Knife + Pistol?
Being a small team with limited resources, and because we are essentially minimalists, we are always thinking of ways we can get more out of less. We try to reduce the amount of artwork we need to create, reduce the code we need to write, etc. With this in mind, here’s some background on the roles of the knife and pistol in Natural Selection 1.
The knife in NS1 wasn’t originally part of the game. I realized early in playtests why most or all FPS games have a melee weapon that you spawn with – when you run out of ammo you need to have a CHANCE to defeat other players. This was magnified in NS1 where you could be out in the field and reliant on another player (the Commander) to give you ammo. So we knew we need a melee weapon in NS2. However, the fact is that players often spend a significant amount of time using their knives on high health alien structures. That is, they stare at a big stationary object and hold down their left mouse button. And wait. There must be a way to lessen the monotony of this.
And what about a pistol? When we were thinking about how to improve the pistol in NS2, we realized that the pistol in NS1 had only one really good use – a backup ranged weapon that could be used when your primary weapon couldn’t be used (ie, it needed to be reloaded or needed ammo from an armory or Commander). The long-range accuracy of the pistol along with it’s high damage and essentially infinite rate of fire (which was added to give it more skill, but was commonly scripted) made it sort of an uber-weapon. We knew we didn’t want it to function this way in NS2 but the question was, what to do with it?
So this is what we desired in NS2:
- A melee weapon that you can always use
- A secondary ranged weapon that isn’t better than your default weapon
- A way for players to destroy structures without monotony
- To minimize the work we have to do
With these goals in mind, we started thinking about a "hybrid" weapon that solved all these problems. This is what we came up with:
You can see from the notes in the concept largely how it functions, but let me describe it in a bit more detail. The primary fire ability fires transponders into ranged targets. This is our basic pistol functionality and will let you try to stop a fleeing Lerk or nail an assaulting Skulk before your screen fades to black. The alt-fire ability functions as a basic melee attack, not unlike the knife.
The transponders both do damage when they hit and also stick in for awhile (either for a certain amount of time or perhaps fall off relatively quickly from moving targets and stay for a long time in stationary ones). By charging the primary attack, you can send electricity through the transponders, doing damage to one or more targets in range. This would start as a harmless light electric shock, but over time would grow to massive damage. This makes it ideal for taking down structures (high hit points, stationary). Because it can work through multiple targets too, it means you might be able to take down a few structures without too much effort or time. It would take long enough for the alien team to respond but not so long as to be tedious.
Besides achieving our design goals, we think there are going to be a lot of other cool things players do with this weapon. Chaining of electricity, holding the alt-fire to form a "shield" that does damage if an alien runs into it, possibly even electrifying marine structures. It also means one less weapon to concept, model, texture, rig and animate!