will click together when you run the map. There are two main themes to choose from, sci-fi and World War II, so you get a blend of Quake and Wolfenstein.
There are four main categories of objects available: prefabs, segments, entities, and markets. Prefabs include pre-built mini-maps, with corridors, stairwells, rooms, and such. Before you start building maps piece by piece, placing ground tiles, lava pits, doors and walls, you may want to explore the existing maps. And this is exactly what I did the first time I launched the program. It is recommended you start with small ambitions and build from there.
Then, you may want to populate the map with enemy units, both armed and unarmed, and add some furniture or wall decorations to add to the atmosphere. I added a sinister red lighting into the main hall of the mansion section, plus some eagle tapestry. Finally, I placed a green entry marker, which signifies the respawn point for your character.
Don't forget to add weapons for yourself. Like any first person shooter, FPS Creator will let you scatter collect-able weapon items. Simply walk over them and they'll be added to your arsenal. Here, we want an MP40 submachine gun.
Now, for those of you who seek perfection in every little detail, you can use the mouse middle button to zoom in and out, allowing you a fair deal of precision and customization when it comes to positioning items and bots on the map.
Time to test. Click the second right-most icon in the main toolbar. The level will be rendered. Depending on your processing powers, thing can take a while. On my HP laptop, the little map took about 50 seconds to complete.
Let's rock! You respawn. The room is red. Danger. There's an MP40 on the ground before you. Run over it and pick it up. Walk to the tapestry. Perhaps you want to fire at it. After all, that's what people do in FPS games; try to obliterate decoration objects.
Now, if you've noticed the layout of the map before, you will notice a couple of German soldiers lurking in the corner just beyond that first wall. Be careful, the officer is armed with grenades. He won't attack you until you step into his trigger radius, though. It's simple, classic stuff. Then, after you dispose of the dangerous guy, you can start playing with the unarmed soldier, testing your ballistics against him.
Looks great, doesn't it? Now, my level is nowhere near half-complete. Stairways and doors lead into oblivion. If you step off the level, you'll drop into nothingness and die, respawning after a few seconds. The real art starts here, where you piece together the segments and build a large, complex map with tons of weapons, traps and bots.
Oh yes, I created a little video demo, capturing the action with FRAPS, just as I did in Live for Speed. Anyhow, FRAPS on Windows 7 uses a tricky format that won't run in many players, including some of the video editing programs. Luckily, VLC and Avidemux should work for you - and me, then a quick upload to Youtube. You will also trim down the file from several hundred MBs into just a few MBs. Oh well, you've seen my awesome multimedia editing skills in the Dedoimedo Frankenstein Experiment just a week ago. For more info on Avidemux, please check my Subtitles tutorial.
So here's about 14 seconds of simple WWII shooting action, somewhere in between Doom and Quake 3.
If you don't like embedded Flash, please follow the Youtube link.
As you can see above, it's an impressive result for about ten minutes of work, including creating screenshots for this review. The graphics quality is not exactly ARMA II or such, but it's fairly decent, especially considering the fact you get to run this tool in under 100MB of space. The action is reasonable. Finally, don't forget the fact I'm not your leetest first person shooter fanboy, so no wild bunny hopping or teabagging from me.
The sound is quite good, in my opinion. The game physics might need some improvement. For instance, I did not even bother dodging the grenade, knowing it would only slightly hurt my HP. When it did explode, there was a brief flash of red and the blast merely moved me about a meter to the left. Hardly a realistic effect. But then, nothing is perfect, and this is a great start. A more streamlined set of ragdoll effects would tremendously improve the overall impression. There would be no tiny moments of disjointed action, like the soldier's final grunt and an unceremonial death, followed by an embarrassing last shot into the wall behind. But then, it just could be my reflexes or something.
Now, what if it were possible to import models into FPS Creator? That would be great. That would be more than great. I would love to see one of my own 3D models integrated into a game, where you run up and down the corridors you designed yourself. Perhaps it works in the payware edition of the software, which would merit buying this thing instantly.
Wait! The brochure says it is possible to import custom models. I will definitely explore this. And if everything works out the way I hope, then you may see a demo of a game soon. Nothing major, definitely not professional studio quality, more like Dedoimedo self-inflicted fun.
You can save your projects into self-extracting executables, so you can share your games with friends. And there's also a simple state machine language, which allows you an extra level of customization. This gives you a whole level of control; and it's pure programming, per se, either.
One last thing, FPS Creator comes bundled with some toolbar thingie, so read carefully before you decide whether you want to install and use it. There's also an older version of software available for download on Softpedia and CNET, so choose what you think suits you best.
And we're done here.
FPS Creator is an exciting, fun project. I really like the idea of allowing common people to enjoy gaming art on a whole new level. Abstract programming, which separates code from fun and lets you focus on the essence of gaming. Really neat, plus a very decent choice of map elements and items, good graphics and very good sound.
Now, a comparison to Syntensity. FPS Creator wins. It looks better, it's more polished. The game choice is narrower, but the quality and the overall integration more than compensate for that. Plus, you need no special skills to use this project. The only downside is that FPS Creator is limited to Windows only.
This could be your new toy. Even if you don't care about working with proper 3D software, which requires hours upon hours of careful, meticulous work to get things right, you can have your ideas translated into instant action with FPS Creator. Now, your turn to show off your ideas. Overall grade: 8.5/10. Definitely worth a try.