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How to Make Your Shooter Combat Better

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

By: Tony Huynh


I was asked the question, “how could Bioshock’s combat be improved?” I thought about it for a while and I am going to propose some possible fixes for the shortcomings of Bioshock in this area. While this is geared towards Bioshock, it can just as easily apply to other games featuring first or third person combat. Some of these solutions may be drastic and change the tone of the game, but I wanted to put them out on the table to promote discussion. The root of the problem with Bioshock’s combat is the lack of necessary tactical decisions for the player. The aim of this article is to see why this is the case in the areas of weapon, AI, level and system design and present some possible solutions to add a greater variety of necessary tactical decision-making for the player as well as offer other improvements to Bioshock’s combat.

1) Balance weapons and plasmids around a Paper / Rock / Scissor system

A weapon in a Paper / Rock / Scissor system is balanced around the idea that weapons have strengths and weakness and that each weapon plays a defined role during combat. For instance a sniper rifle is strong at long range, but weak at medium and short-range, while a shotgun should be strong at short-range and weak at medium and long-range. If a player enters into a long-range engagement armed with a shotgun, they will be at a gross disadvantage against an opponent with a sniper rifle. The player must then choose whether to close the distance to take away the opponent’s advantage or switch to a different weapon. The weapon’s strengths and weaknesses can be affected by any number of circumstances and not just range. An example is in Halo, ballistic weapons do more damage against flesh targets and energy weapons do more damage against shielded opponents on top of their PRS range-based system. Obviously a balanced PRS system precludes any one weapon that is the best in all situations.

The current state of Bioshock:
In Bioshock, the Paper / Rock / Scissor system is not clearly defined. 99% of the engagements in Bioshock occur at short and medium-range and most of the weapons and plasmids are good at both ranges. Despite Bioshock’s shotgun being only usable at short-range, it does little damage at short-range and the rate of fire is extremely poor making it a non-viable weapon later in the game. While Bioshock presents a lot of options to the player, the player is never enticed to use these other tactics because every encounter can be handled with the Electrobolt stun to gun combo. This combo is one of the safest and most effective ways to dispatch every type of enemy in any situation in the game. There are no weaknesses to this combo as none of the AI are resistant to it and it can hit at both medium-range and short-range.

Another key component of the PRS system is that there are tradeoffs to which weapon the player chooses to carry with them. Even if Bioshock’s weapons followed a PRS design, the player in Bioshock always has access to all the weapons introduced up to that point in the game. This removes an additional layer of tactical decision-making because the player is always carrying the perfect weapon for the situation in their inventory.

Proposed solutions:
1. Define the roles of the weapons and plasmids in Bioshock to fit into a clearly communicated three category closed-loop (PRS) system, whether it is ranges or some other system.

2. If the solution is ranges (short, medium and long) it will be necessary to change level databases to intersperse long range engagements.
a. This is extremely risky because it will affect the atmosphere and feel of the game. The benefit would be that it will add some variety to the combat.

3. Limit the player’s weapon choice down to fewer weapons and plasmids. My suggestion is two of each. By giving the player only two weapons and two plasmids the player will always be weak in at least one of these three categories and they will have to make a choice on which weapons and plasmids to carry.
a. This will have the side-effect of alleviating some of the problems with the clumsy weapon and plasmid selection I mentioned in my last article as the player can now comfortably alternate between two instead of eight selections.

4. There are Gene Banks to swap out genes; how about Weapon Banks to swap out weapons? Create Weapon Banks and place both Gene Banks and Weapon Banks liberally through the levels to allow the player to swap out weapons and plasmids frequently.

2) More Enemy AI Variety
Introducing new enemy AI that have different personalities, behaviors, strengths and weaknesses changes the dynamic of combat and greatly benefits a game’s pacing. When faced with a new AI players must experiment and discover the strengths and weaknesses of the new enemy. The player must then adjust their tactics to deal with the new threat. The new enemy AI offers scenario designers the opportunity to mix in the new enemy type with the already introduced AI thereby creating new variations on old encounters.

The current state of Bioshock:
The wholly inadequate number of enemy variations in Bioshock are all frontloaded into the beginning of the game. By the middle of the title the player’s have been introduced to every enemy type and as a result the rest of the game’s combat pacing suffers.

Proposed solutions:
1. One way to add more variety to the enemies is to arm more Splicers with different Plasmids. Imagine an Electrobolt plasmid using Splicer that was also resistant to Electrobolt attacks, but weak against the Insect Swarm plasmid. Giving specific varieties of Splicers resistances to specific plasmids and weapons would have added depth to the tactics employed by players. This would at the very least force the player to change up the aforementioned Electrobolt to gun combo technique on occasion.

2. Design and create new AI with different personalities, behaviors, strengths and weaknesses and space out their introductions throughout the course of the game.

3) Differentiate AI silhouettes to aid player planning
One of the most effective ways to convey what type of enemy the player is facing is through having drastically different silhouettes between enemies. Silhouettes assist players in being able to tell enemies apart quickly, and in turn formulate a plan on how to tackle a situation more accurately.

The current state of Bioshock:
This is an area that Bioshock does not do well. The Houdini, melee and gun wielding Splicers are all difficult to tell apart at a glance because their silhouettes are so similar. Having unique silhouettes for AI is even more important because of how dark the levels are in Bioshock.

Proposed solutions:
Now that we have a greater variety of enemies that require different tactics to defeat, we need to communicate the variety of enemies to the player quickly and effectively. Gears of War 2 does an excellent job of having easily recognizable enemy silhouettes. Scroll through their enemy list to see what I mean.

A key difference with Bioshock and Gears of War 2 is that the enemies are more human in Bioshock. While this makes the solution a bit more difficult, it is not impossible. An example of widely divergent human silhouettes can be seen Valve’s Team Fortress 2.
Team Fortress 2 Character silhouettes

4) Have pre-fight AI scripting throughout
How a player perceives an AI’s intelligence is determined by what an AI is doing before a battle as much as what they do during the fight. While this does not directly affect giving the player additional tactical choice, pre-fight AI scripting helps make the AI look smarter and this will always assist in making combat more enjoyable.

The current state of Bioshock:
This is an area that Bioshock excels at especially at the beginning of the game. AIs in Bioshock have lives outside of waiting for the player to show up. The Splicers whistle, have conversations with themselves, take their imaginary babies on strolls and even dance with each other. This is one of the best examples of a game with the illusion of a living world. This is not easy to do and requires tremendous development resources, which is why it is not often seen in games. The problem in Bioshock is that pre-fight scripting falls off dramatically in the middle through the end of the game.

Proposed solutions:
More pre-fight AI scripting is needed during the middle and late stages of the game. If this is not feasible I would suggest spacing out the densely scripted pre-fight AI in the first half and spreading these through the course of the game so that there is not such a lull in the middle to end of the game.

5) Leaders with underling breaking behavior
This is a technique that was pioneered by Total War and brought over to the first person shooter genre by Halo. Whenever a much more difficult to kill Elite in Halo was defeated, the grunts in Elite’s squad would break and scatter. This added depth and tactical choice to target selection in combat.

The current state of Bioshock:
There are no leaders in Bioshock. In fact, the AIs seem to act completely independently from each other.

Proposed solutions:
1. This could be simulated in Bioshock by having the aforementioned plasmid infused Splicers serve in the role of leaders and if they are killed, the other Splicers will break and flee or simply cower and beg for their life.

2. “Wherever possible, we try to make the vocalizations a dialogue between two or more characters, rather than an announcement by one character.” J. Orkin – States & a Plan: The AI of F.E.A.R.
a. By including communication between AI whenever possible, it will make the AI at least have the illusion of working together.

6) Raise the hit points and damage dealt by your AI
This is taken from the 2002 GDC talk The Illusion of Intelligence by Jaime Griesemer and Chris Butcher. Through playtests and surveys conducted by Bungie Studios, they discovered that tougher AI (higher hit points and higher damage dealt) created the illusion that the AI was smarter.

Halo: Combat Evolved AI Test

Combat almost always benefits from the illusion of smarter AI. If the combat is too challenging however, accessibility will suffer. So making the AI tougher can only be pushed up to a point.

The current state of Bioshock:
Through the course of Bioshock the player becomes stronger by accumulating and upgrading health, eve, weapons and plasmids. The result is the enemy AI is tough at the beginning of the game, but gradually became weaker through the course of the game. Bioshock in turn occasionally scaled up the same exact AI in difficulty to accommodate the growth in power of the player. This made for uneven difficulty in the game and by scaling the difficulty of the same AI, Bioshock nullified some of the player’s sense of advancement. Nonetheless, by the end of the game the combination of player familiarity with game mechanics and avatar upgrades made the AI too weak and in turn caused the player to be left with a lowered opinion of the AI and consequently of Bioshock’s combat.

Proposed solution:
1. Create easily recognizable skins for upgraded enemies to communicate to the player that they have been upgraded.
2. Introduce new AI later in the game that is already scaled to the appropriate difficulty level of where they are introduced.
3. Maintain the frequency of player upgrades, but lower their potency.

7) Call in the reinforcements!
The way AIs are introduced can make them appear smart. AI that call for reinforcements when they see the player or if an AI is seemingly the last enemy in a scenario and calls for back up and they arrive make the AI feel intelligent.

“For example, when an A.I. realizes that he is the last surviving member of a squad, he says some variation of ‘I need reinforcements.’ We did not really implement any mechanism for the A.I. to bring in reinforcements, but as the player progresses through the level, he is sure to see more enemy A.I. soon enough.” – J. Orkin – States & a Plan: The AI of F.E.A.R.

F.E.A.R. relies on the player’s assumptions to create the illusion of intelligence, but this could just as easily be scripted in the game.

The current state of Bioshock:
I do not recall any AIs in Bioshock ever calling for back up.

Proposed solution:
Create occasional scripted moments where the player happens on a lone Splicer and she calls for help and additional Splicers come through a door or run downstairs to assist her.

8 ) Make the AI predictable
AIs need to have predictable behaviors so that players can recognize and use their patterns to outsmart them and thereby feel good about themselves.

The current state of Bioshock:
This experience came from my playthrough of the game. I had entered combat with a pistol armed Splicer, but moved away to where he could not see me, but I could observe him. He would move to the last place that he saw me to investigate, once there he would stay in his alerted state and begin a patrol. During his patrol he would stay at a constant speed (good), but would seemingly at random (bad) turn 180 degrees and start walking the opposite direction.

My goal was to sneak up behind him to use my wrench. Because he would randomly turn around 180 degrees my attempts were not always successful. Even if I manage to get to him the Splicer becomes aware of you at around 3 meters and immediately turns around to react disallowing the player the advantage of the first hit with the wrench. Let me outsmart the AI!

Bioshock AI Investigation Behavior
Proposed solution:
Bioshock AI Proposed Investigation Behavior
When an AI loses sight of the player they should move at a constant speed and never turn around 180 degrees. The AI should also not have the ability to see the player behind him (extrasensory perception) when at close range. Keeping AI actions predictable is the goal. Having predictable AI allows the player to recognize behaviors through observation and outsmart the AI.

9) The use of gameplay space and cover to create tactics
I have saved the discussion regarding cover usage and placement until now because it so fundamentally changes the way Bioshock plays and it carries the most risk. This should not be a direction that is taken lightly and without serious consideration and playtesting.

Make cover matter
Cover in shooters can be used to direct the flow of combat as well as promote tactical space analysis and decision-making by the player.

The current state of Bioshock:
Cover in Bioshock is used very little to direct battles and create fronts against enemies, the most effective way to deal with enemies I found was by standing out in the open and strafing left and right while firing.

There is very little half-cover in Bioshock, so crouching behind cover is not an option most of the time.

Proposed solution:
One of the easiest ways to promote the usage of cover for players is to have consequences for them for not doing so.

I took a look at a few other games that are praised for their combat to see what they did. I performed some tests to figure out how long it took three different games to kill the player. Each test was performed by standing the player perfectly still out in the open at medium range (my best guess at 8 meters).

Bioshock
In Bioshock, at the end of Smuggler’s Hideout, it took an average of 15 seconds to die from 3 pistol armed Splicers and 1 Spider Splicer on normal difficulty from a full health bar.

Halo 3
It took an average of 7 seconds to die from the very first engagement in Halo 3 on Heroic difficulty (the recommended difficulty).

Call of Duty 4
In Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare it took an average of 4 seconds for two AI to kill the player when he is standing out in the open on Normal difficulty in the second engagement of Blackout (the first mission in Act 1).

This means that in Halo 3 the player dies more than twice as fast in the very first engagement of the game and in Call of Duty 4 the player dies over three times faster when compared to Bioshock at about the one quarter mark of the game where the player is up against an unusually large number of enemies. Without the immediate threat of death the player is not as willing to seek cover in Bioshock.

Encounter space design
Spaces should be designed to accommodate as many different types of playstyles used by players as possible.

What type of playstyle do you use? Do you like to sit back in cover with your medium and long range weapons and slowly whittle down the enemies? Do you sneak around the side and flank your opponent with close range weapons? Are you Rambo and want to run out in the center with guns blazing? Maybe you just want to use cover to sneak past the enemies and avoid the encounter entirely.

“Building a successful course then becomes a matter of understanding these different demographics and designing with each of them in mind.” – What SimGolf Can Teach You about Designing the Perfect Level by Alex J. Champandard

The current state of Bioshock:
While I am not saying that all the encounters in Bioshock did not allow for different playstyles, in fact some of them did this quite well, but there were far too many coverless corridors populated with enemies where the player’s options were limited to simply strafe and fire.

Proposed solutions:
The key to accommodating a wide range of playstyles is making sure that there is “interconnectivity” in the combat spaces.

“It’s very important to make spaces that highlight the strengths of your AI. A battle in a corridor doesn’t involve much strategy so there are no intelligent things for the AI to do. An interconnected space allows the AI to flank the Player, making them seem more intelligent. It also allows the Player to flank the AI, giving him a chance to watch them react to his tactics. One weakness of an interconnected space, however, is that it tends to be chaotic. So we also needed to establish a Killing Zone, an open area between two positions with good cover. Flanking is still possible in an environment with a killing zone, but the battle is much more directed. The killing zone also allows multiple enemies to fight at once without it degenerating into chaos.” – The Illusion of Intelligence by Jaime Griesemer and Chris Butcher

This is a combat space in Fracture that I worked on.
Fracture Tony Huynh Encounter Design

I attempted to design the space to accommodate different playstyles.
• Note the cover placement to create battle lines and the killing zone to keep the battle orderly.
• The sniping spot is for those that want to sit back with a long ranged weapon like the sniper rifle.
• Battle line 1 is to allow the option of medium ranged weapons.
• Note the flanking routes to allow for the player to flank the enemies and the AI to flank the player.
• I did not accommodate a way to avoid the encounter entirely, but in hindsight maybe I should have or at least have given it some more thought.

Cover placement is very important in providing opportunities for players to tackle encounters the way that they want to. Having a mix of battles take place in open areas as well as tight confined spaces and corridors will add variety to the gameplay to keep the player from becoming bored.

10) Use large-scale cinematic scripted events in combat
Large-scale cinematic scripted events like explosions, buildings toppling and helicopters crashing add excitement and help to break up the monotony of combat. Few games do large scale scripted events in combat as well as Call of Duty 4. The real trick is to make sure that players see these events.

The current state of Bioshock:
While there are certain big moments that happen in Bioshock, the Airliner cabin crashing through the walkway tube comes to mind, there are not any that happen mid-combat.

Proposed solutions:
1. Place enemies defending the hallway where the airline cabin comes crashing through. Have them get killed by the airline cabin collision.
2. Come up with and implement additional cinematic scripted moments that occur in combat.

11) Death for a player should not be meaningless
Combat does not work without the fear of consequences. When death is meaningless, the need for the player to use tactics is diminished. Conversely if death is too harsh, players will never want to experiment with anything but tried and true methods. A balance needs to be struck.

The current state of Bioshock:
The current implementation of Vita-chambers removes any need for tactics as dying is meaningless. Each time you die, you instantly respawn nearby with half health and the enemies do not recover any health. A tactic I abused a few times is to pull a Big Daddy close to a Vita-chamber and rush him with my wrench. When I died I simply respawned and repeated my tactics with the wrench until he was dead. I have heard a lot of people complain about the Vita-chambers, but there is a trade off here. The experience may have felt cheapened for the player, but this makes it so every player can see the end of Bioshock which is very valuable.

Proposed solutions:
I know I suggested a compromise to have injured enemies regain a modest amount of health if a vita-chamber is used in my last article, but if the goal is to promote tactical combat I would go so far as to recommend removing Vita-chambers entirely and rely on a system of checkpoints. There are certainly tradeoffs here and this negatively affects accessibility of the game so this needs careful consideration before implementation.

12) Healing
The question of how the player is healed becomes much more important with the removal of Vita-Chambers from the game. Here are the pros and cons of the very common Recharging health and Bioshock’s Persistent health systems as I see it.

Recharging health
Pros
• Promotes the use of cover (as it is the only place to regain health during combat.)
• It is easier for designers to tune difficulty for individual engagements because they will always know the player will have a certain amount of health before each encounter.
• It is easier to create a consistent difficulty curve for the game because each encounter can be tuned to be more difficult in relation to the last without worrying about how much health the player currently has.

Cons
• If there are permanent health upgrades they are exponentially more powerful.
• Players do not have to search for health packs.

Persistent health (Bioshock’s health system)
Pros
• The player must worry about every hit, because all damage is permanent.
• Players must search for health packs.

Cons
• Careful attention needs to be paid to a player that gets stuck in a low health situation right before a tough encounter.
• Cover can sometimes be ignored because players can stand in the open and regain health with a press of a button.

Neutral
• Designers can ensure a proper amount of health for the player by placing health pickups preceding an encounter.

Proposed solutions:
Having listed out the pros and cons of the two systems as I see it, I do not know which system I prefer. The main issues of contention are the exponential power increase of health upgrades for the recharging health system and the difficulty of balancing each encounter for the player in the persistent health model. If I had to choose between the two, I would go with the persistent health system because it promotes the player searching for powerups.

The system I propose is a hybrid bucketed health system where the player has a number of buckets of health. Each bucket replenishes itself as long as it is not completely depleted. The bucketed health system maintains the need to have the player search for health and simultaneously encourages cover usage during combat to replenish health. Permanent health upgrades could come in the form of additional buckets of health.

Conclusion
This article is meant to offer suggestions to enhance the tactical decision-making of the player in Bioshock’s combat. Many of proposed solutions have large tradeoffs and affect the game negatively outside of combat. Since the goal was to improve combat and spawn discussion points, I largely ignored these problems. To read a less combat-oriented and more balanced list of suggestions at improving Bioshock read my last article, Bioshock: The Most Important Game of the Generation.

See my other related articles:
Become a Video Game Designer: Everything You Need to Know Part 1
Roger Ebert is Right: Games are Not High Art…Yet
Top 5 Greatest Moments in Competitive Gaming (eSports)
What Video Games Taught Me About Life
Low Skill Cap and Luck (RNG) in World of Warcraft PVP
Best Games of All Time by Genre Part 1
10 Greatest Video Game Designers Part 1
What’s Bad About Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Multiplayer Mode?
Call of Duty: World at War Through the Eyes of a Game Designer
Dead Space Through the Eyes of a Game Designer
Gears of War 2 Through the Eyes of a Game Designer
8 of the Most Underrated or Overlooked Video Games of All Time
Best MMA Fights & Genki Sudo: Real Life Video Game Character

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Bioshock: The Most Important Game of the Generation

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009


Posted by Tony Huynh.
Bioshock is the most important game of this console generation. Bioshock not only succeeds as a well-crafted game, but transcends being “just a game” by enticing the player to think about philosophical ideas like Objectivism and Altruism as well as important topics such as government oversight and stem cell research. Bioshock is a game that shows the promise and the flexibility of our industry. For those of you interested, I explore the topic of social commentary in games further in my article: Roger Ebert was Right: Games are Not High Art…Yet.

Andrew Ryan Speaks out Against Altruism

Bioshock is set in 1960 and is a “what if” tale that serves as a sequel to the events following the conclusion of Ayn Rand’s influential book, Atlas Shrugged.

The game is about what might happen in a society created from the very best and brightest that humanity has to offer coupled with the removal of all government oversight and restrictions. The result is the impossible. The result is Rapture, a city filled with wonder under the waves of the Atlantic Ocean.

Without the yoke of religion or morality tying down the scientists of Rapture, they soon discover a substance called ADAM (stem cells) that enable the user to rewrite their genetic code to make themselves stronger, faster, smarter, more beautiful and even gain superhero-like powers. The price they paid was their sanity.

This is the utopia dreamed by Ayn Rynd gone horribly wrong.

This article is a collection of my notes and thoughts on a playthrough of Bioshock on medium difficulty. There will be spoilers and the write-up assumes that you have played through the game already, so stop reading if you have not.

Bioshock has one of the greatest openings in gaming history. You are the protagonist Jack and begin the game aboard an airliner over the Atlantic. The passenger plane crashes and you are the lone survivor. Bobbing in the middle of the ocean, you see a very out-of-place lighthouse jutting out of the ocean beckoning to you. Once inside the lighthouse you are greeted with a bust of Andrew Ryan, Bioshock’s stand-in for Atlas Shrugged’s John Galt and a plaque that reads “In what country is there a place for people like me?” – Andrew Ryan.

Proceeding further you find a Bathysphere. With nowhere else to go, you enter and it is here that you are introduced in dramatic fashion to the city of Rapture. Just how the game introduces you to Rapture is absolutely amazing. I still get shivers even after multiple playthroughs.

Bioshock Introduction

At its core, Bioshock is a mystery that the player unravels through the course of the game. The world of Rapture is as scary as it is beautiful. The atmosphere is oppressive and there are genuinely frightening moments. I played the game alone late one night with the lights turned off and I caught myself looking over my shoulder more than once. The contrast in the music from the period really adds to the disturbing mood of the game.

Enemy introductions in Bioshock are some of the best that I have ever seen. One of the difficulties faced by game developers is how to introduce enemies to players fairly. That is to show what an enemy is capable of before letting them loose on the player. The most common practice in games is to introduce new enemy types through a cutscene. There are many advantages to the cutscene approach. The main one being that you can never be sure which direction the player’s camera will be facing during the game, thus they may miss events that happen during gameplay. The disadvantage is that the control is taken away from the player and immersion is broken. The developers at 2K Boston chose the more difficult, but more immersive route of never breaking the first-person camera perspective. As Ken Levine said, “cutscenes are for cowards.” The spider splicer is the first enemy that is revealed to the player when they arrive in Rapture. While still behind glass in the Bathysphere, Jack witnesses a Spider Splicer kill a man before viciously attacking the bathysphere that he is in. This not only shows the attacks of the enemy, but quickly tells the player that there is something very wrong in the city of Rapture.

While many games have great enemy introductions, fewer have memorable weapon introductions. This is surprising because as a design rule when weapons are first introduced they should always be placed in a scenario where the weapon is the most effective to make the player feel success with the weapon. The shotgun introduction in Bioshock sets a new bar for weapon introductions. As the player enters into a room they find that the shotgun is lying in the middle of the room. As the players picks up the new shiny weapon the lights go out, leaving the player in pitch darkness. Completely turning lights off on the player is very effective in raising tension. Audio of enemy Splicers can be heard before a single downward pointing directional spotlight turns on illuminating only the center of the room. The player gravitates towards this column of light because it is the only spot that they are able to see. From there they must fend off waves of Splicers armed with melee weapons with their new found shotgun. This forces the engagement range to be close, where the shotgun is the most effective. This is simply perfect execution of the weapon introduction design rule.

The telekinesis plasmid introduction was also very well-done. Before the plasmid is introduced, the player stumbles on a curious device, a tennis ball launching machine. Once activated the machine constantly spits out tennis balls, which hit the player and bounce off. Not finding any real use for the out-of-place machine, the player continues past the ball launcher through the level and finds the Telekinesis plasmid and is forced to back track and revisit the tennis ball machine. The true purpose of the tennis ball thrower is then revealed. The tennis balls simulate thrown dynamite that Splicers are armed with later in the game. The player is then allowed to practice catching the tennis balls with the Telekinesis plasmid and flinging them back at the machine. While this is not as memorable as Half-Life 2’s introduction of the gravity gun, it is nonetheless a very effective introduction to a new mechanic. The Telekinesis plasmid really frees the designers up to place goodies wherever they want as the players can now use this plasmid to retrieve cleverly placed pickups.

Speaking of plasmids that enable the player to gain additional items, I really liked the pickups locked in ice that can only be acquired through the use of the Incinerate plasmid. This gave many of the plasmids dual uses, like the Winter Blast plasmid that would slow down the flow in the hacking mini-games. The plasmids also served as lock and keys to prevent the player’s entry into new areas without first acquiring a specific plasmid. An example would be a door that was frozen shut that the player could not travel through until they found the Incinerate plasmid. This is similar to the gameplay used in Metroid, where the player would gain access to a new area only after finding the double jump ability. I would have liked the developers to have incorporated lock and keys that required more than one plasmid to bypass. Zelda games do this very often where you would need the combination of both the grapple hook and the iron boots to cross a ravine.

The inhabitants of Rapture are disturbingly insane. The Splicers whistle, have conversations with themselves, take their imaginary babies on strolls and even dance with each other. This is one of the best examples of a game with the illusion of a living world. The AIs in Bioshock are never simply waiting around for the player to show up. They have lives and are going about their own business. This is not easy to do and requires tremendous development resources, which is why it is not often seen in games. It is this unwillingness to settle for the mediocre that makes Bioshock special.

The brilliant Fort Frolic level was easily my favorite of the game. Fort Frolic is controlled by the insane artist Sander Cohen who makes artwork by plaster coating human bodies. If the player strikes these statues, they bleed.

Another moment that stood out was a scene later in the game where there are a number of bodies laying on the ground. Up until this point Bioshock had always rewarded players for searching bodies of dead Splicers and these player expectations were reinforced dozens of times. These bodies in particular were not dead Splicers, but were Splicers that were playing possum and laying in wait for the player. As the player gets near them they hop to the feet and attack the player. Bioshock sets the player’s expectations to search the bodies and then turn’s those same expectations against the player. This is similar to Resident Evil 4’s use of snakes in the crates and barrels which had previously only dispensed beneficial items to the player.

“Would you please.” What a great plot twist. I should have been expecting a plot twist and paid closer attention to the clues considering System Shock II’s twist.

During the take down Fontaine level I really liked the mechanic of randomly giving and switching plasmids on the player. This forced the player to try out all of the plasmids that they may not have collected. It would have been better if this had occurred earlier, so that players could acquire plasmids that they may have forgone, but really liked after having tried it.

Audio
The true highlight of Bioshock, besides the superb story is the audio in the game. The ambient audio and the contrast of the period audio recordings lend themselves to the horrific tone of the game. The recordings found littered throughout the spaces are incredibly voice acted and unravel the story to the player. Arman Shimmerman’s voice work for Andrew Ryan stands out from the crowd and is some of the best VO I have ever heard in a game.

Andrew Ryan Monologue Collection

The soundtrack is also fantastic. Here is a link to the free Bioshock Soundtrack Download provided by 2K Games.

Improvements I would have liked to see in the game:
1. Visual Fatigue
Despite the beauty of Rapture, the sameness of the colors and environment started to cause visual fatigue by the mid-way point in the game for me.

2. Overly Frontloaded
Bioshock, like most games, is very frontloaded. There is very good reason for this. There is a finite amount of resources that can be used to make games and developers know that most players never reach the middle of games, let alone the end. By frontloading all the best moments in the first few hours of gameplay, they ensure that the greatest numbers of players see their best work. There is a noticeable shift in the game during the midway point where the game changed from being horror themed to a more action oriented one. This was partly due to players getting increasingly stronger, but mostly this had to do with the allocation of scripted scare moments.

By the middle of game the pacing is just excruciatingly slow. All the newness has worn off at this point and the game is sorely lacking in new enemy types and mechanics.

3. Lack of NPC Variety
While the fights with the Big Daddies were epic, the varieties of enemy types were very lacking. Where are the Splicers that are capable of using plasmids? Splicers that could wield the Electrobolt plasmid or Incinerate plasmid would have added variety.

More variation on the Little Sisters would have been nice. The masks and uniform changes for the adult Splicers added variety, but all of the Little Sisters were nearly identical.

4. Player Combat Tactics
The player’s tactics never need to change throughout the entire game. The Electrobolt stun to wrench combo is just as effective at taking out enemies at the beginning as it is in the end of the game. Giving specific varieties of Splicers resistances to specific plasmids would have added depth to the tactics employed by players. Imagine an Electrobolt plasmid using Splicer that was also resistant to Electrobolt attacks, but weak against the Insect Swarm plasmid. This would at the very least force the player to change their tactics on occasion.

5. More Ghosts
While portions of the story were revealed through the sighting of ghosts, this story-telling device was not used enough over the audio recordings. The latter half of Bioshock could have used additional ghost moments for better pacing.

6. Camera Research
I am sure that the developers were aware of the pacing and lack of variety problems setting in during the middle portion of the game and beyond. I am sure that the camera used to take pictures of enemies for research was an attempt at creating gameplay variety. It failed miserably. The camera was the most annoying mechanic for me in the entire game. What is this, Fatal Frame? The idea is to casually take pictures of Splicers as they unload their machine guns on you.

7. More Gameplay Modes
The inclusion of another gameplay mode would have helped to break up the tedium of one after another fetch quests. An example of a game that did this was Dead Space with their inclusion of the Zero Gravity gameplay sections.

8. Hacking is too prevalent
Hacking takes you out of the world and pauses the game. So if an enemy is attacking you and you run up to a machine to hack, he will wait patiently for you to finish before resuming his attack.

But the benefits of hacking were so great that I felt like I was forced to hack all the time. At least later on the game introduced auto-hacking items. I heavily stocked up on these, because I hated hacking after the 100th time.

9. The player is too powerful
There is a direct correlation from how powerful the player is to how scared they are. At the start of the game, the player had to ration bullets and money and every Splicer was a threat, but by the mid-point these resources are overly-abundant and the enemies were easily dealt with. With the inclusion of the Vita-Chambers bringing the player back immediately at half-health dying is nearly meaningless. This is just another reason to make the player weaker.

10. Keep the player unarmed for longer
The game starts the player without a weapon, but within moments the wrench is introduced. A player without a weapon is a very scary place to be. I wish that the developers would have taken greater advantage of this before introducing plasmids and weapons into the game. An example is the game Clock Tower 2. In that game, the player was defenseless against the lone stalker Scissorman and must hide or find ways to temporarily fend off the attacker. Now imagine how scary and tension filled the opening would have been being weaponless and pursued by the Spider Splicer and having to find hiding places or knock over bookshelves or other obstacles to buy time, before ultimately finding a weapon and turning the tables on the Spider Splicer.

11. Combat
The designers used very little cover to direct their battles and create fronts, most of the time it was just stand out in the open and strafe left and right while firing at enemies. There is very little half-cover in the game, so crouching behind cover is not an option most of the time. The game would have benefited having more vertical cover like columns used to add in an element of tactical cover use into the gameplay.

12. Replayability
The game suffers from lack of replayability. This could be remedied by giving smaller, but more frequent upgrades to weapons and plasmids and allowing these upgrades to be carried into subsequent playthroughs of the game. Resident Evil 5 does this to great effect.

13. Choice
I wish the decisions made were less black and white and landed more in the gray. The little sister choice was essentially meaningless and merely changed the ending cutscene and made me pine for choices with real weight of a game like Baldur’s Gate 2.

14. Clumsy Plasmid and Weapon selection User Interface
While the amount of choice available to players was being heavily hyped, the difficulty and clumsiness of selecting plasmids and weapons because of the radial interface made players less willing to switch weapons and have less choice.

15. Vita-chambers
I have heard a lot of people complain about the Vita-Chambers, but there is a trade off here. The experience felt cheapened for the hardcore player, but this makes it so every player can see the end of Bioshock which is very valuable. A compromise could be to have injured enemies regain a modest amount of health if a vita-chamber is used.

16. Andrew Ryan, why have you lost your way?
I would have liked to have seen Andrew Ryan follow the Objectivist ethical ideals more closely, such as not killing the stripper he impregnated and staking people to pillars [see “The Objectivist Ethics” Ayn Rand (1964)]. He is basically a cold-blooded murderer and in many ways deserved to be killed off. I felt because of this, the power of killing him was greatly diminished. If he was just a man clinging staunchly to his ideals while his world crumbled around him, it would have made the player’s act of killing him that much more impactful and emotional. This was a missed opportunity.

17. Golden Arrow
For as immersive and well-thought out the rest of the game was, the arrow used to guide the player is just shameful and really breaks the immersion of the player. Some other more fictionally relevant method should have been devised.

18. End Boss
Frank Fontaine as the end boss was a weak fight and felt rushed. A suggestion I have is borrowed from the Ganon fight in Legend of Zelda Wind Waker. In that fight Link is completely outclassed by Ganon until Zelda joins the fight by picking up her Bow and firing arrows to distract Ganon, allowing Link the opportunity he needs to slip under Ganon’s guard. Similarly, in Bioshock what if when the player confronts Fontaine, they are completely outclassed, until Little Sisters join the battle distracting Fontaine and giving the player the opening he needs to defeat Fontaine?

Conclusion
After reading through that improvement list, you might get the impression that I did not like the game. That could not be further from the truth. Bioshock is a response to those who call games “a way to pass empty time and nothing more.” Bioshock is that mythical mass-market masterpiece of a game that makes you think. Bioshock is a title that I can point to that shows that games can deal effectively with such topics as Objectivism, Altruism and human nature. Bioshock has proven that socially relevant games can be successful. I hope that more game developers are willing to take the path shown to us by Bioshock.

See my other related articles:
Become a Video Game Designer: Everything You Need to Know Part 1
Roger Ebert is Right: Games are Not High Art…Yet
Top 5 Greatest Moments in Competitive Gaming (eSports)
What Video Games Taught Me About Life
Low Skill Cap and Luck (RNG) in World of Warcraft PVP
Best Games of All Time by Genre Part 1
10 Greatest Video Game Designers Part 1
What’s Bad About Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Multiplayer Mode?
Call of Duty: World at War Through the Eyes of a Game Designer
Dead Space Through the Eyes of a Game Designer
Gears of War 2 Through the Eyes of a Game Designer
8 of the Most Underrated or Overlooked Video Games of All Time
Best MMA Fights & Genki Sudo: Real Life Video Game Character

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ESL Global Finals: Korean Team HON Wins Best WoW Tournament Game Ever

Sunday, March 8th, 2009


Posted by Tony Huynh.
Despite not having played World of Warcraft since the end of season 3 arena in Burning Crusade, I continue to follow PvP tournaments, events and forums. I spent most of yesterday watching the ESL WoW tournament.

Prior to the matches, the American teams were saying how they would beat the European teams and the European teams were saying that they could beat the Korean and American teams, while the Korean teams remained silent. The two Korean teams let their games do the talking and destroyed the 3 American team and 7 European team entrants to reach an all-Korean finals.

The tournament was chock full of very exciting matches, but none of them rival what the finals between the two Korean teams had in store.

I’ve included video of the match of the tournament. When I watched it I could not believe what I was seeing.

Team SK Gaming Asia (aka Council of Mages) is up 2 – 1 over team HON and only needs one more win to become the tournament champions and take home 30 thousand dollars in prize money.

Team SK Gaming had seemingly won the tournament when both the rogue and priest went down for team HON. The shoutcasters were already congratulating Team SK Gaming, but in an improbable turn of events OrangeMarmalade, the mage from team Hon, manages to kill the Mage from Team SK Gaming Asia despite facing a 1v2 (practically unheard of in WoW PvP) and runs out the 20 minute clock to secure the victory to tie up the match 2 –2. They then go on to win the final match and the tournament as Team SK Gaming Asia (COM) could not recover from such a spectacular defeat.

SK Gaming Asia vs. HON Round 4a Grand Final 2 – Global Finals

SK Gaming Asia vs. HON Round 4b Grand Final 2 – Global Finals

If you would like to read some more of my thoughts on the design of WoW PvP, you can read my article, Low Skill Cap and Luck (RNG) in World of Warcraft PvP.

See my other related articles:
Top 5 Greatest Moments in Competitive Gaming (eSports)
Become a Video Game Designer: Everything You Need to Know Part 1
Roger Ebert is Right: Games are Not High Art…Yet
What Video Games Taught Me About Life
Best Games of All Time by Genre Part 1
10 Greatest Video Game Designers Part 1
What’s Bad About Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Multiplayer Mode?
Call of Duty: World at War Through the Eyes of a Game Designer
Dead Space Through the Eyes of a Game Designer
Gears of War 2 Through the Eyes of a Game Designer
8 of the Most Underrated or Overlooked Video Games of All Time
Best MMA Fights & Genki Sudo: Real Life Video Game Character


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Brad Borne’s The Fancy Pants Adventure and Bruce Branit’s World Builder

Friday, March 6th, 2009


Posted by Tony Huynh.
I have not been posting as often because I have been really busy with work and life outside of work. Speaking of life outside of work, my girlfriend and I watched Cable Guy again a few weeks ago and that convinced us to buy tickets to Medieval Times for this weekend. This is our first trip to Medieval Times ever and I am really excited to dork it up. I’ll be sure to take pictures.

Cable Guy’s Medieval Times Scene

Brad Borne’s The Fancy Pants Adventures
Here is a great flash game that I’ve been having a lot of fun with called The Fancy Pants Adventures. It is a momentum based movement game with really great animations. It plays a lot like how Sonic the Hedgehog wishes it could.

Lastly I wanted to share World Builder, a beautiful short film by filmmaker Bruce Branit. He was the co-creator of 405. World Builder was shot in a single day and the postproduction took 2 years. The user interface for the 3D modeling is amazing. I wish the Unreal 3’s BSP editor worked liked that.

Bruce Branit’s World Builder

World Builder from Bruce Branit on Vimeo.

Bruce Branit’s 405

See my other related articles:
Become a Video Game Designer: Everything You Need to Know Part 1
Roger Ebert is Right: Games are Not High Art…Yet
Top 5 Greatest Moments in Competitive Gaming (eSports)
What Video Games Taught Me About Life
Low Skill Cap and Luck (RNG) in World of Warcraft PVP
Best Games of All Time by Genre Part 1
10 Greatest Video Game Designers Part 1
What’s Bad About Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Multiplayer Mode?
Call of Duty: World at War Through the Eyes of a Game Designer
Dead Space Through the Eyes of a Game Designer
Gears of War 2 Through the Eyes of a Game Designer
8 of the Most Underrated or Overlooked Video Games of All Time
Best MMA Fights & Genki Sudo: Real Life Video Game Character


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Posted in Video Games, film | No Comments »

What’s Bad About Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Multiplayer?

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Xbox Cover Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare PS3 Cover Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare PC Cover


Sorry for the delay in posting this article. It ballooned into a much more in depth game design critique than I had originally planned. I hope you enjoy it.

Despite the fact that Call of Duty 4 has been out for well over a year and has a clear sequel in Call of Duty: World at War, over one hundred thousand players continue to log in every evening on Xbox Live. If you think Infinity Ward must be doing something right, you would be correct. Read my other article about what they are doing right also if you are interested I wrote up my campaign playthrough notes in a previous post. However this article is not about what Call of Duty 4 has done right, it is about what Call of Duty 4 does wrong.

The Bad
At the start the player’s options are very limited and new players are thrown right into the fray against rank 55 opponents to be endlessly slaughtered. Which brings me to what I consider to be the biggest flaw to the multiplayer design.

Call of Duty 4 Does Not Do Enough to Protect New Users
The first few sessions of multiplayer gaming for a new player are the most important and a game should go out of its way to ease these new players in and provide them with the best experience possible. By allowing new players to acclimate slowly, the game does not alienate new players and can keep its player base higher for longer. New players in Call of Duty 4 are punished. As mentioned earlier, brand new players are matched against experienced players from the start. In Call of Duty 4, experienced players not only have better map knowledge and mechanic knowledge (handicaps common to new players in other shooter games), but they also have better weapons and perk options. The results are ugly.

My experience with first-person-shooters is extensive and I consider myself much better than the average shooter player. The first few matches I entered I was killed endlessly by the much more experienced and better equipped players and had horrific kill to death ratios. I would be running along and instantly die from airstrikes and helicopters and have no clue how to prevent them or what was happening. It was a very frustrating experience. It is a good thing that I had the perseverance to continue to keep playing and took the necessary lumps to finally have success and fun with the game. Not everybody is as willing to continue playing despite constantly dying and having a frustrating experience. Call of Duty: World at War partially solves this problem by having game playlists that are only open to players of rank 1 through 10. This keeps the rank 11 – 55 players from destroying new players over and over and ruining their experience.

M16 is not for n00bs
New players are given the choice of five distinct weapon choices at the start. At the top of the menu of choices is the M16. The problem with this is that since the M16 is at the top of the menu and is highlighted by the cursor when the selection screen appears on the console versions, it is the gun that most beginners will select and use first. The M16 is not a beginner friendly weapon. The M16 has a three-round burst shot that has a low rate of fire that requires successive trigger pulls to fire. This all adds up to a weapon that has an unfamiliar mechanic and requires precision to use effectively. This makes the M16 a terrible weapon for a new player to begin with and one that very few will find success without extensive practice. Fortunately there is an easy fix for this problem. The MP5 is a fully-automatic weapon that shoots out 800 rounds per minute. The MP5 is better suited towards new players as they can hold down the trigger to fire and the massive number of rounds fired mitigates the need for pinpoint accuracy. The fix is to replace the positioning on the menus of the M16 and the MP5 respectively.

Some of the Maps are Not Beginner Friendly
To be beginner friendly a map should have easily recognizable landmarks to orient players so that they do not become lost. One of my favorite maps of all time is Zanzibar in Halo 2. That map has a giant windmill in the center that makes it very easy for players to use as a landmark. Another benefit to having easily distinguishable landmarks is that it aids in effective teamwork and communication. A level designer can facilitate this by creating distinctive environment geometry that will allow players to communicate their opponent’s locations to each other effectively. Using Halo 2’s Zanzibar map as an example: “There’s a guy on top of the Windmill!” Everybody on the team will instantly know where that is because the environment geometry is so distinctive. Most of the maps in Call of Duty 4 do this very effectively. Crash is another example of map with the downed helicopter serving as an effective landmark. The maps in Call of Duty 4 that do not do a great job are Backlot, Crossfire and District. While these maps do have subtle recognizable differences to orient you, these subtleties are lost on new players. The first few times I played on these maps I could not tell where I was and become lost on a number of occasions. The labyrinthine streets all look very similar and there is nothing obvious to orient new players.

Call of Duty 4’s Slippery Slope
Once a team starts losing in Call of Duty 4 it is extremely difficult to come back to win. There are fewer comebacks and more lopsided victories in Call of Duty 4 than in any other first-person-shooter that I have ever played. The reason for this is the respawning system, rewards for kill streaks and territorial control.

The Respawning System
The respawn system in Call of Duty 4 is one of the most complained about systems by the Call of Duty community because players are often killed immediately upon respawning. So how does this system work and why is it failing?

C_Stick of the Gamespot forums theorizes that the respawn system “waits for an enemy airstrike, or puts you in an open area under an enemy chopper, or in the middle of two enemy run-and-gunners, or right where you get sniped if you take three steps in any direction.” That may not be far from the truth.

From studying respawning patterns in the game, my best guess at how the respawn system works in Call of Duty 4 is that it respawns players near a teammate furthest from the enemy. This seems like a logical system in theory, but in practice it does not work. As players die and are respawned next to each other they have a tendency to get increasingly clumped together. The situation gets worse when the teams that are dying are surrounded by the enemy and are forced back and contained by the other team into small pieces of territory. This can be seen on any of Call of Duty 4’s maps, but it tends to happen most often around the airplane hangars in Countdown and various corners of the Backlot map.

Containment generally happens in areas that have islands of cover (a space with lots of cover, but surrounded with open no-man’s land) or corners of maps because teams can be pinned down in these areas and it is difficult to leave without exposing yourself to enemy fire.

This is disastrous to contained teams because when clumped together their firing lanes are limited and they become much more susceptible to area of effect attacks like grenades and airstrikes. This leads to waves of people dying over and over just as they spawn in and games that become lopsided and out of reach quickly. The only way to end this negative feedback loop is to have a player escape from the enclosed enemy lines to start the team respawning elsewhere. So how do we fix this? There are two problems here, the first problem is map design and the second is the respawn algorithm itself. I will address map design first.

Map Design
Map designers need to pay attention to map flow. Map flow is what paths players generally take through a map defined by firing lanes, available paths through the level and cover placement. Maps should always have multiple (at least 2, but more is preferable) protected routes from any place on the map. Careful attention needs to always be paid to map corner boundaries because these areas are restricted by the edges of the map. There should be no islands of cover that are hard to leave without dying. These islands typically force players to linger in these places because they cannot leave without exposing themselves and the longer players stay in these islands the more likely teammates will begin to spawn next to them and be trapped in the same situation.

[Countdown Example]

Call of Duty 4 - Countdown Map topdown overhead

The above image shows the locations on Call of Duty 4’s Countdown map where teams are often isolated and become bunched up.

Call of Duty 4: Countdown Map No Man's Land

Notice that there are no viable exits from the hangar that do not expose the players to enemy fire. Also note, the amount of space that the no man’s land takes up in front of the hangars.

Call of Duty 4: Countdown Map cut door

For this particular example, I would recommend cutting entry holes through the hangars at both ends and placing additional cover at these entrances to allow for better map flow.

Respawn Algorithm
A suggestion for the respawn algorithm could be to have a player occasionally respawn furthest away from the enemy regardless of whether an ally is close or not. This suggestion is not without its own tradeoffs in that players may complain that they are spawned way off from the action and alone. Another possible solution could be a player chosen respawn system similar to Battlefield: Bad Company. Whatever the ultimate solution, this should be at the top of the priority list of must fix items for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

Kills Streaks
In Call of Duty 4 players are rewarded for kill streaks. The player is given a UAV reconnaissance that reveals the location of all enemies on the mini-map for their entire team at three kills, three large area of effect bombs dropped from an airstrike at five kills and a support helicopter that comes equipped with a very damaging machine gun at seven kills. While the positive feedback given from the UAV, airstrike and helicopter rewards the player that achieves a kill streak, it makes it very difficult for the opposing team to come back. The kill streak mechanic rewards players and teams that are already winning and gives them an even greater advantage. This is like giving a team that scores in basketball possession of the ball again so they can score again. The argument can be made that a member of the losing team can have a five and seven kill streak and bring a helicopter in to help their team make a come back, but the losing team is less likely to be able to do this considering the winning team’s control over any non-covered territory with their previous airstrike and helicopter and the aforementioned respawn killing issue. I am not saying that the losing team cannot achieve the same, only that it is harder for them and that this mechanic can make teams that are already winning by a slight margin completely out of reach.

What is the best way to fix this problem? I have a few suggestions that involve slightly lowering the advantage given by the kill streak rewards and making the rewards harder to achieve. Here is a rundown of the rewards and suggested modifications.

UAV Reconnaissance
This is powerful, but it is mostly ok in its current form. It might be useful for the development team to explore with a smaller localized reconnaissance effect for it, centered on the person who triggered it. I say explore because there are a number of risks involved with this change that would be impossible to foretell without rigorous play testing. Foremost would be how to communicate (UI elements) what the size of the reconnaissance effect is to players.

Airstrike
The airstrike itself is bad. It is very frustrating to be killed via airstrike. You are given little to no warning and then you are dead. Not to mention the huge framerate hits (on the Xbox 360 version) when it occurs. The current implementation of the airstrike does not enhance gameplay. Thinking about gameplay as a “series of interesting choices” what are your choices as a player being airstriked? There are no choices, because you instantly die without warning. The only gameplay choices happen before the airstrike. The player has is to prevent the opposing team from ever achieving a five kill streak (not like you are not trying already) or fight entirely from under covered buildings on the off-chance that an airstrike might happen.

As the player who calls in the airstrike, there is a risk element in that you must bring up a map that covers the entire screen in order to call it in leaving the player unaware of their surroundings. This gives the airstrike a slight risk versus reward to its use and this risk element should be preserved in any change that is made.

My suggestion is to change the airstrike to a laser designated airstrike that must be equipped, aimed and fired. This would be a similar mechanic to the airstrikes during the Heat level in the single-player campaign of Call of Duty 4. This would also limit airstrikes to within line of sight of the player and prevent airstrikes from ignoring battlelines and gut enemy positions. To address the framerate issues, limit the airstrike to a single bomb so that the framerate hit is not as prolonged. Lastly, there should be a voice over warning for the airstrike and a slight delay before the airstrike occurs. With the warning the player would at least get a chance to run to cover to avoid the airstrike instead of just randomly dying.

Helicopter Support
The Helicopter is pretty close to where it should be. My suggestions are for just a few minor changes. Raise the kill streak necessary for the helicopter support up to eight from seven. With airstrike kills counting towards achieving the seven kill streak necessary for the helicopter, the helicopter is very easy to get. My second suggestion is to have the helicopter give 10 experience points for killing it. This small reward will prompt more people to shoot at it instead of ignoring the helicopter and allowing it to roam around picking them off and eventually flying away. My third suggestion is to make the RPG a HARD counter for the helicopter. Currently the RPG does not kill the helicopter outright. It requires a RPG attack and a little more. I would propose that the RPG should kill the helicopter in one hit. Let’s look at the RPG as a weapon.

Call of Duty 4 - RPG silhouette

This is why they should do an extra hundred damage on a direct hit and kill the helicopter outright.

While I am on the topic of what to have in the sequel to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, I had a few more quick suggestions.

As a caveat, my suggestions may change as I put in more time with the game and discover more of Call of Duty 4’s intricacies. This is only a snapshot in time.

Conclusion
The bottom line is if you can get past Call of Duty 4 multiplayer’s initial frustrations, it becomes very addictive and fun. If, like me, you are one of those willing to pay the steep price of entry, there is a lot about Call of Duty 4’s multiplayer that will keep you coming back for more.

See my other related articles:
What’s Good About Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Multiplayer Mode?
Call of Duty: World at War Through the Eyes of a Game Designer
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Campaign Playthrough Notes
Become a Video Game Designer: Everything You Need to Know Part 1
Roger Ebert is Right: Games are Not High Art…Yet
Top 5 Greatest Moments in Competitive Gaming (eSports)
What Video Games Taught Me About Life
Low Skill Cap and Luck (RNG) in World of Warcraft PVP
Best Games of All Time by Genre Part 1
10 Greatest Video Game Designers Part 1
Dead Space Through the Eyes of a Game Designer
8 of the Most Underrated or Overlooked Video Games of All Time


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