In creating a video game concept, there are very little video games that offer a 3 team multiplayer FPS (think like Overwatch/Call of Duty but with 3 teams instead of 2). The only 'mainstream' games that offer this are RTS games.

What are the cons of implementing a 3 team multiplayer FPS game?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Generally this exchange is better at solving problems than predicting them (since so much of a game's behaviour comes from the runtime human dynamics of play). A 3-team FPS sounds like it could be worth a try - why not make a quick prototype with some existing FPS controller assets and play it to see if it's fun? Prototyping will often reveal more than armchair theorizing, as well as providing you with a base to build upon for your next idea. If you identify any specific problems with your prototype, you can ask here about how to solve them. \$\endgroup\$
    – DMGregory
    Nov 6, 2018 at 3:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ This isn't unprecedented. Star Craft for example can handle up to 16 teams. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tim Holt
    Nov 6, 2018 at 6:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ Why are you specifically asking for "the cons" instead of the game design implications in general? \$\endgroup\$
    – Philipp
    Nov 6, 2018 at 9:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ "The only 'mainstream' games that offer this are RTS games." This is not correct - see Planetside (or Planetside 2 for a still running game) \$\endgroup\$
    – Hobbamok
    Nov 8, 2018 at 11:40

5 Answers 5

  • Map design is harder.

    • Spawning points

      Many FPS games have some predefined spawning points for each team.

      If you were to add another team, you may need to design new maps or, at the very least, figure out where to put the teams such that they're far enough from one another and about the same distance from each other team (otherwise the closest teams may just focus on each other, or the team in the "middle" may be focused by both other teams).

    • Symmetry

      Any symmetric map should give no team an advantage with 2 teams (although whether this is strictly true is another question).

      Designing perfectly equal maps for 3 teams is much harder.

    • Swapping teams

      With 2 teams, you could just play 2 games with the teams swapped around to even out unbalanced maps.

      With 3 teams, you'll need to play 6 games instead (that is one game for every permutation of positions for every team).

  • Game mode design is harder.

    2 teams naturally allows for various types of base defence modes (e.g. capture the flag or hostage rescue).

    You may have a hard time designing a mode for 3 teams that's something other than "everyone murders everyone else" (even if there are also a few options there).

  • Ranking is harder.

    Many or most multiplayer games these days have ranking systems, and plenty have tournaments.

    For 2 teams there are common ranking systems and tournament formats that can be used.

    I'm not aware of similar systems or formats for 3 teams, but even if there are some, they may be less common and not so well tested or refined.

    There would also be the problem that the two weaker teams, knowing they'd lose if they don't, can team up against the stronger team. This alone would likely be a significant hinderance to having a fair ranking system.

None of these are deal-breakers and it may be entirely possible to make a fun 3+-team FPS, but the question is why.

Would it make the game significantly more fun to go through the effort of allowing for another team?

For most FPS's, they decided that the answer to this question is "no".


I see this as less a matter of Pros v Cons as an application of the Zero/One/Infinity rule. The ZOI rule states that you can justify forbidding something, or limiting the something to 1. But once you start going above 1, whatever reasoning you used to justify 2 could be used to justify 3 or 4 or 5. And whatever reasoning you used to justify limiting it to 4 could be used for 3 or 2 or 1.

So consider your question from the player's perspective: the number of human opponents they face:

Zero: This is a single-player game.

One: This is a 1v1 game. The player is focused on a single, specific human opponent, much like any number of 1v1 real-life games.

Two: So, there is more than one human opponent. Why stop at 2? Why not allow 3 or 4? Or 20 human opponents? 1v1 has a specific flavor to it, where you're in a duel with a single opponent/team. But 1v1v1 is not all that different from 1v1v1v1. Which is why RTS games that allow more than one opponent typically have a large limit (and the limit is only there for resource/map-size reasons).

That's why you don't see a lot of 3-player games. It's either single-player, dueling, or free-for-all/Battle Royal.

Note that the above reasoning assumes that each player/team is playing the same game. That is, they're all operating under basically the same rules of play and using the same gameplay mechanics. Having a third player act in a 1v1 game with different abilities from the other two sides is a different concept, with a very different feel from merely 1v1v1. Like, if you have two teams that are hunting down a third player, but that third player is a super-powered player. You score points by attacks to the third player, but you also can attack the other team to prevent them from attacking the third player.


Such games did exist; a few custom Starsiege (mech sim game) maps were 3- or 4- team deathmatch or capture-the-flag modes. Before the dominance of DotA, there were a few wacky multi-team MOBA maps.

They were usually the least popular maps.

The maps were highly symmetrical, just like RTS maps. The game experience was something between a free-for-all and a team game, except with a major problem: pile on.

With the stronger teams ganging up on the weaker teams, those members will get upset quickly and try to switch teams or just leave the game, until only two teams were left.

Why isn't this a problem with free-for-all? Sometimes it is, but in many FPS free-for-alls:

  • There's high turnover; most players die before long, and once they respawn their equipment is reset. Besides, there's always weaker players to exploit. In team games however, you can't reset the whole team until the end of the game, so dominance hierarchies persist.
  • You can't switch teams; well, there are no teams at all.

This also isn't a problem in other genres (RTS, tabletop games) because players can't freely change teams or leave mid-game.


I wouldn't really call it a "con" but, having 3 teams in an FPS makes less impact than for example in a RTS game.

When playing a RTS game, you have to think of strategies, how to take advantage of situations, capture lands, and diminish your enemies. Knowing who is your enemy's enemy can have a massive advantage, which you can use to win.

In a FPS game, at least the ones I've played, it's more like "Run around and kill whoever is not in your team". Obviously there is room for strategy, but you can't really take advantage of knowing your enemy's enemy, not to mention that in most cases you win if you kill someone, not if someone loses, which is not the case on a RTS game.

To sum it up, the only con I would give it is that it's not worth spending time on a mechanic like that, as the final game won't be that different that a 2-team one.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I wonder whether shooters with territory control mechanics like Splatoon might shift this strategic focus to a situation where a 3-team mix is more interesting — "do I focus on holding off the advance of the blue team, or go behind them and snag more territory from orange?" \$\endgroup\$
    – DMGregory
    Nov 6, 2018 at 11:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DMGregory I haven't played Splatoon, so not sure how strategy-driven it is, but I've seen it has to deal with territory control, in which case multiple teams would make sense. Similarly to how Crash Bash used to have the game where you jump on boxes and mark your territory, in which case your enemy's enemy can make your enemy weaker. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 6, 2018 at 11:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DMGregory coming from Planetside, a 3 faction MMOFPS, the territory control does make strategy and 3 factions important, but as you see in my answer, that is not relevant to the FPS part of the game \$\endgroup\$
    – Hobbamok
    Nov 8, 2018 at 12:02

What are the cons of implementing a 3 team multiplayer FPS game?

Well, apart from the other answers: What are the benefits?

As opposed to RTS, where you have a global strategy you can follow, in FPS you don't really have that much strategy, you see an enemy, you shoot, and a wounded teammate to help.

It doesn't really matter whether there is one enemy team or two. The only benefits are: more targets to shoot at and enemys can be distracted from your team (which is a huge con if you are the distracted one)

But there is a 3 faction FPS: Planetside 2. (and 1 but that's been shut down)

However, it is an MMOFPS, not a pure FPS. And that explains why you don't see 3 teams in regular FPS: because it's bad.

Coming from a Platoon leader standpoint there (meaning that I actually command 40 people on a 900+ player continent: The three-way fights (which are those where all 3 factions have significant population) are the worst. They might be fun for farming (=racking up cheap kills) as an experienced player but for getting any objectives (capturing bases) and for newer players they are hell.

The only reason the 3 factions work in that game, is that these 3 way fights are the exception rather than the norm. You have a giant map with over 800 players and usually 20 vs 20 (well from 1 on 1 to 96+ on both sides) fights between two factions on one base.

The 3-Faction-part is only relevant for the metagame that the platoon leaders play/ think about, but that is nothing else than RTS with your units being individual actual humans. Here it's important to have 3 sides: to prevent / limit imbalances, but again, that is metagame and thereby RTS territory, no direct gameplay impact for the FPS player.

On smaller single-map games the downsides would be even worse. Objectives become almost uncaptureable and you get killed from random places, because EVERYWHERE can be where an enemy is. Sounds like an incredibly frustrating experience.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Might be a bit rambly, but I hope I get my point across. \$\endgroup\$
    – Hobbamok
    Nov 8, 2018 at 12:01

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