Friday, 1 July 2011

Weapon Progression

In many custom HL2 maps I've played the authors add an element of weapon progression from Crobar through to Rocket Launcher. In smaller maps these weapons are delivered to the player thick and fast so by about 4 mins into the map they're fully kitted out with a complete arsenal.

It seems to me though, that unless weapon progression is going to serve the gameplay, you might as well avoid it completely and simply give the player all the weapons at the start of the map.

Here's some thoughts on the various functions weapon progression can serve.

That Good Ole Feeling..

Each weapon has a certain feel to it. This can really help when trying to convey a feeling across to the player.

Taking HL2 weaponry as an example... if you want the feeling of motion and swift firefights then the SMG, grenades and AR2 are probably you're best options.

If you want the player to feel powerful then the Shotgun and Magnum and Grav Gun are probably good choices.

For a more considered and slow approach the Pistol and Crossbow should fit the bill.

And for all out destruction, even at targets on the ground, the Rocket Launcher is the daddy but it's slow to reload don't forget so the player is left a little vunerable.

Weapon Absence

I would argue that not having the right weapon or not having a weapon at all makes for some pretty interesting gameplay.
Players aren't used to running away from the bad guys. It takes a hell of a lot of coersion to make them. The players natural reaction to an enemy is to attack. That's what games have been teaching players to do for years.
At the beginning of HL2 when Gordon was on the run, it takes about 5 NPCs all telling you to run away just to convince the player to do so.
I've been dying to put together a map where the main aim is to outrun the bad guys. To make it through some crazy assault course with the bad guys chasing you all the way.
One day I'll crack it...

Also, by denying the player a gun I force them to think creatively. A situation that could be resolved swiftly with a few shotgun shells becomes a mad scramble to stay alive using other methods provided to the player by the mapper.

No Gun Just Run!!!! Point Insertion From HL2

The Right Tool For The Right Job

Its often the case that the player is given the weapon that is most effective against a particular NPC just before they meet them in the map. I often think this is a bit of a wasted opportunity and comes across as quite contrived.
Surely it's more challenging and more fun to have the player meet that NPC before they find the appropriate weapon? Make them fight hard to reach the weapon that will make their lives easier.

A great example of this is the Surface Tension map for HL1. The player spend lots of time running away from the Apache chopper then finally get rewarded with the weapon they need to take it down. The victory is very sweet indeed when it comes...

Alternatively, I can make that weapon the objective of an area. The player can see the weapon they need but just can't get to it without a fight or puzzle with the tricky NPC hassling them every step of the way.

Too easy or too hard?

A major consideration on weapon progression is how a particular weapon will affect future encounters later in the map. What weapons will the player have in their arsenal at that time. Later NPC encounters in my map need to be much more dynamic as to how the player can assault the enemy. If they have a long range weapon at the time it gives the player more choice as to the style of the assault. My map has to provide cover for sniping positions.

I can also manage weapon usage through the provision of ammo but that's not a certain method to ensure the player wont have access to that weapon at any time. Some players enjoy being frugal with their bullets.

Weapon Stripping

Sometimes, in order to justify a certain type of action, removing all the players weapons is necessary. I would be very careful with this though. I mustn't forget that the player worked really hard to get the weapons in the first place. It seems very mean to take them away and the player could hate me for it.

Also, working in a plausible reason why all they're weapons are being taken can be tough.
The most obvious is a capture scenario. The player is thrown in jail and has to escape and reclaim all their weapons. This is very cliched though and I'm sure we can can come up with something a little more interesting.

Weapon delivery and weapon gates

Creating various ways of delivering weapons to the player can also be a little difficult. I don't want my player to miss a weapon pick up, so I need to find a way to make sure they actually have picked up the weapon they need.
I covered weapon gates in my earlier post so I wont go back into the idea but if at all possible I must make sure that the player picked up the weapon before they proceed. A nice way is to place it in a tight doorway or crawl space where the player cant miss it.
I could also use an NPC gate where the NPC wont open the way forward for the player until the weapon is picked up.

In addition I would say that I try to make the placement of the weapon pick up as logical as possible.

Simply having a loaded shotgun lying on the floor in the middle of a hallway doesn't sit well with me.

I mean some kid could just come along and pick it up!!!

I try to place weapons next to dead soldiers, on tables with NPCs near by, or on a weapon rack in a secure room. I try to make the weapon pick up placement fit and blend with the environment as much as possible while still being obvious to the player.

Hope this was an interesting read.

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