Pc Games

How FPS masters and Gears Tactics studio Splash Damage went from team-based to turn-based

DNA Tracing

PC Gamer

(Image credit: Future)

This article first appeared in PC Gamer magazine issue 359 in July 2021, as part of our ‘DNA Tracing’ series, where every month we delve into the lineages behind iconic games and studios. 

Sniper, soldier, medic, engineer: the characters in Splash Damage games are specialists who know one thing, and know it well. For almost 20 years, that was true for the studio too—a team of former modders who became trusted by players and publishers alike for their singular dedication to the art of class-based multiplayer shooting. But lately, that narrow focus hasn’t served Splash Damage as well as it once did. The company has instead survived by doing something that was never possible in the first-person shooters of old: multi-classing.

It wouldn’t be accurate to say that the nascent Splash Damage developed the first-ever class-based FPS—Robin Walker and his future Valve colleagues had invented the Pyro and Spy by 1999 for Quake’s Team Fortress mod. But Splash Damage came from the same milieu, using a souped-up version of id Software’s engine to create the popular Quake 3 Fortress. If you played the Recon class, you got to be quick on your feet, carry a nailgun, and throw stun grenades. Or you could pick the Flametrooper, who was slower but sturdier and packing napalm. Only by compensating for each others’ weaknesses and working together to capture objectives could teams triumph.

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