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 Chinook's Game Design Theories: Issue #1: The two weapon lim

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Number of posts : 257
Age : 27
Localisation : Vancouver BC
Registration date : 2010-09-04

PostSubject: Chinook's Game Design Theories: Issue #1: The two weapon lim   Wed Jun 22, 2011 10:33 pm

Well no secret I'm an avid gamer, but I also am a perspective designer with one or two flash games under my belt and I make a point of "playing like a designer" on occasion. What does that mean? Well basically instead of just having a good time I try to pin down why I'm having a good time, and vice versa if something gets on my plumbs I try to pin it down too.

This is a repost of a topic on my FA journal, and hopefully a bit of a series of such topics... I don't know I find it interesting.

-- Chinook's Game Design Theories: Issue #1: The two weapon limit --

Well it's something which crops up in a lot of shooters, and I along with others have complained about it: the two weapon limit in shooters. Now before anyone jumps on this: I KNOW it's for realism, noone can carry 5 rifles and still walk, and in multiplayer it keeps things balanced, or in team-based games it makes sure everyone has a role to fill. But in single player it can get pretty iritating, and here's my theory on why.

When you are placed in a single player game, you are often called upon to fulfill all of the "specialized roles" normally reserved for a squad of people. Weather this is by design to center the action arround the player (See Halo games, or Medal of Honor), or it's by accident through bad squad AI or poor balancing (See Mercenaries II), this makes the two weapon limit difficult to deal with.

How exactly? Well in a situation in which a solo player is called upon to do the work of a squad you need a number of weapons: 1) your go-to weapon, this is usually an assault rifle or carbine etc, the weapon you get a lot of ammo for and is for dealing with average level enemies at close to medium range. 2) A long range or precision weapon: this is probably a sniper rifle or scoped rifle, necesary when dealing with enemies at range or who are ducking behind cover etc, at least I find this a necesary addition in most games. 3) a heavy weapon, ie: a shotgun or rocket launcher for when the heavies roll out. This last one gets especially crucial when vehicles or similar are included in a primarily infantry or character based game. A potential 4) exists with an emergency weapon for when everything else is out of ammo (pistol, sidearm etc), or a quiet one in the event stealth is called for etc.

Now following that list for this to work that's 3 weapons, potentially more depending on situation. This is why at least I tend to find; why games like Mass Effect 2, Borderlands, or the old James Bond games let you have more than 2 weapons. (3-5, 4, and 6+ respectively) And games like Call of Duty or battlefield limit you to 2, maybe some class based advantages.

The problem comes in where the two areas cross into each other. See for instance Mercenaries (1 or 2). Here you are called upon to be the "one man soldier" style character, but are only given two weapon slots. This means you cannot possibly be prepared for all eventualities. The same goes for several shooters which seek to have both the solo player empowerment and the two weapon limit.

There is a third option found in Goldeneye Rogue Agent amongst others which I find interesting: only having the weapons "in your hands" at the time, but this is quite hard to pull off well. This doesn't allow the player to cart arround more than one weapon for different situations. G:RA compensated for this by placing most if not all engagements at close to medium range where specialized weapons weren't needed and ammo was plentiful. And in the instances where anti-vehicle or long range combat was necesary it gave you lots of opritunity to grab rocket launchers or sniper rifles respectively.

It's quite important to get this right for the type of game you are going for, for instance solo empowerment does not lend itself to the two weapon limit, unless you are fulfilling a particular roll, see say Sniper Elite where the title says it all. And if you pick the wrong one for the experience you are trying to create, well that's the entire user end experience up the river never to return.


Someone else also observed that the two weapon limit seems to pull double duty as a cheap and easy means of never having to do much in the way of weapon balancing. See Halo's Spartan Laser and such. Prior to this generation of shooters, at least in higher quality ones most weapons were at the very least effective, rather than having one or two great ones and at least four worthless ones.

Thoughts? Alternate theories? Topics for next time?
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