Interactive Reloading – Part 2 (Day 8)

If you haven’t, please read Part 1 by clicking anywhere on this sentence, as this post is a direct continuation.

Yesterday I spoke a little bit about the nature of reloading (weapons) in games. It’s a constant risk vs. reward decision to be made; selecting when to reload is all about making yourself vulnerable now so that you can defend yourself later. Interactive reloading is essentially the idea that with good timing you can mitigate this down time at the risk of extending it. It’s essentially the same idea as reloading in the first place, only more complex.

In Multiplayer

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I’m a bit torn about the idea of interactive reloading in multiplayer games. If we assume the system is similar to Gears of War – where good timing makes the player reload faster – then it seems like a basic skill that doesn’t add any kind of interesting depth to the game.

In my mind, learning to reload perfectly would be seen as a basic, necessary skill before going online. It would be a barrier of entry, rather than a system that creates the opportunity for strategic decision making.

This is assuming that the interactive reload system is as simple as in Gears of War. If the system were somehow randomised or more complicated, it would still be a useful skill to learn, but wouldn’t be seen as being as necessary – at least at lower levels of play. This is all obviously hypothetical conjecture, and how the ability to reload well would be percieved would depend on several factors.

For example, a very complicated or difficult reload system may be too risky to bother with, in which case passively reloading a weapon could often be the best option. Extremely skilled players may be rewarded with faster reloading, but if it was consistent it would just be seen as a required skill again.

This is all assuming that the game is competitive in nature. More “casual” games and gamers likely wouldn’t be so worried about or affected by this kind of system, unless it provided a severe advantage.

Making Decisions

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Reloading, at its simplest, is passive. Hit a button to reload, then wait until it’s done. This is the traditional and most common form of reloading, and it works. It rewards players for timing their reload well – reload when you’re not in danger so you can shoot when you are. It can make for interesting decisions without adding too much complexity to the game.

Interactive reloading is essentially the same idea with another decision laid on top. You still have to make the same decisions as before, but also have to weigh up whether or not it’s worth trying for a faster reload. In GoW, there are four “levels” of reloading; from fastest to slowest, these are:

  • Perfect – When players time their reload perfectly, they reload almost instantly.
  • Good – When players time their reload well but not perfectly, the reload is faster than normal.
  • Normal – When players don’t try for the interactive reload at all and just let the game handle it. Fairly slow, especially compared to most shooters.
  • Failed – When players attempt and fail an interactive reload, the gun jams. This is by far the slowest reload.

Assuming these or similar, it’s like making the same decision twice. “Do I risk reloading now?” and then “Do I risk trying to reload faster?”.

Complexity vs. Depth

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As a whole this topic is way too involved to cover here, but I’ll go over it very briefly.

In short, it’s often a good idea to add “depth” and avoid “complexity”. Here, depth refers to systems that lead to decision making, high skill ceilings and more involved gameplay. Complexity refers to something being very intricate or even obtuse. Complexity isn’t necessarily a bad thing and is often tied to depth, but adding depth while keeping it simple is often considered a hallmark of elegant design. Think of “easy to learn, hard to master”.

Here, I think the idea of interactive reloading really straddles the line. It depends on the game – in Gears of War, I think it adds unnecessary complexity and a bit of depth. It’s interesting to make two decisions related to reloading and it keeps up the frantic pace, but it often feels like the only real decision is “Do I do a perfect reload now, or later?”.

This is because it’s simply really, really easy to do a perfect reload in GoW, to the point that it feels like an unnecessary addition. Making it too hard or complex would steer people away from the system completely, but making it so simple has essentially made it the default option.

I’ll have to wrap it up here, despite the fact that I don’t feel like I really settled on a point. I think having an interactive reloading system can be interesting, but that there’s already a lot at play when it comes to traditional reloading systems, even if some of that decision-making isn’t transparent. It’s an easy thing to make a game too complicated, so it’s hard to say when it’s worth making reloading more complex than it already is.

But what do you think? Have you had a game where reloading was especially interesting, or too obtuse? Do you prefer one system over another? Let me know!

 

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2 responses to “Interactive Reloading – Part 2 (Day 8)”

  1. Robert McPherson says :

    Yeah… this is a tricky one. For the most part there really is the question of what do gain Vs. how much complexity are you adding?

    One place that might be interesting to look at is actually treating magazines properly. Rather than automatically doing a full reload from a pool of bullets, you reload to the next most full mag. So if you’ve been running around reloading at half a mag a lot, then suddenly you’ve only loaded half a mag because all your clips are half empty.

    This would then necessitate spending some time topping up your mags and consolidating your ammo. Also would mean that if you killed an enemy and looted their ammo, you’d probably only get what is in the current mag. This point could make for an interesting risk/reward or skill setup of killing enemies before they can get a shot off so you can grab a full mag off them. (assuming of course the guns are compatible).

    • rowan2010 says :

      I believe the Arma series does this – or potentially a mod of it – and I’m sure I’ve played something else that does, too.

      I like the idea, but found it just took some of my decision-making away. It always seemed best to simply reload when I was empty, regardless of my own safety.

      There’s a whole lot to consider when designing a reload system, in the end, and since “passive reloading” is such a traditional and simple idea I don’t see it going away any time soon.

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