Fewer Weapons Not More!

15th July 2006

I want to challenge a gameplay concept that we take for granted. It’s been on my mind for a while now but starting Half-Life 1 Episode 1 brought it to the forefront of my thinking. The weapons included in a game are one of the most, perhaps THE most, important element of that elusive thing called “Gameplay”.

Update 1

Okay, having thought about it a little more I want to add some things. I put the update at the top to make it easier to see. If this is your first time reading this post I suggest you start at The Challenge.

When I first posted this idea I was thinking about having every weapon that is available within the game but there are a number of variations possible. For example perhaps you can start with no weapons and by halfway through the game you can collect all of them. For this point onwards you have to discard one at regular intervals. This tackles the issue of enjoying collecting the weapons but also gives the player something to deal with. Another option is to have a maximum number of weapons, for example 3. As you reach a new area you can collect a new weapon, but you have to discard one of the weapons you already have. This idea was formed from reading comments 3 and 4. In fact comment 4 may have been suggesting it! This may have already been used a games. I seem to remember the Ubersolider Demo not allowing me to collect some weapons. I’m not quite sure.

The Challenge

The look, feel, sound and effect can make the difference between an okay game and a great game. We all have our favourite weapons, you only need to see the plethora of articles dedicated to explaining why their selection is the best available. Anyway, every game I have played contained the gameplay standard:

Collect more and powerful weapons as the game progresses.

I think I understand the psychology behind this and to begin with it worked perfectly. However, for me it has become a problem.

As I play a game now I am expecting to get the next weapon upgrade. I know it’s coming, no matter how bad or good I play, it’s going to be there. The weapons get bigger and flashier each time.

As I started playing Half-Life 2 Episode One it became clear this was all I had (At least for now!) and I was slightly annoyed. I don’t like this gun, can’t I have something else? I’m not a big fan of the gravity gun in Half-Life 2. I recognise and applaud its technical achievements but it leaves me bored.

Here is my suggestion:

You start a game with EVERY weapon available. As the game progresses you lose one instead of collecting one.

The levels would need to be designed so that they all can be beaten with all levels and there would also need to be enough ammunition available for every weapon.

The player themselves would make the choice of which weapon to lose rather than the game.

I’m sure there would be a few technical issues to overcome but considering some of the jumps in quality games have made (not just graphics) I’m sure it is possible.

I feel this concept would have the following benefits:

  • It would be a natural skill level balancer. Generally the weaker players (That’s me folks!) would choose to lose the least effective weapon each time.
  • It would add an element of strategy with very little effort.
  • It would allow for more replayability, playing the game with different weapons at different stages.

So, there you have it. What do you think?


  1. Ryan "Quakis" Rouse

    I think the concept could work, although I’m thinking of a Devil May Cry / Serious Sam style of game with lots of enemies each mission. However, maybe it could be set in Realms and you must sacrifice a weapon to enter the next realm (mission) Each time getting harder as you have less weapons and more/stronger enemies.

  2. BlitZ

    Rather than your approach, my idea was to randomize the weapons in a realistic manner. In real life you’d always find a different gun, and it might be weaker or stronger. So instead of getting a more powerful weapon, you get a gun with a bigger magazine and more ammo, or a better fire rate.

  3. Doom Marine

    It might work, although when people find a new gun, they usually have a sense of gain and accomplishment. If they lose guns it may give them a sense of loss, but who knows, this is just a concept, it might actually work.

  4. dougjp

    I also think the concept has great merit, although with a minimum number exceeding one. Perhaps 3?

    First though, I would like to see the concept of ever more powerful weapons becoming available as the game progresses eliminated. That seems arcade like to me.

    Games like Call of Duty and FarCry limit the number of weapons, and have some balance to the relative effectiveness of them (better for some applications, worse in some ways).

  5. Firstly I want to mention that I was planning to do a “5 days and 5 gameplay challenges” but wasn’t confident I would be around, so I just decided to post this one and some other when I have time. I now wish I’d gone with it. Maybe later today I will amend the title and write the second one.

    Okay, here are my replies:

    Yes, I think the idea of sacrificing weapons would work in some style games. It’s a nice way of making it part of the game/story.
    I don’t necessarily fell that the enemies need to get harder as the game progresses. That’s another gameplay point I may challenge. The idea was simpler. Allow the player to choose what weapons he can use rather than what ammunition is available.

    I don’t think there is a perfect approach to all games. My post was simply trying to start discussion (Which it seems to have done) about a gameplay feature that we take for granted.
    I agree that randomizing weapons can be a good thing; it would certainly add variety to the game. Again it could make it more replayable.
    However, I not sure I want everything in a “Realistic manner”. We often have to suspend belief about certain things and one of the reasons I play Sci- Fi games is because I don’t want realistic. I think it’s just a case of finding a balance, but you can’t please all the people all the time. You may want weapons more realistic whereas I want player movement more realistic.

    Doom Marine:
    “when people find a new gun, they usually have a sense of gain and accomplishment.” I agree that this was the case when I first started playing the games but as I tried to point out in my post that sense of accomplishment has gone. I KNOW I will get a better weapon no matter what happens. The only way I won’t get it is if I stop playing. I admit that sometimes you have to search for it but again unless it is really hidden, you know you are going to find it.
    ” it may give them a sense of loss “ Again I agree but at least the player has the ability to choose. Dou you feel loss when you have a gun but can’t find any ammo for it? I don’t but then again I always think there might be some ammunition just around the corner.

    “I also think the concept has great merit, although with a minimum number exceeding one. Perhaps 3? “ I ‘m not sure I understand what you mean. Are you saying that you have to have three weapons before you lose one?

  6. I’ve updated this post with some more thoughts and ideas. It’s at the top cleverly entitled Update 1.

  7. dougjp

    I’m not sure what I’m saying! 🙂 Seriously though, yes, sort of. For example, in the SP non-sci fi FPS Call of Duty series of games, you can’t have more than 3 weapons and one is fixed, a relatively weak pistol. Its up to the player to keep or give up the remaining two. There are times when its necessary to lose a primary weapon for a specialty weapon like a bazooka, otherwise the choice is up to the player depending on ammo availability and the efficiency of the weapon. The ammo situation of course changes in foreign territory and at some point forces changing the weapon to perhaps something less accurate or powerful. There are trade offs like when you lose a primary weapon for an anti tank gun, then find the gun you traded was needed imminently too. The whole thing is very much part of gameplay and I find this is the best weapons management application in a game.

    In the context of this thread, it could start out with one weapon and then pick up more up to a larger number than 3, then lose 1 or more back to 3, or start out with all and lose weapon(s).

  8. migandi

    What about if you had to build your weapon in-game as you went (only one gun), so you started with a simple gun and found pieces as you progressed, so you found a bigger barrel etc and bolted it on which gave you more firepower, and you had a graph showing gun efficiency and lethality!

    I have played a few games where you only get a few weapons and have to drop others to pick better ones up, and when u have to drop a good weapon it narks a bit, but it is realistic as who could carry all the weapons in half-life, I wonder how much that would weigh?

    Perhaps going for a rpg style encumberance would be a good idea, you could only carry so much weight, so you would have to drop armour and smaller weapons to pick up the rpg.

    The other sytem I liked was buying weapons with cash as in that gangster fps Kingpin, do a quest and get the dosh to buy a new gun.

  9. Passerbywhoplayshalflife

    I remember there being a few small maps or mods for HL that limited your arsenal to shotgun, magnum, grenades, crowbar. This meant really tight – highly enjoyable – gameplay. Take note ye mappers and modders out there.

  10. It’s an interesting idea. Story-wise, you’d could simply have the various weapons break after a given amount of use. Say, after putting 200 rounds through a pistol, it jams and becomes useless. Melee weapons could similarly have ‘life spans” and become dull an ineffective or simply break.

    Personally, I prefer games that limit what you can actually carry at one time. Or at least the option to carry them. One thing that always annoys me in FPS games is the automatic pick-up and equip of the latest weapon. I’ve always found it absurd that you’re suposed to be carrying all those weapons and ammo in the HL games, and still creep around in air vents. I like as much realism as possible aside from the main point of alien occuapation.

  11. I agree that it is absurd that a player can seemily carry so many weapons at once. I decide to try and create a realistic/possible solution:
    Only One Weapon?!.

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