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Wasting ammo on reload

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This seems like one of those questions a game designer ponders before they even start to dream up a project, but I'm going to run it through here once to see what everyone has to say. Realism aside, what do you think about the game-design choice between saving the unused portion of ammunition in a weapon, and tossing it away, during a reload? As a player, I obviously prefer saving my ammunition. But at the same time, I usually find the reload button to be mandatory on a second-span basis because of it. In Half-Life 2, for example, I would reload after every small encounter. No enemies in sight means to reload. There wasn't much of a choice to it. What exactly happens when the ammo that's in the weapon gets wasted on reload? Obviously, it makes players think twice about keeping a full clip. But is it cruel to make them choose to waste a few rounds to avoid running out in the first few shots of combat? Are there any other positive or negative side effects?

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Well I think that this truly depends (and has depended) on whether or not you are playing with a squad where you have the luxury of cover (as with many military WWII games for example), or if you are playing a single solo character in something like Doom or Half-Life, etc.

The game mechanic for having realistic "X-number of ammo per clip" forces the person to throw away clips that aren't full or mostly fully before each major confrontation, unless if they have supportive fire. If they have teammates, it is a matter of shoot until out regardless of how full your clip is, then duck and reload while another takes your place. However, this kind of mechanic when implemented in a solo-character FPS does sort of make people purposefully waste low-ammo clips just to receive a new full one in order to prepare for a new possible encounter.

And its probably that reason that many solo-character FPSes don't use the "ammo-per-clip" model, they just use the "ammo-pool" model (where ammo is not organized into clips) because it provides a much more continuous sense of shooting, to which in a squad-based military or police game, your teammates provide that for you.

I've always explained this away to myself by saying that because in solo-character FPSes, the character you are playing usually controls the entire pace of the game's story/progression by himself, as such he would perhaps have lots of side time that isn't shown in the game (much similarly to eating or pooing) to take out the bullets in nearly depleted clips and fill them into other clips to make all full.

Another thing to factor in here is the weapon designs themselves (which is related to game setting, but still can ultimately depend on the game design itself). Many FPSes are sci-fi or fantasy, as such, have no need to model their ammo-loading system after clips, for they might use something else entirely different. Your gun might not take clips, and instead, take individual rounds, like what a shotgun does. An "ammo-pool" system would then match for weapons such as these.

So I guess if your game is to focus on squad-based shooting, then having an "ammo-per-clip" model would emphasize such team-based gameplay. If your game is to focus on the individual experience of having a single main character survive through the entire game world by himself, then the "ammo-pool" model would be better suited for that gameplay.

[Edited by - Tangireon on June 22, 2008 2:24:42 AM]

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Well, here's another angle to consider... Are the clips thrown away, or simply topped-off? Also consider tube-style magazines such as those used in shotguns or most lever-action rifles where you can simply add more rounds as you see fit.

Most people in real-life carry a few loaded clips for fast reload, but don't throw them away when they're spent; they just reload them when there's down-time.

That might be a mechanic you could pursue as well; Having some number of loaded clips at the ready, and having to take on a lengthier process of reloading clips when the action's not so hot.


All that said, the guiding principle of game design should be "But is it fun?" for some games, taking the time to reload can be a part of the game-play mechanic, such as a team-based shooter where relying on your comrades for cover is part of the experience. For a single-player game, forcing the player to take on lengthy reload sequences in their down time, or "taxing" them ammunition for being prepared isn't any fun... You'd probably end up compensating by making ammunition more readily available in the environment anyhow, in which case there's no real penalty, just an annoying thing you have to do and no sense of finite availability of ammunition or the suspense that can cause (See Half-life 2's Ravenholm level or any of the Resident Evil games.)

It's not a bad idea across the board, but you have to consider carefully whether it adds to the fun or to the experience.

I once knew a guy who's "Ultimate MMO" idea was to be hyper-realistic to the point that dressing yourself in armor would require 10-15 minutes and a pair of assistants. The high-point of the sequence included cinching and buckling each and every strap where the tightness or looseness of which would have positive/adverse affects on protection, speed and dexterity.

Realism for realism's sake makes a terrible game.

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Alien vs Predator 1 had ammo-discard features, it all but forced players to reload for new encounters because you could die so quickly. Since there was little choice but to reload or risk loosing health (40 minute missions with no saves encouraged keeping health), it basically ended up forcing players to lose either way.

While it can definitely help promote tense situations, it would have been nice to have had some way to recycle those "lost" rounds, even if it was time consuming (and thus, not always practical).

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Quote:
Original post by Tangireon
I've always explained this away to myself by saying that because in solo-character FPSes, the character you are playing usually controls the entire pace of the game's story/progression by himself, as such he would perhaps have lots of side time that isn't shown in the game (much similarly to eating or pooing) to take out the bullets in nearly depleted clips and fill them into other clips to make all full.

That was my biggest concern as well. At some point, characters are going to have a collection of partially used clips, and find it worthwhile to take a five minute breather to combine them. Perhaps emulating this would be the best answer? Partial clips get sorted into a seperate inventory stack, and only get used if all full clips are gone. Once the player is away from danger, they get organized (either automatically, or through player action).

Quote:
Another thing to factor in here is the weapon designs themselves (which is related to game setting, but still can ultimately depend on the game design itself). Many FPSes are sci-fi or fantasy, as such, have no need to model their ammo-loading system after clips, for they might use something else entirely different. Your gun might not take clips, and instead, take individual rounds, like what a shotgun does. An "ammo-pool" system would then match for weapons such as these.

Actually, I think a futuristic weapon might be even more badly geared in that direction. Single rounded ammo takes a long time to load, so it makes sense to combine everything into one item that can be plugged in. A battery, for example.

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In the Infiltration mod for UT, unspent clips were stored in reserve and reused in order of most to least full when players ran out of full clips. I thought this worked particularly well, especially since you rarely knew how much ammo was in each partial clip. It added to both realism and tension. The matches were short and ammo limited, so it wasn't practical to throw any away or refill partial clips. In single-player games with quiet time, providing a mechanism for consolidating partial clips would be in order. This sort of question only really comes up during combat. Players expect to do some micromanagement during quiet time.

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The idea is cool, but adding the ammo loss penalty on top of the current lost-time penalty for reloading might be a bit extreme.

I figure reloading should be a lot faster than it is in games, especially if your character is trained in firearm use. After all, if I'm some kind of cyber-ninja from the future, I should reload like
">this guy. Or maybe
">this guy.

With the time loss reduced, adding the tactical decision of when to reload would become more reasonable.

It seems to me that you'd drop the magazine on the ground if your'e reloading in the thick of things, but if you've got a moment's breathing space, you could catch the partial mag and tuck it into a pouch someplace for later. After the dust settles, you could go back and gather dropped ammo, top off partially full magazines, etc.

So, have three operations:

Fast reload - Discards current magazine, loads weapon with a new one. Almost instantaneous.

Tactical reload - Takes a few seconds, preserves current magazine for later use.

Magazine recharge - Turns an empty or partially empty magazine into a full magazine, takes a while and consumes loose cartridges.

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Quote:
Original post by Iron Chef Carnage
Or maybe
">this guy
.


Is strapping the spare ammo to your groin really necessary to reload that fast?

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Quote:
Original post by Iron Chef Carnage
The idea is cool, but adding the ammo loss penalty on top of the current lost-time penalty for reloading might be a bit extreme.

I figure reloading should be a lot faster than it is in games, especially if your character is trained in firearm use. After all, if I'm some kind of cyber-ninja from the future, I should reload like
">this guy
. Or maybe
">this guy
.

It usually is pretty fast, isn't it? I reload after every small scuffle in most action games, and I rarely find myself regretting it.

Well, sometimes I get a little carried away with it and reload with a single bullet missing from the clip. Sometimes before the enemy I shot with that bullet even hits the ground. Before you know it (less than a second later), an unseen enemy comes from around the corner. But that's just crazy. I only abused it to that degree because the reloading was so cheap and fast.

There's really not much to lose. In most games, you can even move around while you're reloading. So if you get caught with your hand in your pocket, you can just slide behind cover.

I'm not sold on the idea of throwing the unused ammo away. But I think something that makes reloading right now a less obvious choice would be positive.

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This is a solution that is realistic and easy to play.

tap R
  • clip weapons
    if there is a fuller clip in inventory, remove the current clip and swap with the fullest.

  • individual bullet weapons
    load one bullet into the weapon.

double tap R
  • clip weapons
    a faster reload, if there is a fuller clip in inventory, drop the current clip on the ground and reload with the other clip.

  • individual bullet weapons
    perform a different reload animation, perhaps longer but cooler looking.

hold R
  • clip weapons
    remove the current clip and swap with the fullest clip in inventory, then start filling it up with individual bullets, if run out start taking bullets from the smallest clip
    continue holding R
    • 3 sec delay
      start filling up the next fullest clip with bullets, then the next etc.

    • 3 sec delay
      start taking bullets of the same type out of other weapon clips and filling the current weapon clips.

  • individual bullet weapons
    continue filling the weapon with bullets until finished


This whole process would have onscreen representation of what's happening, including when a clip is full etc - perhaps with diagrams.

This is of course not a definitive system, more of an illustration of the double-tap and time based actions of a single key press.

Another interesting use of one key is Call of Duty 4's stance toggle button. If you are standing, holding this key takes you through crouching into prone. If you are prone holding takes you through crouching back to standing. If you are prone or standing tapping the key takes you to crouching. When crouching holding the key takes you to prone, tapping takes you to standing.

Of course this adds a little more time for going to prone.

Edit: Formatting

[Edited by - Umbrae on June 22, 2008 7:19:03 AM]

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