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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.