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Keeping side arms useful

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Never really venture this far south on the forum listing, but hello everyone. I'm pushing a project together at the moment, which is a squad based tactical game, and I've been thinking quite a bit about a particular issue recently. In many of the squad based games I've played, once you get a rifle, you never really use your pistols anymore, just the rifle for everything. Close range, long range, whatever. I've been thinking of ways to make a pistol retain some usefulness, so that it would be a point for them to even exist. I've layed out some of the obvious differences. smaller weapons are lighter than larger weapons, they are more compact, and can fit into smaller places. Their ammunition is also smaller. In reality, sidearms are useful to have around, even if just in the event of the primary weapon malfunctioning [which is an idea to possibly implement], they are often used for smaller areas, but it's difficult to implement the feel of a smaller, more manuvarable weapon. Any ideas? What can be done to allow small weapons, like pistols or compact smg's, to retain thier usefulness in a game that also features a selection of rifles and larger weapons.

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It's quite common in games for more powerful weapons like rifles to have less capacity for ammo, longer reload times and more delays between each shot in order to balance them against less powerful weapons. Seems to work quite well.

Like the sniper rifle in Medal of Honour comes to mind. Would kill with one shot but could only hold one bullet at a time and took a long time to reload.

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heh, this doesn't have anything to do with the question at hand, but funny you should mention medal of honor's sniper rifle. The moment I layed my hands on that thing, i didn't even switch to another weapon for the duration of whatever area I was in. It was literally all I used :P (Old time AWP whore in counter strike)

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If you are in an area filled with vital, fragile equipement, you don't want to use weapons whose bullets tend to go right through the target and into whatever is behind it (like an exploding barrel [grin]). Destroying the room's only light source because you used an inaccurate weapon can be likewise problematic.

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Quote:
Original post by no hit wonder
they are often used for smaller areas, but it's difficult to implement the feel of a smaller, more manuvarable weapon.

How about allowing faster turning/aiming with sidearms, and/or a small amount of auto aim for close targets?

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There are a number of techniques you could employ to enhance the usefulness of sidearms.

1) You could have the larger weapons have a larger recoil, slower reload, no cross hair except when in aim mode, etc. in order to make them feel clumsier.

2) You could also have them literally slow down when using a larger weapon. Medal of Honor : European Assault employed this method, where using a lighter gun (such as a light machine gun) allowed you to move faster than when using Heavy Weapons.

3) Design the story and/or levels to stress the usefulness of sidearms. For example, have a level where the user starts out with only a pistol, because he had to sneak in through the air ducts and couldn't bring his larger weapons. Medal of Honor : Frontline employed this technique as well.

4) Perhaps you could slightly adjust aiming when using a pistol and the target is close than say, 25 feet or something. Maybe just slowing the cursor down slightly as it gets closer to an enemy will the give the weapon enough of an edge that the player will switch to it when in close-quarters.

5) Only allow actions to be performed while using a lighter weapon. For instance, say you need to turn off the lights, set charges on a generator, or use a radio to call in an airstrike. You could only activate these events when you have a light weapon out.

These are just a few ideas. Feel free to rip them to shreads. :)

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Well, if you wanted to apply real world rational for using pistols, the big reason is maneuvering and recoil.

The lower recoil means that with a pistol you can unload more precision shots in a shorter time then with a rifle; in particular when you start talking about the 3rd, 4th, etc shot in quick succession, the pistol is still controllable, while trying to fire single shots very quickly from a rifle will result in the rifle becoming unmanagable by the 4th or 5th shot (the users ability to correct for recoil has higher entropy with a rifle).

The other major reason to use a pistol is that it has a much shorter barrel and is much lighter. This makes it ideal for working inside hallways and rooms, where you need to make sudden turns. You can line up a pistol much faster then a rifle - this is why submachine guns (i.e. Uzi) also exist, to allow for a maneuverable automatic weapon for close quarters combat.

If you're still stuck, just think about the difference between your rifle, say an M16, and your machinegun, say an M249 SAW. Your pistol is to your rifle, as your rifle is to your machine gun. Less stopping power, smaller number of bullets that can typically be fired, shorter effective range, but easier to acquire targets and aim, easier to move with, easier to operate while standing or kneeling and easier to fire with precision quickly.

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Unless your game uses a Quake damage model (i.e. takes a hundred bullets to kill), you should be able to balance your weapons just by modeling them accurately. The Rainbow Six series on the PC has often been able to do this - while usually not the weapon of choice (due to the selection of submachine guns available), using a sidearm has all the advantages I outlined about. For example if you are just outside a room where 2 terrorists unaware of your presence are guarding 2 hostages, going in with a rifle would likely be suicide - by the time you where able to get the rifle pointed at the first guy and kill him, the second would have already reacted and shot you in return - trying to flip around a doorway and immediately take out a target with a long barreled gun just isn't practical. With a SMG you could take out both with a high degree of success - unfortunately you'd risk spraying the hostages too. A pistol gives you the freedom to dive in the door and shoot both terrorists almost the moment you see them - the gun can be lined up with a spotted target almost instantly.

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I think maneuverability is the biggest issue. Not just while aiming, but while carrying and drawing the weapon. I think the most important gameplay elements would be the quickness to draw your weapon and the quickness to line up targets. One could spin a 180 and lock onto a target with a pistol in less than half of the time it would take with a rifle. A pistol is more of an extension to your hand, rather than an extension to your upper body.

I would think that unless firing power is extremely important (body armor), pistols would be the ideal solution. I also think that advancement in technology will cause the negative aspects of pistols to decrease.

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The big thing about sidearms, and shortarms compared to full sized rifles (excluding very heavy rifles, bringing a .50cal anti material weapon on target is a lot different than brining an M16 to bear) is the confinment of the area. If you are in the middle of the room, the difference between getting 'on target' with a glock, and an M16 for close range isn't going to be too much, small fraction of a second.

Where a sidearm becomes important is in spaces where you can't have a rifle out full, or where you need to use a hand. Open a door with a sidearm drawn, you just take your off hand away and turn the knob. Nice and stealthy. Larger rifle? You are going to have a hard time keeping the weapon steady, and will likely raise it up to balance it on your shoulder a little more while you turn the knob, (or just kick the door open, which would be noisy, and have a chance of failing on the first blow)

Climbing under a fence with a rifle? Going to take you longer to get your hands back on your weapon. Sidearm/SMG? not nearly as long.

Going through a door to sweet a room? Long barreled weapon you are going to have to raise it up to fit thought sideways, or come in facing center, swing right, and swing all the way left (going over the area you already covered, taking up time, time that the guy on the left has to put a few rounds in your head and spoil your day)

Where the smaller SMGs and sidearms shine is in transitional phases, going up a ladder, crawling in tight spaces.

If you have two people in a duel, one with a large rifle, the other with a small sidearm, doing the whole back to back, ten paces thing, if the rifle is shouldered as they turn, the difference isn't going to be much if they get their footing right (as in always ready to turn in any direction). Sure you can swing your sidearm around and shoot before your body comes around, but your aim will be way off. There is a reason why you see people at the ranges shooting with their shoulders square to the target.

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Quote:
Original post by Michalson
A pistol gives you the freedom to dive in the door and shoot both terrorists almost the moment you see them - the gun can be lined up with a spotted target almost instantly.


How would that be implemented in a game?

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A lot of good points, and thanks all. Lots of good points, especially for an fps. Finding it a bit more difficult though to make these issues be manifested though in my project, which is a over-head viewed squad based tactical. Something along the lines of XCom in perspective. Don't know if any of you know what game that is, it's not exactly recent.

Neat stuff though, and the image of someone actually attempting to 'dive through a door and shoot both the terrorists' sounds funny for some reason. Like 'watched too many action movies' funny :D Just picture someone trying to do a dive and roll into a room, and getting shot three times in the butt mid-roll.

Quote:
Original post by Talroth
A whole bunch of good stuff.
Thanks, these are the kinds of things I'm trying to consider :D

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I don't think the view perspective has a lot of impact on the implementations of using handguns. Your characters still need time based animation or time units to turn and aim at targets.

If your game will be similar to X-Com, I would charge slightly less time units per movement for units carrying small weapons. That itself will have a huge effect on balance and make pistols look very attractive to some players, compared to bulky weapons. Of course firing the weapon will also cost less time units. And if you have any type of stealth checks (characters noticing other characters, like X-Com's reaction effect, where aliens would spin around and take a shot at ya while you move around during your own turn), you could give characters with small arms a bonus to stay unnoticed.

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The biggest advantage to a side arm is it amnouverability. Because the barrel is shorter and the weapon lighter it is easier to turn with. As an experiment get a length of wood about the length of the rifle in your game and walk aorund you back yard and attempt to turn quickly. Next do the same with a length of wood the size of the sidearms in you game. If you want, you could even weight the side arm wood so that it matches the weight of the rifle length wood. Even if the weight is the same, the lenght still has a big effect on the ability to turn.

You could even simulate this in the game by having the aiming crosshairs, no static to the centre of the screen. If you let the crosshairs be delayed a bit (depending of the weapon you are using), but attempt to recentre automatically, but taking differnet amounts of time depending on the weapon selection, you could simulate the effects of this inertia on the weapon.

Also after turning the weapon, the longer barreled weapons would take more time to stop, this could mean that they could also "overshoot" the centre of the screen and take more time to recentre themselves (somethinse going past the centre too). This makes the long barreled weapons inaccurate if the player is moving about too much, but better if they can stay still for a time. The shorter barreled sidearms would centre themselves faster and so woudl eb more accurate in close quarters or when the player needs to move around more.

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Soldat makes sidearms useful. It gives certain weapons, like the minigun, long reloading times. If you are attacked while reloading, you can pull out your sidearm to have some chance of surviving. But if you've nearly finished reloading, you might want to try and avoid your enemies fire so that you can complete reloading and counterattack with something more effective.
The same, "weapon to use while reloading" technique could be applyed in an XCom game.

Pistols are smaller and easier to manouver. In Warhammer 40k, this is represented by giving close combat bonuses to figures with pistols.

Grenades in Halo 2 had different properties to primary weapons, and were useful for different reasons. You could have a simliar specialisation/differentiation from primary firearms for sidearms.

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In my game (design) all characters can at maximum 5 weapons, excluding the one it his/her hands. 1 long weapon(say ak47 or m16), 2 medium weapons(smgs or alike) and 2 short weapons(usually pistols). If you are carying around a huge sniper rifle(at the back) you can't go around with aanother huge rifle at the back.

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Quote:
Original post by Ezbez
Quote:
Original post by Michalson
A pistol gives you the freedom to dive in the door and shoot both terrorists almost the moment you see them - the gun can be lined up with a spotted target almost instantly.


How would that be implemented in a game?


"Dive" is perhaps the wrong word, but swing around (turn and move rapidly) the doorframe is what I'm getting at - basically you are not approaching the door frame straight on (because they could see your approach), instead you are hugging the wall near the door, the very quickly moving into the doorframe and turning almost 180 degrees to face the guys who couldn't see you.

In most realistic/tactical shooters, the system is done with expanding crosshairs - basically the crosshairs converge on the point where the player is "aiming" with the mouse. The crosshairs represent how close to the actual aim of the player the players character will be able to fire. For example when going prone with a sniper rifle, the crosshairs will eventually meet, meaning if you fire a shot, it will go exactly pixel perfect in the direction the player is "aiming" with the mouse. In contract, when standing with a machine gun the crosshairs will stop coming together much farther apart - no matter how good the players mouse aiming skills are, the actual bullets coming from the players character are going to fly out somewhere in that larger aim radius.

Whenever you move or turn (and affect by the speed that you are doing that action) the cross hairs will move apart. When you shoot the cross hairs move apart. Each weapon has different cross hair properties, meaning for example that it only takes a quarter of a second for the cross hairs to remerge after firing a pistol, but a rifle can take a second or more (meaning any shots fired will be less accurate). The pistol also has better cross hair properties when moving (when moving a rifle becomes very hard to aim straight, while a pistol could actually be fired at a target even while running)

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Something that has sort of been said in this thread, but not really outright, is rather than just having your crosshairs expand for things that lower your accacry, include crosshair drift. If you are swinging around quickly to your left, your crosshairs will have a 'weight' and pull back to the right, when you stop moving they will drift over the center point before coming back.

This means moving really really fast with a really heavy rifle/Machine gun is going to make it hard to find your target (of course you could just open up and spray across the target)

Sidearms being light would have less drift, but your recoil effect might be higher (they're smaller, lighter weapons, if you are using large chambered sidearms, they'll kick more than a similar sized round, bringing you farther off target.) of course their recover time would be greatly reduced, so while a larger weapon with a shoulder stock won't pull off target as much, getting back down right on target will take slightly more time.

This is part of the reason why we have Submachine guns. They are larger than a sidearm, but fire a similar sized round. Rifles of course fire a much heavier round with a larger charge, so while they have more mass to counteract the reaction, firing a similar round and change from a sidearm means your second shot is somewhere behind you :P


But still:
Ladders, air ducts, small tunnels: Sidearm is your friend that you can actually use, rifle is something that keeps bumping into things as you try to move.
Open spaces, long ranges, few 'surprise' areas, rifles with their higher firepower, and actually being able to get shots on target rule.

SMGs are for where you want something closer to the rounds on target of an assult rifle, but the compactness of a sidearm.

Also, if you haven't already, find a game of Counterstirke that isn't being ruled by boring AWPs, and take a look at how many players use just a rifle. Desert egeale is your friend, as are dualies, and actually all the pistols. The insane rate of fire on the TMP and Mac10 make what at first feel like the crapiest weapons in the game gold if you can get up close and personal. (And there is nothing quite like taking out a AWPer at RANGE with a TMP,...)

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Quote:
Original post by no hit wonder
Finding it a bit more difficult though to make these issues be manifested though in my project, which is a over-head viewed squad based tactical. Something along the lines of XCom in perspective. Don't know if any of you know what game that is, it's not exactly recent.

I find that interesting, as I am/was/will be working on something similar. Do you have any more information about it avaliable (a website? some screenshots)? Just curious. You don't have to answer if you don't want to share that.

Sorry for the off-topic.

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Quote:
Original post by no hit wonder
Any ideas? What can be done to allow small weapons, like pistols or compact smg's, to retain thier usefulness in a game that also features a selection of rifles and larger weapons.


In a past FPS i was working on we got very good feedback on our rifle/pistol balance:
1) Give the pistols a good damage ammount - equal to that of a rifle!
2) Give rifles a small "spray cone" (so they hit allmost where you aim)
3) But give rifles a large ammount of recoil (so its hard to stay on target once you start shooting)
4) Give pistols a large "spray cone" (so they dont allways land close to the crosshair)
5) Give pistols a small amount of recoil (so you can keep your aim on target while blasting away).

This makes rifles suited to long range, as you can aim properly, then shoot in bursts and you will hit your target.
It also makes pistols suited to close range, as the large spray cone means you can't hit targets at long range, but the low recoil makes it easy to pump a clip into a close target.

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I'm a huge fan of XCOM and the newer UFO series (I believe they are clerically unrelated, but it's obvious that UFO is a spiritual successor to XCOM).

Now, without knowing anything about your specific design ideas, it's hard to say exactly how to give sidearms a niche-advantage over rifles. But everyone here has said more or less the same thing; sidearms are maneuverable and can be used in otherwise awkward situations.

So, if you're using a time-points model, sidearms should generally be less expensive to use, reload, and move with. If you're using continuous time (like in UFO) then things like movement speed and time to aim and fire weapons could be modified.

Another though I had is that a character should be able to carry more ammo for his/her sidearm than for a rifle. Again, I don't know what your inventory model is, but having greater encumbrance from larger ammo types, and making encumbrance have some significant effect on outcome would be good.

One thing I loved from UFO: Aftershock was taking a fast moving character with throwing knives, they were not particularly powerful weapons, but there's something to be said for the stealth that they award you. So that's another thought; it's easier to be stealthy when you're carrying small weapons.

I'd love to see what you're working on, web-site?

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Play Halo. Not Halo 2, the original. The pistol is useful even though you can have an assualt rifle, a shotgun, a sniper rifle, rocket launcher, and a bunch of crazy alien stuff. It's just the best all around weapon. Everything else is only good at one thing, if anything (needler...), but the pistol is just the best utilitarian weapon. It is technically a sidearm still because in most situations you'll want to use a specialized weapon, but you'll always come back to the pistol.

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Quote:
Original post by balohna
Play Halo. Not Halo 2, the original. The pistol is useful even though you can have an assualt rifle, a shotgun, a sniper rifle, rocket launcher, and a bunch of crazy alien stuff. It's just the best all around weapon. Everything else is only good at one thing, if anything (needler...), but the pistol is just the best utilitarian weapon. It is technically a sidearm still because in most situations you'll want to use a specialized weapon, but you'll always come back to the pistol.

I agree that the pistol in Halo 1 was the absolute essential weapon. You could pretty much kill anything with it. But I think the SMG was very unbalanced. Actually, compared to all of the other weapons, it was almost worthless. It didn't really make a lot of sense that one pistol head shot kills while six SMG head shots does not. Personally, I would have thought an SMG would have been the most ideal weapon in an environment like Halo, so perhaps that's why they turned down its potential by unrealistic degrees.

I've always had a thing for seemingly-primitive earth-based projectile weapons. Even in games like Halo and X-Com, I always get a lot more satisfaction from firing off lead than I do plasma or lasers.

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