Friday, August 28, 2009

Sticking With the Old Ways

Following on somewhat from my previous post regarding movement in games, one of my most major gripes is the way developers seem to stick so doggedly to the old ways of doing things. I understand in some instances it's due to engine, time, or budget constraints, but there are plenty of devs out there with the time and the money to try something new. So why don't they?

After movement, the way weapons behave is probably the most important (yet most neglected) aspect of a shooter. Yeah, yeah, your game features accurate recoil and perhaps even ballistics because your coders spent a day out on the range firing the real things - but where does the projectile originate from? In the overwhelming majority of shooters, it's the mystical camera, that thing which seems to be of paramount importance in dictating gameplay mechanics. Why does the player's viewpoint control everything? Why doesn't the player's body control the camera, or the player's rifle control the projectile it supposedly fires? Using Insurgency as an example, the former system can be a real nightmare to work with, especially when aiming for realism. Until a patch was released several weeks after the first release, Insurgency players found that while their crosshair could be directly on the target, their bullet would hit the wall, ground, or windowsill in front of them. This isn't limited to the Source engine; Red Orchestra has the same problem at times. Sure, you can adjust the camera height or the projectile origin in relation to the camera, but wouldn't it just be a better idea to change the entire system and make the game that much better?

Think about it. If your body and weapons are in control, wouldn't things be a lot easier? Wouldn't they make a lot more sense? If your weapon's muzzle is colliding with something, your bullet will strike the obstruction. If your weapon is clear of any obstructions, then your bullet will fly forth and kill whatever gets in its way. Instead of relying on a simple cone of randomised trajectories to reduce the effectiveness of firing on the move, the round will fly in a predictable trajectory... from the muzzle of your weapon, wherever it's pointing. If you're sprinting, that could be at the ground. It could be into your teammate beside you. It could be into your own foot. Breathing hard? Your rifle is moving with you, and anything fired from it will be affected by this. ArmA had this system, and with a few exceptions, it worked quite well. It wasn't entirely foolproof, but it was a tremendous improvement.

Perhaps it's time developers waved a fond farewell to the fixed-camera-centric shooter, and welcomed a new system into their studios - a system where the player's avatar is the most important thing.

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