Making gunplay feel interesting and rewarding so that it doesn’t feel lacking [the important stuff]

Intro
Hey everyone, I think it’s high time we talk about gunplay finally. With Darktide in developement we need to understand that it’s not an easy task for the developers to make melee weapons not overshadow guns. The melee system is a fundamental mechanic that nearly all the gameplay and combat flows around. There’s been a lot of noise around lasguns with recoil so lets talk about why is it good or bad.

Gunplay
The most important thing for us is to define what is gunplay. I found a pretty accurate description and definition of it. Here’s what we are talking about. What is Gunplay? This video presents a detailed explanation without being too boring to watch. I highly advise to watch it because it’s very fun and interesting to watch even if you’re a casual player. I think that any FPS developer should’ve watched this video since it’s a really fun lesson in gamemaking. TL:DR summary would be is that gunplay is what makes the core gameplay mechanic of any shooter fun and engaging. You want your weapon to feel rewarding to play with. You want it to make cool sounds, help you in different situations and you want it to be able to change the environment around you in a really cool fashion (also you your weapon to look cool but that’s another topic).

Improving Gunplay
In Vermintide 2 we had a lot of weapons that had really bad gunplay.
Ranged weapons there felt like an unpolished wooden box. Dull, empty and with splinters on the edges. I understand that the main selling point of this game is of course melee system but still, the guns don’t feel great.

  1. The first important thing of a cool weapon is of course the look of it. It’s crazy how sometimes it goes unnoticed how important it is for a weapon to look great and different from other ones. It is the very thing that makes a player think “This gun looks sick, I’m totally chosing this one!”. The weapon can’t be too small and too big for it’s size. Now that’s obvious but how to improve it. I would say set up a diverse arsenal for players to choose from and add skins that not only change the “skin” but also the model. If there is a bad model of a flamethrower then people won’t feel like playing with a odd looking flamethrower (I’m going to put a lot of flamethrower examples since it’s my favourite). Why skins that alter the barrel and the main body of the model? Even the sound if you wish the more the better. Each cosmetic option is an another chance for player to like the look of the gun and feel cool about it.

  2. Sound design is a big part of any game. Without a proper sound a minigun would sound like a toy. Nobody is going to use a shotgun that makes sounds of a clicking pen. We all want guns which firing of make a proper sound. There are weapons which sound design is fairly limited in some cases but it’s nothing to be afraid of. Small rifle would have a short gunshots or have the previous sound of the shot overlap the previous ones while muffling them. With shotguns and sniper rifles you don’t have this problem because usually these are slow firing. Here on the other hand you can make the gunshot really loud and lasting as it echoes through a hall or a dungeon. While it’s difficult (but not impossible) to make a shotgun feel good without a punchy sound, you totally can make a sniper rifle sound different. Depending on the design of the weapon it can make a spiky, high sound as it fires an armor-piercing metal rod or anything really. Reverb and echo is also very welcome with all ranged weapons and explosives like I previously said.

  3. Animations. The last and third part of creating a weapon. I want to say this part can not be underestimated but honestly none of those parts can. They’re all equally as important and fundamental to the process of weapon creation. For a weapon to feel great beside the sound and the look of it you absolutely need them to feel real and believable. When walking you need to have the gun to sway. Imagine walking with a flamethrower in your hands for an hour while aiming in front of you and not even moving your arms. The weapon would feel like a sticker stuck on your screen and not a core game element. It needs to move in your hands as you handle it as you run and jump. When falling from a high place you need your gun to pull you down to the ground. When pulling the weapon from your back you need to again “feel” the weapon’s weight. You pull out an smg quick but with a flamethrower it needs to be more than fast click, when holding a weapon this big your reload is going to take more time. Lastly the recoil depending on the weapon needs to be punchy or not, you expect an smg to have small recoil in order to be effective in close quarters. You need that to quickly turn it and adjust your aim struggling to hard to maintain your aim. It’s a different story with a flamethrower. In V2 the bardin’s flamethrower felt bad because it was a high damage leaf blower. A real flamethrower pulls HARD and you almost fight for the control of it. There are videos on youtube for those of you curious. You also expect a huge sniper rifle or a big shotgun to kick like a mule (unless in hands of an ogryn). Slight camera shake is just a cherry on top.

Making the important decision
In gaming industry you need to make a lot of decisions and frankly I think the developers don’t get enough credit for it. In games in the universe or warhammer the lore plays a huge part in the games. There are a lot of die-hard fans which dedicate a lot of their time to this world and you need to take care of them, honor their involvement. However there are some things that need to compromised in order for a video game to work. The main two things are balance and fun. There was a loud discussion of a lasgun having a recoil. That thing really baffled me because usually you expect a gun to have recoil. After digging though the massive thread you realize that in this world lasguns may or may not have recoil, it all depends on how you interpret things. What do I think? I think it’s comical we discuss lore accuracy over fun. It’s a game we are talking about and it’s fun that is the biggest part of it. Fun is needed in almost all forms of entertainment. You absolutely need to honor the lore and the hardcore fans but in order for the product to sell well you also need to reach out to casual players. And it’s a sci-fi universe. Just like with magic you shouldn’t have to explain how each individual thing work. I’m not super educated about lore of warhammer but surely there is magic, or at least “forces and energies” that are basically magic made more interesting and grounded. It’s not bad for a sci-fi game to make a compromise and have the lasgun to have a recoil and a gunshot. Without them it just wouldn’t work in a fps. The weapon would feel unfinished. The sound and the animation are very important like I previously mentioned. Starwars for example even have sound in space to make stuff more cool. Why? Because they make decisions that are also based on fun and not just stiff lore. That’s how you appeal to the casual market, get crazy sell numbers and make the games do well. There are books that are solely focused on lore and story. No over the top sounds, no recoil animation, just you, lore and the story. However it’s a video game we are talking about and it’s a different world where sticking to lore only never works.

That’s all
Thanks for reading the post, if you made it to here you hopefully learned a lot about making video games. If there is anything I missed then comment below or perhaps you don’t agree with something. That’s okay too. Cheers.

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Good points, I especially agree about animations, sound design and recoil.

To add I would also make a point for “hidden” mechanics, such as active reload, q-cancel reload etc. They add a lot of depth to the gunplay and are present in most good shooters.

Regarding recoil, it is indeed needed. Without recoil the weapon will have to have shitty dmg and/or range etc for balance purposes. Maybe there is a place for such a weapon though, who knows? I just personally don’t enjoy recoil-less guns, it doesn’t feel right. It’s the same argument that no sound can exist in space, yet space battle in star wars without sound would be very dull to watch.

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They’re working hard on the core game features and I can’t wait for the premiere. I would kill for an active reload mechanic. This is an amazing idea that would help the ranged combat feel a lot more intense and skillful making it easy to learn but hard to master. Love it.

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I like the guns from KF2, to me those look&feel&sound really good. As does the animations.

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Seeing those works of art in action in slowmotion is a real treat. That is exactly why Killing Floor 2 remains as one of my favourite games of all times period. The gunplay there is so much fun people don’t need story or lore. The gameplay alone makes all the players love the game. Now that is an achievement.

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Yes, and watching someone kill the big red bossy thing with all headshot (knowing exactly where to aim etc) is really impressive.

I’m going to go against the grain, I really like the simplicity of Vermintide ranged weapons as they are. They feel rough but impactful to me. There is definitely some sameyness between weapons, but I think that’s the same for a lot of melee weapons too.

I haven’t played Killing Floor so I can’t comment on that. I just don’t want to end up fighting my weapons’ weird behaviors more than I’m fighting the enemies.

Also, active reload already exists for some ranged weapons in Vermintide. I hope they expand on those kinds of features!

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I agree to your OP until the “Making the important decision” point.

The 3 aspects of weapon making you mentioned are all very important.

What should be added as 4th one - is gameplay diversity. All guns can be animated great, have solid sound design, and distinct cool looks, but if they’re similar in gameplay, then its a waste, especially in sci-fi genre where there can be ranged weapons that work on completely different principles. Like bullets, laser, plasma, fire, electricity …

Which takes us to the point i disagree:

I’m sure that a recoilless gun can be made fun. Not for everyone though, because fun is a subjective thing.

If you think that no matter what else is done to the weapon, the simple fact that it has no recoil - equals no fun, then its just your preference. A preference for traditional ballistic guns.

As i said, a sci-fi setting gives a lot of opportunities for ranged combat diversity, and adding recoil to laser weapons is a waste - basically turning them into reskinned assault rifles. More choice is better, right?

The gameplay diversity is not only about making guns distinct from one another, but also about tactical depth and skill curve (hard to master part).


To make recoilless weapon fun, lets break down the problems it faces, its a 2 part thing:


  1. Visual and audio feedback.

We’re all accustomed to guns producing a kick when we fire them from other games. W\o any gun or screen movement when shooting (completely static), i agree it would look bad.

So just add some shake to the gun and the screen, like it was in new Doom games with the Plasma rifle.

Sound design is unaffected by no recoil. Having a powerful sound will still make a good impact.


  1. Gameplay mastery and depth.

If you take out recoil, then one of the major components to mastery is missing - recoil control, recoil patterns. (Aiming is still there).

But fret not, because the lasgun is sci-fi, you can introduce mechanics to increase the depth dramatically.

For example, the charging time favoring release of the shot in a certain moment for more damage (think of Kruber’s longbow). If you miss the timeframe you lose damage.
Or how about making a laser beam last for a split second, so you can fire it and quickly move your mouse to hit multiple enemies, like using a laser cutter?

This is the kind of stuff that will give depth to ranged combat, like Vermintide melee is done. Not just visuals and sounds. The ideal for ranged combat depth imo is Unreal Tournament weapons, namely the shock rifle with its shock combo.


Sidenote: greatest gun (and explosion) sound design i’ve ever seen in a game - is from Squad, a realistic military FPS. I think they recorded all guns from live ones!

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I’m absolutely loving your suggestion and I’m glad we can learn from your suggestion. While I thought it was only natural to make weapons and characters look and feel different it is very important to stop once in a while and ask yourself. How does that thing stand out though? What is the key and trademark of this thing.

Well isn’t that shake recoil at the end? Whatever you call it, I think in the end we are talking about the same thing.

I can only dream we get ranged combat so deep and involving in this game. You really keep diversity and mastery close to your heart and I respect that. I am all in for the easy to learn hard to master tricks. With those systems in the game you can see a big difference between new and veteran players. Now, all of a sudden there is a lot going on in the game between a new ogryn and a 2000 hours ogryn besides a different character portrait frame. Big fan of the laser thing you had going on. Imagine we had laser drills you could charge and shoot for 1 second. A new player would keep it on the target in a line in front of him. A veteran player would start his swipe on the left and end it on the right slicing through the swarm scoring massive headshot count too. Im pretty sure you can do that in Vermintide 2 in melee combat. Charge your two-hander for a left side swing, and mid-swing pull it hard to the right to cover more ground with your attack. Fantastic suggestions.

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I really enjoyed the video that you linked on gunplay! It was really funny, accurate, and detailed.

Alternate models for the weapons and not just player skins is HUGE. When you gender lock classes and model lock certain weapons for instance, it can have a surprisingly massive impact on player turnout and enjoyment. The amount of work versus the opportunity cost here can far outweigh even adding an extra career/weapon/skill/map. Initial game adoption and goodwill are the most important things for a game’s longevity. Of course there is a middle ground to be found, because you don’t want everything feeling the same, bland, not unique, etc., but it is worth the effort to investigate, every time. Community polling can also be a powerful tool to this end, e.g., “Do you guys want 2 new weapon models for every ranged weapon in the next DLC, or xyz instead?” People are much more accepting of current constraints/issues if they feel their voices have been listened to, and they know what is being worked on by priority. Sorry if I got a little off topic in lieu of pure gunplay points but these issues are so important and applicable to many facets of the game’s overall foundation.

Sound design for weapons always seems to be the “last item on the list” but for what it’s worth, I would rather a game completely abandon a physics engine in exchange for top of the line sound design. Like you said, reverb and echo depending on walls/arenas/buildings, the sizzle after firing guns/lasguns, ammo casings being ejected and rolling around on the floor, the sound of the enemies armor being broken/penetrated by a shot… It’s funny to think about, but as gamers, we can only see and hear our games. We can’t touch nor smell them (for now lol). Let’s say we switched the soundsets of the handgun and masterwork pistol, or the executioner sword with the rapier. The difference in experience, regardless of gameplay balance, would be staggering, right? For the most part, I think Fatshark has nailed this aspect on melee and a lot of ranged weapons and enemies. I can close my eyes on a Vermintide 2 stream and pretty much know the character being played, the enemy being fought, the weapon being used/fired, and whether or not a crit/headshot was landed. Darktide will be a lot more challenging to nail in this aspect, but it can be done, especially by Fatshark. If my bolter and chainsword and lasgun sound weird or weak, it’s going to disproportionately overshadow all the work that’s been done on the environment, gameplay balance, and other immersive elements. Again, as a qualifier, melee/guns sounding punchy shouldn’t drown out everything else in the game to the point where you can’t hear allies’ callouts, specials’ sound cues, etc. I’m sure that the balancing act related to this aspect causes the most amount of difficulty, and I appreciate how well Fatshark has addressed it thus far.

Regarding animations, I wholeheartedly agree that they’re important, but for those who are nausea prone like myself, I can’t play games that force head-bob, sway, camera shake, etc. Thank Sigmar there are options to turn these settings off in the menu and with approved-official mods, or else I would’ve only played Vermintide 2 for 2.5 hours, instead of almost 2,500 hours. I’m totally fine with fighting recoil and whatnot, though. Your flamethrower example is a good one actually, I didn’t realize why it felt wonky until reading the explanation you gave.

Yes, at the end of the day, the game needs to be more of a fun video game than a hyper-realistic training simulation for a Guardsman. I’m horrible at remembering lore (and IRL History for that matter), but every time I’m exposed to it, I love it and want to preserve its immersive factors for others. Sometimes, not all the time…but sometimes, things need to be sacrificed for fun, even if it means justifying recoil on a lasgun :smile:

Fantastic post :cowboy_hat_face:

I’m happy for you ^^

We are clearly speaking the same language, I was just pointing out similar things in my new post. You could say great minds speak alike hahahahah. Seriously dude, it’s as if I was reading my own thoughts. Brilliant. The pools and surveys is exactly what is needed. Not adding a character to the game that nobody wants. The feeling of wasted content hurts at the both sides. For players since they didn’t get a character they want and for the devs because they put their heart into it.

Once again, this is absolutely unreal hahahah. I agree with every word you have written. Bolters are a trademark of space marines who play a huge role in 40k. Now imagine playing as a space marine with bolter that sounds like a toy. Now the whole game feels like a joke and a waste of time.

You’ve got to see this then. You won’t believe it when you see the difference between the recoil of Bardin’s flamethrower and a real one. I would only imagine weapons in wh40k should feel more powerful and not weaker than the real-life counterparts. Click here to check out the real recoil behind a flamethrower hahahah and have a great day ^^

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To clarify what i meant:

recoil - affects your crosshair, aiming. When you shoot, the aim is thrown up (for a moment). It’s the way lasgun is presented in Darktide gameplay.

shake - doesn’t affect crosshair or aiming (or very slightly), it’s just an animation of weapon model, the shots will land in the same spot if you just keep firing (w/o compensating for recoil).

For example, the Plasma rifle in Doom - has no recoil that impacts aiming or projectiles, its just the weapon model has shake:

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Fantastic, thank you. I was speaking of the weapon shake then. It was the weapon animations I had in mind. The bigger the shake the more powerful the weapon that’s my rule of thumb hahahahah.

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That flamethrower vid was perfect, and one of the comments spoke about it being hard to breathe/extra “recoil” being generated because of the pressurization changes in the air from all the fire being pushed in front of you. Absolutely gnarly :warhammer:

Yeah we are definitely on the same page with this stuff :grinning:

I had to put my 2 cents in because of how highly I regard these aspects, and how often I see them overlooked in the industry/life of a game or franchise.

Sometimes people leave ugly Steam reviews on games without much comment on these rather tangible reasons, which unfairly leaves Devs wondering what went wrong. Devs will see comments like “guns were lame, melee was boring,” and apply their repairing efforts too broadly or compensate with newer content without addressing the base issues. What the disgruntled customer could have meant, is that the game’s content, visuals, and mechanics worked satisfactorily, but aesthetically the combined delivery of the immersive aspects of sounds/visuals/weight was too lacking for melee/guns. Even though I don’t play Fortnite for example, it’s easy to systematically agree their gunplay is amazing, even though it’s too cartoon-y for many.

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To be completely fair though, the plasma rifle is my least favourite weapon in doom. Just because of the recoil and sound, but maybe it’s just me not liking futuristic pew-pew weapons.

I have to agree. From the very first trailer, I noticed that the plasma gun doesn’t sound or look nearly as punchy as the other weapons. Like, check out the rest of them. These guys made something absolutely impressive and unreal. What they accomplished is on par with the level of audio accuracy of the audio design in “Squad”. Yes, these weapons do not exist. But if there was a machinegun this heavy and bulky then you are sure this is exactly how it would sound like. It sounds so punchy you can almost feel each burst of rounds. The visual and sound feedback is on point. You mod your machinegun with a sniper or a rocket mod? It still feels fantastic. It’s not an underdeveloped feature but instead, each weapon mod feels like a completely different weapon class.

@sn3jk Check out this video instead, this is a great example of how much power you can put in video games weapons.

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definitely going to have to wait for more gameplay footage. Sound design is going to be the biggest player on making 40k weapons sound right, but making sure the weapon and general tone goes hand in hand. I think the trailer didn’t do a good job of showing off how nice the las gun was because of the background music. Next trailer should show off more of the actual in game mechanics.

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We need Weapons Sound Poll like in Inquisitor Martyr so we can choose the sounds as a Community?

I don’t think we do but that would be great honestly. No wait, picture this. A weapon module that alters the way your weapons sounds. Wan your bolter to sound normal? Sure. Want your bolter to sound extra heavy or light? Go for it. I think a soundpack would be very welcome after game’s release.

Who doesn’t love options?

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A soundpack is actually an insanely good idea. Just like alternate gun models, but probably easier to do and arguably just as important. I’m still waiting for the day where I can control the volume levels of each weapon and enemy individually but maybe that will have to wait until the year 2077 :smile:

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