Crytek graphic designer and real-life gun guy Pascal Eggert says weaponry in videogames are all about "looks, sounds and cliches," but that authenticity is an important part of the process too.
Have you ever really thought about all those various implements of death you've waved around in various shooters over the years? Most gamers don't; they go boom, people die, we move to the next level and that's pretty much the end of it. But it's a business that some folks take very seriously; folks like Pascal Eggert, for instance, a new addition to the Crytek design team who also happens to be a "firearm enthusiast" in real life.
In a guest column for The Firearm Blog, Eggert wrote that the wildly fantastical nature of many videogame weapons has established a "common misconception" that game designers don't know anything about guns. The truth, however, is that designers "are not trying to simulate reality but are creating products to provide entertainment."
To illustrate his point, Eggert suggested that readers think of modern shooters as similar to a chess game with "hyper-realistic" pieces. "In real life horses don't move in L shapes like knights do on a chess board. The chess game rule governing knight movement is designed to make the game fun and challenging, not to replicate the movement of a real knight riding on a real horse," he explained. "It is the same with guns in games, there is no fun in holding virtual breath and nobody (other than The Firearm Blog readers) wants to watch how a revolver is reloaded cartridge by cartridge. The game gun is a visual representation of a game rule."
But he noted that a little bit of realism doesn't hurt, either. "Reloading for example is something that is a great game rule because it creates tension as well as it's an authentic behavior," he added.
Eggert also looked at the technical side of the weapon design process, beginning with a detailed model created by a 3D artist that's eventually handed off to animators, effects artist and coders. A good result requires a good initial reference, he said, but added that designers who are serious about replicating firearms should get some experience with them in the real world.
"You should hold a gun in your hands, fire it and reload it to understand what does what," he said. "At that point you will realize, there is nothing on it that does not have a function - because guns are tools for professionals. Lot of weapon designers in the game industry get that wrong."
Eggert's comments may resonate with gun enthusiasts but I'm not sure this is something the average gamer really cares about. As long as it looks vaguely gun-ish, makes lots of noise and kills bad guys, I'm happy, and the weapons I tend to remember are the ones that have no grounding in reality whatsoever, like the Land Shark Gun, the giant cannon from Serious Sam and of course the most famous fictional game gun of all, the BFG-9000. Realism is great, but given the choice between that and the ability to pin a dude's skull to a wall from across a room, I'll take the Ultra-Fire Nail Gun any day.