A thing I am very critical of in video games is variety. A variety in levels first and foremost, but also a sufficient variety in tools and/or abilities the player is able to use. Therefore, one of my priorities has been to provide the player a large arsenal of different guns to choose from.

Variety applies to pretty much anything in game design. Levels, enemies, tools, items, collectables, and assets, to name a few. Also, for games focusing on a particular aspect, variety is essential.
For example; Stardew Valley, a game focused on running a farm, needs a broad selection of crops to keep the player engaged. Super Motherload, a game focused on mining, needs a lot of different minerals for the player to extract.
So let’s look at the opposite. What would it be like, if in Call of Duty there was only one primary weapon and a side arm, and everybody was running around with the same loadout? The gameplay would still be the same, but it would become dreadfully monotonous. A variety of different options is what makes a game lively. This, combined with a meaningful progression system is what make games engaging, and even addictive.

So let’s talk scale. The more to choose from, the better, right? Absolutely, as long as quality exceed quantity. You’ve probably played games with countless levels to choose from, but all these levels are bland, and reuses the same assets. You have likely ran into games where there are tons of weapons to choose from, but all of them feels dull and similar to each other. This is something you definitely want to avoid.

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For my game, I have implemented a range of different weapons, all with their own attributes. Accuracy, fire rate, reliability, damage, and velocity are some of the variables that makes each gun unique. On top of the varying stats, the weapons have different visual effects, ammunition types, and diverse sounds to really define the feeling of the gun.

I have soon implemented 40+ weapons into the game, and I am approaching the point of what I consider the “quality limit”. That’s the point where adding more stuff would be forcing it. After that point, more weapons would feel like “reskins” of weapons I’ve already added, due to similar variables. I could extend the “quality limit” by introducing new attributes that further impacts exclusivity, but I honestly think that I’ve added enough guns. I have considered weapon attachments, but that would set me back months in development.

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So how do I introduce the player to this arsenal of weapons? Having access to everything from the start, gives the weapons less significance. This is where progression comes in.
The player starts off with two weapons, a rifle and a pistol, and has to collect gun schematics hidden throughout the game world in order to unlock the rest. This accomplishes three things;

  • Rewarding the player for going out of his or her way to find unlockables,
  • Giving the player a reason to explore the game world outside of mission boundaries,
  • Introducing the player to new weapons in intervals, so he or she is not exposed to all at once.

I think collectables in games are brilliant, but it is important that they are interesting enough for the player to bother look for them. That is why collectables need a reward equal to the effort made obtaining it. More on collectables later.