Extra Punctuation: Weapon-Crafting That Works

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Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri did the same thing. But it didn't need to animate anything, just model it at eight different angles. But there was a crafting system in that game.

The Masters of Orion series allowed you to customize ship weapons... But it wasn't as cool as melee stuff. Galactic Civilizations II: Dread Lords allowed players to design ships and weapons placements. Still, not melee.

His idea was fully custom-built weapons. Not simply weapons that required a recipe. Which Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri did. So it wasn't melee, it's still the same basic idea. Take parts, put them together. Just in a different context.

Fully customized weapons would need to follow something more akin to what GCII:DL did though: have pieces that all have connection points and that's where the other pieces can go. You could build off of that by having integrity points not only on the attached item but also where it was attached and the nature of the attachment. Example: anvil on a pool queue would have some difficulties with weight problems (snapping the stick because of the anvil) - but a pool queue attached to an anvil wouldn't (anvil with pool queue sticking off it) - but it wouldn't work well either.

It would be nice though if even after they were attached you could disassemble and reassemble with other things (take your anvil off and attach it to a still pole = POLE HAMMER!). You could also have different kinds of material to attach items to one another. Duct tape would be cheap, easy to find and repair but wouldn't last long and would have fewer numbers for sustaining items with higher weight #s. I suppose you could get away with allowing more duct tape to be used but that would work. Example:

Anvil weighs 40 lbs. One unit of duct tape attaches 2 lbs to an object. It will take 20 units of duct tape to attach the anvil to a steel pole. However you could use 40 units of duct tape to help sustain the attached items because duct tape has a low durability and durability is stacking (with diminishing returns). it could be made more complicated by stating that the anvil is 8 units in size and that one unit of duct tape that attaches 2 lbs only handles 1 size unit which would mean not only would it need 20 units of tape just to attach for the weight but also multiplied by 8 to handle the weight, which would be 160 units of tape (this may be more realistic but make things too complicated).

Alternatively steel bracing could be used to attach the anvil and the pole but would require the player to weld the two together - so now you've got the possibility for skill branches, higher costs, and tools required to build weapons or maybe just a smith that builds for you with higher costs, but that makes sense because you'll have a weapon with higher durability. Wouldn't want that Pole Hammer to turn into a metal staff...

Could go really crazy and have items that can be added to weapons to make them lighter, more durable, easier to wield, and increase defensive properties besides just increasing their damage properties. Those items could be real things like shoulder straps or handles, hardening sprays, plates for shielding, refining of the metal pole or items on the pole, etc.

This brings me to refinement points. Areas on the constructed weapon that could be improved by eliminating weight but sacrificing power - such as 'cutting' away parts of the anvil (rather than adding) to make the Pole Hammer easier to use. This may take away it's 'bashing' characteristics but could add 'stabbing' even tough it's still a hammer but now with a giant spike carved, chiseled, torched out of one end of it.

Built weapons could also have primary and secondary attacks. Basically you as the weapon designer decide how the character holds the weapon. Examples of how the character could hold the Pole Hammer:

1. Anvil end - not very effective if the character is holding the most damaging end, but would make the weapon easier to handle for someone not strong enough.
2. Opposite the anvil end (handle end) - can wield more damage but lack control and requires more strength and stamina to attack
3. Center of pole - holding like a staff gives player more control but less damage. Attacks are quicker but less damage.

I suppose this would get into a kind of labeling what your primary attack will be and then what secondary attack is possible in that position (or which secondary attack you'd like to be able to do). And, you should always be able to throw your weapon at the enemy, doesn't mater what it is or how you're holding it. Though the 'thrown' end should always be able to be mapped (in case you have a giant spear on the opposite end of your hammer :)). Also, depending on what 'slots' on the weapon are available depends on how the weapon can be held. Holding onto the weapon's glass shard covered hammer is going to damage you every time you use it - plane and simple.

Wow, so I've gone over more than I thought I would. The Pole Hammer is only one example but i think the concept is sound enough. Anyone else have any suggestions?

I refer you to that Banjo Kazooie game on the 360 whose name I don't quite care enough about to look up before I stop typing this sentence. Its gimmick was that the player constructed their own vehicles from small base components.

if they can do it with entire vehicles in that Banjo Kazooie game whose full title I still haven't summoned the energy to look up. Weapons in a brawler are exactly as important as vehicles in a racer (or whatever genre that game was)

Did he just mention Nuts and Bolts, the Banjo-Kazooie game that everyone keeps bashing on for stupid reasons, as an example of a crafting system and without bashing that game in the process?

There is a god.

I don't understand why Dead Islands weapon crafting system wasn't more imperative to combat. Upgrading you weapons only costs money which you have in embarrassing amounts before you're even halfway through the game, and you'll be constantly switching out your current kit for stuff that's a little bit better, so even your best weapon after its modified is going to be outclassed after a couple of levels. Not to mention that most of the mods did little to boost my damage counter, and were balanced out by decreased durability (which was hugely irritating at the beginning of the game when all your weapons are as sturdy as a house made of toilet paper), so I was only applying the modifications out of curiosity rather than a need to bolster my arsenal. Overall I think the game could have benefited from a wider variety of upgrades with greater effectiveness, more powerful firearms and greater scarcity of ammunition, and maybe not letting my bullshit characters have all the fun in unplayable cut-scenes after I've slogged through tedious combat for half an hour.

And on the subject of zombie games, why is it established at the beginning that your character is somehow immune to zombification? It might have added some interesting dimensions to the survival aspect if once a zombie got his fangs into you you have a certain amount of time to seek out some medication before you turn. Then you would have to pick over abandoned triage tents, raid hospitals and maybe have to intimidate or murder innocent civilians to get treatment. To whoever is next in line to pick up and dust off the zombie survival-shooter for another go, don't be afraid to innovate!

Why should duct-tape be infinite? You could use Duct-tape (which should be subject to high demand in case of zombie apocalypse) like Ammo, where each improvement needs a little duct tape, you might even make a duct tape degradation system where you need to refresh the tape once in a while. If your staff-weapon has cracked, tape it! And why stop with weapons? Tape road-signs to your clothing your armor too! Hell, I guess you could design a whole game around duct tape, WD-40 and a Leatherman - the redneck's toolkit.

The article vaguely reminds me of the videos I saw of Blockade Runner earlier this week.
You literally create your ships from the most basic components. Once you get your core frame built, you have to add engines, fuel (fuel lines), weapons, a bridge (from what I can see anyway) and turrets for weapons that don't just point in one direction.

It's a very awesome concept that has huge gameplay potential; the physical layout/configuration of your ship provides benefits and drawbacks beyond stats:
-The position of your engines and weapons (their firing arcs),
-How much armor/hull exists between your fuel lines and the vacuum.
-The various hallway connections the players (crew) have to use to access the rest of the ship (apparently, in the next build, they're hoping to have ruptured fuel lines/tanks spill fuel where they break; which could possibly lead into the ship's corridors).

Point is: A strong system of crafting/customization should reward the player's conscious decisions and enable/support their strategy.

I will preface this post with "I don't mean to be a negative Nancy, but...."

This is all fine and dandy from a player's perspective and a 'sounds good on paper' angle, but for the developer it would be an absolute nightmare. It's not like this design idea is new - plenty of studios and publishers have thought of it, but it is just impactical to implement.

You can't attach any object to any other object at any place and angle you like, especially if there is also a desire for the objects to have physical properties and a physics simulation on them. Objects in games that can connect to one another can do so for one reason - an artist has placed an 'attach point' with correct orientation on the model. That is the way that knives and clubs get into people's hands - an attach point on the hand, and an attach point on the weapon.

Aside from the physical problems, the rendering of said mishmash of objects would be horrible. There'd be poly intersections all over the place, and objects wouldn't quite join so there'd be gaps, and all manner of other problems (ignoring the fact that an object made of lots of other objects is extremely inefficient to render). Collision volumes on objects are not polygon-perfect (too much performance overhead) - they have bounding volumes which approximate the shape using cylinders, boxes, and spheres. These will not match exactly to the hull of the object.

The example of the pool cue breaking with a breeze block on the end of it would only be achievable if the pool cue had a 'break' animation. It is currently not feasible in anything other than a tech demo to dynamically break objects by splitting polygons on-the-fly. Therefore, the snap of the cue would occur in one (or maybe two or three other pre-canned) place(s), which would mean the breeze block would have to be placed in set places for the break to look right (refer back to attach points).

Being able to create a weapon of any size then leads to horrendous animation problems if the weapon now penetrates the character's body during certain animations. This also leads to wall and other character/object collision problems. You wouldn't want to let the player create a weapon that prevented them from fitting through a door or gap, so the collision volume for the player would need to ignore the weapon. This would mean that walking close to a wall with a 10 foot pole and a knife on the end would see the pole disappear through the wall. Then what happens if there were enemies on the other side of the wall? Are they allowed to be killed by this magical wall-protuding weapon?

So let's stop worrying about development problems (I could go on all day) and just think, for one brief moment, about QA. Could you imagine how many man hours it would take to QA every single permutation of every single object being combined with every single other object at any location on the objects at any angle? I think it's safe to say that it is impossible to actually QA that scenario. And the slightest change or fix to any of the objects from the developer could then cause an unforeseen knock-on problem with something else, but only if X, Y, and Z have been attached in a certain way.

So. Is what was described in the article an interesting idea? Yes.
Is it a new one in the development community? No.
Is it feasible to implement? No.

A subset of what was described would work - a limited number of objects that can be connected with a limited number of other objects at pre-set attach points, but this would (obviously) be carefully controlled by the developer, and would probably end up with a forum thread just like this one expressing the desire to be able to attach anything to anything else, and why hadn't the developer thought of that.

Wow, guys, none of you pointed out Dwarf Fortress? The Escapist community just lost a lot of gamer cred...

I like this idea; I have to say, while I'm not exactly a big fan of either series, occasionally Yahtzee comes up with a game idea that sounds so much more fun than anything the Extra Credits guys have ever suggested. This is one of those times.

Incidentally, am I the only one who had no idea what a "breeze block" was until he mentioned that you could make bookshelves out of breeze blocks and 2X4s[1]? I thought he was talking about something you put under a door to cut down on drafts. In the US, we call what he was talking about "cinder blocks."

[1] Which would either require a lot of 2X4s, or not make very good bookshelves; 1X8 would be a better size of wood to use for bookshelves

This engine would be perfect in Fallout 3 or New Vegas as an expansion of the repair or Survival Skill so you could create your own weapon mods and such.


I refer you to that Banjo Kazooie game on the 360 whose name I don't quite care enough about to look up before I stop typing this sentence. Its gimmick was that the player constructed their own vehicles from small base components.

if they can do it with entire vehicles in that Banjo Kazooie game whose full title I still haven't summoned the energy to look up. Weapons in a brawler are exactly as important as vehicles in a racer (or whatever genre that game was)

Did he just mention Nuts and Bolts, the Banjo-Kazooie game that everyone keeps bashing on for stupid reasons, as an example of a crafting system and without bashing that game in the process?

There is a god.

Without bashing the game in the process? I disagree. Maybe bash is too strong a word, but at the very least he insults the game. In multiple sections he mentions not caring enough to look up the exact name of the game. Multiple times. That means that he spent more time talking about how little he cared about the game's actual name, than it would take to actually look it up. Google "banjo kazooie on 360" and done. So it seems an intentional insult that he put the effort into describing how "not worth the effort" it was.

If you don't know what Yahtzee means about James-with-the-Great-Knife, it's basically a blunt, rusted blade that is as tall as a man and twice as heavy. He has to drag it everywhere and the basic movements are him struggling to keep it up. The overhead swing, of course, is immensely deadly but immensely slow and it seems to take a lot of effort to do.

Now one could imagine there would be situations where you'd LIKE a crushing weapon like that, especially if you were simultaneously building the character that would wield it.

That sentence made me think of the character Guts from the anime Berserk. He is a character that was "built" around wielding such a huge weapon. He was taught how to swordfight when he was about 10 years old, but he learned using an adult sized sword. So he grew up using a sword bigger than he is. So when he grew up into an adult, the sword he used grew as he did, keeping the same scale with his body size. So he wields a giant, heavy sword that can mow down groups of soldiers, cleaving them in half. Anyway, just a fun fact. That's what came to mind when you said that.

Give it a shot yahtzee, make your system, sell your game and see if the million people who bought your game all like your weapon customizing.
There's no one system that's gonna work, yeah dead island was a little tedious at times searching through trash cans, but if you were playing the game as it was ment to be played then you minght not have seen all that stuff as "vendor trash" and more as useful bits for your friends.
Not to mention you can outright skip most of the trash hunting considering the shops sell most of the critical components for weapons.
Knowing you, if there was no "vendor trash" you'd probably complain that their isn't enough variety.

I get the feeling like Yahtzee died with all his weapons and had no items or money to make new ones with because he found the collection part so boring. So yahtzee was left with nothing for playing the game wrong and became frustrated.
The more you talk about dead island it makes me feel like your hating on it for the sake of it.
But hell, that is your job i guess.

"because obviously we're assuming this is a zombie game, what the hell else would it be"

A survival/brawler game along the lines of Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger Games".
Some other dystopian crumbling world where scavenging for raw materials is important.

This sounds awesome. No lie. It's every nerds fantasy to duct tape four katanas together and go bat-shit loony on a crowd of the recently deceased.

I was thinking of the exact same thing. Now I can't talk about it, because everyone will think I stole the idea from you.

Anyway, I would play the crap out of any game that had such a crafting system.

Fuck. Yeah. I would buy a game that featured that kind of thing in a heartbeat. Shit, I'd sell my soul for it.

This... Is what I always wanted. I could just never really put any coherence behind it. Yahtzee: you, sir, are a god. Do you accept goat sacrifices?

Seriously though, wonderful article. Very insightful, yet again.

These. The physics might need a good rig to run if you're going to model every object's properties though.

Just gonna say, in the last week I have spent maybe 15 hours gaming. I have also spent somewhere around 40 mucking around in a 3D CAD program making all kinds of weapons to throw into Skyrim when the mod kit gets released. Nothing gets more irritating to me in a weapon/loot focused game than always using the same weapons and having no variety in the loot. I made more than 200 custom models for Oblivion, Fallout 3, and New Vegas. I learned five different programs to make my own models, textures, sounds, and animations. I'm sure that I spent as much time dicking around putting stuff in the games, as some of the developers. Other people have put in much more effort than me.

Listen up, developers; there are lots of people who really would enjoy a robust, fully featured weapon creation/customization system in a game. People like creating their own content. Give us wheat we want.

This has a lot of potential.
Even since the days of DOS, we've had customisable vehicle design, usually with spaceships or airships.
And nowadays it seems that every game and its grandmother features environmental physics and impact damage.

The only trick might be modelling the unwieldliness that would result from welding a boquet of handguns to a cane or suchlike. It's hard to get the awkward flail down just right...
Applying physics to melee could also allow character strength to play a greater role than ever before, affecting swing speed, striking force, and especially recover time after a strike (heavy object are hard to heft after a swing).
Of course, it'd be a complete pain-in-the-ass to program... but one can dream.

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