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Development diary

Part 1 Weapons

This is the first of a series of development diaries for Vietcong 2 and I am Jarek Kolar, lead game designer of Pterodon. Today's subject, weapons...

Importance of the weapons in the fps game

First of all let me outline some basic facts. The weapons play the main role in the first-person shooter game. No other element in the game is watched as much as a weapon that you hold in your hand. As such, the weapon must be realistic and extremely well animated, reacting to what your character does and where you are within any given level. You must really feel that it's your hands holding a real weapon. If something's wrong with the weapon, its look or its handling, then the game atmosphere and sense of immersion is immediately lost.

Realistic approach to game design of firefights

It's always good to try out what you're trying to design and this is a mantra that we live by over at Pterodon. When designing a shooter, it's always useful to try shooting in 'real battle' conditions. So, as with the original Vietcong development process, we kicked things off with a paintball match.

In September 2004 most of the Pterodon members met up on the paintball battlefield with the development crew from Illusion Softworks (Mafia, Hidden & Dangerous). When under fire, pinned down, unable to move, outflanked, attacked, hit, dead you quickly learn to appreciate the mechanics of combat - albeit simulated.

Based on our experience on field, we came up with two cardinal rules:

Rule1 - Weapons are lethal. Therefore the most important thing for a people in firefight to do is to take cover behind something.

Rule2 - To fire weapon efficiently you have to aim. Spraying bullets is good for covering fire, but you can't really hit anyone. Aim must be quick and easy - you should be able to pop up from behind the cover, fire and then immediately 'disappear'.

These both sound easily achievable, but you'll be surprised at how many shooters don't respect these basic ground rules. We have already applied these rules in original Vietcong. In Vietcong 2 we have just enhanced it and further balanced the mechanics.

With these rules in mind we have designed our unique aiming feature. You hold right mouse button you aim through the weapon's iron sights. Nothing special or revolutionary, admittedly. Many games have this feature. However, in Vietcong 2, the ironsight view is not static, but animated. So if you move, the weapon will also shake slightly, although you'll still be looking through ironsights and will be ready to shoot accurately. If you are hidden behind obstacle, crouching in cover, use of this aim feature will mean that you'll move up and aim. Which means that you can pop up from behind any obstacle aim and shoot? When you release the aim button, you are back, covered behind any cover within the level. Simplicity itself and just like a nerve-breaking paintball session.

Behaviour of the weapons

We have already done a lot of work on the realistic behaviour of weapons in original Vietcong. But for Vietcong 2 we wanted to add far more weapon types, which involved another round of full and proper research. On first look you may think that you have just the basic groups of pistols, submachine guns, rifles, etc. And that once you've experienced a few weapons in each category, you'll be familiar with everything you experience within the game. That's not true. After we tried out all the real weapons, we have found out many things that will help us to make individual weapons behave very differently. Let me name just few things that will influence how you use the guns in VC2: Weight of the weapon, Shooting accuracy, Recoil, Rate of fire, Amount of ammo in one magazine and Speed of reload.

Don't expect any stats or tables, though. The weapons simply behave like they behave in real life. To really get to grips with any weapon within the game, you'll have to use it a lot. Some players will simply master one style and show a preference for this over all others, while other will want to experiment with them all. The basic reality is that no weapon is dominant. Ultimately, exploring the world of weapons in Vietcong 2 in the single-player mode will be an important factor in successfully mastering the multiplayer experience.

Creating authentic weapons

For creating the best looking weapons you need perfect assets. During the development we realized that you simply can't model and texture a weapon until we have that weapon in our hands. This is a very tough rule, because not all the weapons featured in VC2 were that easy to get.

Most of the assets were gathered in Czech Republic. As a former Warsaw Pact country, our museums and military archives are full of weapons that were used in Vietnam. Museums like the Military Historic Institute in Prague, Police Museum in Prague, Military Technical Museum in Lesany, Eastbohemian Museum in Pardubice along with numerous private collections. Also, some of the larger pieces (like M2 caliber .50) were photographed in the archives of British War Museum in London. In fact, the most important session of photography was done in England. The gun agency Bapta has provided wide range of weapons and transported them directly to the 2K office in Windsor.

You can imagine the scene when the British police were tipped off that someone had seen van full of heavy weapons -mortars, RPGs, machineguns - and that they were being unloaded just round the corner from the Windsor Castle - where the Queen of England lives! It took some fast talking to assure the police that everything was under control. Anyway, gathering and photographing the weapons was great fun. And with such great assets, creating authentic weapons for VC2 was an easy task.

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