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Karnot

Weapon statistics visualization

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Imagine you playing a slow-paced shooty game, all your enemies wear heavy armour, you have an inventory with multiple guns in it, but instead of showing you a tooltip with weapon damage numbers - there is a small button labeled "test". If you push this button, a window appears, in which you can see a fixated weapon and a machine that slides armour plates before it, one after another. Then the gun shoots the plates and you can observe what a particular gun will do to an armoured foe, and a magnitude of its effect. For instance a particular weapon might pierce the armour easily or dent it, crack and shatter it or bounce, melt it or reflect.

 

Obviously after some time in the game, you, the player, will be able to generally predict what a particular weapon would do, but would it remain too much of "style over substance" ? A neat visual idea, but a bad design and interface choice ?

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It might be amusing at first, but it could get old. Also min-maxers would just view it as a barrier I think. They would find a way to convert it to a table in Excel. ;) It may have some value if the weapon system is so complex that it isn't easily summed up in numbers.

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My main question is how useful it would likely be to players: given, say, a pistol and an assault rifle, how much will a test-firing reveal? Is your in-game armour model sufficiently complex that the assault rifle's stream of bullets would eventually penetrate? Once a round has penetrated, how do I tell how much damage it does to the enemy, especially if I'm not familiar with the significance of different types of wound?

 

Note: I'm not saying that it can't work, just pointing out concerns that I have.

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Well, to answer your last question it wouldnt really matter how much damage the weapon actually does, as the main obstacle to eliminating the enemy will be the armour, as long as that is disposed of - there will be grievous damage inflicted. As for the model - yes, i am hoping to make it that complex, although it wont be that obvious visually in the actual game. I am thinking of having 5 hotspots per armour plate, so hitting one area will actually penetrate or weaken it in that particular spot.

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I'm not a weapons expert so I likely can't think of a realistic scenario. The type of complexity I'm thinking of is factors like:

  • Whether certain weapons/ammo are effective at glancing angles.
  • Whether certain weapons/ammo are effective at extreme range.
  • Can the bullet do effective damage if it ricochets?
  • How bullets will interact with existing damage, e.g. maybe it's more effective to use a simple armour-piercing round followed by an explosive round.

Other environmental type effects (e.g. blowing up an ammo dump) would probably be too advanced to "test".

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Fair enough; in that case, it makes some sense. Another possibility that comes to mind, by the way (which I recall seeing in other games) is an automated demonstration: show the gun and a target, then have the gun automatically blast away, showing its effect. This may, however, not be suited to your game.

 

If I may ask, why do you intend to make the damage non-obvious, given the importance of the enemy's armour state? I would imagine that being able to gauge the state of an opponent's armour, and quickly interpret the effect of a shot in the field (whether it missed, glanced off, hit an undamaged piece of armour or further depleted a damaged piece of armour) would be very useful to players. Is it intended to be in the service of realism?

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I don't want to see an animation play ten different armor tests one by one. Can the visual display be combined into one display?

 

If 'armor' is just a matter of thickness (i.e. a single value increasing), you could display it like this:

Displaying_data_with_non_numerical_visua

 

If there are various 'types' of armor that different bullet 'types' are good or weak against, you could display it as say, 5 suits of armor in a circle or semi-circle, and various amounts of penetration shown on each suit.

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being able to gauge the state of an opponent's armour

 

And you shall. By seeing bullet dents decals, or cracks, or even outright holes.

 

 

Is it intended to be in the service of realism?

Well, no, not as such. What i want is to hide the mechanics' numbers from the players, thereby forcing them to rely on empirical data. It is realistic, in a sense, though.

 

 

you could display it like this:

I could. What you've given me, is a very clean and neat idea, and i may well end up using something like this, but firstly, it's probably a little too clean cut, for how do you show that a machinegun with a large bullet spread has to hit one area with 12 bullets to punch through ?

Secondly, if i was to use this, i may as well just put a number in a tooltip, for what would the difference be ?

 

 

I don't want to see an animation play ten different armor tests one by one.

That was sort of my point, will people get tired of something like this instantly ? Like that stupid constellation UI bit in Skyrim ? Nice to look at but super annoying to actually use.

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It can be perhaps combined with training. E.g. in training with a weapon one actually learns to use it and how effective it is by shooting selected armor instead of dummies. A trainer may tell you something about the weapon, too, so that a preselection can be established.

 

During gameplay, the "statistics" may then be displayed as "effective against" with some thumbnail images of armor types. The player may also be allowed to use such an icon based system for memorizing their own preferences, e.g. a "use in case of" field can be populated with icons of armor at own decision.

Edited by haegarr

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I like this one. Stick to my original idea, but leave rating the weapons to the players themselves. I do like this, but i think it will be a bit hard to integrate into my setting, as there wont be too many armour types as such. Well, basically there are couple levels of normal armour and an anti-beam kind. And absolute most weapons will not be beams. So, let's say i have here 3 machineguns, which vary in their rate of fire, caliber, and spread. What icons or categories can you come up with to assign them to, so it could be gleaned and used quickly ?

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Don't know about your setting. I just throw some ideas around ;)

 

How does the player equip the avatar with armor? Are already pictures / representations used for this, which may be re-used for above purposes? Is it possible to introduce how hostile armor looks like during, say, a briefing?

 

Some situation dependent icons (for which also optical variations may exist):

 * A helmet for trench warfare,

 * a bulletproof vest for street fight,

 * a shield for defending a storming,

 * a metal plate for ironclad armor,

 * a crosshairs for sniping,

 * ...

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I'm...not sure i see where you are going with this.

Anyway, basically all characters will be cyborgs, carrying large armour plates on their persons. One plate will cover the chest, another will cover abdomen, a large tall piece of armour will be mounted on the shoulder and\or arm, etc.

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I'm...not sure i see where you are going with this.

I'm just looking for an alternative way...

 

The background fact is: The player, using a given weapon, needs N seconds in average to destroy an enemy. Here N depends on the fire rate, momentum, and probability of hitting the (same) target. You don't want to express those values as numbers.

 

Although two weapons may show the nearly the same value for N, they may be differently effective because of the situation. A distant enemy may be shot with a sniper rifle which has a low fire rate but high precision. Due to the distance the player has enough time, and s/he doesn't waste ammo because the spread is low. So that weapon is fine for the situation of a distant enemy, and hence it may be memorized as such.

 

The other weapon is a machine gun, showing a much higher fire rate but also a much higher spread. Using it against a distant enemy will kill it also in N seconds (that was our condition), but at the costs of running out of ammo. So it isn't suited for this situation. However, if the situation is that the enemies approach in a throng and are relatively close, then a sniper rifle is too slow, and spreading is an advantage if each damage will slow down the hit enemy.

 

That said, I'd select the weapon based on the situation. Whether weapon A and weapon B differ just in N and 1.01*N is mostly irrelevant in a game (if it is though, like in a quartet, then perhaps using number is the best choice). So the alternative idea was to let the player test the weapons and classify them suitably for the situations the game may throw them into.

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Yes, and then i said it is a good idea but what if you have one automatic gun that will splurge bullets all over an armour plate from 50 meters away, and one that will hit an area of 1/3 of armour plate from the same distance ? It's still not very accurate, so how will you point out the difference with an icon or two (presumably) or an assigned category ? Or what you are suggesting is to just let players textually write their own description for every weapon ?

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I don't want to see an animation play ten different armor tests one by one. Can the visual display be combined into one display?

 

I agree.  Just another bit to load and sit through.  Give the player the information they need to play.  Build some training or tutorial areas if you want them to see the effects.

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... what if you have one automatic gun that will splurge bullets all over an armour plate from 50 meters away, and one that will hit an area of 1/3 of armour plate from the same distance ? It's still not very accurate, so how will you point out the difference with an icon or two (presumably) or an assigned category ?

Using icons to express preferences for weapons in situations don't need to be exact. The player checks out available weapons in training, sees the results, and decides to use that or another weapon for a particular situation. BTW: How many weapons is the player allowed to carry at once?

 

If you want an icon for precision, you may use a target / butt, showing a defined couple of shots from a defined distance. The closer the hits, the more precise the weapon.

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I dont particularly want or not want an icon, i was just asking you to elaborate, is all.

 

 

player checks out available weapons in training, sees the results, and decides

Sure. But what if he didnt play for a week, and forgets what are the specifics of each weapon ? Would it be acceptable to make him "test it out" all over again ?

 

 

How many weapons is the player allowed to carry at once?

Up to four.

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Don't make it an explicit and permanent part of the interface, or at the very least bury it under the pause screen somewhere.

 

The best possible way is to allow the game to demonstrate it to you -- perhaps because the first time you encounter it is in the hands of a friendly character or foe. Or, maybe you infiltrate a laboratory where the weapon is developed and the results of its tests are visible. It could be part of a cutscene, even. Be creative, and keep in mind you don't have to do it with 'standard-fare' weapons -- the machine gun, "bfg-9000", and shotgun/"spreads" are well-worn tropes.

 

If you are compelled to have a slick animation in game, have it interrupt gameplay with a modal dialog, but only the first time you pick up that weapon -- furthermore, as best you are able to within the confines of your design, try to ensure that this first time the weapon is picked up happens during a lull in the gameplay as to not break up the immediate flow or intense action.

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Sure. But what if he didnt play for a week, and forgets what are the specifics of each weapon ? Would it be acceptable to make him "test it out" all over again ?

 

You have your mind made up, so why bother asking? 

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You have your mind made up, so why bother asking?

And you have nothing to contribute, so why did you bother replying ?

 

 

If you are compelled to have a slick animation

Slick animation is not the point.

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And you have nothing to contribute, so why did you bother replying ?

 

Zing!  You really got me, now.  You got me so I don't know what I'm doin'...

 

I bothered because you need a dose of big-boy logic.  Your idea is superfluous and ill-conceived, yet you insist on nit-picking anyone who doesn't blow smoke up your thread. No one will say "Wow -- what an awesome idea!" to something so useless.

 

Someone had to tell you.  I'm sorry it had to be me.  Can we hug it out now?

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Taking a different approach to the question, perhaps a contributing factor to the perceived problem you are trying to solve, OP, is that the differences between weapons are too subtle. In most action games, weapon choices (and others) tend to be distinctive and stratified -- that is, the differences between weapons are more pronounced, and their strategic implications are clear as a result. In games with more of a simulation bent -- thing of a racing simulation or a game like armored core -- the details *are* nuanced and important, but those choices are made separate from the main action. Generally, these kinds of genre tropes evolve because they suit clusters of players with similar preferences (as here, between "arcade-style" gameplay and simulation/realism gameplay), and the spaces between these clusters are more sparsely populated with potential players (spaces off the direct line-of-sight, sparser still).

 

That's not to say that there's not an audience in those other spaces -- finding your player base is a bit like the business of mining in this regard, there are well known 'viens' of players, and new veins yet to be discovered. There's new gold to be found, the trouble is all that blasted, worthless rock that's in the way (and that its really hard to guess at the difference until you start digging).

 

There are examples of games that have successfully offered nuanced weapon selection in an action-oriented context through. Borderlands, for instance, stratifies their weapons choices along function, and then layers on top of that a color-coded system that indicates rarity/power (and as part of that, certain of the fictional manufacturers have extra expertise in certain weapons categories), and a tertiary system of additional elemental effects. All the details exist under the hood, buried in a menu, but the weapon style, its color, and extra damage types are enough information to make a value judgement even during action. What the Borderlands system amounts to is a primary matrix with 3 distinct axis. For most people, this is a lot easier to think quickly about than distinctions that are more arbitrary.

 

A final thought on this problem is that its helpful to keep in mind that when you're talking about any kind of player customization (be it weapons, armor, spells, or hats) its more about suiting that player's preferred play style than it is about dictating the terms on which they engage the game. You don't have to pander, of course, but players personify their avatar through their equipment -- your job as a designer is to afford them interesting opportunities and trade-offs through their doing so.

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Thinking about it further, given that damage will apparently be visible during combat, I wonder whether it might not be enough to simply let the player learn the properties of each weapon during play (perhaps combined with a brief description in an information screen, should the player call it up). As long as the weapons aren't all dumped on the player at once, I would expect that there would likely be enough space for the player to gain some degree of intuitive understanding of each weapon over time.
 

 

I don't want to see an animation play ten different armor tests one by one. Can the visual display be combined into one display?

 
I agree.  Just another bit to load and sit through.  Give the player the information they need to play.  Build some training or tutorial areas if you want them to see the effects.

 

 

You seem to be assuming that these are long animations; I had in mind short clips, seen only once (or at player request), and dismissed as desired. Perhaps they might play in a "view weapon" screen that the player can (optionally) call up in order to examine the action of the various weapons.
 
In all fairness, I've generally seen this used for comparison of upgrade branches: the player has levelled up, and been presented with two new weapons from which to choose. Each is demonstrated by a short, looping animation that provides a visual impression of
 
Additionally, this might be better suited to weapons that differ in fairly simple ways: spread-fire or rapid-fire; seeking shot or beam; etc.
 
In short, I think that I agree with your conclusion, if not your reason. tongue.png
 
 

If 'armor' is just a matter of thickness (i.e. a single value increasing), you could display it like this:
Displaying_data_with_non_numerical_visua

 

This seems like a decent idea. I could see other information being included as well: rays shooting out around the "bullet" might illustrate spread, a second, angled plate-and-bullet set might depict the angle at which bullets glance away, etc.
 
 

 

being able to gauge the state of an opponent's armour

 
And you shall. By seeing bullet dents decals, or cracks, or even outright holes.

 

 

Ah, fair enough--I interpreted your saying that it wouldn't "be that obvious visually in the actual game" to indicate that it wouldn't be very visible at all.
 

 

you could display it like this:

I could. What you've given me, is a very clean and neat idea, and i may well end up using something like this, but firstly, it's probably a little too clean cut, for how do you show that a machinegun with a large bullet spread has to hit one area with 12 bullets to punch through ?

 

 

To the first, does the player have to know the exact number of bullets? I would think that players would more likely rely on an idea of how long it might take, and visual feedback on armour-state, than on counting individual hits.

To the second, it's more visual.

However, see my concession above that this idea may well not work for your game.

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Obviously after some time in the game, you, the player, will be able to generally predict what a particular weapon would do, but would it remain too much of "style over substance" ? A neat visual idea, but a bad design and interface choice ?

 

I think you just answered your own question. It may look pretty sweet, but I think the player would just prefer the number. The alternative is no number and allow the player to "test" their weapons in combat by shooting enemies.

 

Have you considered throwing together a rough prototype in Flash to test it out?

Edited by Adam Moore

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