First Person Shooters:
How to kick ass
Walkaer Ohmsfoerd



So you wanna play Quake eh? Or perhaps you just want to get good at FPS (First-Person Shooters) games? Tired of your 14-year-old son constantly taunting you because he can frag you six-ways from Sunday? Or perhaps you just want to be as cool as Dennis "Thresh" Fong. Whatever reason you have to hone your deathmatch skillz, you've come to the right place.

Though I use Quake 1 as the stage for this guide, the principles used apply to most FPS games (i.e. Quake 3 Arena, Unreal Tournament, Half-Life, etc..). Realize however, the Gung-Ho approach that is absolutely necessary in these games will make you lose in games where self-preservation is key (i.e. Counter-Strike). Whenever this is the case, I try to point it out -- and also let you know how you should tailor your play accordingly. If all of this sounds like gibberish to you right now, don't worry, my aim is that complete beginners can pick up this guide and after a little work, start fragging (raising your score by "killing" enemies) like a pro.

Right. So why don't we get started?


Chapter 1 -- Getting Started.

From now on I will refer to your avatar (the videogame person that you control) as you.

First off, we need to set your controls so that you can be as responsive as possible. This means that you use your left hand (with the keyboard) to move your body (so you can move on more than one axis at once) and you use your right hand (with the mouse) to move your head/aim and shoot. The following is the configuration that I use for the keyboard:


My configuration Not quite as good configuration Most common configuration

E - forward
S - backward
D - step left
F - step right

Up Arrow - forward
Down Arrow - backward
Left Arrow - step left
Right Arrow - step right

W - forward
S - backward
A - step left
D - step right

As you can see, there are different ways to go about setting your keyboard keys. None are necessarily wrong. I set mine to be as shown for two reasons: My way allows the use of the little finger (to hit other keys to which you may bind commands -- such as throwing grenades, etc..) and it also does not require that you change your hand position to type text messages (assuming you can touch-type). The more common configuration is the default on a lot of games, and if you use a computer after someone else, you're quite likely to find the computer in it. Choose how you will, from now on, I'll refer to the motion and examples with my key configuration.

Z - duck

W - next weapon
Q - previous weapon
(If you're using a mouse that has a mousewheel, you may prefer to use the wheel instead)


These are the eight essential buttons that move your character around. The other buttons on they keyboard can be set (or "bound") to do different things (i.e. swim up/down, throw grenade, use item, etc...).

A word on your mouse: If possible, get an infrared mouse -- they don't get junked up w/ dirt (which throws your aim). They also are far more accurate.



Chapter 2 -- Weapons

If you're not playing Quake, this section will probably still be of use to you -- most games have similar weapons for which the same strategies apply.

1. Axe - This weapon is almost useless. Good for activating switches and trap doors w/out wasting ammo and a last resort when COMPLETELY out of ammo, in that it requires none. Most other games melee weapons are much more effective so that it's actually reasonable to use them in deathmatch play (even still, they're usually not one's first choice of weapon).

2. Shotgun - This weapon is almost almost useless. It's better than the axe, but not by much. Use this if all you have ammo for is the axe (read as - none and no double shotgun).

3. Double Shotgun - Now this is the first weapon so far that you can really do damage with. Its effectiveness is reduced heavily by distance (Use this only for short range combat). This is the gun that you want to stick in someone's ear and pull the trigger.

4. Nailgun - A step above the single shotgun, but not by much. Use a different gun if possible.

5. Super Nailgun - Twice as powerful as the normal Nailgun, you can use this baby to punch a hole right through an enemy. It's a rapid-fire gun, so it's a good weapon to use if you're chasing someone. Careful though -- it eats ammo like popcorn (it uses twice as many nails as tne normal nailgun). Good for short to medium range combat.

6. Grenade Launcher - This gun lobs grenades into the air which explode after some time or if they hit an enemy in midair. Useful to bounce on walls and around corners. You can also use it to pull off the pineapple-rocket jump; more on that later.

7. Rocket Launcher - This is the gun that is used almost exclusively in Quake 1 gameplay -- the weapon system isn't very balanced, so the rockets fly fast and hit hard. In other games the rocket launcher is still the heavy favorite, though it's not the ONLY weapon that is ever used. It's good for medium to long range combat; be careful though, if it hits something too close to you, the blast damage will hurt you too. This concept of blast damage is so important that I devote an entire section to rocket launcher combat and the strategy that it implies. Read on.

8. Lightning Gun - Eats cells faster than it is useful -- use it if you have it, but don't bank on having ammo for it. ever. Also - if you use it underwater it kills everything in the water - including yourself. I suppose if you see 3 or 4 other people in the water you could jump in and electrocute everyone, but the situation rarely presents itself.

So basically, be deadly with whatever you have, but know which guns can do the most damage in which situations.

A word on aiming -- when you find that your aim is off, correct it by stepping sideways instead of turning (use the keyboard instead of the mouse).

In terms of other videogames, Here are a few things to keep in mind


Chapter 3 -- Movement


Part A. Basic Circle-Strafe
Alright. This is what separates the newbies (beginners) from the not-so-newbies. You can tell just how experienced someone is by how well he strafes. To strafe is to run sideways in such a way that you keep your target in your sights at all times while making it difficult for him to aim at you.

How to pull off a strafe:
1) Begin by facing your target.
2) Side-step in one direction while turning the opposite direction.
3) That's it.

Side-step left while turning right (pressing the 'S' key while sliding your mouse to the right).

left: a top-down perspective of the circle-strafe. You are the blue dot (facing in the direction of the arrow) strafing the red dot.

DO NOT SHRUG OFF THE STRAFE: It is as basic and integral to moving and not getting shot as pressing the 'fire' key is to shooting other people.

Another important thing that the strafe does besides keeping your enemy in your sights is keeping him from shooting at your back (which is what you're trying to do to him with the strafe, by-the-way).


Part B. Glance

above: a top-down perspective of the glance. You are the blue dot (facing in the direction of the arrow) the red dots symbolize the focal points of the strafes.

How to pull off a glance:
1) Begin by Running down a hall.
2) Initiate a basic circle-strafe
3) Half way (when you're facing the opposite direction you started from) start running backwards.
4) When you want to turn back to the direction you started from, start an inverted strafe. (Accomplish this by sidestepping and turning in the SAME direction.)
5) Finish by running forwards halfway through the inverted strafe.

1) Run forward (push 'E')
2) S
tart side-stepping right while turning left (hold down 'F' while sliding the mouse to the left)
3) Next run backwards (now hold down 'D')
4) Next start side-stepping left while turning left (now hold 'S' while sliding the mouse left again)
5) Finish by running forwards (holding down 'E').

below: what the glance should look like when you get it down well.


Part C. Turning Corners

There are two main reasons for moving in these ways that I'm showing you (as opposed the way you would think to move -- i.e. the way you drive a car). The first is to avoid being shot in the back. The second is to always have the greatest chance of getting a target in your sights (so you run facing an empty corridor, rather than the wall of the corridor). Most of these principles people know b/c of intuition (it seems just silly to run around facing walls); some aren't so obvious.

This would be one of those cases. Instead of going around a coner like you might if you were driving a car (*ahem* assuming you're not Takumi Fujiwara in his monstrous Haichi Roku, the ghost of Akina's downhill). Instead, you turn the car in the same way that car racers term: "drifting."

This is how you do it:

1) Begin by running towards the corner
2) Start a circle-strafe so that you start facing the entrance of the corner
3) Side-step in the direction of the corner while facing the entrance
4) Continue on your way

1) Hold down 'E'
2) Hold down 'S' while sliding your mouse to the right
3) Hold down 'S'
4) Hold down 'E'

below: Turning right.


Other quick movement tips:

* Move in an unpredictable manner whenever possible. Over time you'll eventually develop an itch between your shoulderblades whenever you expect to be shot. Follow that intuition and move in random directions (gravitating to wherever you're trying to go). Big open areas are a good example of a place where you want to move in a zig-zaged drunken manner.

* When you move in more than one direction at once (forwards and to the side) you move faster. Why?
Elementary physics will tell you that when you sum two vector quantities (assuming they're not opposing -- like forwards and backwards), the result is a vector in a different direction with a GREATER magnitude than either of its constituent parts. So if you're moving forwards and to the right and down, your speed is actually equal to the square root of the sum of the squares of the speeds of each of those directions (Final Speed = sqrt( forward_speed^2 + sideways_speed^2 + falling_speed^2)). If you can side-step as fast as you can run forwards (something that you can do in Quake, but in more recent games they're a little bit more realistic about that sort of thing) and you're falling at a speed thats equal to or greater than those speeds, the speed your body is actually moving (referenced to the ground, of course) at is faster than 1.732 times your original speed!



Chapter 4 - Shooting.

The whole point of deathmatch play is to shoot your enemies until they're dead. You are NOT worried about dying. There are two small exceptions to this: in cases where there is only one other opponent; and cases where you only get one life. In other words, when you're not penalized for dying: DO NOT BE AFRAID TO BE SHOT. This is absolutely biggest and most frequently occurring beginner's mistake. Do not crouch behind crates and walls waiting for your kills to come to you: You're a predator searching for prey, not a sheep to be slaughtered. That being said...

The whole reason I taught you how to strafe was so that you can stay alive to shoot. When you actually strafe, you're not circling around an opponent over and over again: you're really just trying to get behind him. When you're staring at your enemy's back, you're not staring down the barrel of his gun.

Use height to your advantage. It's always better to be shooting down at your opponent than up. Not only does it give you a psychological advantage, but it also shields you from blast damage (as shown below).

The above figures demonstrate the advantage of height. These show the eventuality that you miss your target only slightly (either above, below, or to the side of it).


I didn't really mention it before, but rockets explode on impact. Whether it hits you, your enemey, or a wall. A blast radius is the area around the point of impact where you will sustain damage from a rocket. Believe it or not, you WILL miss your target sometimes. When you're above your target, it's a lot easier to incur damage. So how do we make use of this? Get around it?

Aim at his feet.

I know it sounds silly, but this is how a rocket launcher is used. I don't care how good you are at aiming: when both you and your target are moving (usually in different directions, often on different axes) you will miss, and this is how to use that to your advantage. Even when you miss, usually you get pretty close. If you hit the ground *near* his body, you can still shower him in blast damage. Often being within the blast radius of just two or three rockets is enough to kill someone with full life. Oh, and if you actually hit his feet afterall (instead of the floor)? It's the same as if you hit him in the head with the rocket.

Also when hit with a rocket, your enemy tend to be thrown into the air in a predictable direction: in this way you can easily have a rocket already fired at where you expect your opponent to land.


more to come later....