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ChandlerT

Weapon Pickup and Customization Design Questions

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Hey all. I've currently run into a brick wall for a project of mine. I'll start by giving you our token "about" description, and we can go from there. In Troubleshoot, players control a single character in a group of four other human players. It is handled in a basic third-person shooter format. They are tasked with working together to take down a giant monster/boss. Levels are generally oval and constrained in nature and do not "progress," in that the whole level is available right off the bat. Its not like a typical campaign level where you fight, run to next area, fight. The whole area is the fight as the boss moves around the level (think of it as an arena.) Behind this fighting system, is a customization system. Essentially each character has a "memory chip." These memory chips have a restrained number of "bits" to fill up with upgrades. These upgrades could be something like Faster Reloading, faster sprint, jump higher, more ammo per clip, etc. These upgrades are added to your "chip" and then affect you in the game. All customization is done before the game, so you choose your upgrades before ever joining a game. These upgrades are permanent between game to game, or at least until you remove it from your chip. (Its not like Counterstrike where you purchase each round.) The space on your chip does not fluctuate. Imagine it like a Call of Duty class, you make your class, then can choose it once the game starts. We are currently running into an issue on how to handle weapons and ammo. We'd like players to be allowed to customize their weapons, such as adding sights, stronger bullets, etc. similar to the chip system. However, we also would like to add weapon pickups on the level to encourage the player to move around. We have a few current ideas that I'll list below, though I'm open to something creative. Multiple Chips Our first idea was to have two separate chips. The upgrade chip and then a weapon/weapon upgrade chip. The upgrade chip is used for things like increased armor, running faster, faster reload, jump higher. The weapon chip is used for selecting your starting weapons and then upgrading them. For example, the player buys a sniper rifle and a pistol and it takes up 5 bits on their 10 bit weapon chip. They player decides to put a red dot sight on his pistol, and increases the fire rate and bullet damage on his sniper rifle taking up the other 5 bits. This allows us to still use weapon pickups, as the player can pickup new weapons, they just won't be upgraded. Questions: Should the player be able upgrade weapons they don't own? I.E I don't start with a rocket launcher, but I purchased increased fire rate with it, so whenever I pick it up on the level it has increased fire rate. One thing we were thinking is to allow players to pick the starting weapons the want (by putting them on the chip), and then anytime the player walks over the same weapon on the map, they get a super powered version. I.E player starts with the sniper rifle and finds it on the map as well, he now has a super powerful sniper rifle. Basic Starting Weapon Another option we were debating was to have a selection of a couple basic starting weapons. Gears of War does the lancer and hammerburst, so you have a small choice of which to start out with. This weapon could have unlimited ammo, so it is always your backup plan if you don't pick up a weapon off the map. Your weapon/weapon upgrade chip is now reserved for other weapon upgrades. So you can upgrade your basic starting weapon, or you can just purchase upgrades for weapons you'd pick up on a map. Buy the red dot sight for the chain gun? Pick the chain gun up from the map and it would have a red dot sight. One thing that concerns me about something like this is that some players may argue over who picks what weapon up. Someone may pick up a rocket launcher, and another player say something like "I called Dibs on rocket launchers, I have upgrades for mine." While this isn't a huge issue, its just going to get annoying I feel like. Universal Upgrades Each weapon is customizable to a certain sense. So there's a menu where you choose your preferred basics of each weapon you pick up, i.e all your rifles have red dot sights and digital camo. Your weapon/weapon upgrade chip is then reserved for universal upgrades, like increased fire rate. Any weapon you pick up is going to have increased fire rate. This solves the problem of someone having more upgrades for a certain weapon than someone, but still may run into an issue of some upgrades are better for certain weapons than other. This does also run into the problem that it limits our freedom as designers as we can't do weapon specific upgrades, like a 12x zoom on a sniper instead of 8x. I just see a ton of advantages and disadvantages to each, so I'm hoping I come here and someone says something mindblowing and it solves everything. I'll appreciate any feedback you can give me regarding any solution, so just let me know. Thanks in advance for all your help!

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I think, whilst having the chips, more drastic changes need to be made available to the player.

I was thinking these bosses are on the level of Godzilla or Cloverfield, so maybe these Chips also control latent nanobots that can augment your abilities.
Giving you super strength or lightning fingers.
Abilities on par with Bioshock's Plasmids.

It'd defenitely let you run free with your level design, making the game way more interesting.

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Here's how I would handle it. Feel free to Frankenstein these ideas however you want, I won't mind. ^^

Separate player customization into two categories: Equipment and Upgrades. Allow the player to allocate points into upgrades however they wish, and have the remaining slots open for equipment. This is to emphasize choice between specialization (more into upgrades), adaptability (more into Equipment), or a balance between the two.

Have Equipment divided between limited use equipment (LUE) and weapons. LUEs would be objects like grenades, traps, or mines, one-use only, non-upgradeable. Weapons wouldn't run out of ammo permanently (they could perhaps overheat, or run out of energy and need to recharge, or regenerate ammo at a fixed rate). They should cost 'bits' (inventory size?) based on their usefulness (a huge but inaccurate minigun should take up fewer bits than a small, MIB-style cricket nuclear pistol). Picking up weapons during combat should be as easy as walking over them, and discarding weapons should be a one or two button action at most.

All weapons can be upgraded, and they use the same upgrades (+damage, +range, +accuracy, +AoE, +firerate, +ammo clip size). Your character can also use upgrades (speed, hit points, health regen, AoE healing, armour), which can be passive, chosen before action, or temporary, walked over during combat.

Hopefully this helps. Game sounds cool, good luck!

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I appreciate both of you guys feedback so far. Taking it into consideration for sure.

One thing I do want to mention for future posters, is that we want to keep this game at its core a shooter, not an RPG. Abilities should not be flinging fireballs around, and bosses should not require a certain ability to defeat (i.e a boss has flame vulnerability.) The way I view plasmids is a little RPGish, so we'd like to keep most abilities to something like "Turn invulnerable for 2 seconds" or "Extra damage for 3 seconds," not "shoot lightning at the boss."

I should've made that clarification before hand so I apologize, but you are correct in assuming something like Godzilla or Cloverfield.

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I just imagined the game took place inside a malfunctioning computer or something.

I figured being a superconductor of static electricity inside a computer would make good use of the unique environment at hand.

I mean if you're going to go the Serious Sam route with this just make the weapons seriously awesome and lay out puzzle traps to give you an opportunity to damage the boss more.
I think weapon upgrades and stuff are more like advancement systems than anything really useful.

I'm really not going to care if I can shoot my Rocket Launcher 2% faster when I'm fighting King Bubsgonzola anyway.
Oh and by the way incremental stat increases are more RPG like than flinging fireballs.
If it came down to core shooter elements, I'd want a quake-esque spread with pickups around the level.
As for player customisation, even just appearance is enough for most people. I'm not into the whole upgrade thing these days. It's too played out.

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What about keeping with your original idea of allow the player to use their weapon chip points to determine their core weapon set and customize them.
Then scatter limited use weapons throughout the arena. Players could then pick up single shot rocket launchers, or active turrets. Perhaps you could environment base weapons such as luring the monster close to a fuel tanker before detonating it.

Also for the player weapon choices most modern shooters don’t include them any more but don’t forget about trap based weapons. Such remote bombs, or laser trip wire.

You could also have a mix of weapon specific upgrades and universal upgrades. So an extra hip pouch would double the amount of ammo you can carry for all weapons. While the depleted uranium rounds would which increase damage and range is only usable with the anti tank rifle.

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Alright, so there's the Multiple Chips, Basic Starting Weapon, and Universal Upgrades variants of the mechanic.

Universal Upgrades seems like it would be most likely to divorce the customization process from the actual selection of weapons in the field. It is the safest, if dullest, option. I would probably avoid this one.

The Multiple Chips mechanic -- specifically, using points for starting weapons -- would discourage using the pickup mechanic, and you would want to avoid that contradiction. Allowing upgrades for things you don't start with is a good way to get around that issue, although players might just start with low-point weapons so they can use them for upgrading the superior pickups. Personally, I like the idea of just picking starting weapons, and then the pickups become a better version. I don't think it would be as compelling for players to customize weapons they don't start with, but even if it was, it still doesn't have an advantage over the starter-with-pickup-upgrade idea. Another note, you could make the upgrades pickups, too, just for something to think about.

The Basic Starting Weapon idea is kind of like a hybrid of the other two ideas, but I think it inherits both of their weaknesses. If players customize their starting weapons, they will be less interested in your pickup mechanic, but they also might not feel like getting upgrades for a weapon they may not even acquire. Even assuming they would, the Multiple Chips idea is still superior.



Now aside from that, I should mention that it is a lot more interesting to give players new abilities, rather than enhancing ones that already exist. And I also have to mention, because it just bugs me and I have to mention it, chain guns don't have sights because they're used on vehicles and have lots of muzzle flash, and instead use tracers to aim anyways. I'm just saying, you know, you should probably aim more Quake 3 than Modern Warfare with that, but then RDS says there's ADS, so I dunno.

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repaste from the other ammo thread:


You can also look at ammo "working" differently.

First type "traditional" you have a limited amount then need to collect more

Second type "collector" As you use it the ammo takes longer to fire. Something like a quarter a second getting all the way up to 1 minute between shots with use.

Third type "depletion" As you use the ammo it has a chance to not work anymore. Start at around a 150% chance to work going down to a 0 percent chance to work. If it fails the weapon just won't fire that round(essentially the player has to choose between conserving ammo at a risk, or using new ammo at a cost).

forth type "grid" as you get further from an "energy grid" the time between shots get weaker and/or take longer to fire

Fifth type "greed" ammo isn't "used" but the more ammo you have the faster the gun fires and/or does more damage. At the cost of some penalty like reduced maximum health, speed, inventory space, or similar.

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Pickups can serve two purposes here: making your character better at what they do, or giving them versatility. In the former case they're a reward to keep the player moving around the map, in the latter they're a more strategic acquisition when the terms of the battle change.

Customization + team play seems to call for specialization. One player might lug the big guns around while another flits about keeping the enemy distracted. In that case the versatility aspect seems less critical: you don't want the bait finding a rocket launcher, or a sniper finding a flame thrower. The players should be rewarded for creating a cohesive combination and fixed rewards don't seem to further that end.

So what about this: Instead of finding guns/ammo you find some sort of energy pellet that feeds your chip? The player then is able to define what sort of rewards make sense for their build. There would be a 'firing speed bit' that gives a fraction of a % speedup each time a pellet is obtained. As the battle progresses, the players would increase their skill. Some bits would spend pellets as better ammo, others would be a constant bonus. This would be another opportunity for specialization: some builds might start weak and get very strong with a high number of pellets. Builds with more immediate benefits would hold off the enemy while that player beefs themselves up enough to finish it off.

Multiple color pellets could also go towards making chip building more strategic. Perhaps there are Red, Green, and Blue pellets and then a corresponding node for each color on the chip. The bits applied around a node would get the most benefit from that pellet type. Thus you could focus on either picking up red or blue pellets depending on how the battle is going. Or you could put the bits that use pellets as ammo around one, and the constant bonuses around another. If you put the pellets in different areas (maybe the enemy drops one type when its damaged) then choosing what color to focus on becomes another strategic choice.

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Thanks to all of you for the feedback.

Just for clarification, we are definitely tilting toward unrealistic Quake 3, Unreal type over Modern Warfare like you said. When I said a sight, I didn't mean put it on a chain gun, each weapon would have its own type upgrades, I was a little general on describing that, sorry.

I really like the "pellet" idea. One thing to mention is we want to keep the majority of this game, skill-based, not class-based. I refer to it as a shooter with RPG elements rather than an RPG with shooter elements. The thing I kind of wanted to avoid was grouping things in a certain class, so when you say sniper grabbing a rocket launcher, I want that to still be semi-effective, and to not have everyone in the game get angry. Of course, thats the main dilemma is that there are upgrades, yet I don't want people to specialize, its definitely a contradiction.

The one issue I do find with the "pellet" system is that some players may try to just run around and collect pellets at the start of the game, and as a fellow player, that would probably irritate me. My first thought was to base it off damage on the boss, but then again, if some upgrades start poorly until you get a large number of pellets, then it'd take them longer to fill up anyway.

I definitely think something like pellets are on the right track, though it doesn't completely solve the weapon problem. Aethonic's point of view agreed with the "make a super weapon upon pickup of starting weapon," though does this mean they can pickup weapons they didn't start with?

I still haven't found a solution I just unquestionably like unfortunately, not sure if that's ever going to come :(

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This could prove trickier than you think. Customization is basically a class system, although fluid. Even if you have every customization result be equally viable, players can still choose a favorite and specialize. I bring this up, because you can make a choice (with no wrong answer): allow classlessness, or enforce it. An example of the latter, weapons gradually getting weaker in use and stronger out of use, so players must switch often to maximize efficacy.

Also, be careful with your customization options. A rate of fire option that adds a multiplicative bonus will give a much larger boost to weapons that are already fast, while an additive bonus will favor slow weapons. Players will gravitate towards the optimum strategy, so you would need to find a way to give an equal bonus to both.

Anyways, this means that your upgrades should not favor specific weapons, hence the Universal Upgrade option is the best bet. I take back what I said about being bland, I have reconsidered the option's potential for creativity. And to clarify, my idea before was that you have a set of basic weapons, available both to start with and pick up, but that if you pick up the weapon you start with it is upgraded. It would encourage them to specialize, though, I'm not so much in favor of it anymore. Instead, if a player had max ammo for a weapon (not used that much) and then picked it up, then they could get encouragement to use it (the upgrade). I think that would work better.

I should also note that teamwork doesn't require classes or rigid specializations, despite what current trends might imply. Those older games -- Quake 3 & Unreal Tournament -- both had teamwork, mostly due to positioning and maneuvering, rather than simply having each other fill gaps in equipment versatility. Pickups are supposed to make that positioning more interesting, because it affects where players go, something for players to seek other than their next kill.

If you are more concerned with movement than the fact that there are pickups, your options open up dramatically. I still strongly suggest weapon pickups that are stronger than any possible default, otherwise the starting weapons will dictate classes. Anyways, you want characters to move around frequently, right? This seems like a level design problem, now that I think about it. Take notes from bosses in games like Lost Planet 2 and the 3D Zelda / Metroid games. Lots of tools on the player or nearby, and they encourage movement. Usually mobility is the result of avoiding the attacks of the enemy, and positioning for offense against the enemy's vulnerabilities. It's difficult to explain exactly what I mean (at 1 am), I'll try and write something more detailed if I can figure it out.

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Quote:
Usually mobility is the result of avoiding the attacks of the enemy, and positioning for offense against the enemy's vulnerabilities. It's difficult to explain exactly what I mean (at 1 am), I'll try and write something more detailed if I can figure it out.


No this is crystal clear. At least for me.

One really important point has been made by Polama :
Quote:

Pickups can serve two purposes here: making your character better at what they do, or giving them versatility.


I think this is the core of the problem. What do you want to achieve with pickup and customization ? specialisation or versatility ? Off battle customization calls for specialisation (class) where weapon pickup during the fight calls for versatility. It is easy to design a game that go one way or the other but finding the right balance between both is much trickier.

Another point is what is the level of cooperation between the players ? Pickup will lead to a 'less cooperative' gameplay where players struggle against each other to get what they want/need. On the other side off fight customization increase cooperation as each player have a (pre-)defined role. Again all the trick is to find the right balance between both... Unless you want to go one side or the other.

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I've come up with a solution I'm at least semi-happy. It does borrow partly from Gears, but I think it solves most of my issues I had with each system.

I think the choice of only 1 upgrade chip vs. 1 upgrade chip and 1 weapon chip depends on the number of upgrades we can come up with. I want there to be thought out choice, which doesn't happen when you can fit pretty much every upgrade between both chips. Therefore, I'm still undecided on 1 or 2 chips, but this isn't a huge issue as long as the basics are down.

The best solution I came up with was to have 3 starting weapons, similar to gears. A machine gun, a close-range weapon (i.e. shotgun), and a pistol. This could be modified to be 2 starting weapons, but its not a huge issue that needs to be declared now. You have a choice of 2 or 3 weapons for your machine gun, something like a full auto one or a single shot, and can customize this weapon with a few things like which sight it uses (that's all I can think of right now, but things that don't affect the "weapon's stats" could be added). There could be attachments for your weapons that you could customize with, but I'm unsure on this. This would be something like, large muzzle, which increases accuracy, but decreases damage, and is entirely optional. You could also possibly have a choice for your pistol, but again, this is a non-critical feature that can be tested and decided on later. You also start with a "gadget" which the player can choose from things like Frag Grenades, C4, etc.

There are weapon pickups all over the map, included the machine gun, close-range weapon, and pistol (picking up these makes a super version of your basic starting weapon.) Weapon Pickups would be things like Rocket launchers, sniper rifles, etc.

Upgrades are done universally. For example, there's a reload speed upgrade, and having it makes all weapons reload faster. The kicker here is that all weapons are variables. Each weapon upgrade has a "Details" tab, which brings up a list of each weapon and how much that upgrade improves its reload speed. This is due to the fact that some weapons may value a certain upgrade over another. A gun that already reloads fast, won't really want a slightly faster reload, so for that specific gun, the upgrade has a higher percentage increased speed. This allows us to attempt to balance each upgrade based on each weapon making it a true choice which upgrades to get rather than which is optimal for your most commonly used weapon. There are also special type upgrade (likely takes up more bits than a normal upgrade), which don't increase basic stats of a gun, but rather alter the actual gun (There may be only one special upgrade, depending on how many things we can think of for each weapon). For example, the special upgrade may increase the splash radius on the rocket launcher, give you a 12x sight on the sniper instead of 8x, and give your assault rifle less recoil. This upgrade is very versatile and focuses on the unique parts of each gun.


TLDR Version: Have 3 basic starting weapons, machine gun, shotgun, pistol, and a gadget that can only be basically customized with things that don't actually increase stats (or at least trade-off stats, i.e. increase damage, sacrifice accuracy). Picking up a starting weapon on the map gives you a super version. Upgrades are universal for whatever weapon you pickup, and are variable depending on the weapon. A Reload speed upgrade has different effects for each weapon.

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I thought I'd mention, pickups don't necessarily mean allied players will need to compete for them, just have the pickups respawn instantly (or never go away).

And in case you're interested, I thought of another idea. All players start with the same gun, but as they collect power-ups the guns keep getting added onto and improved. The customization could, in addition to running/jumping/etc., be things that help you find certain power-ups, collect them from afar, alter what a certain power-up does, etc. instead of actual modifications -- it might be easier than separate upgrade bonuses for each weapon. You could also have customization slots to start with certain upgrades, which wouldn't be so bad with such a fluid system (although you might want to enable players to drop power-ups mid-battle).

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